LVIV, UKRAINE – Kyiv residents awoke on Wednesday to an air strike warning urging them to get to bomb shelters as quickly as possible, fearing Russian missiles were approaching, while the strategic port city of Mariupol remained under siege. as the humanitarian crisis intensifies.
The head of Kyiv regional government Oleksiy Kuleba issued an air strike warning saying there was a “threat of a missile attack” on the Ukrainian capital. “People immediately went to shelters,” he said, then raised the alarm when everything was clear.
For days, as Moscow’s forces surrounded Ukrainian cities, the fighting thwarted efforts to create corridors to safely evacuate civilians.
Air raid warnings are common, though infrequent, keeping everyone ready. Kyiv has been relatively quiet in recent days, although Russian artillery has hit the suburbs.
Kuleba said the crisis for civilians was growing in the capital, with the situation particularly dire in the suburbs of the city.
“Russia is artificially creating a humanitarian crisis in the Kyiv region, discouraging the evacuation of people and continuing to shell and bomb small communities,” he said.
Across the country, thousands are believed to have been killed, both civilians and soldiers, in nearly two weeks of fighting. Russian forces have seen their advances halted in several areas – including around Kyiv – by fiercer-than-expected resistance by the Ukrainians.
However, Russian troops have advanced along Ukraine’s coastline to establish a land bridge to Crimea, which Moscow seized from Ukraine in 2014.
The city of Mariupol has been besieged by Russian troops for several days, and a humanitarian crisis is unfolding in the besieged city of 430,000.
Dead bodies lie on the streets of the city, which is located on the Asov Sea. Hungry people break into stores in search of food and melt snow for water. Thousands of people gathered in the basements, shivering at the sound of Russian artillery shells pounding this strategic port city.
“Why shouldn’t I cry?” Goma Janna asked as she cried at the light of an oil lamp on the ground, surrounded by women and children. “I want my house, I want my job. I am very sad about the people and about the city and about the children. ”
Tuesday brought no relief: Attempts to evacuate civilians and provide needed food, water and medicine through a designated safe corridor failed, with Ukrainian officials saying forces Russia fired on the convoy before it reached the city.
Mariupol, Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said, is in a “catastrophic situation.”
In other developments in the Russian invasion:
Poland offered to hand over all of its MiG-29 fighters to the US, apparently agreeing to a deal allowing the Ukrainian military to use them. However, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby later said the plan was not “feasible” and raised serious concerns for the NATO alliance. He said the US will discuss this issue further with Poland.
UN officials say 2 million people have now fled Ukraine.
Russia’s economic isolation deepened as US President Joe Biden announced a ban on Russian oil imports and Shell said it would no longer buy oil and natural gas from the country. In addition, Adidas and McDonald’s said they are suspending operations in Russia.
For days, as Moscow’s forces have besieged Ukrainian cities, efforts to create corridors to safely evacuate civilians have failed as the fighting continues. and deprecate suggested routes. Ukraine has rejected Moscow’s offer of corridors leading civilians to Russia or its ally Belarus.
The Russian military has denied opening fire on the convoys and alleges that the Ukrainian side is blocking evacuation efforts.
An evacuation appeared successful on Tuesday, with Vereshchuk saying 5,000 civilians, including 1,700 foreign students, had been taken out through a secure corridor from Sumy, a crowded northeastern city with a quarter of a million people, where overnight strikes killed 21 people, including two children.
Natalia Mudrenko, the most senior woman at the United Nations Mission to Ukraine, told the Security Council that the people of Mariupol were “effectively held hostage” by the siege. Her voice trembled with emotion as she described how a 6-year-old died shortly after her mother was killed by Russian shelling. “She was lonely in the last moments of her life,” she said.
Authorities in Mariupol planned to start digging mass graves for all the dead. The shelling left buildings in ruins, and the city had no water, heat, functioning sewage system, or telephone service.
Theft has become common for food, clothing, and even furniture, with locals calling the practice “discounted”. Some inhabitants are reduced to draw water from streams.
During a power outage, many people are relying on car radios for information, receiving news from stations from areas controlled by Russian forces or from Russian-backed separatists.
Ludmila Amelkina, who was walking along an alley strewn with rubble and walls riddled with gunfire, said the devastation was appalling.
“We have no electricity, we have nothing to eat, we have no medicine. We have nothing,” she said, looking up at the sky.
Chernov reports from Mariupol. Associated Press reporters from around the world contributed to this report.
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