Ukrainian police general Vyacheslav Abroskin is ready to surrender himself as a prisoner of war in exchange for the evacuation of the city’s children. Soon after he made his statement, the Ukrainian authorities announced the death toll of the bombing of the Mariupol Drama Theater.
Abroskin wrote on his Facebook account: “Today there are many children left in the completely destroyed city who, if not saved now, will die in the next few days, time is running out on the clock. I appeal to the Russian occupiers – give the opportunity to remove children from Mariupol; instead of still alive children I offer myself. Yes, I ask you to let me in Mariupol to collet children and organize their export. I need three days in the city. At the last checkpoint while returning with the children, I surrender myself to captivity. My life belongs to me alone, and I offer it in exchange for the lives of children who still remain in Mariupol.”
The proposal is all the more unusual since the general served for four years on the frontline after the outbreak of the war in Donbas in 2014. As a result, he is apparently on the Russians’ list of targets to be “eliminated.” By his own admission, the invading forces have already made attempts on his life.
Since General Abroskin posted his appeal on March 24, other Ukrainians serving in the military and the police have come forward, ready to pledge their own lives to rescue the lives of the children of Mariupol. The general’s proposal was made hours before the city authorities announced the death toll of last week’s bombing of the local Drama Theater, which had been converted into a bomb shelter; the air raid claimed the lives of around 300 civilians.
According to the incomplete data of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the Russian invasion has claimed over 1,035 civilian lives; another 1,650 people have been injured. The former number includes at least 90 children (as of March 24). However, the Ukrainian side claims that more than 3,000 people have died in Mariupol alone, and the total number of children victims is expected to be no less than 135.
Mariupol, which has been under siege for almost a month, is cut off from supplies of water, electricity, gas, medications, and food. Shelling and bombardment of residential buildings as well as corridors and humanitarian convoys have persisted. Around 90% of the city’s buildings have been damaged, 30% of which have been completely demolished. Information on the number of civilians trapped in Mariupol varies between 100,000 and even 400,000. So far, only about 30,000 residents have been evacuated. In recent days there have been reports of people dying in the city due to starvation and dehydration.
On March 16, the International Court of Justice in The Hague declared the Russian aggression against Ukraine illegal and demanded that it be terminated immediately. A claim of war crimes committed by Russia is pending before the International Criminal Court. As of March 24, Russia is suspected of having committed 2,427 such crimes since the invasion started. Russian representatives have so far failed to appear at the hearing of the parties before the Court.