Mariupol mayor says Russian forces have been 'playing with us since day one' as civilian evacuations are reportedly blocked
Mariupol's mayor said Russian forces have been "playing with us since day one," according to CNN.
- Vadym Boichenko called for more civilian evacuations from the besieged city as fleeing refugees have been blocked.
The mayor of
Vadym Boichenko said civilians need a "complete evacuation" from Mariupol, but busses attempting to move fleeing Ukrainians haven't been able to leave.
"This game is played every day. A cynical game like, 'Yes, we are ready. You can drive there,' but in fact, it does not work," Boichenko said during a TV interview on Monday, according to CNN.
He added: "Our heroic drivers under the fire are trying to reach the places where Mariupol residents can be picked up, and they are waiting with the hope that they will have such an opportunity. But the Russian Federation has been playing with us since day one."
Russian forces have constantly bombarded Mariupol in recent weeks, targeting schools, theaters, and hospitals.
It's unclear exactly how many civilians have been killed in Mariupol since the Russian invasion began on February 24 — the United Nations said on Monday there have been "high numbers of civilian casualties," but collecting and verifying information has been difficult.
The UN said it recorded at least 1,119 civilian deaths and 1,790 injuries so far.
Multiple ceasefire attempts and efforts by the Russian government to get the city to surrender have all failed. Efforts to set up humanitarian corridors to allow civilians to escape the destroyed city have also been unsuccessful.
Ukraine's government has blamed Russian President Vladimir Putin's forces for shelling evacuation corridors around Mariupol, and in some cases preventing the access of humanitarian cargo.
Still, the city's mayor said he is hopeful that many of the tens of thousands of people who still remain — unlike those who escaped before the invasion, during the siege, or who were deported to
"Our most important mission today is to save every life ... And there are hopes that we will succeed," Boichenko said, according to CNN, adding that Mariupol is "in the hands of the occupiers."
Russia's advance on Ukraine has largely stalled across multiple fronts, as its defense ministry said Russian forces would focus on eastern Ukraine's Donbas region.
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