Russia Invades Ukraine: Mariupol Evacuations Stopped

LVIV, UKRAINE – A Ukrainian official says a second attempt to evacuate civilians from a besieged southern city in a week has failed due to continued Russian shelling.

Evacuations from the port city of Mariupol are scheduled to begin at noon local time (10am GMT) during a local ceasefire between 10am and 9pm, Ukrainian military officials said in advance. that Sunday.

Interior Ministry adviser Anton Gerashchenko said evacuation plans along designated humanitarian corridors had been halted due to an ongoing attack.

“There can be no ‘green corridor’ because only the sick brains of the Russians decide when to start shooting and with whom,” he said on Telegram.

A similar ceasefire was planned for Mariupol and the nearby city of Volnovakha collapsed on Saturday, trapping residents under repeated shelling and aerial bombardment by Russian forces.

In addition, Ukraine’s national security service said Russian forces were firing missiles at a physics institute in the city of Kharkiv, which houses nuclear material and a reactor.

The security agency said an attack on a nuclear facility could lead to “a large-scale ecological disaster.”

The service said on Facebook on Sunday that the Russians fired from the Grad launcher. Those missiles did not have a precise target, raising fears that one would go astray.

Ukrainian President Voldymyr Zelensky reiterated his request for foreign protection forces to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine, something NATO has ruled out so far because of fears such a move would draw the West into the war .

“The world is powerful enough to shut down our skies,” Zelensky said in a video address Sunday.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday warned that Moscow would consider a third-party statement closing Ukrainian airspace as an act of hostility.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. The AP’s previous story follows.

LVIV, Ukraine (AP) – Ukrainian authorities on Sunday prepared for a second attempt to evacuate civilians from a southern city hit by a week-long Russian offensive as economic pressure mounted. The economic pressure on Moscow increased, and diplomats moved across Europe to try to end the war.

Evacuations from the port city of Mariupol are scheduled to begin at noon local time (10am GMT) during a local ceasefire between 10am and 9pm, Ukrainian military officials said. A similar ceasefire was planned there and in the nearby city of Volnovakha collapsed on Saturday, trapping women, children and elderly people under multiple shells and aerial bombardment. of Russian forces.

The revival announcement comes after Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and a Russian-speaking member of his cabinet traveled to Moscow and spoke with Ukraine’s president in the hope of possibly brokering a broader deal. to stop the fighting, it’s been 11 days now.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spent the weekend visiting NATO member states in Eastern Europe, which have seen 1.5 million refugees spill over their borders since Russia invaded Ukraine on August 1. 24. The head of the United Nations refugee agency called the exodus the “fastest-growing exodus” of the refugee crisis since World War II. “

Ukrainian President Voldymyr Zelensky reiterated his request for foreign protection agencies to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday warned that Moscow would consider a third-party statement closing Ukrainian airspace an act of hostility, and the West has so far rejected Mr. Zelensky’s pleas, out of concern. a confrontation with Russia.

“The world is powerful enough to shut down our skies,” Zelensky said in a video address Sunday.

As Russian forces surrounded several Ukrainian cities and maintained a convoy outside the capital Kyiv, Zelensky appeared on television Saturday night dressed as a familiar army green T-shirt. belonging and rallying his people remained defiant.

“Ukrainians in all our cities that the enemy has penetrated – attack!” Zelensky said. “You should take to the streets! You should fight! It is necessary to take action and drive this evil out of our cities, from our land.”

After the ceasefire in Mariupol failed to hold, Russian forces increased their shelling of the city and dropped heavy bombs on residential areas in Chernihiv, a city north of Kyiv, Ukrainian officials said. Ukrainian officials said.

In Mariupol, hapless mothers mourn their slain children, wounded soldiers wear checkers, and doctors work under the light of their cell phones like gloom and despair.

“The city is in a very, very difficult situation to besieged,” Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boychenko told Ukrainian TV channel. “Continuous shelling of residential areas is taking place, planes are dropping bombs on residential areas. The Russian occupiers are using heavy artillery, including multiple Grad rocket launchers.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin continues to blame the war on the Ukrainian leadership, pitting them against Russian forces.

“If they continue to do what they are doing, they are questioning the future of the Ukrainian state,” Putin said on Saturday. “And if this happens, it will be entirely on their conscience.”

He also attacked Western sanctions that have crippled Russia’s economy and caused the value of its currency to drop. Meanwhile, many companies are suspending operations in Russia, including Mastercard and Visa.

