After Ukrainian authorities announced on Friday that Russian troops had completely surrounded the northern city of Chernihiv, the city’s mayor, Vladyslav Atroshenko, announced that bombing in the city had escalated and resulted in a bridge connecting the city to Ukraine’s capital had been destroyed.
The bombing meant that the main route out of the city, which was being used as a humanitarian corridor, is no longer safe.
Atroshenko was very clear: “The city is completely destroyed.”
Russia Initiates New Military Strategy
After failing to take control of the west of Ukraine, Russian officials announced this week that troops will begin “stage two” of their operation, moving out of the cities and focusing on the “liberation” on the Donbas region in the East. The news comes after reports that troops were running out of smart bombs and ammunition, and forced to resort to stealing food and water from local farms.
Before Russian troops leave the cities, however, the Russian Ministry of Defense said that troops have “blocked” Ukrainian cities to keep the Ukrainian military tied down while they head east to the Donbas region.
“We are being essentially completely surrounded and having a humanitarian catastrophe,” Atroshenko told television news. “People are without water, without heat, without electricity, people realize that the worst is yet to come.”
British defense officials also revealed on Saturday that the Russian military intends to continue bombarding major Ukrainian cities and urban areas to limit their own losses.
“It is likely Russia will continue to use its heavy firepower on urban areas as it looks to limit its own already considerable losses, at the cost of further civilian casualties,” the British Ministry of Defense said in an intelligence briefing.
Viacheslav Chaus, the governor for the wider Chernihiv region, said that Russian troops bombarded the city via Russian artillery and warplanes, telling television news that Chernihiv was “operationally surrounded by the enemy.”
Atroshenko also said that Russian bombing had destroyed over half of the homes in the city outskirts, previously home to around 285,000 people. The bombings have likely caused a severe loss of historical architecture, too, with the region being known for its historic buildings, ornate monuments, and ancient churches.
“The city is completely destroyed,” the mayor said.
Aid workers, no longer able to use the humanitarian corridor that connected Chernihiv to Kiev, have resorted to delivering water to residents in the city using whatever containers they can find, while many people are forced to cook food on open fires in the streets.
Half the Population Has Fled
Atroshenko said in a virtual press briefing on Saturday that between 120,000 and 130,000 residents remain in the city today – meaning that roughly half have fled.
With the city’s southern bridge destroyed on March 23, he said that there are no safe evacuation routes for the city’s remaining residents and no safe way to bring supplies or aid into the region.
The city’s mayor also revealed how Russian troops deliberately targeted hospitals in the area, including the Chernihiv District Hospital, which he says has been totally destroyed. City officials are reportedly attempting to evacuate 44 people who were severely wounded in the recent strikes, most of whom are military personnel, but others include adult civilians and three children.
Residents Say Chernihiv is the “Next Mariupol”
Residents told news outlets this week of their fears that their city will become the “next Mariupol,” the southern port city that stands in the way of Russian troops’ route between Crimea and Donbas. The city has been raised to the ground after weeks of shelling and aerial bombardment.
“In basements at night, everyone is talking about one thing: Chernihiv becoming the next Mariupol,” a 38-year-old resident told the press.