Long-term file needed for Mariupol evacuations, Zelensky says. from Ukraine

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War between Russia and Ukraine: More than 300 civilians were evacuated from Mariupol on Wednesday, Ukraine said.

Kyiv:

Civilians, including women and children, are still trapped in the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol and a prolonged ceasefire is needed to ensure their evacuation as Russia continues its attack, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Thursday.

After failing to take the capital Kiev in the first weeks of a war that left thousands dead and cities flattened, Russia has accelerated attacks on eastern and southern Ukraine, where the Azov seaport Mariupol is one of its main goals.

Russia declared victory over Mariupol on April 21 after weeks of siege and shelling. The city is key to Moscow’s efforts to seal off Ukraine from the Black Sea — vital for grain and metal exports — and to connect the Russian-controlled area.

The United Nations and the Red Cross have evacuated hundreds of people from Mariupol and other areas this week. But some 200 civilians, as well as Ukrainian fighters, are still trapped in a network of underground bunkers at the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, Ukrainian officials say.

Russia has vowed to suspend military activities in Azovstal during the daytime Thursday and for the next two days to allow civilians a chance to get out. In an early speech, Zelenskiy said Ukraine was ready to guarantee a ceasefire in Mariupol.

“It will take time to lift people out of those basements, out of those underground shelters. In the current circumstances, we can’t use heavy equipment to clear the debris. It all has to be done by hand,” Zelenskiy said.

Ukrainian fighters in Azovstal are waging “difficult, bloody battles” against Russian forces, Denis Prokopenko, a commander of Ukraine’s Azov regiment, said late Wednesday. A Ukrainian parliamentarian said Russian troops were inside the factory.

More than 300 civilians were evacuated from Mariupol and other areas in southern Ukraine on Wednesday as part of a joint UN-Red Cross operation, UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Ukraine Osnat Lubrani said.

“While this second evacuation of civilians from areas in Mariupol and beyond is significant, much more needs to be done to ensure that all civilians caught up in fighting can move in the direction they want,” Lubrani said.

It was not clear whether further UN evacuations were planned. Tetyana Trotsak, a Ukrainian evacuee among dozens who reached a Ukraine-controlled city this week, expressed fear for those still trapped in the steel mill.

“God forbid more shells are hit near the bunkers where the civilians are,” Trotsak said.

Fighting in border areas, Donbas, Kharkiv

Russia launched its invasion on February 24, describing it as a “special military operation” to disarm Ukraine and defend its Russian-speaking population from fascists.

Kiev and its Western supporters say this is a pretext for an unprovoked war of aggression by President Vladimir Putin, who has driven more than 5 million Ukrainians to flee abroad.

Russian forces have launched sporadic attacks on Kiev and parts of western Ukraine since they withdrew from areas around the capital in early April. Russian forces have fired nearly 100 shells into border areas north and east of Kiev, Ukrainian border guards said late Wednesday.

But Moscow has shifted its focus to conquering Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region, which is made up of two provinces — Luhansk and Donetsk — partly controlled by Russian-backed separatists.

Russia’s defense ministry said late Wednesday that its air force destroyed six Ukrainian drones in Luhansk. Russian missiles destroyed a US-made counter-battery radar station in the city of Popasna, also in Luhansk, it added.

The Ukrainian army said Thursday that its forces had repulsed 11 Russian attacks, shot down four Russian planes and destroyed more than a dozen Russian military vehicles, including tanks.

Also in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, fighting raged in the northeast, where Russian shelling killed a resident and injured an 11-year-old boy, the Kharkiv regional administration said.

Residents are not allowed to leave air raid shelters unless absolutely necessary, the regional administration added.

Reuters could not immediately verify reports of developments on the battlefield.

Oil ban?

The United States and its European allies have imposed sweeping sanctions on Moscow over the invasion and have provided Ukraine with billions of dollars in aid, including weapons that Kiev says resulted in heavy Russian losses.

The European Union put pressure on the already battered $1.8 trillion economy on Wednesday, proposing on Wednesday to phase out imports of Russian crude oil and refined products by the end of this year within six months.

“Putin has to pay a price, a high price, for his brutal aggression,” said Ursula von der Leyen, head of the European Commission, applauding EU lawmakers in Strasbourg.

The plan, if all 27 EU governments agree, would follow US and UK oil bans and mark a turning point for the world’s largest trading bloc, which remains dependent on Russian energy and must find alternative supplies.

A source said EU envoys could reach an agreement on the plan Thursday or later this week, which also targets Russia’s top bank, its broadcasters and hundreds of individuals.

The Kremlin said Russia is weighing different responses to the EU plan, adding that the measures would be costly for European citizens.

(This story was not edited by NDTV staff and was generated automatically from a syndicated feed.)



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