Eight months later Mariupol fell to Russia After one of the most brutal battles throughout the war, Moscow is now building on the destruction, bringing in people to populate the abandoned city and cleanse it of any Ukrainian identity.
Amid months of failing to advance the front lines and ceding major cities like Kharkiv and Kherson to Ukrainian forces, the Kremlin has reportedly shifted its focus to Mariupol.
An Associated Press investigation found that the city is beginning to resemble a Russian garrison, with Moscow receiving troops, equipment, doctors, construction workers and administrative officials.
The bombed-out buildings are said to be being demolished at a rate of one a day, and the deadly extent of the Russian invasion is becoming more apparent as the number of dead bodies and trees grows. Mass graves have been discovered.
About 50,000 homes are expected to be demolished.
The world watched the onslaught of war as it is Russian forces struck The coastal city, Ukrainian forces and civilians alike barricaded themselves for three months in an attempt to capture the city.
The battle for the city finally flared up at the Azovstal Steel Plant in Mariupol, which was a Ukrainian factory. Soldiers and civilians became trapped Under relentless Russian bombardment – denying access to food, water, and health care, and forcing thousands to eventually surrender.
Officials have warned that as many as 25,000 civilians were killed in the siege, though according to an AP investigation, that number could be three times higher as rubble is cleared and more graves are discovered.
As Ukrainian forces begin to push the front lines farther east into Donetsk, Russia is looking to secure its control of Mariupol by cleansing the city of any traces of Ukrainian identity.
Peace Street, which runs through the city, was allegedly renamed Lenin Street, and Soviet-era nicknames replaced street names and signs throughout the city.
Russia has reportedly drawn up new plans for the city that will center around the historic Drama Theatre – which once housed hundreds of Ukrainian men, women and children who took shelter from Russian bombing in the early days of the war.
The theater was bombed by two Russian air strikes on 16 March, and up to 600 people were killed in the raid.
Residents who remained in Mariupol said the theater had smelled of sweat all summer as corpses remained trapped inside.
The Associated Press found that Russia erected a barrier around the building high enough that it could be seen from space in response to the destruction.
Russia also appears to be planning to convert the Azovstal steel plant – a shadow site Ukrainian resistance symbol —in an industrial estate, though construction is not believed to have begun there.
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