Ukraine conflict: 100,000 civilians trapped in Mariupol with no safe route out claims Volodymyr Zelensky

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky has said that almost 100,000 people remain trapped in the ruined city of Mariupol, facing starvation amid “constant” Russian bombardment.

In a video call, he said civilians in the city faced “inhumane conditions, under constant shelling and under constant bombing”.

President Volodymyr Zelensky estimated that 100,000 civilians remain in Mariupol, the scene of some of the war's worst devastation, as Russia presses a nearly month-old offensive by bombarding cities and towns.

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Mr Zelensky, speaking on Tuesday in his nightly video address to his nation, accused Russian forces of blocking the aid convoy despite agreeing to the route ahead of time.

People lie on the floor of a hospital during shelling by Russian forces in Mariupol, Ukraine, Friday, March 4, 2022. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

"We are trying to organise stable humanitarian corridors for Mariupol residents but almost all of our attempts, unfortunately, are foiled by the Russian occupiers, by shelling or deliberate terror," he said.

The Ukrainian leader also accused Vladimir Putin’s forces of seizing 15 rescue workers and drivers from a humanitarian convoy trying to get food and other supplies into the port city.

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The Red Cross confirmed a humanitarian aid convoy trying to reach Mariupol had not been able to enter.

The convoy's attempt to deliver assistance came as Russian navy vessels joined in what have been weeks of Russian air and land strikes into Mariupol, US officials said.

A senior US defence official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to give the Pentagon's assessment, said Russian ships in the Sea of Azov added to the shelling of Mariupol.

The official said there were about seven Russian ships in that area, including a minesweeper and a couple of landing vessels.

The local council of Mariupol said intense Russian air strikes were turning it into the “ashes of a dead land” amid street fighting and bombardments.

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An estimated 80 per cent of the city’s infrastructure has been destroyed in the first four weeks of the war.

Airstrikes over the past week destroyed a theatre and an art school where many civilians were taking shelter.

39-year-old Viktoria Totsen, who fled the city into Poland described what life was like during the attacks before escaping the shattered city to safety.

She said: “They bombed us for the past 20 days.

"During the last five days, the planes were flying over us every five seconds and dropped bombs everywhere - on residential buildings, kindergartens, art schools, everywhere."

Ukraine’s deputy prime minister Iryna Vereshchuk confirmed that nine humanitarian corridors had been agreed, but added that no agreement had been reached with Russia to establish a safe corridor from the heart of Mariupol.

Mariupol, which was home to over 430,000 people prior to the conflict starting, is a crucial port for Ukraine and lies along a stretch of territory between Russia and Crimea.

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According to the United Nations, the invasion has driven more than 10 million people from their homes - almost a quarter of Ukraine's population.

Thousands of civilians are believed to have died.

US President Joe Biden is due to head to Europe for an emergency Nato summit on Thursday on Russia's invasion and increasingly hostile stance toward the West, where Nato members and other European allies are strengthening their defences.