(Reuters) – People are slowly beginning to return to the streets of the southern Ukrainian city of Mariupol, ravaged by weeks of shelling by Russian troops and now completely under Russian control.
On Monday, locals charged electrical appliances from generators and exchanged food and clothing at makeshift street markets, while Russian state television blared from a giant screen brought in by officials at an empty bus station at an empty bus station.
Lyuba, who was wearing sunglasses and a hat to protect her from the sun, said she was charging her phone. She had decided not to leave the city, even though her apartment was damaged. “There is no electricity, no water – it is obviously very difficult.”
A man named Nikolai said he also came to charge his phone because there was no electricity available at the train station where he now lives. Neither gave surnames.
Some residents collected essential products in boxes bearing the pro-Russian ‘Z’ symbol.
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Others had set up their own stalls to sell or barter produce, including vegetables and shoes. One woman – who did not give her name – said there were few products left after the city was looted by looting.
Russia seized complete control of Mariupol earlier this month when more than 2,400 Ukrainian fighters who had endured surrendered at the besieged Azovstal steel plant.
Moscow’s capture of Mariupol helped it gain full control of the coast of the Sea of Azov and create a land bridge connecting mainland Russia to Crimea, which it annexed from Ukraine in 2014.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has described Mariupol as “completely destroyed”, but Moscow has promised to rebuild it.
Both sides have accused each other of targeting residential areas and ultimately of being responsible for the charred, largely uninhabitable apartment buildings that now make up most of the city.
It is not known how many civilians are left.
Russia sent tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine on Feb. 24 in what it called a “special operation” to demilitarize its southern neighbor.
(Reporting by Reuters; Writing by Diane Craft; Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)
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