Fighting and destruction continue as Russia pushes deeper into Mariupol, Ukraine: ‘Children, elderly people are dying’

LVIV, Ukraine – Russian forces pushed deeper into the besieged and hit Ukrainian port city of Mariupol on Saturday, where heavy fighting closed a large steel plant and local authorities called for more help from the West.

The fall of Mariupol, the scene of some of the worst of the war, would mark a major breakthrough on the battlefield for the Russians, who have been largely stranded outside major cities for more than three weeks in Europe’s largest land invasion since World War II.

“Children, the elderly are dying. The city has been destroyed and has disappeared from the face of the earth,” Mariupol police officer Mikhail Versnin said from a street full of rubble in a video addressed to Western leaders confirmed by the Associated Press. .

Russian forces have already cut off the city from the Sea of ​​Azov, and its fall would link Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014, to territories controlled by Moscow-backed separatists in the east. It would signal a rare advance in the face of fierce Ukrainian resistance that has dashed Russia’s hopes of a quick victory and galvanized the West.

Ukrainian and Russian forces clashed over the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, Vadim Denishenko, an adviser to Ukraine’s interior minister, said on Saturday. “One of the largest metallurgical plants in Europe is actually being destroyed,” Denisenko said in a televised comment.

Oleksiy Arestovych, an adviser to the Ukrainian president, said the closest force that could help Mariupol’s defenders was already fighting the “overwhelming force of the enemy” or at least 100 kilometers (60 miles) away.

“There is currently no military solution to Mariupol,” he said late Friday. “This is not just my opinion, this is the view of the army.”

Ukrainian President Volodomir Zelenskyy remained provocative, appearing in a video shot in the early hours of Saturday in the streets of the capital, Kiev, to denounce a huge rally in Moscow on Friday attended by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Zelensky said Russia was trying to starve Ukrainian cities for subjugation, but warned that continuing the invasion would come at a heavy price for Russia. He also reiterated his call for Putin to meet with him to prevent further bloodshed.

“The time has come to restore territorial integrity and justice for Ukraine. Otherwise, Russia’s costs will be so high that you will not be able to get up again for several generations,” he said.

Putin praised his country’s army during the rally, which took place on the anniversary of Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014. The event included patriotic songs such as “Made in the USSR”, with the opening line “Ukraine and Crimea, Belarus and Moldova are my whole country. “

“We have not had such unity for a long time,” Putin told the cheering crowd.

The rally took place as Russia faced heavier-than-expected casualties on the battlefield and increasingly authoritarian domination at home, where Russian police have arrested thousands of anti-war protesters.

Estimates of Russian deaths vary widely, but even conservative figures are in the thousands. Russia had 64 deaths in five days of fighting during its war with Georgia in 2008. It lost about 15,000 in Afghanistan in 10 years and more than 11,000 after years of fighting in Chechnya.

The Russian military said on Saturday it had used its latest supersonic missile for the first time in combat. Lt. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said the Kinzhal missiles destroyed an underground depot where Ukrainian missiles and air ammunition were stored in the western Ivano-Frankivsk region of Ukraine.

Russia says the Kinzhal, carried by MiG-31 fighter jets, has a range of up to 2,000 kilometers (about 1,250 miles) and flies at 10 times the speed of sound.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said Saturday that the United States could not confirm that the Russians used a supersonic missile in the attack.

Meanwhile, fighting was raging on several fronts in Ukraine. UN agencies have confirmed more than 847 civilian deaths since the start of the war, although they acknowledge that the true toll is likely to be much higher. The United Nations says more than 3.3 million people have fled Ukraine as refugees.

While waiting for a bus to board a sorting center near the Moldovan-Ukrainian border on Saturday, a Ukrainian named Irina said she decided to leave her home in Mykolaiv this week after a powerful explosion shook the walls, waking the little girl. her daughter.

“Can you imagine the fear I had, not for me but for my child?” said Irina, who did not give her last name. “Well we decided to get here, but I do not know where we are going, where we will stay.”

The northwestern suburbs of Kiev Bucha, Hostomel, Irpin and Moshchun came under fire on Saturday, the Kyiv regional administration said. He said Slavutich, located 165 kilometers (103 miles) north of the capital, was “completely isolated”.

Kiev region police say seven people were killed and five injured in a mortar attack on Friday in Makariv, a city about 50 kilometers (30 miles) west of the capital. They said the attack destroyed homes and damaged other buildings.

Ukrainian and Russian officials have agreed to set up 10 humanitarian corridors to transport aid and residents from besieged cities – one from Mariupol and several around Kyiv and eastern Luhansk, Ukraine’s Vice President Irya said on Saturday.

He also announced plans for the delivery of humanitarian aid to the southern city of Kherson, which was occupied by Russia at the beginning of the war.

Ukraine and Russia have held several rounds of talks aimed at ending the conflict, but remain divided on many issues, with Russia pushing for the demilitarization of its neighbor and Kyiv demanding security guarantees.

In a telephone conversation with German Chancellor Olaf Solz on Friday, Putin said Ukraine was trying to “drag the negotiations forward by making a series of new, unrealistic proposals,” according to the Kremlin.

British Foreign Secretary Liz Tras, meanwhile, has accused Putin of using the talks as a “smokescreen” as his forces reorganize. “We do not see any serious withdrawal of Russian troops or serious proposals on the table,” he told the Times of London.

The Pentagon said in a recent assessment that the Kremlin was “taken aback by the scale and brutality of the Ukrainian resistance” and “is now pursuing a strategy of disarmament” that could include indiscriminate attacks.

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said during a visit to NATO ally Bulgaria on Saturday that the Russian invasion had “stopped on several fronts”, but that the United States had not yet seen any sign of Putin developing additional forces.

In Ukraine, hospitals, schools and buildings where people sought safety have been attacked.

At least 130 people survived Wednesday’s bombing of a Mariupol theater used as a shelter, but another 1,300 are believed to be still inside, Ukrainian Parliament Human Rights Commissioner Ludmila Denisova said on Friday.

“We pray that everyone will be alive, but so far there is no information about them,” Denisova told Ukrainian television.

Satellite images from Maxar Technologies showed a long line of cars leaving Mariupol as people tried to evacuate. Zelenskyy said more than 9,000 people were able to leave on Friday along a route leading 227 kilometers (141 miles) away to the town of Zaporizhzhia – which is also under attack.

The governor of southern Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia region, Oleksandr Starukh, has announced a 38-hour curfew following two rocket attacks on the outskirts of Zaporizhzhia that killed nine people on Friday.

Russian forces have fired on eight towns and villages in the eastern Donetsk region in the past 24 hours, including Mariupol, Ukraine’s national police said on Saturday.

The rocket and heavy artillery attacks killed and injured dozens of civilians and damaged at least 37 buildings and residential facilities, including a school, a museum and a shopping mall, he said.

In the western city of Lviv, the cultural capital of Ukraine, which was hit by Russian missiles on Friday, army veterans trained dozens of civilians on how to handle firearms and grenades.

“It’s difficult, because I have really weak hands, but I can handle it,” said practitioner Katarina Ishchenko, 22.


Associated Press writer Yuras Karmanau in Lviv, Ukraine, and other AP journalists around the world contributed to this report.

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

Fighting and destruction continue as Russia pushes deeper into Mariupol, Ukraine: ‘Children, elderly people are dying’ Source link Fighting and destruction continue as Russia pushes deeper into Mariupol, Ukraine: ‘Children, elderly people are dying’

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