Invasion of Ukraine: Russia intensifies attacks in southern and eastern Ukraine: “They are destroying us”, says the mayor of Mariupol | International
Russia advances in its siege in the south and east of Ukraine. The forces sent by Vladimir Putin have intensified the bombing in the coastal areas and in the east of the country one week after the invasion launched by the Kremlin. The Russian army is besieging Mariupol, in the Sea of Azov, and has already entered the port city of Kherson, a strategic point at the mouth of the Dnipro River near the Black Sea, and is advancing towards Zaporiya, further inland and near where a major nuclear power plant is located. Information about whether Russia has taken full control of the city is contradictory. Its loss – it would be the first major city to fall under Russian control – would be a huge blow to Ukraine, not just economic. The capture of Kherson may give Putin another launching pad to attack Odessa, the other great city on the Black Sea, in whose waters a good number of Russian warships have been concentrated. He fears that they could launch an amphibious invasion operation from the waters he shares with three NATO countries (Turkey, Romania and Bulgaria).
Despite these advances, the Kremlin is meeting much stiffer resistance than it expected. Moscow also faces the practically unanimous condemnation of the attack by the international community, as staged on Wednesday by the United Nations General Assembly. The conflict has already generated a million refugees, as announced on Thursday by the UN itself.
Russia has already imposed controls on the city of Kherson, with some 290,000 inhabitants. Although the Ukrainian government denies that the invading army has conquered this town in the south of the country, with a port on the Black Sea, the mayor, Igor Kolyjayev, has acknowledged that Russian troops are already at the local government headquarters and are walking the streets of the location. "There are armed visitors at the City Hall headquarters," Kolyjayev said. "I have not made any promises to them, I have only asked them not to shoot anyone," added the mayor, who has called for the creation of a corridor to evacuate the wounded and the deceased and also to obtain food and essential goods in the besieged city.
A resident of the Ukrainian city quoted by the BBC has confirmed that Russian troops are inside Kherson. “We have some rules to follow. They agreed with our government that we should not provoke the Russian soldiers,” said this woman on condition of anonymity.
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Moscow defends that its troops have taken full control of the city. In a message broadcast this Thursday morning, the Ukrainian president, Volodímir Zelensky, assured that his forces were still fighting in Kherson. "We have broken the enemy's plans in a week." Some plans, Zelensky has said, that the Kremlin has taken "years to design". "They are petty, they hate our country and our people," said Zelensky, who has harshly criticized the Russian strategy of bombing civilian areas and besieging cities to force the country to give in.
“We don't have nuclear weapons, we don't have oil, but we have a nation, our people. We have nothing to lose. They want to erase us from the Earth, but we are firm”, Zelensky assured. “If they think we are afraid, they are wrong. They don't know anything about us. Russia has nothing to do on our land”, he added.
Putin's troops are also tightening their siege on Mariupol, with a population of 446,000, a geostrategic city on the Sea of Azov. “For seven days, they have been destroying basic infrastructure. We have no electricity, water or heating”, warned the mayor of the city, Bodin Boichenko. The Kremlin seeks to capture her to close a corridor from the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea, which Moscow illegally annexed in 2014, to Donbas. “They are cutting off food supplies, in a blockade reminiscent of Leningrad,” Boichenko said in a statement, referring to the battle in which Nazi Germany besieged the Soviet city, present-day Saint Petersburg.
Russian troops are also heading from Crimea to Mikolaiv, a city of half a million inhabitants. Military experts believe that Putin's intention in this offensive in this area is not only to capture the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, which would be catastrophic for Ukraine, but also to isolate the area from the rest of the country and prevent the passage of the Ukrainian forces and supplies.
Russia has bombed the city's electrical substations, cutting off supplies to facilitate the siege. It is a city with a strategic naval industry, northwest of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea, which Russia illegally annexed in 2014 and which the Kremlin has used as a launch pad in the invasion. The Russian Army, which had been attacking the town for several days, entered the city on Tuesday and continues with the siege. Mariupol is a prized piece for Putin. Taking it would allow it to facilitate the construction of a long-awaited corridor connecting Crimea and Donbas.
The Russian forces have not been able to advance towards Kiev, but in the early hours of this Thursday, around one in the morning, four loud explosions were heard in the center, while hours before another strong detonation damaged a pipe that could leave without heating to part of the capital. The Russian invasion has already caused the death of 2,000 civilians, according to the Ukrainian emergency services, in the largest attack on a European state since 1945. In the last 24 hours, 34 people have lost their lives in the city of Kharkov as a result of the harsh attacks, as reported by these same sources on Thursday. The UN on Wednesday put the fatalities at 227, although it warned that the numbers could be "underestimated."
Ever since an American geospatial intelligence company published the images of a huge Russian convoy of more than 12 kilometers 60 kilometers from Kiev, it was expected that the fall of the capital was imminent. The Pentagon said Wednesday that the convoy was stopped for three reasons: the regrouping of Russian forces, logistical problems and Ukrainian resistance. British military intelligence has also assured this Thursday that progress is slow, "little progress". This situation is repeated, according to the same sources, in the cities of Kharkov, Mariupol and Chernígov, which British intelligence considers to be still under Ukrainian control.
"The large Russian column headed for Kiev is still 30 kilometers from the city center and has been delayed by strong Ukrainian resistance, mechanical problems and congestion," say British defense sources. This means that the convoy has barely made any progress in the last three days. "Although the Russian bombardment of Kharkov, Mariupol and Chernigov has been very heavy, the cities are still under Ukrainian rule and despite the fact that Russian troops have entered Kherson, the military situation is still unclear."
The United States has called on Russia to "immediately" stop "bloodshed" and withdraw troops from Ukraine. In addition, he has accused Moscow of launching an "all-out war on press freedom and truth" by blocking independent media outlets and social media to prevent Russians from hearing news of the invasion.
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