UKRANE – Russian forces shelled the port towns of Mykolaiv and Mariupol on Saturday, March 12, as Kiev continued to prepare for a “hard defense” in the face of a possible encirclement.
At the same time, the Ukrainian president welcomed a “fundamentally different approach” to Moscow in recent talks with Kiev, explaining that Russia was no longer satisfied with “just giving ultimatums”. He complained that “Western partners (of Ukraine) are not sufficiently involved” in this approach.
On the ground, in the port city of Mykolaiv (south), the bombing almost did not stop from Friday night to Saturday, hitting a cancer center and an ophthalmic hospital in particular, an AFP journalist said. “They were firing on these civilian areas without any military target,” said Dmytro Lagotchev, the hospital’s head.
Another prime target of Russian attacks, Mariupol, a strategic port in the southeast that has been under siege for 12 days, is short of food and also without water, gas, electricity and communications.
An “almost hopeless” situation, according to Doctors Without Borders (MSF). “The worst humanitarian disaster in the world,” said the head of Ukrainian diplomacy Dmytro Kouleba, who on Friday had quantified the death toll at 1,582. For his part, Russian general Mikhail Mizintsev, quoted by Russian news agencies, blamed Ukrainian “nationalists” for this situation in Mariupol, where “hundreds of thousands of people, including foreigners” are trapped.
Vassylkiv Airport Destroyed
The Ukrainian government said on Saturday that a mosque in which about 80 civilians, including Turks, had sought refuge, had been bombed, but the information was denied by one of them.
According to the chairman of the Souleiman Mosque Association of Mariupol, Ismail Hacioglu, along with the Turkish broadcaster HaberTürk early Saturday afternoon, the mosque area was under fire, but the mosque itself was not touched.
On Saturday morning, local media reported that anti-bombing sirens went off across Ukraine, including Kiev, Odessa, Dnipro and Kharkiv.
The Russian attacks destroyed Vassylkiv airport on Saturday morning, about 40 kilometers south of Kiev, and an oil depot that was also hit caught fire, according to local authorities.
Ukraine’s military intelligence agency said on Facebook on Saturday that Russian soldiers had shot at civilians using an evacuation corridor near Kiev the day before, killing seven people, including a child.
In Kharkiv, northeast, doctors at a hospital told AFP that they spent two days pumping the ashes from the stomach of an eight-year-old child whose house had been blown up by a Russian missile, without blowing everyone present into his lungs. had deleted. †
These attacks on civilians have sparked a new wave of accusations that Russia is committing war crimes. Russian President Vladimir Putin, in turn, accused Ukrainian troops of “blatant violations” of humanitarian law, during a telephone conversation with French counterpart Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.
In particular, Putin cited “extrajudicial killings of opponents,” “civil hostage taking” or even the “deployment of heavy weapons in residential areas, near hospitals, schools and kindergartens,” a Kremlin statement said. “Lies”, the French presidency responded at the end of their meeting, which focused on Paris and Berlin’s request for “an immediate ceasefire” and “the beginning of a diplomatic solution”.
In this regard, Volodymyr Zelensky praised a new “fundamentally different” approach to Moscow in his recent talks with Kiev. Asked about Friday’s statements by Vladimir Putin, who had called “progress” in the Russian-Ukrainian talks, the Ukrainian head of state said he was “happy about a signal from Russia,” during a press release from a Kiev conference broadcast on the Telegram report of the Ukrainian presidency.
In the last talks, “we started talking”, and Moscow “no longer just sets ultimatums”, representing “a fundamentally different approach”, Zelensky added. However, the latter regretted that “Western partners (of Ukraine) are not sufficiently committed” to this approach. As for security guarantees: “Ukraine will no longer be able to trust Russia after this bloody war. Such security guarantees should be provided by other foreign leaders.”
2.6 million exiles
On the ground, Russian troops seemed to be taking their time in the suburbs of Kiev, both to the west and east, countered by the Ukrainians, according to AFP journalists on the ground. In Irpin, on the western outskirts of Kiev, which had been heavily bombed in recent days, a Ukrainian soldier showed journalists on Saturday a Russian tank destroyed by a British-branded anti-tank missile.
However, Russian forces are advanced enough to arouse fears of an imminent encirclement of the capital, which will leave only roads to the south clear and which is preparing for a “fierce defense,” the Ukrainian presidency said. The Russian army also reports progress on the front in the separatist region of Donbass (east), claiming to have destroyed “a total of 3,491 Ukrainian military infrastructures,” including “123 unmanned aerial vehicles, 1,127 tanks and other vehicles for armored combat.”
The Ukrainian president gave his first figure on the number of killed Ukrainian soldiers since the Russian invasion on February 24 during his press conference on Saturday. “We have about 1,300 soldiers who have died,” he said, saying the Russian army has lost “about 12,000 men”. These reports from both parties are not verifiable at this stage.
As for the local economy, Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Chmygal estimated on Sunday that “the restructuring of the economy according to the new reality should be the main basis for the victory”. He asked those who work “in areas where there is no active fighting” to work. “We need to restore activity. You are part of the economic front!” he launched in a video broadcast on Telegram.
Nearly 2.6 million people have fled Ukraine since Feb. 24, and about two million have also been internally displaced, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. The Russian Defense Ministry also reported the delivery by the Russian army of more than 100 tons of humanitarian aid “to the liberated settlements in the Kharkov region”.
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