Saturday, December 10, 2022

Helicopter attack on Russian oil depot reported as talks continue in Ukraine

KYIV, Ukraine ( Associated Press) — Emergency relief and evacuation convoys to the Ukrainian city of Mariupol remained in doubt on Friday after reports of Russian interference, while Russian officials over Ukraine flying helicopter gunships along the border between the two countries and hitting an oil depot accused of assault. ,

The governor of Russia’s Belgorod region said the alleged airstrikes started several fires and injured two people. A Kremlin spokesman said the incident on Russian territory could undermine talks between Russian and Ukrainian representatives that resumed by video link on Friday.

Read more: Russia focuses on south of Ukraine amid stiff resistance

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was asked whether the strike could be seen as an escalation of the war in Ukraine, “Certainly, it is not something that is considered as creating comfortable conditions for the talks to continue.” May go.”

It was not immediately possible to verify the claim that Ukrainian helicopters had targeted oil depots or several nearby businesses in Belgorod. Russia has previously reported shelling from Ukraine, including an incident last week that killed a military chaplain but did not infiltrate its airspace.

The talks followed a meeting of Russian and Ukrainian delegations in Turkey on Tuesday, where Ukraine reiterated its willingness to drop a bid to join NATO and offered proposals by several foreign countries to guarantee its neutral military status.

The head of the Russian delegation, Vladimir Medinsky, wrote on social media that Moscow’s position on maintaining control of the Crimean peninsula and expanding territory into eastern Ukraine by Russia-backed separatists was “unchanged.”

The International Committee for the Red Cross said complex logistics were still being worked out for the operation to get emergency aid to civilians in and out of Mariupol and the city, which battled weeks after weeks of dwindling water, food and medical supplies. is facing.

“We lack adjectives to describe the horrors that the residents of Mariupol face,” ICRC spokesman Ivan Watson said Friday during a UN briefing in Geneva. “The situation is becoming dire and worsening, and it is now a humanitarian imperative to allow people to leave and be allowed supplies.”

He said the group sent three vehicles towards Mariupol and a front line between Ukrainian and Russian forces but two trucks carrying supplies were not with them. Watson said dozens of buses organized by Ukrainian authorities to get people out of the city had not come close to the dividing line.

The Ukrainian government said on Thursday that Russian forces blocked a 45-bus convoy attempting to evacuate people from Mariupol after the Russian military agreed to a limited ceasefire in the area, and only 631 people went in private cars. Were able to, the Ukrainian government said.

Deputy Prime Minister Irina Vereshchuk said the Russian military also confiscated 14 tons of food and medical supplies trying to build Mariupol.
The city has been the scene of some of the worst pains of the war. Tens of thousands of residents managed to move through humanitarian corridors over the past few weeks, reducing the population from 430,000 to an estimated 100,000 by last week. But frequent Russian attacks have repeatedly thwarted aid and evacuation missions.

“We do not see a genuine desire on the part of the Russians and their satellites to provide Mariupol residents an opportunity to evacuate the territory controlled by Ukraine,” Petro Andryushchenko, an adviser to the mayor of Mariupol, wrote on Telegram messaging on Friday. Application.

Over the past few days, the Kremlin, in an apparent change in its war objective, said its “main goal” was now gaining full control of the Donbass, where Mariupol is located. The Donbass is a predominantly Russian-speaking industrial region in eastern Ukraine where Moscow-backed separatists have been battling Ukrainian forces since 2014 and declared the two regions independent republics.

Western officials said there are growing signs that Russia may be using its talk of de-escalation in Ukraine to regroup, resupply and redeploy its forces for offensive operations in the east. Used to be.

The Russian military has subjected both Chernihiv, a besieged and barred city in northern Ukraine, and the capital of Kyiv to frequent air- and ground-launched missile attacks, though Moscow said on Tuesday that it sought to reduce military activity in those areas. is planned.

Elsewhere, Ukrainian forces have retaken the villages of Sloboda and Lukashivka, which lie south of the northern city of Chernihiv and along one of the main supply routes between the city and Ukraine’s capital Kyiv, according to the UK Defense Ministry. are located together.

The ministry said Ukraine also continued to launch successful but limited counterattacks in the east and northeast of Kyiv.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky warned that the Russian withdrawal to the country’s north and center was just a military tactic to build up strength for new attacks in the southeast.

“We know their intentions,” Zelensky said in his nightly video address to the nation. “We know they’re moving away from areas where we’ve hit them to focus on other, very important people where it might be difficult for us.”

Hours later, Belgorod Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov wrote on Telegram on Friday morning that the fire at the oil depot was “as a result of an airstrike from two helicopters of the Ukrainian Armed Forces that entered Russian territory at low altitude.”

The depot, operated by Russian energy giant Rosneft, is located about 35 kilometers (21 mi) north of the Ukraine-Russia border.

Separately, Ukraine’s state power company, Energoatom, said Russian troops exited the heavily contaminated Chernobyl nuclear site in northern Ukraine early Friday after receiving “significant doses” of radiation from digging trenches in the exclusion zone around the closed plant. Removed.

The International Atomic Energy Agency said it could not independently verify the risk claim. Energoatom did not provide any details about the condition of the soldiers exposed to the radiation, and did not say how many were affected. There was no immediate comment from the Kremlin.

The agency, which is the UN’s nuclear watchdog, said it had been informed by Ukraine that the Russian military in Chernobyl had transferred control of the world’s worst nuclear disaster site to Ukrainians in writing.

IAEA Director-General Rafael Grossi wrote on Twitter that he would visit the closed plant as soon as possible and that his agency’s “aid and support” mission to Chernobyl was the first in a series of such nuclear safety and security missions to Ukraine. Will happen.”

Grossi was in the Russian enclave in Kaliningrad on Friday to hold talks with senior officials about the nuclear issues in Ukraine. The agency said nine of Ukraine’s 15 operational reactors are currently in use, including two at the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhya facility.

Russian forces captured the Chernobyl site shortly after invading Ukraine on 24 February, raising fears that it could spread radiation or cause damage. The workforce there oversees the safe storage of spent fuel rods and the concrete-embedded ruins of the reactor that exploded in 1986.

In the five weeks and a day of conflict that has killed thousands and driven more than 4 million refugees out of Ukraine, there was little confidence that the two sides would settle their demands any time soon.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said conditions for a ceasefire were not yet “ripe” and that he was not ready to meet with Zelensky until negotiators worked out more, Italian Premier Mario Draghi telephoned with the Russian leader on Thursday. But said after the conversation. ,

Following a plea from Zelensky when he addressed the Australian parliament on Thursday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said his country would send mine-resistant armored personnel carriers to Ukraine.

“We are not just sending our prayers,” Morrison said, adding that Australia was also sending guns, munitions, humanitarian aid, body armor and Bushmaster vehicles.

Karamanau reported from Lviv, Ukraine. Associated Press journalists from around the world contributed to this report.

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