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War in Ukraine: what to remember from the 48th day of the Russian invasion

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On the 48th day of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the noose is tightening on Mariupol, the port city in southeastern Ukraine where kyiv and the West accuse Russian forces of wanting to use “chemical agents” to dislodge the Ukrainian soldiers entrenched in the city. Europe 1 takes stock of the situation.

THE ESSENTIAL

Russian fighting and shelling in Mariupol have claimed at least 20,000 lives since late February, regional authorities said on Tuesday, as the noose tightens on the port city in southeastern Ukraine, where kyiv and Westerners accuse the Russian forces of wanting to use “chemical agents” to dislodge the Ukrainian soldiers entrenched in the city. President Volodymyr Zelensky had previously said he feared “tens of thousands of victims”, all figures impossible to verify immediately from an independent source.

Volodymyr Zelensky also denounced in the afternoon “hundreds of cases of rape” observed in the areas previously occupied by the Russian army

The noose is tightening on Mariupol

In Mariupol, a strategic port on the Sea of ​​Azov besieged for more than 40 days, Russian forces are tightening their grip on Ukrainian soldiers “surrounded and blocked” in the city where “tens of thousands” of people have died and “90 % of houses” were destroyed, according to Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhaylo Podolyak.

“The Russians have temporarily occupied part of the city. Ukrainian soldiers continue to defend the center and the south of the city, as well as the industrial areas,” the city’s deputy mayor Sergei Orlov told the BBC. The leader of the pro-Russian separatists in Donetsk said on Monday that his forces had completely conquered the port area of ​​Mariupol.

The Russian offensive in the east is imminent

In the east, which has become the Kremlin’s priority target, the Ukrainian army says it expects a Russian offensive “very soon”. “It is likely that in the future the enemy will try to take control of Mariupol, seize Popasna, located between Donetsk and Lugansk, and launch an offensive in the direction of Kurakhove (west of Donetsk) in order to reach the administrative borders of the Donetsk region,” the Ukrainian army general staff said on Facebook on Tuesday morning.

“According to our information, the enemy has almost completed its preparation for an assault on the east. The attack will take place very soon,” Ukrainian Defense Ministry spokesman Oleksandre Motouzianik earlier warned.

Boutcha massacre: “A fake”, according to Putin

The massacre of suspected civilians in the town of Boutcha, near kyiv, is “a fake”, said Tuesday Vladimir Putin, whose country denies any abuse in Ukraine. The Russian president assured at a press conference in a cosmodrome in the Far East that the offensive in Ukraine continued “calmly” and minimized the losses, refusing to set a timetable.

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According to him, it is the “lack of consistency” of the Ukrainian negotiators which prevents reaching an agreement between kyiv and Moscow to end the war. He again justified the offensive to “ensure Russia’s security” against a Ukraine which “has begun to be transformed into an anti-Russian stronghold, to cultivate nationalism, neo-Nazism”.

Zelensky denounces hundreds of rapes and calls for weapons

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Tuesday denounced “hundreds of cases of rape” observed in areas previously occupied by the Russian army, “including young underage girls and very small children”. “In the areas liberated from the occupiers, the recording and investigation of war crimes committed by Russia continues. Almost daily new mass graves are found,” he said, addressing parliament Lithuanian through a video link.

Volodymyr Zelensky also called Monday evening in a video address for more weapons from his allies, in particular to strengthen the defense of the city of Mariupol. “We are not receiving as much as we need to end this war more quickly. To completely destroy the enemy in our territory…in particular, to unblock” the siege of Mariupol, he said .

Extremely difficult negotiations with Moscow, according to kyiv

Negotiations with Moscow for a Russian-Ukrainian peace agreement are “extremely difficult”, an adviser to the Ukrainian presidency, Mykhaïlo Podoliak, declared on Wednesday after Vladimir Putin denounced “the lack of coherence” of the Ukrainians who, according to “creates difficulties” for him.

“The negotiations are extremely difficult”, indicated Mykhaïlo Podoliak in a message to the press, deploring that “the Russian side sticks to its traditional tactics of public pressure on the process of negotiations, in particular by means of certain declarations” .

Two Caritas workers killed in Mariupol

Two Ukrainian Caritas workers and five of their relatives were killed in a bombing in Mariupol, southeastern Ukraine, the Catholic charity said on Tuesday, citing an attack in March. The attack “probably took place on March 15, when a tank fired at the Caritas center building in Mariupol, killing two staff members and five of their relatives,” Caritas Internationalis said in a statement.

New corpses found near kyiv

The bodies of six people killed by bullets were found in the basement of a house in the eastern suburbs of kyiv, from which the Russian army withdrew at the end of March, the Ukrainian General Prosecutor’s Office announced on Tuesday. His message, broadcast on Telegram, is accompanied by a photograph of corpses and specifies that an investigation has been opened.

More than 870,000 Ukrainians have returned to Ukraine

More than 870,000 Ukrainians have returned home since the start of the war, including women and children, the Ukrainian border guard service announced on Tuesday. “Currently, 25,000 to 30,000 Ukrainians a day are returning to their country. Unlike in the early days when it was mostly men, now there are also women, children and the elderly,” the spokesman said. Ukrainian border guard Andriy Demchenko.

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On April 3, the Interior Ministry reported 537,000 Ukrainians returned home citing data from the State Border Guard Service. “They say they see that the situation is safer, especially in the western regions and they can no longer stay abroad, they are ready to return to the country and stay here,” the spokesperson added.

German president not welcome in Kyiv

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, criticized for his relations maintained in recent years with Russia, said on Tuesday that he had considered visiting Ukraine with other heads of state but had been rejected by from Kyiv.

Chemical attack charges

The UK is trying to verify whether chemical weapons have been used by Russian forces in Mariupol, with the government warning on Tuesday that “all options” were on the table should their use be confirmed.

On Monday evening, British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss tweeted that she was studying claims that “Russian forces may have used chemical agents in an attack on the population of Mariupol. We are working urgently with our partners to verify information”.

Previously, the Ukrainian Azov regiment, entrenched in Mariupol, had claimed that a Russian drone had dropped a “toxic substance” there on soldiers and civilians.

Violence against women

Several UN officials on Monday called for investigations into violence against women in Russia’s war in Ukraine and the protection of children in the conflict, at a meeting of the Security Council initiated by the United States and Albania.

French gendarmes in Ukraine

French gendarmes have arrived in Lviv, in western Ukraine, to assist their Ukrainian counterparts “in the investigations of war crimes committed around kyiv”, the French ambassador to Ukraine announced on Monday.

In France, moreover, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs indicated on Monday evening that it had decided to expel six Russian spies who operated under cover of their embassy in Paris and “whose activities proved to be contrary to (its) national interests”. Earlier, Croatia announced the expulsion of 24 Russian diplomats and embassy staff, following in the footsteps of many countries that have taken similar measures.

More than 4.6 million refugees

More than 4.6 million Ukrainian refugees have fled their country since the invasion ordered by Vladimir Putin on February 24, according to UNHCR figures on Tuesday. According to the Ukrainian Border Guard Service, more than 870,000 Ukrainians have returned home since the start of the war, including women and children.

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