Russia has turned the city of Mariupol into a Nazi-extermination camp, burning corpses and blocking a human train to hide evidence of massacres and other atrocities there, Ukrainian officials said on Wednesday.
Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boichenko said more than 5,000 civilians – including at least 210 children – had been killed in weeks of bombings and street fighting in southern Ukraine, which has been held under devastating siege. He said Russian troops bombed a hospital, including one where 50 people were burned to death.
Authorities in Mariupol said in a message sent to Telegram that Russian officials run mobile phone incinerators to burn the bodies of those killed, footage of the biggest crime of the 20th century.
“The world has not seen the scale of the Mariupol tragedy since the Nazi concentration camps,” Boichenko said in a statement. „The [Russians] have turned our whole city into death camps. “
“This is no longer Chechnya or Aleppo. This is the new Auschwitz or Majdanek, “he said, urging the international community to act.
Ukrainian human rights spokesman Lyudmila Denisova also testified that Russian forces had provided mobile crematoria and other heavy equipment to clear debris in the city.
A city official said people who tried to flee the city had been sent to “filter camps,” CNN said.
Boichenko said more than 90% of the city’s infrastructure had been destroyed. The attacks on the strategic city in the southern Azov Sea have halted food, water, fuel and medicine and destroyed homes and businesses.
It is estimated that about 120,000 people are still in Mariupol, compared to over 400,000 before the war.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Russia was blocking humanitarian access to the siege of the port city because it wanted to hide evidence of “thousands” of people killed there.
“The reason we can not get into Mariupol with humanitarian cargo is precisely because they are afraid that the world will see what is happening there,” Zelensky told Turkish Haberturk TV.
“I think it’s a tragedy there, it’s hell, I know it’s not dozens, but thousands of people, different people, who have been killed there and thousands injured,” Zelensky said.
However, he expressed confidence that Russia would not be able to conceal all the evidence.
“They will not be able to hide all this and bury all those Ukrainians who died and are wounded. It’s just such a large number, there are thousands of people, it’s impossible to hide it. “
Zelensky said Russia had already tried to conceal evidence of crimes in the town of Bucha outside of Kyiv and some surrounding communities, where Ukrainian officials have accused Moscow of committing mass killings of civilians.
“They burned families. Families. Yesterday we met again a new family: father, mother, two children. Small, small children, two. “One was a small hand, you know,” said Zelensky. That’s why I said ‘they are Nazis’.
Speaking, the Red Cross convoy of seven buses and at least 40 private cars arrived in the southern Ukrainian city of Zaporizhzhia carrying hundreds of emigrants from Mariupol and other areas under Russian occupation, in the first successful international evacuation six weeks after the war.
The Red Cross has repeatedly failed to reach Mariupol, but it had rescued emigrants from the nearby Russian city of Berdiansk, where many from Mariupol have fled, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross.
“These people have really gone through the worst,” Lucile Marbeau, a spokesman for the International Committee of the Red Cross, told AFP. “We have heard people say that they had to leave Mariupol. There in Mariupol there is still no food, no water, no electricity. “
Marbeau explained that there was “hardly any contact” for residents to be able to call their families or try to find a way out.
The ICRC said in a social media post that more than 500 emigrants in total had been transferred to Zaporizhzhia.
Passengers said it would take about 26 hours to travel to Zaporizhzhia through multiple checkpoints. They said that men had been taken off the buses and in many cases dressed in their clothes, as Russian soldiers examined them for military tattoos or tattoos, which indicated that they had a gun.
Upon arrival, stressed and also light-hearted, one man fell with a toss of alcohol, but a woman from Mariupol hugged a representative of the International Committee of the Red Cross and thanked them for bringing her and her family to safety.
“It’s a great feeling when people can leave a horrible situation, but also when you know they have had to leave people behind,” Marbeau said. “We met a 14-year-old girl who traveled alone while her parents were staying.
“It was a very serious shooting. That’s why we were delayed, “said Iryna Nikolaienko, one of the emigrants, who explained that she could have taken a break from the conflict.
“Mariupol, whom I knew and loved, no longer exists,” she said.
“I understood that I was going forever, that I would never come back to the city and I would never see it again.
On Monday, the Red Cross said that the team it had sent a few days earlier to help evacuate civilians from Mariupol was in police custody in Russian territory.
The group said on Twitter on Wednesday that it had been trying for five days to reach the city, which has been under constant bombing by Russia since Moscow invaded in late February.
“But security conditions made it impossible,” it said.
“Thousands are still trapped in the city. They urgently need a safe exit and assistance to get in, “he added.
Late last month, Russian troops attacked a Red Cross facility in the city, where half a million people lived before the war, with officials warning of humanitarian accidents.
Repeated attempts to evacuate the people of Mariupol have collapsed, although some have moved dangerously towards freedom from the city alone.
Asked about ongoing peace talks with Russia, Zelensky said “they would have to happen anyway.
“I think it’s hard to stop this war without it,” Zelensky said.
But he added that he was having a hard time getting himself to continue talks with Moscow “because we understand who we are.”