By Reuters published by Channel NewsAsia plus BBC
London – The Kremlin said today (Mar. 5) that the West was behaving like a bandit by cutting economic relations over the conflict in Ukraine but that Russia was far too big to be isolated as the world was much larger than just the United States and Europe.
This verbal attack came just as an effort to evacuate civilians from the besieged city of Mariupol was suspended today after Ukraine said Russian forces violated a temporary ceasefire announced hours earlier.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that the West was engaged in “economic banditry” against Russia and that Moscow would respond. He did not specify what response there would be but said it would be in line with Russian interests.
“As you understand, there must be a corresponding response to economic banditry,” Peskov said.
“This does not mean Russia is isolated,” Peskov told reporters. “The world is too big for Europe and America to isolate a country, and even more so a country as big as Russia. There are many more countries in the world.”
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which it calls a “special military operation” aimed at disarming its neighbour, has triggered a barrage of sanctions and led to an exodus of big companies from the Russian market.
Peskov noted that channels for dialogue between Moscow and Washington still existed.
He said that if the United States imposed sanctions on Russia’s oil and gas exports then it would give a considerable jolt to world energy markets.
Asked about a law which President Vladimir Putin signed that stiffens punishments for discrediting the Russian armed forces, Peskov said such laws had to be obeyed.
The law was introduced urgently in an extraordinary situation, he said, because Russia was facing an unprecedented information war unleashed by the West.
Foreign companies, he said, would one day return to Russia, although some would find others had taken their places.
“Russia … has an interest in being attractive for investment. Yes, now is hardly a time when we can talk about being attractive for investment, but times change quickly,” Peskov said.
“A time of surging economic growth will replace this time. And a time when these same companies will again return to the market, and will be more than interested in catching up on what they’ve missed out on and restoring their positions.
“In some areas, we’ll really wait for them (the companies). In other places we’ll wait for them less as their places will be taken by companies from other countries.”
Russian forces continued to shell the Ukrainian city of Mariupol today, despite agreeing to a ceasefire just hours earlier – throwing an attempted mass evacuation of civilians into chaos.
“I’m right now in Mariupol, I’m on the street, I can hear shelling every three to five minutes,” said Alexander, a 44-year-old engineer and resident of the city.
The green corridor set up to get people out was not working, he said.
“I can see cars of people who tried to flee and they are coming back. It is chaos.”
Three hours after the ceasefire was supposed to begin, at 9 a.m. ( 2 p.m. in Thailand), Mariupol authorities announced they had postponed a planned mass evacuation because of the continued bombardment.
“We ask the people in Mariupol to head for the shelter, there will be more information on the evacuation asap,” a statement said.
“Due to the fact that the Russian side is not sticking to the ceasefire and continues to shoot Mariupol itself and the outskirts, the evacuation has been postponed.”
Mariupol, a port city of about 400,000 people, is a key strategic target for Russia because seizing it would allow Russian-backed separatist forces in eastern Ukraine to join forces with troops in Crimea, the southern peninsula annexed by Russia in 2014.
Russia has not commented on the renewed shelling, but its defence ministry said civilians had not used the escape routes from Mariupol and Volnovakha and accused Ukrainian authorities of preventing people from leaving, Russian state media said.
Maxim, a 27-year-old IT developer, sent the BBC videos from his Mariupol apartment building showing smoke from explosions near the city centre and he said smoke was rising from the highway to Zaporizhzhya – the planned ceasefire escape route.
“We can hear missiles and see smoke coming from buildings around us,” Maxim said. “Our apartment building is full of people now because everyone is fleeing the shelling into the city centre.
“Some people have come from the left bank district and they said it was a total disaster there and there were bodies in the streets.”
Family members of those trapped in the city said they feared their loved ones were not getting any up-to-date information about what was happening.
“I talked to my uncle Dmitri for less than a minute before the phone connection cut,” said Juliana Ivliova, 26.
“They didn’t know about the evacuation or green corridor. People who know about it and try to get out are being told to turn and get back to their houses.
“The city is still being shelled. I’m devastated, I’m like a robot, I’ve gone completely numb. When I heard the voice of my uncle on the phone I jus
Ukraine’s deputy prime minister, Iryna Vereschuk, also accused Russian forces of “shelling Volnovakha with heavy weapons” in a video posted to Telegram. She added that there was ongoing fighting on the route between Mariupol and Zaporizhzhia.
“I hereby state that Russia has violated this agreement, failed to fulfill its duty,” she said.
Her comments came ahead of a planned video conference briefing by Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to US senators today, as Congress considers a request for $10 billion in emergency funding for humanitarian aid and security needs.
On Friday, Zelenskyy lashed out at Nato for rejecting a no-fly zone above Ukraine, arguing the decision was giving Russia a “green light” to continue shelling his country.
Top: Zara said today (Mar. 5) it is closing its 502 stores in Russia. Photo: Getty Images and published by BBC
Insert: A residential building in Mariupol, which locals say was almost completely destroyed by Russian shelling. Photo: Reuters and published by BBC
Home Page: MSF has tweeted pictures of the destruction caused. Photo: MSF and published by BBC