On 24 February as they began their invasion of Ukraine, Russian forces began shelling Mariupol, a port city of over 400,000 inhabitants. The next day they began to advance to its outskirts. By 2 March the city was surrounded and the shelling had become routine and deadly. Soon reports came in of schools and hospitals being hit. On 5 March came the first attempt to evacuate people under the auspices of the Red Cross: a convoy was organised but it was unable to escape because, despite Russian promises, the shelling did not stop. This was to be repeated many times. The lives of the residents became progressively more miserable and dangerous, with shelters, including one under a theatre, being targeted as well as homes. Some 90 percent of the buildings are now said to have been destroyed. By late March the Mayor was reporting that 5,000 civilians had been killed.
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