Konstantin Ivashchenko, who was only declared a “new mayor” by pro-Russian forces in Mariupol the city on Wednesday, delivered his report to the Russian state agency TASS on Thursday, April 7, estimating civilian losses at “about 5,000 people”, while “about 60 to 70% of the housing stock has been destroyed or partially destroyed”. About 10% of the homes are said to be in an “irreparable condition, ready for demolition”, he added.
He also estimated that 250,000 people had left the city, but that at least as many, possibly 300,000, were left behind. Ukraine instead estimates that 100,000 people are still in the city, where the humanitarian situation is catastrophic. These quotes are excerpts from an interview TASS announced Friday.
Mr. Ivachtchenko also assures that in a school, the “best preserved”, some classes can be resumed already “this month” despite the absence of electricity: “We are going to turn on the generator for a while. We will also not be able to water, that that is, we will not be able to feed the children, but we may have 2-3 lessons a day.”
Ukrainian authorities had put forward “cautious” estimates of 5,000 dead, while saying there could be “tens of thousands of civilian casualties” and that the city is “90% destroyed”.
Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine also admitted on Thursday that they are still fighting thousands of Ukrainians in the besieged city and that it would “take time to gain control of the city.”
According to Eduard Basurin, representative of the separatist forces of Donetsk, the fighting is concentrated on the site of a large steel industrial zone of the Azovstal group and in the port.
“How do you imagine the industrial zone? It is a city within the city, and there are several underground levels dating back to the Soviet period, it is not possible to bomb from above, you have to clean underground. It will take time,” he explained to Russian broadcaster Pervyi Kanal.
The Ukrainian troops “have prepared, they know the terrain better than we do, it makes no sense to give a date or a timetable” to complete the capture of Mariupol, he added.
According to him, the Russian and separatist forces must find and block all access to the underground arteries and wait for the surrender of the Ukrainian troops.
Earlier in the day, Mr Basurin had estimated that “3,000 or 3,500” Ukrainian troops were fighting in the area, as well as an unspecified number of Mariupol residents who had taken up arms. “So the (total) number could be much larger,” he said.
In addition, Mr Bassourine indicated that there were still pockets of resistance in the city center. The Russian army and its separatist allies have been besieging Mariupol for weeks, facing fierce Ukrainian resistance. According to both sides, the humanitarian situation there is catastrophic and the city is largely in ruins.
The capture of this port is strategic for Russia as it could make the connection between Crimea, annexed in 2014 and the region under separatist control and Russian territory.