As Russian forces continue to besiege the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol, the head of U.N. emergency relief efforts offered a grim assessment of the situation on the ground: "No doubt we are failing the people of Mariupol," Martin Griffiths, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator said Monday.
"It's a place I've described as a center of hell," he said.
He said the U.N. receives offers "day by day" to create humanitarian corridors that are "not cleared by" one side or the other, and families have been trapped.
"We don't really know the numbers of people still caught and blocked and unable to get out from Mariupol," Griffith said.
Mariupol has been under relentlessfor seven weeks, leaving much of the city in ruins. Officials estimate roughly 21,000 people there have been killed, and 120,000 are still in the city, which is nearly encircled by Russian forces.
"The situation in Mariupol is both dire militarily and heartbreaking. The city doesn't exist anymore," Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba
"This is something, which as each week goes by, is becoming more difficult," Griffith said, "this is a generational problem that we're going to have to face."
The U.N. refugee agency says 870,000 people — have now returned, as Russian troops pulled back from areas around Kyiv to focus on fighting in the east.The influx leaves the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), which Griffiths heads, "concerned about deteriorating food security."Ukrainians have fled the country since the war began on February 24. A smaller number — over
Despite security concerns, "most Ukrainians want to return as quickly as possible and as long as they can be safe," Ukraine's U.N. Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya told CBS News on Monday.
The U.N. has rallied agencies that are staying on the ground in Ukraine to be a lifeline for food, clean water and medicine but have beenwhat Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told the U.N. Security Council nations earlier this month was the devastation of his country, where Russian troops " , adults and children, and they tried to burn the bodies." The Ukraine Prosecutor General and the International Criminal Court as well as the U.N. Human Rights Council and several countries have begun to for investigations of , amid that Russian forces .
Griffiths, who has traveled to several countries, most recently speaking with officials in Moscow and Kyiv, said mediation efforts have not yet succeeded. He said his agency has asked both countries to meet to discuss humanitarian proposals including a ceasefire, monitoring, safe passage, corridors, and other priorities, and he is traveling to Turkey this week to follow through on President Erdogan's effort to mediate.
Griffiths said that the international agencies need several-day windows to evacuate civilians, and Russia has not given those yet. Although UNOCHA has "had a number of successful movements of convoys," he said the number is "completely inadequate."
Asked about the places where the war is still raging, Griffiths expressed great concern for the region in the east. "Donbas is enormously worrying… it is the center of gravity of the war, of course."
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