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Thursday, December 08, 2022

Humanitarian crisis in Ukraine worsens as Russia intensifies assaults on key cities

Conflict raged near Kyiv as Ukrainian officials say heavy shelling and threats of Russian air attacks were endangering attempted evacuations of desperate civilians from encircled towns and cities elsewhere.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Russia was sending in new troops after Ukrainian forces had put 31 of its battalion tactical groups out of action in what he called Russia’s largest army losses in decades.

He gave no details and it was not possible to verify either statement.

Mr Zelenskyy also said he had spoken to German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron about pressing Russia to release the mayor of the city of Melitopol, who Ukraine says was kidnapped on Friday by Russian forces.

More than 2,000 residents of the southern city, which is now under Russian control, protested outside the city administration building to demand the release of Mayor Ivan Fedorov, according to Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy head of the President’s office.

People Hold Signs As They Protest Outside A Government Building.
People protest the abduction of Mayor Ivan Fedorov, outside the Melitopol regional administration building.,Supplied: Deputy Head for President’s Office, Ukraine,

Mr Scholz and Mr Macron spoke to Russian President Vladimir Putin for 75 minutes and demanded an immediate ceasefire in Ukraine, a German spokesperson said on Saturday afternoon (local time).

The spokesperson said the participants agreed to say nothing further about the substance of the phone call.

Russia has not commented on the fate of Mr Fedorov, who Ukrainian officials said was kidnapped by Russian forces on false allegations of terrorism.

Cctv Footage Appears To Show Russian Forces Apprehending Ivan Fedorov, Mayor Of Melitopol.
CCTV footage appears to show Russian forces apprehending Ivan Fedorov, mayor of Melitopol.,Reuters: Deputy Head For President’s Office, Ukraine,

Mr Zelenskyy said his country could not stop fighting but was upholding a ceasefire around an agreed humanitarian corridor out of the southern port of Mariupol, which has been under an almost two-week siege, and called on Russia to do the same.

Moscow has previously blamed Kyiv for failed evacuations.

Mr Putin launched the invasion on February 24 in an operation that has been near-universally condemned around the world and that has drawn tough Western sanctions on Russia.

The bombardment has trapped thousands of people in besieged cities and sent 2.5 million Ukrainians fleeing to neighboring countries.

Conditions in Mariupol ‘grim’

Ukrainian officials had planned to use humanitarian corridors from Mariupol as well as towns and villages in the regions of Kyiv, Sumy and some other areas on Saturday.

But the governor of the Kyiv region said fighting and threats of Russian air attacks were continuing during evacuation attempts and the Donetsk region’s governor said constant shelling was complicating bringing aid into Mariupol.

Earlier on Saturday, Ukraine said Russian forces had shelled a Mariupol mosque where 86 Turkish nationals, including 34 children, had taken refuge.

“The mosque of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent and his wife Roxolana (Hurrem Sultan) in Mariupol was shelled by Russian invaders,” the foreign ministry said in a tweet.

A Women Covers Herself With A Blue Blanket Near A Damaged Fire Truck.
Food and water are in short supply in the port city of Mariupol, as residents are repeatedly stopped from attempting to leave the city due to continued shelling., Associated Press: Evgeniy Maloletka,

The UN humanitarian office said conditions in Mariupol were grim.

“There are reports of looting and violent confrontations among civilians over what little basic supplies remain in the city,” the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said.

An adviser to the Ukrainian presidency said earlier that 79 evacuation buses and two trucks with humanitarian cargo had left for Sumy on Saturday.

Buses and trucks also left Zaporizhzhia for Mariupol, a video released on social media by the deputy head of the Ukrainian presidential administration showed.

At least 1,582 civilians in Mariupol have been killed as a result of Russian shelling and a 12-day blockade, the city council said in an online statement on Friday.

It was not possible to verify casualty figures.

A Man Walks Amid The Debris Of A Cultural Center And An Administration Building That Were Destroyed During A Bomb Raid.
A man walks amid the debris of a cultural center and an administration building that were destroyed during a bomb raid in the village of Byshiv outside Kyiv.,Reuters: Thomas Peter,

Air raid sirens blared across most Ukrainian cities on Saturday morning urging people to seek shelters, local media reported.

The exhausted-looking Governor of Chernihiv, around 150km north-east of Kyiv, gave a video update in front of the ruins of its Ukraine Hotel, which he said had been hit on Saturday.

“There is no such hotel any more,” Viacheslav Chaus said, wiping tears from his eyes.

Russian rocket attacks destroyed a Ukrainian air base and hit an ammunition depot near the town of Vasylkiv in the Kyiv region on Saturday morning, Interfax Ukraine quoted Vasylkiv Mayor Natalia Balasynovych as saying.

Moscow has denied targeting civilians in what it calls a special operation to demilitarize Ukraine and unseat leaders it refers to as Neo-Nazis.

It has not responded to Ukrainian challenges to provide evidence.

New Members Of Ukraine'S Military Learn To Operate Rpg-7 Anti-Tank Launchers During Military Exercise
Ukrainian forces continue to hold the capital Kyiv as Russian troops continue to try and encircle the city.,Reuters: Valentyn Ogirenko,

Ukraine braces for new wave of attacks

Ukraine said it expected a new wave of attacks on the regions around the capital Kyiv, the country’s second city Kharkiv and Donbass in the east, where Russian-backed separatists have expanded their control.

Britain’s Defense Ministry said on Friday that Russian forces could launch an offensive on Kyiv in a few days.

In an update on Saturday, it said fighting north-west of the capital continued, with the bulk of Russian ground forces 25km from the centre.

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