The mayor of this embattled southern port city, under attack from Russian forces since the start of the war, has called for “everyone who wants to survive” to leave, because “it’s not clear when all this will be over.”
The mayor, Oleksandr Senkevych, said in an interview with Radio Liberty that the city was being shelled daily, and that “around 80 percent of those munitions are cluster munitions” fired from Russian multiple-launch rocket systems.
A large exodus from Mykolaiv, once a major hub of Soviet shipbuilding, has already occurred. About 230,000 people remain in the city, less than half of its peacetime population of 480,000. Many are older, and about 80 percent of them survive on food and clothes distributed by aid organizations.
The strategic importance of the city is pivotal. Almost overrun in the first weeks of fighting, Mykolaiv’s defenders have pushed Russian forces back to a distance of at least 20 miles at their closest point. Still, the Russian army is close enough to inflict casualties and damage at will with missiles and artillery.
The mayor’s statement was somewhat surprising, in that the combative, never-say-die spirit of Mykolaiv has become a symbol of Ukrainian resistance. The city is calmer than in March, when the bombardment was relentless. Departures have slowed to a trickle.