Russo-Ukrainian War: Ukraine retakes key kyiv suburb

kyiv, Ukraine –

Ukrainian forces have fought continued Russian efforts to occupy Mariupol and claimed to have recaptured a strategic suburb of kyiv on Tuesday, mounting a defense so fierce it is fueling fears that Russia’s Vladimir Putin is escalating the war to new heights.

“Putin’s back is against the wall,” said US President Joe Biden, who is traveling to Europe this week to meet with allies. “And the more his back is against the wall, the greater the severity of the tactics he can employ.”

Biden reiterated accusations that Putin was considering the use of chemical or biological weapons, although Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the United States had seen no evidence to suggest that such an escalation was imminent.

The warnings came as attacks continued in and around Kyiv and Mariupol, and people fled the battered and besieged port city. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky accused Russian forces of not only blocking a humanitarian convoy trying to deliver desperately needed aid to Mariupol, but also of seizing what another Ukrainian official said were 15 bus drivers and rescue workers of the aid mission, as well as their vehicles.

Zelensky said the Russians agreed to the route in advance.

“We are trying to organize stable humanitarian corridors for the people of Mariupol, but almost all of our attempts, unfortunately, are foiled by the Russian occupiers, by shelling or deliberate terror,” he said in his video speech. night to the nation.

The hands of an exhausted survivor from Mariupol trembled as she arrived by train in the western city of Lviv.

“There is no connection with the world. We couldn’t ask for help,” said Julia Krytska, who was helped by volunteers to get by with her husband and son. “People don’t even have water there.”

Explosions and flurries of gunfire rocked kyiv, and heavy artillery fire could be heard from the northwest, where Russia sought to surround and capture several suburban areas of the capital.

Early on Tuesday, Ukrainian troops drove Russian forces from 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.

Video released by Ukrainian police showed them surveying the damage in Makariv, including the town’s police station, which an officer said was hit directly to its roof. Police drove past destroyed residential buildings and along a road riddled with shelling. The city seemed practically deserted.

Still, the Defense Ministry said Russian forces had partially taken other northwestern suburbs, Bucha, Hostomel and Irpin, some of which have come under attack almost since the Russian invasion nearly a month ago. .

A Western official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss military assessments, said Ukrainian resistance halted much of Russia’s advance but did not send Moscow’s forces into retreat .

“We’ve seen indications that the Ukrainians are going a bit more on the offensive now,” Kirby told reporters separately in Washington. He said that was especially true in southern Ukraine, including near Kherson, where “they tried to regain territory.”

Asked on CNN what Russian President Vladimir Putin had achieved in Ukraine, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov replied: “Well, first of all, not yet. He hasn’t achieved yet.” But he insisted the military operation was taking place “in strict accordance with the plans and objectives that had been established in advance”.

Putin’s goals remain to “get rid of Ukraine’s military potential” and “to turn Ukraine from an anti-Russian center to a neutral country”, Peskov said.

The much more powerful and larger Russian military has many Western military experts warning against overconfidence in Ukraine’s long-term chances. Russia’s practice in past wars in Chechnya and Syria was to crush resistance with strikes that razed towns, killed countless civilians and forced millions to flee.

But Russian forces seemed ill-prepared and often performed poorly against Ukrainian resistance. The United States estimates that Russia has lost just over 10% of the overall combat capability it had at the start of the fight, including troops, tanks and other materiel.

Western officials say Russian forces are facing severe shortages of food, fuel and cold weather gear, leaving some soldiers with frostbite.

The invasion has driven more than 10 million people from their homes, nearly a quarter of Ukraine’s population, according to the United Nations.

Thousands of civilians are said to have died. Estimates of Russian military casualties vary widely, but even conservative figures from Western officials are in the low thousands.

On Monday, the pro-Kremlin Russian newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda, citing the Defense Ministry, reported that nearly 10,000 Russian soldiers had been killed. The report was quickly deleted and the newspaper blamed the hackers. The Kremlin declined to comment. The Western official said the figure was “a reasonable estimate”.

Putin’s troops are facing unexpected resistance that has left the bulk of Moscow’s ground forces miles from central kyiv, and they are making slow progress in their apparent effort to cut off fighters in eastern Ukraine. The Russians are increasingly focusing their air power and artillery on Ukrainian cities and civilians.

Talks to end the fighting continued via video. Zelensky said negotiations with Russia are moving “step by step, but they are moving forward.”

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said he saw progress in the talks.

“Through my contacts with various actors, elements of diplomatic progress are appearing on several key issues,” and the gains are sufficient to end hostilities now, he said. He gave no details.

The Western official, however, said there were no signs that Moscow was ready to compromise.

In the latest update from Mariupol officials, they said on March 15 that at least 2,300 people had died in the siege. Accounts from the city suggest the true toll is much higher, with bodies not recovered. Airstrikes last week destroyed a theater and an art school where many civilians had taken refuge.

Zelensky, in his address, said more than 7,000 people were evacuated from Mariupol on Tuesday. But around 100,000 remain in the city “under inhumane conditions, under total blockade, without food, water, medicine and under constant shelling, under constant shelling”, he said.

Before the war, 430,000 people lived in Mariupol.

Like Zelensky, the Red Cross said a humanitarian aid convoy trying to reach the town with desperately needed supplies was unable to enter.

Perched on the Sea of ​​Azov, Mariupol is a crucial port for Ukraine and spans a strip of territory between Russia and Crimea. The siege cut off the city from the sea and allowed Russia to establish a land corridor to Crimea.

But it is unclear how much of the city Russia holds, with fleeing residents saying fighting continues street by street.

A senior US defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity to give the Pentagon’s assessment, said Russian ships in the Sea of ​​Azov have now joined in the bombardment of Mariupol. The official said there were about seven Russian ships in this area, including a minesweeper and a few landing craft.

Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said troops defending the city destroyed a Russian patrol boat and an electronic warfare complex.

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

“They bombed us for the past 20 days,” said Viktoria Totsen, 39, who fled to Poland. “For the past five days, planes were flying over us every five seconds and dropping bombs everywhere – on apartment buildings, kindergartens, art schools, everywhere.”

Beyond the terrible human toll, the war has shaken the post-Cold War global security consensus, jeopardized global supplies of essential crops and raised fears of a nuclear accident.

As part of a series of addresses to foreign legislatures, Zelensky urged Italian lawmakers to tighten sanctions against Moscow, noting that many wealthy Russians have homes in the country.

“Don’t be a resort for murderers,” he said from Kyiv.


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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