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Saturday, April 1, 2023

Ukrainians Fleeing Mariupol Detail Brutal Street-to-Street Battles

As a constant Russian shelling sought to pound the city into submission, civilians fleeing Ukraine’s beleaguered southern port of Mariupol recalled escaping through street-to-street fire engagements and through unburied dead.

While Russian forces kept the siege going after the city’s defenders refused to surrender, the Kremlin’s ground offensive in other regions of the nation slowed or stopped altogether, hampered by fatal hit-and-run attacks by Ukrainians.

Following a tough struggle, the Ukrainian army said early Tuesday that it had driven Russian soldiers out of a strategically crucial Kyiv neighbourhood. Ukrainian forces were able to seize control of a crucial route to the west and bar Russian soldiers from encircling Kyiv from the northwest thanks to the reclaimed land.

But, according to Ukraine’s Defense Ministry, Russian soldiers advancing toward Kyiv were able to seize part of other northwest suburbs, including Bucha, Hostomel, and Irpin, which had been under bombardment since Russia’s military entered late last month.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s forces are increasingly focusing their air power and artillery on Ukraine’s cities and inhabitants, killing untold numbers of people and driving millions of people from their homes.

Russia has increased air sorties over the past two days, carrying out as many as 300 in the last 24 hours, according to a senior US defense official speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the military’s assessment. Russia has also fired over 1,100 missiles into Ukraine since the invasion began.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy praised individuals who had fought back against Russia in a video message delivered Monday night.

“Organizing opposition is unnecessary,” Zelenskyy remarked. “For Ukrainians, resistance is a part of their essence.”

The status of individuals inside an art school that was devastated on Sunday and a theater that was blown apart four days earlier in Mariupol remained uncertain, with communications hampered, mobility restricted, and many inhabitants in hiding. More than 1,300 individuals were said to be hiding in the theater, with another 400 believed to be in the art school.

Mariupol, perched on the Sea of Azov, has been a significant target for more than three weeks and has witnessed some of the war’s greatest suffering.

However, no clear, independent image of how near it was to being captured surfaced. Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said Tuesday that its soldiers were still defending the city and that a Russian patrol boat and electronic warfare equipment had been destroyed.

According to the ministry, Russia now controls the land route from Crimea, the peninsula it invaded in 2014, and is limiting Ukraine’s access to the Sea of Azov.

“No one can determine if it’s on the point of being captured from the outside,” said Keir Giles, a Russia specialist at the British think tank Chatham House.

Moscow had promised Mariupol safe passage out of the city over the weekend, with one corridor extending east to Russia and the other west to other regions of Ukraine, in exchange for the city’s capitulation before daylight Monday. The offer was categorically rejected by Ukraine long before the deadline.

Officials in Mariupol reported on March 15 that the siege had killed at least 2,300 people, some of whom were buried in mass graves. There has been no official estimate since then, but after six more days of shelling, the figure is expected to be much higher.

Conditions have deteriorated for those who have remained. Mariupol’s electricity, water, and food supplies have all been cut off, as has connection with the outside world, forcing people to battle for life. Smoke may be seen billowing from structures struck by Russian artillery in recent commercial satellite photographs.

Mariupol had a population of around 430,000 people before the conflict. Around a fifth of the population is said to have fled in the early days of the conflict, with tens of thousands more fleeing through humanitarian corridors in the last week. The violence has blocked previous attempts.

Those who managed to escape Mariupol described a shattered city.

“There are no structures there anymore,” Maria Fiodorova, 77, said after crossing the Polish border on Monday following a five-day journey.

Gunfire blew out her windows, and her flat went below freezing, according to Olga Nikitina, who escaped Mariupol for the western Ukrainian city of Lviv, where she arrived Sunday.

“Battles raged along every street. “Every house was turned into a target,” she explained.

As Mariupol inhabitants sought cover at a temporary camp put up by Russian-backed rebels in the Donetsk area, a lengthy queue of vehicles formed on a road near Bezimenne. Approximately 5,000 Mariupol residents have sought sanctuary in the camp. Many arrived in automobiles with Russian placards that read “children.”

Yulia, a lady who only revealed her first name, said she and her family took refuge in Bezimenne after a blast damaged six houses near her home.

“That’s why we jumped in the vehicle and fled in 15 minutes, at our own risk,” she explained. “Everything is devastated there, and dead people are laying about.” “They won’t let us pass through anyplace because there are shootings,” says the narrator.

According to Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk, more over 8,000 people left to safer places through humanitarian corridors on Monday, including roughly 3,000 from Mariupol.

According to Zelenskyy, Russian bombardment of a passageway on a road coming out of Mariupol injured four youngsters.

The majority of Moscow’s soldiers have been held more than 25 kilometers (15 miles) from Kyiv’s core, according to the British defense ministry, but the capital “remains Russia’s principal military target.”

On Monday, Russian soldiers shot into the air and launched stun grenades against demonstrators yelling “Go home!” in the Russian-occupied southern city of Kherson. Kherson was the first big city to succumb to Russia’s attack earlier this month.

Russia also attacked a chemical facility outside the eastern city of Sumy, sending poisonous ammonia pouring from a 50-ton tank, and fired cruise missiles at a military training camp in the Rivne area of western Ukraine, according to Ukrainian authorities.

According to the United Nations, Russia’s invasion has forced over 3.5 million people to flee Ukraine. The United Nations has recorded approximately 900 civilian casualties, but the true figure is likely significantly higher. The number of Russians killed varies, but even conservative estimates are in the tens of thousands.

Video talks between Russia and Ukraine have resumed, but they have not succeeded in bridging the gap between the two countries. Ukraine must disarm and proclaim itself neutral, according to the Kremlin. Late Monday, Zelenskyy told Ukrainian television that he would be willing to discuss dropping Ukraine’s NATO candidacy in exchange for a cease-fire, Russian army withdrawal, and a guarantee of Ukraine’s security.

Zelenskyy also hinted that Kyiv might be open to future talks over the status of Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014, and the eastern Donbas area, which is held by Russian-backed rebels. But, following a cease-fire and moves toward security assurances, he said that was an issue for another time.

Cedric Blackwater
Cedric Blackwater
Cedric is a journalist with over a decade of experience reporting on local US news, and touching on many global topics. He is currently the lead writer for Bulletin News.

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