(Kyiv) Ukraine on Monday refused the humanitarian corridors to Russia and Belarus offered by Moscow and is preparing for new offensives on several cities in the country, including Kyiv, after another night of heavy bombing.
The aggravation of the conflict, the increasingly harsh sanctions against Russia and the possibility of an embargo on Russian oil caused Monday morning a surge of fever on the international markets, with dizzying increases in oil and gas and a heavy fall in the stock markets in Asia as well as at the opening in Europe.
On the twelfth day of the Russian invasion, Moscow announced the establishment of local ceasefires and the opening of humanitarian corridors to allow the evacuation of civilians from several cities in Ukraine, including the capital Kyiv.
But half of these corridors join Russia or Belarus, from which the Russian army also entered Ukraine on February 24, and were immediately rejected by the Ukrainian government.
“This is not an acceptable option,” said Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk. Evacuated civilians “will not go to Belarus and then get on a plane and go to Russia”, she said.
According to the Russian army, the decision to open humanitarian corridors was taken after a “personal request” from French President Emmanuel Macron to his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin. The two leaders spoke for two hours on Sunday by telephone.
President Macron “obviously did not” ask for such corridors to Russia or Belarus, replied the Élysée. He first asks that “the Russian offensive stops” and insists on “the protection of civilians and the delivery of aid”, specified the French presidency.
The establishment of humanitarian corridors concerns Kyiv, but also Kharkiv (northeast), the country’s second city targeted overnight from Sunday to Monday by new bombings that hit a sports complex and residential buildings, as well as Mariupol, port strategic on the Sea of Azov (southeast), besieged by the Russian army, and Sumy (northeast).
Russian military spokesman Igor Konashenkov said local ceasefires to ensure evacuations did start at 7 a.m. GMT.
“Kyiv will hold! »
The fighting has temporarily decreased in intensity due to “enormous losses” on the Russian side, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said Monday morning on his Facebook page.
But “the occupiers are trying to concentrate their forces and resources for a new round of attacks”, he said. “In the first place Kyiv, Kharkiv, Cherniguiv (north) and Mykolayev (south)”, he specified.
Nine people were killed Sunday in the bombardment by the Russian army of Vinnytsia airport, some 200 km southwest of Kyiv.
The mayor of Gostomel, a city that hosts a military base northwest of Kyiv, was killed “while he was distributing bread and medicine to the sick, and comforting the wounded”, announced the town hall.
The Russian army has massed forces around Kyiv and will “probably try to take the city in the coming days”, said an adviser to the interior minister.
Ukrainian forces stand ready to destroy the last bridge linking Kyiv to its western hinterland to halt the advance of Russian tanks.
“The capital is preparing to defend itself”, launched the mayor of Kyiv and former boxing champion Vitali Klitschko on Telegram. “Kyiv will hold! Will fight back! Let’s dress together! Glory to Ukraine! “, he shouted.
Cherniguiv (north), where bombings had already killed 47 people on Thursday, was the target of artillery fire during the night and fighting broke out near it, according to the Ukrainian army. Mykolayev was targeted by Grad rocket launchers. Russian forces were also pouring into the Sumy area.
Missile fire near Odessa
That of Zhytomyr, 150 km west of Kyiv, was also shelled, with many houses destroyed. In the Kherson region, near Crimea, which the Russians have taken over, many villages are deprived of electricity, gas, water, food and medicine.
Russian missiles fired from the Black Sea also hit the village of Tuzly in the Odessa region on Monday, regional military spokesman Sergei Bratchouk said. According to him, the shots targeted “critical infrastructure sites”, but did not cause any injuries.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky also warned that Russia was preparing to bomb Odessa, a strategic port on the Black Sea.
Education Minister Sergiy Shkarlet said for his part that 211 schools had been damaged in the bombardments.
In addition, in Lugansk, controlled by Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, a strong explosion caused a fire on Monday in an oil depot, according to the Russian news agency Interfax.
A third round of negotiations between Russians and Ukrainians is scheduled for Monday, according to Kyiv. But hopes of success are slim, Russian President Vladimir Putin having set as a precondition for any dialogue Kyiv’s acceptance of all of Moscow’s demands, including the demilitarization of Ukraine and a neutral status for the country.
Two previous sessions of talks had been held on the Ukrainian-Belarusian border and then on the Polish-Belarusian border.
Sunday evening, during his interview with Emmanuel Macron, Mr. Putin affirmed that he “would achieve his objectives” in Ukraine “either by negotiation or by war”, according to the Elysée.
“Solid as a rock”
He also again “denied that his army is targeting civilians”, and reaffirmed that “the responsibility fell to the Ukrainians to let the population of the surrounded towns go”, according to the French presidency.
The worsening of the conflict and the near total halt to Russian exports continue to drive up oil prices. The barrel of Brent from the North Sea came close to 140 dollars, close to the absolute record.
The price of natural gas soared by 60% to more than 300 euros on the European market in the face of fears of disruptions in deliveries from Russia.
In the process, the Tokyo and Hong Kong stock markets fell by 2.94% and 3.87%. In Europe, they dropped 4% at the opening.
The surge in oil prices comes after US Foreign Minister Antony Blinken said on Sunday that the United States and the European Union are “very actively” discussing the possibility of banning imports of Russian oil.
Mr. Zelensky also called for this. But Germany, very dependent on Russian hydrocarbons, has declared itself opposed to an embargo on Russian gas, oil and coal, believing that the sanctions should be able to “hold over time”.
As Russia is increasingly isolated on the international scene, China assured it of its friendship, “solid as a rock”, and outlined “tremendous prospects for future cooperation”.
Russia was absent at the opening of hearings before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in a procedure initiated by Ukraine, which is asking the highest UN court to order Moscow to stop its military invasion.