Mariupol is in crisis. Russia has bombarded the city of 400,000 for a week, and efforts to establish a humanitarian corridor — a safe passage out for civilians — have so far failed. Ukrainian officials have accused Russia of shelling the evacuation route, effectively trapping people inside Mariupol who have already been cut off from water and electricity and cellphone service for days. Food and medicine are running out, adding to a situation the United Nations has described as “dire.”
The crisis is still unfolding, but images and videos from the city show the harm already wrought in the two weeks since Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a “special military operation” in Ukraine.
Associated Press photojournalists Mstyslav Chernov and Evgeniy Maloletka captured images of a man rushing a wounded toddler into a Mariupol hospital Friday, and they captured the hospital workers trying, and failing, to save 18-month-old Kirill. They captured the grief of Kirill’s mother, and his mother’s boyfriend, and the hospital workers who now must prepare for triage. “Show this to Putin,” a doctor said, according to Maloletka and Mstysalv.
On Wednesday, five days later, a Russian strike destroyed a maternity hospital in Mariupol.
These scenes are repeated across Ukraine. In Kyiv, thousands are still trying to flee, as skirmishes and shelling continue on the outskirts of the city, in places like Irpin. In Kharkiv, heavy shelling has destroyed homes, and forced residents underground, into subways.
The full toll of the war so far is difficult to know, but the United Nations has estimated more than 1,300 civilian casualties, as of March 8. More than 470 civilians have died, the UN said, though the actual figure is likely much higher. Almost 2 million civilians have escaped to Poland, Moldova, and Romania in two weeks, making this Europe’s largest refugee crisis since World War II. Most are women and children, as the men stay in Ukraine to fight.
Becky Bakr Abdulla, an adviser to the Norwegian Refugee Council who is currently based in Poland, said that most refugees she spoke to told her they fled Ukraine without a plan. And yet, she added, “there was no sign of them thinking that they would be able to return anytime soon.” —Jen Kirby