Protest highlights child death toll in Ukraine’s Mariupol

By Jennifer Hassan, The Washington Post

Updated: April 10, 2022 Posted: April 10, 2022

Rows of tiny shoes were placed next to candles in Helsinki, Finland, during a protest on Sunday to draw attention to children killed in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, particularly in the port city beaten from Mariupol.

There were shiny black boots. Tiny and cozy slippers. Pink and purple sneakers.

In total there were 210 pairs. They symbolized the total number of young lives that Ukrainian officials say were lost in the southeastern city of Mariupol, especially when the Drama Theater – where hundreds of civilians were sheltering – was hit on March 16.

The humanitarian crisis is worsening in Mariupol, where at least 5,000 residents have died in the month since Russian forces besieged it, its mayor Vadym Boychenko said on Telegram last week, citing preliminary estimates. Boychenko, who also cited a bombed hospital, condemned the “deliberate destruction of the civilian population of Mariupol” and estimated that 90% of the city’s infrastructure had been wiped out. The Washington Post was unable to confirm these counts.

Witnesses told the Post at the time that a white flag was tied to the top of the drama theater to let Russian troops know that children were inside. The word “children” was also written in large white letters in Russian in front and behind the theater, satellite images revealed. The building, when struck, was reduced to rubble.

At Sunday’s protest – organized by the Ukrainian Association of Finland, a group founded in 1997 to represent Ukrainians residing in the country to draw attention to what it called “Russian war crimes” – the shoes were laid in front of the Finnish National Theatre.

Organizers said they wrote the world “kids” on either side of the National Theater – like those in the Mariupol Drama Theater did.

A child-sized yellow jacket was also pictured at the scene of the protest, lying face down on the ground, a stuffed animal next to it.

“The purpose of the event is to draw public attention to the inhuman crimes committed by the Russian military against the Ukrainian people,” the organization wrote on Facebook, calling on people to join the event. .

Of the estimated 100,000 civilians remaining in the city, most are without food, water or adequate heating. Internet access is also scarce.

Its strategic position on the Sea of ​​Azov, between the pro-Russian areas of Donbass and the Crimean peninsula annexed by Russia, made it a key target of Moscow’s military offensive.

The Red Cross recently warned that a path out of the besieged town appeared to have landmines and those trying to flee faced a “long and difficult journey”.

Pascal Hundt, of the International Committee of the Red Cross, told Sky News on Sunday that “it was really hell” in the city.

Mariupol Mayor Boichenko said last week that hospitals had been attacked amid shelling and 50 people had burned to death in one of the city’s health facilities.

Julian Duplain in London contributed to this report.


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