Ukraine sees openings while the Russians focus on the besieged Mariupol

Kiev, Ukraine – Residents i Ukraine The besieged southeast coast awaited a possible evacuation Sunday, when the country’s president said Russia’s occupation of capturing an important port city had weakened its forces and created opportunities for his military.

Two loud explosions were heard Odesa by the Black Sea, and black smoke was seen rising above the city where Ukraine’s navy is headquartered. It is west of Mariupol, a small port that has been under attack for almost the entire war, and rescuers are desperate to reach it.

Odesa City Council said in a brief statement that a morning airstrike triggered fires in some areas. The Russian military said hours later that it was using ships and missile-fired missiles to attack an oil refinery and fuel depots supplying Ukrainian troops.

The city council said Ukraine’s air defenses fired some missiles before hitting the city. Ukrainian military spokesman Vladyslav Nazarov said there were no casualties from the attack.

In Mariupol, conditions remained harsh and the prospects for escape uncertain. The besieged city, which has been brutalized by some of the worst attacks of the war, reported weeks ago that water, food, fuel and medicine were running out. About 100,000 people are still believed to be there, less than a quarter of the city’s pre-war population of 430,000.

Local residents walk past a damaged building in Mariupol, Ukraine, on March 31, 2022.

Victor / Xinhua via Getty Images

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said it hoped a team it sent to help evacuate residents would reach Mariupol on Sunday. Ukrainian authorities said Russia days ago agreed to allow safe passage from the city, but similar agreements have been repeatedly broken during continued shelling.

Mariupol is in the predominantly Russian-speaking Donbas region, where Moscow-backed separatists have been fighting Ukrainian troops for eight years. Its conquest would create an unbroken land corridor from Russia to Crimea, which Moscow conquered from Ukraine in 2014.

With Mariupol right in Russia’s sights, Ukraine insists it’s got a leg up elsewhere in the country. When his country’s troops recaptured territory north of the capital of Kiev from departing Russian troopsPresident Volodymyr Zelenskyy urged all Ukrainians to do what they could “to prevent enemy tactics and weaken its capabilities.”

“Peace will not be the result of any decisions the enemy makes somewhere in Moscow. There is no reason to harbor empty hopes that they will simply leave our country. We can only have peace by fighting,” Zelenskyy said late Saturday. .

Zelenskyy and Ukraine’s Western Allies believe Russia has moved its forces from the capital region and the north of the country to build up strength in the east and south. The Ukrainian leader again called on the West to supply its military with warplanes and several anti-missile systems.

“Every Russian missile hitting our cities, and every bomb dropped on our people, on our children, adds only black paint to history that will describe everyone on whom the decision depended – the decision on whether to help Ukraine. modern weapons, “Zelenskyy said.

While the geography of the battlefield changed, not much changed for many Ukrainians more than five weeks into a war that has sent more than 4 million people fled the country as refugees and displaced millions from their homes.

The regional governor of Kharkiv said on Sunday that Russian artillery and tanks carried out more than 20 attacks on Ukraine’s second largest city and its outskirts in the northeastern part of the country over the past 24 hours. Governor Oleh Synyehubov said a missile attack on the city of Lozovo injured four people and that Russian tanks bombed a hospital in the city of Balakliia.

Zelenskyy claimed on Saturday that Russian troops have left mines around houses, left equipment and even the bodies of the dead as they retreat from around Kiev. These allegations could not be independently verified, but Ukrainian troops were seen following the warning.

In Bucha, northwest of the capital, Associated Press reporters watched as Ukrainian soldiers, backed by a column of tanks and other armored vehicles, used cables to pull corpses away from a street at a distance for fear they might be been caught in jewelry. Locals said the dead – the AP counted at least six – were civilians killed without provocation by departing Russian soldiers.

Russia Ukraine war
Ukrainian soldiers attach a cable to the body of a civilian while checking for traps in the former Russian-occupied Kyiv suburb of Bucha, Ukraine, on Saturday, April 2, 2022.

Vadim Ghirda / AP

In cities around Kiev, there were signs of fierce fighting everywhere in the wake of the Russian redistribution. Destroyed armored vehicles from both armies lay in streets and fields along with scattered military equipment.

Ukrainian troops were stationed at the entrance to Antonov Airport in the suburb of Hostomel and demonstrated control of the runway that Russia was trying to storm in the early days of the war.

Inside the building, Mriya, one of the largest planes ever built, lay destroyed under a hangar with holes from the February attack.

The head of Ukraine’s delegation in negotiations with Russia said that Moscow’s negotiators informally agreed to most of a draft proposal that was discussed during face-to-face talks in Istanbul this week, but no written statement has been made. confirm.

Ukrainian negotiator Davyd Arakhamia said on Ukrainian television that he hoped the plan was developed enough for the presidents of the two countries to meet to discuss it.

The Ukrainian authorities warned that Russia’s focus on eastern Ukraine did not mean that Kiev and other cities would not become targets again. In his evening speech on Saturday, Zelenskyy urged his people to do what they can to ensure the country’s survival, even by engaging in actions as simple as showing each other kindness.

“When a nation defends itself in a war of annihilation, when it’s a matter of life or death for millions, there are no insignificant things … And everyone can contribute to a victory for everyone,” the president said.

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