Ukraine sees the revelations as Russia focuses on the blockade of Mariupol

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) – Residents of the besieged southeastern coast of Ukraine on Sunday awaited a possible evacuation as the country’s president said Russia’s obsession with capturing a key port city had weakened it and created opportunities for its military.

Two powerful explosions erupted in Odessa on the Black Sea early Sunday, and black smoke rose over the city, Ukraine’s largest port, home to its navy headquarters.

“Odessa was attacked from the air. Some missiles were shot down by air defenses, ”a brief statement from the city executive committee’s Telegram news program said. It reported fires in some areas, but did not specify what happened as a result of the attack.

When Mariupol east of Odessa is in Russian sights, Ukraine insists it has gained ground elsewhere, leading to troops regaining territory north of the capital Kiev when Russian troops withdrew.

“Ukraine has gained invaluable time, time that allows us to thwart enemy tactics and weaken its capabilities,” said President Vladimir Zelensky on Saturday night.

However, inside Mariupol, surrounded by Russian forces for more than a month and brutally subjected to some of the worst attacks of the war, conditions remain difficult and the prospects for escape uncertain.

It is estimated that about 100,000 people remain in the city on the Sea of ​​Azov, less than a quarter of its pre-war population of 430,000, and there is a serious shortage of water, food, fuel and medicine.

Many still in Mariupol are waiting for the fulfillment of promises that will help them reach security. Among those trying to evacuate residents was the International Committee of the Red Cross, which has yet to reach the city on Saturday, a day after local authorities said it had been blocked by Russian troops.

Some residents fled on their own, including Tamil Mazurenko, who reached Zaporozhye, a city still under Ukrainian control that served as a hub for other evacuations.

Sketch video on youtube

“I only have one question: why?” She said of the trials of her city. “Our normal life has been destroyed. And we lost everything. I don’t have a job, I can’t find my son. ”

Mariupol is located in the predominantly Russian-speaking Donbass, where Moscow-backed separatists have fought Ukrainian troops for eight years. His capture will create an intact land corridor from Russia to Crimea, which Moscow seized from Ukraine in 2014.

As Ukrainian troops moved cautiously to retake territory north of Kiev, the country and its Western allies said Russia was stepping up power in eastern Ukraine. Where Russian troops are retreating, Ukraine has said it will continue its attacks, shelling and targeting them if they withdraw.

“Peace will not be the result of any decisions that the enemy makes somewhere in Moscow. No need to rejoice in vain hopes that they will simply leave our land. We can have peace only by fighting, ”Zielenski said.

Although the geography of the battlefield has changed, for many Ukrainians little has changed in more than five weeks in the war, which claimed more than 4 million people. fleeing the country as refugees.

Zelensky claimed that as Russian troops moved, they left mines around their homes, abandoned equipment and even the bodies of the dead. These allegations could not be verified independently, but the Ukrainian military heeded the warning.

In Bucha, northwest of Kyiv, Associated Press reporters watched as Ukrainian soldiers backed by a column of tanks and other armored vehicles used ropes to pull bodies off the street from afar, fearing they might be killed. Locals said the dead – the AP counted at least six – were civilians killed without provocation by Russian soldiers who took place.

In the cities around Kiev, signs of fierce fighting were everywhere after the Russian redeployment. Destroyed armored vehicles of both armies lay in the streets and fields along with scattered military equipment.

Ukrainian troops stationed at the entrance to Antonov Airport in the suburbs of Gostomel, demonstrating control of the runway that Russia tried to storm in the early days of the war.

Inside the Dream complex, one of the largest aircraft ever built lay destroyed under a hangar with holes from a February attack.

“The Russians could not do that, so they destroyed it,” said Alexander Merkushev, the mayor of neighboring Irpen.

The head of the Ukrainian delegation in talks with Russia said Moscow negotiators had unofficially agreed with much of the draft proposal, which was discussed during face-to-face talks in Istanbul this week, but no written confirmation was provided. However, David Arahamiya said on Ukrainian television that he hoped that the project was developed enough for the presidents of the two countries to meet and discuss it.

Even if there were glimpses of hope for Ukraine in some places, Zelensky said he expected cities where Russian troops were sent to withstand missile and missile strikes from afar, and fighting in the east would be intense. In his evening speech on Saturday, he urged his people to do their utmost to ensure the country’s survival, even by acting as simply as showing kindness to each other.

“When a nation defends itself in a war of annihilation, when it comes to the lives or deaths of millions, there are no unimportant things. … And everyone can contribute to the victory of all, ”the president said. “Some with weapons in their hands. Some on the job. And some warm words and help at the right time. Do everything possible for us to stand together in this war for our freedom, for our independence. ”


Karmanov reported from Lviv (Ukraine). Andrea Rosa of Irpen, Ukraine, and Associated Press reporters around the world contributed to this report.


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