Mariupol residents whose apartments Russia bombed left homeless as new buildings sold to Russians
The Russian invaders admitted back in 2022 that some of the cities that they had destroyed “were not worth rebuilding”. About major cities, like Sievierodonetsk, little is known, but the lack of upbeat propaganda videos would suggest that little attempt has been made to make people’s homes habitable. Mariupol, however, was different. Not only was Russia intent on trying to rewrite history and blame Ukraine for its destruction and war crimes, but it also wanted to show how they were “rebuilding the city”. There was even a carefully orchestrated ‘visit’ by Russian president Vladimir Putin, with selected ‘locals’ thanking him for the ‘Russian world’ that destroyed around 90% of the city’s infrastructure and killed a huge number of civilians.
The reality, as always, is very different. Around 80% of homes in the private sector were devastated during Russia’s siege of the city in 2022, with this amounting to around 30 thousand residential buildings. The Russian-installed Mariupol ‘mayor’ on 12 September that 1600 private homes had been reinstated. There were expressions of open disbelief and anger from local residents, who demanded to know where exactly the so-called ‘authorities’ were concealing these buildings.
Vadym Boichenko, Mariupol’s real Mayor, by calculating that the figure of 1600 would still only amount to around 5% of the buildings having been restored, with that only if you believe such claims. The figure is likely, in any case, to be inflated, but also includes the work that local residents have been forced to do, at their own cost. Having not raised a finger to help them, the occupiers then claim credit for such restored buildings.
In fact, with nearly everything destroyed by the Russian invaders, the majority of residents do not have the money to carry out such repairs and are simply forced to live in buildings that are in a dangerous state. When approached for assistance from residents who are not, after all, in this dire position through any fault of their own, the occupation ‘authorities’ come up with any excuse to either refuse to fund repairs or to provide amounts that are clearly inadequate.
The methods used to leave Ukrainians living in their own city homeless are so breathtakingly cynical that even the local occupation TV channel reported on them, with scenes from this program fortunately by Ukrainian journalist Denis Kazansky. One especially shocking ploy is to refuse any compensation to residents who own another property. The channel interviewed a woman whose family, consisting of seven people, lived in the apartment block on 82 Nakhimov St which was devastated by Russian shelling. By the Russian invaders’ ‘logic’, they are entitled to nothing because they “have another property” – a dacha construction of around 8 metres, in which all members of the family would scarcely be able to fit in at one time.
The plight of all the residents of 82 Nakhimov St that explains why other Mariupol residents , however damaged. The building on Nakhimov St. came under direct fire and suffered enormous damage. It is, however, in a very choice location, so the Russians organized its demolition and began building on the site. Not, however, for the residents who, as Kazansky drily points out, the supposed Russian ‘liberators’ (as they try to present themselves) had liberated of their apartments. The new residential complex is most definitely “for sale”, with the actual owners of the apartments that Russian destroyed undoubtedly lacking the money “to buy” the apartments built in their place. As well as robbing Mariupol residents of their homes, Russia is moving swiftly to expropriate property of those who did manage to flee the city. They cite the need for accommodation as excuse, however it seems likely that the fate of all such expropriated buildings will also depend on how desirable the location is.
Kazansky believes that the horrific lawlessness around the complex on Nakhimov St. highlights why Russia bombed Mariupol with such relentless savagery in the first half of 2022. This was about razing Mariupol to the ground and “purging it of its native inhabitants”. Kazansky is not alone in feeling frustration when UN monitors claim not to have found evidence of Russian genocide in Ukraine, and it is no accident that the Tribunal for Putin Coalition recently focused on elements of genocide in Russia’s siege and merciless bombing of Mariupol, the mass killings, forced deportation of children and more. So too, it should be said, did a formidable group of international lawyers, scholars and others who pointed back in May 2022 to all the elements of genocide in Russia’s behaviour in Ukraine. They ended their report by reminding all parties to the Convention that any serious risk of Russian genocide in Ukraine “triggers the legal obligation of all states to prevent genocide.” Well over a year later, all of the elements remain just as clear to those willing to see them.