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Two Ukrainian military soldiers walk on the debris caused by Russian shelling in Kharkiv. 16 April. Alamy Stock Photo

Strikes leave five dead in Kharkiv, as Russian ultimatum to Mariupol ends

Zelenskyy has warned that peace talks with Moscow will be scrapped if the last Ukrainian troops in Mariupol are killed.

LAST UPDATE | 17 Apr 2022

A SERIES OF strikes in Ukraine’s second-largest city of Kharkiv in the north east of the war-scarred country left at least five dead and 13 injured, a regional health official said.

Maksym Khaustov, the head of the Kharkiv region’s health department confirmed the deaths following a series of strikes that AFP journalists on the scene said had ignited fires throughout the city and tore roofs from buildings hit in the attacks.

A Russian ultimatum for the last remaining Ukrainian forces in Mariupol to surrender expires today, with Moscow poised for a major strategic victory in the southeastern port city.

In Kyiv, renewed Russian air strikes hit an armaments factory, despite Moscow shifting its military focus to gaining control of the eastern Donbas region and forging a land corridor to already-annexed Crimea.

“During the night, high-precision, air-launched missiles destroyed an ammunitions factory near the settlement of Brovary, Kyiv region,” Russia’s defence ministry said, the third such air strike near the capital in as many days.

Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk urged Russian forces to allow evacuations from Mariupol, which Moscow’s forces claim to have brought under their control, though Ukrainian fighters remain holed up in the city’s fortress-like steelworks.

Moscow on Saturday issued an ultimatum to the fighters, urging them to lay down their arms by 6am Moscow time (4am Irish time) and to evacuate before 1pm.

Evacuations are paused

It comes as the evacuation of civilians from the war-scarred east of the country for a day after Kyiv and Russian forces failed to agree terms.

“As of this morning, April 17, we have not been able to agree with the occupiers on a ceasefire on the evacuation routes. That is why, unfortunately, we are not opening humanitarian corridors today,” Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk wrote in a statement on social media, referring to Moscow’s forces.

Ukrainian authorities have urged people in the eastern Donbas area to move west to escape a large-scale Russian offensive to capture its composite regions, Donetsk and Luhansk.

They have also recently accused Russian forces of targeting evacuation infrastructure, including busses and a train station in Kramatorsk where more than 50 people were reported killed in Russian strikes.


a-woman-walks-next-to-an-armoured-vehicle-of-pro-russian-troops-the-building-of-a-theatre-destroyed-in-the-course-of-ukraine-russia-conflict-in-the-southern-port-city-of-mariupol-ukraine-april-10-20 A woman walks between a destroyed theatre and an armoured vehicle of pro-Russian troops in Mariupol. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy warned that peace talks with Moscow will be scrapped if the last Ukrainian troops in the besieged port city of Mariupol are killed.

The fresh bloodshed in Ukraine’s capital and the mounting pressure on Mariupol came as Austria’s chancellor, the first European leader to meet with Vladimir Putin in person since the invasion began, said he thought the Russian president “believes he is winning the war”.

The attacks on Kyiv ended weeks of relative calm in the city.

Smoke rose from the Darnyrsky district in the southeast of the capital after what Moscow said were “high-precision long-range” strikes on an armaments plant, killing one person and wounding several others.

A heavy police and military presence was deployed around the factory, which was badly damaged.

“Our forces are doing everything possible to protect us, but the enemy is insidious and ruthless,” Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said.

Kyiv regional governor Oleksandr Pavliuk said there were at least two other Russian strikes on the city on Friday and that civilians thinking about returning should “wait for quieter times”.

Nevertheless, families and off-duty soldiers were out in the parks of central Kyiv yesterday, bringing a semblance of normality to the once bustling city.

“It’s the first time we’ve been back in the city centre… It’s really making me happy to see people out and about,” 43-year-old vet Nataliya Makrieva told AFP.

Zelenskyy warning

graves-of-civilians-killed-during-ukraine-russia-conflict-are-seen-next-to-apartment-buildings-in-the-southern-port-city-of-mariupol-ukraine-april-10-2022-reutersalexander-ermochenko A civilian grave in Mariupol. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

The devastated city of Mariupol has become a symbol of Ukraine’s unexpectedly fierce resistance since Russia’s invasion began on 24 February.

Russian officials now say they are in full control there, though Ukrainian fighters remain holed up in the city’s fortress-like steelworks.

“Their only chance to save their lives is to voluntarily lay down their arms and surrender”, Russian defence ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said yesterday.

As the Russian forces close in, Zelenskyy issued a warning.

“The elimination of our troops, of our men [in Mariupol] will put an end to any negotiations,” Zelenskyy told the Ukrainska Pravda news website.

We don’t negotiate neither our territories nor our people.

The peace talks already appeared moribund, having produced little since they began, and Putin said days ago he believed they were at a “dead end”.

Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer, who met Putin on Monday in Moscow, said he thinks the Russian president believes the war is necessary for his country’s security.

“I think he is now in his own war logic,” Nehammer said in an interview with NBC’s ‘Meet the Press’, portions of which were released yesterday. “I think he believes he is winning the war.”

‘No home to return to’

The Ukrainian leader said on Friday that between 2,500 and 3,000 Ukrainian soldiers had been killed in the conflict, compared to 19,000-20,000 Russian dead.

Russia has said its losses were far smaller.

Zelenskyy said that around 10,000 Ukrainian soldiers had been wounded.

Russia has so far detained around 1,000 Ukrainian civilians and captured 700 soldiers, Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said, while Ukraine has captured around 700 Russian soldiers.

Russia’s apparent new focus on seizing the eastern Donbas, where Russian-backed separatists control the Donetsk and Luhansk areas, would allow Moscow to create a land corridor to occupied Crimea.

Ukrainian authorities have urged people in the region to quickly leave ahead of what is expected to be a large-scale Russian offensive.

In Geneva, the UN refugee agency warned that many of the nearly five million people who have fled Ukraine will not have homes to return to.

“For so many, there is no home to return to since it’s been destroyed or damaged, or is located in an area that is not safe,” said Karolina Lindholm Billing, UNHCR’s representative in Ukraine.

© AFP 2022

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