US officials and military experts expect that in the next phase of the war, Russian forces will focus their power on capturing the eastern region known as Donbas and the southern cities that provide crucial access to the Black Sea and beyond. But the latest barrage has shown that Russia is still capable of wreaking havoc far beyond where its forces are located or have recently been abandoned, such as the capital Kiev and its suburbs.
Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer, who met with Russian President Vladimir Putin this week, said in an interview aired Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that Putin “believes he is winning the war”.
“We have to look him in the eye and we have to confront him with what we see in Ukraine,” Nehammer said according to a transcript of the interview.
One person was killed as a result of a rocket attack near Kiev, and several injured were taken to a hospital in the capital, Kiev mayor Vitali Klitschko said on Saturday. The mayor urged Kiev residents who have moved out of the city not to return for the moment, but to “stay in safer places”.
Explosions were also reported outside Kiev on Friday. Russia said in a statement Friday that its forces fired missiles at a suburban factory that produces Ukrainian weapons in retaliation for what it said were attempted Ukrainian attacks on border towns in Russia.
The Russian defense ministry said a military factory was destroyed in the attack in Kiev, one of 16 targets hit in cities such as Odessa, Poltava and Mykolaiv. The Ministry claimed that a military equipment repair shop in Mykolaiv had been destroyed.
In Lviv, regional governor Maksym Kozytskyy said an airstrike lasting more than an hour was carried out by Russian Su-35 aircraft, the country’s more advanced fighter jets. Four guided missiles were destroyed by anti-aircraft defenses, he added.
One person was killed and 18 injured in northeastern Ukraine on Saturday after a rocket attack in Kharkov, the provincial governor said. Footage taken after the attack shows Ukrainian soldiers walking among the rubble, firefighters trying to put out multiple fires and emergency workers treating an injured woman.
The governor of the Kharkiv region, Oleh Synyehubov, said on the Telegram messaging app that a missile fired by Russian forces “hit again one of the central districts of Kharkiv” early Saturday. He pleaded with residents to be “extremely careful” at a time when Russian forces “continue to terrorize the civilian population of Kharkov and the region.”
Russia appeared to be on the brink of taking the ravaged port city of Mariupol, which one regional leader said “had been wiped off the face of the earth”. According to a senior Russian military official, the only remaining area under Ukrainian troops was the Azovstal steel mill, one of the largest metallurgical plants in Europe.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky appeared to acknowledge this on Saturday. Speaking to the nation, a translation of which was posted on an official government website, Zelensky said that “the situation in Mariupol remains as dire as possible. Just inhumane.”
He said Ukraine has continuously looked for military and diplomatic solutions since the start of the Mariupol blockade, but it has been extremely difficult to find one.
Zelensky added: “Russia is deliberately trying to destroy everyone who is there in Mariupol.”
On Saturday, Russia gave a deadline for surrender in Mariupol of 6 a.m. Moscow time Sunday (11 p.m. Eastern time), Russian state news reported.
Zelensky told Ukrainian media that negotiations between Ukraine and Russia could end if Russian troops kill all Ukrainians defending the city. He noted that the situation in Mariupol is “very difficult” and acknowledges that “many people have disappeared” from the city. He repeated that the wounded who were prevented from leaving Mariupol should be out.
Ukrainian governor says Mariupol ‘wiped off the face of the earth’
Mariupol has been heavily bombed and besieged by Russian forces for weeks, and analysts predict it will be the first major Ukrainian city to fall in the coming days. Control of the Sea of Azov hub is of strategic importance to the Kremlin as it would connect Russia-annexed Crimea to Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region.
Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said nine humanitarian corridors would have been open on Saturday, connecting urban areas in the south and east of the country with relatively safer areas deeper inland to the north and west.
More than 1,400 people were evacuated through humanitarian corridors on Saturday, despite continued Russian shelling that made it difficult to carry out efforts in various parts of Ukraine, Vereshchuk said.
Those wishing to flee the shelling in Mariupol and other cities had to use their own transport as bad weather prevented the use of evacuation buses. Parts of the roads leading to Zaporizhzhya, a town further along the Dnieper River, have been washed away, she said.
