Russia intensifies destruction campaign in Ukrainian cities

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Russia intensifies destruction campaign in Ukrainian cities

LVIV, Ukraine — The Russian military intensified its campaign of devastation aimed at cities and towns across Ukraine, attacking Kyiv and a strategic port on Saturday and detaining the defiant mayor of an occupied city, one such The act that prompted hundreds of angry Ukrainians to take to the streets. In protest.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky accused Moscow of terrorizing the nation in an attempt to sabotage the will of the people. “War of Destruction,” he called it.

They condemned the kidnapping of the Mayor of Melitopol, who had refused to cooperate with Russian troops after the capture of the southeastern city in the first days of the invasion, “a new phase of terror, when they sought to eliminate physically.” Tried were representatives of legitimate local Ukrainian authorities. ”

Russian forces haven’t scored a major military victory since the first days of the offensive more than two weeks ago, and Saturday’s strikes reinforced Moscow’s strategic turn toward indiscriminate shelling of civilian targets.

Unable to make a quick takeover of the country by air, land and sea, Russian troops have deployed missiles, rockets and bombs to destroy apartment buildings, schools, factories and hospitals, causing civilian massacres and increasing suffering, and Over 2.5 million people are being led. fleeing the country.

In response to US efforts to supply anti-tank weapons and other material to Ukraine’s military, Russia on Saturday issued a new and more direct threat, warning the United States that convoys with weapons sent to Ukraine There would be “legitimate targets” for the Russian military.

Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Sergei A. Ryabkov said on Russian television that Moscow had warned Washington that “such a random transfer of weapons such as portable anti-aircraft and anti-tank missile systems” to Ukraine could have dire consequences.

Heavy shelling and shortages of food, water and medicine for thousands of residents in the besieged city of Mariupol have already sparked what Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba called “the worst humanitarian catastrophe on the planet”.

He said at least 1,582 civilians have been killed since the Russian siege of Mariupol began 12 days ago, and residents are struggling to survive and the dead have been forced to bury in mass graves.

“There is no drinking water and no medicine for more than a week, maybe even 10 days,” a staff member working for Doctors Without Borders in Mariupol said in an audio recording released by the organization on Saturday.

“We saw people who died due to lack of medicine, and there are many such people inside Mariupol,” the staff member said.

During a 90-minute call with Russian President Vladimir V. Putin, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron urged Mr. Putin to accept an immediate cease-fire, according to the French government, which called the talks “as Described as “frank” and “difficult.”

France said Mr Putin showed no desire to stop the war, and said he “placed responsibility for the conflict on Ukraine” and voiced “determination to achieve its objectives”.

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In its summary of the call, the Kremlin said Mr Putin had discussed “a number of matters relating to agreements being drawn up to meet well-known Russian demands”, but did not specify those demands.

In the coming weeks, NATO, which has vowed to defend Allied nations from any incursions by Russian forces, will send 30,000 troops from 25 countries in Europe and North America to live-fire drills in Norway and other cold-weather military operations. Planned to gather to practice.

NATO said the exercise, which Norway conducts twice, was announced more than eight months ago, and is not linked to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which NATO said was “preventive, proportionate and non-invasive”. -escalatory measures”.

But the training has taken on greater importance as Russia intensifies its bombing of Ukrainian population centers.

Around the capital Kyiv, Russian forces advanced into the suburbs, but were slowed by Ukrainian troops who ambushed armored columns. On Saturday, artillery fire intensified around Kyiv, with low rumbles heard in most parts of the city.

As of Saturday, there was no sign of further attempts by the Russian military to move armored columns closer to the capital. Instead, soldiers were fighting for control of the towns along the highways that surrounded it.

In Irpin, a leafy bedroom community northwest of Kyiv, soldiers were fighting street-to-street, said Vitaly, a Ukrainian soldier, who asked that his last name not be published for security reasons. They spoke outside Minimart, a gas station whose windows were blown up by gunfire, on the western edge of town.

“We’re trying to push them back, but we don’t control the city,” he said.

In the southern city of Mykolaiv, on Saturday morning, residents woke up to the sound of fierce fighting in several civilian areas after Russian shelling, damaged a cancer hospital and sent residents to bomb shelters.

The early morning fighting was centered north of the city, said Colonel Svyatoslav Stetsenko of the Ukrainian Army’s 59th Brigade, who were stationed near the front lines.

“They are changing their strategy,” said Vitaly Kim, the governor of the Mykolaiv region. “They are posted in villages and are living in village schools and homes. We cannot retaliate. There are no rules now. We have to treat them more cruelly.”

For nearly two weeks, Russian forces have been trying to encircle Mykolaiv and cross the southern Buh River, which flows through the city and is a natural defense against a Russian push west and Odessa, the Black Sea port that is a The dominant appears to be the Russian objective.

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Colonel Stetsenko said Russian forces had not crossed the river until Saturday morning, but “they are continuing to shell Mykolaiv.”

In Melitopol, hundreds of residents demonstrated in the streets, a day after Russian soldiers forced a hood over the mayor’s head and pulled him from a government building, according to Ukrainian officials.

“Return mayor!” The protesters shouted, according to eyewitnesses and video. “Free the mayor!”

But as the demonstrators gathered, Russian military personnel moved to shut them down, arresting two witnesses and a woman who organized the protest, according to the woman’s Facebook account.

The incident was part of what the Ukrainian authorities termed as a growing pattern of intimidation and repression. It also exemplified a problem that Russia may face, even if it manages to present the cities and towns: at least some of the cities and towns that Russia has managed to seize – mostly the South. And in the east – they are facing popular unrest and rebellion.

Mr Zelensky sought to tap into the public fury in an address to the nation overnight.

“The whole country saw that Melitopol did not surrender to the invaders,” he said. “Just as in Kherson, Berdyansk and other cities where Russian troops managed to enter, they did not.” He added that popular resistance “will not be replaced by pressure on mayors or kidnapping mayors.”

The mayor of Melitopol, Ivan Fedorov, remained stubborn even after Russian troops captured the city after a fierce attack on the first day of the invasion. “We are not cooperating with the Russians in any way,” he said.

Last weekend, with Mr. Fedorov’s encouragement, people waving Ukrainian flags took to the streets of Melitopol and other occupied cities. For the most part, Russian soldiers stood aside, even as protesters commanding a Russian armored vehicle in a city took to the streets.

After Ukrainian officials said protests in Melitopol were quickly quelled, the Ukrainian government renewed efforts to aid Mariupol, sending dozens of buses with food and medicine.

Similar relief efforts had failed in recent days as fighting broke out around the city and landmines blocked roads in the area. In a nightly address, Mr. Zelensky said the inability to bring aid to the city showed that Russian troops “continue to torture our people, our Mariupol residents.”

Still, he said, “we’ll try again.”

Mark Santora Reported from Lviv, Ukraine, Michael Schwartz Mykolaiv, Ukraine, and . From Michael Levenson from New York. Reporting was contributed by Andrew E. Creme in Kyiv, Ukraine, Ivan Nechepurenko Istanbul and in norimitsu onishi in Paris.

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