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Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Russia squeezes Kyiv as ‘unimaginable’ tragedy in Ukraine

Kyiv (AFP) – Russian forces moved toward Kyiv on Friday and surrounded civilian areas in other Ukrainian cities, warning of an “unimaginable tragedy” as the US and European Union moved to tighten the economic noose around the Kremlin.

Sixteen days after Moscow shocked the world by invading Ukraine, the United Nations and others said it could commit war crimes in cities like Mariupol, which is now besieged by Vladimir Putin’s army.

On Friday, officials in the southern port said more than 1,500 people had been killed during the 12 days of the Russian siege.

The survivors are trying to escape from Russian bombing in a cold city left without water or heating, and are running out of food. An official from Doctors Without Borders said the situation was “desperate”.

“Hundreds of thousands of people … are surrounded for all intents and purposes,” Stephen Cornish, one of those leading the medical charity’s Ukraine operation, told AFP in an interview.

“Siege is a medieval practice outlawed by the modern rules of warfare for good reason.”

As Russia widens its bombing and talks between Moscow and Kyiv go nowhere, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s pleas for NATO intervention have become increasingly desperate.

A barber cuts the hair of a soldier of the Territorial Defense Forces of Ukraine, Military Reserve of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, in an underground garage that has been converted into a training and logistics base in Kyiv Sergei Supinsky AFP

But on Friday, US President Joe Biden again ruled out direct action against nuclear-armed Russia, warning it would lead to a “third world war”.

Instead Washington added more layers of sanctions to those already crippling Russia’s economy, this time ending normal trade relations and announcing a ban on the signature Russian goods vodka, seafood and diamonds.

The US and the European Union also suspended exports of their luxury goods to Russia.

Biden told the White House, “Putin will have to pay the price. He cannot wage a war that threatens the foundation of international peace and stability and then seeks help from the international community.”

He said the United Nations said about 2.5 million people have now fled Ukraine and about two million people have been internally displaced by the war.

‘Nobody bury them’

Yulia, a 29-year-old teacher who fled Mariupol, said her mother-in-law was still there, and told her that “the attacks don’t stop”.

Russia Invades Ukraine
Russia invades Ukraine Kenan Augard AFP

“There are many dead bodies on the street and no one bury them,” he told AFP.

In Ukraine’s second city of Kharkiv, doctors at a hospital describe spending two days removing ashes from the stomach of an eight-year-old whose home was blown up by a Russian missile.

“He still has cinders in his lungs,” Dima Kasyanov’s doctor told AFP.

Dnipro, an industrial hub of one million residents, shattered its image as a relatively safe haven after three missiles hit civilian buildings on Friday.

Images of its burnt or destroyed buildings – including a kindergarten with blown windows – now join those from Kharkiv and Mariupol as testimony to the brutal conflict.

“Today, we were going to host people who need a lot of support,” said Svetlana Kalenchenko, who lives and works in a demented clinic.

“Now we can’t help anyone.”

An Elderly Woman Gets Help After Crossing Ukraine'S Border With Poland Across The Medica Border, Southeast Poland
An elderly woman gets help after crossing Ukraine’s border with Poland across the Medica border, southeast Poland LUISA GOULIAMAKI AFP

Attacks on civilians sparked a fresh flurry of warnings from The Hague and the United Nations on Friday that Russia was committing a war crime.

“We are indeed headed for an unimaginable tragedy,” warned Doctors Without Borders’ Cornish.


Meanwhile the Kremlin is slowly surrounding Kyiv, with Ukraine’s presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolik calling it a “city under siege”.

He tweeted that it was “battle ready”, checkpoints prepared and supply lines in place, adding: “Kyiv will stand till the end”.

This Maxar Satellite Image Taken And Released On March 11, 2022 Shows A Long Line Of Cars On The Highway As Residents Try To Leave Kyiv
This Maxar satellite image taken and released on March 11, 2022 shows a long line of cars on the highway as residents try to leave Kyiv – Satellite image © 2022 Maxar Technologies / AFP

Ukraine’s military has said Russia is trying to evade Kyiv’s defenses in the north and west, where suburbs including Irpin and Buka have already suffered days of heavy bombing.

Russian armored vehicles are also advancing to the northeast of the capital.

As slow but steady progress continues, so has the tide of refugees.

Ukrainian officials said about 100,000 people have been able to leave the eastern city of Sumy, the eastern city of Izium and areas northwest of Kyiv in the past two days.

Zelensky warned that living conditions were rapidly deteriorating.

“In the Sumy, Kyiv and Donetsk regions, there is no more electricity. Yes, there are problems with heating. There is no gas, there is no water,” he said.

“This is a humanitarian disaster.”

‘Killers from Syria’

Foreign fighters have already entered the Ukrainian conflict on both sides, and on Friday the Kremlin intensified efforts to bring in reinforcements, especially from Syria.

A Child Is Carried By A Woman As Refugees From Ukraine Walk To A Gathering Place After Crossing The Ukrainian Border With Poland At The Medika Border Crossing
A child is carried by a woman as refugees from Ukraine walk to a gathering place after crossing the Ukrainian border with Poland at the Medika border crossing LUISA GOULIAMAKI AFP

A furious Zelensky accused Russia of “hiring killers from Syria, a country where everything is destroyed … just like they are doing to us here”.

The global ripple effect of the conflict continued elsewhere.

Last-minute Russian demands related to the conflict on Friday threatened to derail almost the entire process of reviving the Iranian nuclear deal.

And the fight vowed to strengthen the EU’s defences, with EU leaders describing the invasion as a wake-up call.

“There is no denying the fact that two weeks ago we woke up in a different Europe, in a different world,” said the head of the European Council, Charles Michel.

Ukrainian Military Forces Tankmen Are Seen In The Lugansk Region On March 11, 2022
Ukrainian military forces tankmen are seen in the Lugansk region on March 11, 2022 Anatoly Stepanov AFP

Russia also moved on Friday to block Instagram and launch a criminal case against its owner Meta, as Moscow fired back at the tech giant for allowing it to post for violence against the Russian military.

‘We will not fight’

Negotiations So far no progress has been made towards ending the fighting.

Putin has said talks are taking place “almost daily”, and US and European stock markets climbed on Friday in his comments that there had been “some positive changes”.

At the United Nations, Western nations accused Russia of spreading “wild” conspiracy theories after Moscow’s envoy told diplomats that the US and Ukraine had researched using bats to conduct biological warfare.

The US envoy said Russia had made claims under a “false flag attempt” to use its own chemical weapons in Ukraine.

Biden warned that Russia would pay a “serious price” if it used chemical weapons.

But he again cautiously shrugged off any indication that such an attack would be a red line that could attract direct US military action.

“We will not fight a war against Russia in Ukraine,” he said.


World Nation News Desk
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