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Fighting Rage in Mariupol, as Russian Forces Make Profits

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Fighting Rage in Mariupol, as Russian Forces Make Profits

Russian forces intensified their offensive in Ukraine on Saturday, advancing into the besieged city of Mariupol in a battle to seize the strategic port, and firing missiles into western Ukraine that destroyed an underground military weapons depot.

As fighting broke out across the country, Ukraine was facing a worsening humanitarian crisis as damages were reported from both sides. A Russian rocket attack killed more than 40 soldiers at a Ukrainian military barracks in the southern city of Mykolaiv on Friday – the worst single loss to Ukraine since the conflict began last month, a senior Ukrainian military official said on Saturday. one of.

In the city morgue, the bodies of dozens of soldiers in uniform were kept side by side in a warehouse. A morgue employee would not specify the number of dead brought from the site of the attack.

“Many,” said the employee. “I will not say how many. But many.”

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky on Saturday appealed to Russia to support a diplomatic proposal for direct war, and issued a stern warning.

“I want everyone to hear me now, especially in Moscow,” Mr Zelensky said in a video address hours after Russian President Vladimir V. Putin spoke to thousands of Russians at a rally in Moscow’s biggest stadium. ” “It’s time to meet, it’s time to talk. It’s time to restore territorial integrity and justice to Ukraine. Otherwise, Russia’s loss will be so great that several generations will not be enough to turn back.”

He reiterated the Ukrainian military’s claim that 14,000 Russian soldiers were killed. The Pentagon estimates that figure is about half that, which is still a staggering toll that US officials say the Kremlin has tried to hide.

“Just imagine, there were 14,000 dead bodies and thousands of wounded and crippled people in that stadium in Moscow,” said Mr. Zelensky. “There have already been a lot of Russian losses as a result of this invasion. This is the price of the war. In a little over three weeks. The war must end.”

Some of the heaviest fighting on Saturday shook the southeastern port city of Mariupol, which has been besieged by the Russians since the early days of the conflict. Fighting broke out in the street as Russian troops turned the city into a wasteland of bombed buildings after several weeks of devastating missile barrages. Corpses are scattered on the streets and thousands of people are trapped without heat or water.

In an ominous sign of Russian progress, a video shared by Chechen leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, shows Chechen soldiers, known for their ruthless combat tactics, inside Mariupol.

“One by one, the areas have been cleared, and soon it will reach you,” said Mr. Kadyrov, addressing the Ukrainians directly in Mariupol. “Either you voluntarily lay down your arms and accept the punishment you deserve, or we will take it out of your hands and take punitive measures ourselves.”

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The New York Times has not independently confirmed the content of the video.

Russia’s defense ministry said in a statement it was “tightening the noose” around the city. And the Ukrainian government reported that its forces had been pulled out, that efforts to provide air support had failed and that contact with the authorities in Mariupol had been “temporarily” lost.

A city official, Pyotr Andrischenko, made an alarming statement on Saturday that Russian forces “forcibly moved 4,000 and 4,500 Mariupol residents from across the border to Taganrog,” a city in southwestern Russia. Given the chaos in the city, his claim could not be independently verified, although it was supported by the testimony of others who had recently fled the city.

If the Russian army were to capture Mariupol, it would be one of the few major cities they took and would give them control of much of Ukraine’s southern coast. “There is no chance of lifting the siege of Mariupol,” an adviser to Ukraine’s president said in a resignation note on Friday.

Russian advances in Mariupol have hampered frantic efforts to find survivors in the rubble of a theater that was nearly leveled in an attack on Wednesday. About 130 people have been rescued from the theater, according to Ukrainian officials, who estimated that hundreds of people, perhaps 1,300 people, may still be trapped in the basement.

The Russian army attacked the theatre, even though the word “children” was written in large white letters on the ground at either end of the building.

Even as Russian forces encroached upon Mariupol, Ukrainian forces claimed to have retaken towns and villages around Kherson, one of the first cities to fall. To the west, the Ukrainian army continued to defend the strategic city of Mykolaiv, halting a Russian advance on Odessa, a major port on the Black Sea. And a bloody battle ensued for the capital Kyiv, as Ukrainian and Russian forces engaged in fierce fighting in the suburbs around the city.

In western Ukraine, an area that had been shielded from heavy fighting in the south and east, Russian forces increased their attacks on military targets, using advanced hypersonic missiles to destroy a large underground military weapons depot in the city of Deltyn. reported usage.

The Ukrainian military would only confirm that the depot, which contained missile and aviation ammunition, was hit. “We are at a loss; There is destruction,” said Ukrainian Air Force spokesman Yuri Ignat, adding that there was no information about casualties or the type of missiles that hit the depot.

The attack came a day after Russian missiles struck a warplane repair plant near Lviv in western Ukraine. Last Sunday, a Russian airstrike struck a military base in western Ukraine, 11 miles from the border with Poland, where NATO forces are on high alert.

Fighting across Ukraine has led to the fastest exodus of European refugees since World War II. According to UN estimates, more than a fifth of the 44 million people living in Ukraine before Russia’s invasion last month have been internally displaced or have fled to other countries.

And for those who live in the country, millions of people face a daily struggle for their existence as cities lack food and clean water, and medical care, heat and electricity are lacking.

On Friday, the United Nations completed its first convoy of humanitarian aid to the eastern Ukrainian city of Sumy, distributing medical supplies, bottled water, ready-to-eat food and canned food – enough to help about 35,000 people. .

“We hope this is the first of many shipments to those trapped in the fighting,” said Amin Awad, the UN’s crisis coordinator in Ukraine.

As NATO prepares for any possible incursion into allies, Norwegian officials said four US Marines were killed on Friday when their Osprey plane crashed during NATO exercises.

NATO said the cold-weather exercises, which involved 30,000 troops from 25 countries in Europe and North America, were announced more than eight months ago and were not linked to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. But after the invasion they have taken on more importance.

With no clear diplomatic solution to the war and deaths rising day by day, there is hardly time to mourn the loss in Ukraine. But in the heart of Lviv, residents erected a fascinating monument: 109 empty strollers standing on cobblestones in Renok Square, symbolizing the 109 children that Ukrainian officials say have been killed by Russian bombings.

A photo of the memorial, posted by Lviv Mayor Andrey Sadovy with the hashtag #closethesky, was shared widely on Facebook.

“This is the terrible price of war that Ukraine is paying today,” wrote Mr. Sadovy. “We call on all adults around the world to stand as a shield to protect Ukraine’s children and give them a future.”

Michael Levenson reported from New York, Mark Santora Warsaw and . From Valerie Hopkins From Lviv, Ukraine. Reporting was contributed by Michael Schwartz from Odessa, Ukraine; And Victoria Kim from Seoul.

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