By Yuras Karmanau, AP, published by Toronto Star, and The Korean Herald
Lviv, Ukraine – Russian forces will observe a temporary ceasefire today (Mar. 6) in two Ukrainian cities, an official in one of the country’s two pro-Russia separatist regions said after an agreement to allow civilians to evacuate collapsed a day earlier amid continued shelling.
Eduard Basurin, the head of the military in separatist-held Donetsk territory, said safe passage corridors for residents of the besieged port city of Mariupol and the city of Volnovakha would reopen today. He did not say for how long nor whether a ceasefire would accompany the evacuation.
Ukrainian officials confirmed that evacuations from Mariupol would take place starting from 12 p.m. local time. Pavlo Kyrylenko, head of the Donetsk regional military administration, said a ceasefire would be in effect between 10 a.m. and 9 p.m.
A promised ceasefire in Mariupol failed amid scenes of terror on Saturday. Ukrainian officials said the evacuation was aborted because the city remained under attack.
Russian President Vladimir Putin blamed Ukraine for the failure and warned that the country’s ongoing resistance since Russia invaded its ex-Soviet neighbour on Feb. 24 is putting the country’s future as a nation in jeopardy.
“If they continue to do what they are doing, they are calling into question the future of Ukrainian statehood,” the Russian leader said on Saturday. “And if this happens, it will be entirely on their conscience.”
Putin also hit out at Western sanctions that have crippled Russia’s economy and sent the value of its currency tumbling. likening it to “declaring war.”
With the Kremlin’s rhetoric growing fiercer and a reprieve from fighting dissolving, Russian troops continued to shell encircled cities and the number of Ukrainians forced from their country grew to 1.4 million.
By nighttime Saturday, Russian forces had intensified their shelling of Mariupol, while dropping powerful bombs on residential areas of Chernihiv, a city north of Kyiv, Ukrainian officials said.
Today’s evacuations were announced along with a third round of talks between Russia and Ukraine. Davyd Arakhamia, a member of the Ukrainian delegation, said the meeting would take place on Monday. He gave no additional details, including the location of the talks.
Previous meetings held in Belarus had led to a ceasefire agreement to create humanitarian corridors for the evacuation of children, women and older people from Ukrainian cities, where pharmacies have run bare, hundreds of thousands face food and water shortages, and the injured have been succumbing to their wounds.
Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boychenko said thousands of residents had gathered for safe passage out of the city of 430,000 on Saturday when shelling began and the evacuation was stopped. Later in the day, he said the attack had escalated further.
“The city is in a very, very difficult state of siege,” Boychenko told Ukrainian TV. “Relentless shelling of residential blocks is ongoing, airplanes have been dropping bombs on residential areas. The Russian occupants are using heavy artillery, including Grad multiple rocket launchers.”
Plans for today’s evacuation called for the route from Mariupol to extend to Zaporizhzhia, a city 227 kilometres (141 miles) away.
Russia has made significant advances in the south, seeking to cut off Ukraine’s access to the Sea of Avrov in the south. Capturing Mariupol could allow Russia to establish a land corridor to Crimea, which it annexed in 2014.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy urged Ukrainians in cities taken over by the Russian forces to resist.
“It is a special kind of heroism — to protest when your city is occupied,” Zelenskyy said Saturday night in his latest video address to the nation. “Ukrainians in all of our cities that the enemy has entered, go on the offensive! You should take to the streets! You should fight!”
In the southern port city of Kherson, a city of 300,000 where Russian troops took control this week, the soldiers were reported to have fired warning shots to disperse the crowd, but the protesters were unfazed.
Russian forces also had encircled Kharkiv, Mykolaiv, Chernihiv and Sumy, as of Saturday, while Ukrainian forces had managed to keep control of key cities in central and southeastern Ukraine, Zelenskyy said.
The head of the Chernihiv region said Russia dropped powerful bombs on residential areas of the city, which has a population of 290,000. Vyacheslav Chaus posted a photo online of what he said was an undetonated FAB-500, a 1,100-pound (500-kilogramme) bomb.
