Ukraine Official Says Assault Halts Evacuations for Second MassNews

LVIV, Ukraine — Plans to evacuate civilians from a besieged port city in Ukraine collapsed Sunday for the second time along with an expected Russian cease-fire, Ukrainian officials said as they tried to persuade Russia to agree on terms for safely getting residents out of areas under fire near Ukraine’s capital.

The Ukrainian military announced earlier that residents would be leaving Mariupol, the port city. Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to the Interior Ministry said that evacuations planned for Mariupol were stopped due to ongoing Russian military attacks.

“There can be no ‘green corridors’ because only the sick brain of the Russians decides when to start shooting and at whom,“ Gerashchenko said on Telegram.
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This news shattered hopes for progress on ending the conflict in Ukraine. It is currently in its eleventh day, and 1.5 million have fled the country. The head of the U.N. refugee agency on Sunday called the exodus “the fastest-growing refugee crisis in Europe since World War II.

French and Turkish presidents, together with Pope Francis, appealed for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s help in negotiating an end to the conflict.

Separately, Ukraine’s national security service said Russian forces fired rockets at a physics institute in the city of Kharkiv that contains nuclear material and a reactor. Russian troops already took control of the Zaporizhzhia plant in Ukraine, as well as Chernobyl, the site of the world’s worst nuclear disaster.

The security service said a strike on the nuclear facility in Kharkiv could lead to “large-scale ecological disaster.” The service said on Facebook Sunday that the Russians were firing from Grad launchers. These missiles are not precise and could lead to misguided strikes.

Voldymyr Zeleskyy, the Ukrainian president, reiterated his request that foreign protectors impose an air no-fly zone above Ukraine. NATO has so far ruled this out due to concerns it would attract the West into war.

“The world is strong enough to close our skies,” Zelenskyy said in a video address on Sunday.

Putin said Saturday that Moscow will consider any third-party declaring to close the Ukrainian airspace hostile.

Women, older adults and children waited in Mariupol to be evacuated. However, able Ukrainian soldiers remained behind to fight. The cease-fire was renegotiated on Saturday. Foreign leaders attempted to broker an end to the war.

Putin told Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could be halted only “only if Kyiv ceases hostilities and fulfills the well-known demands of Russia,” according to the Kremlin’s readout of the phone call the two leaders held on Sunday.

Putin earlier listed “demilitarization” and “denazification” of Ukraine, recognition of Crimea as part of Russia, and recognition of the separatist regions in eastern Ukraine as independent states as the Kremlin’s main demands.

“Hope was expressed that during the planned next round of negotiations, the representatives of Ukraine would show a more constructive approach, fully taking into account the emerging realities.” The third round of talks between Russian and Ukrainian negotiators is scheduled for Monday.

The unusual act of Pope Francis was to announce Sunday that two cardinals were sent to Ukraine by him. He said that the Vatican would do all it can to make peace and end the conflict which began when Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24th, 2014.

“In Ukraine, rivers of blood and tears are flowing,” the pontiff said in his traditional Sunday blessing. “This is not just a military operation, but a war that sows death, destruction and misery.’’

Zelenskyy adviser Oleksiy Arastovich stated Sunday that Ukrainian officials as well as international humanitarian organisations were working through Russia to establish humanitarian corridors starting from Bucha or Hostomel. This is Kyiv’s suburbs affected by heavy fighting.

Officials from Ukraine said that Russian forces redoubled their bombardment of Mariupol after Saturday’s ceasefire failed. They also dropped large bombs in residential areas of Chernihiv (a northern city of Kyiv).

Mariupol saw bereaved parents mourn the deaths of their children. Injured soldiers were given tourniquets. Doctors worked with light from cellphones to help them see.

Putin placed the blame on Ukraine’s leadership Saturday and criticized their resistance against Russian forces.

“If they continue to do what they are doing, they are calling into question the future of Ukrainian statehood,” the Russian leader said. “And if this happens, it will be entirely on their conscience.”

He also hit out at Western sanctions that have crippled Russia’s economy and sent the value of its currency tumbling. More companies have been suspending Russian operations, including Visa, Mastercard, and Visa.

“These sanctions that are being imposed, they are akin to declaring war,” he said.

Zelenskyy was seen on Saturday wearing a green military T-shirt that has been a part of his routine and urging the Ukrainian people to continue resisting Russian aggression.

“Ukrainians in all of our cities that the enemy has entered — go on the offensive!’’ Zelenskyy said. “You should take to the streets! Fighting is what you should do! … It is necessary to go out and drive this evil out of our cities, from our land.”

Russian forces continue to be surprised by the strength of the Ukrainian resistance. They have responded by attacking populated areas including Kharkiv (Chernihiv) and Mariupol. This was according to the U.K. Ministry of Defense in its daily intelligence briefing.

British military officials on Sunday compared Russia’s tactics in Ukraine to those used in Chechnya and Syria, where surrounded cities were pummeled with airstrikes and artillery after Russian forces faced unexpected resistance.

“This is likely to represent an effort to break Ukrainian morale,” the ministry said. “Russia has used similar tactics in Chechnya in 1999 and Syria in 2016, employing both air and ground-based munitions.”

It’s difficult to determine the exact death toll in this conflict. Although the U.N. human right office stated that at most 351 civilians were killed in conflict, it is likely that this number is much greater. Russian and Ukrainian defense officials are not providing information about their military casualties.

Ukraine’s military is vastly outmatched by Russia’s, but its professional and volunteer forces have fought back with fierce tenacity. On Saturday, thousands of volunteers gathered in Kyiv to join the military.

There were still signs that Zelenskyy asked for resistance even in fallen cities.

Chernihiv’s citizens cheered the Russian military plane that fell from the skies and crashed into the ground, according to video footage released by Ukraine. In Kherson, hundreds of protesters waved blue and yellow Ukrainian flags and shouted, “Go home.”

Russia’s efforts to block the Sea of Avrov have seen significant progress in south Ukraine. Moscow may be able to capture Mariupol and establish a land corridor from Crimea to Moscow, as Russia annexed Ukraine’s territory in 2014. It was a decision that many other countries consider illegal.

While the West generally supports Ukraine with weapons and aid, it also imposes severe sanctions on Russia. However, no NATO troops were sent to Ukraine. This leaves the Ukrainians fighting Russian forces.

U.S. President Joe Biden called Zelenskyy on Sunday morning, Kyiv, to discuss Russia sanctions, and to speed up U.S. aid to Ukraine. According to the White House, talks were also held between Russia and Ukraine. However, they did not disclose details.

Antony Blinken, the U.S. Secretary-of-State, spent this weekend in Eastern Europe visiting NATO members that took in Ukrainian refugees. In Moldova on Sunday, he pledged support for the western-leaning former Soviet republic that is warily watching Russia’s moves in Ukraine.

Sunday’s attack against healthcare workers in Ukraine was condemned by the World Health Organization. The organization said at least six attacks were confirmed and six more have been reported.

On Twitter, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus stated that attacks on healthcare workers violate international humanitarian law.

According to the U.N., it will increase humanitarian efforts both within and beyond Ukraine. The Security Council has scheduled Monday’s meeting on this worsening crisis.

The U.N. World Food Program has warned of an impending hunger crisis in Ukraine, a major global wheat supplier, saying millions will need food aid “immediately.”


Reporters from the Associated Press around the globe contributed to this article.


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