Ukrainian refugees number more than 1 million, as Russia has laid siege to ports

KIV, Ukraine (AP) – More than 1 million people fled from Ukraine The United Nations said Thursday after Russia’s invasion at a time of imminent refugee exodus this century, when Moscow said it was ready for further talks to end hostilities, even as its forces push for the country’s second-largest city and two strategic naval ports.

The UN refugee agency released the Associated Press on Wednesday and makes up more than 2% of Ukraine’s population expelled in seven days. A mass evacuation could be seen in Kharkiv, a city of about 1.5 million people whose residents were desperate to escape the shells and bombs that overcrowded the city station and clung to trains, not always knowing where they were headed.

When a column of tanks and other equipment apparently stopped for a few days outside the capital Kiev, fighting continued on various fronts across Ukraine. The second round of talks aimed at ending hostilities was expected later Thursday in neighboring Belarus – although the parties did not seem to have an understanding.

“We are ready to negotiate, but we will continue the operation because we will not allow Ukraine to maintain the military infrastructure that threatens Russia,” said Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, adding that this would allow Ukrainians to choose which government they should have. to have.

Lavrov said the West was constantly arming Ukraine, training its troops and setting up bases there to turn Ukraine into a stronghold against Russia, echoing Russia’s claims he used to justify his operation in Ukraine.

The United States and its allies insist that NATO is a defense alliance that does not pose a threat to Russia. And the West fears that Russia’s invasion is aimed at overthrowing the Ukrainian government and establishing a friendly government.

Russian troops continued the pressure. The British Ministry of Defense said that Mariupol, a major city in the Sea of ​​Azov, was surrounded by Russian troops. The status of another vital port, Kherson, a Black Sea shipbuilding city with a population of 280,000, remained unclear.

Russian troops claimed to have taken full control of Kherson, which would be the largest city affected by the invasion. The UK Ministry of Defense has said it is possible but has not yet been tested. The mayor said that there were no Ukrainian forces in the city, but, according to him, the Ukrainian flag was still flying over him.

At night, journalists from the Associated Press in Kyiv heard at least one explosion before videos of obvious strikes in the capital began to spread.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said it had destroyed a broadcast broadcast center in the Bald Mountain area, about 7 kilometers (4 miles) south of government headquarters. It says that unidentified weapons were used, and there were no casualties or damage to homes.

The statement of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine about the strikes does not say, it only says that Russian troops are “regrouping” and “trying to reach the northern outskirts” of the city.

“The attack on Kyiv was quite disorganized, and now they are more or less stuck,” – said AP in Moscow, military analyst Pavel Felgenhauer.

At least 227 civilians have been killed and another 525 injured since the invasion began, according to the latest figures from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. Earlier, Ukraine said that more than 2,000 civilians were killed, and this figure can not be verified independently.

The UN office uses a rigorous methodology and counts only confirmed victims, and recognizes that its figures are significantly underestimated.

However, this count overshadows the total number of civilian casualties from fighting in 2014 in eastern Ukraine between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian forces, which killed 136 and wounded 577.

Lavrov expressed regret over the civilian casualties, insisting that the military use only high-precision weapons against military installations, despite ample evidence of shelling of homes, schools and hospitals. However, he tacitly acknowledged that some Russian strikes could have killed civilians, saying that “any military action is fraught with casualties, not only among the military but also among the civilian population.”

In his latest demonstration video, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called on Ukrainians to continue resistance. He promised that the invaders would have “no peace”, and described the Russian soldiers as “confused children who were used.”

Moscow’s isolation deepened when most of the world lined up against it United Nations demand his withdrawal from Ukraine. The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court opened Fr. consequences into possible war crimes. And in a stunning U-turn the International Paralympic Committee Russian and Belarusian athletes banned from the Winter Paralympic Games.

Felgenhauer said that if the Russian economy was already suffering, there could be a “serious domestic crisis” if Russian President Vladimir Putin did not find a way to end the war quickly.

“There is no real money to wage this war,” he said, adding that if Putin and the military are unable to complete this campaign very quickly and victoriously, they are in the pickle.

Several areas of the country came under pressure.

The Ukrainian military said that Russian forces “did not achieve the main goal – the capture of Mariupol” in a statement that did not mention another important port – Kherson, whose status remains unclear.

Putin’s forces claimed to have taken full control of Kherson, and British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said on Thursday that “perhaps – it has not yet been tested – that Russia controls” there.

A senior U.S. defense official has previously denied that the Russians control the city.

“Our opinion that Kherson is a very controversial city,” the official said on condition of anonymity.

The office of the Green Agency told the AP that they could not comment on the situation in Kherson while the fighting was still going on.

Kherson Mayor Igor Kalykhayev said that the Russian military was in the city and approached the city administration building. He said he asked them not to shoot at civilians and allow crews to collect bodies from the streets.

“We have no Ukrainian troops in the city, only civilians and people who want to LIVE,” he said in a statement later posted on Facebook.

The mayor said Kherson would maintain a strict curfew from 8pm to 6am and would restrict traffic to the city to deliver food and medicine. The city will also require pedestrians to go in groups of no more than two, obey commands to stop and “not provoke troops”.

“The flag flying over us is Ukrainian,” he wrote. “And for that to continue, these requirements must be met.”

Mariupol Mayor Vadzim Boychanka said the attacks there were ruthless.

“We can’t even pick up the wounded from the streets, houses and apartments today, because the shelling doesn’t stop,” Interfax quoted him as saying.

Russia has for the first time reported its military losses in the war, saying nearly 500 of its troops have been killed and nearly 1,600 wounded. Ukraine does not disclose its own military losses.

The General Staff of Ukraine said on Facebook that Russian troops had suffered about 9,000 casualties in the fighting. It is not specified whether this figure includes both killed and wounded soldiers.

In a video address to the nation early Thursday, Zelensky praised his country’s resistance.

“We are a nation that destroyed the enemy’s plans in a week,” he said. “It simply came to our notice then. They will have no food. They will not have a single quiet here. “

He said the fighting affected the morale of Russian soldiers who “go to grocery stores and try to find something to eat.”

“These are not superpower warriors,” he said. “These are confused children who have been used.”

Meanwhile, a senior U.S. defense official said a huge Russian convoy of hundreds of tanks and other vehicles appeared to have stopped about 25 kilometers (16 miles) from Kyiv and made no real progress in the past couple of days.

The convoy, which earlier this week seemed ready to storm the capital, is short of fuel and food, the official said.

In the remote suburbs of Kiev, volunteers, who are over 60 years old, ran a checkpoint to try to block Russia’s advance.

“In my old age I had to take up arms,” ​​said 68-year-old Andrei Goncharuk. He said the fighters needed more weapons, but “we will kill the enemy and take away his weapons.”

In Ukraine, others crowded the train stations, carrying children wrapped in blankets, and dragging suitcases on wheels into the new life of refugees.

In an email, UN refugee spokesman Jung-A Gedini-Williams told the AP that as of northern Central Europe, the number of refugees has exceeded 1 million based on data collected by national authorities.

Shabia Mantu, another spokesman for the agency, said that “at this rate” leaving Ukraine could be the source of “the biggest refugee crisis of this century.”

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