Russia and Ukraine: Moscow takes control of Kherson and attacks on Kharkiv and Mariupol increase
Russian forces intensified their attacks on major Ukrainian cities, which they have been keeping under pressure for several days as part of the invasion ordered by President Vladimir Putin on February 24.
According to the United Nations, one million people have fled Ukraine in this week of conflict.
An official from the international organization asked that "weapons be silenced" so that humanitarian aid can enter the country for all the people who remain within its borders.
After several days of siege, Russian troops managed this Wednesday to take control of the city of Kherson, with 300,000 inhabitants and located in the south of the country.
Is about the first major Ukrainian city to be controlled by Moscow in this offense.
The information was initially announced by the Russian Defense Ministry and was later confirmed by the city's mayor, Igor Kolykhaev, in a message posted on his Facebook account.
Kolykhaev said that Russian troops are in control of the city and that there are currently no Ukrainian soldiers there, despite which the Ukrainian flag continues to fly in Kherson.
“I didn't make any promises to them. I have nothing to promise you. I am interested in the normal functioning of our city. I asked them not to shoot people and [les dije] that we have no Ukrainian forces here, only civilians," the mayor wrote, as reported by the BBC's Ukrainian service.
Kolykhaev stated that the Russians imposed a series of conditions to keep the Ukrainian flag raised, among which are:
- A curfew between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. that must be strictly observed.
- You can only go to the city during the afternoons.
- Pedestrians can only walk the streets alone or in the company of, at most, one other person. They must not provoke the Russian military and must stop immediately when required to do so.
- Vehicles transporting food, medicine and other products will be allowed to enter the city.
- Vehicles circulating in the city must do so at a minimum speed and must be ready to show what they are transporting.
The mayor stressed that he does not consider what he spoke with the Russians to be "formal negotiations".
Kherson is strategically located on the Dnieper River that runs through Ukraine from north to south and has a port with access to the Black Sea.
Control over Kherson may allow Moscow to "start strangling the logistics of the Ukrainians"according to Jack Watling, an expert at the Royal United Services Institute for Defense and Security Studies in London.
Bombing and air assault on Kharkiv
In the northeast of the country, this Wednesday the bombings continued on the besieged city of Kharkiv, the second largest in the country.
According to the mayor of that town, Ihor Terekhov, the Russian attacks have caused numerous victims among the civilian population.
The official told the BBC shells and cruise missiles were constantly hitting residential areas. For its part, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) says that one of its monitors was killed during the bombing of Kharkiv.
Russia also launched an air assault on the town and Russian paratroopers landed on it on Wednesday.
Russian missiles have hit police buildings, as well as the Security Service of Ukraine and Karazin National University. Images from Kharkiv show firefighters battling fires at the university building and police station after the impact.
The mayor said that the city is “partially surrounded” by the Russian armywhich the Ukrainian military “heroically” repelled.
An opera house, a concert hall and government offices were hit in the liberty square from Kharkiv.
“Almost a humanitarian catastrophe” in Mariupol
Located in southeastern Ukraine, the port city of Mariupol was subjected to more than 15 continuous hours of shelling by Russian forces on Wednesday, Deputy Mayor Serhiy Orlov told the BBC, who said the city is “close to suffering a humanitarian catastrophe”.
“The Russian army is working with all its weapons here: artillery, multiple rocket launch systems, planes, tactical rockets. They are trying to destroy the city,” Orlov said.
He said Russian forces are miles from the city on all sides and have launched attacks on key infrastructure, cutting off water and power supplies to parts of the city.
He said a densely populated residential district on the city's left bank was "almost totally destroyed."
“We cannot count the number of victims there, but we believe that at least hundreds of people are dead. We can't go in to retrieve the bodies. My father lives there, I can't locate him, I don't know if he is alive or dead, "he said.
Mariupol is a key strategic objective for Russia because seizing this city would allow Russian-backed separatist forces in eastern Ukraine to join forces with Russian troops in Crimea, the southern peninsula annexed by Russia in 2014.
Ukraine's military has so far held off Russian forces in key parts of the country, but increased aerial bombardment of cities has raised fears that Russia is changing tactics.
"The Ukrainian army is very brave and will continue to defend the city, but the style of the Russian army is like that of pirates: they don't fight with their troops, they just destroy entire districts," Orlov said.
They will investigate possible war crimes
More than 2,000 civilians have been killed since the start of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Ukrainian officials said Wednesday.
The figure was given by the Ukrainian embassy in Turkey, citing the State of Emergency Service of Ukraine.
Moscow, for its part, offered its casualty figures for the first time: 498 Russian soldiers killed and more than 1,597 wounded since the start of its operation against Ukraine, according to the Defense Ministry.
President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky has accused Russia of committing war crimes.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) will now investigate this possibility.
This Wednesday, the ICC prosecutor, Karim Khan, reported that, in a "preliminary examination" of the situation in Ukraine, his office "has already found a reasonable basis to believe that crimes within the jurisdiction of the court have been committed. and has identified potential cases that could be admissible.”
Khan had announced on Monday that he planned to seek authorization from the ICC presidency to open an investigation, but following a request by Britain and 38 other countries he can now launch the investigation immediately.
In a separate judicial process, the International Court of Justice, also based in The Hague, set for March 7 and 8 the hearings of a trial for a complaint filed by the Ukrainian government against Russia.
With this lawsuit, filed last Sunday, Kiev wants Moscow to be held accountable for justifying its military action on the basis of unsubstantiated accusations of alleged genocide in Ukraine.
Meanwhile, the United Nations General Assembly approved by 141 votes in favor, 35 abstentions and 5 votes against a resolution that condemns Russia for its aggression against Ukraine and demands the unconditional withdrawal of troops.
Despite receiving such broad support, the text is not binding.
The five countries that voted against were: Russia, Belarus, Syria, North Korea and Eritrea.
In addition, among the abstentions were those of four Latin American countries: Bolivia, Cuba, El Salvador and Nicaragua.
Twelve countries did not participate in the vote, including Venezuela, whose president, Nicolás Maduro, has supported Russia in its operation against Ukraine, but lost the right to vote at the UN for not paying maintenance fees.
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