The key Ukrainian port city of Mariupol was reported “near to a humanitarian catastrophe”, on Wednesday, after more than 15 hours of continuous bombardment by Russian forces, the city’s deputy mayor told the BBC.
Serhiy Orlov told the news outlet that the Russian army is working through all their weapons there – artillery, multiple rocket launch systems, airplanes, tactical rockets – adding that they were trying to destroy the city.
Mr Orlov said Russian forces were several kilometres from the city on all sides and had launched strikes on key infrastructure, cutting water and power supplies to parts of the city. He said one densely populated residential district on the city’s left bank had been “nearly totally destroyed”.
Russian forces had targeted strikes against pump stations and electrical transformers and there were food shortages in parts of the city – raising fears of an approaching humanitarian crisis.
Mariupol is a key strategic target for Russia because seizing it would allow Russian-backed separatist forces in eastern Ukraine to join forces with troops in Crimea, the southern peninsula annexed by Russia in 2014. Ukraine’s army has resisted Russian forces so far in key parts of the country but the increased aerial bombardment of cities has raised fears Russia is shifting tactics.