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Ukraine: what to remember from the 53rd day of the Russian invasion

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On the 53rd day of the Russian invasion in Ukraine, the situation in the strategic port of Mariupol is considered “inhuman” by the Ukrainian president. At least five people were killed and 13 injured on Sunday in a series of strikes on Kharkiv, a major city in northeastern Ukraine.

THE ESSENTIAL

The situation in the strategic port of Mariupol is “inhuman”, the Ukrainian president said on Saturday evening, calling on the West to “immediately” provide the heavy weapons he has been demanding for several weeks, while Russia claims to control almost all of the city and launches a new appeal to its last defenders to lay down their arms.

“The situation in Mariupol remains as serious as it can be. Simply inhuman,” Volodymyr Zelensky said in a video message. “That’s what the Russian Federation did. (…) Russia is deliberately trying to destroy anyone in Mariupol”, in southeastern Ukraine.

In addition, at least five people were killed and 13 injured on Sunday in a series of strikes on Kharkiv, a major city in northeastern Ukraine, which caused fires, emergency services told AFP.

AFP journalists heard two bursts of gunfire and saw five fires spreading through residential areas in central Kharkiv. According to Maksym Khaoustov, head of the regional rescue services, five people were killed and 13 others injured.

No humanitarian corridor on Sunday

Ukrainian authorities announced on Sunday the suspension of humanitarian corridors for the evacuation of civilians from eastern Ukraine, for lack of an agreement with the Russian army on a halt to firing.

“This morning, we failed to negotiate a ceasefire on evacuation routes with the occupiers. That is why, unfortunately, we are not going to open humanitarian corridors today,” he said. Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said on Telegram.

“Inhuman” situation in Mariupol

According to Volodymyr Zelensky, there are only “two options”: “Either the partners provide Ukraine with all the necessary heavy weapons, planes and, without any exaggeration, immediately” to “reduce the pressure on Mariupol and lift the siege ” of this city inhabited by 441,000 people before the invasion on February 24. “Either the path of negotiation, in which the role of partners should also be decisive,” continued the Ukrainian president, saying that the search for a “military or diplomatic” solution had been a “daily” activity since the start of the blockade. , but proved “extremely difficult”.

A take that would be an important Russian victory

Remarks published when the Russian Ministry of Defense asked the last Ukrainian fighters entrenched in the Azovstal metallurgical complex to cease fighting at 6 a.m. Moscow time (3 a.m. GMT) on Sunday and to evacuate the place before 1 p.m. (10 a.m. GMT). “All those who have given up their arms will be guaranteed to have their lives saved,” the ministry assured on Telegram. “It’s their only chance.” Apart from this pocket of resistance, “the entire territory of the city of Mariupol has been cleared of militants from the Nazi Azov formation, foreign mercenaries and Ukrainian soldiers”, he said.

In the early morning of Sunday, the Ukrainian general staff indicated that airstrikes had been carried out on the city by the Russians from the regions of Donestk and Tavriya. “They also carried out assault operations near the port,” he said in a statement, without however mentioning the call to lay down their arms or the Russian claim to take most of the city. The capture of this city would be an important victory for the Russians, as it would allow them to consolidate their coastal territorial gains along the Sea of ​​Azov by linking the Donbass region, partly controlled by their supporters, to the Crimea that Moscow annexed in 2014.

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Hungry Mariupol

Earlier, the Ukrainian president had threatened to halt peace talks with Moscow if the last Ukrainian soldiers in Mariupol were “eliminated”. “There is no food, no water, no medicine,” he got carried away with the media, accusing the Russians of “refusing” the establishment of humanitarian corridors. According to the executive director of the World Food Program David Beasley, more than 100,000 civilians are on the verge of starvation in Mariupol, also lacking water and a source of heating. In terms of human toll, “Marioupol, it can be ten times Borodianka”, a locality located not far from kyiv destroyed after being pounded and the scene of alleged abuses during its occupation, hammered the Ukrainian president.

The Russian army again aimed its missiles at kyiv, which had enjoyed a bit of a break lately. Motivated by revenge after the loss of her flagship in the Black Sea, the cruiser Moskva. The Ukrainians claim to have caused its sinking thanks to their Neptune anti-ship missiles. The Pentagon agreed, stating that the Russian ship had been hit by two Ukrainian missiles on Thursday. A version that the Russian authorities have not officially endorsed, simply evoking a fire that caused the explosion of ammunition on board the building which sank a few hours later during its tow.

