About 100,000 people are still trapped under Russian bombs in the besieged Mariupol. Ukraine has again called on the West to provide the country with offensive weapons on the eve of an extraordinary NATO summit in Brussels.
Nearly a month after the start of the Russian invasion, Moscow on Wednesday accused the United States of obstructing “difficult” Russian-Ukrainian negotiations. Russia on Monday ignored Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s proposal to meet with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to reach “compromises”, including on the occupied territories of Crimea and the Donbass.
Pending a possible breakthrough in the negotiations, ‘almost 100,000 people in inhumane conditions’ are still trapped in the ruins of the great city of Mariupol, ‘under total siege, without food, water, medicine, under constant bombardment,’ warned Mr. Zelensky i. A video released at dawn Wednesday.
The Ukrainian president continues to appeal to the parliaments of the Western camp before a weekend of high diplomatic activity: Thursday, a month to the day after the outbreak of the Russian invasion, Westerners will meet in Brussels for NATO, G7 and European Union summits.
The key is “new sanctions against Russia,” according to Jake Sullivan, national security adviser to US President Joe Biden.
The chief of staff of the Ukrainian presidency on Wednesday called on Westerners to deliver “offensive weapons”, a “deterrent” against Moscow, on the eve of the NATO summit, which Volodymyr Zelensky will address at a video conference.
Joe Biden, who travels to Europe on Wednesday, will also “work with the Allies on long-term adjustments” regarding NATO’s presence in Eastern Europe, said Mr. Sullivan. After attending the three summits, he travels to Poland on Friday, the country that hosts the majority of the 3.5 million Ukrainian refugees.
Exclude Russia from G20?
Will Russia be excluded from certain international institutions? “On the issue of the G20, I just want to say this: we believe that Russia can not act as if nothing has happened in international institutions and in the international community,” Sullivan said.
China on Wednesday spoke out against excluding Russia from the next summit for this huge group of industrialized and emerging countries.
Mariupol, a predominantly Russian-speaking port city strategically located between Crimea, occupied by Moscow since 2014, and the separatist area of Donetsk, has been bombed for weeks by Russians. It was hit on Tuesday by two “super-powered bombs”, according to the municipality, which did not release a report.
Satellite images taken Tuesday morning by the US company Maxar and distributed to AFP showed the destruction of residential areas, civilian infrastructure and factories.
Russian tanks rolled into the city, and a senior Pentagon official said Tuesday night that Russia’s strategy was now dependent on “long-range fire in the city center.”
Residents fleeing Mariupol described to the NGO Human Rights Watch ‘a freezing hell, with streets strewn with corpses and rubble from destroyed buildings’. According to the Telegram City Council, a total of nearly 45,000 residents of this city were able to be evacuated.
“It’s not war, it’s genocide,” Ukrainian State Attorney Iryna Venediktova told AFP on Tuesday because “war theaters have rules, principles. What we see in Mariupol (is) the complete absence of rules.”
President Zelensky on Tuesday night condemned the Russians’ capture of a humanitarian convoy. For the supply of food and medicine, unfortunately, all our attempts have been reduced to nothing by the Russian occupiers. With bombings or blatant terror, “he lamented.
The president of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Peter Maurer, arrived in Moscow on Wednesday to “continue humanitarian talks with the Russian authorities,” the Red Cross said in a statement.
At least 121 children have been killed and 167 others injured in Ukraine since the beginning of the Russian invasion, according to the Ukrainian Public Prosecutor’s Office.
The offensive is ‘stuck’
The Russian offensive “is deadlocked despite all the destruction it is causing day after day,” German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Wednesday.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres spoke on Tuesday against an “absurd” and “invincible” war. He assessed that “even if Mariupol fell, Ukraine could not be conquered city by city, street by street, house by house”.
However, in a speech to the Japanese parliament on Wednesday, the Ukrainian president condemned the function of the UN, which was unable to prevent the invasion, and called for radical reforms of this institution.
Russian forces continued to bomb other Ukrainian cities earlier this week: Kiev, Kharkiv, Mykolaiv, Cherniguiv …
In Kiev, where the curfew imposed Monday night ended Wednesday morning, at least four people were wounded in Russian shelling. The shelling hit a shopping mall, houses and residential buildings.
The people left in the city are awaiting, anxiously but resolutely, a possible attack from Russian troops. In the western, northern and eastern part of the capital, not a street corner, an alley or a crossroads, which is not cut off by a wall of sandbags or anti-tank barriers.
Following the attack on Sunday night by a Russian missile at an ultra-modern shopping mall in Kiev, where, according to Moscow, ammunition and artillery were camouflaged, the fear relates to spy drones or suicide bombers, as images on social networks that may reveal Ukrainian attitudes.
The bombings were particularly intense Tuesday in several locations around the capital, according to the region’s governor, Oleksandre Pavliuk.
In southern Ukraine, where Kherson, the only major Ukrainian city they control, is located, Russian forces are trying to advance west and the Black Sea, but are making no progress around Mykolaiv.
Kharkiv, the country’s second largest city, is surrounded by Russian forces on several sides and major axes, but is not surrounded. It was bombed 32 times on Tuesday, Regional Governor Oleg Synegoubov said.
The Ukrainians ‘are now, in some situations, on the offensive’, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told CNN, saying they are pushing the Russians ‘out of areas where (they) have been in the past’.
The latter is experiencing problems with logistics, supplies, coordination, command and communication, he later mentioned during a press briefing, ‘so there are many things they have not been successful with’.
The Americans thus suggest that a turning point is emerging in the conflict. A senior Pentagon official said Tuesday night that the Russians “for the first time” had fallen “just under 90% of their available combat power” gathered in Belarus and on the Russian-Ukrainian border.
The New York Times, which trusts Pentagon sources, explains, however, that the loss of 10% of an army’s military personnel (dead or wounded) greatly impedes its ability to fight.
According to Washington, Russia has intensified its air and naval operations in the country in recent days in the face of opposition from Ukrainian forces.
“What we are seeing is a desperate attempt by the Russians to regain momentum,” a senior Pentagon official noted earlier this week.
Americans worried about possible Chinese military and economic support for Russia ‘have not seen’ any military supplies from Beijing to Moscow since a call between Joe Biden and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping last Friday, Jake Sullivan noted on Tuesday night.