war crimes in Ukraine

The Tribunal for Putin (T4P) global initiative was set up in response to the all-out war launched by Russia against Ukraine in February 2022.

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Russia reserves housing and warmth for its military and collaborators in devastated Mariupol

Halya Coynash
In Mariupol tens of thousands of residents have no heating and are forced to stand in queues for many hours just to receive bread or some hot food.

Mariupol apartment, with a sign reading ’WE’RE FREEZING! HELP!’ Mariupol People waiting in the hope of receiving a heater for their cold and half-destroyed apartments November 2022 Photos Petro Andriushchenko

Mariupol apartment, with a sign reading ’WE’RE FREEZING! HELP!’ Mariupol People waiting in the hope of receiving a heater for their cold and half-destroyed apartments November 2022 Photos Petro Andriushchenko

While the Russian state media gloat over images of Kyiv without power and water, they are silent about the horrific conditions in those parts of Ukraine which Russia systematically destroyed in order to seize.  In Mariupol, for example, tens of thousands of residents have no heating and are forced to stand in queues for many hours just to receive bread or some hot food. 

On 3 November, Petro Andriushchenko, Advisor of the Mayor of Mariupol, posted a photo from one damaged and unheated apartment block in Mariupol.  The despairing residents had hung up a banner with the words “WE’RE FROZEN!  HELP!”   Andriushchenko gave an update the following day.  The Russian-installed ‘leaders’, who were visiting Mariupol to give out keys to the (collaborating) chosen for propaganda videos were, of course, nowhere to be seen.  A contractor had, however, turned up; ‘promised’ to return the following week and covered up the broken windows with plastic foil.  That will not protect them from the cold, but, as Andriushchenko notes drily, “thanks for not immediately sending Rosgvardia” (to punish residents who dared to protest.

Andriushchenko also posted photos of residents standing in a huge queue, hoping to receive some kind of heater for their freezing apartments.  Instead, they were poured out some kind of hot food.  He notes that the Russian-installed ‘administration’ are themselves living in accommodation, while they advise desperate residents to be careful, and only use one heater (if they have one) per apartment, and only if all other electricity is turned off.  It is already cold enough for people to be using even the most dangerous forms of heater to try to keep warm, and fires occur on a daily basis in the devastated city.

At the end of October, News of Donbas published a report on the situation in Mariupol, saying that builders from the Russian proxy ‘Donetsk people’s republic’ [‘DPR’] and Russia are now destroying what the Russian invaders managed to still leave standing.   ‘DPR’ had, they said, extended the list of buildings to be demolished to 136, with this including administrative buildings, kindergartens, and schools, as well as apartment blocks.  While the occupation regime makes grandiose claims about residential buildings supposedly under construction, and propaganda videos in which people are supposedly handed the keys to new apartments, Mariupol residents are continuing to live in basements and garages. 

There appears to be no consultation about buildings to be demolished, nor proper measures to ensure that people have somewhere to live.  One woman can be seen here pointing to her badly damaged apartment block which they’ve learned is to be demolished.  They have no idea where to go, she says, and a hostel won’t take their dog who was with them through all the months of sheltering in the basement from bombs.

News of Donbas points out that it is not at all clear that the family would find accommodation in a hostel, even were they prepared to abandon their dog, since such rooms are also in short supply. Russian and pro-Kremlin media have been showing videos of people being handed keys to such rooms in a hostel.  That is touted as an achievement, although the number (250) is pitiful, and people who had homes are now forced to live in single rooms, with toilets, etc. shared.  The News of Donbas video points out that even the occupation ‘authorities’ speak of only six Mariupol residents receiving such rooms, with the identity of the other 244 recipients unclear. 

It should be stressed that what the Russian invaders are allegedly ‘giving’ is, in fact, stolen property which it is claiming to have ‘nationalized’.  There are at present 13 buildings which have been designated as ‘hostels’. 

Even where the keys are to actual apartments, the reality, according to various sources, is quite different from that shown on the propaganda videos.  News of Donbas suggests that the keys to new flats are, in fact, received either by Russian military, or by those closely collaborating with Russia or its proxy ‘DPR’.  According to residents writing on social media, those whom the invaders promised accommodation to (medics, education workers) remain homeless, and none of the supposed keys to new apartments were received by people from demolished buildings.

The real Mariupol authorities believe that the Russians damaged or destroyed the homes of over 158 thousand Mariupol residents. Over 60% of apartment blocks were either totally destroyed or sustained over 60% damage.

Even where buildings are not marked for demolition, the situation with so-called ‘repairs’ is dire.  Back on 13 October, Andriushchenko posted a letter from the residents of one apartment block where ‘repairs’ had supposedly begun. Nothing at all had been done for a couple of months and then, on 23 September, with winter on the horizon, all of the radiators and the entire heating system were taken out.  Just over two weeks later, they received a letter informing them that “the heating system” was to be filled. “What kind of filling can be in question?  The radiators have not been installed, there are no windows, neither in the apartments, nor in the entrance.  The integrity of the walls has been destroyed.”

Others complain of Russians coming in to replace windows.  Instead of removing only those windows that were damaged, they take them all out, and replace them with shoddy materials.

News of Donbas says that, judging from Internet chats, only 54 out of almost three thousand apartment blocks and around 5 thousand out of 50 thousand private homes are currently connected to gas supplies.   

Winter has almost arrived, unlike the boilers which the invaders promised people, and all the other supposed ‘benefits’ of Russian occupation.

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