In Mariupol, Ukraine, a website for the missing reveals Russia’s war toll

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A 76-year-old woman, last seen in her basement, is pictured smiling in front of a bed of tulips. A missing teenager who may have fled with neighbors is pictured in a dress holding a bouquet. Then there’s the elderly couple whose house burned down during the fighting. And a mother-son duo 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 of Mariupol, the southern Ukrainian port city that Russian forces besieged. for much of the war.

Dazed and exhausted Mariupol survivors describe the horrors they endured

The site, Mariupol Life, was designed by computer programmer and Mariupol native Dmitry Cherepanov, who was forced to flee the city in March after days of shelling 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 a missing person’s profile for updates or send direct messages or comments to others who have posted. But it also offered a window into the scale of the human tragedy in Mariupol, where countless people have been killed or gone missing.

According to Ukrainian officials, up to 20,000 civilians have been killed in Mariupol since the start of the invasion – in a city with a pre-war population of around 450,000. Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed victory over Mariupol this week, despite the presence of a contingent of Ukrainian fighters entrenched in a sprawling steelworks on the outskirts of the city.

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

Why Mariupol matters to Russia in three maps

The city was once a thriving seaside hub and a center of iron and steel production. Now it is not known how many residents have fled or disappeared. In the week since Cherepanov launched Mariupol Life, it had over 12,000 hits and now has over 1,000 entries for missing persons. There are 1,000 additional positions for those who have been evacuated, including some residents who have been forced to leave for Russia.

In one article, Marchuk Alexander Yosipovich, 62, wears a type of military uniform. His photograph is accompanied by a brief and painful note:

“I am looking for my father. Need for humanitarian aid. Food, water.

Another 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 mom,” the post said. “She wore a light jacket, a white hat, moved badly after a stroke.”

Cherepanov posted his own entries, including one for a friend who disappeared while leaving the house to fetch water. For him, the mounting losses have become deeply personal. Just hours after posting this week, Cherepanov received reports that his friend had been killed.

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

Cherepanov’s house, the block he lived in, the large red-roofed theater where hundreds of people took refuge and the retro computer museum he built were all destroyed, he said. .

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

On a post seeking information about a missing family after their house burned down, a new comment appeared.

“Get in touch,” the commenter said. “Everyone is alive.”


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