He said during a televised meeting with flight attendants of Russian airline Aeroflot, which on Saturday suspended all international flights except Belarus. “But thank God we’re not there yet.”

The World Health Organization on Sunday condemned attacks on medical workers in Ukraine, saying it had verified at least six such attacks had left six people dead and 11 others. other injured.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Twitter that attacks on health workers were a violation of international humanitarian law.

British military officials on Sunday compared Russia’s tactics in Ukraine to those used in Chechnya and Syria, where besieged cities have come under airstrikes and artillery fire after forces Russia faced unexpected resistance.

The strength of Ukraine’s resistance continued to surprise Russian forces, and they responded by targeting densely populated areas, including the cities of Kharkiv, Chernihiv and Mariupol, the British Ministry of Defense said. know in the daily press conference.

“This may represent an attempt to break the spirit of the Ukrainian people,” the ministry said. “Russia used similar tactics in Chechnya in 1999 and Syria in 2016, using both air and ground weapons.”

The death toll in the conflict is difficult to measure. The UN human rights office says at least 351 civilians have been confirmed dead, but the true number is probably much higher. Russian and Ukrainian defense officials have not provided information on their military cause and effect.

Ukraine’s military is far superior to Russia’s, but its professional and volunteer forces have fought back staunchly. In Kyiv, volunteers lined up seventh to join the army.

Even in the cities that have fallen, there are signs of the resistance that Zelensky demands.

Onlookers in Chernihiv cheered as they watched a Russian military plane fall from the sky and crash, according to video released by the Ukrainian government. In Kherson, hundreds of protesters waved blue and yellow Ukrainian flags and shouted: “Go home.”

But the struggle to enforce the temporary ceasefires in Mariupol and Volnovakha on Saturday showed the fragility of efforts to prevent fighting across Ukraine.

According to Davyd Arakhamia, a member of the Ukrainian delegation, the third round of negotiations between Russia and Ukraine will take place on Monday. He gave no further details, including where they would take place.

Previous meetings have been held in Belarus. Those negotiations resulted in the truce being broken down on Saturday and reinstated on Sunday.

Russia has made significant strides in southern Ukraine as it seeks to block access to the Avrov Sea. Capturing Mariupol could allow Moscow to establish a land corridor to Crimea, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014 in a move most other countries consider illegal.

Meanwhile, the head of the Chernihiv region said Russia had dropped powerful bombs on residential areas of the city of the same name, which has a population of 290,000. Vyacheslav Chaus posted a photo online of what he said was an unexploded FAB-500 bomb, a 1,100-pound (500-kilogram) bomb.

“Usually this weapon is used against military-industrial facilities and fortified structures,” said Chaus.

The West has given Ukraine broad support, providing aid and arms shipments, while delivering massive sanctions on Russia. But no NATO troops were sent to Ukraine, leaving the Ukrainians to fight Russian troops.

“Ukraine is bleeding, but Ukraine has not fallen,” Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said in a video released on Saturday.

Zelensky sought to rally support from US lawmakers on Saturday, addressing more than 300 members of Congress via a video link. He pleaded for additional help, especially fighter jets, to help defend Ukraine’s skies, even as he insisted Russia was being defeated.

Zelensky said the Russian military is entering a third nuclear power plant. They have taken control of the Zaporizhzhia plant in Ukraine, as well as Chornobyl, the site of the world’s worst nuclear disaster.

US President Joe Biden called Mr Zelensky early Sunday morning, Kyiv time, to discuss sanctions against Russia and speed up US support for Ukraine. The White House said the call also included talks between Russia and Ukraine, but did not provide details.

Blinken was in Moldova on Sunday, where he pledged to support the Western-leaning former Soviet republic that is grappling with an influx of refugees and wary of Russia’s moves in Ukraine.

Moldovan officials are calling for international support for the refugee crisis and seeking security guarantees in the event of any Russian aggression. More than 230,000 people have fled to Moldova from Ukraine since the fighting began.

The UN has said it will step up humanitarian operations both inside and outside Ukraine, and the Security Council has scheduled a meeting for Monday to discuss the worsening situation.

The UN World Food Program has warned of an impending hunger crisis in Ukraine, a major global supplier of wheat, saying millions will need food aid “immediately.” “

Associated Press reporters from around the world contributed to this report.

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