Russia demands “neutral status” for Ukraine, which refuses

Update on the situation in Ukraine at 12:00 pm

The war is entering its fourth week and there is no denying that the Russian military is now making difficult progress in some places. Artillery fire and shelling continue, however, on several major cities, including Kiev, Mykolaiv and, since yesterday, around Odessa, as well as even more brutally on the besieged cities of Mariupol and Kharkov. Mykhailo Podolyak, one of the Ukrainian negotiators, announced on Tuesdaythat the Ukrainian Armed Forces “counteroffensive in multiple operational regions”without giving further details.

Explosions in Kiev, the capital under curfew. At dawn, several loud explosions were heard in the Shevchenko district, where a 12-storey building was damaged. The press is not allowed to circulate in the city because of the curfew, the second since the start of the war. Heavy fighting continues in the northwestern suburbs, in and around the towns of Irpin, Hostomel and Boutcha.

Desired or imposed strategy? According to a United States Department of Defense official quoted by the Associated Press, Russian troops are firing heavy artillery into central Kiev precisely because they can no longer advance. They would have been about ten miles from the latter for several days.

Mariupol, a city under siege for two weeks. The situation in the large city in the South, where according to the authorities between 200,000 and 400,000 people are still detained, is dramatic. On Tuesday, the evacuations of 20,000 people could take place; the Ukrainian deputy prime minister fears that the humanitarian corridor no longer works today. The city of Zaporizhzhya, 220 kilometers to the west, may be the destination of the humanitarian corridor but was targeted by bombing on Wednesday, the region’s governor said. Humanitarian convoys carrying food and water are still being prevented from entering Mariupol.

Two Associated Press reporters have been in town for three weeks reporting scenes of unimaginable violence, with relentless shelling – “sometimes one a minute” – focused on motherhood, homes, a church or a school. The city has been surrounded, the surrounding roads mined and the harbor blocked. “Many of the deaths documented by the AP are of mothers and children, despite Russia’s claims that it does not target civilians, reporters write. Doctors have told the families to leave the bodies in the street because it is too dangerous to hold funerals. † The town hall has been talking about a death toll of almost 2,400 for days. As acknowledged by Pyotr Andryushchenko, an official at the town hall interviewed by the New York Timesthe actual number could be much higher, about 20,000 dead.

The fighting continues in Kharkiv. Ukraine’s second city is surrounded on several sides and large axes by Russian troops, but is not surrounded. At least 500 residents have been killed in shelling and fighting since February 24, according to emergency services.

The still uncertain human toll of this war. According to the UN, nearly 700 civilians have been killed and more than 1,110 others injured since the start of the war. But these numbers are very difficult to verify, especially when there is still fighting or bombing on the ground, the UN emphasizes that its daily ratings are likely to be much lower than reality. According to the Ukrainian president, nearly 1,300 Ukrainian soldiers were killed, while Russia released only one and only assessment on March 2: 498 soldiers killed.

Despite its relative reliability, the assessment of the UN, which does not participate in the conflict, allows an independent estimate of the number of civilian casualties. Because on the side of Russia or Ukraine, which are also waging an information war, the announced figures are linked to very important issues regarding the advance of the Russians or the defense of the Ukrainians. Finally, as with all conflicts in the world, the death toll is very often reassessed years later.