KYIV, Ukraine ( Associated Press) — Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky warned his people early Saturday that the withdrawal of Russian forces outside the capital was creating “an absolute disaster” as they also found “whole areas” around homes and corpses. Abandon the mines.
He issued the warning as the humanitarian crisis deepened in the besieged city of Mariupol, Russian forces halted evacuation operations for the second day in a row, and the Kremlin accused Ukrainians of launching a helicopter attack on a fuel depot on Russian soil.
Ukraine denied responsibility for the fiery blast, but if Moscow’s claim is confirmed, it would be the first known attack of the war in which Ukrainian aircraft entered Russian airspace.
Graphic Warning: The video in this story may contain disturbing content.
Moscow continued attacks on Ukrainian cities where it vowed to “significantly reduce” activity. (Nation World News, Poole, @SUSPLINE.CHERNIHIV, MAXAR, Facebook, Ukrainian Wisdom)
“Certainly, this is not something that can be considered as creating comfortable conditions for the talks to continue,” said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, five weeks after Moscow opened its own 150,000 crosses bordering Ukraine. started sending troops.
Russia continued to withdraw some of its ground forces from areas around Kyiv, after saying earlier this week it would reduce military activity near the Ukrainian capital and northern city of Chernihiv.
“They are mining all over the area. They are mining houses, mining equipment, even the bodies of those killed,” Zelensky said in his nightly video address to the nation. “There are too many trip wires, too many other hazards.”
The US believes Putin is being “misinformed” by his advisers about how badly his military is performing in Ukraine. (Nation World News, Ukrainian Armed Forces, Russian Ministry of Defense)
He urged residents to wait to resume their normal lives until they are assured that the mines have been cleared and the threat of shelling has averted.
While the Russians continued their bombardment around Kyiv and Chernihiv, Ukrainian troops took advantage of the pullback on the ground by counterattacking and retaking several towns and villages.
Nevertheless, Ukraine and its allies warned that the Kremlin is not de-escalating to boost confidence at the bargaining table, as it has claimed, but rather resupplying and relocating its troops to the country’s east. Has been doing. Those movements appear to be preparing a sharp attack on the mostly Russian-speaking Donbass region in the east of the country, which includes Mariupol.
Zelensky warned of tough fighting ahead as the Russians redeployed troops. “We are preparing for an even more active defense,” he said.
He did not say anything about the latest round of talks on Friday through video. In a round of talks earlier this week, Ukraine said it would be ready to abandon a bid to join NATO and declare itself neutral – Moscow’s key demand – in exchange for security guarantees from several other countries. In.
The invasion took thousands of lives and drove more than 4 million refugees from Ukraine.
A family fleeing the siege of Mariupol speaks. (Nation World News, KDKA, UNTV, Ukrainian Navy of the Armed Forces via Facebook, Ukrainian State Emergency Service, US EIA)
The battered and besieged southern port city of Mariupol has seen some of the war’s worst pain. Its capture would be a huge prize for Russian President Vladimir Putin, giving his country a monolithic land bridge to Crimea, which was seized from Ukraine in 2014.
Volodymyr Fesenko, the head of Ukrainian think tank Penta, said Mariupol’s fate could determine the course of talks to end the war.
“Mariupol has become a symbol of Ukrainian resistance,” Fesenko said, “and without its victory, Putin cannot sit at the negotiating table.” The fall of Mariupol, he said, “will open the way for a peace deal.”
The International Committee for the Red Cross said on Friday it was unable to conduct a campaign to bring civilians out of Mariupol by bus. It said a team was on the way, but had to turn back.
City officials said Russians were blocking access to Mariupol.
“We do not see a genuine desire on the part of the Russians and their satellites to provide Mariupol residents the opportunity to evacuate the territory controlled by Ukraine,” Petro Andryushchenko, an adviser to the mayor of Mariupol, wrote on the Telegram messaging app. ,
He added that the Russian military is “apparently not allowing any humanitarian cargo into the city, even in small quantities.”
There are believed to be around 100,000 people left in the city, down from 43,000 pre-war, and weeks of Russian bombing and street fighting have led to severe shortages of water, food, fuel and medicine.
“We lack adjectives to describe the horrors that the residents of Mariupol have endured,” Red Cross spokesman Ivan Watson said.
On Thursday, Russian forces intercepted a convoy of 45 buses in an attempt to evacuate people from Mariupol and seized 14 tonnes of food and medical supplies bound for the city, Ukrainian officials said.
Zelensky said more than 3,000 people were able to leave Mariupol on Friday. He said he discussed the humanitarian disaster with French President Emmanuel Macron and European Parliament President Roberta Metsola during his visit to Kyiv.
“Europe does not have the right to remain silent about what is happening in our Mariupol,” Zelensky said. “The whole world must respond to this humanitarian disaster.”
Elsewhere, at least three Russian ballistic missiles were fired late Friday from the Crimean peninsula in the Odessa region of the Black Sea, regional leader Maksim Marchenko said. The Ukrainian military said the Iskander missiles were intended for critical infrastructure, but could not hit their targets because of Ukraine’s air-defense forces. It was not clear where he killed him. Marchenko said there were casualties, but did not elaborate.
Odessa is Ukraine’s largest port and the headquarters of its navy.
As for the fuel depot explosion, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said that two Ukrainian helicopter gunships flew very low on the outskirts of the city of Belgorod, about 25 kilometers (16 mi) from the Ukrainian border and civilian oil storage facility. attacked.
The regional governor said two workers were injured at the depot, but the Rosneft state oil company denied anyone was hurt.
The Secretary of the National Security Council of Ukraine, Oleksey Danilov, said on Ukrainian television: “For some reason they say that we did this, but in fact it does not correspond to reality.”
Russia has previously reported cross-border shelling from Ukraine, including an incident last week that killed a military chaplain but did not infiltrate its airspace.
Amid Russia’s withdrawal and continued bombardment of the ground, Ukraine’s military said it had retaken 29 settlements in the Kyiv and Chernihiv regions.
The Ukrainian military said that Russian forces in the northeast also continued to shell Kharkiv, and sought to seize the cities of Popsna and Rubizne as well as Mariupol in the southeast.
Meanwhile, Russia on Friday began its annual spring recruitment, aimed at rounding up 134,500 men for a one-year tour of military duty. Russian officials say the new recruits will not be sent to the front lines or “hot spots”, but many young Russians are skeptical and fear they will join the war.
On the outskirts of Kyiv, where Russian troops have withdrawn, damaged cars lined the streets of Irpin, a suburb popular with young families, which is now in ruins. Emergency personnel escorted elderly people to a safe place on stretchers over a broken bridge.
Three wooden crosses next to a residential building that were damaged in a gunfight marked the graves of a mother and son and an unidentified man. A resident who gave her name only as Leila said she helped them quickly bury them on March 5, just before the arrival of Russian troops.
“They were hit by artillery and burned alive,” she said.
An Irpin resident who gave his name only as Andrey said the Russians packed their equipment and left on Tuesday. The next day, they shelled the city for about an hour before it was withdrawn by Ukrainian troops.
“I don’t think it’s over,” Andrey said. “They’ll be back.”
Karamanau reported from Lviv, Ukraine. Andrea Rosa in Irpin, Ukraine, and Associated Press reporters from around the world contributed to this report.
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