© Reuters. Smoke rises after shelling near Kyiv, Ukraine March 11, 2022. REUTERS / Gleb Garanich
By Pavel Polityuk and Natalia Zinets
LVIV, Ukraine (Reuters) – Conflict flared northwest of Kyiv on Saturday and other cities were besieged and heavily shelled, while Ukrainian officials said fighting and threats from Russian air strikes are jeopardizing evacuation efforts.
Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said the government plans to use agreed humanitarian corridors out of the besieged southern port city of Mariupol as well as towns and villages in the regions of Kyiv, Sumy and some other areas.
However, the governor of the Kyiv region said fighting and the threat of Russian air strikes continued during evacuation efforts, and the governor of the Donetsk region said continued shelling was complicating it. aid to Mariupol.
An adviser to the President of Ukraine earlier said 79 evacuation buses and two trucks carrying humanitarian goods had left Sumy on Saturday. Buses and trucks also left Zaporizhzhia for Mariupol, a video released on social media by the deputy head of Ukraine’s presidential office showed.
At least 1,582 civilians in Mariupol have been killed by Russian shelling and a 12-day blockade, the city council said in an online statement Friday. Casualty figures could not be verified.
Local media reported that air raid sirens sounded throughout most of Ukraine’s cities on Saturday morning, urging residents to seek shelter.
Russian missile strikes destroyed a Ukrainian airbase and hit an ammunition depot near the town of Vasylkiv in the Kyiv region on Saturday morning, Interfax Ukraine quoted Vasylkiv Mayor Natalia Balasynovych as saying.
Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry said a mosque in Mariupol, where more than 80 people were sheltering, was also shelled, without saying if anyone was killed or injured.
Moscow has denied targeting civilians it calls a special operation to demilitarize Ukraine and the unnamed leaders it calls neo-Nazi. It did not respond to Ukraine’s challenge to provide evidence.
Ukraine said it expected a new wave of attacks on areas around the capital Kyiv, the country’s second city of Kharkiv and Donbass in the east, where Russian-backed separatists are located. has extended control.
Britain’s Ministry of Defense on Friday said Russian forces could target the capital Kyiv in the next few days. In an update on Saturday, it said skirmishes northwest of the capital continued, with the majority of Russia’s ground forces 25 kilometers (16 miles) from the centre.
The cities of Kharkiv, Chernihiv, Sumy and Mariupol remained besieged under intense Russian shelling, it said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin launched the invasion on February 24 in an operation that drew near worldwide condemnation and that led to stiff Western sanctions against Russia.
The shelling trapped thousands of people in besieged cities and sent 2.5 million Ukrainians fleeing to neighboring countries.
Efforts to isolate Russia economically have accelerated, with the United States imposing new sanctions on senior Kremlin officials and Russian oligarchs on Friday.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the EU would suspend Moscow’s privileged trade and economic treatment on Saturday, crack down on the use of crypto assets and ban imports of iron and steel goods from Russia, as well as export luxury goods. goods in the other direction.
On Saturday, Moscow said the European Union would pay at least three times more for oil, gas and electricity.
Russian Foreign Ministry official Nikolai Kobrinets told Interfax: “I believe the European Union will not benefit from this – we have a more durable supply and a healthier nerve.
As the Russian invasion entered its third week, its forces continued to bombard cities around the country on Friday. Satellite images showed them firing artillery as they entered Kyiv.
As hundreds of people took shelter in Kharkiv metro stations, Nastya, a young girl lying in a makeshift bed on the floor of a train carriage, said she had been there for more than a week, unable to move much and ill due to illness. virus.
“I’m scared for my home, for the homes of my friends, very scared for the country, and of course scared for myself,” she said.