Ukraine marine commander tells pope Mariupol is ‘hell on earth’

AP-Alexei Alexandrov
FILE – A serviceman stands at a building damaged during fighting in Mariupol, Ukraine, on April 13, 2022. Unbroken by a Russian blockade and relentless bombardment, the key port of Mariupol is still holding out, a symbol of staunch Ukrainian resistance that has thwarted the Kremlin’s invasion plans. More than six weeks after the Russian siege began, Ukrainian troops are continuing to fight the vastly superior Russian forces in ferocious battles amid the ruins of what once was a bustling city on the Sea of Azov coast. (AP Photo/Alexei Alexandrov, File)

As Russian forces try to close in on the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol, a Ukrainian marine commander wrote in a letter to Pope Francis that the city “is what hell on earth looks like.”

“You have probably seen a lot in your life. But I am sure that you have never seen the things that are happening to Mariupol,” Maj. Serhiy Volyna wrote in the letter, published Monday by Ukrainska Pravda newspaper. 

“I have not seen your appeals to the world and I have not read all your recent statements; I have been fighting for more than 50 days, completely surrounded, and all I have time for is a fierce battle for every meter of this city that is surrounded by the enemy,” Volyna wrote.

Mariupol is at the center of the storm in the Russia-Ukraine war as Moscow seeks to take over a city critical to its effort of building a land bridge from the the Crimean Peninsula to two separatist regions in eastern Ukraine.

According to the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defense on Monday, the effort to capture Mariupol has been slowed by Ukrainian forces, but it has come at a significant cost to residents. The mayor of Mariupol put the death toll at more than 10,000 citizens as of April 11. 

The governor overseeing Mariupol said Friday the city has been “wiped off the face of the earth” because of relentless strikes and shelling.

Pope Francis last week called for both sides to put down their weapons to “begin an Easter truce.”

Francis previously traveled to the Russian Embassy in Italy at the beginning of the invasion to share his concerns for Ukraine. He has since denounced the war as “sacrilegious” and a humanitarian tragedy.

Ukrainian officials rejected an ultimatum Sunday to surrender Mariupol to Russia, Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal told ABC “This Week” anchor George Stephanopoulos. 

“They [Mariupol residents] have no water, no food, no heat, no electricity,” Shmyhal said. “They ask all of our partners to support and help stop this humanitarian catastrophe.”

Tags Mariupol Pope Francis Russia-Ukraine conflict Ukraine

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