kyiv comes under heavy attack as Ukraine and Russia continue talks

The word “children” was spelled out on both sides of the theater before it was struck, according to satellite images.

In the nearby Ukrainian town of Chernihiv, at least 10 people queuing for bread were killed when Russian forces shelled it on Wednesday, local official Vyacheslav Chaus told Ukrainian television. He said the attack was indicative of Russia’s use of indirect fire against civilians.

Despite this, Russian forces are still “generally stuck” near kyiv and have “made no significant advances” towards the city from the north, northwest or east of the city, reporters told Wednesday. a senior US defense official.

As the Russian onslaught intensifies, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Wednesday that Russia’s negotiating position in talks between the two countries was becoming “more realistic”, a sentiment reiterated by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who hinted that there was “some hope of reaching an agreement”. compromise”, in a television interview with the Russian media RBK.

But while the United States welcomes “the sentiments expressed that there is hope, that there is optimism for diplomatic progress”, it believes that Russia must defuse for such progress to be actually made, US State Department spokesman Ned Price said on Wednesday.

Deterioration of the situation in the “hell” of Mariupol

Russian military strikes continue to shell Mariupol, which has been besieged by Russian forces since early March.

Petro Andruishchenko, adviser to the mayor of Mariupol, described the bombed-out theater as the largest shelter “in number and size” in the city center. “According to preliminary data, more than a thousand people were hiding there,” he said. “The likelihood of getting there to dismantle the rubble is low due to the constant shelling and shelling of the city.”

The bombardment adds to the city’s growing humanitarian crisis. About 350,000 people are trapped in the city and as many as 2,500 civilians are dead, Ukrainian officials estimate. Those that remain are without electricity, water and heating.

A woman walks past a bomb-damaged building in Mariupol on Sunday.
Satellite images from Maxar Technologies on Monday showed the extent of the damage in Mariupol, including burning houses after apparently coming under Russian strikes, a destroyed apartment complex and plumes of thick smoke.
After weeks of failed attempts to establish safe civilian evacuation corridors, about 20,000 people managed to leave the city on Tuesday, officials said. And on Wednesday, more than 3,000 cars carrying evacuees from Mariupol arrived in the central Ukrainian city of Zaporizhzhia, regional administration head Oleksandr Starukh said on his Telegram channel.

However, Russian forces also attacked Zaporizhzhia for the first time on Wednesday, hitting a train station and the area around the botanical garden, Starukh added.

A man looks at a burnt building that was damaged by shelling in Mariupol on Sunday.

In another southern coastal city, the Ukrainian government said it organized the rescue of the mayor of Russian-occupied Melitopol, who was arrested by gunmen in the city on March 11.

Melitopol Mayor Ivan Fedorov was released in a prisoner exchange, Ukraine’s Center for Strategic Communications and Information Security said in a statement on Wednesday.

According to the statement, Fedorov was exchanged for nine Russian soldiers, whom Ukrainians call “conscripts”, born between 2002 and 2003. Russia has denied sending any conscripts to Ukraine.

Since Fedorov’s detention, newly installed mayor Galina Danilchenko has ordered the broadcast of Russian television channels and tried to dissolve the city council and create a people’s committee instead.

Later Wednesday, a senior adviser to Zelensky said the Ukrainian military was beginning to counterattack Russian forces from a number of directions.

“This fact radically changes the disposition of the parties,” Mykhailo Podolyak said in a statement posted on Telegram, adding that “the Russian administration is trying to find allies whose soldiers would be willing to die in the field.”

NATO ‘not as essential’

Amid signs of potential progress in Ukrainian-Russian talks, the Kremlin said on Wednesday that President Vladimir Putin had not spoken to his American counterpart, Joe Biden, since the start of the war in Ukraine, but that contacts between the two leaders could resume if necessary. .

Vladimir Medinsky, the head of the Russian negotiating delegation, said Wednesday that the talks were “difficult” and “slow”, and that Moscow’s objectives in negotiations with Ukraine have not changed.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said there was hope for compromise in negotiations with Ukraine.

Medinsky was quoted by state media RIA Novosti on Wednesday as saying that Moscow wants a “peaceful, free, independent and neutral” Ukraine. He added that the country should not be a member of NATO or any military bloc.

Putin views NATO expansion as an existential threat and the prospect of Ukraine joining the Western military alliance as a “hostile act”. This week, Zelensky appeared to back away from his previous NATO membership application for Ukraine.
Ukraine’s president delivered an impassioned speech to members of Congress via video link on Wednesday, receiving a bipartisan standing ovation before and after his statement.
Showing graphic video of Russia’s attacks on Ukraine, Zelensky repeated his calls for a no-fly zone in Ukraine and referenced Mount Rushmore, the Pearl Harbor attacks and the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky has urged his American counterpart Joe Biden to be

“In the darkest times for our country, for all of Europe, I call on you to do more,” Zelensky said. “New sanctions packages are needed, constantly, every week until the Russian military machine comes to a halt. Restrictions are needed for everyone on whom this unjust regime is based.”

Olha Stefanishyna, Ukraine’s deputy prime minister for European and Euro-Atlantic integration, told CNN the reason Zelensky didn’t mention NATO is because it’s “not as essential “that a no-fly zone and weapons – and that political aspirations have to wait for now.

“I think NATO is something that’s not as essential as a no-fly zone and more weapons and basically the ability to defend ourselves,” she told CNN since. a safe place in Kyiv.

“But now it’s not about politics anymore, it’s about survival,” she added.

Stefanishyna said Putin was failing in the war because “the chain of command misinforming him, and the senior leadership surrounding him, shows that they know nothing about our nation.”

“I’m absolutely sure he’s uncomfortable every moment he sits in his air-raid shelter,” she said, adding that he “fails every one of his assessments.”

While US officials say the White House does not support establishing a no-fly zone over Ukraine or supplying new fighter jets to the Ukrainian Air Force, Biden seemed to change his stance on Putin.

“I think he’s a war criminal,” Biden told reporters after remarks at the White House on Wednesday. He and other government officials had previously refrained from saying war crimes were being committed in Ukraine, citing ongoing investigations into whether the term could be used.

CNN’s Tim Lister, Oleksandra Ochman, Vasco Cotovio, Sam Kiley, Kostan Nechyporenko and Gianluca Mezzofiore contributed to this report.

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