The port of Mariupol in eastern Ukraine has become a symbol in recent months of the country’s economic struggles. A recent partial blockade by Russian naval vessels of the nearby Kerch Strait means that fewer ships are now docking at the harbour.
The port has lost 33% of its fleet and up to 140,000 tonnes of exported metal products a month since Russia’s construction of a bridge across the Kerch Strait in May 2018, and restrictions on the size of ships that can pass underneath.
Cargo vessels are being delayed by up to a week, and the cranes on the dock stand idle. Larger international shipping firms have simply stopped coming.
Hundreds of jobs depend on the work here – Mariupol is Ukraine’s second port – and many tens of thousands more depend on the export of goods it allows.
“Big business feels it and we all feel it too because prices are rising,” says Galina Balobanova, a local businesswoman.
“A lot of people work in the port and they’re not being laid off, but for them it’s an unexpected vacation. We need this trade and for the blockade to be lifted.”