Ukraine renews efforts to evacuate Mariupol as food and water run out | Ukraine

Ukrainian authorities are making urgent new efforts to open a viable humanitarian corridor to the besieged southern port of Mariupol, as Russian air strikes have targeted cities in the west in dramatically expanding their campaign.

Hundreds of thousands of civilians are still trapped and under fire in Ukrainian cities, but the situation in Mariupol is especially dire. Ten days after Russia is besieged, its residents have no access to electricity or mobile phone networks, and water and food are running out.

Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister, Irina Verychuk, said in a video message that the authorities are once again trying to send vital supplies into the city and evacuate people to Zaporizhia in the interior of the country. Previous evacuation attempts failed after the targeting of aid and rescue convoys and fleeing families with Russian bombing.

Mariupol: The humanitarian crisis is worsening as Russia intensifies its bombing - video
Mariupol: The humanitarian crisis is worsening as Russia intensifies its bombing – video

“They have a clear order to take Mariupol hostage, to mock it, to bomb it and bomb it constantly,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his evening address to the nation on Thursday. He said the Russians started a tank attack where there was supposed to be a humanitarian corridor.

A few people who escaped reported bodies left in the streets and other victims buried in mass graves. On Friday, the regional military administration estimated that 1,207 people had been killed and more could be buried under the rubble.

The latest evacuation efforts came as Swiss Justice Minister Karin Keeler-Sutter warned that an escalation of the war in Ukraine could displace 15 million people.

In the United States, President Joe Biden announced that the G7 would rescind Russia’s “most favored nation” trade status and that the United States would impose a ban on Russian seafood, alcohol and diamonds, in recent economic steps to punish Moscow.

He also warned EU leaders that they would continue to put pressure on Russia by putting in place a new set of “enormous” sanctions.

French President Emmanuel Macron said at the conclusion of a two-day EU summit outside Paris that all options were on the table for a fourth set of coercive measures targeting Russia if Vladimir Putin ramped up his war effort.

Russian air strikes in the early hours of Friday hit two airfields in the west of the country, Lutsk and Ivano-Frankivsk, both far from the current front lines, as well as the eastern industrial city of Dnipro.

A US defense official said the Pentagon assessed the strikes were aimed at preventing Ukrainian forces from using the airports.

In another sign that the Russian military is continuing to escalate its campaign, new satellite imagery from Maxar Technologies shows that a 40-mile convoy approaching the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv has dispersed, with tanks and artillery moving into what appeared to be firing positions northwest of the city.

However, other assessments of the redeployment indicated that the moves might be defensive and that Russian forces were not yet ready to attack Kyiv.

Map of the Russian invasion of Ukraine

The Ukrainian military has warned that Russia is trying to “disrupt” Kyiv by striking its defenses to the west and north of the capital as the city prepares for a new offensive in the coming days.

The mayor of Kyiv, Vitaly Klitschko, said that about two million people, half the population of the metropolitan area, have left the capital, as preparations for its defense continue.

He said, “Every street and every house is fortified.” “Even people who have never intended to change their clothes in their lives are now in uniform with machine guns in their hands.”

In other developments on Friday, Russia presented baseless allegations of a biological weapons plot orchestrated by the United States in Ukraine before the United Nations Security Council, and the Syrian army began recruiting troops from its ranks to fight alongside Russian forces, promising to pay $3,000 a month.

Yulia, who fled Mariupol on March 3, told AFP that her mother-in-law was unable to leave and could only make contact by making a “really dangerous” trip to a tower far from her home.

“She said she is fine, but the attacks don’t stop,” the 29-year-old teacher told the news agency. There are a lot of corpses in the streets and no one is burying them. They lie there for days. Sometimes the utility services round them up and bury them all together in one huge grave.”

Kharkiv metro station, Ukraine. Photo: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

The city’s mayor, Ihor Terekov, said that the city of Kharkiv has been subjected to relentless bombardment by Russian forces, reporting that 48 of the city’s schools have been destroyed.

Stephen Cornish, head of MSF’s office in Switzerland, told AFP that Ukraine was “already heading towards an unimaginable tragedy”.

“As we see, not only in Mariupol, but with reliable reports from Kharkiv, Dnipro and other regions, not every effort is being made to spare civilians,” Cornish said.

A UN spokesperson said there were credible reports of Russian use of cluster munitions, including in populated areas. UN spokeswoman Liz Throssell told reporters in Geneva that the indiscriminate use of cluster munitions may amount to war crimes.

Kharkiv residents take shelter from attacks at Kharkiv metro station.
Kharkiv residents take shelter from attacks at Kharkiv metro station. Photo: Emre Kaylac/AFP/Getty

Cluster bombs, which scatter submunitions over a wide area, are banned by more than 100 countries because they lack accuracy. Even governments like Russia, which has not signed the International Munitions Treaty, remain bound by international humanitarian law.

“We remind the Russian authorities that directing attacks against civilians and civilian objects, as well as the so-called shelling of areas in towns and villages and other forms of indiscriminate attacks, are prohibited under international law and may amount to war crimes,” Throssell said.

‘There is only one aggressor here’: US-Russia barbs at UN Security Council – video

The escalating reports of civilian atrocities came as the United Nations Security Council met at Russia’s request to discuss Moscow’s unfounded claim that US-backed laboratories in Ukraine are working on custom-made biological weapons to target Russians. Zelensky warned that Russia’s accusations of “biological weapons” are a bad sign.

“It is alleged that we are preparing for a chemical attack,” he said. “It makes me really worried, because we have been convinced over and over again: if you want to know Russia’s plans, see what Russia is accusing others of.”