Ukraine’s Mariupol falls into despair in Russian siege

“Everything is mined, the ways out of town are being shelled,” he told them. “Trust me, I have family at home, and I am also worried about them. Unfortunately, the maximum security for all of us is to be inside the city, underground and in the shelters.”

And that’s where Goma Janna could be found that night, weeping beside an oil lamp that threw light but not enough heat to take the chill off the basement room. She wore a scarf and a cheery turquoise snowflake sweater as she roughly rubbed the tears from her face, one side at a time. Behind her, beyond the small halo of light, a small group of women and children crouched in the darkness, trembling at the explosions above.

“I want my home, I want my job. I’m so sad about people and about the city, the children,” she sobbed.

This agony fits in with Putin’s goals. The siege is a military tactic popularized in medieval times and designed to crush a population through starvation and violence, allowing an attacking force to spare its own soldiers the cost of entering a hostile city. Instead, civilians are the ones left to die, slowly and painfully.

Putin has refined the tactic during his years in power, first in the Chechen city of Grozny in 2000 and then in the Syrian city of Aleppo in 2016. He reduced both to ruins.

“It epitomizes Russian warfare, what we see now in terms of the siege,” said Mathieu Boulegue, a researcher for Chatham House’s Russia program.

By March 9, the sound of Russian fighter jets in Mariupol was enough to send people screaming for cover — anything to avoid the airstrikes they knew would follow, even if they didn’t know where.

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