On Sunday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zhelensky said the siege of the city of Mariupol was a terrorist act that would be remembered for centuries, and asked for Israel’s support in thwarting the Russian offensive against his country. Russia has issued a final warning to the Ukrainians.
Increasing Western aid, Volodimir Zelenskiy addressed the Israeli parliament via video link and questioned the Jewish state’s reluctance to sell its “Iron Dome” air defense system to Ukraine. “Everyone knows that your missile defense systems are the best … and you can certainly help our people, save the lives of Ukrainians, Ukrainian Jews,” said President Zhelensky.
Israeli Prime Minister Naphtali Bennett has stepped up telephone conversations with Ukrainian President and Russian President Vladimir Putin in an attempt to end the conflict.
Mariupol, besieged by Russian forces, is one of the most violent cities in Ukraine since the February 24 invasion. Fighting continued inside the city on Sunday, regional governor Pavlo Grilenko said without elaborating.
Most of Mariupol’s 400,000 people have been trapped since the start of a Russian military offensive aimed at capturing the entire coastline off the coast of the Sea of Azov.
In 2014, the governor of Sevastopol, located southwest of the Crimean peninsula annexed by Russia, announced that Andrei Polly, deputy commander of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, had died during fighting near Mariupol. Russia has called on Ukrainian forces to lay down their arms, citing a “terrible humanitarian catastrophe”. Moscow says subordinates will be able to leave the port city safely and humanitarian corridors will be open from Monday morning (0500 GMT). On Sunday, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Irina Vareshchuk announced that 7,295 people had been evacuated from Ukrainian cities through humanitarian corridors, including 3,985 from Mariupol. He added that the government plans to send about 50 buses there on Monday for further evacuation.
Mariopol is still under the bombs
“Last week, several thousand people living in Mariupol were deported to Russian territory,” the city council said in its telegram loop. Russian news agencies reported that the buses had evacuated several hundred refugees. U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield described the deportations as “unacceptable” if proven, and Washington has not yet confirmed.
The Mariupol municipality announced that the strike was aimed at the art school where 400 civilians had taken refuge. Commenting on the situation in Mariupol, Volodymyr Zhelensky condemned a war crime. “This kind of behavior with the peaceful city is a terrible act that will be remembered for centuries,” he said overnight from Saturday to Sunday when he called for new talks with Russia.
Russia says its “special operation” in Ukraine is aimed at militarizing and “denationalizing” the country that Vladimir Putin is proposing as an artificial state. Kyiv and its Western allies accuse Moscow of trying to subjugate its neighbor and impose a government on it, but say Russian ground forces have made little progress in a week to focus on artillery and missile strikes.
According to Oleksi Arrestovich, an adviser to President Zhelensky, the military situation has remained “truly frozen” for the past 24 hours without much change. The Russian Defense Ministry announced that cruise missiles had been launched from ships stationed in the Black Sea and that several hypersonic missiles had been used again in Crimean airspace. These missiles, which move at 5 times the speed of sound, are very fast and easily maneuverable, so they are very difficult to intercept.
10 million displaced
According to Interfax, for the first time in Ukraine on Saturday they were used in a strike that Moscow said targeted a large underground military arsenal. The UN agency warns that at least 902 civilians have died in Ukraine since the start of the Russian invasion, but the number could be much higher, according to a report drawn up by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. In all, ten million people have fled the war zones, of which 3.4 million have fled the country, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
On the Russian side, the losses are severe but difficult to document. Near Kiev, long lines of military vehicles have been blocked for several days and are unable to advance in the suburbs of the capital. According to Ukrainian officials, the Russian army lost 14,700 soldiers, dead or wounded and 476 tanks. Moscow has not announced any results since authorities admitted on March 2 that nearly 500 soldiers had been killed. Reuters could not confirm the estimates of Ukraine or Russia. The Ukrainian president announced on Sunday that he was afraid to open a new battlefield in the west of the country, which could be invaded from Belarus. Although Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has expressed his closeness to Russian President Vladimir Putin, he has not yet promised to provide troops in support of Moscow’s military effort. Support may come from Syria, where paramilitary forces have expressed interest in joining the fighting.