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‘If we were a NATO member, a war wouldn’t have started’

An advisor to Mariupol’s mayor said in an update on the art school that was bombed by Russian forces in the last hours that city officials are struggling to learn more about how many people were hiding in the school that was acting as a shelter.

Petro Andrushenko wrote on social media: 

“So far, there is no exact operational data on how many people were hiding in the shelter or the number of casualties. I expect we will have it later today. But the situation is difficult and there is nowhere to get the data from.” 

An earlier estimate from the city council put the number sheltering in the school building at 400. 

The information black hole reflects a similar lack of clarity about how many people survived an attack five days ago on a theatre in Mariupol that was also being used as a shelter, possibly for up to 1,300 people. 

The number of people reported having survived – put at 130 – has been unchanged for several days. 

Fighting continued Sunday for control of the port city in southeastern Ukraine that has become a focus of Russia’s assault on the country. 

“The city continues to be shelled both from the sky and the sea,” Andrushenko wrote on his Telegram channel.  

“It seems the occupiers are so eager to wipe out Mariupol that they are ready to cover themselves with fire.” 

He also said people trying to flee the city in their cars were being shot at by Russian forces.  

“Evacuation is difficult – difficult but moving. The Russians are doing everything to complicate things. Last night, cars trying to drive towards the village of Melekine [10 kilometers west of the city center] were fired upon.” 

Other residents looking to flee were having their cars seized from them at a checkpoint just outside Mariupol, he said. 

Despite the dangers, Ukraine’s government announced the humanitarian corridor linking Mariupol to Zaporizhzhia, outside Russian-occupied territory, had been agreed for Sunday.  

A council official reported that a column of eleven buses carrying almost 800 people had completed the second part of the journey, from Berdiansk to Zaporozhzhia, by midday Sunday. 

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