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War in Ukraine, Day 42 | New US sanctions, call to evacuate the east of the country

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(Syeverodonets’k) The United States on Wednesday announced a new salvo of “devastating” sanctions against Russia, accused of war crimes, while Ukraine called on civilians to evacuate its eastern territory, now targeted priority of the Kremlin.

What you need to know

  • Kyiv calls on people in the east of the country to evacuate ‘now’;
  • The governor of Luhansk, one of the two provinces of Donbass, called on the inhabitants to leave the region;
  • Russian forces are still seeking to consolidate their positions on the coastal strip along the Sea of ​​Azov;
  • China conjures up ‘deeply disturbing’ images in Boutcha;
  • The EU will “sooner or later” have to take sanctions on Russian oil and gas, European Council President Charles Michel said on Wednesday;
  • The United States has announced that it will release additional security assistance to Ukraine of up to $100 million;
  • Volodymyr Zelensky on Tuesday urged the UN to act “immediately” in the face of “war crimes” committed by Russia;
  • An oil depot near Dnipro in eastern Ukraine was bombed and destroyed by the Russian army;
  • Explosions took place on Tuesday evening in the small town of Radekhiv, 70 kilometers from Lviv.

In video: situation in different sectors of Ukraine




Ces nouvelles mesures américaines, en réponse aux « atrocités » commises en Ukraine, interdisent « tout nouvel investissement » en Russie et vont appliquer les contraintes les plus sévères possibles aux grandes banques russes Sberbank et Alfa Bank, ainsi qu’à plusieurs importantes entreprises publiques. Elles visent également les filles du président russe Vladimir Poutine.

Elles devaient être décidées en coordination avec le G7 et l’Union européenne, pressée par Kyiv d’en faire plus contre Moscou, notamment en matière de sanctions énergétiques, un sujet qui divise l’UE, dont certains États membres sont très dépendants des livraisons russes.

Le Royaume-Uni a dans la foulée annoncé interdire tout investissement en Russie et des sanctions dans la finance et l’énergie.  

Le président du Conseil européen Charles Michel a estimé mercredi que l’UE devrait « tôt ou tard » prendre des sanctions sur le pétrole et le gaz russes.

« Nous ne pouvons tolérer aucune indécision après ce que nous avons traversé », a de son côté lancé le président ukrainien Volodymyr Zelensky, s’adressant au Parlement irlandais.

Il faisait allusion aux accusations portées contre la Russie d’exactions sur les populations civiles, notamment dans la ville de Boutcha, près de Kyiv. Mardi, il avait déjà lancé un appel passionné au Conseil de sécurité de l’ONU, sommé d’agir « immédiatement » face aux « crimes de guerre » dont il accuse Moscou.

M. Zelensky a notamment fait projeter aux diplomates des images dramatiques montrant, selon Kyiv, de nombreux cadavres des victimes civiles de violences filmées dans des localités récemment évacuées par l’armée russe.

Des accusations formellement rejetées par Moscou, Vladimir Poutine dénonçant mercredi une « provocation grossière et cynique » de l’Ukraine à Boutcha.

Mais l’Allemagne, très dépendante du gaz russe, a estimé que la thèse de Moscou d’une mise en scène ukrainienne n’était « pas tenable » au vu des photos satellites qui ont été diffusées.

Conditions

La Chine, très prudente sur le conflit, a de son côté évoqué des images « profondément dérangeantes », mais rappelé que « toute accusation » devait « être fondée sur des faits ».

Le pape François a fustigé « une cruauté toujours plus horrible (y compris) contre les civils, des femmes et des enfants ».  

Les autorités ukrainiennes affirment de leur côté redouter la découverte d’autres massacres et que celui de Boutcha ne soit « pas le pire ».

Sur le plan militaire, elles craignent également une offensive russe de grande envergure dans l’est, sur les zones qu’elles contrôlent près de la frontière russe.  

