MARIUPOL, Ukraine (AP) — Surgeons leaving the operating room fail to make eye contact. One of them raises his hands. Another looks down, defeated. It’s then that the father waiting at the door catches his forehead, tears streaming down, and turns away, a moan about to escape his throat.
The man, identified only as Serhii, enters the room and finds his 16-year-old son, Iliya, motionless and draped in a bloodstained sheet.
Serhii drops down, hugs Iliya’s lifeless head and convulses in grief.
Iliya was fatally injured on Wednesday while playing football in Mariupol when shelling began amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The explosive hit the football field near a school in the Sea of Azov city.
Elsewhere in Mariupol, shelling lit up the darkening sky as medics stood in a parking lot, with heavy fighting continuing on the outskirts of the city on Thursday. The town was plunged into darkness as the battle destroyed most telephone services and raised the prospect of food and water shortages.
Without telephone connections, doctors did not know where to take the injured. Others drove around town, with one crew finding an injured woman who was put on a stretcher, carried down the stairs and placed in an ambulance, her hands shaking rapidly.
Cutting off Ukraine’s access to the Black and Azov seas would deal a crippling blow to Ukraine’s economy. It would also allow Russia to build a land corridor to Crimea, which it seized in 2014.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s forces have deployed their superior firepower over the past few days, launching hundreds of missiles and artillery attacks on cities and other sites across the country and making significant gains in South.
The Russians announced the capture of the southern city of Kherson, a vital Black Sea port of 280,000 people, and local Ukrainian officials confirmed the takeover of the seat of government there, making it the first big city to fall since the invasion started a week ago.