SOS From Mariupol, Where Citizens Are Starving: ‘We Beg for Help’
Water supplies are dwindling or nonexistent and power supplies have reportedly been cut for several days already.
For the dead, at least, the nightmare is over, but for many just barely hanging on in Ukraine’s Black Sea port city of Mariupol — now largely in ruins after coming under ferocious Russian bombardment for weeks — each passing hour is like a living hell.
That’s what can be gleaned from the plea, issued by Mariupol’s city officials via Telegram in the early hours of Friday. It amounted to an SOS for starving citizens in the city, where water supplies are dwindling or nonexistent and power supplies have reportedly been cut for several days already.
On the other side of Europe, President Biden was preparing to fly to Poland. During a press conference yesterday that followed what was billed as an “extraordinary” NATO summit, a CBS reporter, Christina Ruffini, posed this question:
“Sir, deterrence didn’t work: What makes you think Vladimir Putin will alter course based on the action you’ve taken today?” To which the president replied — twice: “Sanctions never deter.” It would be easy to dismiss this as yet another instance of Mr. Biden’s testy temperament — or a case of jet lag.
Not so fast, though. Mr. Biden was directly contradicting his point man on sanctions, Daleep Singh, the deputy national security advisor for international economics. At a White House press briefing on February 22, Mr. Singh said, “Sanctions are not an end to themselves. They serve a higher purpose. And that purpose is to deter and prevent.”
In any event, Mr. Biden is, as of this writing, en route or just arrived in Poland. After Air Force One is scheduled to land at Rzeszow to be greeted by the Polish president, Andrzej Duda. The historic town in southeastern Poland is about 50 miles from the border with Ukraine and on the other side of Ukraine from Mariupol.
The municipal government of the besieged city reported today that about 300 people died in the Russian airstrike last week on a theater being used as a bomb shelter. It cited eyewitnesses, while at the same time announcing that many trapped residents are now on the brink of starvation.
“There can be no explanation for this inhuman cruelty. There will never be forgiveness for those who brought destruction, pain and suffering to our home.” That is from a post on the city council’s Telegram account.
When the theater was struck March 16, a large inscription reading “CHILDREN” was posted outside in Russian. It was intended to be visible from the skies above. It was not immediately clear whether emergency workers had finished excavating the site or how the eyewitnesses arrived at the horrific death toll, AP reported.
Soon after that airstrike, the Ukrainian Parliament’s human rights commissioner, Ludyla Denisova, said more than 1,300 people had been sheltering in the building.
The most harrowing word today from Mariupol’s City Council quotes a citizen as saying: “I haven’t eaten in two days. Weakness. I can’t leave the city on foot.” The official line from the municipality is no less alarming:
“More and more deaths from starvation. More and more people are left without any food supplies. And all attempts to launch a large-scale humanitarian operation to save the people of Mariupol are blocked by the Russian side. Save all other cities of our country from the terrible fate of Mariupol. We beg for help!”
This too, from the City Council: “We will be able to restore the buildings, but we will never get back friends, neighbors, family and loved ones. We remember all the innocent victims of the insane war waged against Ukraine by the aggressor country, the terrorist country Russia.”