On the 47th day of the Russian invasion in Ukraine, the Ukrainian forces said they were preparing for the fall of Mariupol, a strategic port in the south-east besieged for more than 40 days by the Russian army and largely destroyed, and fortifying their positions in east awaiting an imminent offensive from Moscow. Europe 1 takes stock of the evolution of the situation.
Ukrainian forces said on Monday they were preparing for the fall of Mariupol, in southeastern Ukraine, a strategic port in the south-east besieged for more than 40 days by the Russian army and largely destroyed, and fortifying their positions in east awaiting an imminent offensive from Moscow. “According to our information, the enemy has almost completed its preparation for an assault on the east. The attack will take place very soon,” warned Ukrainian Defense Ministry spokesman Oleksandre Motouzianik. Earlier, Societe Generale announced its withdrawal from Russia.
Fighting in Mariupol
The leader of the pro-Russian separatists in Donetsk said on Monday that his forces had completely conquered the port area of the strategic city of Mariupol, in southeastern Ukraine, besieged for more than a month. “Regarding the port of Mariupol, it is already under our control”, declared Denis Pushilin, quoted by the Russian press agencies. The representative of the separatist army, Edouard Bassourin, told him that the last Ukrainian defenders were now concentrated in the huge “Azovstal” and “Azovmach” factories.
Ukraine prepares for the fall of Mariupol
“Today will probably be the last battle” in Mariupol “because our ammunition is running out,” the 36th National Navy Brigade of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, which is fighting in this city, wrote on Facebook on Monday. The Russians have been laying siege to Mariupol for weeks, the capture of which would allow them to consolidate their territorial gains on the coastal strip along the Sea of Azov by connecting the regions of Donbass to the Crimean peninsula, annexed by Moscow in 2014 .
“It will be death for some of us and captivity for others. We don’t know what will happen, but we do ask that you remember (us) with a kind word,” asked the 36th Brigade to the Ukrainians. “For more than a month, we fought without resupplying ammunition, without food, without water”, doing “the possible and the impossible”, added this unit, specifying that “half” of its members are wounded.
Russia ‘Completely Destroyed Mariupol’, Says Zelensky
“I am the first to find the strength to say” that the Ukrainian forces cannot liberate Mariupol, “it is now impossible militarily”, declared Sunday evening on Youtube Oleksiï Arestovitch, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Speaking to South Korea’s National Assembly on Monday by videoconference, Volodymyr Zelensky said Russia had “completely destroyed” Mariupol, and said he feared that “tens of thousands of people” had perished there. “It was a city of half a million people. The occupiers besieged it and did not even allow water and food to be brought there. The Russians… reduced to ashes”.
He accused Russia of wanting to make this martyr city “an example”, calling on South Korea to help his country by providing it with military equipment, “from planes to tanks”. Ukrainian forces have also continued this weekend to fortify their positions in the east, around the Donbass and in this region, part of which has been controlled since 2014 by pro-Russian separatists. After having scaled back its plans and withdrawn its troops from the kyiv region and northern Ukraine, Moscow has made the total conquest of Donbass its priority objective.
Austrian Chancellor “pessimistic”
Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer said he was “rather pessimistic” after his meeting with Vladimir Putin, who according to him is in a “logic of war” and wants to record a “military success” in Ukraine.
Societe Generale ceases its activities in Russia
Société Générale announced on Monday that it would end its activities in Russia by selling its entire stake in Rosbank. Very involved in the country, the French bank was exposed to the tune of 18.6 billion euros, including 15.4 billion for Rosbank, a heavyweight in the Russian banking sector in which it was the majority shareholder.
At the opening of the Paris Stock Exchange, the Societe Generale title took more than 5%. The group announced Monday morning in a press release that it had signed “an agreement” with the Russian investment fund Interros Capital “with a view to [lui] sell its entire stake” in Rosbank as well as its insurance subsidiaries in Russia – a sale which will have a negative impact of 3.1 billion euros in its accounts.
EU: discussions on new sanctions
Horrified by abuses blamed on Russian forces in Ukraine, European Union foreign ministers began discussing a sixth package of sanctions against Russia on Monday, but consensus is getting harder and harder to come by. Most of the ministers pleaded for “a maximalist approach” towards Moscow with the cessation of purchases of Russian oil and gas on which the Europeans are very dependent.
Diamond giant Alrosa in trouble
Russian giant Alrosa, one of the world’s biggest diamond miners, announced on Monday that it could not pay a debt payment worth 11.6 million dollars due to sanctions, according to the Interfax agency. The group has been sanctioned by the United Kingdom since March 24 and fell under US blocking sanctions on Friday. All of these punitive measures make it technically impossible to repay this debt. The group did not specify whether it would reimburse in rubles or not at all, but, in any case, is exposed to default.
Kharkiv was bombed 66 times in 24 hours
Bombings in Kharkiv (northeast) and its suburbs killed at least two people on Sunday, regional governor Oleg Sinegoubov announced on Facebook. According to him, the city and its suburbs, a strategic entry point for Russian forces into the Donbass, were bombarded 66 times in 24 hours.
No recent toll of civilian casualties is available, but it probably exceeds tens of thousands of dead. The numerous corpses found in Boutcha, near kyiv, caused international indignation. For its part, the Kremlin recently admitted “significant losses”, but without quantifying them. At the end of March, Moscow had recognized the death of 1,351 soldiers for 3,825 wounded, the first figures for more than three weeks.
Russia ’causes world hunger’
The head of European diplomacy Josep Borrell on Monday accused Russia of “causing hunger in the world” with the war in Ukraine, by destroying wheat stocks and preventing it from being exported abroad. “They are causing scarcity. They are bombing Ukrainian cities and causing hunger in the world,” the Spanish official said after a meeting of European foreign ministers in Luxembourg.
Austrian Chancellor discusses ‘difficult’ discussion with Putin
“The discussion with President Putin was frank, open and difficult,” said Karl Nehammer after a meeting that lasted just over an hour and did not result in a handshake, according to the Austrian press. . “I spoke about the serious war crimes in Boutcha and other places, saying that all those responsible must be brought to justice,” added the Austrian Chancellor.
“I have made clear to the Russian President the urgency of setting up humanitarian corridors to bring water and food and evacuate women, children and the wounded from besieged cities”, underlined the Chancellor, insisting it was “not a friendly visit”.