The elderly, children and other Ukraine residents unable to join millions fleeing the country over Russia’s invasion and airstrike face food shortages.
Ukrainian authorities said Friday that about 300 people died when a Russian airstrike last week blew up a theater in Mariupol where hundreds of civilians were sheltering — a catastrophic loss of civilian life that, if confirmed, is likely to further crank up pressure on Western nations to step up military aid.
In a vain attempt to protect those inside from missile and airstrikes that Russia has rained down on cities, an enormous inscription reading “CHILDREN” in Russian had been posted outside the grand, columned theater to make it visible from the air, according to a report by the Associated Press.
For days, the Ukrainian government in the besieged ruins of Mariupol was unable to give a casualty count for the March 16 attack. The post on its Telegram channel Friday cited eyewitnesses, but it was not immediately clear whether emergency workers had finished excavating the theater ruins or how witnesses arrived at the horrific figure of lives lost.
In Ukrainian towns and cities that day-by-day increasingly resemble the ruins that Russian forces left behind in previous campaigns in Syria and Chechnya, the misery for civilians grows ever more acute.
Those who can, are trying to flee, emptying out their cities. In relentlessly shelled Kharkiv, mostly elderly women came to collect food and other urgent supplies. In the capital of Kyiv, ashes of the dead are piling up at the main crematorium because so many relatives have left, leaving urns unclaimed.
Meanwhile, the vulnerable — the elderly, children and others unable to join millions heading westward — face food shortages in a country once known as the breadbasket for the world.
Fidgeting with anticipation, a young girl in Kharkiv watched intently this week as a volunteer’s knife cut through a giant slab of cheese, carving out thick slices — one for each hungry person waiting stoically in line.
Hanna Spitsyna took charge of divvying up the delivery of food aid from the Ukrainian Red Cross, handing it out to her neighbors. Each got a lump of the cheese that was cut under the child’s watchful gaze, dropped chunk by chunk into plastic bags that people in line held open like hungry mouths.
“They brought us aid, brought us aid for the elderly women that stayed here,” Spitsyna said. “All these people need diapers, swaddle blankets and food.”