As the Siege of Mariupol rages on, Mayor Vadym Boichenko stays in the encircled city to help anyone he can.

Since 24 February, the southern Ukrainian port city of Mariupol has been under constant barrage and encirclement from the Russian army and the DPR Armed Forces. The Red Cross has described the situation as “apocalyptic” and Ukrainian officials are accusing Russia of engineering one of the biggest humanitarian crises in recent European history, with Mayor Boichenko reporting over 1,200 civilian casualties.


The seizure of the city by Russian forces would be a massive strategical advantage as it would connect Russian-controlled Crimea in the south to the pro-Russian separatists in the east. After 2 weeks of the siege, the Russian forces have made little progress in terms of area occupied. However, the shelling of the city has crippled the Ukrainian forces in the city and an occupation of the city is currently not considered to be a matter of if but a matter of when by many analysts.


On 7 March, the US ambassador to the OSCE (Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe) described two incidents that occurred in Mariupol on 5 March and 6 March as war crimes. He stated that on both dates, Russian forces bombed agreed-upon evacuation corridors while civilians were trying to use them. On 9 March, Russian artillery hit a maternity hospital in the city, killing 3 and injuring 17. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy described the attack as an “atrocity”. The Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that the reason for the bombardment was that the hospital was occupied by the Azov Battalion, a neo-Nazi detachment of the Ukrainian military and related to Russia’s given reason for the invasion which was to “de-nazify”.


400,000 civilians still occupy the city and most evacuation attempts have been stopped by the Russian Armed Forces, leading Petro Andrushenko, an adviser to the mayor, to say the Russians want to “delete our people. They want to stop any evacuation.”.


A month ago, recently re-elected Mayor of Mariupol Vadym Boichenko was working on a plan to revitalise the port city, appearing on live TV to announce new investment into tech, medicine and education, with the development budget increasing by 38 times. Under his 7-year-long reign as Mayor, the city has become one of the safest, wealthiest and productive cities in Ukraine, leading him to be voted the Best Mayor in Ukraine for 2021. Now, he is giving interviews from a basement in the heart of a city under siege, dark circles under his eyes. His son is fighting on the frontlines and the rest of his family are in a bomb shelter, out of reach. “I can’t even go there to see if they’re alive because the shelling won’t stop,". 


Since the start of the Russian invasion, he has continuously said that Mariupol will not surrender to the Russian forces whilst trying continuously for a complete evacuation of the city. He describes the relentless attack of the city in an interview with Reuters, “They’re destroying us, they’ve been working methodically to make sure the city is blockaded, they will not even give us an opportunity to count the wounded and the killed because the shelling does not stop.".


To ensure the safety of the citizens of Mariupol, he has made all public facilities completely free, he has been trying to distribute medicine, food and water to civilians as much as possible, provided incredible leadership, and has tried to enforce some sort of order in the city. Fighting among residents for food and fuel has become commonplace in the city ever since the Russian military cut off all food, water, heat and medicinal supplies from the city. Local Red Cross official Sacha Volkov told the Associated Press that a black market is operating for vegetables, meat is unavailable, and people are stealing gasoline from cars. “People started to attack each other for food,” Volkov told AP.


According to Ukrainian official estimates, 200,000 people are in “urgent need of evacuation” and there has only been an estimated 20,000 residents that have managed to leave the city in private cars. There doesn't seem to be an end in sight at the moment, but if there is, it looks most likely that it will be the Russian military roaming the streets of Mariupol.