‘Hellscape’ in Mariupol where 100,000 people are trapped

Nearly 100,000 people are trapped among the ruins of the Ukrainian city of Mariupol, facing starvation, thirst and relentless Russian bombardment, President Volodymyr Zelensky said as the UN insisted that Moscow end its “absurd” and “unwinnable” war.

Tens of thousands of residents have already fled the beleaguered southern port city, bearing harrowing accounts of a “freezing hellish landscape riddled with corpses and destroyed buildings”, according to Human Rights Watch.

In his final video address on Tuesday, Zelensky said more than 7,000 people had escaped in the past 24 hours alone, but a group traveling along an agreed humanitarian route west of the city had was “simply captured by the occupiers”.

He warned that thousands more were unable to leave as the humanitarian situation worsened.

“Today the city still has nearly 100,000 people in inhumane conditions. Under total siege. Without food, without water, without medicine, under constant shelling and under constant shelling,” he said , renewing calls for Russia to allow safe humanitarian corridors for civilians. escape.

Satellite images of Mariupol released by private company Maxar showed a charred landscape, with several buildings on fire and smoke billowing from the city.

The Pentagon said Russia was now battering Mariupol using artillery, long-range missiles and warships deployed in the nearby Sea of ​​Azov.

Local Ukrainian forces are also reporting “intense” ground fighting with “Russian infantry storming the town” after rejecting an ultimatum on Monday to surrender.

UN relief agencies estimate that there were around 20,000 civilian casualties in the city, and possibly 3,000 killed, but stress that “the true figure remains unknown”.

Former Mariupol mayor Sergiy Taruta vowed the city would never forgive Russia’s siege.

“There will never be enough rage. There will never be enough revenge. There will never be enough retaliation,” he said in a Facebook post.

“For all the lives taken, the destinies shattered, for all the children killed, the tears and the suffering, each of the occupants will never be at peace.”

The siege of Mariupol, which lasted nearly a month, drew increasingly harsh international condemnation.

UN chief Antonio Guterres on Tuesday called on Russia to end its “absurd war”.

“Even if Mariupol falls, Ukraine cannot be conquered city by city, street by street, house by house,” he said.

“This war is unwinnable. Sooner or later it will have to move from the battlefield to the table of peace. It is inevitable.”

Mariupol is a crucial target in President Vladimir Putin’s war – providing a land bridge between Russian forces in Crimea to the southwest and Russian-controlled territory to the north and east.

‘We live here’

As US President Joe Biden prepared to visit allies in Europe, he warned that with Russia’s offensive stalled, Putin was considering using chemical and biological weapons.

“Now Putin’s back is against the wall,” Biden said. “And the more his back is against the wall, the greater the severity of the tactics he can employ.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia would use nuclear weapons if it was under “existential threat”.

Biden is due to travel to Brussels on Thursday for a series of summits bringing together NATO, EU and G7 leaders, before heading to Poland, which has hosted the bulk of more than 3.5 million Ukrainians fleeing the war in their country.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said the United States would consult with allies about Russia joining the G20.

“We believe that business cannot be business as usual for Russia in international institutions and in the international community,” he said at a press briefing on Tuesday.

Washington has also seen no Chinese arms shipments to Russia since Biden had a call with President Xi Jinping last week in which he raised concerns about Beijing’s support for Moscow, said Sullivan.

“We haven’t seen … the supply of military equipment from China to Russia. But of course that’s something we’re watching closely,” he said.

On the ground, the Russian Defense Ministry reported some advances in southeastern Ukraine and boasted of strikes against “military infrastructure” across the country.

But Ukraine and its allies have claimed Russian forces are severely depleted, poorly supplied and still unable to carry out complex operations.

Faced with intense Ukrainian resistance, the Pentagon believes that up to 10% of Russian forces engaged in Ukraine may have been wiped out of the war in just four weeks of fighting.

The Ukrainian army command said it believed Russian troops now had enough ammunition, food and fuel to last just three days and that hundreds of Russian soldiers would have defected.

For the first time, there are signs that Ukrainian forces are going on the offensive, retaking a town near kyiv and attacking Russian forces in the south of the country.

In the southern town of Mykolaiv, one of the strongholds of the fierce response, residents said they were determined to stay and defend it despite the relentless shelling.

At the funeral of soldier Igor Dundukov, 46, his brother Sergei wept as he kissed his brother’s swollen, bloodstained face.

“We supported his commitment to defending our homeland,” Sergei told AFP. “It’s our land. We live here. Where would we run? We grew up here.

Amid the bloodshed, Moscow and Kyiv have begun holding peace talks from a distance after face-to-face talks between delegations meeting on the Belarus-Ukraine border made little progress.

Russia said it wanted “more substantial” talks and Zelensky said all issues would be on the table if Putin agreed to lead the talks.

More penalties

Since Russia launched its invasion on February 24, at least 117 children have been killed in the war, Ukraine’s federal prosecutor has said.

Some 548 schools were damaged and 72 destroyed.

Russia continued its onslaught, in the face of unprecedented Western sanctions that led international companies to pull out of the country.

New sanctions against Russia and a strengthening of existing measures will be announced on Thursday when Biden meets with European allies in Brussels.

In the capital kyiv, a 35-hour curfew came into effect on Monday night after Russian strikes devastated the Retroville shopping complex, killing at least eight people.

Russia claimed the mall was used to store rocket systems and ammunition.

With businesses shuttered and residents ordered to stay at home, kyiv was a ghost town on Tuesday, with air sirens and the distant sound of explosions regularly hitting the silence.

Maxim Kostetskyi, 29, a lawyer, said residents were taking advantage of the “pause” imposed by the lockdown to regroup.

“We don’t know if the Russians will continue their efforts to encircle the city, but we are much more confident, morale is high and inspiring,” he told AFP.

Russia news

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