LVIV, Ukraine – Ukrainian authorities said on Sunday that the Russian military bombed an art school housing some 400 people in the beleaguered port city of Mariupol, where Ukraine’s president said a relentless Russian siege will be remembered For centuries.
It was the second time in less than a week that city officials reported that a public building where residents had taken refuge had been attacked. A bomb hit a theater in Mariupol on Wednesday with more than 1,300 people inside, local officials said.
There was no immediate word on the victims of the reported strike on the art school, which The Associated Press could not independently verify. Ukrainian officials have not given an update on the search for the theater since Friday, when they said at least 130 people had been rescued.
Mariupol, a strategic port on the Sea of Azov, has been bombarded for at least three weeks and has seen some of the worst horrors of the war in Ukraine. At least 2,300 people have died, some of whom have had to be buried in mass graves, and food, water and electricity are running out.
“To do this in a peaceful city, which the occupiers did, is a terror that will be remembered for centuries,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address to the nation. “The more Russia uses terror against Ukraine, the more serious the consequences.”
In recent days, Russian forces have forced their way into the city, cutting it off from the Sea of Azov and devastating a huge steel plant. The fall of Mariupol would be a significant but costly victory for the Russians, whose advance is largely stalled outside other major cities more than three weeks after Europe’s biggest ground invasion since World War II.
In major cities across Ukraine, hundreds of men, women and children have been killed in Russian shelling, while millions of civilians have rushed to underground shelters or fled the country.
In the capital, Kyiv, at least 20 babies carried by Ukrainian surrogate mothers are stuck in a makeshift bomb shelter, waiting for their parents to travel to the war zone to pick them up. The infants – some as young as a few days old – are cared for by nurses who cannot leave the shelter due to constant shelling by Russian troops trying to surround the town.
In the hard-hit northeastern city of Sumy, authorities evacuated 71 orphaned babies through a humanitarian corridor, regional governor Dmytro Zhyvytskyy said on Sunday. He said the orphans, most of whom need constant medical attention, would be taken to an unspecified foreign country.
Russian shelling killed at least five civilians, including a 9-year-old boy, in Kharkiv, an eastern city that is Ukraine’s second largest.
The UK Ministry of Defense says Russia’s failure to gain control of the skies over Ukraine “has significantly blunted their operational progress”, forcing them to rely on ranged weapons launched from the relative safety of Russian airspace.
A rocket attack on the Black Sea port city of Mykolaiv early Friday killed up to 40 marines, a Ukrainian military official told The New York Times, making it one of the deadliest attacks on Ukrainian forces.
In a separate strike, the Russian Defense Ministry said a hypersonic Kinzhal missile hit a Ukrainian fuel depot in Kostiantynivka, a town near Mykolaiv. The Russian military said on Saturday it used a Kinzhal for the first time in combat to destroy an ammunition depot in the Carpathian Mountains in western Ukraine.
Russia said the Kinzhal, carried by MiG-31 fighter jets, has a range of up to 2,000 kilometers (about 1,250 miles) and flies at 10 times the speed of sound. Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said on Saturday that the United States could not confirm the use of a hypersonic missile in Ukraine.
Konashenkov said Kalibr cruise missiles launched by Russian warships from the Caspian Sea were also involved in the attack on the Kostiantynivka fuel depot and were used to destroy an armor repair factory in northern Ukraine.
Surprisingly strong Ukrainian resistance dashed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s hopes of a quick victory after he ordered his troops to invade Ukraine on February 24.
As the Kremlin said Russia was conducting a “special military operation” aimed at legitimate targets, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said on Saturday that “brutal and savage techniques” targeting civilians allowed troops to Moscow to move forward.
UN bodies have confirmed the death of more than 847 civilians since the start of the war, although they admit the true toll is likely much higher. According to the UN, nearly 3.4 million people have fled Ukraine as refugees.
Estimates of Russian deaths vary widely, but even conservative figures are in the thousands. The reported deaths on the battlefield of four Russian generals – out of about 20 deployed in Ukraine, suggests impaired combat command, said Dmitry Gorenburg, Russia security researcher at the Virginia-based think tank CNA. said Gorenburg.
Russia would need 800,000 troops – almost the equivalent of its entire active-duty army – to control Ukraine in the face of prolonged armed opposition, according to Michael Clarke, former head of the Royal United Services Institute, a group UK-based defense think tank.
“Unless the Russians intend to be completely genocidal – they could raze all the big cities, and the Ukrainians will rise up against the Russian occupation – there will only be constant guerrilla warfare,” he said. said Clarke.
Ukraine and Russia have held several rounds of negotiations aimed at ending the conflict, but neighboring countries remain divided on several issues. Zelenskyy said he was ready to drop Ukraine’s bid for NATO membership, but wanted certain security guarantees from Russia. Moscow is pushing for the full demilitarization of Ukraine.
Evacuations from Mariupol and other besieged towns took place along eight of the 10 humanitarian corridors agreed by Ukraine and Russia on Saturday, Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said, and officials said a total 6,623 people had left Kyiv and other cities.
Vereshchuk said humanitarian aid planned for the southern city of Kherson, which Russia seized at the start of the war, could not be delivered because the trucks were stopped en route by Russian troops. .
Mariupol authorities said on Sunday that nearly 40,000 people left the city last week, the vast majority in their own vehicles, despite ongoing air and artillery strikes.
The Mariupol city council said on Saturday that Russian soldiers forcibly moved several thousand of the city’s residents, mostly women and children, to Russia. He did not specify where, and AP could not immediately confirm the claim.
Some Russians have also fled their country amid a widespread crackdown on dissent. Since the start of the invasion of Ukraine, police have arrested thousands of anti-war protesters, while government agencies have silenced independent media and cut off access to social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. .
In Ukraine, Zelenskyy on Sunday ordered the suspension of the activities of 11 political parties linked to Russia during the period of martial law. The largest of these parties holds 44 of the 450 seats in the country’s parliament.
“The activities of politicians aimed at discord and collaboration will not succeed,” he said in his speech.