Zaporizhzhya received nearly 1,400 people from hard-hit areas in the southeast who were traveling in their own vehicles, Vereshchuk said via Telegram.
Nearly 70 people were evacuated from the eastern region of Luhansk because of Russian shelling. Vereshchuk said the density of shelling prevented the evacuation of people from the eastern city of Lysychansk.
The United Nations has again called for safe passage from Mariupol, which UN Undersecretary General for Humanitarian Affairs Martin Griffiths called “an epicenter of horror”. It is estimated that there are still 100,000 people in the city, which had a population of about 450,000 before the outbreak of the war.
In Kherson, a city quickly taken by Russian forces during the first week of the invasion of Ukraine, recent satellite images showed that at least 824 burial plots had been dug between February 28 and April 15, according to an analysis by the Center for Information Resilience, a London-based non-profit organization. The cemetery is on the outskirts of town, just east of the airport.
Located about 400 miles south of Kiev, Kherson is home to a port on the Dnieper River, close to the Black Sea, making it a strategically important site in the conflict.
Many of Kherson’s 280,000 residents have fled the city since the invasion. But occupying Russian forces have also faced resistance and civilian protests in the city and appeared to have lost control of some of them late last month, according to the US Defense Department, which said Kherson had become a disputed territory.
In areas to which Russian troops have retreated, a horrifying portrait of the horrors faced by the inhabitants has emerged. In Bucha, a suburb of Kiev that had been controlled by Russian troops for nearly a month, Washington Post reporters documented hundreds of bodies in graves or lying on the street.
In Bucha, the story of a man’s body left behind on a Russian killing field
Damage to Ukraine’s transport infrastructure poses a major challenge to the delivery of humanitarian aid to areas until recently occupied by Russians, such as urban regions in the north of the country, the British Defense Ministry said on Saturday.
Russian forces left landmines, vehicles and destroyed bridges as they withdrew from cities in northern Ukraine, the ministry said in an intelligence update. Chernihiv, a city 145 miles northeast of Kiev with a pre-war population of about 285,000, still has one pedestrian bridge, the ministry said.
In addition to the humanitarian disaster, the war is taking a heavy economic toll. Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal and other senior officials plan to visit Washington this week for economic rallies, a World Bank official told The Post on Saturday, on condition of anonymity as the visit had yet to be officially announced.
the Prime Minister of Ukraine; the Minister of Finance, Serhiy Marchenko; and the head of the country’s central bank, Kyrylo Shevchenko, will attend spring meetings hosted by the World Bank Group and the International Monetary Fund, the official said. Ukraine has not yet confirmed their trip.
The trip was first reported by Reuters. Representatives of the Group of Seven countries will also attend the meetings.
There are growing concerns that the Russian invasion of Ukraine is having a wider impact on the global economy, including by disrupting trade and raising food prices.
On Tuesday, the World Bank announced it was preparing a nearly $1.5 billion bailout package for Ukraine to help “continue essential government services during the war.”
In his address to the nation on Friday, Zelensky said he had chaired a cabinet meeting to discuss “urgent economic problems” as parts of the industry have been hit by the war. He said four-fifths of all Ukrainian companies in safe areas have resumed operations and transportation networks are being rebuilt. He praised companies for adapting during conflict and retaining employees.
“Whatever happens, in all cities and communities where there are no occupiers and hostilities, it is necessary to restore the economy to the maximum,” Zelensky said.
Although a number of Western leaders and officials have visited Kiev since the Russian invasion, this appears to be the first time a high-level Ukrainian delegation will travel to the United States. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said last week that President Biden will not visit Ukraine amid growing speculation that a senior US official could make the trip soon.
Torbati reported from Washington and Suliman from London. Andrew Jeong in Seoul; Julian Duplain in London; and Jacqueline Alemany, Timothy Bella, Joyce Lee, Jon Swaine, Benjamin Soloway, Lateshia Beachum and Tobi Raji in Washington contributed to this report.