Russia is intensifying strikes around Ukrainian capital, warning the US against arming Kiev

Russia is intensifying strikes around Ukrainian capital, warning the US against arming Kiev

A large area of ​​Makariv, a village 30 miles west of Kiev, suffered significant damage from apparent Russian air raids.

CNN has located and verified the authenticity of photos posted on social media on Saturday, showing heavy damage to apartment complexes, schools and a medical facility. One of the more expressive photos from Makarov shows a large hole in the north wall of an apartment building after a military strike. Many of the buildings in the photos were damaged on the northern facades, indicating that the military strikes that hit them were Russian.

In Chernihiv, about 100 kilometers north of Kiev, the local hotel Ukraina struck overnight. “I’m here now. There is no hotel anymore, ”said Vyacheslav Chaus, head of the administration of the Chernihiv region on Saturday.

The northern city, which is close to the Belarusian border, has been surrounded by Russian forces for more than a week, and video from the city showed collapsed hotel floors, as well as extensive damage from shells and air raids.

Chaus said civilians were dying as a result of strikes that disrupted the city’s electricity grid. “Many people are injured. The enemy is firing at civilian infrastructure where there is no military, “he said, saying the city” has no electricity, almost no water, gas and heat. “

The Russian Ministry of Defense has repeatedly stated that Russian forces are not targeting civilians.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his speech on Saturday that the entire country is now on the front line. “Several small towns no longer exist. This is a tragedy. They just walked away. And the people also left. “

Zelenskiy said negotiations to end the Russian invasion of Ukraine “must begin with a ceasefire,” adding that Ukraine had lost around 1,300 troops by Saturday. CNN was unable to verify these numbers on its own.

Later on Saturday, Zelenskiy said he was grateful for the international support, but called on the allies for more aid.

“I keep saying to our allies and friends abroad; they have to do more for our country, for Ukrainians and for Ukraine. Because it is not only for Ukraine, but for the whole of Europe, ”he said. “The evil that deliberately attacks quiet cities and ambulance vans and explodes hospitals will not stop in just one country if they have the strength to move on.”

The United States and NATO say they are taking steps to help Ukraine defend itself against Russian troops and continue to provide Ukraine with security assistance, including anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons. But the US and NATO also tried to avoid being drawn into open conflict with Russia. US President Joe Biden stressed on Friday that the US will not send ground troops to Ukraine, which is not a NATO member. Please be strong.  For relatives torn by war in Ukraine, telephone messages bring hope and despair

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“We will not fight World War III in Ukraine,” Biden said after reiterating the full US support for NATO allies and promising the US would defend “every inch” of NATO territory.

“But I want to make it clear that we will make sure that Ukraine has a weapon to defend against the invasion of Russian forces. And we will send money and food aid to save the lives of Ukrainians, ”he added.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov warned the US on Saturday against handing over arms to Ukraine, saying foreign arms convoys would be considered “legitimate targets.”

“We warned the United States that pumping weapons from many countries they have arranged to Ukraine is not only a dangerous move, but it is an action that turns appropriate convoys into legitimate targets,” Ryabkov said on Saturday on Russia’s state-run English Channel. One, according to the state news agency RIA Novosti.

Defined resistance

In Ukraine, Russia has faced public opposition over the past two weeks. On Saturday, several hundred people swarmed the town hall in the South Ukrainian city of Melitopol after Mayor Ivan Fedorov was arrested the previous day by armed men.

Shortly after Fedorov’s arrest, the Russian-backed Lugansk regional prosecutor stated that Fedorov had committed terrorist crimes, which Zelenskiy called “a crime against democracy” on Saturday.

The administration of the Zaporozhye region announced on Saturday that a new mayor has been installed. Galina Danilchenko, a former Melitopol city councilor, was inducted into the position of Acting Mayor on local television, according to a statement by the regional administration in Telegram. In her televised statement, Danilchenko said “her main task is to take all the necessary steps to bring the city back to normal.”

She stated that there are still people in Melitopol who are trying to destabilize “the situation and provoke a reaction of bad behavior”.

“Please, be reasonable and don’t give in to these provocations,” she said. “I appeal to MPs, elected by the people, at all levels. Since you have been chosen by the people, it is your responsibility to look after the welfare of your citizens. ”

In Kiev, the Russian attack met with strong resistance from the Ukrainian forces. On Saturday, the UK’s Ministry of Defense reported that most of the Russian ground forces are located approximately 25 kilometers (15.5 miles) from the center of the Ukrainian capital.

