Friday, December 8

The keys of the day: 300 dead in the Mariúpol theater, counterattacks in kyiv and bombings in Kharkov

the offensive ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin on February 24 against Ukraine from the east, south and north The country has entered its 30th day. Officials have said they estimate 300 people were killed in the Russian airstrike that destroyed a Mariupol theater last week, while British intelligence says thanks to counter-attacks, Ukraine is reoccupying defensive positions around kyiv and the hit city of Kharkov denounce new attacks.

The battles

The City Council of besieged Mariupol has said eyewitness accounts suggest that up to 300 people may have been killed in the Drama Theater as a result of the Russian bombardment. The building, where an estimated 1,000 people were sheltering, was attacked on March 16. Some had made it out alive, but the number of victims remained unknown. Authorities said heavy fighting and shelling hampered rescue attempts. It is not clear if the search through the ruins is finished or how witnesses have obtained this high number of lives lost, which could constitute the deadliest attack so far.

Located on the shores of the Sea of ​​Azov, Mariupol is a strategic port city that has suffered the worst horrors of war. Western experts say Russian forces entered the center on Thursday and continued to gain ground throughout the city. Ukrainian local authorities left Mariupol to better coordinate operations amid the deteriorating situation.

The Defense Ministry has said that Russia has “partly” created a land corridor between Crimea and part of the Donetsk region – to the east, part of Donbas, where pro-Russian separatist territories are located -, something that is considered to be one of the the main objectives of Moscow. It is not clear to what extent this represents a change, since Russia already controlled much of the area, facing great resistance from the population.

Russia, for its part, has assured this Friday that the objectives of the first phase of its military operation on Ukraine “have been fulfilled in general” and that, from now on, it will focus “on achieving the main objective, the liberation of the Donbas”, although it does not exclude attacks on other cities. For now, Russian forces are still on the ground and in action in much of Ukraine.

The outskirts of Kharkov, the country’s second largest city, were enveloped in a haze of smoke this Friday, between constant shelling from early in the morning, according to the AP agency. Authorities have said that Russian forces have bombed a health center in the Osnovianskyi district of Kharkov, where there was a humanitarian aid post, and four people have been reported killed. The regional governor has also accused Russian troops of firing twice at a terminal at Kharkov airport with multiple launch rocket systems.

A video verified by New York Times with images from a security camera show how a projectile hit this Thursday in a parking lot with dozens of civilians, who according to local authorities had queued to receive humanitarian aid. Located in the east, Kharkiv has suffered devastating bombing.

The Ukrainian Defense Ministry says Russian forces are trying to hold positions at the approaches to Sumy and Kharkov, “recovering losses in equipment and manpower.” And they accuse them of not stopping using planes and artillery to destroy the residential areas of the cities.

The city of Chernigov, in the north, has been “conditionally, operationally surrounded” by Russia, according to what the regional governor has said on television and collects Reuters. He has also claimed that the city was under fire from artillery and warplanes.

The governor of the Dnipropetrovsk region has claimed that there is “serious destruction” after two missiles hit a Ukrainian military unit on the outskirts of Dnipro.

So far, Russia has made most of its gains in cities to the south and east, while its forces have remained more stagnant in the north and around kyiv. Russian forces, instead, are launching shells and missiles at cities from afar.

Russia has claimed to have destroyed with missiles a huge Ukrainian fuel depot used to supply the defenses of the kyiv region.

The British Defense Minister says in his latest intelligence update that Ukrainian counterattacks and pushback by Russian forces on supply lines have allowed Ukraine to reoccupy towns and defensive positions up to 35km east of kyiv. “Ukrainian forces are likely to continue trying to push Russian forces back along the northwest axis of kyiv towards Hostomel airfield.”

The Washington-based Institute for the Study of War (ISW) agrees that Ukrainian counterattacks northwest of kyiv in recent days “continue to relieve pressure on the city,” and Russian forces continued to withdraw. . The Ukrainian forces did not recover any territory in this area, but forced the Russian troops to go on the defensive.

In southern Ukraine, Britain believes Russian forces are still trying to encircle Mykolaiv as they seek to push west towards Odessa, and “their progress is being held back by logistical problems and Ukrainian resistance.”

