Terrible version of the USSR: Mariupol residents told about life under occupation

Yuri Kobzar17:36, 05/18/23

Today, the whole city lives in anticipation of the return of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, but not everyone is happy about this.

Under Russian occupation, Mariupol has become a “dark version of the Soviet Union.” Residents of the city spoke about this to the British edition of the Guardian on condition of anonymity.

“I feel like I’m in some terrible flooded and overcrowded collective farm. The shops are primitive, and the prices are astronomical. This city is not the one I knew. The people are not the same. Everything has changed. I have a constant feeling that I want to go home “, – said one of the residents of Mariupol.

According to people, the invaders demolished more than 300 high-rise buildings destroyed by Russian strikes during the siege of the city. The center of Mariupol has turned into a “continuous wasteland.” On the walls of the surviving administrative buildings and schools, the invaders hung portraits of the Russian dictator Vladimir Putin and the leader of the Donetsk terrorists Denis Pushilin.

Apartments in several renovated high-rise buildings were provided to collaborators. Some residents continued to huddle in dilapidated nine-story buildings scheduled for demolition, without heating and light. Others were forced to move to overcrowded dormitories where husbands and wives were separated and placed in same-sex rooms. 

On the eve of Russia’s full-scale invasion last year, public opinion in Mariupol was divided 50/50 between those who supported Kyiv and those who sympathized with Putin, according to current and former residents of Mariupol. In the spring of 2022, about half of the city’s population fled to areas and European countries controlled by Ukraine.

According to the Mariupol residents themselves, 100,000-120,000 people died from Russian bombing in the city, which is much higher than the official figure of 21,000 people given by the Ukrainian authorities. One person told the publication that 25% to 30% of his friends and acquaintances had died.

Currently, out of 480,000 pre-war population of the city, about 120,000 residents remain in Mariupol. Of these, about 20% supported the Armed Forces of Ukraine and were waiting for release, the resident said. Of the remaining 80% who remain in the city, half say they are indifferent to politics, while the other half sincerely support the Russian occupation.

“This last group is now in the majority. They are very afraid of a counteroffensive. The mood in Mariupol has changed dramatically. A year ago, everyone thought that Russia would win. There was no other scenario. Now even those who support Putin understand that something is happening, and that Russia can really lose. They are afraid that there will be a battle [for Mariupol]. They realized that when the territory becomes Ukrainian again, they will be finished. They will have to leave their homes and go to Russia forever,” the source said.

In addition to the Mariupol residents themselves, about 50,000 Russians have moved to Mariupol over the past year. 

“These visitors have no idea what happened. They watch propaganda on TV and think we were rescued from neo-Nazis,” one person said.

Meanwhile, the Kremlin is indoctrinating youth. Schools and kindergartens reopened under the Russian program, and the Ukrainian language was banned. 

“The brainwashing is very strong. Children are told that the president of Russia is the best, and Ukraine is full of bad people and fascists. It’s like in the USSR. There are other people’s slogans. Only mathematics and physics are unchanged,” the townspeople say.

Local residents admit that a year after the Russian takeover of the city, there are few signs of Ukrainian partisan activity. But the invaders are engaged in repression – they arrest and torture anyone who may have pro-Ukrainian views. You can only leave Mariupol for Russia, after passing a long and dangerous FSB check.

Most accepted Russian passports. Without it, residents said, it was impossible to get a pension, access health care, or even buy or sell a car. Elderly people received a pension of 10,000 rubles a month. 

“We live economically. Bread, water, a little sausage. That’s all. We can’t afford luxury,” said a resident of the city.

One of the residents of the city said that she recently visited the Mariupol beach, which was once a popular recreation area where families and couples used to swim and relax in the summer. 

“I went with my sister. There was no one there. It was completely empty. Everyone is afraid that there may be grenades or mines. On the one hand, it was terrible, on the other, it was cool to be alone. I wanted to cry,” the woman said.

The situation in Mariupol – latest news

According to an adviser to the mayor of Mariupol, the Russian invaders are carrying out a massive transfer of equipment through the city. In the direction of Berdyansk-Pologi and Volnovakha, the movement of trucks with manpower and armored personnel carriers was recorded. Also, according to Andryushchenko, the Russians resumed the tactics of night movements. 

In addition, the Russian invaders, in anticipation of a counteroffensive by the Armed Forces of Ukraine, are actively strengthening the defensive structures in Mariupol. They are setting up defenses throughout and around the city. Mostly Russians are setting up concrete pillboxes with machine guns near bridges.

(C)UNIAN 2023

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