Ukraine war: Boy, 4, says his father ‘is a hero’ as forces fight ‘to the end’ in Mariupol | World News


Underground in the city of Mykolaiv is a bunker that is now a children’s ward.

Drip feeds and medication are administered among the gloomy basement pipe work.

Here we meet mother-of-two, Oksana Suslenko, who has done the best to brighten things up for her two sons, Nikita, four, and Artyem, 11, by putting stickers and drapes on the walls.

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The queue for water in Mariupol
The queue for water in Mykolaiv

‘No water, no food’

The two boys play with toy tanks and missile launchers, reflecting the battle above.

Mrs Suslenko last spoke to her husband four days ago. He is among some of the last fighters holding out in the pummelled city of Mariupol.

She told me. “Everything is really bad. There is no water or food. They are all hungry and dirty, they don’t shower, they don’t eat, they don’t have anything – civilians as well as the military.

“A lot of dead bodies on the street – people just bury them in their front yards. I’m hanging on – that’s all I can do. With all that that I have – there.”

She nods towards her two children.

“They are adults they understand and see everything themselves. Nikita, say who your father is?'” she asks.

The boys say their father is a hero
The boys say their father is a hero

“A hero,” says the four-year-old. His brother says the same.

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Afraid to go above ground

She adds: “He will be there till the very end – he said we will fight for Mariupol and for Ukraine.”

Like other children in the bunker, the two boys are afraid to go above ground.

Medics don’t want us to reveal the location of the place, fearing that would make it a target.

A nearby hospital has been shelled on three different sides – possibly a war crime.

Article 18 of the Geneva Convention states no hospital “can be the object of an attack”.

It is a breach which can be investigated by the International Criminal Court, yet, according to a Ukrainian human rights commissioner Lyudmila Deinsova, 324 hospitals have been damaged since the conflict began.

Dr Olexandre Plytkin, head of the hospital, said: “This was targeted shelling of the hospital with the goal of scaring people and damage us as much as they can. And there have been multiple hospitals bombed. They want to scare civilians and sow panic among people.”

Queueing for water in Mykolaiv
There’s been no running water in the city for six days

Dr Plytkin says many children are getting injured in the conflict: “We have had more than 24 children with different kinds of injuries, bullet wounds, wounds from shrapnel, some of the children with their parents were living in occupied regions and as they were leaving, they were followed by gunfire.”

No running water for nearly a week

But people in Mykolaiv still have to venture out.

There’s been no running water in the city for six days.

Residents collect water at mobile water tankers around the town, among them Volodymic Fedorenko, 71, who is recovering from a shrapnel wound to his leg.

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He said: “Two bombs fell in my yard, I threw myself on the ground, and a third one landed four metres away and badly injured my right leg. My dog was a few metres away from me and it was dead with three shrapnel holes in it.”

In a nearby park, bloodstained ground and a discarded cap is the only clue to horror that rained down on civilians outside this church on Friday.

Local authorities say several blasts killed five people and injured 15.

Eyewitness, Oksana Byzina, told me: “A woman who sat on a bench by the church, she died.

“You can imagine my state when I saw her head ripped off, a child without an arm and then this man and all of this the windows were flying out of the church, and all of this was happening.”

This city has held off the Russians, but it is still terrorised by them with artillery fire and missiles. Walking around civilians pray they are not in the wrong place at the wrong time.

At the Orthodox Church they pray too, for their soldiers, for their dead, and more than anything for an end to this war.


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