Ukraine war, day 28: The disaster of Mariupol. Pentagon: Ukraine has launched counter-offensives against Russian forces in some areas

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In the 28th day of the Russian invasion in Ukraine, Russia continues the bombing of several cities, with Mariupol in a desperate situation. On the other hand, in some areas, Ukraine has launched counter-offensives against Russian forces and said today that they had killed another Russian military commander, colonel Alexei Șarov.

New satellite images capturing the disaster left by the ongoing bombing of Mariupol have been made public. The images were made public by Maxar Technologies and taken over by Nexta TV, on Twitter.

Russians have also bombed a bridge over Desna river, in Chernihiv, that was linking the city with the capital of Kyiv, according to Nexta. The bridge was used to evacuate civilians and to bring humanitarian aid.

The Pentagon officials say the Ukrainian defense has however managed to regain ground in some conflict zones in recent days. The Pentagon also say that Russia has launched 1,100 missiles since the start of the war in Ukraine.

“Ukrainian forces have continued to hold off Russian attempts at invading the Ukraine capital of Kyiv by about 15 km to the northwest and about 30 km to the east in the past 24 hours,” according to a senior Defense Department official, who added there have been “no real changes by the Russians on the ground near Kyiv,” in a briefing today.

The official said the United States assesses the Russians have launched more than 1,100 missiles since they invaded Ukraine 27 days ago on February 24.

The Russians are coming down out of Kharkiv, Ukraine, toward Izium, to the southeast of Kharkiv which is believed to be an attempt to cut off the joint force operations area that’s basically the Donbas, he said. “That’s one reason — not the only reason — why we think [the Russians] are so interested in Mariupol; so they can come up from the south and down from the north from Izium,” where the Ukrainians are fighting hard to take back the city from the Russians,” he added.

“We observed over the last 24 hours that the Russians have likely been firing into [Mariupol] from the Sea of Azov,” the official said. “Just to the south of Mariupol, we assess that they’ve got about [seven] ships in the Sea of Azov and we think some of them — at least the surface combatants … have been shelling into Mariupol and that wasn’t the case yesterday.”

More here.

Meanwhile, troops in the capital are still about 15 kilometers from the northwest and about 30 kilometers from the east.

The latest assessment by the British Ministry of Defense, published on Twitter on Wednesday morning, also shows that Russian troops are moving from the north and south to “wrap Ukrainian forces in the east of the country”.

The main conclusions are:    

  • Troops were advancing from Kharkiv and Mariupol.
  • Meanwhile, fighting in the north – aimed at capturing the capital Kyiv – remains “largely static”.
  • Russian forces are probably trying to reorganize before resuming large-scale offensive operations.
  • Russia also seemed to be trying to bypass Nikolaev on its way west to Odessa, the southwestern port city.

The Ukrainian army also said in a statement on Facebook on Wednesday morning that in 28 days of war it would have managed to cause considerable damage to Russian forces. More than 15,600 Russian soldiers were killed, wounded, captured or deserted. Ukrainian military and civilian defense forces have also been able to destroy from February 24 until Wednesday, when Vladimir Putin started the war in Ukraine: 517 tanks, 1,578 armored vehicles, 267 artillery systems, 80 multiple rocket launchers, 47 means of air defense, 101 aircraft, 124 helicopters, 1008 vehicles, 4 ships / boats and 42 drones.

Ukraine: Russians occupying Chernobyl nuclear power plant rob and destroy

Russian troops occupying the Chernobyl nuclear power plant have “robbed and destroyed” a laboratory on the spot, according to Ukrainian officials, quoted by the BBC. Ukraine’s State Agency for the Management of Exclusion Zones says the Russians have damaged the Central Laboratory of Analysis – which processed a lot of radioactive waste.

The state agency announced in a post on Facebook that the laboratory had “very active samples and samples of radionuclides, which today are in the hands of the enemy.” The lab, which cost about six million euros, also contained “valuable analysis equipment” that was not available elsewhere in Europe.

Partial ceasefire in Lugansk

Lugansk Governor Serhiy Gaidai said on Wednesday morning that a ceasefire agreement had been reached to evacuate civilians. The agreement entered into force at 09:00 local time. “Careful!! A humanitarian corridor has been agreed: the people of Rubizhne, Lysychansk, Severodonetsk, the Hirska community (especially Nizhne) will be evacuated today, “Gadai wrote.

