Russia’s assault on Ukraine has entered its fourth week, and Russian forces have now sent ground troops into the major southeastern city of Mariupol - which has been under heavy bombardment since the start of the conflict - and is now poised to fall to the military advance. Fighting has reportedly reached the center of the city of some half-million people.
"The fighting is already in the city itself," a city official in the mayor’s office told The Wall Street Journal on Saturday. "But Mariupol remains a Ukrainian city."
Multiple international reports have confirmed the city has been totally cut off, and has long been under siege by Russian forces, with WSJ detailing that the capital of Kiev has "tried to send military reinforcements to Mariupol, but so far this has proved impossible. "
"Oleksiy Arestovych, an adviser to Ukraine’s president, said there was no way for Ukrainian forces to break Russia’s siege, addressing criticism the government is not doing enough," the report said.
War correspondents have cited scenes of people cooking in the streets, after electricity, gas and water have been cut off for many days running at this point, also amid freezing temperatures. Most of the civilians still there are huddled in bomb shelters, and some have risked their lives trying to make it out of the city, despite multiple short-lived attempts at establishing 'humanitarian corridors' to allow civilians to safely flee.
There is also the grim reality of in some instances bodies lying in the streets, with many sectors being too unsafe for anyone to go and retrieve them, also amid reports of mass graves.
One account reads:
"People sheltering in Mariupol from some of the most intense fighting anywhere in Ukraine are risking their lives each time they step foot outside their underground bunkers, a Ukrainian army commander stationed in the city has told CNN."
In #Mariupol, there are reports this morning that clashes reached the center of the city and the area of the Azovstal plant. Yesterday the plant was hit by shelling (video by AA). pic.twitter.com/Czl0XrDWZj— Michael A. Horowitz (@michaelh992) March 19, 2022
Awkwardly for mainstream media reporting, a prime Ukrainian military faction guarding the city is the neo-Nazi Azov Battalion. Despite mainstream pundits for many years prior to the invasion admitting the faction is a neo-Nazi group, CNN and others are now opting for watered down language like "ultra-nationalist militia" or "far-right".
"The Azov Battalion is an ultra-nationalist militia that has since been integrated into the Ukrainian armed forces," CNN writes in its latest reporting.
Here's the BBC all the way back in 2014...
Mariupol is seen as key for Russian forces' general advance across the south, with the WSJ calling the operation to take the city "a strategic move for Moscow, which considers the southern port city a gateway that would open a land corridor between Russia and its annexed region of Crimea."
Russian forces could soon have central regions of the east fully encircled...