Fighting reaches the center of Mariupol and Ukraine loses control of the Sea of ​​Azov | International

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The Government of Ukraine lost access to the Sea of ​​Azov on Friday night after Russian troops strengthened their control over the main sea port, in the city of Mariupol, besieged and suffocated for more than two weeks by the Army of Vladimir Putin. “The invaders have been partially successful in the Donetsk operational district, temporarily depriving Ukraine of access to the Azov Sea,” the Ukrainian Defense Ministry said in a statement on Saturday. “There is nothing left of the city center. There is not a small piece of land that does not have signs of war”, the mayor of Mariupol, Vadym Boychenko, told the BBC hours before, who reported that the Russian troops had already reached the center of the city, in which more than 80% of residential buildings are damaged or destroyed and where the population is without water or electricity.

The enclave is an essential piece for Moscow to link the Crimean peninsula, illegally annexed in 2014, with the pro-Russian separatist zone of Donbas, in the east of the country. Russia warned on Friday that its forces were “tightening the noose” around battered Mariupol.

Street-to-street fighting in the center of Mariupol is preventing the rescue of the “hundreds of people” trapped in the air shelter installed in the basement of the city theater, which was brutally bombed by Russian troops last Wednesday. Boychenko has assured this Saturday in statements to the BBC that the rescue teams will only be able to continue removing debris and helping the survivors to get out if there is a pause in the fighting. “There are tanks, artillery shelling, and all kinds of weapons are being fired in the area,” he said after warning that the Ukrainian forces are doing everything possible to maintain their position, but that “the enemy forces” are, ” unfortunately”, more numerous than theirs.

Boychenko has not given an estimate of how many people they have managed to rescue in the last 24 hours from the ruins of the theater – used as a refuge by hundreds of Mariupol residents since the Russian military offensive intensified more than two weeks ago. On Friday, the authorities reported that 130 people had managed to get out and that more than 1,000 were still trapped in that basement, which resisted the attack. Moscow denies that its forces are targeting civilian targets. It also denies that they have carried out an airstrike on the Mariupol theater and blames the Ukrainian forces for blowing it up as a “bloody provocation”.

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The UK Ministry of Defense warned this Saturday that Russia “has been forced to change its operations and is now seeking a strategy of attrition. This will surely mean the indiscriminate use of force that will increase the number of civilian victims, the destruction of Ukrainian infrastructure and the intensification of the humanitarian crisis”, they point out in their intelligence report on the situation in the war in Ukraine. “The Kremlin has so far failed in its original goals. It has been shocked by the scale and ferocity of the Ukrainian resistance,” he says.

The body of a person killed as a result of attacks by Russian troops in the port city of Mariupol.ALEXANDER ERMOCHENKO (REUTERS)

Mariupol has become a symbol of Russian troops’ cruelty to civilians in Ukraine. According to municipal data, at least 350,000 residents (before the war, the city had about 450,000 inhabitants) continue to hide in warehouses and basements “before the continuous bombardment by the Russian occupation forces” who launch, on average, “from 50 to 100 aerial bombs per day”, while the Red Cross has been forced to leave the city. For the first time this week, some 30,000 civilians were evacuated. Its population has had to improvise fires in the street to cook and has buried the dead in mass graves due to the large number of deaths. The city has been one of the main targets of attacks by Russian soldiers for days, which on several occasions have prevented the promise of facilitating humanitarian corridors to allow the population to leave. The city was already the scene last week of an attack on a mother-child hospital.

offensive in the west

For days now, Russia has expanded its attacks to the western part of the country as well. This Saturday the Ministry of Defense has assured that it has used Russian Kinzhal hypersonic missiles to destroy a Ukrainian underground warehouse “containing missiles and aviation ammunition”, in Deliatin, in western Ukraine. The facilities, 108 kilometers from the border with Romania, a member of NATO, have been “destroyed”, according to the Russian defense spokesman, Igor Konashénkov.

This technology, which Russia has had since 2018, has the ability to avoid anti-aircraft defenses and is launched from a fighter. The hypersonic level reaches a speed of at least five times the speed of sound, more than 6,000 kilometers per hour. There are two types, gliders and cruisers. Both can be maneuvered to change their path in flight, and are virtually unstoppable at low flight.

This Friday, the objective was what until now had been one of the safest areas in Ukraine and the main passage for those fleeing the war. The Russian Army launched several missiles on the airport of the city of Lviv, 70 kilometers from Poland -a member country of NATO and the EU-, although without causing fatalities, in what was the first bombing in the main city of the west of the country since the war began and the first non-military target. The Lviv region itself had been the target of Russian missiles in recent days. Last Sunday, at least 35 people were killed in the attack on a military base in Yavoriv, ​​about 40 kilometers from Lviv, and on Friday last week another six people were killed in the bombing of an air base in Lutsk, 87 kilometers from Poland.

Lviv is the main transit point through which some three million people have fled the war as refugees to other countries. “This attack confirms that [los rusos] They are not at war with the Ukrainian Army, they are at war with the people, the women, the children, the refugees. There is nothing sacred for them”, denounced the head of the Lviv regional military administration, Maksym Kozytsky, who considered it “a blow” to a “humanitarian refuge”.

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