Ukrainian marines bracing for the “last battle” to gain control over the besieged city of Mariupol have warned that they are running out of ammunition.
The 36th marine brigade of the Ukrainian armed forces on Monday said they had been fighting for 47 days and had done “everything possible and impossible” to push back Vladimir Putin’s troops.
The intense battle for the occupation of the geographically-crucial port since the declaration of war on 24 February has turned the city into rubbles and killed thousands of people.
“For more than a month, the Marines fought without refilling ammunition, without food, without water, almost a lacquer from the puddle and died in packs,” the forces said in a Facebook post.
“Today will probably be an extreme fight… Further is death for some, but captivity for others,” it added.
The Ukrainian forces added that “the enemy gradually pushed us back” and “surrounded us with fire, and is now trying to destroy us” as Moscow prepared for a fresh offensive in the eastern parts of the country.
It said nearly half of its men were wounded and those whose limbs were not broken and can walk will return to the battle.
“The Infantry was killed and gunfights are now led by anti-aircraft gunners, radio operators, drivers and even an orchestra. Dying but fighting. Gradually we are coming to an end,” it said in the plea urging Ukrainians to remember their valour.
The brigade also complained about the lack of support from the country’s military leadership, alleging “no one wants to communicate with us anymore because we’ve been written off”.
Vadym Boychenko, the mayor of Mariupol, said on Monday that more than 10,000 civilians were killed in the six-week-long offensive and corpses “carpeted through the streets”.
He told the Associated Press that the Russian troops have taken bodies to a huge shopping centre where there are storage facilities, pointing out that the toll could surpass 20,000.
“Mobile crematoriums have arrived in the form of trucks: You open it, and there is a pipe inside and these bodies are burned,” he added.
The mayor highlighted that nearly 120,000 civilians in Mariupol are in dire need of food, water, warmth and communications.
His allegation comes just days after the discovery of large numbers of apparently executed civilians after Russian forces retreated from cities and towns around capital Kyiv.
Ukrainian officials have also said that people suffered symptoms of chemical poisoning, including respiratory failure, after Russian troops deployed an unknown substance in the port city.
“We take this as seriously as possible,” Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky said in his nighttime address.
“Unfortunately we are not getting as much [weapons] as we need to end this war sooner. In particular, to unblock Mariupol if we get jets and enough heavy armoured vehicles, the necessary artillery, we would be able to do it,” Mr Zelensky said on Monday night.
The west has also cautioned that Moscow could resort to using unconventional weapons, including chemical agents, during the war.
A Ukrainian regiment had alleged, albeit without evidence, that a drone had dropped a poisonous substance in Mariupol.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said in a statement that the United States could not confirm the drone report but expressed concerns “about Russia’s potential to use a variety of riot control agents, including tear gas mixed with chemical agents, in Ukraine”.
Eduard Basurin, a Russia-allied separatist official, reportedly urged the use of chemical weapons while appearing on Russian state television.
He said Russian-backed forces should seize a giant metals plant in Mariupol “and then we’ll use chemical troops to smoke them out of there”.
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