Russian forces attacked military targets on the outskirts of the capital Kiev on Thursday with artillery and redoubled their siege on other cities in Ukraine, including Mariupol, where the situation is increasingly desperate, while the first meeting between foreign ministers of both countries since The beginning of the war ended without great advances.
Russian soldiers moved part of their armored vehicles to the northeast of Kiev, in their attempt to complete their operation to surround the Ukrainian capital.
This Thursday there were clashes in the town of Skybyna few hundred meters from the last checkpoint that marks the northeast limit of Kiev, while Ukrainian soldiers said that intense fighting took place to control the highway that leads to the city, the AFP news agency reported.
Half of the population of the country’s main city has already fled since the beginning of the Russian incursionon February 24, Mayor Vitali Klitschko reported Thursday.
The evacuation in other parts of the territory also advanced through the seven humanitarian corridors coordinated between the parties, such as the one in the Sumy region, in northwestern Ukraine, which allowed more than 12,000 civilians to flee in private cars or buses, reported the British newspaper The Guardian.
The big exception is the port city of Mariupol, where not a single person was able to leave the area.as declared by the Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk, amid crossed accusations between Kiev and Moscow of violating the security of the corridor.
Hundreds of thousands of people are trapped and have “begun to fight over food,” according to a Red Cross representative.
“All the shops and pharmacies were looted four or five days ago. Some people still have food, but I don’t know how long it will last,” Sasha Volkov said in an audio recording sent to the media.
“Many do not have water to drink (…). Many people say they don’t have food for the children either.”he continued.
Mariupol is the city where a children’s hospital was bombed on Wednesday in an attack that left three dead, including a girl, the municipal government reported Thursday.
Ukrainian President Volodimir Zelenski described the attack as a “war crime” and showed videos of the destruction of this establishment, which housed a maternity area and a pediatric health center.
In the midst of international repudiation, the Russian Foreign Minister, Serguei Lavrov, questioned the Ukrainian version of the event and, according to his account, the building no longer functioned as a medical center but there was a base of “extremists” there.
“It was a base for a radical battalion,” said the head of Russian diplomacy at the end of a meeting in Turkey with his Ukrainian counterpart, Dmytro Kuleba.
That meeting, the first between the foreign ministers of Russia and Ukraine since the start of the war between the two countries, ended Thursday with little progress and crossed accusations, although with an agreement to continue the talks.
Kuleba said there had been no progress towards a ceasefire, adding that Moscow seemed determined to continue its offensive and seek a capitulation from Kiev, which it would not achieve.
“Ukraine does not give up. We will seek diplomatic solutions, but until we achieve them we will protect the people from Russian aggression,” he stressed at a press conference.
In the absence of agreements, the Kremlin later and unilaterally signaled that it will open daily humanitarian corridors to allow Ukrainians fleeing the fighting to reach its territorywhile Kiev asks for corridors that allow the evacuation of civilians within Ukraine.
In parallel, the rate of outflow of refugees fleeing Ukraine has accelerated in the last 24 hours, with more than 160,000 people crossing the border, bringing the total to more than 2.3 million, according to the latest balance of the UN.
Since the beginning of the Russian military operation, The United States and its NATO partners support Kiev but avoid getting directly involved in the conflict and, on the contrary, try to put pressure on Moscow with a battery of sanctions and economic retaliation.
In Russia, these measures are beginning to weigh on the population. The last foreign companies to leave the country were Japanese video game giants Sony and Nintendo. in addition to the Goldman Sachs merchant bank, the Western Union payment system and the Japanese clothing chain Uniqlo.
Russian President Vladimir Putin admitted Thursday that the sanctions imposed by Western powers are “creating certain problems and difficulties,” but explained that the country’s economy “is adapting to the new situation,” according to statements reproduced by the Sputnik news agency.
The president also warned that the sanctions may cause an increase in world inflation due to the rise in food prices since Russia will not be able to export enough fertilizers. For now, he clarified, the country will maintain all its hydrocarbon deliveries despite the conflict.