Kyiv, Apr 18 (EFE).- Thousands of civilians hiding in a steel plant in the besieged Mariupol are braving continuous bombing without food, medicines, and water as Russian troops mounted pressure on Monday to capture the strategic port city in Ukraine’s industrial east.
“There are indeed many civilians on the territory of the Azovstal plant, including women, children, elderly people, and infants,” patrol police chief Mykhailo Vershynin told Mariupol TV.
“These people hide from shelling at the plant’s storage facilities, they do not trust the Russian military because they saw what happened in the city,” Vershynin said as reported by the state-run Ukrinform news agency.
The police chief alleged that the Russians were using the civilians left in Mariupol to clear the rubble and gather dead bodies.
People work for food, particularly at mass graves, as the Russians desperately try to cover the tracks of their crimes, said the news agency.
The police chief said everyone in the city was forced to wear white bands on the right leg and the left arm, the markings worn by the Russian army and the so-called “Donetsk People’s Republic army.”
“They bring the local population to the rank of combatants. Then they deliberately send these people to firing points, where they may die,” Vershynin said.
About 100,000 civilians are still trapped in Mariupol near the Azov and the Black Sea that houses the Azovstal plant, one of the biggest metallurgic units in Europe built in the 1930s.
Vershynin spoke on the TV show with former Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov about the situation in the city besieged by Russian troops for weeks.
Avakov said many people were hiding in bunkers at Azovstal, including women, the elderly, and children.
“(They are living) in terrible conditions, without medicines, food and water,” he said.
They are hiding in cellars and grottoes of the old blast furnaces at the plant, escaping the continuous bombardment that has practically destroyed the city.
Russia issued an ultimatum over the weekend to the city’s residents and fighters to surrender.
Bu the Ukrainians have defied the surrender or die demand. EFE