Every war has its city. Every conflict is linked to a place, a space associated with terror and mindlessness. Hiroshima, Aleppo, Mostar… There are many territories that we know of through the horrors of war. Mariupol is the latest addition to that list.
Standing on the shores of the Sea of Azov, Mariupol has the sad privilege of being considered a strategic location, as the link between the Crimea which Russia annexed in 2014, and the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk. A few days after the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Russian troops besieged the city for over 80 days. Throughout those long weeks they terrorised and murdered its citizens through aerial and artillery bombardments, rocket and missile launches.
The deadly conflict led to thousands of people being evacuated and killed (including the director Mantas Kvedaravičius, who died while filming the massacre). According to the United Nations, 1,348 civilian deaths have been confirmed, 300 in the bombardment of the Mariupol Dramatic Theatre, where hundreds were taking shelter. Other sources, which may be more accurate, estimate that the civilian deaths could amount to 35,000.
After the conflict, the city was left practically razed to the ground. Some 90% of residential buildings and 60% of all private homes were destroyed. There are also considerable suspicions of serious violations of international humanitarian law and human rights legislation. All of which has made Mariupol a symbol of a war which, like all wars, is marked by devastation and resistance.