Russia blocks humanitarian access to Mariupol to hide ‘thousands’ of victims

Russia is blocking humanitarian access to Mariupol to conceal the “thousands” of victims in this besieged city in southeastern Ukraine against which assaults and bombardments continue, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Wednesday.

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“I think one of the main reasons why we can’t get humanitarian aid into Mariupol is that until everything has been ‘cleaned up’ by the Russian soldiers, they’re afraid the world will see what is going on there”, declared Mr. Zelensky in an interview with the Turkish television channel Habertürk, posted online by the presidency.

These are “not tens, but thousands of people killed and thousands injured”, he added. “We know how many (Ukrainian) soldiers died there and how many were injured, but we don’t know how many civilians.”

“But, in any case, they (the Russians) will not be able to hide everything (…). Such a number is impossible to conceal. And I think we will all see it when we can get into Mariupol,” he said.

“In Boutcha for example they tried to do it, they burned a lot of people in this region: Boutcha, Irpin, Gostomel. They burned families. Yesterday, we again found a family: the father, the mother, the two children. Very small children. That’s why I say: they are Nazis”, hammered the Ukrainian president.

Asked about the possibility of continuing talks with Russia, Mr. Zelensky believes that these negotiations “will have to take place anyway”.

“We don’t really want to negotiate with Russia after what we’ve seen, not really, I have to tell you, because we understand who we’re dealing with,” he added. But “we have to find even the slightest possibility to negotiate. I think it is difficult to stop the war otherwise,” he noted.

The Ukrainian Defense Ministry stressed on Wednesday that the assaults by Russian forces were continuing on Mariupol.

“The enemy is actively using the air force” to bomb the city, the ministry added in a statement.

Lyudmila Denisova, the Ukrainian parliament’s human rights delegate, reported on Telegram on Wednesday testimonies that Russian forces were bringing “mobile incinerators” and “crushing equipment” with them to the city to dispose of the bodies.

A photo published on his email appeared to show such equipment installed in a semi-trailer, the door of the crematorium opening at the back of the truck. It was impossible immediately to authenticate or locate this photo.

“Residents who are supporters of the occupiers and terrorists of the pseudo republic (pro-Russian separatist, editor’s note) of Donetsk collect the bodies of the inhabitants killed and tortured in the city to destroy them in mobile incinerators or even on simple fires”, affirmed Ms. Denissova .

Mariupol, a port city that was the largest locality in this region of eastern Ukraine to escape the control of pro-Russian separatists until the outbreak of the Russian invasion on February 24, has suffered a very deadly siege since the beginning of the war.

The city is “90% destroyed”, says its mayor Vadim Boïtchenko.

“A week ago, conservative estimates put the death toll at 5,000,” the Mariupol city council wrote on Telegram messaging on Wednesday.

“But given the size of the city, the catastrophic destruction, the length of the blockade and the fierce resistance, there could have been tens of thousands of casualties among the civilian population,” added the same source.

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