As the Russians roll in, one lone family strolls in Mariupol's ruins

As the Russians roll in, one lone family strolls in Mariupol’s ruins: Powerful image reveals the scene of almost apocalyptic destruction in Ukraine

  • A photo captures a family as they walk through the destroyed city of Mariupol
  • Putin’s forces this weekend appeared on the brink of capturing the port city
  • Russian troops have broken in and are battling Ukrainian forces street by street 

A family walk through what was once a bustling residential street in the city of Mariupol. Now it is just another scene of almost apocalyptic destruction in Ukraine.

Passing twisted trees, blackened homes and abandoned vehicles, the mother appears to clutch the hand of her child, perhaps fearful that another deadly barrage of Russian shells or rockets is seconds away.

After three weeks of relentless bombardment and a merciless siege, Vladimir Putin’s forces this weekend appeared on the brink of capturing the south-eastern port city on the Sea of Azov.

An evacuation of civilians from secure corridors pictured in Mariupol, Ukraine on March 18

Russian troops have finally broken into the centre of Mariupol and are battling Ukrainian forces street by street. One video showed feared pro-Putin Chechen special forces troops pouring machine-gun fire into a high-rise building.

Pictures yesterday showed an armoured vehicle, with pro-Russian troops on board, rolling through the city.

Shelling has hampered efforts to rescue hundreds of civilians, including women and children, who are believed trapped in the bombed ruins of the Drama Theatre, destroyed by a Russian air strike on Wednesday despite the word ‘Children’ being clearly written on the square outside to alert pilots.

Capturing this strategically important city will Moscow to forge a land corridor between Crimea, annexed in 2014, and the Russian separatist areas of Eastern Ukraine.

Service members of pro-Russian troops drive an armoured vehicle in Mariupol, Ukraine earlier today

With 80 per cent of the city’s buildings destroyed or damaged, and with no running water, families resort to drinking melting snow to survive.

With no heating, women crouch around make-shift barbecues to cook what they can scavenge. Bodies litter the street as it is too dangerous to recover them for a dignified funeral.

Officials say 2,500 have perished since Russian forces poured across the Ukrainian border on February 24. About 35,000 people are believed to have escaped in recent days, many on foot and under Russian fire, but 300,000 remain.

As Russia’s defence ministry said its forces were ‘tightening the noose’ around the city, a woman called Svitlana gave a harrowing account of her flight from the city – and the horrors faced by those who have chosen, or been forced, to stay.

‘People with torn limbs bleed in their yards and no one can help them,’ she wrote in a social-media post.

‘These are peaceful people, our acquaintances and relatives. The dead are simply being covered by soil where they lie.

‘My family was in the bomb shelter of High School No 2. Three days ago a shell shattered some of the windows. A woman was wounded in her hip. She laid all night on the first floor asking for someone to give her poison so that she would not feel the pain.’

A satellite image from today shows the aftermath of the airstrike on the Mariupol Drama theatre, Ukraine

Ukrainian police now advise families to leave the dead bodies of their loved ones on the balconies of their apartments, she added.

Svitlana said: ‘Every day and every night there are fire shots, whistles, shaking walls and horror. Where will it hit? There is no food, no medicine. When there will be no more snow people won’t be able to go out for water. The dead are not taken out. The police recommend to open the windows and put the corpses on the balcony.’

Ukrainian MP Dmytro Gorin, whose parents are trapped in the city, said the Russians have dropped hundreds of bombs on the city and that conditions are medieval, adding: ‘People are out of food and, more importantly, out of water.’

Meanwhile, more than 300 miles west along the coast in Mykolaiv, at least 50 Ukrainian soldiers died when their base was destroyed by a devastating missile bombardment.

Rescue teams were last night searching for bodies after three missiles hit a barracks on the northern edge of the city on Friday.

A discarded pram pictured as an evacuation of civilians from secure corridors took place in Mariupol, Ukraine on March 18

Thirty hours after the attack, a survivor was pulled from the wreckage, one of about 57 who were injured, but lived.

With more than 200 soldiers asleep at the base when the missiles hit, the death toll is likely to rise. ‘At least 50 bodies have been recovered, but we do not know how many others are in the rubble,’ said Maxim, 22, an official at the scene.

The temperature in Mykolaiv, a port on the Black Sea, dropped to -6C on Friday night, raising fears that survivors may freeze to death while trapped.

In the southern city of Zaporizhzhia, home to Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, a 38-hour curfew began after a Russian rocket strike killed at least nine people.

Arriving from Mariupol, 150 miles away, Lyudmyla, a 54-year-old English teacher, said: ‘We sat in the cellar for ten days and did not leave once.’

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