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In Berestyanka - 10 miles west of the airbase - in the field near the trees you can see many fuel trucks and, Maxar says, many rocket launchers.

Satellite images taken by Maxar on Thursday showed that the 40-mile Russian column northwest of Kiev had largely dispersed and regrouped. But an intelligence assessment warned: “This probably supports the Russian attempt to encircle the city. It may also be an attempt by Russia to reduce its vulnerability to Ukrainian counter-attacks that have had an impact on Russian forces. ”

The ministry added that the northern and north-eastern cities of Chernihiv and Sumy, the eastern city of Kharkiv and Mariupol in the south remain encircled by Russian forces.

A high-ranking Ukrainian official in the southern region of Kherson, now under Russian control, said the “occupiers” were pressing the regional council to agree to a referendum on the area’s “independence” from Ukraine. There was no word from the Russian side about the plans for a referendum.

Similar referenda took place after the Russian-backed separatists took control of parts of the Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts in 2014. Later, people’s republics were proclaimed in both regions.

The Ukrainian state-owned nuclear power company announced on Saturday that Russian officials had arrived at Ukraine’s largest nuclear power plant, Zaporizhia, demanding control of the facility.

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Zaporizhia has been occupied by Russian forces for more than a week, and Energoatom previously claimed its workers were forced to work at gunpoint. The Chernobyl nuclear power plant is also under the control of Russian forces.

Despite the attack, Zelenskiy said on Saturday that Ukrainian forces were dealing “the biggest blow to the Russian army in decades,” saying that 31 Russian tactical battalion groups have lost their capacity and over 360 Russian tanks have been lost.

Zelensky added that groups of Russian soldiers are surrendering to Ukrainian forces, but Russia is now recruiting fighters, reservists, conscripts and mercenaries to “outnumber” Ukrainian forces.

Russia’s losses include Major General Andriy Kolesnikov, the third Russian general killed by Ukrainian forces, a Western defense official confirmed on Friday. According to the website of the Russian Ministry of Defense, he was in command of the Eastern Military District, and a Western official noted for context that three Russian general staff officers were killed during the entire Syrian conflict.

Deteriorating conditions

As Russia is suffering losses, its bombing of the country continues to worsen living conditions in several areas. Officials are now racing to send relief and evacuate citizens from the encircled cities.

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Ukrainian officials announced a renewed attempt to secure at least 13 evacuation corridors from various cities, despite reports that only a few civilians could have left the previous day.

Addressing the besieged city of Mariupol, Zelenskiy said on Saturday that Ukrainian forces would guarantee a ceasefire along the evacuation corridor so that supplies could enter and civilians could leave.

Ukrainian rescuers and volunteers transport an injured pregnant woman from a maternity hospital that was destroyed by shelling in Mariupol, Ukraine, Wednesday March 9, 2022.

With relatively clear skies over Mariupol, new satellite images taken Saturday morning by Maxar showed the extent of the damage, including some from military attacks reported earlier this week.

A large – still smoldering – crater has been observed in the western Mariupol district of Zhovteneyvi near the Okko gas station. Smoke seemed to be rising from the apartment complex across the street. The roofs of warehouses along the street also appeared to have large holes from military strikes.

Several buildings within the complex appeared to have been severely damaged. A field of debris was visible surrounding some buildings with a large plume of smoke.

To the northwest of the gas station, an additional satellite image showed impact craters scattered across the snow-covered field. There were also visible traces of the tread of the vehicles. A little over a mile south, in an industrial zone in the Primorskyi district, a raging great fire was observed.

There was good news amid the devastation. A pregnant woman whose rescue from Mariupol maternity hospital this week was captured in a viral AP image gave birth to a baby girl, her family told CNN.

Mariana Vishegirskaya was one of the many women in the Mariupol maternity hospital who survived the shelling.

Her aunt Tatiana Liubczenko said that the child’s name was Veronika, but she was worried about the situation in the city. “We were informed that the water and food of the local people were running out and we were very worried because the green corridor is not open and the Russians do not allow it, food does not come. And now it’s so cold there so they can’t get warm, ”Liubchenko said.

The United Nations said on Friday that about 2 million Ukrainians were displaced as a result of the fighting, and 2.5 million people fled its borders.

CNN’s Tara John wrote from London. Maija Ehlinger reported from Atlanta. Tim Lister reported from Kiev. Max Foster and Eleanor Pickston report from London. Julia Kesajewa and Ivana Kottasová from CNN reported from Lviv. Paul P. Murphy reported from New York. Josh Pennington reported from Columbus, Ohio.