Russia, Ukraine fight for control of Mariupol as Zelensky appeals to Israel to ‘help our people’ | Nation World News

The latest:

  • Russia says it’s deployed cruise, hypersonic missiles.

  • UN says 10 million have now been displaced across Ukraine.

  • Multinational NATO defense units have now entered Slovakia.

  • Zelensky wants Israel to sell Iron Dome missile defense system to Ukraine.

Russian and Ukrainian forces fought for control of the port city of Mariupol on Sunday, local authorities said, while President Volodymyr Zelensky appealed to Israel for help pushing back the Russian assault on Ukraine.

In Mariupol, which has suffered some of the heaviest bombardment since Russia launched its invasion on Feb. 24, many of its 400,000 residents remain trapped with little if any food, water and power.

Fighting continued inside Mariupol on Sunday, with the regional governor, Pavlo Kyrylenko, without elaborating.

Capturing Mariupol would help Russian forces secure a land corridor to the Crimea peninsula that Moscow annexed from Ukraine in 2014.

Russia, Ukraine fight for control of Mariupol as Zelensky appeals to Israel to 'help our people' | Nation World News
Pro-Russian troops and armored vehicles are seen on the outskirts of Mariupol on Sunday. (Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters)

The city council said on its Telegram channel late on Saturday that several thousand residents had been “deported” to Russia over the past week. Russian news agencies said buses had carried hundreds of people Moscow calls refugees from Mariupol to Russia in recent days.

Russian forces reportedly bombed an art school on Saturday where 400 residents were sheltering, but the number of casualties was not yet known, Mariupol’s council said.

Reuters could not independently verify the claims. Russia denies targeting civilians.

Zelensky said the siege of Mariupol was a war crime.

“To do this to a peaceful city … is a terror that will be remembered for centuries to come,” he said in an address late on Saturday.

Russia, Ukraine fight for control of Mariupol as Zelensky appeals to Israel to 'help our people' | Nation World News
Multiple civilian buildings burn amid Russian strikes on the Livoberezhnyi District of Mariupol on Sunday. (Planet Labs PBC/ Associated Press)

Russian President Vladimir Putin says Russia’s “special operation” is aimed at disarming Ukraine and rooting out people he terms dangerous nationalists. Western nations call it an aggressive war of choice and have imposed punishing sanctions aimed at crippling Russia’s economy.

Ukraine and its Western backers say Russian ground forces have made few advances in the last week, concentrating their efforts instead on artillery and missile strikes.

Zelensky’s adviser, Oleksiy Arestovych, said there had been a relative lull in the conflict over the past 24 hours, with “practically no rocket strikes on [Ukrainian] cities.” He said front lines were “practically frozen.”

Russia says it used cruise, hypersonic missiles

Russia’s Defense Ministry said cruise missiles were launched from ships in the Black Sea and Caspian Sea, as well as hypersonic missiles from Crimean airspace.

The hypersonic missiles travel faster than five times the speed of sound, and their speed, manoeuvrability and altitude make them difficult to track and intercept.

They were deployed by Russia for the first time in Ukraine on Saturday, Russia’s Interfax news agency reported, in a strike that Moscow said destroyed a large underground depot for missiles and aircraft ammunition.

A spokesperson for the Ukrainian Air Force Command confirmed the attack in the western Ivano-Frankivsk region, but said the Ukrainian side had no information on the type of missiles used.

In the southern city of Kherson, a video clip obtained by Reuters showed dozens of protesters, some wrapped in Ukraine’s blue and yellow national flag, chanting “Go home” in Russian to two military vehicles bearing Russian markings. The vehicles then turned and left the area.

10 million displaced across Ukraine

UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, said 10 million people have been displaced across Ukraine, including some 3.4 million who fled to neighboring countries such as Poland. Officials in the region said they were reaching capacity to comfortably house refugees.

The UN human rights office said at least 902 civilians had been killed in the war as of midnight Saturday, though it says the real toll is probably much higher. Ukrainian prosecutors said 112 children had been killed.

Russia, Ukraine fight for control of Mariupol as Zelensky appeals to Israel to 'help our people' | Nation World News
Residents retrieve what is left in their destroyed apartments after shelling the day before by Russian troops in Kyiv on Sunday. (Sergei Supinsky/AFP/Getty Images)

“I want the war to be over, I want them [Russian forces] to leave Ukraine in peace,” said Margarita Morozova, 87, who survived Nazi Germany’s siege of Leningrad in the Second World War and has lived in Kharkiv, Eastern Ukraine, for the past 60 years.

“Ukraine is an independent country. What are they doing here?”

Zelensky wants Israel’s Iron Dome

During a video link address to the Israeli parliament, Zelensky questioned Israel’s reluctance to sell its Iron Dome missile defense system to Ukraine. It was the latest in a series of appeals he has made for help from abroad.

“Everybody knows that your missile defense systems are the best … and that you can definitely help our people, save the lives of Ukrainians, of Ukrainian Jews,” said Zelensky, who is of Jewish heritage.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has held numerous calls with both Zelensky and Putin in recent weeks to try to end the conflict.

Russia, Ukraine fight for control of Mariupol as Zelensky appeals to Israel to 'help our people' | Nation World News
A person walks out of an apartment building hit by shelling in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on Sunday. (Andrew Marienko/The Associated Press)

Meanwhile, Slovak Defense Minister Jaroslav Nad says the first multinational NATO units with the Patriot air defense systems have been moving to his country.

Nad said on Sunday the transfers will continue over the few next days.

Germany and the Netherlands have agreed to send their troops armed with the Patriots to Slovakia. The troops are some of the 2,100 soldiers from several NATO members, including the United States, who will form a battle group on Slovak territory as the alliance boosts its defenses in its eastern flank following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Diplomatic efforts underway

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu of Turkey, who like Israel has tried to mediate in the conflict, said Russia and Ukraine were getting closer to agreement on “critical” issues.

Kyiv and Moscow reported some progress in talks last week toward a political formula that would guarantee Ukraine’s security, while keeping it outside NATO — a key Russian demand — though each side accused the other of dragging things out.

Russian forces have also taken heavy losses in the war, and long columns of troops that bore down on the capital Kyiv have been halted in the suburbs. Ukraine’s military said on Sunday that Moscow’s combat losses included 14,700 personnel and 476 tanks.

Russia, Ukraine fight for control of Mariupol as Zelensky appeals to Israel to 'help our people' | Nation World News
A crater is seen in front of a heavily damaged residential building after bombings in Kyiv on Sunday. (Felipe Dana/The Associated Press)

Russia last acknowledged on March 2 that nearly 500 of its soldiers had been killed. Reuters has not been able to independently verify the death count.

Zelensky’s office said Ukraine sees risks of an attack launched from Belarus on the western Volyn region, which lies to the north of the city of Lviv. It was not clear whether Ukraine saw such an attack coming from Russian or Belarusian forces.

While Belarus is a close ally of Putin’s and has served as a staging post for Russian forces, it has so far not publicly committed troops to supporting Russia.

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