May 18, 2022

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Lack of confidence in the Russian ceasefire offer as the bombing continues

Lack of confidence in the Russian ceasefire offer as the bombing continues

More than ten days after a devastating war and refugee crisis unfolded, Russian forces on Monday launched new attacks on Ukraine’s civilian areas and strategic centers, seeking to cripple the country’s defenses and establish their supremacy on Ukraine’s vital Black Sea coast.

Russia announced a new ceasefire on Monday to allow civilians to flee from four besieged Ukrainian cities, with few signs its forces would live up to that pledge. The humanitarian catastrophe provoked by the fighting worsened as food, water and energy dwindled, and then ran out in some besieged cities and towns.

The bombing attacks approached the outskirts of the capital, Kyiv, even as a huge Russian convoy remained miles from stalemate to the north. The city was filled with makeshift defenses – sandbags, old tires, tree branches – as the city’s mayor, Vitali Klitschko, vowed that the defenders would fight to the death in “every house, every street, every checkpoint”.

Two of the previous limited ceasefire I barely got off the ground Before Ukrainian officials said the continued Russian bombing had rendered them meaningless. Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians are still trapped. Some died trying to escape, including an entire family killed on the road to a suburb of Kyiv that President Volodymyr Zelensky likened to a “shooting hall” for his invading forces.

Monday’s quickly lost credibility new Russian ceasefire declaration applies to Kyiv; Ukraine’s second most populous city, Kharkiv, which has been under constant attack since the start of the war 12 days ago; Sumy in the northeast, near the Russian border; and the southern coastal city of Mariupol, It is basically confined.

The fact that most of the permitted passages would divert refugees to Russia itself and its ally Belarus – from which Russian forces set out for northern Ukraine – provoked harsh reactions from Ukrainian and Western officials.

“This is an unacceptable option to open humanitarian corridors,” Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Irina Verychuk told a news briefing. The Ukrainian government suggested alternative methods.

“Providing evacuation routes in the arms of the country that are currently destroying your country is nonsense,” said James Cleverly, Minister for Europe. French President Emmanuel Macron called the Russian offer “political and moral pessimism”.

Almost all of the more than 1.7 million people who fled Ukraine in the past two weeks, went to the West, countries such as Poland and HungaryIn what the head of the United Nations refugee agency described as the fastest growing refugee crisis in Europe since World War II. Exodus accounts for nearly 4% of Ukraine’s total population – which corresponds to roughly 12.7 million Americans fleeing the United States.

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Another city in southern Ukraine, Mykolaiv, woke up to renewed bombing on Monday, Mayor Oleksandr Senkevich wrote on Facebook – a bombing that has continued for a long time today. But the region’s governor said, after a day that included fierce fighting on the outskirts of the city, that the defenders repulsed a Russian attack.

“They’re on the run,” Governor Vitaly Kim wrote on Facebook.

The capture of Mykolaiv was a Russian objective for several days, as the city could serve as a major staging post for a large-scale offensive against Odessa, which lies about 75 miles to the southwest and is the most vital in Ukraine. Access point to the Black Sea.

Evacuees prepare to board buses on Sunday after the Ukrainian town of Irbin, outside Kyiv, was shelled by Russian artillery.

(Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times)

Senkevich, Mayor of Mykolaiv, accused Russian forces of deliberately targeting civilian apartment buildings, saying that the overnight attacks left large areas of the city unheated. And he published a video clip showing what appeared to be an apartment building, with a black center due to a burning fire, presumably due to a shell.

He said emergency crews are working to restore service. But he warned that there were a lot of unexploded ordnance around the city and that residents should keep their distance until the authorities could clear them.

Reflecting desperate conditions Facing civilians in the suburbs northwest of KyivIn the town of Bucha, which was recently taken over by the Russian army, authorities have asked residents not to try to flee on their own. The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry reported that the town’s mayor was injured while trying to establish a safe passage.

“We confirm and warn that if you try to evacuate yourself, your chances of survival will be 50/50,” said a post on the Bucha City Council official Facebook page. “Don’t leave yourself!”

Both failed ceasefires included Mariupol, where officials say Russian strikes have caused massive loss of life and key infrastructure, cutting off water, electricity, food and medical supplies. Nearly half of the city’s 430,000 residents are trying to escape, according to one estimate, but only a small portion have succeeded.

