the offensive ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin on February 24 against Ukraine from the east, south and north The country celebrates its 23rd day. While eyes are still on the destroyed theater in Mariúpol, where Ukraine has said that more than 1,000 people are still there, the western city of Lviv has woken up with a bombing in an area near the airport.
The chief negotiator of the Russian delegation has said that Moscow and kyiv have moved closer to a potential neutrality status of Ukraine and has referred to its position on one of the central issues and core of discord: Donbas, in the east of the country, where the self-proclaimed people’s republics that Putin has recognized are located. “The issue of governance must be decided by the people of Donbas.” Reports Vanessa Rodriguez.
Majaíl Podolyak, adviser to Volodímir Zelenski, has insisted that his positions remain unchanged: “ceasefire, withdrawal of troops and strong security guarantees with concrete formulas”.
To the west, in Lviv, several missiles launched from the Black Sea have hit an aircraft repair plant in an area very close to the airport. Reports Mariangela Paone. Lviv is one of the main cities in Ukraine, far removed from the main Russian advances and close to Poland, as well as a key and until now considered safer route for people fleeing from other parts of the country.
To the south, in Mariúpol, “hundreds” of residents were still under the rubble of the Drama Theater bombed on Wednesday and that a thousand people used as a refuge, according to Zelensky. At least 130 people, he has indicated, have come out alive. “Despite the bombing, despite all the difficulties, we will continue with the rescue efforts.” This Friday, in the city they continued to take people out and remove the rubble. The City Council says that there is a seriously injured person, and still does not have data on deaths.
The mayor has confirmed to the BBC that there is fighting in the center of the city. “Yes, today they have been very active. Fighting with tanks and machine guns continues. (…) There is no city center left. There is not a small piece of land in the city that does not have signs of war.”
The Russian Ministry of Defense had said in the morning that the eastern separatists, with the help of their armed forces, are “tightening the fence” around this city, a strategic position now devastated and where it is estimated that more than 350,000 people they are still trapped. An official from the UN World Food Program (WFP) has expressed concern about the situation in Mariupol, assuring that food and water supplies are running out.
In kyiv, shelling hit a residential building in the capital’s Podil neighborhood for another day, killing at least one person and wounding 19, according to emergency services. The city administration has estimated that 60 civilians have died since the beginning of the invasion, including four children.
Two other people have been killed after attacks on residential and administrative buildings in the eastern city of Kramatorsk, according to regional governor Pavlo Kyrylenko.
In Kharkov, to the east, a fire has swept through a market after a shelling on Thursday, according to the emergency services, which has said that one of its workers has died and another has been injured in new attacks while fighting the fire. And in Sumy, to the northeast, they have reported that a large warehouse has caught fire as a result of artillery shelling.
So far, Russia has made the most gains in cities to the south and east, while its forces have remained more stagnant in the north and around kyiv.
Britain’s Defense Secretary says in his latest intelligence update that Russian forces have made “minimal progress” this week, after saying the invasion has largely stalled. “Ukrainian forces around kyiv and Mykolaiv continue to foil Russian attempts to encircle the cities.” The cities of Kharkiv, Chernigov, Sumy and Mariupol “remain surrounded and subjected to heavy Russian bombardment.”
US sources said on Thursday they had “anecdotal indications” that morale is “not high” in some units of the Russian troops, Reuters reported.
The Washington-based Institute for the Study of War (ISW) believes that Russian forces did not make any major advances and Ukrainian forces carried out several local counter-attacks on Thursday. “Russian forces made little territorial progress and continued to deploy reserve elements in small force groups that are unlikely to prove decisive.”
They further believe that Russian forces “continue to suffer heavy casualties around Kharkiv”, and consider Russian attempts to encircle the city of Izium unlikely to succeed.
