Kyiv, Ukraine (AFP) – The United Nations has doggedly sought to broker the evacuation of civilians from the increasingly infernal ruins of Mariupol, while Ukraine accused Russia of showing its disdain for the world body by bombing Kyiv when the UN leader was on a visit. Capital.
The mayor of Mariupol said the situation inside the steel plant that has become the last stronghold of the southern port city is dire, and citizens are “begging to be rescued”. Mayor Vadim Boychenko added: “There, it’s not a matter of days. It’s a matter of hours. “
Meanwhile, Ukrainian forces have fought to repel Russian attempts to advance in the south and east, as the Kremlin seeks to seize the country’s industrial Donbass region. Artillery fire, sirens and explosions were heard in some cities. A senior US defense official said the Russian offensive was proceeding much slower than planned, in part because of the strength of the Ukrainian resistance.
In other developments:
– A former US Marine has been killed While fighting alongside Ukrainian forces, his family said the first known death of an American in the war. The United States did not confirm the news.
Ukrainian forces crack down on people accused of helping Russian forces. In the Kharkiv region alone, nearly 400 were arrested under the anti-cooperation laws enacted after the invasion of Moscow on February 24.
– International sanctions imposed on the Kremlin because of the war put pressure on the country. The Russian Central Bank said the Russian economy is expected to contract by up to 10% this year, and the outlook is “very uncertain”.
On Thursday, Russian forces launched a missile attack on a high-rise apartment building and another building in Kyiv, shattering weeks of relative calm in the capital after Russia withdrew from the region early this month.
The US-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty said one of its journalists, Vera Herrich, was killed in the bombing. Authorities said ten people were injured, one of whom lost a leg.
The missile strike came barely an hour after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky A press conference was held with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
“This says a lot about Russia’s real attitude towards global institutions, about the attempts of the Russian leadership to humiliate the United Nations and everything the organization represents,” Zelensky said.
Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said the attack was Russian President Vladimir Putin’s way of giving his “middle finger” to Guterres.
In an apparent reference to the bombing of Kyiv, the Russian military said it had destroyed “production buildings” at the Artem Defense Plant.
The missile strike came as life in Kyiv seemed to be getting a little closer to normal, as cafes and other businesses began to reopen and more and more people came out to enjoy the coming of spring.
Volodymyr Fesenko, a Ukrainian political analyst and head of the Kyiv-based Penta Center think tank, said the attack carried a message: “Russia is sending a clear signal that it intends to continue the war despite international pressure.”
Getting a full picture of the battle going on in the east was difficult because the air strikes and artillery shelling made the movement of journalists too dangerous. Both Ukraine and Moscow-backed rebels fighting in the east have also tightly restricted reporting from the combat zone.
But so far, Russian and separatist forces seem to have made only slight gains.
A senior US defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the US military’s assessment, said the US believes the Russians are “at least several days behind what they want to be” as they try to encircle Ukrainian forces in the east.
The official said that while Russian forces are trying to move north outside Mariupol so they can advance on Ukrainian forces from the south, their advance has been “slow, erratic and certainly not decisive.”
In the bombed city of Mariupol, around 100,000 people are believed to be trapped with little food, water or medicine. An estimated 2,000 Ukrainian gunners and 1,000 civilians were holed up at the Azovstal Steel Plant.
The Soviet-era steel mill has an extensive network of underground bunkers capable of withstanding air strikes. But the situation became more dangerous after the Russians dropped “bunker-busting missiles” and other bombs.
“Locals who managed to leave Mariupol say it’s worth the hell, but when they leave this castle, they say it’s worse,” said Mayor Boichenko.
UN spokesman Farhan Haq said the organization was negotiating with the authorities in Moscow and Kiev to establish a safe corridor.
“Hopefully there’s a slight human touch in the sprint,” the mayor said this time. Ukraine has blamed the failure of several previous evacuation attempts on continued Russian bombing.
But Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told the Saudi-owned Al Arabiya TV that the real problem was that “the extremist Ukrainian citizens ignore the humanitarian corridors.” Moscow has repeatedly claimed that right-wing Ukrainians are thwarting evacuation efforts and using civilians as human shields.
On Friday, the region’s governor said two Russian missiles also hit two towns in the central Ukraine’s Dnipropetrovsk region. There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage.
The fighting can be heard from Kramatorsk to Sloviansk, two cities about 18 kilometers (11 miles) apart in the Donbass. Plumes of smoke rose from the Slovensk region and neighboring cities. At least one person was reported injured in the bombing.
In his video night speech, Zelensky accused Russia of trying to destroy the Donbass and everyone who lives there.
He said the ongoing attacks “show that Russia wants to empty this land of all people”.
“If the Russian invaders are able to implement their plans even partially, then they will have enough artillery and aircraft to turn the entire Donbass into stone, as they did with Mariupol.”
The governor of Russia’s Kursk region said a border post was attacked by mortars from Ukraine and that Russian border forces returned fire. He said there were no casualties on the Russian side.
In the village of Ruska Lozava, near Kharkiv, hundreds of people were evacuated after Ukrainian forces recaptured the city from Russian occupiers, according to the region’s governor. Those who fled to Kharkiv spoke of squalid conditions under the Russians, with little water or food and no electricity.
“We were hiding in the basement. It was horror. The basement was shaking from the explosions. We were screaming, crying and praying to God,” said Ludmila Pocharnikova.
A video posted by the Ukrainian Azov Battalion showed troops raising the blue and yellow Ukrainian flag over a government building in the center of the village, although fighting continued in the suburbs.
His mother, Rebecca Cabrera, told CNN that former US Marine Willie Joseph Kansel, 22, was killed Monday while working for a military contracting company that sent him to Ukraine.
“He wanted to go because he believed in what Ukraine was fighting for, and he wanted to be a part of it to contain it there so he wouldn’t come here, and maybe our American soldiers wouldn’t do it,” she said.
The Marine Corps said Cancellation served four years but was discharged for bad behavior and sentenced to five months in prison for breaking orders. No details were provided about the violation.
At least two other foreigners fighting on the Ukrainian side were also killed, one from Britain and one from Denmark.
Associated Press reporters John Gambrel and Juras Karmanau in Lviv, Mstislav Chernov in Kharkiv, Jesica Fisch in Sloviansk, Lolita C. Baldur in Washington, and AP staff around the world contributed to this report.
Follow the Associated Press’ coverage of the war in Ukraine: https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine
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