Mariupol May be Destroyed in Ukraine War But Stalingrad Taught Us Even Ruins Can be Defended

The view of Old Tower (Mariupol) and a dome of Orthodox Church of the Intercession of the Mother of God. Photograph Source: Mrpl.travel – CC BY-SA 4.0

The Russian bombardment of Mariupol and other Ukrainian cities is similar to the Russian-backed Syrian government shelling and bombing of rebel-held districts in Damascus and Aleppo over the last decade.

It is also not much different from the American air force bombing of Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria, Israel’s bombing of Gaza and Saudi Arabia’s bombing of Yemen over the same period. These attacks are all supposedly aimed at military targets and all kill civilians in their thousands.

This is not to let the Russians off the hook when it comes to war crimes, since striking at Ukrainian cities to depopulate and ultimately capture them appears to be the principal Russian tactic at present. This enables them to keep up a generalised pressure on the Ukrainians without much military cost to themselves, though the political price will be heavy and perhaps unsustainable for Moscow in the long term.

Patrick Cockburn is the author of War in the Age of Trump (Verso).