The Red Cross is heading to Mariupol again as Russia shifts Ukraine’s focus

  • Ukrainian forces recapture more territory around Kiev
  • Russian missiles hit the southern port of Odesa – governor
  • The Pentagon will send Ukraine $ 300 million more in military aid
  • Russia threatens to cut off gas to Europe unless it is paid in rubles

ZAPORIZHZHIA, Ukraine, April 2 (Reuters) – A Red Cross convoy traveling to the Ukrainian city of Mariupol will again try to evacuate civilians from the besieged port on Saturday as Russian forces appeared to be regrouping for new attacks in the southeastern part.

Mariupol, which has been surrounded since the early days of Russia’s five-week-old invasion, has been Moscow’s main target in Ukraine’s southeastern Donbas region. Tens of thousands caught with poor access to food and water.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) on Friday sent a team to lead a convoy of about 54 Ukrainian buses and other private vehicles out of the city, but they returned and said conditions made it impossible to continue. Read more

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“They will try again on Saturday to facilitate safe passage for civilians,” the ICRC said in a statement. An earlier Red Cross evacuation attempt in early March failed because the route proved unsafe.

Russia and Ukraine have agreed on humanitarian corridors during the war that have facilitated the evacuation of thousands of civilians.

The ICRC says its Mariupol operation has been approved by both sides, but major details were still being worked out, such as the exact timing and destination of the convoy, which would be an indefinite site in Ukraine.

In a video speech early in the morning, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy warned that Russian troops had moved towards the Donbas region and northeast towards Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city, where previous Russian attacks had severely damaged urban areas.

“I hope there can still be solutions to the situation in Mariupol,” Zelenskiy said. “The whole world has to respond to this humanitarian catastrophe.”

In Chuhuiv, a city in Kharkiv province, victims suffering shrapnel and gunfire flooded a hospital. Two women sat on neighboring beds, limbs bandaged and strapped in metal braces.

“An entire bus was shot out. We were on a civilian bus. There were about 20 people on board, 14 people survived. Eight dead bodies,” a woman who identified herself only as Yulia told Reuters Television.

Sitting next to her, Alina Shegurets remembered her own screams as the bus was attacked, pointing to her injured leg and hip.

“Windows started shaking. Then I saw something that looked like holes. Then bullets started flying over. Powder, smoke … I screamed and my mouth was full of it,” Shegurets said.

SHIFT FROM KYIV

Russian President Vladimir Putin sent troops on February 24 for what he calls a “special operation” to demilitarize Ukraine and “denazify” its leadership.

The West calls it an unprovoked war of aggression that has killed thousands, uprooted a quarter of Ukraine’s population and brought tensions between Russia and the United States to their worst point since the Cold War.

With the aim of lowering nuclear tensions with Russia, the US military canceled an intercontinental ballistic missile test, which it was originally only intended to delay, the air force told Reuters. Read more

But the United States and its European allies have sent Ukraine military aid, including an additional $ 300 million in aid announced by the Pentagon late Friday. The new aid includes laser-guided rocket and antidrone systems.

Washington will also work with allies to transfer Soviet-made tanks to Ukraine to strengthen its defenses in the Donbas, the New York Times said, citing a U.S. official. The Pentagon declined to comment to Reuters, while the White House did not immediately respond. Read more

At peace talks this week, Russia said the Donbas, where it has supported separatists fighting Ukrainian forces since 2014, would now be the focus of its war efforts. Russian troops left broken villages and their own abandoned tanks as they moved away from the capital Kiev. Read more

After failing to conquer a single major city, Russia has painted its withdrawal of forces near Kiev as a goodwill gesture in the peace talks. Ukraine and its allies say Russian forces have been forced to regroup after suffering heavy losses due to determined Ukrainian resistance.

Across the border from Kharkiv in the Russian city of Belgorod, Moscow said Ukrainian helicopters hit a fuel depot on Friday, causing a huge fire. Ukraine denied responsibility for the incident, the first of its kind in the war.

Russia will strengthen its western borders so it will not “take care of anyone attacking,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. Read more

As sirens sounded across Ukraine before dawn on Saturday, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine reported on Russian airstrikes on the cities of Sievierodonetsk and Rubizhne in Luhansk. In the eastern region and neighboring Donetsk, pro-Russian separatists declared breakaway republics, which Moscow recognized just before its invasion.

ODESA STRIKER

As Ukrainian forces recaptured more territory around Kiev on Friday, officials at the Black Sea port of Odesa said anti-aircraft defenses prevented an attempt at critical infrastructure attacks. Reuters could not immediately confirm the account.

Odesa’s governor, Maksym Marchenko, said three missiles had hit a residential area and caused casualties. He said the missiles were fired from an Iskander missile system in Crimea, the southern Ukrainian peninsula annexed by Russia in 2014.

Russia denies attacking civilians. Odesa and Mariupol straddle the Black Sea and have been primary targets for Russia due to their strategic locations.

Faced with unprecedented sanctions, Russia had threatened to cut off gas supplies to Europe unless buyers paid in rubles. Europe promised to remain united against Russia’s demands, and Moscow said it would not halt supplies until new payments fall due later in April. Read more

China is not deliberately circumventing sanctions against Russia, Wang Lutong, director general of European affairs at China’s foreign ministry, said on Saturday, although Beijing and Moscow have promised to deepen ties in recent weeks. Read more

Mediators from Turkey, where the latest round of face-to-face peace talks was held and the UN has been pushing for a break in the fighting.

UN Secretary-General Martin Griffiths travels to Moscow on Sunday and then to Kiev while the UN pursues a humanitarian ceasefire, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told reporters.

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Additional reporting from Reuters agencies; Written by Rami Ayyub and Simon Cameron-Moore; Edited by Daniel Wallis and William Mallard

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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