By EVGENIY MALOLETKA
MARIUPOL, Ukraine (AP) – Civilians trapped inside Mariupol were desperately searching for food and fuel as Russian forces continued to bomb the port city on Thursday amid international condemnation for an airstrike a day before it killed three people at a maternity hospital.
Western and Ukrainian officials have described the attack on a hospital in Mariupol as a Kremlin war crime, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Russia’s refusal to allow evacuations from the port city was “absolute terror”.
Meanwhile, the highest-level talks held since the invasion began two weeks ago have made no progress, the number of refugees fleeing the country has exceeded 2.3 million and Kiev is preparing for an attack, its mayor boasting that the capital became virtually a fortress protected by armed civilians.
More than 1,300 people have been killed in the 10-day siege of the cold city of Mariupol, according to Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk.
The residents of the southern port of 430,000 have no heating or telephone service, and many have no electricity. Nighttime temperatures are usually below freezing, and daytime temperatures are usually just above freezing. The bodies are being buried in mass graves. The streets are full of burning cars, broken glass and splintered trees.
“They have a clear order to hold Mariupol hostage, to make fun of him, to bomb him and bomb him constantly,” Zelenskyy said in his nightly video to the nation. He said the Russians started a tank attack right where a humanitarian corridor was supposed to be.
On Thursday, firefighters tried to free a child trapped among the rubble. One grabbed the boy’s hand. His eyes blinked, but on the other hand he was still. It was unclear if he survived. Nearby, in a wrecked truck, a woman wrapped in a blue blanket shuddered at the explosion.
Grocery stores and pharmacies were emptied days ago by people entering to get supplies, according to a local Red Cross official, Sacha Volkov. A black market is operating for vegetables, meat is not available and people are stealing gasoline from cars, Volkov said.
Sheltered areas are hard to find, with basements reserved for women and children, he said. Residents, Volkov said, are revolting against each other: “People started attacking each other for food.”
The local fire department and the city’s State Technical University were bombed.
An exhausted-looking Aleksander Ivanov pulled a bag-laden cart down an empty street flanked by damaged buildings.
“I don’t have a house anymore. That’s why I’m moving,” he said. “It doesn’t exist anymore. It was hit by a mortar.”
Repeated attempts to send food and medicine and evacuate civilians were thwarted by Russian bombing, Ukrainian officials said.
“They want to destroy the people of Mariupol. They want to starve them,” Vereshchuk said. “It’s a war crime.”
In all, about 100,000 people have been evacuated over the past two days from seven cities under Russian blockade in the north and center of the country, including the suburbs of Kiev, Zelenskyy said.
Zelenskyy has told Russian leaders that the invasion will be against them while their economy is strangled. Western sanctions have already dealt a severe blow, causing the ruble to fall, foreign companies to flee and prices to rise sharply.
“He will definitely be prosecuted for complicity in war crimes,” Zelenskyy said in a video. “And then, it will definitely happen, you will be hated by Russian citizens, all of whom you constantly deceive, on a daily basis, for many years in a row, when they feel the consequences of your lies in their wallets, in their ever-diminishing possibilities. Russian children ”.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has rejected such a conversation, saying the country has suffered sanctions before.
“We will overcome them,” he said at a televised meeting of government officials. However, he acknowledged that sanctions “create certain challenges”.
In addition to those who fled the country, millions were evicted from their homes within Ukraine. The mayor of Kiev, Vitali Klitschko, said that about 2 million people, half the population of the metropolitan area, have left the capital.
“All the streets, all the houses … are being fortified,” he said. “Even the people who in their life never intended to change clothes, are now in uniform with machine guns in hand.”
On Thursday, a 14-year-old girl named Katya was recovering at Brovary Central District Hospital on the outskirts of Kiev after her family was ambushed while trying to flee the area. She was shot in the hand when her car was dragged from a forest on the side of the road, said her mother, who identified herself only as Nina.
The girl’s father, who was driving frantically from the ambush with exploded tires, was operated on. His wife said he was shot in the head and had two fingers thrown at him.
Western officials say Russian forces have made little progress on the ground in recent days and are seeing heavier losses and stiffer Ukrainian resistance than Moscow apparently anticipated. But Putin’s forces used air power and artillery to strike Ukrainian cities.
In the early hours of the day, Mariupol City Council released a video showing a convoy carrying food and medicine. But as night fell, it was not clear if those buses had reached the city.
A child was among those killed in the hospital airstrike on Wednesday. Seventeen people were also injured, including women waiting to give birth, doctors and children buried among the rubble. Images of the attack, with pregnant women covered in dust and blood, have dominated the news in many countries.
French President Emmanuel Macron called the attack a “shameful and immoral act of war.” Britain’s Armed Forces Minister James Heappey said that if the hospital was hit by indiscriminate fire or a deliberate target, “it is a war crime”.
U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, on a visit to neighboring Ukraine, Poland, backed calls for an international investigation into war crimes against the invasion, saying: “The eyes of the world are on this war and on what Russia has done in terms of this aggression and these atrocities. “
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov dismissed concerns about civilian casualties as “pathetic cries” from Russia’s enemies and denied that Ukraine had been invaded.
Lavrov and his Ukrainian counterpart, Dmytro Kuleba, held talks at a Turkish resort at their first meeting since the invasion.
The two sides discussed a 24-hour ceasefire but made no progress, Kuleba said. He said Russia still wanted Ukraine to surrender, but insisted it would not happen.
Lavrov said Russia was ready for further negotiations, but showed no signs of softening Moscow’s demands.
Russia claims that Western-looking, US-backed Ukraine poses a threat to its security. Western officials suspect Putin wants to install a Moscow-friendly government in Kiev as part of an effort to lure the former Soviet state into its orbit.
In Vienna, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency said he had scheduled inspections of Ukraine’s nuclear facilities. Rafael Grossi would not give details on how or when the inspections would be carried out.
Ukraine has 15 nuclear reactors at four power plants across the country, in addition to the closed Chernobyl plant, the scene of a 1986 nuclear disaster. Fights around Chernobyl and another plant have raised global fears of another disaster.
In Kharkiv, the second largest city in Ukraine, Alevtina Shernina, 91, was sitting wrapped in a blanket, with an electric heater at her feet, as cold air came in through a damaged window. He survived the brutal siege of World War II on Leningrad, now St. Petersburg.
Her daughter-in-law Natalia said she was angry because Shernina “began her life in Leningrad under siege as a girl who was starving, living cold and starving, and ending her life” in similar circumstances.
“There were fascists there and there are fascists here who came and bombed our buildings and windows,” he said.
Associated Press journalists Yuras Karmanau in Lviv, Ukraine, and Philip Dana and Andrew Drake in Kiev, Ukraine, contributed along with other journalists from around the world.
Follow AP coverage of the Ukraine crisis at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine
Russians keep pressure on Mariupol after hospital attack – Press Telegram Source link Russians keep pressure on Mariupol after hospital attack – Press Telegram