The port city of Mariupol, a strategic city and a martyr city, lacks everything. Monday evening, the Ukrainian authorities unveiled a new toll: at least 5,000 people have been buried since the start of the Russian invasion. But according to an adviser to the Ukrainian presidency, there could be 5,000 other people still under the rubble, bringing the number of deaths to 10,000.
The Ukrainian authorities were worried Monday about a worsening of the situation in the besieged port of Mariupol in Ukraine, where at least 5,000 people have already died, on the eve of new talks between Russian and Ukrainian negotiators in Istanbul. According to an adviser to the Ukrainian presidency, Tetyana Lomakina, “about 5,000 people have been buried, but people have not been buried for ten days because of the continuous bombardments”. She estimated that “given the number of people still under the rubble (…) there could be around 10,000 dead”.
160,000 people still stuck
More than a month after the start of the Russian invasion, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky denounced on Sunday a total blockade of this strategic port on the Sea of Azov, which the Russian army has been trying to seize since the end of February, and where around 160,000 people are still stuck, according to its mayor Vadim Boitchenko.
“All entrances and exits from the city are blocked (…) it is impossible to bring food and medicine into Mariupol,” Zelensky said on Sunday evening, accusing Russian forces of bombing aid convoys. humanitarian and indicating that the streets were strewn with “corpses” that it was impossible to bury.
And with Moscow’s announcement on Friday of “a concentration of its efforts on the liberation” of Donbass, an adviser to the Ukrainian presidency indicated that it feared a “worsening” of the situation in this city located south of this mining basin.
We also still do not know, nearly two weeks after the bombardment of its theater, the fate of the hundreds of civilians who had taken refuge there: the municipality, citing witnesses, said it feared around 300 dead. But according to an elected municipal official from Mariupol who fled the city on the day of the bombardment, any count of the victims was impossible, given the faulty communications and the absence of local authorities.
The French president said on Sunday that he would speak to his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Monday or Tuesday to organize an evacuation operation from the city. Emmanuel Macron, who has already spoken eight times with Vladimir Putin since the beginning of the Russian invasion, remains convinced that the path of dialogue with Moscow is still possible, “to stop the war that Russia has launched in Ukraine, without doing the war”.
New fighting was also taking place in several localities around kyiv. “The enemy is trying to break through around kyiv and block the roads,” Ganna Malyar, Deputy Defense Minister, told Ukrainian television, assuring that “the defense of kyiv” continued.
Two high voltage lines were damaged in the fighting, depriving 82,000 inhabitants of the right bank of the capital of electricity.
In Stoyanka, on the western edge of kyiv, a village that had become a ghost after weeks of bombardment, residents were returning after hearing that Ukrainian forces had driven out Russian troops. But at a checkpoint, a Ukrainian fighter warned them against the Russian snipers, who continued to hold the deserted streets in their sights.
Fierce fighting was also taking place in the east of the country. On the north-eastern outskirts of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second city close to the Russian border, Saltivka, a working-class district of high apartment blocks pounded almost daily by the Russian army, is no more than a swept away ghost town. by the winds where only a handful of traumatized old men survive, buried in the cellars, according to AFP journalists.
On the other hand, Ukrainian soldiers have regained control of Mala Rogan, a small village in the countryside about four kilometers east of Kharkiv, AFP noted, which saw two bodies of Russian soldiers lying in an alley and several armored vehicles. Russians destroyed.
In the south of the country, the Russian noose also seemed to loosen around certain cities, such as Mykolaiv, a lock-town on the road to Odessa, Ukraine’s largest port, where the inhabitants seemed to find some hope, after terrible weeks during which the Russian army tried in vain to take the city.
The front has even retreated significantly, with a Ukrainian counter-offensive on Kherson, some 80 km to the south-east, the only major city for which the Russian army has claimed total capture since February 24.
Ukraine’s neutrality on the table
On the diplomatic front, Russian negotiators arrived in Istanbul on Monday for a new round of talks with the Ukrainians which should begin on Tuesday, according to images from the Turkish channel NTV. A previous face-to-face negotiation session had already taken place on March 10 in Turkey, in Antalya, at the level of foreign ministers, but had not led to any concrete progress.
The discussions then continued by videoconference to try to stop this conflict which has already forced nearly 3.9 million Ukrainians to flee their country according to the UN, and caused more than 500 billion euros in economic losses. to Ukraine according to an estimate by the Ukrainian Minister of Economy.
One of the important points of the negotiations concerns “security guarantees and neutrality, the nuclear-free status of our state”, President Zelensky told Russian media on Sunday. This point “is being studied in depth”, but it will require a referendum and security guarantees, he warned, accusing Vladimir Putin and his entourage of “draging things out”.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, however, tempered expectations on Monday, saying negotiations so far had not produced “significant progress”.
The head of Russian diplomacy Sergei Lavrov said that a meeting between Vladimir Putin and Volodymyr Zelensky, whom the latter calls for, would be “counterproductive” for the time being. He conditioned it on meeting Moscow’s demands in the negotiations, including the “demilitarization” and “denazification” of Ukraine.
No humanitarian corridor
On the eve of these new talks, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk indicated that kyiv had given up opening humanitarian corridors on Monday, fearing possible “provocations” from Russian troops.
Visiting Warsaw on Saturday, US President Joe Biden violently attacked the master of the Kremlin, calling him a “butcher” and judging that he could “not stay in power” after his invasion of Ukraine. Remarks nuanced very quickly by the White House but which the Kremlin spokesman described as “alarming” on Monday, while Moscow eliminated almost all the voices of opposition to this war.
The independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta, whose editor-in-chief Dmitry Muratov received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2021, is the latest to announce on Monday that it will suspend its online and print publications until the end of the military operation in Ukraine.
Mr. Lavrov for his part indicated that a decree was in preparation to limit access to Russian territory to nationals of countries that have committed “unfriendly” acts against Russia, which has been targeted by a multitude of sanctions since its offensive. He did not name any specific country, although Moscow published a list of unfriendly countries in early March, including the United States and European Union countries.
On Monday, Joe Biden proposed a budget including $6.9 billion for the European Deterrence Initiative, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and “the fight against Russian aggression”, as well as another billion for Ukraine.
As kyiv increases pressure on Western companies that have remained in Russia, Dutch brewer Heineken announced on Monday that it would leave Russia, where it has 1,800 employees, followed soon after by Danish brewer Carlsberg.
The head of Ukrainian diplomacy Dmytro Kouleba also welcomed the position of the G7 countries on Russia’s decision to request payment in rubles for its gas deliveries, considering that the “blackmail” of Moscow was unacceptable.