“We are perfectly aware that we will not be forgiven” for the destruction of the Moskva and therefore this blow to Russia’s “imperial ambitions”, had predicted on Friday the spokesperson for the military command of southern Ukraine, Natalia Goumeniouk . “The number and scale of missile strikes on Kyiv sites will increase in response to all terrorist-type attacks and sabotage carried out on Russian territory by the nationalist regime in Kyiv,” warned the same day. Russian army.

Russian reprisals

It didn’t take long: a Russian strike on Friday hit a complex in the kyiv region producing Neptune missiles. And on Saturday, one person was killed and “several” had to be hospitalized following a strike against an industrial complex in the Darnytsky district, on the outskirts of kyiv, which notably manufactures tanks, announced the mayor of the city. capital Vitali Klitschko. A large number of soldiers and police were present after the attack, preventing access to these facilities, from which smoke was billowing, said an AFP journalist.

Russia for its part claimed that “production buildings of an arms factory in kyiv” had been destroyed. kyiv and its surroundings had been relatively spared from the bombardments since the withdrawal of the Russian army from this area at the end of March, but the loss of the Moskva sparked the ire of Moscow.

Faced with this situation, the mayor of the capital once again called on his fellow citizens who had fled the fighting not to return to kyiv, whose population nevertheless massively took advantage of the first glorious day of spring on Friday to take a walk or take a drink. glass on the terrace. “It’s the first time we’ve been back in the city center, we wanted to (…) take in the crowds. Seeing all these people makes me feel so good,” said Nataliya Makrieva, a 43-year-old veterinarian. .

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Russian forces also shelled an oil refinery in eastern Ukraine on Saturday, four kilometers from Lysychansk, very close to the front line, local authorities said. From the road along the site, AFP journalists were able to see tanks still on fire at the end of the afternoon and a long plume of black smoke pushed by the wind.*

Need weapons

Ukraine also claimed to have destroyed four cruise missiles fired by Russian planes that took off from neighboring Belarus on the Lviv region in the west on Saturday morning. In the southern Ukrainian region of Odessa, “Russian anti-aircraft defense shot down a Ukrainian military transport plane, delivering a large batch of weapons supplied to Ukraine by Western countries”, for its part assured Saturday the Russian Defense Ministry. Volodymyr Zelensky again called on the world on Saturday to “prepare” for Russia’s possible use of its nuclear weapons. “We need medicine (against radiation), air-raid shelters,” he said.

According to him, around 2,500 to 3,000 Ukrainian soldiers have died and around 10,000 have been injured since the start of the war. During a telephone exchange with the Chief of Staff of the American Armed Forces Mark Milley, his Ukrainian counterpart Valery Zaluzhny insisted – echoing Mr. Zelensky’s calls – on the urgent need for arms and ammunition.

But, according to the washington post, Russia sent an official complaint to the United States this week warning the US government of “unforeseeable consequences” if its military assistance to Ukraine continues to increase. As for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and several other senior officials, Russia said on Saturday they were banned from entering its soil, in retaliation for British sanctions on Moscow over its military operation in Ukraine. Nearly five million people have fled Ukraine since February 24, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees said, adding that 40,200 more people had left their country in the past 24 hours.

Human losses

No recent global death toll is available, but the number of civilians killed is clearly very high. In Mariupol alone, the Ukrainian authorities have mentioned some 20,000 deaths. According to the executive director of the World Food Program David Beasley, more than 100,000 people there are on the verge of starvation, also lacking water and heating sources.

The Ukrainian authorities announced on Sunday the suspension of the humanitarian corridors for the evacuation of civilians in the East, for lack of agreement with the Russian army. On the military side, President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Friday that around 2,500 to 3,000 Ukrainian soldiers had been killed since the start of the conflict and some 10,000 others injured.

The Kremlin recently admitted to its side “significant losses”. On March 25, he acknowledged the death of 1,351 soldiers for 8,825 wounded. Some Western sources go as high as 12,000 dead.

Refugees and displaced

More than five million people have fled Ukraine since the start of the Russian invasion, according to figures from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on Saturday. Europe has not seen such an influx of refugees since the Second World War.

The UN also estimates the number of internally displaced persons at 7.1 million. In total, therefore, almost 12 million people, more than a quarter of the population, have had to leave their homes either by crossing the border or by finding refuge elsewhere in Ukraine.

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