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‘We want to live near the sea’ Russians are buying real estate in occupied Mariupol, where invading forces destroyed nearly everything last year

Source: Bumaga

After launching its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the Russian army effectively leveled the city of Mariupol before capturing it and starting to replace the buildings it destroyed. While the pro-Kremlin media regularly reports on how the occupied city is “coming back to life,” the Russian Internet has filled with advertisements for real estate there. The St. Petersburg outlet Bumaga spoke to Russians who are seeking homes and apartments in the city. Meduza is publishing an abridged translation of Bumaga’s report.

The Russian social media site VKontakte has about 100 groups containing advertisements for buying, selling, and renting real estate in occupied Mariupol. In one of the largest, “Real Estate in Mariupol and Pryazovia,” messages from people seeking to buy houses or apartments began appearing in early May 2022, when heavy combat was still going on in the city.

The people looking for real estate in Mariupol come from all over Russia, including Moscow, St. Petersburg, Krasnodar, Krasnoyarsk, and Nizhny Novgorod. Many of them are open to buying houses and buildings “in any condition” and plan to repair whatever shelling damage they find.

Some buyers told Bumaga that they see Mariupol as part of Russia and don’t consider purchasing real estate in an occupied city to be a risky decision. At the same time, the majority of people who spoke to the outlet said they’ve never been to Mariupol.

Mariupol, February 2023
Alexander Ermochenko / Reuters / Scanpix / LET


From Omsk, searching for a house in Mariupol

I consider it a good investment. It might seem strange to some, but I believe in the city’s future development. Under Russia’s wing, it will have a bright future. I think it will become a popular holiday and tourism destination. It holds a special significance for our country; it’s a Hero City.

I’m not concerned about it being damaged by combat. The worst that could happen there has already happened.


Searching for an apartment in Mariupol

I want to buy real estate in Mariupol because I believe the city’s going to flourish and become a good vacation destination in the near future.

I’m not worried about future damage to the city. Our borders our well-guarded by the armed forces, and the war is approaching its logical conclusion (at least in that region).


From Krasnoyarsk, searching for a house in Mariupol

My family and I started looking for a place to live in Mariupol because we want to live near the sea and in a place with good environmental conditions. Mariupol also has fairly cheap real estate and more attractive salary offers for my husband, since he’s an electrician. And the environment there is much cleaner than in Krasnoyarsk.

It’s scary to think that the fighting there could start up again, but the war won’t last forever.

All of the people who spoke to Bumaga said they chose Mariupol because of its proximity to the sea, which they believe will make it an attractive travel destination. Most of the respondents said they’re not afraid of future combat in the city, despite Ukraine’s ongoing counteroffensive in that direction.

A resident of Russian-occupied Mariupol sweeps the street in front of a bombed-out residential building. June 11, 2023.
AFP / Scanpix / LETA

The Russian classified ad website Avito currently contains 70 postings for real estate in Mariupol. 34 of the ads are for apartments, 35 are for houses, and one is for a commercial space. The average cost of an apartment on the site is 3 million rubles ($34,000), while houses and plots of land are going for an average of 4.8 million rubles ($55,000), according to Bumaga.

In 2022, when the city was the site of a months-long battle between invading Russian forces and the Ukrainian army, 90 percent of Mariupol’s apartment buildings and 60 percent of its houses were destroyed, according to a UN report. In June 2022, the UN was able to confirm the deaths of 1,348 civilians in the city. Earlier, Mayor Vadym Boichenko reported that 10,000 people were killed there.

According to Russia’s unified public construction company, as of March 2023, 1,829 buildings had been restored, 36 residential buildings had been rebuilt, and 321 condemned structures had been demolished.

Reporting by Vita Chiknaeva

Abridged translation by Sam Breazeale

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