How did Mariupol become the frontline of Russia’s war against Ukraine?

In the News podcast: Why takeover of Mariupol is key to Moscow’s military campaign

People help an elderly woman who fled the besieged port city of Mariupol as evacuees arrived to Zaporizhzhia, southeastern Ukraine. Photograph: Dmytro Smolienko/Ukrinform/AFP via Getty Images

Mariupol, once a thriving port city on the Black Sea, has been reduced to “ashes of dead land”, the city’s council said this week.

It has no food, no water, no medicine, no electricity. Bodies are piling up on the streets, Russian forces are indiscriminately firing on civilian areas and more than 100,000 people are hiding in shelters in basements.

In a video address, Ukraine's president Volodymyr Zelenskiy told the Italian parliament the city was "like Armageddon", while he spoke to the French National Assembly of how images from Mariupol "recall the ruins of Verdun as in the photos of World War I that everyone has seen".

Mariupol, which has been under siege by Russian forces for three weeks now, has become the focal point of this war. Local authorities say 80 per cent of the city’s infrastructure has been destroyed, some of it beyond repair.


"It's impossible to know how many people are dying in the bombardments in Mariupol because all international journalists have had to leave the city," said Paris Correspondent Lara Marlowe who has been reporting from Ukraine for nearly a month.

"We do know that there are our bodies rotting by the roadside, and there have been many people buried in mass graves. The last figure I saw for the number of dead in Mariupol was 2,500. But it could be years before we know everything that's happened there," she told the In The News podcast.

Christian Kaunert, professor of international security at Dublin City University, also joins the podcast to discuss why the takeover of Mariupol is key to Moscow's military campaign in Ukraine and why the loss of this city would be a huge blow economically and symbolically to Kiev.

Today on In the News: How Mariupol became the frontline of Russia’s war against Ukraine.

In the News is presented by reporters Sorcha Pollak and Conor Pope.

Listen to the podcast here:

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak is an Irish Times reporter and cohost of the In the News podcast