The southern Ukrainian port city has been under attack by Vladimir Putin’s soldiers, but only a fraction of the residents who want to leave are able to. This is due to difficulties in negotiating terms with Russian forces and communicating with the civilians still trapped inside the city.
Estimates suggest that up to 100,000 civilians remain while Russian forces control most of the city.
Aid charities and world leaders have been calling for a humanitarian evacuation corridor to be set up so Ukrainian citizens can leave the region of Mariupol.
The International Committee of the Red Cross expressed “deep concern” for residents noting that “unhindered humanitarian access is urgently needed”.
While Putin’s onslaught on the region continues, Mariana Betsa, Ambassador of Ukraine to Estonia, has been sharing news from Ukraine since Russia’s invasion began over 60 days ago.
Last week, Ms Betsa shared an image of a young boy who had managed to escape the region along with his beloved cat.
The photograph shows the child and his startled pet huddling in the backseat of a car.
The image was captioned with the following: “Danylo and his cat finally got evacuated from Mariupol. But there are thousands [of] Ukrainians still there without food, water, medication #StopRussia #StandWithUkraine.”
Twitter users shared their reactions to the poignant image, with many extending well wishes to the boy and his family.
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Serge F wrote: “So heartbreaking” while Michelle Camarda added: “Oh, my. I am so happy they made it out. How devastating. Look how scared kitty is too. I still can’t believe this is happening. It makes me so angry!”
One more with the username ‘67Roker’ wrote: “I wish Danylo, his cat and all his family and friends a good future. They have suffered more misery than most do in a long life.”
This week, Sergei Shoigu, the Russian defence minister told Putin that Mariupol had been “liberated” in a scripted meeting broadcast on Russian state television on Thursday.
Mr Putin congratulated Mr Shoigu but said he considered the “the proposed assault on the industrial zone to be inappropriate”.
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The Russian president ordered Mr Shoigu to blockade but not assault the last Ukrainian-held redoubt there.
He said: “This is the case when we must think – that is, we must always think, but even more so in this case – about preserving the life and health of our soldiers and officers.”
However, president Joe Biden said Putin’s claims were “questionable” and the Russian president “should allow humanitarian corridors” to evacuate civilians.
Ukrainian officials acknowledged Russian forces control most of the city but called the claim of liberation “premature”.
Instead, they characterised the decision to halt the attack as a tacit admission that an assault would not succeed.
Oleksiy Arestovich, an adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky said: “They cannot physically take Azovstal [the last part of Mariupol not under Russian control] they have understood; they have experienced huge losses there.
“Our defenders are continuing to hold on to it. These preliminary announcements of victories … show that the Russians have become aware of the futility of their latest active operation at this stage of the war.”
Ned Price, the US State Department spokesman, added: “We understand that Ukraine’s forces continue to hold their ground and there is every reason to believe that President Putin and his defence minister’s show for the media that we saw in recent hours is even yet more disinformation from their well-worn playbook.”