The mayor of Mariupol called for the complete evacuation of his city on Monday after reporting that more than 5,000 people have died since attacks by Russian armed forces.
“About 140,000 people had fled the city on the Sea of Azov before the Russian siege began and 150,000 have exited since then, leaving 170,000 still there, according to the data,” Sky News reported.
Mayor Vadym Boichenko, who has now left Mariupol, said on national television that about 160,000 residents were still trapped in the city.
“People are beyond the line of humanitarian catastrophe,” he said, according to a Reuters report. “We need to completely evacuate Mariupol.”
The mayor also claimed Russian forces are keeping residents from fleeing.
“The Russian Federation is playing with us. We are in the hands of the invaders,” Boichenko said, according to the report.
The mayor’s goal is now focused on saving lives among his city’s residents.
“Our most important mission today is to save every life … And there are hopes that we will succeed. For example, there are 26 buses that have to go to Mariupol to evacuate, but unfortunately, they haven’t received permission to move,” he said, according to CNN on Monday.
“And this game is played every day. A cynical game like, ‘Yes, we are ready. You can drive there,’ but in fact it does not work,” he said. “Our heroic drivers under the fire are trying to reach the places where Mariupol residents can be picked up, and they are waiting with the hope that they will have such an opportunity. But the Russian Federation has been playing with us since day one.”
The news comes after a report on Friday that approximately 300 people died in a Russian airstrike on a theater in Mariupol that was being used as a bomb shelter, according to a report by the city’s government. The bombing occurred on March 16 despite large letters reportedly spelling out the word “children” on the ground outside, in Russian, so as to be visible from the air.
“[Ludmyla Denisova], the Ukrainian Parliament’s human rights commissioner, said more than 1,300 people had been sheltering in the building,” according to the Associated Press.
Zelensky addressed Italian lawmakers on Tuesday in a virtual address that highlighted the Russian destruction of Mariupol, describing it as being “like Armageddon.” The Daily Wire reported:
Zelensky’s speech occurred shortly after a call earlier in the morning with Pope Francis. He began his remarks by referring to his conversation with the Pope, saying, “I told him that our people have become the army, reminding him how much Ukraine has seen the evil that the enemy brings, how much devastation it leaves and how much bloodshed.”
The Ukrainian president quickly turned to the deaths in his nation at the hands of Russia’s armed forces.
“There are now 117 children killed in Ukraine, this is the price of not stopping this war. And it’s not the final number. Tens of thousands of families destroyed, millions of homes abandoned, dead and wounded. In 2022 they bury the dead in mass graves, and all this because of a man’s decisions,” Zelensky said.