Ukraine recaptures key Kyiv suburb; the Battle of Mariupol rages on

KYIV, Ukraine – Ukrainian forces said they recaptured a strategically important suburb of Kyiv on Tuesday as Russian forces tightened other areas near the capital and their attack on the besieged southern port of Mariupol raged tirelessly.

Explosions and flurries of gunfire shook kyiv, and black smoke rose from a place to the north. Intensified artillery fire could be heard from the northwest, where Russia sought to encircle and capture several suburban areas of the capital, a crucial target.

Residents have sheltered in their homes or underground under a 35-hour curfew imposed by city authorities that runs until Wednesday morning.

Russian forces also continued their siege of Mariupol after the southern port city’s defenders refused to surrender, with fleeing civilians describing relentless shelling and dead bodies lying in the streets. But the Kremlin’s ground offensive in other parts of the country is progressing slowly or not at all, repelled by deadly hit-and-run attacks by Ukrainians.

Early Tuesday, Ukrainian troops forced Russian forces out of the Kyiv suburb of Makariv after a fierce battle, Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said. The recaptured territory allowed Ukrainian forces to regain control of a key highway and block Russian troops from encircling kyiv from the northwest.

Still, the Defense Ministry said Russian forces fighting towards Kyiv were able to partially take other northwestern suburbs, Bucha, Hostomel and Irpin, some of which had been attacked almost since the military invasion. Russian almost a month ago.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s forces are increasingly focusing their air power and artillery on Ukrainian cities and the civilians who live there. Moscow’s invasion has driven nearly 3.5 million people out of Ukraine, according to the United Nations, and another 6.5 million have been internally displaced. The UN has confirmed the deaths of more than 900 civilians while saying the true toll is likely much higher. Estimates of Russian deaths vary, but even conservative figures are in the thousands.

US and UK officials say kyiv remains Russia’s primary target. The bulk of Moscow’s forces remain miles from the center, but missiles and artillery have destroyed apartment buildings and a large shopping mall, which was left in ruins after being hit by strikes on Sunday evening that killed eight people, according to emergency officials.

A senior US defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the military’s assessment, said Russia had increased air sorties over the past two days, flying up to 300 over the past 24 hours, and had fired more than 1,100 missiles at Ukraine. since the start of the invasion.

US President Joe Biden, who will travel to Europe later in the week to meet with allies, hinted late Monday that the worst may yet be to come.

“Putin’s back is against the wall,” Biden said. “He didn’t anticipate the extent or strength of our unit. And the further back he is against the wall, the greater the severity of the tactics he can employ.”

Biden reiterated accusations that Putin was considering resorting to the use of chemical weapons.

As Russian forces attempt to squeeze kyiv, talks to end the fighting continued via video but failed to bridge the chasm between the two sides. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told Ukrainian television on Monday that he would be willing to consider giving up Ukraine’s NATO bid – a key Russian demand – in exchange for a ceasefire. , the withdrawal of Russian troops and a guarantee of Ukraine’s security.

Zelenskyy also suggested that Kyiv would be open to future talks on the status of Crimea, which Russia seized in 2014, and areas in the eastern Donbass region held by Russian-backed separatists. But he said that was a subject for another time. Zelenskyy plans to speak to Italian lawmakers on Tuesday and Japanese lawmakers on Wednesday, part of a series of addresses to foreign legislatures as he seeks support.

In Mariupol, with communications crippled, movement restricted and many residents in hiding, the fate of those inside an art school razed on Sunday and a theater destroyed four days earlier was unclear. It is thought that more than 1,300 people took refuge in the theater and 400 would have been in art school.

Perched on the Sea of ​​Azov, Mariupol is a crucial port for Ukraine and stretches along a stretch of territory between Russia and Crimea. As such, it is a key target that has been under siege for over three weeks and has seen some of the worst suffering of the war.

It’s unclear how close his capture might be. Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said on Tuesday that its forces were still defending the city and had destroyed a Russian patrol boat and an electronic warfare complex.

Over the weekend, Moscow had offered safe passage out of Mariupol – a corridor leading east to Russia, another going west to other parts of Ukraine – in exchange for surrender. of the city before daybreak on Monday. Ukraine flatly rejected the offer long before the deadline.

Mariupol had a pre-war population of around 430,000. About a quarter are thought to have left in the early days of the war, and tens of thousands have escaped over the past week through humanitarian corridors. Other attempts were foiled by fighting.

Mariupol officials said on March 15 that at least 2,300 people had died during the siege, some of them buried in mass graves. There has been no official estimate since then, but the number is feared to be much higher after six more days of shelling.

For those who remain, conditions have become brutal. The assault cut off electricity, water and food supplies to Mariupol and severed communications with the outside world, plunging residents into a struggle for survival. New commercial satellite images showed smoke rising from buildings recently hit by Russian artillery.

Those who came out of Mariupol spoke of a devastated city.

“There are no more buildings there,” said Maria Fiodorova, 77, who crossed the border into Poland on Monday after five days of travel.

Olga Nikitina, who fled Mariupol for the western Ukrainian city of Lviv where she arrived on Sunday, said gunshots ripped through her windows and her apartment fell below zero .

“Battles took place in all the streets. Every house became a target,” she said.

A long line of vehicles stood on a road in Bezimenne, east of Mariupol, as residents of the besieged town sought refuge in a temporary camp set up by Russian-backed separatists in the Donetsk region. An estimated 5,000 people from Mariupol took refuge in the camp. Many arrived in cars with signs reading “children” in Russian.

A woman named Yulia said she and her family sought refuge in Bezimenne after a bomb attack destroyed six houses behind her house.

“That’s why we got in the car, at our own risk, and left in 15 minutes because everything is destroyed there, dead bodies are lying around,” she said. “They don’t let us go everywhere – there are shootings.”

A total of more than 8,000 people fled to safer areas on Monday through humanitarian corridors, including about 3,000 from Mariupol, Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said.

The Russian shelling of a hallway injured four children on a road leading to Mariupol, Zelenskyy said.

Matthew Saltmarsh, spokesman for the UN refugee agency, called the speed and scale of people fleeing danger in Ukraine “unprecedented in recent memory”.


Anna reported from Lviv, Ukraine. Associated Press writer Yuras Karmanau in Lviv and other AP reporters from around the world contributed to this report.

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