MARIUPOL, Ukraine (AP) — A pale, bloody child, her pajama pants playfully adorned with unicorns, is rushed to a hospital, her mother moaning in terror.
The new mothers nest the infants in makeshift bomb shelters in the basement.
A father collapses in grief over the death of his teenage son when a bombing destroys a football pitch near a school.
These scenes unfolded in and around the Azov Sea port of Mariupol in southern Ukraine over the past week, captured by Associated Press reporters documenting the Russian invasion.
With nighttime temperatures just above freezing, the battle plunged the city into darkness at the weekend, knocking out most phone services and raising fears of food and water shortages. Without telephone connections, doctors did not know where to take the injured.
The Russian Defense Ministry said it was observing a temporary ceasefire on Saturday to give civilians time to evacuate Mariupol and Volnovakha, a town to the north. A senior Mariupol official said the ceasefire was to last until 4 p.m. local time and an evacuation would begin at 11 a.m.
Russia has made significant gains on the ground in the south with the apparent aim of cutting off Ukraine’s access to the sea. Capture of Mariupol could allow Russia to build a land corridor to Crimea, which it seized in 2014.
A MOTHER KNOWS THE WORST
“We can do it!” the hospital worker shouts, urging his colleagues as they rush to pull an injured, already pale 6-year-old girl out of the ambulance in her bloodied pajama bottoms adorned with happy unicorns.
His mother seems to know better.
The woman, wearing a knitted winter cap also stained with blood, cries in terror and disbelief as the medical team first tries to resuscitate the girl in the ambulance and then inside from the hospital, where their efforts are both desperate and futile.
As the mother waits alone in a hallway, a nurse cries as the trauma team tries a defibrillator, injection, and pump oxygen. A doctor looks straight into the camera of an AP licensed videographer inside.
It has a message: “Show this to Putin”.
DEATH OCCUR ON A FOOTBALL PITCH
Flashes of bombardment illuminate medics as they stand in a parking lot waiting for the next emergency call.
In the nearby hospital, a father buries his face in the lifeless head of his deceased 16-year-old son. The boy, draped under a bloodstained sheet, succumbed to injuries from shelling on the football pitch where he was playing.
Hospital staff wipe blood on a stretcher. Others tend to a man whose face is obscured by blood-soaked bandages.
The doctors prepare to go out, donning their helmets.
They find an injured woman in an apartment and rush her to an ambulance for treatment, her hand rapidly shaking in apparent shock. She screams in pain as doctors rush her to the hospital.
On the darkening horizon, an orange light flashes at the edge of the sky and loud bangs echo through the air.
KIDS WILL PLAY
The resting toddler, perhaps responding instinctively to the sight of a camera, raises one arm and waves.
But the mother below has tears in her eyes.
They lie together on the ground in a gymnasium turned shelter, waiting for the end of the fighting raging outside.
Many families have young children. And since children can do it anywhere, some laugh and run around covered in blankets.
“God forbid rockets to hit. That’s why we gathered everyone here,” says local volunteer Ervand Tovmasyan, accompanied by his young son.
He says locals have brought supplies. But as the Russian siege continues, the shelter lacks drinking water, food and fuel for generators.
Many remember the 2014 bombing, when Russian-backed separatists briefly captured the city.
“Now the same thing is happening – but now we are with children,” says Anna Delina, who fled Donetsk in 2014.
TANKS IN A ROW
In a field at Volnovakha on the outskirts of Mariupol, a row of four green tanks hold their guns at about 45 degrees.
Two of them fire, knocking the machines back slightly and sending clouds of white smoke skyward.
The tanks are painted with the letter “Z” in white, a tactical sign intended to quickly identify military units and help troops distinguish friend from foe in battle.
Tanks with the “Z” move inside Russian controlled territory and would be used by Russian forces.
IN THE MIDDLE OF DEATH, THE JOY OF BIRTH
A nurse fits a shirt to a newborn baby who first fidgets and then cries loudly. It’s a happy sound.
Babies born in a hospital in Mariupol are taken down stairs to a makeshift nursery that doubles as a bomb shelter during bombings.
Sitting in the dimly lit shelter, new mother Kateryna Suharokova struggles to control her emotions as she holds her son, Makar.
“I was anxious, anxious about giving birth to the baby at that time,” says the 30-year-old, her voice trembling. “I am grateful to the doctors who helped this baby to be born in these conditions. I believe everything will be fine.
Above the basement, hospital staff work to save the wounded from the shelling. A woman with blood pouring from her mouth screams in pain, A young man’s face is ashen as he is taken to hospital. Another, which did not survive, is covered with a fine blue sheet.
“Do I need to say more?” says Oleksandr Balash, head of the anesthesiology department.
“He’s just a boy.”