Ukrainians in Mariupol 'dying of dehydration' as Russia cuts off city's supplies

Watch: Ukraine turning into 'hell' as first child dies of dehydration since World War II, says Zelensky

Trapped Ukrainians are dying of thirst in the city of Mariupol after Russian bombardments stopped humanitarian corridors from operating, the Red Cross has warned.

More than 2 million refugees have fled their homes into neighbouring countries after Vladimir Putin launched his invasion 14 days ago.

Ukrainian cities and towns have been under siege by Russian forces, with the south-eastern city of Mariupol being cut off from electricity and water supplies for more than a week.

Mass graves have reportedly been dug, after normal burials became impossible, the Financial Times reported.

Local official Vitaly Falkovsky said: "Sadly there are too many bodies. It was a necessary measure because we can't bury people the normal way. The morgues are overflowing."

The situation inside the city is increasingly desperate with deputy mayor Sergei Orlov reporting that people were very scared and desperately waiting for a safe passage out.

He said supplies were so bad that there was "not possible to find water in the city". He added: "People were very glad that the snow came because they were able to collect it and heat it to turn it into water. They haven't have water for seven days."

Ukrainian police officers patrol a street following a shelling in Ukraine's second-biggest city of Kharkiv on March 7, 2022. - On the 12th day of Russia's invasion of Ukraine March 7, 2022, Russian forces pressed a siege of the key southern port of Mariupol and sought to increase pressure on the capital Kyiv. Kyiv remains under Ukrainian control as does Kharkiv in the east, with the overall Russian ground advance little changed over the last 24 hours in the face of fierce Ukrainian resistance. (Photo by Sergey BOBOK / AFP) (Photo by SERGEY BOBOK/AFP via Getty Images)
Ukrainian police officers patrol a street following a shelling in Ukraine's second-biggest city of Kharkiv (Getty)
IRPIN, UKRAINE - MARCH 8: A large number of people cross the destroyed bridge as civilians continue to flee from Irpin due to ongoing Russian attacks in Irpin, Ukraine on March 08, 2022. (Photo by Diego Herrera Carcedo/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
People cross the destroyed bridge as civilians continue to flee from Irpin due to ongoing Russian attacks(Getty)
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He said it was unclear as to the size of the death toll, and told Channel 4 that city officials had had to start building mass graves: "We cannot calculate how many people have been killed in Mariupol. Yesterday was the first day we needed to build mass graves for 33 bodies."

Mariupol mayor Vadim Boychenko said a six-year-old girl called Tanya had died "alone, exhausted, frightened, terribly thirsty."

He added: "This is just one of the many stories of Mariupol, which has been surviving the blockade for eight days."

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said her death was “probably the first such case since the Second World War,” and added: “Listen to me carefully: In 2022, a child died from dehydration.”

Deputy director of the Ukraine Red Cross, Olena Stokoz, told the BBC's Today Programme she "hoped" humanitarian corridors would open today, after multiple attempts failed.

"In some cases those corridors are functioning in Sumy, but the worst situation is happening in the Mariupol humanitarian corridor," she said.

Read more: 'Putin is angry' - U.S. intel chiefs warn that Russia may escalate attacks

Deputy mayor
Deputy mayor mayor Sergei Orlov siad the snow falling meant people could collect it to get water after their supplies have been shut off (Channel 4)

"All the parties have been trying to organise this corridor for a couple of days already, three attempts have been made, but all of them have failed.

"The situation in the city of Mariupol is the worst. One the whole city remains without electricity, food or water, and people are dying because of dehydration.

"We will continue trying to organised that corridor but we cannot guarantee that it will happen because it does not depend upon us."

Watch: Ukrainians escape besieged Sumy through corridor

So far only one humanitarian corridor in Sumy has been successful, with 5,000 people being evacuated on Tuesday. The corridor will be kept open throughout Wednesday in the hope more people can be rescued.

Russia announced on Wednesday morning its forces would observe a "observe a regime of silence" from 10am Moscow time (7amGMT) to allow civilians to safely leave Kyiv, Chernihiv, Sumy, Kharkiv and Mariupol.

But Russian forces have been accused of firing on the very routes they have proposed to evacuate civilians.

Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said an attempted evacuation from Mariupol failed on Tuesday because Russian troops fired on a convoy carrying humanitarian cargo.

Apartment buildings seen in city of Mariupol, Ukraine, Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022. Russia has launched a barrage of air and missile strikes on Ukraine early Thursday and Ukrainian officials said that Russian troops have rolled into the country from the north, east and south. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
Mariupol seen on the morning the invasion began. (AP)

The city of around 430,000 people are in desperate need of the food, water and medicine the convoys should have brought, following over a week of nothing as Russian forces cut off the vital supplies.

Some people have become so desperate for water they are drinking from puddles or trying to melt snow.

Natalia Mudrenko, from the Ukraine’s U.N. Mission, told the Security Council that those inside Mariupol have “been effectively taken hostage."

Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on Tuesday: “Russia holds 300k civilians hostage in Mariupol, prevents humanitarian evacuation despite agreements with ICRC mediation. One child died of dehydration (!) yesterday! War crimes are part of Russia’s deliberate strategy. I urge all states to publicly demand: RUSSIA, LET PEOPLE GO!”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Velenskyy accused the Russians of mining routes which had been designated for safety.

In an address he said: "There was an agreement for a humanitarian corridor, but Russian tanks, Grad missiles and mines worked instead.

"They even mined the road that was agreed to transport products and medicines for people and children in Mariupol. The Russians are even destroying the buses that have to transport the citizens.”