• The man starved so severely that he lost 15 kilograms in three months 
  • Kutnyakova said many who had diabetes died due to a lack of medicines 
  • The prices of medicines have also increased four times in Mariupol

A Mariupol woman has shared a photograph of her 71-year-old uncle, who she says starved so severely that he lost 15 kilograms after Russians laid siege to the city.

Maria Kutnyakova said the Russian assault on the coastal city resulted in an acute food shortage that left many elderly, including her uncle Pavel Glushchenko, starving, and "on the brink of survival. " Her post went viral, with many calling Mariupol "Soviet concentration camp" and its people "Auschwitz prisoners."

In an interview with Radio Svoboda, a wing of RFE/RL, Kutnyakova said people like her uncle only had "some kind of soup to eat, that too once a day." The situation was so severe that the elderly man would faint out of hunger multiple times a day.

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According to Kutnyakova, they believed the Ukrainian forces would protect them and decided not to leave Mariupol when the war started. "We didn't think that the Russians were so crazy that they would just arrange genocide, bomb Mariupol and destroy absolutely everything. They didn't come to liberate us, they came to kill us, simply because we are Ukrainians. This is real fascism in all its glory," she told the news outlet.

Kutnyakova said her family had to flee to Melekino, 15 kilometers from Mariupol, after a bombing destroyed their apartment and the theatre where they sought refuge. She couldn't take her uncle with them because he had mobility issues and the journey was by foot. However, the family lost contact with Glushchenko after the Russians cut all communication with the city.

Kutnyakova was able to see her uncle again only after three months. She was shocked to discover the elderly man rail-thin and weak. He was apparently forced to live from hand to mouth and received rations only once from the Russian military.

She added that her uncle only once was able to receive "humanitarian aid" from the Russians, which consisted of several packages of cereals, sugar, sunflower oil and stew. "But the stew was spoiled and they throw it away. It was given as a monthly set for the family," she added.

The woman said the only reason her uncle and his neighbors lived was that there was a vegetable warehouse nearby.

Kutnyakova said a lot of people with diabetes died in Mariupol simply because of the lack of medicines. "My uncle has asthma. Thank God, he had some kind of supply of medicines," she added.

Though the family is struggling to bring him back to health, they face additional challenges. "You know, if a person has been starving for some time, then after getting into normal conditions, he immediately wants to eat. But, he can’t overeat, you need to gradually increase his diet. We are constantly fighting with him now, because he wants to eat five or six times a day," she said.

Kutnyakova added in her Facebook post that a person needs 6000 UAH ($ 203) per month for food now in Ukraine. The prices of medicines are exactly four times higher than in Ukraine. "I also see a lot of posts from people there, how they are in clean clothes, with nails done happy and smiling. But the majority of the population there are on the brink of survival," she added.

People walk past a residential building heavily damaged during Ukraine-Russia conflict in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine May 30, 2022.
People walk past a residential building heavily damaged during Ukraine-Russia conflict in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine May 30, 2022. Reuters / ALEXANDER ERMOCHENKO