ISW experts say Russian forces continue to make slow but steady progress in Mariupol and have made several minor gains in Donetsk and Lugansk provinces in the past 24 hours. On Odessa, they think that the continued participation of the Black Sea Fleet in the battle of Mariupol reduces the probability of an amphibious landing near the city, despite the Russian naval bombardment in recent days.

The runners

This Thursday, two humanitarian corridors have been agreed in Ukraine so that civilians can leave affected areas, specifically from Melitopol -occupied by Russian forces- and Mariúpol to Zaporizhia, according to Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk.

The evacuation of the residents of Mariúpol has continued to be in their own means of transport and there has also been a centralized evacuation from Berdyansk, where there are currently 48 buses located at the entrance and private cars will also be refueled.

Multiple attempts to launch a large-scale humanitarian operation to safely remove Mariupol residents have so far failed. Thousands of people have managed to get out by driving their vehicles, and there are those who have also resorted to leaving on foot. But kyiv has consistently accused Russia of preventing humanitarian aid convoys or evacuation buses from reaching the besieged city.

More than 219,000 people have been moved through humanitarian corridors, Kirill Tymoshenko, deputy head of the Ukrainian presidency, said Thursday. More than 56,000 Mariupol residents have left the city for Zaporizhia and “then continued the evacuation.”

The victims

The total number of victims remains unclear and the actual figures are almost certainly higher than known. The latest data from the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights brings the number of civilian victims to 2,685, including 1,081 dead –93 of them minors– and 1,707 injured since February 24.

These statistics do not include the hundreds of victims reported by cities such as Mariupol, where local authorities say more than 2,300 people have been killed in the attacks.

Hundreds of thousands of people continue to flee in search of safety. More than 3.7 million people, mainly women and children, have fled to neighboring countries since the beginning of the invasion, according to the UN refugee agency (Acnur). The vast majority, 2.2 million, have left through Poland, but also through other countries that share a border such as Hungary, Moldova, Romania, Slovakia and Russia.

Nearly 6.5 million people are displaced within Ukraine, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has said that Russia has destroyed more than 230 schools and 155 kindergartens, and more than 4,000 houses.

The AP agency has verified 34 attacks against hospitals, clinics, ambulances and medical personnel, as part of a project to document possible war crimes in Ukraine.

Regarding the estimates of military casualties, there is a significant lack of information and the available ones fluctuate a lot. the ukrainian military assure that Russia has lost around 16,100 troops. Moscow has updated its figures for the first time since March 2, and has reported the death of 1,351 Russian soldiers and 3,825 wounded, according to national media reports. President Volodymyr Zelensky said on March 12 that 1,300 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed during the invasion.

In its calculation of Russian losses, Ukraine claims to have destroyed 561 tanks, 1,625 armored vehicles, more than 380 artillery and multiple launch missile (MLSR) systems, 240 aircraft and helicopters, as well as several ships and unmanned aircraft, among others. others. Russia has said that its forces have destroyed more than 4,000 military installations in Ukraine, 1,572 tanks and armored vehicles, 441 aircraft, according to the Tass agency.

In Russia, since the beginning of the offensive, the authorities have arrested 15,099 people in protests against the war, as reported by OVD-infoan organization specializing in monitoring arrests and defending detainees.

diplomacy and sanctions

US President Joe Biden has promised to increase the supply of liquefied gas to Europe to limit Russia’s dependence. The United States and the European Union have signed an agreement by which Washington increases supply by 15,000 million cubic meters in 2022. Andrés Gil informs.

Biden traveled to Poland this Friday to meet with his counterpart Andrzej Duda. This Friday he has visited the US soldiers deployed near the Polish border with Ukraine, whom he has defined as “the best fighting force in the history of the world”. “You are in the middle of a fight between democracy and the oligarchs,” he told the soldiers.

The EU did not specify a new package of sanctions against Russia this morning – while Washington and London announced more retaliation against Moscow. This Thursday Brussels experienced a marathon of summits, which began with a NATO meeting, followed by another of the G7 and ended with a European Council

Zelensky has reproached European leaders for the sanctions approved throughout this month of invasion have come “a little late” and has singled out Germany and Hungary.

Finland’s national rail operator will suspend services between Helsinki and St. Petersburg in Russia on Monday, closing one of the last public transport routes to the EU for Russians.

Putin has claimed that Russia is being victimized by a policy of cancellation of its culture by the West. For his part, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has accused the West of having declared a “hybrid total war, a total war” on his country.