Against the backdrop of a destroyed city and with the sounds of shelling of the Azovstal steelworks shaking the ground, Russia celebrated Victory Day in the "liberated" Ukrainian city of Mariupol on May 9. There was one problem: Very few of the remaining residents of a war-ravaged city took advantage of the free food and live music that should have been a welcome respite from the ruins that surround them.
Before the war, some 400,000 people lived in the city. Thousands of civilians are believed to have died in the Russian onslaught, and tens of thousands remain trapped, including at least 100 still sheltering in the Azovstal steelworks.
An adviser to the mayor of Mariupol, Petro Andryushchenko, described the atmosphere on his Telegram channel: "No excitement or joy on the street along the procession was particularly noticeable. People are lured to the square because of the promises of a field kitchen and additional supplies of food."
He added, "Putlerjugends (a reference to Putin and Hitler Youth, or "Hitler Jugend") are in place. The eternal flame from Moscow itself is in place. The occupiers are in place. Collaborators are in place. The only ones who are not present are Mariupol residents. Something went wrong with the holiday. Because Mariupol is Ukraine, not Muscovy."