Aid workers prep stretchers, toys for Mariupol evacuees

ZAPPORIZZIA, Ukraine – Humanitarian aid workers prepared hot meals, wheelchairs and toys on Tuesday for citizens slowly moving to safety from the pulverized remains of a steel plant in the city of Mariupol, which has been under siege for months. .

The factory is the last refuge of the Ukrainian resistance in a city otherwise controlled by Moscow forces and a key to their campaign in eastern Ukraine. A senior US official has warned that Russia plans to annex much of the eastern part of the country later this month.

In a reception center, stretchers and wheelchairs were lined up, tiny children’s shoes hung from a shopping cart and a pile of toys awaited the first escort of civilians whose evacuation is being monitored by the United Nations and the Red Cross.

Their arrival would represent a rare glimpse of good news in the nearly 10-week war that sparked Russia’s invasion of Ukraine that has killed thousands, forced millions to flee the country, devastated cities and towns, and shifted the balance. War. of power in Eastern Europe.

More than 100 people – including elderly women and mothers with young children – left the dilapidated Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol over the weekend and boarded buses and ambulances.

At least some were apparently relocated to a Russian-backed separatist village. The Russian military says some have chosen to remain in separatist areas. In the past, Ukraine has accused Moscow troops of transporting civilians against their will to Russia or to Russian-controlled areas – something the Kremlin has denied.

Others fled to the Ukrainian-controlled city of Zaporizhzhia, about 140 miles (230 kilometers) northwest of Mariupol. It was not clear why the evacuation journey took so long, but the escort probably had to go through heavily contested areas and many checkpoints.

Mariupol came to symbolize the human misery caused by the war. A Russian siege has trapped civilians with little access to food, water and electricity as Moscow forces pounded the city into ruins. The factory – where about 1,000 civilians sought refuge along with about 2,000 fighters who refused to surrender – has shocked the outside world.

Mariupol Deputy Mayor Sergei Orlov told the BBC that high-level negotiations were under way between Ukraine, Russia and international organizations to remove more people. However, Russia resumed bombing of the extensive plant, air and tank plant after the partial evacuation, the Azov Battalion of Ukraine, whose fighters are hiding in the mill, said on Monday in the Telegram messaging app.

After failing to occupy Kyiv in the first weeks of the war, Russia withdrew some of its forces and turned its focus to the eastern industrial heart of Ukraine, Donbass. Mariupol is in the area and its capture will deprive Ukraine of a vital port, allow Russia to build a land corridor to the Crimean peninsula, which it occupied from Ukraine in 2014, and release troops to fight elsewhere. in Donbass.

Michael Carpenter, the US ambassador to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, said on Monday that the United States believed the Kremlin was planning to annex much of eastern Ukraine and recognize the southern city of Kherson as an independent republic. No move will be recognized by the United States or its allies, he said.

Russia plans to hold fraudulent referendums in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Donbas that “will try to add an investment of democratic or electoral legitimacy” and annex the entities to Russia, Carpenter said. He also said there were indications that Russia was planning an independence vote in Kherson.

Mayors and local lawmakers were abducted there, Internet and mobile telephony services have been shut down and a Russian school curriculum will be imposed soon, Carpenter said. The Ukrainian government says Russia has introduced its ruble as its currency.

It was difficult to get a complete picture of the unfolding battle in the east, because air raids and artillery barricades have made the movement of journalists extremely dangerous. Both Ukraine and Moscow-backed rebels fighting in the east have imposed strict restrictions on reports.

But so far, Russian troops and their allied separatist forces appear to have made only small gains, capturing several small towns as they try to move into relatively small groups against the fierce Ukrainian resistance.

In a daily statement on Twitter about the war, the British military said on Tuesday that it believed the Russian military was now “significantly weaker” after losses in the war against Ukraine.

“Recovery from this will be exacerbated by sanctions,” the ministry said. “Failures in both strategic planning and operational execution have left it unable to translate numerical power into a decisive advantage.”

Ukraine’s resistance has been significantly strengthened by Western weapons and other aid, and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was expected to announce hundreds of millions of pounds in new military support in Kyiv in a speech to the Ukrainian parliament on Tuesday.

In the remote speech, he is expected to repeat the words of the British Prime Minister of World War II, Winston Churchill, describing the provocative response of Ukraine to the Russian invasion as the “best time” of the country.

On Monday, Ukraine said Russia had hit a strategic road and rail bridge west of Odessa, a major Black Sea port. The bridge was badly damaged by previous Russian strikes and its destruction would cut off a supply route for weapons and other cargo from neighboring Romania.

A satellite image taken by Planet Labs PBC and analyzed by the Associated Press showed the bridge still standing at noon Monday.

Another photo, taken Monday, shows nearly 50 Russian military helicopters at Stary Oskol, a Russian base near the Ukrainian border and about 175 kilometers (110 miles) northeast of the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv.

Stressing the report of the war, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Monday that at least 220 Ukrainian children had been killed by the Russian army since the start of the war and 1,570 educational institutions had been destroyed or destroyed. He also noted that some people trying to escape the fighting are afraid that they will be taken to Russia or to areas controlled by Russia.

More than 1 million people, including nearly 200,000 children, have been evacuated from Ukraine to Russia, the Russian Defense Ministry said on Monday, according to the state-run TASS news agency. Defense Ministry spokesman Mikhail Mizinchev said that number had risen to 11,550 in the past 24 hours, “without the involvement of the Ukrainian authorities.”

Zelensky said the United Nations had assured him that people leaving Mariupol would be allowed to go to areas controlled by his government.

In addition to the official evacuations, some Mariupol residents left on their own, often with damaged private cars.

As Monday approached, Mariupol resident Yaroslav Dmytryshyn shook a car in a reception center in Zaporizhzhia with a car with a rear seat full of young people and two signs stuck in the back window: “Children” and “Little ones”.

“I can not believe we survived,” he said, looking worn but in good spirits after two days on the road.

“There is no Mariupol at all,” he said. “Someone has to rebuild it and it will take millions of tons of gold.”


Associated Press reporters Inna Varenytsia and David Keyton in Kyiv, Jon Gambrell and Yuras Karmanau in Lviv, Mstyslav Chernov in Kharkov and AP staff around the world contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2022 by the Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Aid workers prep stretchers, toys for Mariupol evacuees Source link Aid workers prep stretchers, toys for Mariupol evacuees

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