A convoy of Greek nationals has left the Ukrainian city of Mariupol as Russia’s troops encircled the port city on Wednesday.
The convoy comprised of 21 cars is scheduled to travel from Mariupol to Ukraine’s southeastern Zaporizhzhya region before crossing into Moldova.
Consul General Manolis Andoulakis will remain in Mariupol, the heart of the ethnic Greek community dating back to the 18th century.
At least 10 ethnic Greeks died as a result of Russian airstrikes near Mariupol, in which more than 120,000 ethnic Greeks live, last month.
The Russian Embassy in Athens expressed its deep grief over the death and injury of Greek community members in the region of Donbas on Saturday, adding that “Russia’s special military operations in Ukraine only target military units and infrastructure exclusively.”
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis Tuesday defended Greece’s decision to stand by Ukraine along with its Western allies in the name of “democracy and freedom.”
Mariupol, the epicenter of the Greek presence in Ukraine, under siege
Electricity has been cut off in the key southeastern Ukrainian city on the Azov Sea following attacks from advancing Russian forces, the head of the region Pavlo Kyrylenko said Tuesday.
“Mariupol and Volnovakha are ours!” Kyrylenko wrote on Facebook. “The two cities are under pressure from the enemy but they are holding on.
“In Mariupol, electricity lines have been cut and the city is without power.”
Both cities lie between territory held by Russian-backed separatists and the Crimean peninsula annexed by Moscow in 2014, and Russian forces have been working to join the two regions.
Courageous Mariupol. City of Hellenism. 🇬🇷🇺🇦🇺🇸 https://t.co/B84sg3ChmM
— Geoffrey Pyatt (@USAmbPyatt) March 1, 2022
The leader of the self-declared separatist region in Donetsk, Denis Pushilin, said earlier in the week that he expected his forces to surround the port city of Mariupol on Tuesday, adding in a television interview that the town of Volnovakha – which is halfway between Mariupol and Donetsk – was almost completely surrounded.
“Our task for today is encircle Mariupol,” he said.
Pushilin claimed — without offering any evidence — that nationalist elements in Mariupol were terrorizing the civilian population and were using them as a human shield. The city has a population of some 400,000.
Separately, the deputy head of the Donetsk People’s Militia, Eduard Basurin, said the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), along with Russian forces, would organize humanitarian corridors to allow civilians to leave Mariupol.
The corridors would be open through Wednesday, he said.