Russia boasts about turning battered Ukraine’s Mariupol into a ‘rapidly developing city’


Russia marked a year since its brutal capture of the Ukrainian city of Mariupol with a social media post lauding Moscow’s new infrastructure developments in a “bustling, rapidly developing city”— even as residents cry that their once-vibrant metropolis has descended into a grim recollection of Soviet Union rule. 

On the anniversary of Russia’s seizure of Mariupol — the culmination of a months-long battle that left the city in rubble and at least 21,000 civilians dead — Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs posted to Twitter an emoji-filled message denigrating the Ukrainian fighters and lauding Moscow’s work in revitalizing the port city on the Sea of Azov. 

“Today marks [1] year since the city of #Mariupol has been liberated from the neoNazis of the Kiev regime, who used its citizens as a human shield,” the message read, accompanied by photos of newly constructed buildings, painted with murals of a patriotic Russian woman and children playing together. 

“Today, it is a bustling, rapidly developing city with newly-built districts, hospitals, schools and kindergartens.”

Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that it “liberated” residents in Mariupol from “neoNazis.”

Mural on a newly constructed building in Mariupol
Critics ripped the newly constructed apartment complexes as “Potemkin villages.”

Critics quickly ripped the Russian government for its propaganda, slamming the new builds as “good old Potemkin villages.”

“Looks like hell,” one person quipped

Others seethed that Russian officials had avoided mentioning that new construction was necessary because Moscow had destroyed the city during its invasion.   

“You forgot to mention that you bombed the city into ruins and killed god knows how many civilians,” one Twitter user said, sharing a picture of dozens of charred and blackened apartment complexes dotting the landscape.  

Couple with a stroller walking past a bombed-out building structure
Residents in Mariupol said that living there today reminds them of the Soviet Union.
AFP via Getty Images

Ukrainians still living in Mariupol and holding out hope for a swift military offensive to recapture the city paint a bleak picture of life under Russian occupancy.

They complain about eye-popping prices at barren stores and the regular presence of Russian soldiers on the streets. Others are barely getting by in multi-story buildings without any heat or light that are slated to be razed. 

“The city isn’t the one I knew. The people are not the same. Everything is changed,” one resident told The Guardian. “I have a permanent feeling of wanting to go home.” 

Bombed out building structures in Mariupol
Many critics of the Russian ministry’s post angrily noted that the country had bombed many of the city’s buildings.
AFP via Getty Images

Others noted that their children are undergoing “brainwashing” at school, where the Ukrainian language is banned and portraits of Russian President Vladimir Putin hang.  

“Children are told Russia’s president is the best, and Ukraine is full of bad people and fascists,” said another resident. 

“It’s like the USSR. There are alien slogans. Only maths and physics are unchanged.”

Even those who are optimistic that Ukrainian forces will liberate the city in the upcoming counteroffensive recognize that Mariupol will require significant redevelopment afterward.

“The Russians destroyed everything. So many people died,” one woman who fled the city said. “It will be like Chornobyl, a place of ghosts.”