La vice-première ministre ukrainienne Iryna Verechtchouk a d’ailleurs appelé mercredi la population civile de ces régions, dont la grande ville de Kharkiv, à « évacuer […] now”, while there is time, on pain of “risking death”.

On the diplomatic level, Hungarian nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban, just re-elected and close to Vladimir Putin, announced on Wednesday that he had suggested to the Russian president to declare an “immediate ceasefire” and to go to Budapest for discussions. with the Ukrainian, French and German leaders. “He said yes, but with conditions,” he said without further details.

But the conflict shows no sign of abating, and NATO is due to address it again during a meeting Wednesday and Thursday in Brussels of foreign ministers from the Alliance’s member states.

“War can last a long time, several months or even years. And that is why we must also be prepared for a long journey, both in terms of supporting Ukraine, maintaining sanctions and strengthening our defenses,” his secretary opened. General Jens Stoltenberg.

NATO only intervenes militarily to defend its members when one of them is attacked or under UN mandate. Ukraine is not a member, but nothing prevents the thirty countries of the Alliance from providing assistance.

On the ground, Moscow is pursuing its new strategy: concentrating efforts on Donbass, the vast mining basin in eastern Ukraine partly in the hands of pro-Russian separatists since 2014.

“Surprise”

AFP journalists noted regular shelling on Wednesday morning in Severodonetsk, 100,000 inhabitants before the conflict, the easternmost city held by the Ukrainian army in the Donbass, very close to the front line.

AFP saw a building on fire while very few civilians were visible in the streets, running for cover as soon as the strikes resumed.

According to the regional governor, ten buildings, a shopping center and nearby garages were affected in total, which caused a major fire.

In Vougledar, a town of 15,000 people 50 kilometers southwest of Donetsk, two civilians were killed and five injured in the shelling of an aid distribution center, according to Donetsk region governor Pavlo Kirilenko.

A little further, Ukrainian forces were preparing to defend a road linking Izium, recently taken by Russian forces, to the neighboring cities of Sloviansk and Kramatorsk, the de facto capital of the east controlled by Kyiv.

Cluttered with anti-tank obstacles, the road is surrounded by trenches dug with bulldozers. Artillery pieces and other more or less buried armored vehicles dot the surroundings and the forest is full of shelters and other equipment.

“The Russians are busy, we know they are preparing to attack,” a senior officer told AFP, referring to an increase in Russian helicopter flights over the front.

” We are ready. […] We have prepared some surprises for them, ”added this veteran of the 2014 war, twice injured.

Ukrainian logistics are also targeted. According to the Russian Ministry of Defense, five fuel depots which supplied the Ukrainian forces in the regions of Kharkiv and Mykolaiv (south), as well as in Donbass and near Dnipro (east) were destroyed overnight by missiles .

Russian airstrikes hit 24 Ukrainian military sites in total, according to the ministry.

“My mother or my grandchildren”

Russian forces also continue to consolidate their positions on the coastal strip along the Sea of ​​Azov in southern Ukraine to connect the Donbass regions to the Crimean Peninsula, annexed by Moscow in 2014.

The fighting is still focused in particular on the large port city of Mariupol, whose mayor described the situation on Tuesday as having “passed the stage of a humanitarian disaster”.

Some 120,000 of its inhabitants are still stuck there, he said, and the evacuees, after a harrowing 200 kilometer journey, find themselves in reception centers in Zaporizhia, inland, where an ICRC convoy arrived on Wednesday with more than 500 refugees.

People who arrived before told AFP the hell of Mariupol, like Angela Berg, 55, who left everything in this city, including her mother, too old for the journey.

“A man armed with a submachine gun forced us to lie on the ground in front of our 12-storey building, on pieces of broken glass. Then they started shooting at it with tanks, the building caught fire. And the man with the submachine gun was shooting at people trying to get out. They didn’t let us collect anything until it was all burnt down”.

Worse, she explains that she had to abandon her mother and her invalid sister-in-law to save the rest of her family, including her sick three-month-old granddaughter. “It’s the hardest decision I’ve ever made. I had to choose between my mother and my grandchildren”.

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