Kyiv, Ukraine (AP) – Ukraine said it has retaken a strategically important suburb of Kyiv Early on Tuesday, Russian forces targeted other areas near the capital and their assault on the besieged southern port of Mariupol relentlessly raged.
Explosions and bursts of gunfire shook the city of Kyiv, and black smoke rose from a spot in the north. Intense artillery fire could be heard from the northwest, as Russia sought to encircle and capture several districts on the outskirts of the capital, a crucial objective.
Residents took shelter in their homes or underground under a 35-hour curfew imposed by city authorities that extends until Wednesday morning.
Russian forces also put pressure on their siege of Mariupol After the defenders of the southern port city rejected demands to surrender, fleeing civilians described constant bombardment and dead bodies in the streets. But the Kremlin’s ground offensive in other parts of the country progressed slowly or not at allwhich was undone by deadly hit-and-run attacks by the Ukrainians.
The Ukrainian Defense Ministry said that the Ukrainian forces forced the Russian forces in the early hours of Tuesday morning from the Makarev suburb of Kyiv after a fierce battle. The recaptured territory allowed Ukrainian forces to regain control of a major highway and prevented Russian forces from surrounding Kyiv from the northwest.
However, the Defense Ministry said that Russian forces were able to partially capture other suburbs in the northwest of the country, such as Bucha, Hostomil and Irben, some of which have been attacked almost since the Russian military invasion about a month ago.
The Russian invasion caused the displacement of more than 10 million people from their homes, a figure similar to the population of Portugal and nearly a quarter of Ukraine’s pre-war population, according to the United Nations. The United Nations confirmed the deaths of more than 900 civilians, while saying the real number may be much higher. Estimates of Russian military deaths vary, but even conservative numbers They are in the few thousands.
Besides the heavy casualties, the war shook the global security consensus after the Cold War and repeatedly raised concerns that it might cause a nuclear accident. Ukraine’s Minister of Natural Resources said that forest fires near the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in northern Ukraine have been extinguished and that radiation levels in the region are within standards. Fires are not uncommon in the area, but they do raise concerns about the possible release of radiation from the fallout from the 1986 explosion and fire at the plant.
Safety concerns have been expressed at the plant, which has been decommissioned since it was seized by Russian forces last month. Power was temporarily cut amid fighting earlier this month, and Ukraine’s nuclear watchdog said on Monday that radiation monitors around the plant had stopped working.
Facing unexpectedly stiff resistance, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s forces are increasingly focusing their air power and artillery on Ukrainian cities and the civilians who live there.
US and British officials say Kyiv remains Russia’s primary target. The bulk of Moscow’s forces remain within miles of the city center, but rockets and artillery destroyed apartment buildings and a large mall, leaving ruins after they struck it late Sunday with strikes that killed eight people, according to emergency officials.
A senior US defense official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the military’s assessment, said Russia has increased its sorties over the past two days, flying as many as 300 over a 24-hour period, and firing more than 1,100 missiles into Ukraine since the invasion began.
US President Joe Biden, who heads to Europe later in the week to meet allies, suggested Monday night that the worst may be yet to come.
“Putin is up against the wall,” Biden said. He did not expect the extent or strength of our unity. And the more he puts his back against the wall, the sharper the tactics he might use.”
Biden repeated the accusations That Putin is considering resorting to the use of chemical or biological weapons, though Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said on Tuesday that the United States had seen no evidence to suggest the use of such weapons was “imminent.”
As Russian forces try to put pressure on Kyiv, talks to end the video-fighting continued but failed to bridge the gap between the two sides. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told Ukrainian television late Monday that he would be willing to consider giving up any attempt by Ukraine to join NATO – a key Russian demand – in exchange for a ceasefire, withdrawal of Russian forces and a guarantee of Ukraine’s security.
Zelensky also suggested that Kyiv be open to future discussions on the status of Crimea, which Russia seized in 2014, and areas of the eastern Donbass region controlled by Russian-backed separatists. But he said that was a topic for another time.
As part of a series of letters to foreign legislatures to drum up support for Ukraine, Zelensky spoke to Italian lawmakers on Tuesday, telling them that the besieged port of Mariupol had been completely destroyed in the Russian attack. He also spoke to Pope Francis.
“Imagine Genoa being completely burnt out,” he said to anger lawmakers, citing an Italian port city of similar size. Mariupol officials said on March 15 that at least 2,300 people had been killed in the siege, and they have not provided any update since. Zelensky said 117 children have been killed in the war so far.
Some people have managed to escape from Mariupol, where weeks of Russian bombing have cut off electricity, water and food and cut off contact with the outside world.. The city council said on Tuesday that more than 1,100 people who had fled the besieged city were on their way in a convoy of buses to another city northwest of Mariupol.
But the Red Cross said a humanitarian convoy was trying to reach the besieged city with much-needed supplies still unable to enter.
Perched on the Sea of Azov, Mariupol is an important port of Ukraine and is located on an expanse of land between Russia and Crimea. As such, it is a major target that has been besieged for more than three weeks and has experienced some of the worst suffering of the war.
It is not clear how close to capture it was. On Tuesday, Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said its forces were still defending the city and destroyed a Russian patrol boat and an electronic warfare complex. The British Ministry of Defense said its intelligence showed that “Ukrainian forces continue to repel Russian attempts to occupy” the city.
Those who survived Mariupol told of a destroyed city.
“There are no more buildings there,” said 77-year-old Maria Fyodorova, who crossed the border into Poland on Monday after five days of travel.
A long line of vehicles stood on a road in Bizimeny, east of Mariupol, as residents sought refuge in a makeshift camp set up by Russian-backed separatists in the Donetsk region.
A woman who gave her name as Yulia said that she and her family sought shelter in Bizimini after bombing destroyed six homes behind her home.
“That’s why we got in the car, at our own risk, and left within 15 minutes because everything was destroyed there, and the bodies are lying around,” she said.
In all, more than 8000 people fled to safer areas Deputy Prime Minister Irina Vereshuk said the two were through humanitarian corridors, including about 3,000 from Mariupol.
Overall, more than 3.5 million people have fled Ukraine, while another 6.5 million have been displaced within the country.
Matthew Saltmarsh, a spokesperson for the UN refugee agency, described the speed and scale of people fleeing danger in Ukraine as “unprecedented in recent memory”.
Anna reported from Lviv, Ukraine. Associated Press writer Juras Karamanu in Lviv, and other AP journalists around the world contributed to this report.
Follow the AP’s coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine
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