In Russia, Ukraine

Buses transport residents of Mariupol to safety in Donetsk and Russia (RIA Novosti)

The self-defense forces of the Donetsk People’s Republic continue to push the paramilitary forces occupying the Donbass city of Mariupol to the shore of the Sea of Azov, expelling them from one neighbourhood after another. Artillery is used along some streets, fierce shooting battles on others. The Ukrainian ultra-nationalists hide in houses and try to use civilians as scouts and spotters. This report describes what is happening near the front line. Eyewitness report by Victor Zvantsev, in Mariupol, published in RIA Novosti, Apr 2, 2022.

Published on A Socialist in Canada, Apr 2, 2022

(translation to English by A Socialist In Canada; Russian original here)

MARIUPOL—The self-defense forces of the Donetsk People’s Republic continue to push the paramilitary forces occupying the Donbass city of Mariupol to the shore of the Sea of Azov, expelling them from one neighbourhood after another. Artillery is used along some streets, fierce shooting battles on others. The Ukrainian ultra-nationalists hide in houses and try to use civilians as scouts and spotters. This report describes what is happening near the front line.

In the ‘house with the Germans’

The dilapidated House of Culture in the very center of the city has been occupied by the military of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR). The walls are pockmarked by bullets and shrapnel, the courtyard is littered with shell casings and is filled with destroyed Ukrainian military equipment. Miraculously, a police vehicle sits intact.

A small semi-basement serves as an armory, dining room and bedroom for the Donetsk fighters. From here, they head out to battle, while the wounded are brought here before being sent to hospital. “I was playing football and the opposite side tried to take the ball away, but I held on,” the battalion commander jokes with a bandaged hand. “I told my wife not to worry.”

With a healthy hand, he makes notes on a map. He gives orders by radio: on a neighboring street, his unit is attacking a three-story building where two ‘Germans’ have just entered. The term is used for the ‘Azov’ extreme-right, Ukrainian paramilitaries, making an analogy with Nazi soldiers of the Wehrmacht during the Great Patriotic War.

In this part of the city, the front line has now shifted from residential to industrial areas. Machine guns and rocket grenades are used in the narrow streets; there are still people living in some houses, which greatly slows down the progress.

“First, the most experienced fighters go in,” explains the commander of the assault group using the call sign ‘Bumblebee’. “They perform the most difficult and dangerous tasks. Other fighters are let into the area only after checking the building for structural damage and land mines. If possible, we try to evacuate civilians or otherwise ensure their safety. Then we ourselves go in further.”

The day before, after a long battle, the enemy was pushed back down towards the coast. Not without losses – one fighter was wounded in the back.

The agony of the beast

It is also tense in the neighboring quarter– a wide avenue is being fired upon by a sniper.

“The other day, the ‘Azov’ shooter hit a civilian who was just crossing the road,” Shmel says. “Then he shot another one at the corner, but we pulled that guy out and took him to the hospital. I don’t know if he survived or not.”

According to the soldiers, Ukrainian snipers are constantly targeting civilians. At the crossroads near the drama theater lie several bodies. “I don’t understand this,” says a fighter with the call sign ‘Aslan’. He is indignant. “What did they do wrong, who did they threaten? It’s very dangerous here for them.”

‘Azovites’ in retreat gather in groups of two or three to occupy houses. They are armed with machine guns and grenades. They shoot to the last bullet. “We killed three people in this building the other day, but further down the street, ther is still fighting,” says a serviceman with the call sign ‘Sam’ as he surveys the area. “It’s almost impossible to run across the street, from either side, without getting shot and wounded.”

Captured and killed

Automatic gunfire bursts subside only with the onset of darkness, when the soldiers disperse to their respective strongholds. On the nightstands in the house closest to the front line are open cans of canned food and glasses of tea. In the room on the floor above are weapons, bulletproof vests, helmets. In the corridor, two corpses lie in civilian clothes.

“These are Ukrainian soldiers, they were trying to cross the front line,” says Shmel. “When one was stopped during a sweep, the second opened fire from around the corner.”

Vladislav, a 27-year-old Ukrainian military recruit, was lucky. “We were stationed near Mariupol in the village of Melekino,” says the prisoner. “We didn’t know anything about the operational situation. We lost contact with the direct command at the end of February and came under the command of Azov.”

His unit was transferred to Mariupol and ordered to take up defense at a local institute. They didn’t last long. Leadership was absent in the city and much chaos arose during their retreat. The captured soldier made, in his opinion, the only reasonable decision–to surrender. He admits that he was not eager to fight and he wants only one thing – to quickly return to his parents, wife and two children in Krivoy Rog. He will be checked out and probably exchanged.

‘Under the gunpoint’

The ‘Azovites are in no hurry to surrender. They are hoping for reinforcements. “Judging by our intelligence, they are being fed stories about being rescued,” the Donetsk battalion commander notes. “According to such information, Mariupol is completely surrounded by NATO troops.”

“The ‘morale’ of the Azov fighters is being boosted by various stimulants. On one bed, we found some white powder looking like salt.”

There are still many civilians in the quarters that have remained under the control of the ‘Azovites’. They are used as spotters and even human shields. “The tactic is simple,” explains a DPR fighter with the call sign ‘Ryba’. “They take a whole family hostage and then order one of them to go and scout our positions. Refusal is met with a threat to shoot the children.”

Those residents who are physically stronger are forced to carry ammunition, exposing them to artillery strikes. However, not everyone needs a pointed gun to follow orders. Locals say that there are so-called sympathizers in the city who willingly share information with the enemy about the movement of Donetsk republic troops.

According to DPR military personnel, about 25 percent of the city remains to be cleared. At the ‘Azovstal’ steelmaking plant, the nationalists have entrenched themselves and heavy shells are exploding there. The hands of the gunners are finally untied–there are no civilians at the plant.

Related reports:

Refugees from Mariupol expose the war crimes committed against city residents, video report by Patrick Lancaster, Mar 27, 2022  (31 minutes)  (Patrick Lancaster is a video journalist from the U.S. He has been resident in Donbass and reporting from there during the past eight years. Go to the his YouTube page to see more video news reports by him from Mariupol in recent days, including interviews with many surviving residents. )

*  [Russia’s Kommersant daily newspaper reports on April 2 that more than 100,000 civilians remain in Mariupol, many in very harsh living conditions. Russia and the Donetsk People’s Republic are providing massive humanitarian assistance, including transporting city residents to safe camp locations. This is documented on YouTube by video journalist Patrick Lancaster, among others. Western media is playing up the plight of Mariupol residents and claiming that Russia is blocking the efforts of the Int’l Red Cross to enter the city, provide relief and open exit corridors. Here is the ICRC’s report also containing such accusations, dated April 1. The report is  a mere three paragraphs long. It says the ICRC ‘relief effort’ consisted of three vehicles and nine personnel, in other words, a pittance. An April 2 report in RIA Novosti cites Russian military officials explaining that a humanitarian evacuation column of 15 buses from the city of Zaporozhye, coordinated by the ICRC and with the cooperation of Russia, was delayed by several days with no explanation. In the end, the buses never did arrive at Mariupol.]

*  Ukrainian artillery strikes residential areas in the center of Donetsk cityVideo report by Patrick Lancaster, Mar 28, 2022  (eleven minute report)

* Ukraine President Zelensky has a huge Nazi problem. This is fact, not ‘Russian propaganda’. 12-minute video report by Ben Norton, broadcast on his website news project Multipolarista, Mar 28, 2022  [Ben Norton’s report here summarizes well, at times imprecisely, key events in Ukraine during and since the coup of February 2014.]


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