Mariupol residents struggle amid the rubble

STORY: The fighting for control of the strategic port city of Mariupol ended two months ago with a victory for Russia.

Thousands were killed and hundreds of thousands were forced to flee.

Those who stayed behind now face a new battle: how to survive among its ruins.

Reuters reporters recently visited Mariupol and were free to speak to locals. They were not escorted by Russian-backed officials.

"You start a fire, you cook food, breakfast for the children. In the afternoon you go find some work or get your dry ration to feed the children dinner. It's Groundhog Day, as they say: you wake up and it's always the same."

Mariupol was once home to 430,000 people. Only tens of thousands remain.

The United Nations says 90 percent of the city’s buildings were destroyed in Russia's attempt to dislodge Mariupol’s defenders.

A top official from the world body said last month 1,348 civilians were killed.

Kyiv puts that number at 22,000.

The World Health Organization and Ukrainian officials warn that without running water or a functioning sewage system, Mariupol is at risk of a cholera outbreak as rubbish and human remains rot under the summer heat.

Despite the hardships, some said they welcomed Moscow's rule.

"We have come to our senses a little bit; we are glad that we survived and that we found our children. The main thing is that I believe that there will be peace and everything will be fine here, and Russia will not abandon us."

Some residents interviewed by Reuters said they recognized things had got a little better since the fighting ended but said that overall, the situation remained dire.