“Usually this weapon is used against military-industrial facilities and fortified structures,” Chaus said.
The West has broadly backed Ukraine, offering aid and weapons and slapping Russia with vast sanctions. But the fight itself has been left to Ukrainians, who have expressed a mixture of courageous resolve and despondency.
“Ukraine is bleeding,” Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said in a video released on Saturday, “but Ukraine has not fallen.”
Zelenskyy pleaded with US lawmakers Saturday for additional help, specifically fighter planes to help secure the skies over Ukraine, even as he insisted Russia was being defeated.
“We’re inflicting losses on the occupants they could not see in their worst nightmare,” Zelenskyy said.
Russian troops advanced on a third nuclear power plant, having already taken control of one of the four operating in the country and the closed plant in Chernobyl, Zelenskyy told the American lawmakers on Saturday.
The US Congress is considering a request for $10 billion in emergency funding for humanitarian aid and security needs. The UN said it would increase its humanitarian operations both inside and outside Ukraine, and the Security Council scheduled a meeting for Monday on the worsening situation.
US President Joe Biden called Zelenskyy early today, Kyiv time, to discuss Russia sanctions and speeding US assistance to Ukraine. The White House said the conversation also covered talks between Russia and Ukraine but did not give details.
The death toll of the conflict has been difficult to measure. The UN human rights office said at least 351 civilians have been confirmed killed since the Feb. 24 invasion, but the true number is probably much higher.
Ukraine’s military is vastly outmatched by Russia’s, but its professional and volunteer forces have fought back with fierce tenacity. Even in cities that have fallen, there were signs of resistance.
Onlookers in Chernihiv cheered as they watched a Russian military plane fall from the sky and crash, according to a video released by the Ukrainian government. In Kherson, hundreds of protesters waved blue and yellow Ukrainian flags and shouted, “Go home.”
A vast Russian armoured column threatening Ukraine’s capital remained stalled outside Kyiv. Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovich said in the afternoon that the military situation was quieter overall and Russian forces hadn’t “taken active actions since the morning.”
Meanwhile, The Korean Herald said today that South Korea decided to impose export controls against Belarus for “effectively supporting Russia’s invasion of Ukraine,” joining the US and other countries in implementing tough restrictions against Moscow’s strong ally.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that it would notify the US and related countries of its decision.
“The Korean government decided today to implement export controls against Belarus, based on the judgement that Belarus is effectively supporting Russia’s invasion of Ukraine,” the ministry said in a statement. “We will convey the decision to the US and related countries as soon as possible, while expanding the support and protection of South Korean companies and Korean nationals that could be affected by (the action).”
The export restriction, to take effect on Monday, will be similar to Seoul’s export control against Russia announced last week. Under the measure, South Korea will ban the export of strategic materials to Belarus and also include two entities, including the Belarusian Defence Ministry, on its export blacklist.
Strategic materials include items such as conventional weapons, goods and technologies that could make weapons of mass destruction and missiles, among others. These are materials that are listed under multilateral export control regimes, including the Missile Technology Control Regime, Wassenaar Arrangement, Nuclear Suppliers Group and Australia Group.
Top: Ukrainians crowd under a destroyed bridge as they try to flee crossing the Irpin river in the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, on Saturday, Mar. 5, 2022. Photo: AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti and published by Toronto Star
Insert: An elderly lady is assisted while crossing the Irpin river, under a bridge that was destroyed by a Russian airstrike, as civilians flee the town of Irpin, Ukraine, on Saturday, Mar. 5, 2022. Photo: AP /Vadim Ghirda and published by Toronto Star
Home Page: Displaced Ukrainians arrive at the Lviv train station in western Ukraine on Saturday, Mar. 5, 2022. Russian troops took control of the southern port city of Kherson this week. Although they have encircled Kharkiv, Mykolaiv, Chernihiv and Sumy, Ukrainian forces have managed to keep control of key cities in central and southeastern Ukraine, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Saturday. Photo: AP Photo/Bernat Armangue and published by Toronto Star