Witness of Mariupol destruction tells NV what is going on in the besieged city

5 April, 02:16 PM
Invading Russian forces have all but destroyed Mariupol, but Ukrainian troops still hold the city. (Photo:Pavel Klimov/Reuters)

Invading Russian forces have all but destroyed Mariupol, but Ukrainian troops still hold the city. (Photo:Pavel Klimov/Reuters)

Mariupol has been besieged and surrounded by Russian troops since March 1. The invaders prevent Ukrainian humanitarian convoys from entering the city to bring food and water and to take people to safety. 

Instead they continue to forcibly deport Mariupol residents to Russia and bomb the 130,000 that are left there, claiming any one of them can be a member of Azov Regiment.

The Azov fighters, most of whom are Russian speaking Ukrainians, and some of whom have far right views, are seen by the Russians as Nazis they have to exterminate. Russians have cut mobile connections and made it almost impossible for the whole world to track what is happening in Mariupol.  The Azov Regiment, which together with Ukrainian marines and border guards has been fighting for Mariupol, is now the only source of information from the city.

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In an exclusive interview with NV’s Dmytro Tuzov, Captain Sviatoslav Palamar, the deputy commander of the Azov Regiment, based in Mariupol, painted a horrible picture of life in a city that has been almost destroyed by war.

In an exclusive interview with NV’s Dmytro Tuzov, Captain Sviatoslav Palamar, deputy commander of the Azov regiment, based in Mariupol, described a horrible picture of life in a city, that has been almost destroyed by war.

- The first thing that worries the whole Ukraine and perhaps the largest part of the world, what is happening now in Mariupol?

- A humanitarian catastrophe and genocide of the Ukrainian people is taking place in Mariupol in front of the world. I don't know where the world is looking, but from Feb. 24, when the war began, and from March 1, since the city was under complete blockade, no humanitarian organization has come here.

And people need help, because there is no medicine, there is no water, there is no light, there is no food, there is no heat, and mobile communications do not work.

 Mariupol is more than 90% destroyed. The housing stock is almost broken, hospitals, maternity homes, kindergartens have been destroyed or seized by Putin's terrorist forces, and hostages are held there. The situation is difficult. And I'm surprised that the whole world is just watching this.

We are grateful for the support in that Mariupol is on the agenda of many. But I urge officials, officials of the highest rank, European politicians, for whom the lives of citizens are the greatest value, to gain courage and come here with special equipment, to come with a rescue mission. You realize that it is impossible to lift heavy concrete slabs with your hands.

There are people under the rubble. They need to be rescued from there. Every day of delay is hundreds of lives. People die of hunger, people die of thirst, people do not have the opportunity to go to the surface.

As of today (April 2), there is a specific kind of stench in the city. There are lots of natural burials in the city, in the streets – many died during the so-called special operations, which Russia so flaunts, when the city was hit by a TOS-1 Buratino and many civilians burned alive.

These people have still not been buried. There's a lot that needs to be documented, that needs to be told. And international missions in such cases must record and send to the courts evidence of crimes. The longer some parts of the city are occupied by Russian troops, mercenaries from the Caucasus, collaborators, the fewer crimes we will be able to record. And the more people they will transport to the territory of Russia.

- Mr. Svyatoslav, what you are talking about is evidence of genocide against the Ukrainian people and a large-scale war crime. French President Macron stated that if we leave Mariupol in the state in which it is now, it will be our joint responsibility. But after these words, international organizations failed to break through any corridors in Mariupol in order to bring the most necessary aid to people. And this is a tragedy. Can you tell us about the nature of the hostilities? I understand that there is street fighting.

- That's right. There are heavy street battles in the city. Fighting for every house, every apartment. Fighting for each street and for each block. Fighting in the surrounded city. From March 1, the soldiers of the Azov regiment, the State Border Service, the National Guard soldiers and others fanatically and courageously defend Mariupol.

Every day we destroy the equipment of the invaders and up to a hundred infantrymen. We recently destroyed a tank with Molotov cocktails. Today we destroyed two infantry fighting vehicles. Their powers far outweigh ours. But we appreciate every fighter. (In contrast) our enemy… sends unprepared collaborators from the temporarily occupied territories of Donetsk and Luhansk regions into battle.

They send criminals who should be responsible for criminal and administrative offenses from the Caucasus, so-called volunteers from Russia. Give them rifle, four clips of ammo for it, do not give them even body armor, and send them to our positions. And then they randomly hit the whole city with artillery strikes from various systems. The city is constantly shelled, warplanes are constantly dropping bombs on the city (every 10-20 minutes). I guess the world hasn't seen that before. Ballistic missiles are constantly flying.

