Monday, May 29, 2023

Aid workers prepare stretchers, toys for Mariupol evacuation

Zaporizhzhya, UK – Aid workers prepared hot meals, wheelchairs and toys on Tuesday for civilians who were slowly making their way to relative safety from the pulverized remains of a steel plant in the city of Mariupol that the Russian military had for months. was surrounded by

The plant is the last holdout of the Ukrainian resistance in a city that is otherwise controlled by Moscow’s military and is the key to their campaign in Ukraine’s east. A senior US official warned that Russia plans to capture much of the eastern part of the country later this month.

Stretchers and wheelchairs lined up at a reception centre, piles of small children’s shoes and toys hanging from shopping carts await the first convoy of civilians, whose evacuation is being monitored by the United Nations and the Red Cross.

His arrival will represent a rare glimmer of good news in the nearly 10-week war that has been sparked by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has killed thousands, forcing millions to flee the country, towns and cities. And trash has been dumped in cities, and has shifted the post-Cold War balance. power in Eastern Europe

More than 100 people, including elderly women and mothers with young children, left the Azovstal steelworks buried in Mariupol’s rubble over the weekend and left in buses and ambulances.

At least some were taken to a village apparently controlled by Russia-backed separatists. The Russian military said some people chose to live in separatist areas. In the past, Ukraine has accused Moscow troops of moving civilians into Russia or Russian-controlled areas against their will – something the Kremlin denies.

Others left for the Ukrainian-controlled city of Zaporizhzhya, which is about 230 kilometers northwest of Mariupol. It was not clear why the evacuation was taking so long, but the convoy probably had to pass through heavily disputed areas and several checkpoints.

Mariupol has become a symbol of the human suffering caused by the war. A Russian siege has left civilians stranded with little access to food, water and electricity, as Moscow’s forces reduce the city to rubble. The plant – where about 1,000 civilians sought refuge with some 2,000 fighters refusing to surrender – has particularly moved the outside world.

Mariupol’s deputy mayor, Sergei Orlov, told the BBC that high-level talks were underway between Ukraine, Russia and international organizations to evacuate more people. But Russia resumed bombardment of the giant plant by air, tank and ship after a partial evacuation, Ukraine’s Azov battalion, whose fighters are hiding in the mill, said on the Telegram messaging app on Monday.

After failing to capture Kyiv in the early weeks of the war, Russia withdrew some of its forces and focused its attention on the Donbass, the eastern industrial region of Ukraine. Mariupol is located in the region, and its capture would deprive Ukraine of an important port, allow Russia to establish a land corridor to the Crimean peninsula, which it seized from Ukraine in 2014, and elsewhere in the Donbass. The soldiers were freed to fight.

Michael Carpenter, the US ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, said on Monday that the US believes the Kremlin plans to annex much of eastern Ukraine and recognize the southern city of Kherson as an independent republic. Is. He said neither move would be recognized by the United States or its allies.

Carpenter said Russia plans to hold fake referendums in Donbass in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions that would “try to add a veneer of democratic or electoral legitimacy” and link the institutions to Russia, Carpenter said. He also said that there are signs that Russia will vote for independence in Kherson.

Carpenter said mayors and local legislators have been kidnapped, internet and cellphone service has been cut and a Russian school curriculum will soon be implemented. The government of Ukraine says that Russia has introduced its ruble as currency there.

It has been difficult to get a full picture of the fighting in the east as the barrage of airstrikes and artillery made it extremely dangerous for journalists to move around. Both Ukraine and Moscow-backed rebels fighting in the past have imposed strict restrictions on reporting.

But so far, Russian troops and their allied separatist forces have made only modest gains, taking many small towns as they try to advance in relatively small groups against hardline Ukrainian resistance.

In its daily Twitter statement on the war, the British military said on Tuesday it believed the Russian military was now “significantly weakened” after losing its war on Ukraine.

“This will make the recovery faster than the sanctions,” the ministry said. “Failures in both strategic planning and operational execution have rendered numerical strength unable to translate into decisive gains.”

Ukraine’s resistance has been heavily boosted by Western weapons and other aid, and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was expected to announce hundreds of millions of pounds in new military support to Kyiv in a speech to Ukraine’s parliament on Tuesday.

In the remote address, he is expected to echo the words of Britain’s World War II Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who calls Ukraine’s defiant response to the Russian invasion the country’s “best of times”.

On Monday, Ukraine said Russia attacked a strategic road and rail bridge west of Odessa, a major Black Sea port. The bridge was heavily damaged in previous Russian attacks, and its destruction would cut supply routes for weapons and other cargo from neighboring Romania.

A satellite image captured by Planet Labs PBC and analyzed by the Associated Press shows the bridge still standing as of noon.

Another image taken on Monday showed about 50 Russian military helicopters in Stari Oskol, a Russian base close to the Ukrainian border and about 175 kilometers northeast of the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv.

Highlighting the war’s toll, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Monday that at least 220 Ukrainian children have been killed by the Russian military since the war began, and 1,570 educational institutions have been destroyed or damaged. He also said that some people trying to avoid fighting fear they will be taken to Russia or to Russian-controlled areas.

Russia’s defense ministry said on Monday that more than one million people, including about 200,000 children, had been deported from Ukraine to Russia, according to state-owned news agency TASS. Defense ministry official Mikhail Mizintsev said the number included 11,550 people in the past 24 hours, “without the involvement of Ukrainian officials.”

Zelensky said the United Nations assured him that those fleeing Mariupol would be allowed into areas under his government’s control.

Aside from the official evacuation, some Mariupol residents left on their own, often in damaged private cars.

As sunset approached Monday, Mariupol resident Yaroslav Dmitryshin rushed to a reception center in Zaporizhzhya, in which the rear seat was filled with youth and two signs were taped to the rear window: “children” and “little ones.”

“I can’t believe we survived,” he said, looking weary but in good spirits after two days on the road.

“Nobody is Mariupol,” he said. “Someone needs to rebuild it, and it will take millions of tons of gold.”


Associated Press journalists Inna Varenitsia and David Keaton in Kiev, Jon Gambrel and Yuras Karmanau in Lviv, Mstislav Chernov in Kharkiv and Associated Press employees from around the world contributed to this report.


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