On the 22nd day of the Russian invasion, Ukraine on Thursday accused Russia of bombing a theater in which “more than a thousand” civilians had taken refuge, while President Joe Biden called his counterpart the day before Russian “war criminal”. In the afternoon, Russian artillery fire left 27 dead near Kharkiv. Europe 1 takes stock of the evolution of the situation.
In the capital, kyiv, a fire broke out. This is a large warehouse, targeted by the Russian army. The toll rose to two dead on the evening of the 22nd day of the Russian invasion. “In Mariupol, the Russian Air Force knowingly dropped a bomb on the Drama Theater in the city center. The building is destroyed,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Wednesday evening. “The number of dead is not yet known”, referring to “hundreds” of victims. “The world must finally admit that Russia has become a terrorist state,” he said. On Thursday afternoon, artillery fire left 27 dead near Kharkiv.
Zelensky implores to help ‘stop the war’
Ukraine’s president pleaded with Westerners to help ‘stop this war’ as a Russian strike left at least 21 dead in eastern Ukraine after a three-week Moscow offensive that yielded no results sign of respite despite the continuation of talks.
“A people is being destroyed in Europe,” said Volodymyr Zelensky, addressing the Bundestag by videoconference from the bombed Ukrainian capital. “Help us to stop this war!”, and to destroy the new “wall” that Moscow wants to impose, he added, to a standing ovation from the German deputies.
30,000 people evacuated from Mariupol
The authorities of the Ukrainian city of Mariupol, besieged by Russian forces, announced Thursday the evacuation of 30,000 people in one week, adding that they did not yet know the toll of the bombardment the day before of a theater where civilians were sheltering. According to a message from the town hall on Telegram, the situation is “critical” with “uninterrupted” Russian bombardments and “colossal” destruction. “According to initial estimates, around 80% of the city’s housing stock has been destroyed,” she added.
Chechen volunteers on their way to Ukraine
The leader of the Russian republic of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, assured Thursday that a “thousand” Chechen volunteers are on their way to fight in Ukraine, three weeks after the start of the Moscow offensive. On his Telegram account, Ramzan Kadyrov said that one of his relatives, Apti Alaoudinov, is “at the head of a thousand volunteers from the Chechen Republic” who are “on their way to participate in the special operation to denazification and demilitarization of Ukraine”.
At least 27 dead near Kharkiv
Several Russian shots killed at least 27 people on Thursday in the besieged Kharkiv region, a large city in northeastern Ukraine, local authorities said. “Russian soldiers fired artillery at the town of Merefa in the Kharkiv region around 3:30 a.m. (01:30 GMT) on Thursday. A school and a cultural center were destroyed. 21 people were killed and 25 injured, including 10 are in serious condition,” the regional prosecutor’s office posted on Facebook.
The town of Merefa is located about thirty kilometers southwest of Kharkiv. “The rubble clearing is in progress”, according to the Public Prosecutor’s Office, which published two photos of buildings gutted by explosions. At least six people also died in the firing of cluster bombs in a village about fifty kilometers north of Kharkiv, Kozacha Lopan, also said the mayor of the neighboring village of Derguatchi, Vyatcheslav Zadorenko, on Facebook.
“The genocide of our nation”
The town hall of Mariupol said on its Telegram account overnight from Wednesday to Thursday that “more than a thousand” people were in the theater. Ukrainian officials posted a photo appearing to show the three-story building in flames and devastated by an explosion.
For the mayor of Mariupol, Vadym Boichenko, this attack is an “appalling tragedy”. “People were hiding there. Some were lucky to survive, but unfortunately not all of them were lucky,” he lamented in a video. “The only word to describe what happened today is genocide, the genocide of our nation, of our Ukrainian people,” he continued.
The American space technology company Maxar Technologies, which specializes in satellite imagery, released a photo of the theater it said it had taken on Monday. In this photo seen by AFP, the word “children” was written on the ground, in huge white letters and in Russian, in front and behind the building.
“The invaders destroyed the Dramatic Theater, where more than a thousand people had taken refuge. We will never forgive that,” said the town hall on the night of Wednesday to Thursday.