According to analysts, Russian forces continue attacks on Mariupol – where they continue to make “constant territorial advances in the surrounding area and increasingly attack residential areas” – but they did not make “any other successful advances from Crimea”. They also consider it unlikely that, without support, they would launch an amphibious assault on Odessa.
This Friday nine humanitarian corridors have been agreed to evacuate civilians from areas affected by attacks, the vast majority in the Sumy region, to the northeast, as well as for the delivery of humanitarian aid in the eastern region of Kharkov, including Izium, according to the Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk.
In addition, buses have been sent again to Berdyansk, where they are arriving these civilian days in their own cars from Mariupol, to pick them up and take them to Zaporizhia. A tanker truck with fuel is also circulating on this route to refuel the personal vehicles driven by people leaving the besieged city. More than 30,000 people have so far been able to leave Mariupol in their cars, according to the City Council. The corridor has been opened again this Friday.
In total, this Friday 9,145 people have evacuated through the humanitarian corridors, according to Kirill Timoshenko, deputy head of the Ukrainian presidency. Almost 4,972 people from Mariupol have been displaced to Zaporizhia and 4,173 people have been evacuated from the Sumy region.
Ukraine and Russia first agreed on March 3 to establish humanitarian corridors to bring supplies and help trapped civilians out of certain areas while military action is, in theory, temporarily halted, but implementation to date has been slow and limited.
Tens of thousands of people have been evacuated in recent days, but there have also been many failed attempts with kyiv accusing Moscow of not fully honoring agreements and commitments. Russia has also blamed Ukraine for the unsuccessful evacuation operations.
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 The civilian victims rise to 2,149, including 816 dead –59 of them minors– and 1,333 wounded since February 24. Most have been caused by “explosive weapons with a wide impact area, including heavy artillery shelling and multiple launch missile systems, and air strikes.”
These statistics still do not include the hundreds of victims reported by cities such as Volnovakha, Izium, and also 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. The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) calculate that 3.27 million people have fled to neighboring countries since the beginning of the invasion. The vast majority, almost two million, have arrived in Poland, but also to other countries that share a border such as Hungary, Moldova, Romania, Slovakia and Russia.
In Spain, 5,830 refugees from the war in Ukraine have obtained their residence and work permits. Reports Gabriela Sanchez.
The level of casualties among the armed forces is not entirely clear. US sources estimate that more than 7,000 Russian soldiers have been killed, according to the New York Times. the ukrainian military assure Although Russia has lost almost 14,200 troops, it is not known how many are prisoners. Moscow reported its casualties for the first time in early March, several times lower than those recorded by Ukraine: 498 Russian soldiers killed and almost 1,600 wounded. President Volodymyr Zelensky has said that 1,300 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed during the invasion.
In its calculation of Russian losses, Ukraine claims to have destroyed 450 tanks, 1,448 armored vehicles, almost 280 artillery and multiple launch missile (MLSR) systems, more than 200 aircraft and helicopters, as well as several ships and drones, among others. The Russian Defense Ministry has said that 3,491 pieces of Ukrainian military infrastructure have been destroyed.
In Russia, since the beginning of the offensive, the authorities have arrested 14,985 people in protests against the war, as reported by OVD-infoan organization specializing in monitoring arrests and defending detainees.
US President Joe Biden spoke this Friday with the Chinese president, Xi Jinping for nearly two hours. According to the White House, Biden has warned his Chinese counterpart of the “implications and consequences” if he offers “material support” to Russia in its attack on Ukraine. China has denied that it will offer military or economic assistance to Moscow.
Russia’s isolation continues to grow. New Zealand has disclosed those affected by new sanctions and extends the existing ones against President Putin and 12 members of his Security Council.
Australia has also announced a new battery of sanctions against several banks and government entities and two Russian oligarchs with commercial interests in the oceanic country.
The UN special rapporteur on the right to food has warned that the Russian invasion could cause a global increase in malnutrition and famine. Ukraine and Russia are two of the world’s top five grain exporters.