Women and children are shown in the movies living underground in a dark, wet cellar. According to one mother, they haven’t seen the sun in weeks and will soon run out of food. An elderly woman shivers on a mattress, her head bandaged and wounded. There are no diapers left, so a baby wears a plastic bag secured with duct tape around its little waist.
The terrifying clip was uploaded on YouTube by the Azov regiment, a unit of the Ukrainian military forces, who said it was shot in the extensive network of tunnels beneath the Azovstal steel mill, Mariupol’s last major resistance.
Russian military have gained control of what is left of the city after a sustained bombardment by air, sea, and sky. Mariupol, formerly a prosperous port and popular Black Sea holiday destination, is now mostly in ruins. The steel factory is the city’s sole surviving sanctuary for hundreds of soldiers and citizens.
In a video released last week, a little child, his cheeks pallid, made a heartfelt appeal for a way out.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s adviser, Myhailo Podoliak, claimed on Saturday that Russia is refusing to assist save the people of Mariupol and has demonstrated a “total refusal to speak.”
The Azov regiment’s films, which are accompanied by cries for assistance, provide a picture of the grim scenario developing for Mariupol people who have been left behind. In the absence of journalists on the ground – the only Western news media team reporting from the city, the Associated Press, left in March – and nearly no internet or phone connectivity, the video released by Azov to social media are among the only windows into the misery of those besieged in the facility.
According to Ukrainian officials, Russia carried out attacks on a field hospital within the factory on Thursday. The mayor of Mariupol, Vadym Boichenko, stated that more than 600 people were injured in the bombing. The incident rekindled UN requests for humanitarian corridors to be opened to the city.
In a news conference in Kyiv, UN Secretary-General António Guterres warned that the besieged city was a “crisis inside a crisis” and that the people stuck there were in dire need of assistance. According to Guterres, Russian President Vladimir Putin has consented in principle to the UN and International Committee of the Red Cross participating in the evacuation of residents from Azovstal. However, such passageways have yet to become a reality. Putin urged his military minister in Moscow last week that the facility should be shut off but not stormed.
Footage and images posted by the Azov regiment on Friday depict terrible sights in the aftermath of the attack on the plant’s temporary hospital. CNN was unable to independently confirm the location of the videos.
An Azov commander inside the Azovstal steel complex told CNN on Friday that youngsters ranging in age from four months to sixteen years were trapped inside, some in cellars and bunkers that are now inaccessible due to rubble.
Some context: The Azov regiment was founded in 2014 as the Azov Battalion to protect Mariupol against Russian-backed rebels. It was notorious at the time for having members with nationalist and neo-Nazi leanings, which Russia used to justify its war. Analysts and Ukrainian authorities think the unit has changed since it was absorbed into the Ukrainian military. In recent weeks, the unit has played a significant role in protecting the city, and its troops have frequently pleaded for residents to be evacuated from the facility.