‘I want to go home: ‘Terrified Ukranian girl, 4 , hides in tunnel from Russian missiles
At just four, little Alisa has seen more of war than most adults as she hides in a tunnel from Russia’s blanket-bombing of Mariupol.
The youngster has been living under a steel factory for 50 days with her mother, a military doctor caring for the wounded, as the last defenders of the besieged port face the final onslaught.
Intercepted radio messages reveal that Russian troops there have been ordered to ‘level everything to the ground’.
Vladimir Putin’s army has used bunker-busting bombs on the Azovstal steelworks, where Ukrainian fighters and 1,000 civilians are holed up in tunnels.
Alice is one of 1,000 refugees sheltering underneath the wrecked Azovstal works in Mariupol
Mariupol has been under intense shelling for seven weeks, and tens of thousands of people are feared dead from the bombing, ground fighting and even dehydration and starvation as supply chains are cut off.
A video shared online by two Ukrainian officials showed Alisa living in bunkers beneath the Azovstal plant as it came under fire – giving the lie to Russian claims that civilians are not being targeted.
Arsen Avakov, a former Ukrainian minister of internal affairs, said the four-year-old had sought sanctuary under the factory with her mother.
He said that there were many women, children and elderly people stuck in the tunnels without medicine, food or water.
In the video, Alisa is reading a book when she tells her parents she wants to be ‘evacuated’, go ‘home’ and say hello to her grandmother.
Though she is only a toddler, Alisa has seen more war – and life experience – than many adults
At least 1,000 civilians, including this family pictured on Monday, are sheltering at the works
Speaking on the video, Mr Avakov called for more heavy weapons to be sent to Ukraine, adding: ‘This is how Putin’s horde ‘protects’ Russian-speaking Ukrainians – by killing, maiming, forcing them to die of starvation and diseases.
‘Alisa probably doesn’t know that the name of her hope is heavy offensive weapons. But the adult civilised democratic world knows! And it must, must save Alisa!’
Officials say 95 per cent of the city has been destroyed.
Yesterday, Russian-backed fighters are said to have stormed Azovstal after the Kremlin’s deadline passed for remaining Ukrainian troops to surrender.
Russia’s defence ministry said those who remained in the steelworks were facing a ‘catastrophic situation’, adding that anyone who gave up and laid down their arms would be ‘guaranteed survival’.
About 120 civilians living around the factory are thought to have escaped via a humanitarian corridor yesterday – despite Russian claims that only Ukrainian troops and mercenaries remained.
After remaining resistance fighters refused to surrender, Russian attacks resumed last night.
Militia from the nationalist Azov Regiment defending Mariupol vowed to keep fighting, but admitted they’d had many casualties and said Azovstal had been ‘destroyed almost completely’.
Deputy commander Kalyna Palamar said ‘super powerful bombs’ were being dropped on the plant and ‘a lot of people’ were under the rubble.
He added: ‘We will fight, we will use every cartridge we have left, but we call on the homeland to save civilians, the wounded and take away the bodies.’
In a show of strength, the regiment released a video showing a soldier blowing up a Russian armoured vehicle with an anti-tank missile.
Fighting continued elsewhere in the city, which is a significant target owing to its location on the Sea of Azov in the Donbas region.
The Azovstal steelworks has been targeted by Russian bombers despite sheltering refugees
There were unverified claims that a hospital near Azovstal had been hit by a ‘heavy bomb’, with about 300 people reportedly trapped in the rubble.
The plight of civilians trapped under the Azovstal factory came as further evidence of Russia’s barbaric tactics were revealed.
Yesterday, Ukraine’s security service released an intercepted audio recording, allegedly of a Russian commander in Mariupol revealing that aircraft were planning to ‘level everything to the ground’ at Azovstal.
Alisa is seen cowering under Putin’s destruction despite the Russians denying civilian targets
The leader of a Russian platoon 2.5 miles from the target told comrades he was expecting some ‘surprises’, adding: ‘Three-ton ones, from the sky.’
The recording has not been verified, but earlier this month German spies intercepted communications from Russian troops in which soldiers appeared to discuss the killing of civilians.
These were not denied by Russian officials.
Images have also shown members of the pro-Russian Donetsk People’s Republic militia with dead Ukrainian soldiers in bags in a tunnel at the Illich Iron and Steel Plant in Mariupol.