(Kyiv) War is entering Kyiv: A commercial center in the Ukrainian capital was ravaged by a Russian bombardment that killed at least eight people, while the European Union on Monday called the devastation in the besieged city of Mariupol “ major war crime”.
At 26and day of the invasion of Ukraine decided by Russian President Vladimir Putin, the bombardments continue on many cities: Kyiv, Kharkiv, Mariupol, Odessa, Mykolaiv…
The capital’s mayor, Vitali Klitschko, announced a new curfew between 8 p.m. Monday (2 p.m. EDT) and 7 a.m. Wednesday (1 a.m. EDT). He called on residents to wear masks and not open windows, because of the pollution caused by the fires caused by the bombardments.
The Russians “did not make any major advances” on Sunday, but “are preparing to deploy more” artillery around the capital, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), an American think tank, pointed out. .
According to the British Ministry of Defence, the Russian army, attempting to encircle Kyiv, “stalled” to the northeast of the city and was “repelled by fierce Ukrainian resistance” to the northwest.
Late Sunday evening, a powerful Russian strike, presumably a missile, destroyed the huge “Retroville” shopping center in northwest Kyiv, shaking the entire city.
“My apartment swayed under the blast of the explosion, I thought the building was going to fall,” still surprised Vladimir, 76, while the emergency services searched for human remains in the rubble.
In the opinion of everyone on the site, this is the most violent attack on Kyiv since the start of the war.
The explosion was devastating, destroying the windows of the entire neighborhood and damaging a dozen buildings. Debris, destroyed vehicles and twisted scrap metal littered the scene for hundreds of meters, AFP noted.
Of a charred 10-storey building, only the concrete structure remains. These are “the offices of the shopping center, fortunately there was nobody”, explains a local resident.
Kyiv has been emptied of at least half of its 3.5 million inhabitants since the start of the invasion.
In the Donetsk region (east), at least one civilian was killed and two wounded in Avdiivka, a small industrial town bombarded by Russian artillery and aviation, according to Pavlo Kyrylenko, Ukrainian military chief in the region. “The bombardment continues,” he wrote on Telegram.
In Mariupol, a large port city in the south, mostly Russian-speaking, besieged and bombarded for weeks by the Russians, 350,000 inhabitants remain stuck in ruins strewn with corpses, lacking everything.
Moscow had asked the city’s defenders on Sunday to “lay down their arms”, but “there is no question of talking about surrender”, retorted Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk.
According to Mikhail Mizintsev, director of the Russian National Center for Defense Management, Moscow opened Monday morning “humanitarian corridors from Mariupol to the east, and in agreement with the Ukrainian side, to the west”.
But “the occupiers continue to behave like terrorists,” replied Iryna Vereshtchuk on Telegram. “They say they agree (to set up a) humanitarian corridor and in the morning they bombard the place of evacuation”.
According to local authorities, Russian soldiers forcibly transported a thousand residents to Russia, depriving them of their Ukrainian passports – a possible war crime.
Mme Vereshchuk also claims that “350 children will be forcibly taken to Russia”, asking the Russian authorities “why”.
Mariupol, a strategic target for the Russians, forms a land bridge between their forces in the Crimea to the southwest and the territories they control to the north and east.
According to the military administration of the Donetsk region, “more than 80% of the city’s infrastructure is damaged or destroyed”. The humanitarian situation there is “extremely serious”, according to the UN, with “a critical and life-threatening shortage of food, water and medicine”.
For the head of EU diplomacy, Josep Borrell, “what is happening in Mariupol is a major war crime. The indiscriminate bombardments are devastating the city and killing everyone”.
Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov praised on Facebook “the heroic defenders of Mariupol”, because “today Mariupol saves Kyiv, Dnipro (center) and Odessa” (south) by blocking the Russians.
But “the situation is very difficult” in the face of “a numerically very superior enemy and the threat of a ground invasion by the army” of Belarus, an ally of Moscow, he added.
Heavy Russian losses
Around 10 million Ukrainians have fled their homes, around a third of them abroad, mostly in Poland, according to the UN.
The Ukrainian army said Monday that the Russians lost 15,000 soldiers, while President Volodymyr Zelensky announced 1,300 Ukrainian soldiers killed on March 12 – figures impossible to verify. US intelligence sources quoted by the New York Times claim more than 7,000 Russians killed.
In the north, Sumy regional governor Dmytro Zhyvytsky reported an “ammonia leak” at a chemical plant, calling on residents to seek shelter in basements or low-rise buildings.
Around 3:45 a.m. EDT, Ukrainian rescuers tweeted that the crash, caused by shelling of unspecified origin, was “over.”
Moscow said on Sunday evening that “nationalists” had “mined” the plant’s ammonia and chlorine storage facilities “with the aim of massively poisoning the inhabitants”.
In the same region, the small town of Trostyanets, taken by the Russian army, is prey to abuses by the latter, denounced on Telegram the Ukrainian rights defender Lyudmyla Denysova.
“The occupiers are killing civilians, destroying civilian infrastructure and engaging in large-scale looting,” according to Mr.me Denysova, who noted at least eight civilian deaths, some of them shot dead by Russian snipers, and heavy shelling Sunday on residential neighborhoods.
Moscow castigates Biden
On the diplomatic front, President Zelensky said he was “ready for negotiations” with the Russian president, in an interview broadcast by CNN, because “without negotiations, we will not stop the war”.
In Brussels, EU foreign and defense ministers are meeting to discuss new sanctions against Moscow.
The EU should also approve the constitution of a force of 5,000 combatants and commit to an increase in its military expenditure – “part of the response” to the conflict, according to Josep Borrell.
On Telegram, the Ukrainian president called on the EU to cease all trade with Russia, in particular concerning “energy resources”.
The Kremlin, for its part, estimated that a potential European embargo on Russian oil would hit “everyone”.
The prices of Brent, the benchmark for oil in Europe, and of the American WTI jumped on Monday by more than 6%, exceeding 110 dollars a barrel.
The EU has already adopted several sets of sanctions against Moscow, massively targeting companies, banks, senior officials and oligarchs, and banning exports to Russia. Russian gas and oil have so far been spared, as Europeans are very dependent on Russian hydrocarbons.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kouleba also called on China on Monday to “play an important role” in finding a “political solution” to the conflict.
A new videoconference is scheduled for 11 a.m. EDT between American leaders Joe Biden, French Emmanuel Macron, British Boris Johnson, German Olaf Scholtz and Italian Mario Draghi.
Mr. Biden will travel to Warsaw on Friday to discuss the conflict with his Polish counterpart. The White House said Mr Biden would go to Belgium beforehand to meet NATO, G7 and EU leaders.
Russia on Monday summoned the US ambassador to Moscow and accused President Biden of driving Russian-US relations “to the brink” with his “unworthy” statements aimed at Vladimir Putin, whom he called of “war criminal”.
Amid an intensified crackdown in Russia since the Ukraine offensive, a Russian court on Monday banned US social media giants Facebook and Instagram for “extremist activity”. Moscow aims for total control of online information.