Ukraine: “catastrophic” situation in Mariupol ahead of new negotiations

Ukrainian authorities are concerned about the deteriorating already “catastrophic” humanitarian situation in Mariupol, a strategic port besieged and shelled by the Russian army since late February, while Russian and Ukrainian negotiators are due to meet on Tuesday for new talks in Istanbul. .

After Moscow announced on Friday that it was “concentrating its efforts on the liberation of Donbass”, this strategic port on the Sea of ​​Azov, located in the extreme south of this mining basin, is in danger of experiencing a “deterioration” of its position. Aleksey Arestovich, adviser to the President of Ukraine, warned in a video message on Telegram.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky condemned the total blockade of the city, which the Russian army has been trying to capture since late February and where about 100,000 people are still stuck.

“All entrances and exits from the city are blocked (…) it is impossible to bring food and medicine into Mariupol,” he said on Sunday evening. “Russian forces are bombing aid convoys and killing drivers,” he added, pointing out that the streets are littered with “corpses” that cannot be buried.

– Neutrality of Ukraine on the table –

“The population is fighting for survival. The humanitarian situation is catastrophic,” the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said on Twitter. “Russian military forces turn the city to dust.”

More than 2,000 civilians have been killed in Mariupol since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24, according to a city hall report in mid-March.

And we still do not know, almost two weeks after the bombing of his theater, the fate of the hundreds of civilians who took refuge there: the municipality, citing witnesses, said that they feared about 300 dead. But an elected municipal official from Mariupol who fled the city on the day of the shelling told AFP that no casualty count was possible due to faulty communications and the lack of local authorities.

On Sunday, the French president said he would talk to his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Monday or Tuesday to organize an evacuation operation from the city.

Emmanuel Macron, who has already spoken to Vladimir Putin eight times since the start of the Russian invasion on February 24, remains convinced that the path of dialogue with Moscow is still possible “to stop the war that Russia unleashed in Ukraine without leaving the war.”

On the diplomatic front, Russian and Ukrainian negotiators are due to arrive in Istanbul on Monday for a new round of talks to try to end a conflict that the UN says has already forced more than 3.8 million Ukrainians to flee their country and caused about $63 billion in damage. infrastructure of the country, according to a study by the Kiev School of Economics.

One of the important points of the talks concerns “guarantees of security and neutrality, the non-nuclear status of our state,” President Zelensky told Russian media on Sunday.

According to him, this point of the talks is “deeply studied.” But that would require a referendum and security guarantees, he warned, accusing Russian President Vladimir Putin and his entourage of “delaying things.”

However, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov tempered expectations on Monday, saying the talks had so far not brought “significant progress.”

The negotiating session has already taken place on March 10 in Turkey, in Antalya, at the level of foreign ministers, but has not led to any concrete progress. Since then, discussions have continued via videoconference, which both sides considered “challenging”.

– Fierce fighting in the east –

On the ground, the Russian noose seemed to loosen in some cities, such as Nikolaev, a castle town on the way to Odessa, Ukraine’s largest port, whose inhabitants have found some hope after terrible weeks during which the Russian army tried in vain to take the city.

The front even retreated significantly, with the Ukrainians launching a counter-offensive against Kherson, about 80 kilometers to the southeast, the only major city that the Russian army had completely taken since the invasion of Ukraine. .

But the violence continues elsewhere, especially in the east of the country: according to presidential adviser Arestovich, heavy fighting took place again on Sunday evening near Izyum. According to the regional prosecutor’s office, in the neighboring village of Oskil, seven people were killed and five were injured as a result of Russian artillery fire.

A hundred kilometers away, Kharkov, the second largest city in Ukraine, is under shelling almost every day. On the northeastern outskirts of that city, Saltovka, a high-rise working-class district, is nothing more than a devastated battlefield, a windswept ghost town where only a few survive, buried in basements, a handful of traumatized old men.

In the Lugansk region, as a result of Russian shelling, one person was killed, another was injured, said the head of the regional administration Serhiy Gaidai.

Several explosions also sounded in the Kiev region, Defense Ministry adviser Anton Gerashchenko said.

“The enemy is trying to break through around Kyiv and block the roads,” Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar told Ukrainian television. “The defense of Kyiv continues,” she added.

Deputy Prime Minister of Ukraine Irina Vereshchuk said that on Monday the authorities refused to open humanitarian corridors, fearing possible “provocations” from Russian troops.

– “Butcher” –

Visiting Warsaw on Saturday, US President Joe Biden vehemently attacked the Kremlin master, calling him a “butcher” and arguing that he “cannot remain in power” after his invasion of Ukraine.

The Kremlin spokesman’s statements were described as “alarming” on Monday.

On Sunday, Emmanuel Macron warned against “an escalation of words and actions.”

“I will not use such a remark because I am continuing the discussion with President Putin,” he said.

The White House had to very quickly qualify Mr. Biden’s comments. “The president meant that Putin should not be allowed to exercise power over his neighbors or over the region,” she assured, “he did not talk about Putin’s power in Russia, nor about regime change.”

On Sunday, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba called for a boycott of Auchan French supermarkets that have decided to stay in Russia, as well as Leroy-Merlin (DIY) and Décathlon (sports) brands owned by the same family group.

For its part, Dutch brewer Heineken announced on Monday that it was leaving Russia, where it has 1,800 employees.

In Warsaw, music and sports stars took the stage on Sunday during a telethon in favor of Ukraine, which was broadcast by the Polish public channel TVP in more than 20 countries.

And in Los Angeles, during the 94th Academy Awards on Sunday night, a minute of silence was called for in memory of Ukraine.

In this brief moment of contemplation, the screens broadcast messages calling for help, listing the basic needs of Ukrainians, such as “food”, “medical care” or “blanket”.


Leave a Comment