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“It’s time to come together” | Zelensky warns that several generations of Russians could be affected

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(Kyiv) Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Saturday that it was time for Moscow to agree to “get together” to “discuss” peace seriously in order to avoid consequences for Russia “over several generations”, while Russian forces claimed to have entered Mariupol after several days of siege.

“Peace and security negotiations for Ukraine are Russia’s only chance to minimize the damage caused by its own mistakes,” Zelensky said. in a video posted on Facebook, filmed at night in a deserted street.

“It’s time to get together. It’s time to discuss. It is time to restore territorial integrity and justice for Ukraine,” pleaded the Head of State.

“Otherwise, he warned, the losses for Russia will be such that it will take several generations to recover from them”.

Several rounds of negotiations between Kyiv and Moscow have taken place in person and by videoconference since the Russian invasion of Ukraine launched on February 24. The latest, the fourth, opened on Monday at the level of delegations negotiating remotely.

The head of the Russian delegation spoke early Friday evening of a “rapprochement” of positions on the question of a neutral status for Ukraine – like Sweden and Austria – and progress on the demilitarization of the country. However, he noted “nuances” about the “security guarantees” demanded by Ukraine.

But a member of the Ukrainian delegation, the adviser to the presidency Mikhaïlo Podoliak, indicated that the “statements of the Russian side are only their requests for departure”.

“Our position has not changed: ceasefire, withdrawal of (Russian) troops and strong security guarantees with concrete formulas,” he tweeted.

Hotly contested Mariupol

Meanwhile, shelling and fighting rage across Ukraine, especially for the coveted city of Mariupol (southeast).

The Russian army said on Friday that it had succeeded in entering and fighting in the city center alongside troops from the separatist “republic” of Donetsk.

Taking Mariupol would be an important turning point in the war and would allow Russia to ensure territorial continuity between its forces coming from annexed Crimea (south) and the troops from Donbass (east).

Ukrainian authorities on Wednesday accused the Russian air force of having “knowingly” bombed the Mariupol theater, which Russia has denied.


PHOTO MAXAR TECHNOLOGIES, VIA REUTERS

A satellite image shows a plume of smoke billowing from buildings in Hostelel, Kyiv region.

“More than a thousand” people had taken refuge in an air-raid shelter under this building, mainly “women, children and the elderly”, according to the town hall of this port on the Sea of ​​Azov.

Mr. Zelensky said on Saturday that more than 130 survivors had been extricated from the rubble.

“Some unfortunately suffer from serious injuries. But, at this stage, we do not have information on the number of possible deaths, he said, adding that “relief operations are continuing”.

Fleeing the “hell” of Mariupol, Ukrainian families recounted the corpses lying in the streets for days, hunger, thirst and the biting cold of nights spent in cellars with sub-zero temperatures. “It’s no longer Mariupol, it’s hell,” said Tamara Kavunenko, 58. The Russians “fired so many rockets,” she adds, “the streets are littered with many corpses of civilians.”

According to the Ukrainian president, thanks to the humanitarian corridors set up in the country, more than 180,000 Ukrainians have been able to get away from the fighting, including more than 9,000 people from Mariupol.

“But the occupiers continue to block humanitarian aid, especially around sensitive areas. It’s a well-known tactic. […] It’s a war crime,” said Mr. Zelensky. Russia “will answer for that. 100%,” he insisted.

Since February 24, more than 3.2 million Ukrainians have taken the road to exile, nearly two-thirds of them to Poland, sometimes only a stage before continuing their exodus.

Humanitarian emergency

Humanitarian needs are “increasingly urgent”, with more than 200,000 people without water in the Donetsk region and “serious shortages” of food, water and medicine, Matthew Saltmarsh said on Friday. Spokesperson at the High Commissioner for Refugees.


PHOTO ANNA SZILAGYI, ASSOCIATED PRESS

A Ukrainian woman and her children are transported by a volunteer to a hostel in Budapest, Hungary

In addition, the Russian forces have further widened their fields of action by targeting with their missiles the outskirts of Lviv, a large city located near the Polish border, hitherto spared from the fighting.

“Missiles hit the airport district,” wrote Andriy Sadovy, its mayor, on Facebook.

“It’s a strike on the city of Lviv, a humanitarian hub where there are more than 200,000 displaced people,” said Maksym Kozytsky, regional governor of Lviv. This shows that the Russians are “fighting not against soldiers, but against the population”.

The Russian Ministry of Defense indicated on Friday evening that “high-precision long-range weapons (had) hit the Ukrainian military infrastructure” in Lviv.

“The strike destroyed the parking place of Ukrainian fighter jets at the Lviv Aircraft Repair Plant, as well as Ukrainian ammunition depots and military equipment in the suburbs of Nikolayev and Voznesensk,” added a Russian military spokesman.

As Westerners try to further increase pressure on Russia to end the war, US President Joe Biden held a nearly two-hour phone call with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping.

Mr. Biden “described the implications and consequences if China provides material support to Russia as it carries out a brutal attack on Ukrainian cities and civilians,” the White House said.

A conflict “is not in anyone’s interest”, said the Chinese president, according to Chinese television. “The Ukrainian crisis is not something we wanted to see” happen.

China under surveillance

Since the beginning of the Russian invasion, the Chinese communist regime, sharing with Russia a deep hostility towards the United States, has refrained from urging Vladimir Putin to withdraw his troops from Ukraine.

But China may have already begun to distance itself from Moscow, because, according to diplomats at the UN, Russia gave up on Thursday evening to hold a vote in the Security Council the next day on a resolution linked to the war in Ukraine, for lack of support from its closest allies.

The bombardments continued on Friday in Kyiv and Kharkiv (north-west), the second largest city in the country where at least 500 people have been killed since the start of the war.

The capital has been emptied of at least half of its 3.5 million inhabitants. According to the town hall, 222 people – including 60 civilians – were killed there.

No overall assessment has been provided at this stage. Mr. Zelensky mentioned on March 12 the death of “about 1,300” Ukrainian servicemen, while Moscow only reported nearly 500 dead in its ranks on March 2.

According to a March 16 tally from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Ukraine consulted by AFP, at least 780 civilians – including 58 children – have been killed in Ukraine and more than 1,250 injured. . He pointed out that this assessment was probably much lower than the reality.

President Putin celebrated on Friday, in the packed Luzhniki stadium in Moscow, the eight years of the annexation of Ukrainian Crimea.

To the sound of “Russia, Russia” chanted by the crowd, he hailed the “heroism” of Russian soldiers who “fight, who act during this military operation side by side”.

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