A Greek official, who was the last remaining western diplomat in Mariupol, Ukraine, described harrowing scenes that may constitute war crimes after he was finally evacuated from the city.
Manolis Androulakis, Greece’s Consul General, who spoke to journalist Kostas Onisenko from a secure location in central Ukraine, was left speechless over the devastation the city has suffered. “Words are not enough to describe the tragedy,” he said.
Mariupol, a vibrant port city in southern Ukraine, has been heavily targeted by Russian shelling in the past two weeks and more than 30,000 people are estimated to have fled already. At least 2,400 civilians have been killed so far in the city, Ukraine officials say.
“Every day the situation was becoming worse. The city was encircled and the battles were closing in. Civilians were hit. The civilian infrastructure was hit. A hospital was hit, a library, a university. When I say they were hit, I mean nothing was left standing,” Androulakis said.
He describes the chaos following the Russian strikes. “All infrastructure was lost in the first three or four days of the siege. We were left without water, electricity, or telecommunications. Mariupol ran out of supplies such as food and gas. I witnessed a huge humanitarian crisis.”
Greek diplomat in Mariupol points to war crimes
The Greek diplomat’s eyewitness account points to war crimes committed by the Russian armed forces.
“Civilians were victims of indiscriminate bombing,” he says. “What was the strategic thinking behind shelling a city to ruins?” he asks.
“I cannot understand the thinking of the Russian operation. What will capturing Mariupol entail? It has now become a ghost city,” Androulakis states.
“Red Cross supplies were left waiting in the outskirts of the city until we managed to flee. All those that have a vehicle are leaving. I have seen people begging others to give them a lift away. People felt that they were targets at any moment. The Ukrainians opened a humanitarian corridor for people to flee the city but it was hit by the Russians,” the Greek diplomat said.
“I cannot see how anyone can return to this city. It would take at least a generation to rebuild it,” he opines.
The operation for his safe evacuation and staff from the city’s branch of the Organization for Security & Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) had begun on Tuesday.
Russia strikes a theater “sheltering civilians”
Russian missile strikes on the city have also targeted a children’s hospital, and on Wednesday, a theater where over 1,200 people had been sheltering.
The Mariupol council posted an image of the city’s theater, showing it had sustained heavy damage in the attack.
Russian forces had “purposefully and cynically destroyed the Drama Theater in the heart of Mariupol,” it said. It added that the plane dropped a bomb on a building where hundreds of peaceful Mariupol residents were hiding.
It said casualty numbers were being confirmed.
The Russian defense ministry has denied attacking the theater.