In Kharkiv, the authorities said, Monday, that 209 people, more than half of them civilians, were killed in the city since the start of the invasion.

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The latest pledge from Moscow to allow people to flee from Mariupol, Kharkiv and other regions came after a phone call on Sunday between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Macron, who spoke to Putin. More than any other Western leader In the past few weeks.

Ukrainian refugees at a Polish train station

Ukrainian refugees gather at the main train station in Przemysl, Poland, on Sunday.

(Wally Scalige/Los Angeles Times)

But Ukrainians are deeply skeptical of Russian promises.

“There can be no ‘green corridors’ because only the sick mind of the Russians decides when to start shooting and at whom,” Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to Ukraine’s Ministry of the Interior, said on the Telegram messaging app.

Doubts also swirl about a third round of talks between Ukraine and Russia that Russian media said took place on Monday. Putin has repeatedly insisted that he will only end hostilities if Kyiv surrenders to all his demands, which include the “disarmament” and renunciation of Ukraine No intention to try to join NATO.

For his part, Zelensky has appealed to NATO for the creation of a no-fly zone over Ukraine and has grown angered by his rejection of his request, which the transatlantic alliance says could lead to a larger and more disastrous armed confrontation between the West and Russia.

Russian forces seek to return to Ukrainian airstrips and airports; Zelensky said the Venice airport, 70 miles southeast of Kyiv, was “completely destroyed.”

The Ukrainian president also called, in a video address, Monday, for an international boycott of Russian oil, one of the most important sources of income for Moscow.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Democrat from San Francisco) said on Sunday that US lawmakers are considering such a ban. Western sanctions are already severe It dealt a blow to the Russian economyWith the ruble depreciating, multinational companies pulled out and the Moscow stock exchange froze, and some US officials demanded more.

“We are raising the cost to the Kremlin and everyone who helps and enables it to continue this war of choice,” Foreign Minister Anthony J. Blinken said Monday during a visit to Lithuania, adding, “We want this to come to a halt as quickly as possible, which is why we will continue Increase pressure on Russia, and continue to support Ukraine.”

Putin warned over the weekend that the Western economic campaign was on the verge of a “declaration of war”. He launched the incursion on February 24, claiming unfoundedly that the democratically elected Ukrainian leadership was a neo-Nazi gang bent on eradicating ethnic Russians in the east of the country.

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On Monday, a Russian Defense Ministry spokesman told reporters that 2,396 “military infrastructure facilities” have been destroyed in Ukraine since the start of the “special operation” – Russia’s term for invading its neighbor.
The information provided by the speaker cannot be independently verified.

Putin has meStrong international condemnation of the invasion, and in keeping with this pattern, Russian representatives did not appear at Monday’s hearing at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, where Kyiv accused Moscow of war crimes.

Although there was no good reason to believe that the Kremlin would respond to the court’s call for a halt, Ukraine’s representative, Anton Korenevich, appealed to judges to order Russia to halt its attacks.

Putin has also sought to keep the lid tightly on information about the costs of the conflict. Moscow has recognized Nearly 500 Russian soldiers were killed. But Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said on Monday that the Russian army had lost more than 11,000 soldiers, more than 1,000 tanks and armored vehicles, and more than 100 planes and helicopters. The numbers cannot be independently verified.

The United States estimates that 95% of the forces that Russia amassed near Ukraine before the invasion are now in the country. The firepower and numbers of Russian troops significantly outnumbered those in Ukraine, which nonetheless put up resolute resistance.

“Even if Russia wins a battle in Ukraine, it does not mean that Russia is winning the war,” Blinken said. “If Russia captured a city in Ukraine, it does not mean that it captured the hearts and minds of the Ukrainian people. It cannot. It will not.”

Blinken accused Russian forces of targeting civilians, a claim Putin denies, although Russian forces and their proxies Cities flattened during the conflicts in Chechnya and Syria At the cost of thousands of lives.

With the Kremlin in effect Banning independent reporting on war At home, many in Russia accepted the government’s position on the invasion. But the war was not without domestic opposition: protests across the country Sunday, from Siberia to Saint Petersburg, resulted in the arrest of more than 4,600 people, according to the rights organization OVD-Info.

Paulus reported from Kyiv, King from Washington, and Chu from London. Times staff writer Tracy Wilkinson contributed to this report.