On the 15th day of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Russian forces tightened their grip around the capital Kiev on Thursday and dismissed “war crime” charges a day after a maternity hospital was bombed in the besieged city of Mariupol, in the south of the country, which had injured 17 according to an initial report. Europe 1 takes stock of the situation.
Russian tanks arrived Thursday at the northeast gates of Kiev, continuing their encirclement maneuver, while the first high-level direct negotiations between the belligerents since the start of the invasion of Ukraine failed to achieve a ceasefire. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba stuck to their guns during this meeting, the first at this level since February 24, organized in Turkey under the auspices of their Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu in Antalya (south) , a popular resort for Russian tourists.
Russian tanks are closing in on Kiev
According to the Ukrainian general staff, the Russian forces are continuing their “offensive operation” to encircle Kiev, while attacking on other fronts the towns of Izium, Petrovske, Hrouchouvakha, Sumy, Okhtyrka or in the Donetsk and Zaparojie regions. Russian tanks arrived on Thursday at the northeastern edge of the Ukrainian capital Kiev, which they threaten to encircle after having already reached its northern and western suburbs.
According to the Ukrainian general staff, the Russian forces are also attacking on other fronts, in the east, the cities of Izium, Petrovske, Hrushuvakh, Sumy and Okhtyrka or in the regions of Donetsk and Zaparojie. An AFP team saw columns of smoke rising from the village of Skybyn, a few hundred meters from the last barrage of Ukrainian forces before entering Kiev from the northeast.
Downtown Chernihiv shelled, many dead
At the end of the morning, a rain of Russian Grad rockets fell on the deserted village of Velyka Dymerka, about five kilometers from the limits of the capital, some of which landed about twenty meters from the AFP team. . Half of the population of the Kiev agglomeration has fled since the start of the Russian invasion two weeks ago, announced its mayor, Vitali Klitschko, affirming that, now, “a little less than two million inhabitants “were there.
Ukraine also retains control of Chernihiv, north of Kiev, whose city center was shelled, causing the death of many civilians. In the region of Zhitomir, west of the capital, seven people were killed in the night, including five in the firing of a missile on a road, according to the police.
New humanitarian corridors
Humanitarian corridors were opened again on Thursday to allow the evacuation of civilians from areas hard hit by the fighting, which forced the inhabitants of several large cities to remain sometimes for days hidden in cellars. A long convoy of buses was heading in the morning towards the northwest of Kiev, where the authorities are organizing the evacuation of people stranded in Irpin and Boutcha. More than 60,000 Ukrainians were evacuated from besieged towns on Wednesday, Volodymyr Zelensky said in a video Thursday.
The failure of the Russian-Ukrainian negotiations
The heads of Russian and Ukrainian diplomacy failed Thursday to agree on a ceasefire in Ukraine during their first meeting since the start of the Russian army offensive. Sergei Lavrov and Dmytro Kuleba stuck to their guns during their talks in Antalya (Turkey).
The Ukrainian minister said his Russian counterpart had assured him that Russia “will continue (its) aggression until we accept its demand to capitulate”. But Ukraine “will not surrender”, he claimed.
Maternity destroyed in Mariupol
“Today we must unite in condemning this war crime by Russia, which reflects all the harm the invaders have done to our country,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a video message, calling on Western leaders to to show “courage” to “finally do what they should have done on the first day of the invasion. Either close the air skies to Russian missiles and bombs, or give us fighter jets so that we can do everything ourselves -selves”.
Moscow, for its part, claims that Ukrainian “nationalist battalions” used the hospital as a firing base.
The nine-day Russian siege on the strategic port of Mariupol in southern Ukraine has left a total of 1,207 civilians dead, the town hall said on Telegram on Wednesday. Some 300,000 civilians have been trapped for days by fighting in the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Sea of Azov, deprived of water, food and electricity and where humanitarian aid has not been able to arrive.
Bombed hospital: a “staging” for Moscow
The Russian army on Thursday described as “staged” by Ukrainian “nationalists” the strike having targeted the day before a maternity hospital and a pediatric hospital in the surrounded city of Mariupol, in the south-east of Ukraine. “The Russian air force has not carried out any target destruction missions in the Mariupol region,” Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said.
This attack, which killed three people, including a young girl, sparked a wave of international condemnation: “Heinous war crime” for the European Union, “barbaric” use of force against civilians for the White House, “immoral” act for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson or “unworthy act of war” for Emmanuel Macron.
Mig-29: not definitive from Washington
The United States definitively rejected on Wednesday Poland’s proposal to deliver its Mig-29 planes to the American army for subsequent handover to Ukraine, deeming Warsaw’s offer “risky” and likely to provoke a Russian escalation.
Washington does not “support the transfer of additional combat aircraft to the Ukrainian Air Force at this time” to help it deal with the invasion decided by Vladimir Putin, the spokesman said of the Pentagon John Kirby, following an exchange on Wednesday between the American Minister of Defense and his Polish counterpart.
Warsaw had offered to make these planes available to the United States and then deliver them to Ukraine.
Chernobyl: “no major impact on security”
The power cut at the Chernobyl nuclear site has “no major impact on security”, said the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), informed of the problem by the Ukrainian authorities.
Chemical weapons: Washington accuses Moscow of “lies”
The United States on Wednesday accused Russia and China of spreading “lies” about alleged American biological and chemical weapons laboratories in Ukraine, saying it fears instead a Russian use of such prohibited weapons.
EU expands sanctions
The Twenty-Seven have extended their sanctions against Moscow and Minsk following the invasion of Ukraine, in particular by targeting cryptocurrencies, sanctioning Belarusian finance and adding 160 Russian oligarchs and parliamentarians to their blacklist.
France will help Russian artists “forced into exile”
France intends to help Russian artists “forced into exile” because of their opposition to President Vladimir Putin and the invasion of Ukraine, Culture Minister Roselyne Bachelot said on Wednesday.