(Lviv) ‘Hundreds’ of people were still under the rubble of a theater bombarded by Russian forces in Mariupol, southeastern Ukraine, on Friday, according to the Ukrainian president, and Russian missiles hit the surroundings of Lviv, a large city in the West that has been spared so far.
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.
Two days after the bombing of a theater in Mariupol, Volodymyr Zelensky announced that “more than 130 people were able to be saved”. “But hundreds of residents of Mariupol are still under the rubble,” he added in a video, even as the Russian army announced that it was now fighting in the city center of this port on the sea. ‘Azov, besieged for days.
According to the Mariupol city council, the shelling caused at least one serious injury, but no deaths.
“Debris clearance continues to the extent possible and information on casualties will be completed,” the council said.
At the time of the attack, “up to a thousand people”, mainly “women, children and the elderly”, had taken refuge in this building, according to the same source.
The Russian army said on Friday that it had succeeded in entering the city and fighting there, alongside troops from the separatist “republic” of Donetsk. These troops “tighten their grip of encirclement and fight the nationalists in the center of the city”, affirmed in Moscow the spokesman of the Russian Ministry of Defense, Igor Konashenkov.
Taking Mariupol would be an important turning point in the conflict and would allow Russia to ensure territorial continuity between its forces coming from annexed Crimea (south) and the troops from Donbass (east).
The Ukrainian authorities on Wednesday accused the Russian air force of having “knowingly” bombed the Mariupol theater, which Russia denied.
Missiles against Lviv
Near Lviv, hundreds of kilometers to the west, “missiles hit the airport district”, wrote on Facebook Andriy Sadovy, mayor of this large city located near the Polish border, hitherto spared by fighting.
“It’s a strike on the city of Lviv, a humanitarian hub where there are more than 200,000 displaced people”, and it shows “that they are fighting not against soldiers but against the population”, affirmed Maksym Kozytsky, the regional governor of Lviv, reporting a slight injury.
“We have heard the alarm. We have been warned but […] we didn’t take shelter because we weren’t afraid of anything,” said Olga, 56. “At night, we pray for all our cities under vicious attack (by Russian President Vladimir) Putin. »
On Friday evening, the Russian Defense Ministry released a statement in which it said that “high-precision long-range weapons hit 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,” a doorman added. -word of the Russian army.
During his meeting with Joe Biden, the Chinese president assured that China and the United States have a responsibility to help world peace.
A conflict “is not in anyone’s interest”, he said, according to Chinese television. “The Ukrainian crisis is not something we wanted to see” happen.
Since the beginning of the Russian invasion on February 24, 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 on Thursday night gave up on holding a Security Council vote the next day on a war-related resolution. in Ukraine, for lack of support from its closest allies.
Mr Biden did not mince his words about Mr Putin, calling him a “thug” and a “bloody dictator” after calling him a “war criminal” the day before.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky again implored Westerners on Thursday to help “stop this war” as Russian strikes left at least 27 dead in the east of the country.
In addition to Mariupol, the bombardments also continue in Kyiv and Kharkiv, the country’s second largest city, in the northeast, where at least 500 people have been killed since the start of the war.
According to the Ukrainian emergency service, Russian fire hit “a higher education institution” and “two neighboring apartment buildings”, killing one person and injuring 11 in Kharkiv on Friday.
The capital, Kyiv, has been emptied of at least half of its 3.5 million inhabitants. According to the town hall, 222 people, including 60 civilians, have been killed in the city since the start of the invasion.
” Disinformation ”
No precise global assessment was provided, even if President Zelensky mentioned on March 12 the death of “about 1300” Ukrainian soldiers, while Moscow only reported nearly 500 dead in its ranks on March 2.
According to the count as of March 16 of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Ukraine consulted by AFP, at least 780 civilians – including 58 children – were killed in Ukraine and more than 1,250 injured . The OHCHR stresses that its figures are probably much lower than the reality.
At the UN headquarters in New York (United States), the six Western member countries of the Security Council denounced the use of this body by Moscow to disseminate “disinformation” and “propaganda”, before a tenth Council meeting since the invasion.
Three weeks after the start of its offensive, Moscow shows no sign of respite in its offensive and accuses Kyiv of “dragging” talks between the belligerents.
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 “are fighting, who are acting side by side during this military operation, and who, if necessary, cover their comrade with their bodies to cut off the trajectory of a “bullet”.
In a telephone interview with French President Emmanuel Macron, Mr. Putin accused Ukraine of “numerous war crimes”, assuring that the forces led by Moscow were doing “everything possible” to avoid civilian casualties.
Mr. Macron for his part expressed his “extreme concern” about the situation in Mariupol, for which he called for “concrete and verifiable measures to lift the siege, humanitarian access and an immediate ceasefire”, according to the French presidency.
Commenting on the exclusion of her country from the Council of Europe, the spokeswoman for Russian diplomacy, Maria Zakharova, also accused this body of being a “Russophobic” instrument at the service of Westerners, claiming to reject “tutoring of Brussels” in matters of human rights.
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.
Ukraine’s humanitarian needs are ‘increasingly urgent’, with more than 200,000 people without water in the Donetsk region alone and ‘serious shortages’ of food, water and medicine in towns such as Mariupol or Sumy, High Commissioner for Refugees spokesman Matthew Saltmarsh said on Friday.