Lviv — Russia continued to flattenthe besieged port city of on Tuesday amid growing warnings from Washington that a cornered President Vladimir Putin, frustrated with his military’s slow progress after a 26-day invasion of Ukraine, could resort to releasing chemical or biological weapons on his neighbors.
President Joe Biden said on Monday that Putin’s “back is against the wall” as his assault on Ukraine was unplanned. Mr Biden called the Russian leader’s claims that the United States has labs in Ukraine to develop chemical and biological weapons a “clear sign that he is considering using both” himself.
As US-Russia relations crumble, the US leader has also warned businesses that abusinesses or infrastructure on American soil.
Moscow has shown no signs of backing down from the stalemate. Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov called on Russian television on Monday evening to demand “an end to the demonization of Russia”.
“We insist that the responsibility for the possible consequences of what is happening lies entirely with Washington,” Ryabkov warned.
But while Putin’s regime insists it only targets ‘neo-Nazis’ and criminals in Ukraine, and never targets civilian infrastructure, these claims are belied by the utter devastation of cities whole like Mariupol, which Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says is being methodically “burned to ashes” for refusing to accept Russian rule.
Until just a month ago, it was a thriving port city that was home to around half a million people. It was under constant siege by the Russians for weeks. Thousands of civilians are still trapped there, cowering in basements from the constant artillery barrage. Putin’s forces have cut everything from food and medicine to the city’s heat and electricity.
But some civilians got away with it. CBS News correspondent Imtiaz Tyab met a family who escaped the devastation to reach the western city of Lviv. They told CBS News that all that was left of Mariupol was “hell on earth.”
The video shows black smoke rising from the remains of apartment buildings across the city, revealing the hellish landscape left behind by Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine.
The relentless bombardment of Mariupol sparked a mass exodus, and many, like the Vodizanska family, escaped with little more than their lives.
Bloodied and battered, the once typical middle-class family fled their home in Mariupol and made their way to the safety of a church in Lviv. Svetlana and Roman spent five days on the road with their children to escape the relentless Russian bombardment of their city.
“Hell is when you don’t know if you can catch your breath, if you will [find] anything to feed your children, because they are hungry,” Svetlana told Tyab. “Hell is when you know that if your child gets sick, he will die.
“It’s hell,” the mother told CBS News. “It’s hell here in the 21st century.”
Nearly 90% of buildings in Mariupol, including civilian homes, were damaged or destroyed. Labor day traffic has given way to tank battles in the streets and armed soldiers patrolling what remains of neighborhoods.
Svetlana injured her head in a car accident as she and her family raced to escape Russian strikes that completely destroyed their home.
When asked how she explains the war to her young children, Svetlana told CBS News that “they will know the truth. The truth as it is…they will be told that the Russians wanted to kill us, but we persevered because we are strong”.
“We are Ukrainians,” she said. “It’s in our blood.”
Svetlana and her family remain defiant. They told CBS News that they would like to go to the United States to try to rebuild their lives, but that Mariupol will always be their home and that they will return there one day to help rebuild their city as well.