The Stench of Death
If you’ve ever experienced the smell of a decaying human body, it’s something you’ll never forget. The stench is primal. It’s palpable. It literally sticks to you, and there is no escape from it. Take that smell times over 20,000 bodies, add the Summer heat, and you have present-day Mariupol, Ukraine.
The Russian slaughter there was unprecedented. Late in May, the city’s Ukrainian council warned that the body count could far exceed their earlier estimate of 22,000 killed. They estimated that this was twice the number of deaths recorded during the entire two-year Nazi occupation of the city during World War II. We’ll likely never know for sure now because the Russians have taken control of the area now after months of nearly nonstop bombardment.
And as if killing the people wasn’t bad enough, now the Russian invaders are desecrating the bodies of thousands of the city’s former citizens and dumping them in deep mass graves.
Petro Andryushchenko, an aide to the mayor of Mariupol, wrote on Telegram today that scores of bodies were being dug up and transported to a temporary morgue by tractor. After a short time there, they are quickly buried in a mass grave. He grimly states, “Treating the dead like garbage has become the norm.” Some of the dead were never buried in the first place and had to be scooped from the ground.
Michelle Bachelet, the UN Human Rights Chief, reported to The Washington Post that Mariupol was probably “the deadliest place in Ukraine” between the months of February and April. Now that the Russians are in control of the territory, her team has no access to it. She estimates, however, that over 90% of the residential structures in the city were either heavily damaged or destroyed and that over 350,000 residents were forced to flee the city.
The Russians Turned a Supermarket Into a Morgue
This story is not for the squeamish. Mr. Andryushchenko has also explained how the Russians have taken the fallen Mariupol residents who were either exhumed or washed out of the ground and dumped them at a local supermarket; he even mentions which one.
Andryushchenko wrote on Telegram:
“In the premises of Shchyryi Kum supermarket on Svobody Avenue, Russians set up a corpse landfill. Literally. Russians are bringing here the bodies of the fallen, which were washed out from graveyards when they attempted to restore water supply and partially those that were exhumed. They are simply piling them like waste,”
I expected them to have been crammed into coolers at supermarkets, but these bodies clearly seem to have been dumped right by the checkout lines. Then I remembered that the city is largely without power, so the chillers would not be working anyway. And at this time, what’s the point?
The city is experiencing a cholera epidemic and is mostly without running water. The tens of thousands of corpses have poisoned the groundwater, so the Russians have flushed the bodies out. As they make their way to the surface, they are scooped up and relocated.
BBC reports that the Russian-appointed mayor of Mariupol claims that the local water is tested regularly, and no cases of cholera have been reported. I personally challenge him to drink a big glass of water right from the tap.
My guess is that he would decline that challenge.