Ukraine’s leaders have accused Russia of detaining 15 rescue workers and drivers from a humanitarian convoy attempting to deliver badly needed food and supplies to the besieged port city of Mariupol, which has also been targeted by a naval onslaught following weeks of air and land attacks.
As Russia presses a nearly month-old offensive by bombarding cities and towns, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy estimated that 100,000 civilians remained in Mariupol, the scene of some of the war’s worst devastation. Those who survived reported a city in ruins.
“They bombarded us for the previous 20 days,” Viktoria Totsen, 39, who escaped to Poland, said. “For the last five days, jets have been flying over us every five seconds, dropping bombs on residential structures, kindergartens, art schools, and other locations.”
In his nightly video message to his country, Zelenskyy accused Russian soldiers of stopping the relief convoy despite having agreed to the path ahead of time.
“We’re attempting to set up solid humanitarian corridors for Mariupol civilians,” Zelenskyy added, “but practically all of our efforts have been thwarted by the Russian occupiers, either by shelling or purposeful terror.”
A humanitarian assistance convoy attempting to enter the city was unable to do so, according to the Red Cross.
The convoy’s effort to provide help coincided with Russian naval boats joining weeks of Russian air and land bombardment on Mariupol, according to US sources.
Russian ships in the Sea of Azov added to the bombardment of Mariupol, according to a senior US defense official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to convey the Pentagon’s assessment. According to the official, roughly seven Russian ships were in the vicinity, including a minesweeper and a handful of landing craft.
As she arrived by rail in the western city of Lviv, the hands of one fatigued Mariupol survivor trembled.
“There’s no way to communicate with the rest of the world.” Julia Krytska, who was assisted by volunteers in escaping with her husband and kid, stated, “We couldn’t beg for help.” “They don’t even have water there,” says the narrator.
President Joe Biden of the United States is scheduled to go to Europe on Thursday for an emergency NATO meeting on Russia’s invasion and increasingly hostile posture toward the West, while NATO members and other European allies are beefing up their defenses.
Biden will visit Brussels and Poland, which has taken in over 2 million Ukrainian migrants since the invasion on February 24. He is anticipated to call for continuing cooperation among Western allies and to announce further sanctions against Russia as part of a harsh sequence of economic and financial measures.
“Well, first of all, not yet,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said on CNN when asked what Russian President Vladimir Putin has accomplished in Ukraine. He hasn’t accomplished anything yet.” He stressed, though, that the military operation was “strictly in conformity with the objectives and purposes that had been determined previously.”
Putin’s goals remain the same, according to Peskov: “to eliminate Ukraine’s military capacity” and “to guarantee that Ukraine transitions from an anti-Russian core to a neutral nation.”
Explosions and bursts of gunfire shook Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, and heavy artillery fire could be heard from the northwest, where Russia is attempting to encircle and conquer many of the capital’s suburbs.
Ukrainian soldiers recovered Makariv this week, but suffered partial losses in three other northwest suburbs, according to Ukraine’s military ministry.
According to a video recorded by Ukrainian police, they were examining damage in Makariv, including the town’s police station, which had a direct hit to its top, according to one officer. The cops drove through demolished homes and down a road pocked by shelling. The town looked to be practically desolate.
Ukrainian resistance has slowed much of Russia’s advance to a halt, but has not forced Moscow’s soldiers to retreat, according to a Western official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss military assessments.
“We’ve seen signals that the Ukrainians are going a little more aggressive now,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters in Washington separately. He claimed this was especially true in southern Ukraine, notably in Kherson, where “they have attempted to reclaim land.”
Many Western military experts are advising against overconfidence in Ukraine’s long-term prospects due to Russia’s significantly stronger and larger force. In previous battles in Chechnya and Syria, Russia used airstrikes to crush opposition, destroying towns, killing countless civilians, and forcing millions to escape.
Russian soldiers, on the other hand, were unprepared and frequently underperformed against Ukrainian opposition.
The US believes that Russia has lost a little more than 10% of its entire combat capabilities, including troops, tanks, and other equipment, since the start of the conflict.
According to Western authorities, Russian forces are suffering from severe food, fuel, and cold weather gear shortages, with some soldiers succumbing to frostbite.
According to the United Nations, the invasion has displaced more than 10 million people, or over a quarter of Ukraine’s population.
Thousands of people are estimated to have perished as a result of the conflict. The number of Russian military casualties varies greatly, although even cautious estimates from Western authorities put the number in the low thousands.
Putin’s soldiers are encountering unusually difficult opposition, with the majority of Moscow’s ground forces stranded kilometers from Kyiv’s center, and they are making poor headway on their attempts to cut off rebels in eastern Ukraine. Russian air force and artillery are increasingly focusing on Ukraine’s cities and inhabitants.
Video has been used to continue talks to halt the conflict. Negotiations with Russia, according to Zelenskyy, are progressing “step by step.”
Antonio Guterres, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, said he observed progress in the talks.
“Elements of diplomatic success are coming into view on numerous critical topics as a result of my outreach with various parties,” he said, adding that the advances are sufficient to cease hostilities today. He did not provide any other information.
However, the Western official claimed that there were no evidence that Moscow was willing to compromise.
Officials from Mariupol reported on March 15 that at least 2,300 people had perished as a result of the siege. According to reports from the city, the real death toll is significantly higher, with remains laying unclaimed. Over the last week, airstrikes have devastated a theater and an art school where many people were seeking refuge.
In his speech, Zelenskyy stated that around 7,000 people were evacuated from Mariupol on Tuesday. Those who stay are subjected to “inhumane conditions, including a complete siege, a lack of food, water, and medication, as well as continual bombing and bombardment,” he claimed.
Mariupol had a population of 430,000 people before the conflict.
Mariupol, located on the Sea of Azov, is an important port for Ukraine and is located on a border between Russia and Crimea. The blockade has shut off the city’s access to the sea, allowing Russia to build a land corridor to Crimea.
It’s unclear how much of the city Russia controls, with fleeing civilians claiming that combat is still taking place on a street-by-street basis.
Aside from the tragic human toll, the conflict has shattered the post-Cold War global security consensus, jeopardized world food supplies, and increased fears of a nuclear disaster.