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A local resident sits next to a fire in a courtyard outside a building damaged in Mariupol, Ukraine, on April 14. (Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters)
In his latest Saturday video address to the people of Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed the situation in the besieged port city of Mariupol and promised a better future once hostilities are over.
“The situation in Mariupol remains as severe as possible. Just inhuman,” Zelensky said. “Russia is deliberately trying to destroy everyone who is there in Mariupol.”
An estimated 100,000 people remain in Mariupol and its immediate surroundings, which are largely under Russian control, with Ukrainian troops confined to pockets of resistance.
“There are only two ways to influence this,” Zelensky said. “Either our partners will give Ukraine all the necessary heavy weapons, planes, and, without exaggeration, immediately… Or a negotiating path, in which the role of partners should also be decisive.”
Zelesnky said his government has tried every day to end the siege of Mariupol: “Military or diplomatic — anything to save people. But finding this solution is extremely difficult.”
“Although we have heard many intentions from those who wanted to help and who are really in positions of international influence, none of them have been realized yet.” he added.
French President Emmanuel Macron proposed on March 25 a mass evacuation by sea, but the plan went nowhere. Zelensky said every day either he or the armed forces chief or the head of Ukraine’s negotiating team had been “in touch with our defenders of Mariupol. Every day.”
Rebuilding the nation: Zelensky also said his government had begun to plan for a post-war future.
“Today I held a meeting dedicated to the reconstruction of our cities,” he said. “Of course, this is a huge amount of work. But still less than defending the state in war.”
The President added, “Now it is a historic moment; the moment when we can solve many old problems of the whole environment of our life once and for all.”
Zelensky addressed the housing situation and what he called the “real modernization of our cities.”
“Millions of people know how difficult it is to get a home, earn money for their own apartment, build a house… Today, I set a task to provide temporary housing to all our IDPs [internally displaced.]…Those whose house was destroyed by war. Temporary housing until we rebuild their homes.”
A priority, he said, would be homes for veterans to “provide housing for all those who have defended or are defending the state, who have worked or are working in the interests of society, and do not have their own housing. It can no longer be the case that a person devotes his whole life to military service, but retires without having his own apartment.”
Zelensky also said memorials were being planned, one of which “will tell the story of the destroyed bridge in Kyiv region, which connected Irpin and Bucha with Kyiv. The story of people who escaped from Russian invaders to Kyiv using this bridge and this road.”
The bridge was the escape route for thousands of civilians escaping Russian bombardment in March.