Ukraine launched ‘essentially life-saving’ rescue mission
Following the announcement of a Russian ceasefire, Kyiv said on Thursday it was sending dozens of buses to evacuate residents of the besieged city of Mariupol, while the World Red Cross said it was ready to carry out the “desperately vital” operation.
More than a month after Russia invaded Ukraine, Vladimir Putin’s army repeatedly bombed places like Mariupol, killing at least 5,000 people in the port city alone. They were, however, unable to take control of a large region.
Western intelligence operatives say Putin is being misled by advisers ‘afraid to tell him the truth’ about military casualties or the devastating effects of sanctions on the country’s economy, pointing to Russia’s understatement of the tenacious defense of Ukraine.
Moscow signaled this week that it would scale back strikes on kyiv and focus on the east, but Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky dismissed the pledges as false herring.
Russian soldiers continued to shell kyiv and the northern city of Chernigiv, where the region’s governor, Vicheslav Chaus, scoffed at Moscow’s claim that the conflict was defusing.
“The opponent is losing ground. It passes through the Chernigiv region. Can this be called a troop withdrawal? I am not sure. He is reorganizing at the very least, but it is also plausible that he is withdrawing. We must not let go of our watch, ”he sent a message on Telegram.
With thousands of Russian soldiers killed and several thousand more injured, military analysts say Moscow has no choice but to abandon plans to push simultaneously along many axes north, east and to the south.
Instead, it shifted its focus to the east, taking several towns in the Donbass region, including Mariupol, while continuing to launch long-range assaults on other towns.
– ‘Desperately vital’ –
Villages like Lukianivka bore the brunt of the Russian shelling around Kyiv.
A path of wreckage bears witness to the brutality with which Ukrainian forces fought to retake the small village a week ago.
While examining the ruins of a church in the village, Ukrainian army chaplain Nazarii Hahaliuk said it was strange given that both Ukraine and Russia practice the Orthodox Christian religion.
He said he “does not believe as a human or a priest” in Russia’s promise to reduce strikes on kyiv.
“I feel agony, tragedy and spiritual deterioration similar to that of someone who has been killed,” he said.
In the south, where tens of thousands of people have been besieged in heavily battered Mariupol without food, water or medicine, Ukrainian officials have attempted another rescue attempt.
Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said 45 buses were heading to the port city in a new evacuation operation, as Russia announced a ceasefire from 10:00 a.m. (0700 GMT ).
On Friday, the World Red Cross said it was “ready to carry out the safe crossing operation” provided all parties agreed on the criteria, which included route and length.
Previous attempts to agree a safe passage to get people out failed, but the ICRC said it was ‘essential’ that the next attempt succeeds.
According to Ukrainian mediator Lyudmyla Denisova, the ICRC relief depot near the town was hit by Russian planes and artillery.
Russian soldiers have surrounded Mariupol, a city vital to the Kremlin which wants to conquer it to establish an unbroken link between the de facto breakaway Russian-controlled areas of Donetsk and Luhansk.