- The world has not seen this for sure. And this is Europe, the 21st century. A Ukrainian port city, which the enemy (sees as its) land. Svyatoslav, what you’re doing is a great feat. The fighters holding Mariupol weaken the strikes on the rest of the cities of Ukraine. Everyone understands this very well. But how can Ukraine help Mariupol?

- Every soldier who has already received several wounds, then goes into battle with hope. Even on the 37th day of the war, our soldiers still hope that an operation (to break the blockade) is planned and will be implemented. We understand and know that there are many who have experience of combat operations and are ready to come here to break the blockade. The only question is in its organization. This question is not up to us. It's a question of leadership. We live in hope, but we continue to destroy the enemy horde every day.

I emphasize that if there is no action beyond statements, if we fall and we fight to the last, what will happen to the civilians? In a state of euphoria under the influence of drugs and alcohol, we will have thousands of crimes.

- Rashist (Russian fascist) propaganda always says that "Azov" is shelling Mariupol. When Russian aviation bombed and destroyed the maternity hospital, (Russian Foreign Minister Sergey) Lavrov during negotiations in Turkey said that Russia did not attack Ukraine. I'd like our enemies to hear what Azov thinks about it.

 - First, everyone knows that our air power is not operating here. We don't drop bombs and we're not in maternity homes and theaters. At that time, our line of defense was in another part of the city. I declare that the bombing was done deliberately. And when the maternity hospital was attacked, no Azov servicemen were there. After the bombing, we arrived with the police, border guards, to take away rubble to rescue people.

A week before the bombing of the Drama Theater, we shot a video about the conditions of people living there. For aviation we put the word "children" in capital letters (in front and behind the theater building) There were only civilians there, no servicemen. This was conscious terror, deliberate genocide. (Lavrov’s) lie is like the Nazi lies of the 1940s of the 20 century. And this candid lie is intended only for the Russians.

I’ll give an examples of their tactics. Kyivstar installed a tower in the city. Civilians gathered there to get cellphone signals to find out where relatives were, who were alive. It was deliberately hit by the BM-21 "Grad" (multiple rockets). And cynicism is that 15 minutes after the first shelling, another blow was struck. You know what I'm talking about. There was the same situation at the Drama Theater.

When our servicemen tried to pull away the rubble, they were hit with artillery. The Russians used the same tactics in other parts of the city. Imagine: houses destroyed by a TOS-1 "Buratino", fires, artillery, our guys running under fire and not able to help people who are burning alive. I don't know what to call it.

- This is modern Nazism, this is modern fascism. It is no coincidence that they attribute all this to Azov. Because your regiment in the Armed Forces is defending the city.

- June 13, 2014 Azov liberated Mariupol. After that, this city became a pearl of Azov. And it was possible to compare what is being done in Donetsk and what is being done in Mariupol. The city flourished. There were theatrical events, festivals. The city lived. That is why there is such vivid cruelty towards the residents of Mariupol, who, by the way, mostly speak Russian (more than 80%).

- That is, their tactic is that first the shelling of a civilian object is carried out, and in 15 minutes they attack agin to destroy the rescuers?

- The Pentagon calculated that Russian warplanes made about 200 sorties to the territory of Ukraine. More than 100 sorties of enemy aviation were carried out in Mariupol. The Russian troops deliberately prevent international organizations recording the crimes that took place here, to conceal them.

- The Russian invasion has caused a military and humanitarian disaster. The Russians are actually destroying the city of Mariupol. But its defenders hold fast. What are the sources of this resilience?

- We are servicemen who swore an oath of allegiance to Ukraine. We have our orders. Mariupol is Ukraine. Speaking to our nation, to our people, I want to thank you for the warm words of support that we hear. I want to wish determination to our military-political leadership. And thank you for what you do.

- Today, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine announced the liberation of 30 settlements in the Kyiv region. I think Mariupol’s defenders need to know this.

- We completely understand that the enemy forces leaving the northern and other territories will be concentrated here in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts. But we’re continuing to fight, continuing to kill the enemy and defend Mariupol.

We understand that Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts are in a difficult situation. The number of enemy troops far outweighs our forces. But our guys stand courageously, hold on to the last, and do not give up hope that they will be helped, the same guys who are now defending Mariupol. Because we consider all military personnel and the whole Ukrainian nation as heroes.

- This heroic example of defense of Mariupol is an example for the whole of Ukraine. I am really grateful to you. Glory to Ukraine!

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