Ukraine thwarts Russian progress; the fight rages for Mariupol – The Denver Post


KYIV, Ukraine (AP) – Ukrainian forces fought against the continued Russian efforts to occupy Mariupol, claiming to have recaptured a strategic suburb of Kiev on Tuesday, building a defense so stubbornly that it raises fears that Russia’s Vladimir Putin will escalate the war to new heights.

“Putin’s back is against the wall,” said US President Joe Biden, who is on his way to Europe this week to meet with allies. “And the more his back is against the wall, the greater the tactics he can apply.”

Biden reiterated allegations that Putin is considering resorting to the use of chemical or biological weapons, although Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the United States has seen no evidence to suggest such an escalation is imminent.

The warnings came as the attacks continued in and around Kiev and Mariupol, and people escaped the battered and besieged port city.

The hands of an exhausted Mariupol survivor shook as she arrived by train to the western city of Lviv.

“There is no connection with the world. We could not ask for help,” said Julia Krytska, who was helped by volunteers to cope with her husband and son. “People do not even have water there.”

Explosions and gunfire shook Kyiv, and heavy artillery fire could be heard from the northwest, where Russia has sought to encircle and conquer several of the capital’s suburbs.

Early Tuesday, Ukrainian troops drove Russian forces from the Kyiv suburb of Makariv after a fierce battle, Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said. The reclaimed territory allowed Ukrainian forces to regain control of a key highway and block Russian troops from surrounding Kiev from the northwest.

Still, the Defense Ministry said Russian forces partially captured other northwestern suburbs, Bucha, Hostomel and Irpin, some of which have been under attack almost since Russia invaded nearly a month ago.

A Western official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss military assessments, said Ukrainian resistance had brought much of Russia’s advance to a halt but had not sent Moscow’s forces on retreat.

Western officials say Russian forces are facing severe shortages of food, fuel and equipment for cold weather, leaving some soldiers suffering from frostbite. Ukrainians have reported hungry soldiers looting shops and homes for food.

The invasion has driven more than 10 million people from their homes, nearly a quarter of Ukraine’s population, according to the UN.

Thousands of civilians are believed to be dead. Estimates of Russian military casualties vary widely, but even conservative figures from Western officials are in the low thousands.

On Monday, Russia’s pro-Kremlin Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper reported, citing the Defense Ministry, that nearly 10,000 Russian soldiers had been killed. The report was quickly removed and the newspaper blamed hackers. The Kremlin declined to comment. The Western official said the figure is “a reasonable estimate.”

Faced with unexpectedly fierce resistance that has left most of Moscow’s land forces miles from the center of Kiev, Putin’s troops are increasingly concentrating their air force and artillery on Ukraine’s cities and civilians.

Talks to end the fighting continue via video. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said he would be prepared to consider renouncing any offer from Ukraine to join NATO – a key Russian demand – in exchange for a ceasefire, withdrawal of Russian troops and a guarantee of Ukraine’s security.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he saw progress in the negotiations.

“From my outreach to various actors, elements of diplomatic progress are emerging on several key issues,” and the gains are enough to end the hostilities now, he said. He gave no details.

However, the Western official said there was no sign that Moscow was ready to compromise.

In the latest update from Mariupol officials, they said on March 15 that at least 2,300 people had died in the siege. But there are fears that the toll may be much higher. Airstrikes in the past week destroyed a theater and an art school where many civilians sought refuge.

Thousands have managed to escape from Mariupol, where the bombing has cut off electricity, water and food supplies and cut off communication with the outside world. The city council said on Tuesday that more than 1,100 people who had escaped the siege were in a convoy of buses on their way to a town northwest of Mariupol.

But the Red Cross said a humanitarian relief convoy trying to reach the city with desperately needed supplies had still not been able to enter.

Located on the Sea of ​​Azov, Mariupol is a crucial port for Ukraine and lies along a stretch of territory between Russia and Crimea. The siege has cut off the city from the sea and allowed Russia to establish a land corridor to Crimea.

But it is not clear how much of the city Russia has, and fleeing residents say fighting continues street by street.

A senior U.S. defense official who spoke on condition of anonymity to provide the Pentagon’s assessment said Russian ships in the Azov Sea are shelling Mariupol. The official said there were about seven Russian ships in the area, including a minesweeper and a couple of landing craft.

Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said troops defending the city had destroyed a Russian patrol boat and electronic warfare complex. Britain’s Defense Ministry said Ukrainian forces “continue to reject Russian attempts to occupy” Mariupol.

Those who have come out of Mariupol told of a ruined city.

“They bombed us for the last 20 days,” said 39-year-old Viktoria Totsen, who fled to Poland. “Over the last five days, planes flew over us every five seconds, dropping bombs everywhere – on residential buildings, kindergartens, art schools, everywhere.”

In addition to the terrible human amount, the war has shaken the global security consensus after the Cold War, endangered the world supply of key crops and created concerns that it could trigger a nuclear accident.

Forest fires broke out near the decommissioned Chernobyl nuclear power plant, but Ukraine’s natural resources minister said the flames had been extinguished and that radiation was within normal levels. Chernobyl in 1986 was the scene of the world’s worst nuclear disaster.

As part of a series of inquiries to foreign lawmakers, Zelenskyy called on Italian lawmakers to strengthen sanctions against Moscow, noting that many wealthy Russians have homes in the country.

“Do not be a resort for murderers,” he said from Kiev.


Anna reported from Lviv, Ukraine. Associated Press writer Yuras Karmanau in Lviv and other AP journalists around the world contributed to this report.


Follow the AP’s coverage of the war at

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