Zelensky announces more sactions against Russia, to attend NATO summit by videoconference

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that new Western sanctions against Russia would be announced this week, when world leaders would attend a NATO conference in Brussels. Zelensky added that he spoke with Pope Francis on Tuesday and invited him to visit Ukraine. “I think we will be able to organize this important visit, which will unequivocally support each of us, each of us Ukrainians,” he said.

Zelensky reminded that about 100,000 people were stranded in the southern port city of Mariupol amid ongoing bombing. “As of today, there are about 100,000 people in the city. In inhumane conditions. In a complete blockade. No food, no water, no medicine. Under constant bombardment,” he said in a message on Facebook.

Zelensky added that efforts to rescue civilians there through humanitarian corridors were blocked by Russian bombing and fear.

A humanitarian convoy was captured by Russia on Tuesday, he said, adding that Ukrainian government employees on the bus and the driver had been taken prisoner.

“Despite all the difficulties, 7,026 people in Mariupol were rescued, on Tuesday in the city”, the Ukrainian president said. Zelensky added that Ukraine has received more than 100,000 tons of humanitarian aid in the past two weeks.

The Ukrainian president said that he is talking to the Polish, French and British PMs, Duda, Macron and Johnson, on a daily basis.

On a separate, more comic note, asked who he preferred, Zelenski burst out laughing: “My wife. I am sorry”.

Israeli PM on negotiations

From the negotiations perspective, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennet, who is trying to mediate the Russia-Ukraine conflict, says that the Russians are no longer trying to oust Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and fully demilitarize Ukraine, while Ukraine has backed down from trying to join NATO.

“We are trying to mediate together with our friends in the world, but there is a long way ahead. We positioned Israel in a way that allows us continuous communications with both sides that is honest and open and can bring achievements in the mediation,” Bennett stated, as quoted by Jerusalem Post.

In his turn, Zelensky said that negotiation are very difficult and very outrageous.

“They are very difficult, sometimes outrageous, but we are moving forward step by step,” Zelenski said, adding that Ukrainian representatives are negotiating every day.

We will work, we will fight as much as possible. To the end. Brave and open. Negotiators work tirelessly. We will only rest when we win,” he added.

Other stances, calls

However, addressing the Italian Parliament, Italian PM Mario said that Vladimir Putin doesn’t seem interested in a ceasefire agreement, that might enable for the negotiations to advance and for the conflict to end.

The Guardian  reported that PM Draghi has also asked China to not endorse Russia and to join efforts with the West to bring peace to Ukraine.

Meanwhile, from Poland comes the information quoted by Nexta and Onet, that 40 Russian diplomats are to be expelled from Poland for espionage. The information has not been yet confirmed from official sources. Bulgaria has too ousted some Russian diplomats on the same grounds.

The NATO Summit and the G20 issue

While Biden is taking off today for Europe for the NATO Summit where the Western states are expected to announce more sanctions against Russia, Russian PM Medvev said that the USA risk becoming “the last refuge for the senile.” Medvedev also said that the U.S. want “to humiliate, divide and finally to destroy Russia”.

In his turn, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned that the deployment of peacekeeping forces in Ukraine by NATO member states would lead to a direct clash between North Atlantic Alliance forces and Russia’s armed forces, TASS reported on Wednesday.

 

Moreover, the U.S. and Western countries are also considering to expel Russia from G20, according to Reuters sources.

Poland (which is not a G20 member) called for Russia’s exclusion on Tuesday and received a “positive response” from US officials, according to the same sources. The G20 brings together the world’s largest economies to coordinate its actions on issues affecting the global economy, including global warming and development.

On the other hand, Russian President Vladimir Putin plans to attend the G20 summit to be hosted by Indonesia later this year, the Russian ambassador to Jakarta was quoted as saying by Reuters on Wednesday.

On top of all, Russia’s ambassador to the UN has made an incredible statement, that they did not invade Ukraine and that they tried “to bomb it gently”.

“We are not invading Ukraine, we are conducting limited military operations. We are trying to (bomb) in a very delicate way, without hurting the civilian population. We have an information war. A lot of “fake news” is displayed on television screens,” said Gennady Gatilov.

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