Since 8 March, Mykhailo Puryshev drove into Mariupol six times in his battered red van, escaping Russian forces and their attacks.
After these trips, he posted videos of the city, offering a rare glimpse of the death and destruction caused by the Russian forces.
“When I first went, the city was like a cloud of smoke, like a bonfire... The last time I went it was just ash with the black coal of buildings,” Mr Puryshev told Reuters.
He had purchased the van with donations from friends to help those still trapped in Mariupol.
During one such trip into the war-torn city, the windshield, three side windows and a side door were destroyed by a Russian strike.
“Thank God no one was inside [at the time],” he said, adding that he has often repaired the van between these dangerous trips.
“The bus came under shelling, a strike, mortar, rifle fire, to be honest, there are so many marks of war on it,” he said.
WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT - As Russian forces tightened their siege of Mariupol and missiles rained down, Mykhailo Puryshev drove into the city six times last month to evacuate its citizens, somehow surviving despite his red van being nearly destroyed https://t.co/obT2LqK4BT pic.twitter.com/MXYGUC7mlR
— Reuters (@Reuters) April 27, 2022
Mr Puryshev was forced to put an end to his trips on 28 March, when he was threatened and told to never return. But he has faith. “We’ll turn it into a monument when we return to Mariupol” after the war, he said.
“The only injury I had was a glass shard in my side. But my coat saved me and I only got a scratch. God protected me of course. My bus looked after me,” he said.
Ukrainian officials claim that more than 20,000 have died since the Russian invasion of Mariupol.
An estimated 100,000 people are still trapped in the besieged city, according to Kyiv officials.
Ukrainian officials have also claimed that the identified mass graves outside the city of Mariupol add to the proof that Russia is inflicting war crimes against the local populace.
Last week, Vadym Boichenko, the mayor of Mariupol, said that women, children and the elderly had died on the streets of the city. “Unfortunately, we have seen that the bodies of dead Mariupol residents have begun to disappear from the streets of our city.”
Meanwhile, Russian president Vladimir Putin on Tuesday agreed “in principle” to the UN and International Committee for the Red Cross’ involvement in the evacuation of civilians from the Azovstal plant in Ukraine’s Mariupol.
“Follow-on discussions will be held with the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and the Russian Defence Ministry,” UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said in a statement after the Russian president met with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in Moscow.
The Independent has a proud history of campaigning for the rights of the most vulnerable, and we first ran our Refugees Welcome campaign during the war in Syria in 2015. Now, as we renew our campaign and launch this petition in the wake of the unfolding Ukrainian crisis, we are calling on the government to go further and faster to ensure help is delivered.