In Mariupol, Ukraine, a website for the missing reveals the losses of the war in Russia – Reuters

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Portrait of a 76-year-old woman, last seen in her basement, smiling in front of a bed of tulips. The photo shows a missing teenager, who may have fled with his neighbors, wearing a dress with a bouquet of flowers. Then there are the elderly couple, whose house was burned down during the fighting. A mother and son duo have been without news for a month.

These are just some of the hundreds of notices users posted last week on a new website aimed at finding missing residents in Mariupol, a port city in southern Ukraine besieged by Russian forces for most of the war.

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The Mariupol Life website was designed by a computer programmer and Dmitry Sherepanov from the city of Mariupol, who was forced to flee the city in March after days of bombing that cut off electricity and water supplies. Cherepanov, 45, wanted to use his skills to help people find information about missing relatives, he said this week via Telegram.

Its growing database is easy to use: it includes names, addresses, dates of birth and sometimes the last known locations of missing persons. Users can follow the missing person’s profile for updates or send direct messages or comments to others who have posted. But it also provided a window into the scale of the human tragedy in Mariupol, where countless people were killed or missing.

According to Ukrainian officials, since the beginning of the invasion, up to 20 thousand civilians were killed in Mariupol – in a city whose pre-war population was about 450 thousand. Russian President Vladimir Putin declared victory over Mariupol this week, despite a group of Ukrainian fighters holed up in sprawling steel mills on the city’s outskirts.

Control of Mariupol would give Russia a crucial land bridge between Russian territory and Crimea, which it annexed from Ukraine in 2014.

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The city was once a thriving seaside center and a center for iron and steel production. It is not known now how many residents have fled or disappeared. In the week since Cherepanov launched Mariupol Life, it has had over 12,000 hits and now has over 1,000 missing person entries. There are 1,000 more jobs for evacuees, including some residents forced to leave for Russia.

In one of the articles, Marshuk Alexander Josipovich, 62, wears some kind of military uniform. His photo is accompanied by a brief and painful note:

“I am looking for my father. The need for humanitarian aid. Food and water.

The other image includes an image of a bespectacled woman sitting on a bench. She is 70 years old and has been missing since March 21.

“I’m looking for my mom,” the post said. She was wearing a light jacket, white hat, and moved poorly after suffering a stroke. »

Cherepanov posted his own entries, including one for a friend who disappeared while leaving home to fetch water. For him, the mounting losses became very personal. Just hours after its publication this week, Cherepanov received reports of the murder of his friend.

“I lost everything I loved, everything that was dear to me in Mariupol, where I was born and where I lived 45 years of my life,” he said.

He said that Cherepanov’s house, the building in which he lived, the large red-roofed theater where hundreds of people took refuge, and the old computer museum he had built had been destroyed.

But even in the dark, Mariupol Life provided some light.

In a post seeking information about a missing family after their home burned down, a new comment has appeared.

“Contact us,” said the commentator. “Everyone is alive.”

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