Kharkiv, Ukraine (AP) – Ukrainian forces saturday killer To halt a Russian advance in the south and east of their country, where the Kremlin seeks control of the Donbass industrial zone, Western military analysts said Moscow’s offensive was much slower than planned.
The United Nations continued to try to broker the evacuation of civilians from the infernal ruins of Mariupol, a southern port city that Russia has sought to capture since it invaded Ukraine more than nine weeks ago.
Mayor Vadim Boychenko said Friday that citizens are “begging to be rescued” from a steel plant that has become Mariupol’s last defensive stronghold. “There, it is not a matter of days. It is a matter of hours.” An estimated 2,000 fighters are holed up in the factory, along with about 1,000 civilians.
Two Ukrainian women, whose husbands are members of the Azov Regiment of the Ukrainian National Guard, said that they It is feared that the soldiers will be tortured And he would be killed if the Russians left him and their families. They requested a Dunkirk-style mission to evacuate fighters, in reference to the World War II operation launched to rescue besieged Allied forces in northern France.
“We can do this extraction … which will save our soldiers, civilians and children,” Katerina Prokopenko, 27, told The Associated Press. “We need to do this now, because people – every hour, every second – are dying.”
In other developments:
– Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in an interview that Russian and Ukrainian negotiators talk “almost every day.” But he told Xinhua that “the progress has not been easy.”
– a Ex-US marines killed His family said that while fighting alongside Ukrainian forces, in what would be the first known death of an American in the war. The United States did not confirm the news.
– The mayor of the town of Popasna in eastern Ukraine, Nikolai Khanatov, said that two buses heading there to evacuate residents came under fire, and contact with the drivers was lost.
The Russian Air Defense Forces spotted a Ukrainian military plane over the Russian Bryansk region and tried to repel the planes. District Governor Alexandre Bogomaz said two shells hit a village. No one was hurt, Bogomaz said, but some damage to an oil port.
Getting a complete picture of the battle going on in the east was difficult because the air strikes and artillery shelling made the movement of journalists too dangerous. Both Ukraine and Moscow-backed rebels fighting in the east have also tightly restricted reporting from the combat zone.
Numerically, the Russian military manpower greatly exceeds the workforce in Ukraine. In the days before the start of the war, Western intelligence estimated that Russia was stationed near the border with as many as 190,000 soldiers. The standing Ukrainian army numbered about 200,000, spread across the country.
But so far, Russian and separatist forces appear to have made only small gains in Donbass in the month since Moscow said it would concentrate its military force in eastern Ukraine.
A senior US defense official who spoke on the condition said the US believed the Russians were “at least several days behind where they want to be,” in part because of the insistence of the Ukrainian resistance, as they try to encircle Ukrainian forces in the east. Anonymity to discuss the US military’s assessment.
Britain’s Ministry of Defense made a similar assessment in its daily assessment of the war, saying it believed Russian forces in Ukraine likely suffered from “low morale”, coupled with a lack of unit-level skills and “inconsistent air support”. It did not state on what basis the evaluation was conducted.
Despite the nature of the battle on a village-by-village basis to gain ground in the Donbass, the promised Russian offensive could still come true. Overall, the Russian Army has an estimated 900,000 personnel on active duty. Russia also has a much larger air and naval power than Ukraine and possesses tactical nuclear weapons.
In Mariupol, it is believed that about 100,000 people remain in the city with little food, water and medicine. UN spokesman Farhan Haq said the organization was negotiating with authorities in Moscow and Kiev to create conditions for safe passage.
Ukraine has blamed the failure of several previous evacuation attempts on continued Russian bombing.
For those working in the Soviet-era Azovstal steel mill, an extensive network of tunnels and underground bunkers provided safety from air strikes. But the mayor said the situation became more dangerous after the Russians threw “bunker busters” and other bombs at the factory.
Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov told the Saudi-owned Al Arabiya TV that the real problem was “the disregard of humanitarian corridors by extremist Ukrainian citizens.”
Moscow has repeatedly claimed that right-wing Ukrainians have thwarted evacuation efforts and used civilians as human shields. Claims have not been verified.
The Azov Battalion that helps defend the steel mill has its roots in the Azov Battalion, formed in 2014 by far-right activists at the start of the separatist conflict in eastern Ukraine.
In other comments published by Xinhua on Saturday, Lavrov said Russia has evacuated more than one million people from Ukraine since the war began, including more than 300 Chinese civilians.
The foreign minister did not provide any evidence to support his claims in the interview. Ukraine accused Moscow of forcibly sending Ukrainians out of the country.
Lavrov also partially blamed the lack of progress in discussions to end the war on “hostile rhetoric and inflammatory actions by Western supporters of the Kyiv regime”. At night, Russian state television shows guests suggesting that Moscow use nuclear weapons in the conflict.
In his nightly video address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky accused Russia of trying to destroy the Donbass and everyone who lives there.
He said the ongoing attacks “show that Russia wants to empty this land of all people”.
“If the Russian invaders are able to even partially implement their plans, they will have enough artillery and aircraft to turn the entire Donbass into stone, as they did with Mariupol,” said Zelensky.
In a neighborhood on the outskirts of Kharkiv that is regularly bombarded by Russian forces, some residents remained in their apartments even though the buildings were charred in crevices. There is no running water or electricity, so they congregate outside to cook on open flames.
Ukrainian reservists based in a living basement said the Russians bombed the buildings with rockets, artillery, and tank fire.
The tank could come from a short distance and fire all its ammunition into residential areas. It doesn’t matter where. Said Vladislav, who, like the others in the unit, only mentioned his first name.
Another reserve soldier, called Malesh, expressed frustration that he was unable to do more to stop the Russian advance.
“I took up the gun,” he said, “but unfortunately I can’t pick up the flying missiles with my bare hands and bring them back.”
In the nearby village of Ruska Lozava, hundreds of people were evacuated after Ukrainian forces recaptured the city from Russian occupiers, according to the region’s governor. Those who fled to Kharkiv spoke of squalid conditions under the Russians, with little water or food and no electricity.
“We were hiding in the basement. It was horror. The basement was shaking from the explosions. We were screaming, crying and praying to God,” said resident Ludmila Pocharnikova.
Associated Press reporters John Gambrel and Juras Karmanau in Lviv, Mstislav Chernov in Kharkiv, Jesica Fisch in Sloviansk, Lolita C. Baldur in Washington, and AP staff around the world contributed to this report.
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