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A view of the Azovstal plant in the port city of Mariupol, where Russia has ordered a blockade. 21 April. Xinhua News Agency/PA Images

Zelenskyy calls for meeting with Putin 'to end the war' as Mariupol evacuation 'thwarted'

Ukraine has made a plea to the UN to help evacuate citizens from the city, after previous attempts failed.

LAST UPDATE | 23 Apr 2022

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT VOLODYMR Zelenskyy has called again for a meeting with Russian leader Vladimir Putin in an effort to “put an end to the war”.

It came as an evacuation of civilians from the shattered city of Mariupol, where many remain trapped, was “thwarted” by Russian forces, according to local officials.

Meanwhile a Russian strike killed at least six people, including a baby, and wounded 18 others in Ukraine’s Black Sea city of Odessa, as hopes of an Orthodox Easter truce faded. 

“I think that whoever started this war will be able to end it,” Zelenskyy told a news conference at a metro station in the heart of the Ukrainian capital.

He was “not afraid to meet” Putin if it would lead to a peace deal between Russia and Ukraine, he added.

“From the beginning, I have insisted on talks with the Russian president,” said Zelenskyy.

“It’s not that I want (to meet him), it’s that I have to meet him so as to settle this conflict by diplomatic means.

“We have confidence in our partners, but we have no confidence in Russia,” he added.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will visit Kyiv tomorrow, the day the Russian invasion of Ukraine enters its third month, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said.

“The evacuation was thwarted,” Mariupol city official Petro Andryushchenko said on Telegram, adding that around 200 residents had gathered at the evacuation meeting point announced by Kyiv, but Russian forces “dispersed” them.

He claimed others were told to board buses headed to places controlled by Russia.

Meanwhile, Kyiv warned the death toll from the Odessa strikes would likely rise.

“Five Ukrainians killed and 18 wounded. And those are only the ones that we were able to find. It is likely that the death toll will be heavy,” the head of Ukraine’s presidential office Andriy Yermak said on Telegram. 

“A three-month-old baby was among those killed.”

Ukraine’s air force said its defence systems intercepted two Russian TU-95 missiles that it said were fired from the Caspian Sea.

But it said four other missiles hit the city, including civilian infrastructure.

“Unfortunately, two missiles hit a military facility and two hit residential buildings,” the air force’s southern command said on Facebook.

Odessa, a largely Russian-speaking city and cultural hub, has been targeted previously by Moscow’s forces which were rebuffed by Ukraine.

In Mariupol, people had been called to gather on the motorway close to the Port City shopping centre in the city for noon.

“Today we will again try to evacuate women, children and the elderly,” Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said on Telegram.

Ukraine had to cancel evacuation attempts out of Mariupol in recent days, because of a lack of agreement from the Russian side, 

Yesterday evening, Vereshchuk vowed Ukraine will continue to try to get civilians out of the shattered city.

“I understand how difficult it is for you. Corridors have been broken so many times. But you and I should try as many times as necessary until it works,” she said on Telegram.

There had been hope for a weekend truce between Ukraine and Russia, as both countries celebrate Orthodox Easter. But hopes faded as talks between Moscow and Kyiv stalled and Russia said it aimed to take full control over the east and south of its neighbour.

The war enters its third month tomorrow, but a senior Russian military officer said “the second phase of the special operation” – as Moscow terms its invasion of Ukraine – had just begun.

“One of the tasks of the Russian army is to establish full control over the Donbas and southern Ukraine,” Major General Rustam Minnekaev said yesterday.

Russian forces, which withdrew from around Kyiv and the north of Ukraine after being frustrated in their attempts to take over the capital, already occupy much of the eastern Donbas region and the south.

Minnekaev said their focus was now to “provide a land corridor to Crimea,” which Russia annexed in 2014, and towards a breakaway pro-Russian region of Moldova, Transnistria, where the general claimed Russian-speaking people were “being oppressed”.

A plea to the UN

new-york-new-york-usa-19th-apr-2022-april-19-2022-united-nations-united-nations-secretary-general-antonio-guterres-holds-a-press-encounter-in-front-of-the-peace-sculpture-on-the-united-nation-gr Antonio Guterres holds a press conference in front of the peace sculpture on UN grounds. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres will meet with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Ukraine next week after a stop in Moscow to confer with President Vladimir Putin about the war, the UN said.

Guterres will see Zelenskyy and Ukraine’s foreign minister on Thursday, two days after visiting Moscow, the United Nations said in a statement.

The Kremlin confirmed that Putin would meet Guterres on Tuesday.

Guterres sent letters this week requesting these in-person meetings to try to regain the initiative for the UN, which has been largely marginalized from the crisis since Russia invaded Ukraine on 24 February.

In part this is because the war has divided the UN Security Council permanent members: the United States, France, Britain, China and Russia.

China has refused to condemn the invasion, depicting Russia as a victim of Western efforts to weaken it.

With the letters he sent on Tuesday, Guterres sought to spur dialogue to end the war.

“At this time of great peril and consequence, he would like to discuss urgent steps to bring about peace in Ukraine,” spokesman Stephane Dujarric said this week.

Guterres has had little contact with Zelenskyy since the war began, speaking with him just once by telephone, on 26 March.

Putin has not taken Guterres’s phone calls, or had any contact with him, since the UN chief stated that the invasion violated the UN charter.

© AFP 2022

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