Russia steps up Kyiv strikes, civilians flee Mariupol

Published March 16, 2022
A man walks through the site of a blast targeted at the TV tower, as Russia's invasion of Ukraine continues, in Kyiv, Ukraine. — Reuters
A man walks through the site of a blast targeted at the TV tower, as Russia's invasion of Ukraine continues, in Kyiv, Ukraine. — Reuters

KYIV: Russia stepped up its bombardment of Kyiv on Tuesday, smashing apartments and a subway station, while civilians in 2,000 cars fled Mariupol along a humanitarian corridor in what was believed to be the biggest evacuation yet from the desperately besieged seaport.

On the diplomatic front, another round of talks began between Russia and Ukraine via video, and the leaders of three European Union countries including Poland, a Nato member on Ukraine’s doorstep planned a visit to the embattled capital in a bold show of support.

With the number of people driven from the country by the war eclipsing 3 million, large explosions thundered across Kyiv before dawn from what Ukrainian authorities said were artillery strikes, as Russia’s assault on the capital appeared to become more systematic and edged closer to the city centre.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said barrages hit four multi-story buildings in the city and killed dozens of people. The shelling ignited a huge fire in a 15-story apartment building and spurred a frantic rescue effort.

The strikes, carried out of the 20th day of Russia’s invasion, targeted a western district of Kyiv, disrupting a relative calm that returned after an initial advance by Moscow’s forces was stopped in the early days of the war.

The UN said close to 700 civilians have been confirmed killed, with the true figure probably much higher.

Fox News photographer Pierre Zakrzewski was killed when the vehicle he was traveling in was hit by fire on Monday on the outskirts of Kyiv, the network said. He was the second journalist killed in Ukraine in two days.

The leaders of Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovenia set out for Kyiv by train despite the security risks, in a visit EU officials said was not sanctioned by other members of the 27-nation bloc.

The aim of the visit is to express the European Unions unequivocal support for Ukraine and its freedom and independence, Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala said in a tweet.

He was joined by fellow Prime Ministers Janez Jansa of Slovenia and Mateusz Morawiecki of Poland, as well as Jaroslaw Kaczynski, Poland’s de facto leader.

The Ukrainian government said new aid and evacuation efforts would take place Tuesday along nine corridors around the country, including the Kyiv region. Many past attempts failed amid continued fighting.

One of the most desperate situations is in Mariupol, the southern city of 430,000 where officials say a weekslong siege has killed more than 2,300 people and left residents struggling for food, water, heat and medicine.

The Mariupol city council reported that 2,000 civilian cars had managed to leave along a humanitarian corridor that runs for more than 260 kilometres west to the city of Zaporizhzhia.

The city council said another 2,000 cars were waiting to leave along the route. It was not immediately clear if the number of departed vehicles given Tuesday included 160 cars that left the day before.

As for the latest round of talks, Ukrainian presidential aide Mykhailo Podolyak said they were discussing a ceasefire and Russian troops withdrawal from Ukraine.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Moscow would press its demands that Ukraine drop its bid to join Nato, adopt a neutral status and demilitarise.

Zelenskyy told European leaders gathered in London that his country realizes it can’t join Nato.

Published in Dawn, March 16th, 2022

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