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War in Ukraine: what to remember from the 59th day of the Russian invasion

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Calls for a truce in Ukraine on the occasion of the Easter weekend in Orthodox land have remained unanswered. The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry has called for a “humanitarian pause” in order to evacuate civilians from dangerous areas.

THE ESSENTIAL

Calls for a truce in Ukraine on the occasion of the Easter weekend in Orthodox land seem to remain a dead letter, particularly in Mariupol, due to a persistent dialogue of the deaf between kyiv and Moscow. The war will enter its second month on Sunday, but the “second phase of the special operation” launched by Moscow has just begun this week. “One of the objectives of the Russian army is to establish total control over Donbass and southern Ukraine,” a senior Russian military official said on Friday.

Russian troops, which withdrew from the Kyiv and northern region and Ukraine at the end of March, already occupy much of the east and south of the country. It is now a question of “ensuring a land corridor” towards Crimea and another leading to Transdniestria, a pro-Russian Moldavian region where there is a Russian garrison, detailed General Rustam Minnekayev, deputy commander of the forces of the Central Military District. of Russia.

The Ukrainian authorities for their part, who have obtained more substantial arms aid from the West in recent days, continue to assure that they can push the Russian army out of their soil. But they are also calling for an Easter truce.

This was “rejected” by Moscow, Volodymyr Zelensky had railed Thursday. The Ukrainian president then accused, on Friday evening, Russia of having “brought death to Ukraine”, while adding: “Death has no chance of winning over life, every Christian knows that”.

A “humanitarian pause is needed for the safe evacuation of thousands of civilians wishing to leave dangerous areas of ongoing and possible hostilities, particularly from long-suffering Mariupol”, with likely thousands dead, it said. also indicated the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Friday evening on its site.

“Counterattack” at “101%”

This is in line with the request made by telephone by the President of the European Council Charles Michel to Russian President Vladimir Putin to guarantee humanitarian corridors in Mariupol, a strategic port in the south-east largely destroyed by several weeks of bombardment, and almost entirely under control. Russian.

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“Call with President Putin. Humanitarian corridors in Mariupol and other besieged cities must be immediate, especially on the occasion of Orthodox Easter” on Sunday April 24, tweeted the one representing the EU member states.

The Kremlin for its part affirmed at the end of this interview that kyiv refused the surrender of the last Ukrainian soldiers present in the industrial zone of Azovstal, while the Russian army said it was ready to observe a truce “at any time”. “on all or part” of this site to allow the evacuation of civilians and the surrender of combatants.

“The life of all Ukrainian servicemen, nationalist fighters and foreign mercenaries is guaranteed if they lay down their arms (…) But the kyiv regime does not allow this possibility,” Putin said, according to a statement from the Kremlin.

Moscow assured Thursday that it had “liberated” Mariupol. Ukrainian fighters “hold on” in the Azovstal factory where civilians are also entrenched, kyiv retorted on Friday. President Putin has ordered a siege, without assault, of this immense metallurgical complex.

An adviser to the Ukrainian president, Oleksiï Arestovitch, promised Friday evening a “counter-attack” at “101%” to reconquer Mariupol as soon as the general staff decides, according to the Ukrainian press. It is that “the success of the Russian offensive in the south depends on the fate of Mariupol”, as regional governor Pavlo Kyrylenko told AFP a little earlier.

The UN on Friday listed a series of actions by the Russian military “that may amount to war crimes”, and the American company Maxar Technologies released satellite images revealing, according to it, “the existence of a second cemetery which is ‘has been extended over the past month’, located in Vynohradne, a dozen kilometers from Mariupol. A first set of possible mass graves had recently been unearthed in Manhush (west of Mariupol).

Silence of the sirens

Would there have been a lull in the conflict in the night from Friday to Saturday? In fact, in an unusual way, the Ukrainian information channels did not report any nocturnal triggering of air alert sirens on the territory of the country.

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Several humanitarian corridors in Mariupol were canceled at the last minute, with Moscow and Kyiv blaming each other for the failures. Friday evening, the Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister also advanced on Telegram that there was “a chance” to open one the next day, while deploring “so many failed attempts”.

On Tuesday, the UN secretary general denounced the new Russian offensive and asked both sides to stop fighting for a four-day “humanitarian break” on the occasion of Orthodox Easter. Antonio Guterres will travel to Moscow on Tuesday to meet Vladimir Putin, and then to kyiv to see Volodymyr Zelensky.

Another peace initiative, that of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church under the Patriarchate of Moscow: according to its leader, Metropolitan Onufriï, it is “ready to organize a procession” to “provide emergency aid and evacuate civilians” as well as “wounded soldiers”.

“We speak to whom it may concern and we ask to ensure a ceasefire in Mariupol and its suburbs as well as a humanitarian corridor for the said Good Friday prayer procession, April 22, at Easter”, celebrated by the Orthodox on April 24, said the dignitary in the press release published by the site of his church.

Since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Ukrainian Church under the Moscow Partiarchate, whose Metropolitan Onufriy called on the faithful to support the Ukrainian army, distanced itself from the Patriarch of Moscow Kirill, who bless the war.

But truce or not, the capitals expect a conflict destined to last. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Friday described as “realistic” the possibility that the war in Ukraine could last until the end of 2023 because of Russia’s determination to continue its “appalling” offensive.

And Washington on Friday invited 40 allied countries to meet in Germany next Tuesday to discuss Ukraine’s long-term security needs.

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