It’s rare that the world is given a close-up view of Mariupol. Rare, at least, in the weeks since the Russian assault of that port city took hold, and desperation and hunger gripped its population, estimated before the war at 430,000 people. The mayor of Mariupol said more than 10,000 civilians have been killed in his city since the war began and that the toll could soon reach 20,000. It’s impossible to confirm these figures. But for perspective, official United Nations estimates for Ukrainian casualties stand at roughly 2,000.
The Russians have denied targeting civilians or committing any atrocities in Mariupol, or anywhere else in Ukraine, in what Russian President Vladimir Putin still calls a “special military operation.”
An important note: Tuesday’s pictures of the war in Ukraine come via a single photographer, traveling with the Russian military. Alexander Nemonov is a longtime photojournalist with Agence France-Presse.
In Nemonov’s photos, the destruction in the city is clear. So too, in one photo at least, are Russian efforts to win over the local population. Russian soldiers are seen handing out loaves of bread from a truck emblazoned with the “Z” symbol that has become a kind of trademark for Putin’s war. Given accounts from Mariupol — via the mayor, evacuees and the view of journalists who have been there — it’s hard to imagine that a few loaves will change any hearts and minds in the city.