Ukrainian officials say Russia bombed theater and arts school in Mariupol : NPR

NPR’s Leila Fadel speaks with Petro Andrushchenko, an adviser to the mayor of Mariupol, who says civilians in bomb shelters are running out of food.


To take a closer look at the situation in Mariupol, we turn to an adviser to the mayor of the city, Petro Andrushchenko. I asked him about Russia’s demand that Mariupol surrender in exchange for safe passage out of the city for its residents.

PETRO ANDRUSHCHENKO: You know, all the Russians said – that’s an absolute lie. They blockaded our city, destroyed our city and killed our people. So when they said that about the humanitarian corridor (ph) or whatever, it’s an absolute lie.

FADEL: Yes. They said – lay down your arms, and we will create humanitarian corridors. And you say it’s a lie.

ANDRUSHCHENKO: Yes, of course, because they don’t want to save our people. This is not a real step for peace, for safe people because they are still killing our people, day after day, hour after hour.

FADEL: Can you describe the situation in your city at the moment?

ANDRUSHCHENKO: The situation is terrible because all our people have to live in bomb shelters with no electricity, no water, no heating and just no food now because our food resource is exhausted. The Russians tried – blocked any way for us to get humanitarian goods for our people.

FADEL: Recently, a Russian strike hit a crowded theater in Mariupol where hundreds of people were seeking refuge. And we heard of another attack on an art school where President Zelenskyy said around 400 people had taken refuge. What do first responders find there? Do you know?

ANDRUSHCHENKO: We try to find our people and help them, but it’s – in this situation, it’s impossible because every minute we have a Russian attack. And it’s very dangerous for people trying to help.

FADEL: So it’s even difficult to show up to try to dig people up because they risk being hit by another Russian attack.

ANDRUSHCHENKO: Yes, absolutely.

FADEL: At this stage, how many civilians have been killed in your town?

ANDRUSHCHENKO: The latest figures – the official figures – were around 2,000 people.

FADEL: We have also seen reports of residents being forced into Russia by Russian forces. Do you know anything about this?

ANDRUSCHHENKO: Yes. The Russians are forcing us away from all districts and areas they are trying to control. First step of the Russian army and the Russian government – this is the forced evacuation to Russia. When it happened, our people didn’t know anything about the destination. When they said it was an evacuation, they–our people think it’s under Ukrainian control. But after that, we know that thousands of people were forcibly evacuated – evacuated to Russia, an economically depressed city.

FADEL: What do you want to say to the international community at this time about the needs of the inhabitants of Mariupol?

ANDRUSHCHENKO: First of all, we need closed skies in Ukraine because the most dangerous thing for us is – first of all, it’s missiles and planes. Which destroy and kill more people than ground forces. And the second, what we can say – we are absolutely sure that Putin does not stop at Ukraine. So he wants more, and he wants other European countries – the Baltic countries, Poland and other countries. We therefore need real military assistance from the international community.

FADL: How are you? How is your family? Is everyone safe?

ANDRUSHCHENKO: Yes, my family is safe. And this is the first question for everyone who fights with Russian forces. This is one of the main issues for every man in Ukraine – ensuring the safety of our families. And after that, we will fight. Our whole country and all our people are now fighting with the Russians.

FADEL: Petro Andrushchenko, advisor to the mayor of Mariupol, thank you very much for your time.


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Kayleen C. Rice