By Barnat Armangul and Yurus Karamanou – The Associated Press
BAKMUT, Ukraine ( Associated Press) – Workers inside the ravaged city of Mariupol pulled several bodies from broken buildings in an “endless caravan of death”, officials said Wednesday, while fears of a global food crisis stemmed from Ukraine’s inability to export millions of tons. has increased from of grain through its blocked ports.
At the same time, Ukrainian and Russian forces fought fiercely for control of Svyarodonestk, a city that emerged as the center of Moscow’s peace campaign to capture Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland, known as the Donbass. Is.
As the fighting progressed, the human cost of the war continued to mount. In several buildings in Mariupol, workers are finding 50 to 100 bodies each, according to a mayor’s aide in the Russian-occupied port city to the south.
Petro Andryashchenko said on the Telegram app that bodies were being taken to morgues, landfills and other places in “endless caravans of death”. Ukrainian officials have estimated that at least 21,000 Mariupol civilians were killed during the week-long Russian siege.
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The consequences of the war are being felt far beyond Eastern Europe as shipments of Ukrainian grain are bottled inside the country, driving up the price of food.
Ukraine, long known as the “bread basket of Europe”, is one of the world’s largest exporters of wheat, corn and sunflower oil, but much of that flow has been lost due to war and Ukraine’s Black Sea. The Russian blockade of the coast has stopped. There is an estimated 22 million tonnes of grain left in Ukraine. Failure to send it out is jeopardizing the food supply in many developing countries, especially in Africa.
Russia on Wednesday expressed support for the United Nations’ plan to build a secure corridor at sea that would allow the resumption of grain shipments to Ukraine. The plan, among other things, calls on Ukraine to remove the mines from the waters near the Black Sea port of Odessa.
But Russia is insisting that it be allowed to test incoming ships for weapons. And Ukraine has expressed fears that clearing mines could enable Russia to attack the coast. Ukrainian officials said the Kremlin’s assurances that it would not do so could not be relied upon.
European Council President Charles Michel on Wednesday accused the Kremlin of “weaponizing the food supply and surrounding their operations with false, Soviet-style traps”.
While Russia, which is a major supplier of grain to the rest of the world, has blamed the growing food crisis on Western sanctions against Moscow, the European Union warmly denied it and blamed Russia for waging war against Ukraine. is with.
“These are Russian ships and Russian missiles that are blocking exports of crops and grain,” Michel said. “Russian tanks, bombs and mines are preventing Ukraine from planting and harvesting.”
The West has exempted grain and other food items from its sanctions against Russia, but the US and European Union have taken broad punitive measures against Russian ships. Moscow argues that those restrictions have made it impossible to use its ships to export grain, and also made other shipping companies reluctant to carry their product.
Turkey has sought to play a role in negotiating an end to the war and the resumption of grain shipments. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Kavusoglu met his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov on Wednesday. Ukraine was not invited to the talks.
Meanwhile, Moscow’s troops continued their painstaking, inch-by-inch campaign for the Donbass region, with heavy fighting in and around Svyarodonetsk, which had a population of 100,000. It is one of the last cities yet to be taken by the Russians in Luhansk, one of the two provinces that make up the Donbass.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called Svyarodonetsk the “epicentre” of the fighting for the Donbass.
“It is a very fierce battle, very difficult, perhaps one of the most difficult in the whole war,” he said in his nightly video address, which was recorded in the street outside his office in Kyiv.
He said that the Ukrainian army is defending its position and inflicting real damage on the Russian army.
“In many ways, it is there that the fate of our Donbass is being decided,” said Zelensky.
The Luhansk government Serhi Haidai, acknowledging the difficulties of fighting the Russian army, said, “Maybe we will have to retreat, but the fighting is going on in the city right now.”
“The Russian army has everything – artillery, mortars, tanks, aviation – that’s all, they are using in Svyarodonetsk to wipe the city off the face of the earth and capture it completely.”
Like Svyerodonetsk, the city of Lisichansk is also surrounded by Russian forces in the Luhansk province. Valentyna Tsonkan, an elderly resident of Lysychansk, described the moment her house was attacked.
“I was lying on my bed. The shrapnel hit the wall and went through my shoulder,” she said as she treated her wounds.
Analysts said Russia’s continued encroachment could open up the possibility of negotiations between the two countries more than three months into the war.
“Russian President Vladimir Putin has the option to announce at least any time that he will meet his objectives to consolidate Russia’s regional advantage,” said Keir Giles, a Russia expert at London-based think tank Chatham House. At the time, Giles said, Western leaders “could pressure Ukraine to accept their losses in order to end the fighting.”
Zelensky said Russia was unwilling to negotiate because it still felt strong.
Speaking by video link to US corporate leaders, he called for even tougher sanctions to financially weaken Russia, including “completely pulling it out of the global financial system”.
Zelensky said Ukraine was ready to negotiate “to find a way out”, but there could be no compromise “at the cost of our freedoms”.
Meanwhile, in the north, Russian shelling in the Kharkiv region has killed five people and injured 12 in the past 24 hours, Ukrainian officials said.
The Russian military said it used high-precision missiles to hit an armor repair plant near Kharkiv. There was no confirmation of such plant being affected from Ukraine.
Karamanau reported from Lviv, Ukraine. Associated Press journalists Oleksandr Stashevsky, John Leicester and David Keaton in Kyiv, Ukraine; Andrew Keitel in New York; and Sylvia Hui in London contributed to this report.
Follow Associated Press’s coverage of the Ukraine war https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine
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