The Russian Ministry of Defense denied a bombardment of the city by its troops and claimed that the building had been destroyed by the Ukrainian nationalist Azov battalion. Moscow has already blamed this military unit for the bombing last week of a maternity hospital in Mariupol, which caused an international outcry.
The Russian Embassy in Washington claimed on Telegram that it was a disinformation campaign.
Massive military aid to Ukraine
In Washington, responding to a journalist, US President Joe Biden said about his Russian counterpart: “He’s a war criminal”. “Unacceptable and unforgivable” remarks, replied the Kremlin.
Shortly before, Joe Biden had confirmed that his country would provide an additional $800 million in military aid to kyiv, an “unprecedented” $1 billion envelope in one week to support its army.
“At the request” of the Ukrainian head of state, who had addressed the American Congress a little earlier, “we are helping Ukraine to acquire additional and longer-range anti-aircraft defense systems”, a- he said, adding that drones would also be delivered.
Deadly Russian military strikes continued across Ukraine. Ten people queuing to buy bread in Cherniguiv, 150 km north of kyiv, died when soldiers opened fire on them in a “premeditated” manner, the prosecutor’s office said.
This city has suffered numerous air raids just like Kharkiv (northeast), the country’s second largest city, where at least 500 people have been killed since the start of the war on February 24. Zaporozhye was targeted for the first time. Its station was hit on Wednesday by at least one missile. Explosions were heard again at dawn on Wednesday in kyiv where thick columns of black smoke rose.
The capital, emptied of more than half of its 3.5 million inhabitants, has been under curfew since 8:00 p.m. Tuesday (6:00 p.m. GMT) and until Thursday 7:00 a.m., after several missiles hit apartment buildings on Monday and Tuesday. According to the Ukrainian Parliament, citing figures collected by the General Prosecutor’s Office, 103 children have been killed in the country since the Russian invasion and around 100 injured. More than three million Ukrainians have already taken the road to exile, the vast majority to Poland.
Military attacks on the health system
At the same time, the World Health Organization (WHO) denounced the numerous military attacks on health infrastructures. “The health system has become a target (…). It’s starting to be part of the strategy and tactics of war. It’s totally unacceptable, it’s against international humanitarian law,” said Michael Ryan. , WHO emergency chief.
It is in this context that the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the highest court of the United Nations, on Wednesday ordered Moscow to immediately halt its military operations in Ukraine, saying it was “deeply concerned” by the scale of the fights.
Imperturbable, Vladimir Putin hammered home in a speech that the military operation was “a success”. This while his army cannot claim the capture of any major city and is progressing in slow motion.
Just before, his Ukrainian counterpart had been given a standing ovation by videoconference by American parliamentarians and had once again called for the establishment of a no-fly zone over his country.
Joe Biden has so far rejected the idea of setting up such a zone, for fear of seeing the United States and the Atlantic Alliance – which repeated on Wednesday that there was “no question of deploying troops NATO or planes in Ukraine” — being drawn into a conflict that could escalate into World War III.
Continuation of talks
The offensive and the determination of the two camps did not prevent the continuation of parallel talks, relaunched Monday by videoconference at the level of delegations. According to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, negotiators are now discussing “a compromise”, which would make Ukraine a neutral country on the model of Sweden and Austria.
“There are very concrete formulas which, I think, are close to an agreement”, also underlined the head of Russian diplomacy Sergei Lavrov. Without denying discussions on neutrality, the chief Ukrainian negotiator Mykhaïlo Podoliak declared that “the model can only be + Ukrainian +”. “My priorities in these negotiations are clear: end of the war, guarantees of security, sovereignty, restoration of our territorial integrity, real guarantees for our country, real protection for our country”, detailed Volodymyr Zelensky in the evening.
On Tuesday night, he felt that the positions of the two camps were now “more realistic”. He had previously said he was ready to renounce any membership of his country in NATO, a casus belli for Russia. The United Kingdom, the United States, Albania, France, Norway and Ireland have called for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council on Thursday afternoon.
Vladimir Putin promised financial aid to individuals and businesses on Wednesday, comparing the sanctions to a “Blitzkrieg” against Russia. The Russian authorities continue in parallel to repress any opposition to the war.