Mariupol Is An Urban Hellscape Now

Mariupol’s neighborhoods lie in ruins after spending months under Russian attack and new satellite imagery from Maxar shows the degree of destruction across the city in great detail. In particular, it depicts just how battered the Azovstal steel mill is, which is largely the last bastion of resistance in the besieged city.

While much of the damage is likely from artillery and air attacks, weeks of vicious street battles with heavy weapons and armored vehicles took their toll on the city as well. Mariupol’s defenders have thus far fought their battles one street at a time as the Russian encirclement has tightened. 

Fighting continues as members of the Ukrainian National Guard’s Azov Regiment, reportedly along with a sizable number of civilians, hold out in the massive Azovstal steel mill. A Maxar image shows just how much damage the plant has received from Russian bombardment.

Damage to the Azovstal metallurgy complex amid an ongoing siege by Russian forces against the Ukrainian National Guard’s Azov Regiment dug into the facility. (Imagery by Maxar Technologies.)
Mariupol's Azovstal metallurgy complex, under siege by Russian forces.
A wider view of the same area of the facility. (Imagery by Maxar Technologies.)
The western part of the Azovstal metallurgy complex is in ruin. (Imagery by Maxar Technologies.)

The War Zone spoke to the Azov Regiment’s Chief of Staff Major Bohdan Krotevych, who is holed up with fellow troops and civilians in the steel mill. He said despite the near-constant bombardment, Russian forces had not entered the plant’s perimeter. You can read our exclusive first-hand report on the fight for Azovstal here

The defenders of Mariupol, who are holding out at the Azovstal steel plant, say they will never surrender. (Photo by Leon Klein/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Saturday reportedly saw a successful evacuation of some civilians from Mariupol in a United Nations convoy after negotiations and U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres’ separate meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

In a follow-up to the piece we published Friday, Krotevych told The War Zone on Saturday that 20 civilians had since been evacuated, but that the Russians made the process difficult.

It is estimated that as many as 120,000 civilians remain in the city.

Footage on Saturday showed Russian 122mm 2S1 Gvozdika self-propelled howitzers engaging reported Azov positions near the complex, the artillery pieces using their cannons for direct fire at short range. 

The Azov Regiment tweeted a video showing a “Z” marked Russian T-72 firing multiple shells near point-blank range at an apartment building’s lower floors, eventually causing a partial collapse. Numerous Russian Army vehicles, including a Typhoon-K and several Tigr-M MRAPs sat outside the building.

The clip shows civilians emerging from the rubble to waiting Russian troops sometime later, who take the civilians away. 

That kind of destruction in Mariupol is becoming the rule, not the exception, as seen in imagery in other parts of the city.

Destroyed buildings in Mariupol, Ukraine.
City blocks lie in ruins in Mariupol, Ukraine, after nearly two months of Russian bombardment in an ongoing siege against its remaining defenders. (Imagery by Maxar Technologies.)

Entire apartment blocks are burned out to charred, hollow shells, while others are flattened into piles. Along the waterfront, the seemingly random destruction spares one home, the rest of the street’s houses are all but buried in debris. 

Apartment blocks in Mariupol damaged and destroyed after two months of fighting over the coastal city.
Fighting among Mariupol’s towering apartment blocks has left many charred and torn apart throughout the city. (Imagery by Maxar Technologies.)

Scuttled and sunken ships sit in Mariupol’s port where Russian troops patrol alongside surviving vessels, nearby rooftops pigeon-holed from mortar fire and clashes on the waterfront.

Mariupol's port facilities after Russian attacks.
Two ships sit scuttled in Mariupol’s port with considerable damage to surrounding buildings from fighting in the area. (Imagery by Maxar Technologies.)

The Mariupol Theater, where the Ukrainian government claims about 300 people died in a Russian strike on March 16, is a bombed-out husk. The word “CHILDREN” in Russian is still visible on the concrete outside in what was a vain attempt to prevent an attack with much of the surrounding buildings damaged or destroyed themselves. 

Mariupol Theater Destroyed and the City Center
The ruins of Mariupol Theater, where a Russian strike reportedly killed some 300 people on March 16, and the surrounding damage near the city’s center. (Imagery by Maxar Technologies).

In Vynohradne just east of Azovstal, Maxar’s imagery shows the village’s cemetery is growing, with a number of new plots dug as at least a battery of Russian self-propelled howitzers sits nearby. 

Vynohradne's cemetery shows fresh grave plots and at least a battery of Russian self-propelled howitzers nearby.
At least one battery of Russian self-propelled howitzers in positions near the village of Vynohradne on Mariupol’s east side, with freshly dug grave plots at the village cemetery across the road. (Imagery by Maxar Technologies).

Civilians still in the city can be seen gathering at the Metro Shopping Center on the city’s northwest side for what supplies are available, and while the supermarket still stands, the buildings around it have clearly seen Russian attacks.

Several hundred people gather at Mariupol’s Metro Shopping Center for supplies on the city’s northwest side. (Imagery by Maxar Technologies.)

With Russian offensives in other parts of Eastern Ukraine stalled or behind schedule, it’s unclear how long Russian commanders will keep forces dedicated to battering what’s left of Mariupol’s resistance, or what’s left of the city at all, for that matter. 

Contact the author: