Humanitarian crisis worsens for Ukrainians trapped in Russian onslaught

MYKOLAIV, Ukraine – Increasingly indiscriminate Russian bombardment that has trapped and traumatized Ukrainian civilians on Monday ampli...


MYKOLAIV, Ukraine – Increasingly indiscriminate Russian bombardment that has trapped and traumatized Ukrainian civilians on Monday amplified fears of an escalation in the humanitarian crisis that has already left tens of thousands of people without food, water, electricity or heating in besieged cities in southern Ukraine and elsewhere.

As hopes for even brief ceasefires burst and then crumble just as quickly, the Russian invasion, the largest conflict to engulf Europe since World War II, transformed at least 1, 7 million Ukrainians – half of them children – as refugees, according to the United Nations. Many are trapped in their own towns, pinned down by intense barrages from Russian forces.

In Mariupol, a southeastern port in Moscow’s sights, desperate residents have gone days without food, water and other essentials. And in the city of Mykolaiv, residents fled their beds for safety on Monday when pinned down Russian forces launched a deadly pre-dawn barrage at a military barracks.

“They attacked our city dishonourably, cynically, while people were sleeping,” Vataliy Kim, the governor of the Mykolaiv region, said in a Facebook post.

As a third round of negotiations between Ukraine and Russia ended inconclusively on Monday, the fighting raged. Late in the evening, the commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian army, Valery Zaluzhny, said that fighter jets and an anti-aircraft missile shot down two Russian planes near the capital Kiev. Several large explosions were heard in Kiev, but it was not immediately possible to confirm the commander’s account.

Although it is often difficult to verify competing claims of success on the battlefield, it is generally accepted that the Russian army failed to take any major cities in its efforts to subjugate the Western-leaning country that the President Vladimir V. Putin has sworn to subjugate. .

Although many times larger than their adversary and boasting more advanced weapons and air superiority, the Russian forces got bogged down all over the place, struggling with logistical problems, seemingly poor troop morale and tactical errors. that Ukrainian troops have exploited.

Unable to make any major military gains, the Russians waged an indiscriminate bombing campaign that terrorized the residents of Ukrainian towns and villages.

In Mariupol, Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to the Ukrainian government, said the city had no medicine, heating or working water system. Attempts to distribute supplies and help with evacuation were abandoned over the weekend in the face of Russian shelling.

Doctors Without Borders, the medical charity that works in conflict zones, said it had received “heartbreaking reports” from staff trapped in Mariupol. “Safe passage for those willing and able to escape must be urgently ensured in Mariupol and war-affected areas inside Ukraine,” the group said in a statement.

United Nations officials, who so far have been powerless to stop the war, have pleaded for fighters to stop long enough for trapped civilians to leave conflict zones. “Reliable and predictable ‘windows of silence’ and ‘safe passage’ are urgently needed to relocate those whose lives are at risk,” said Amin Awad, the UN Crisis Coordinator for Ukraine.

On Monday, the Kremlin offered its own evacuation plan, angering Ukrainian leaders. Ukrainian civilians, he said, should be taken to Russia – that is, to the invader – or to its ally Belarus. Ukrainian officials denounced the proposal as propaganda and said it was intended to distract Russian shelling from areas where civilians are trying to flee.

Heavy Western economic sanctions imposed on Russia in response to the invasion threatened to escalate further on Monday as U.S. lawmakers proposed a bipartisan measure to suspend normal trade relations with Moscow and ban U.S. purchases of Russian oil.

The mere possibility of such action, which could significantly curtail a crucial Russian export, sent global oil prices above $119 a barrel, the highest in 14 years, and helped push prices higher. Gasoline averages above $4 a gallon in the United States. The stock market had its worst day since October 2020.

Mr. Putin demonstrating his determination to impose Soviet-style repression To control the narrative of the war in the country, most signs pointed to an escalation of the conflict which risks spilling over into Ukraine’s NATO neighbors. This development would be an extreme test for President Biden and could put the United States and Russia, which possess the largest arsenals of nuclear weapons in the world, on a direct combat course.

“Don’t talk to me about half-full/half-empty: I’m someone who’s generally glad there’s water in the glass,” said Ian Bremer, chairman of Eurasia Group, a research organization on political risks, in a newsletter to readers and clients on the Ukrainian crisis. “But I am definitely worried about where the conflict with Russia is going.”

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, who visited the small Baltic States members of NATO on Monday to assure them of the American commitment to their defense, received a somewhat skeptical reception. Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda told Mr Blinken that strengthening military deterrence in the Baltics “is no longer enough” to deter Mr Putin, who said he wanted NATO forces NATO evacuate all former Soviet bloc republics from Eastern Europe.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who has thwarted Russian attempts to paint him as weak and intimidated, said he expected more heavy shelling of Ukrainian cities in the coming days. Already, said one of his advisers, Mykhailo Podoliak, 202 schools, 34 hospitals and more than 1,500 residential buildings have been destroyed since the start of the war. Nearly 1,000 towns and villages have been completely deprived of light, water and heating, he said.

Mr Zelensky spoke from his office in Kiev on Monday evening, the first time he had been seen there since the Russian invasion began on February 24. In one video posted on facebookhe said he wasn’t hiding and he wasn’t afraid of anyone.

In Mykolaiv, the southern city that lies directly in the path of Russian forces heading for Odessa, the famous Black Sea port, the invading army unleashed a ferocious artillery attack early Monday that hit residential neighborhoods with rockets and sent streams of people running for safety.

Around 5 a.m., the city woke up to a barrage that lit up the predawn sky. Residents sheltering in basements and trucks loaded with Ukrainian troops rushed to the east of the city, where the fighting seemed to be the most intense. At one point during the day, a fierce tank battle broke out between Russian forces and Ukrainian troops defending Mykolaiv airport, with explosions reverberating throughout the city.

The initial attack killed at least eight Ukrainian soldiers, who were sleeping in their barracks when they were hit by a Kalibr cruise missile, Mr Kim said, governor of the Mykolaiv region. Nineteen other people were injured and eight are still missing, he said.

By evening the guns had died down and Ukrainian officials said their forces had once again repelled the Russian onslaught.

“They retreat and run away,” Mr Kim said, although this could not be independently verified. “Nothing remains of their tanks, as far as I know.”

The governor said a group of around 20 Russian soldiers had fled into the forest and he urged residents to call the police if they encountered them.

Although the heaviest shelling of the day in Mykolaiv took place on frontline positions, rockets also fell on civilian neighborhoods.

Several landed in dense buildings in the far east of the city, smashing windows and sending shrapnel through walls and appliances. There were no immediate reports of injuries, but locals were shaken, often invoking Mr Putin’s name with a torrent of profanity.

“Tell Putin he kills peaceful people,” Olga Korolyova, 48, said through sobs as she stood in the kitchen of her shattered home.

The glass had been blown out of Ms. Korolyova’s front window and her front door had been destroyed. When the rockets hit, she said, she hid in her bathroom.

“He thinks we should submit to him?” she says of the Russian president. “I want him to go through what I went through this morning.”

Viktor Voroboi had just returned to his bed after an early morning cigarette on his balcony when a rocket struck, blowing across the balcony glass and covering him in debris. The day before, he had moved his mother into her apartment after his own neighborhood was bombed. None of them were injured on Monday.

“I was lucky,” Mr Voroboi said, his voice still shaking. “It means an angel protects me.”

Residents of a building housed in a basement that normally serves as a gym; the sound of artillery fire shook the walls. One, Margarita Andreyeva, accused Russia of tarnishing what she described as a sacred victory over the Nazis during World War II, when Ukrainians and Russians fought together.

“Now Germany is giving us weapons to defend ourselves against the Russians,” she said. “This is nonsense. What would our grandfathers think?

Michael Schwirtz reported from Mykolaiv, Andrew E. Kramer of Kyiv and Rick Gladstone from New York. The report was provided by Marc Santorafrom Lviv, Ukraine; Lara Jacques from Vilnius, Lithuania; Farnaz Fassihi and Jesus Jiménez from New York; and Ana Swanson from Washington.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Humanitarian crisis worsens for Ukrainians trapped in Russian onslaught
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