Day 12 of Ukraine invasion: No breakthrough in talks as attacks continue and humanitarian crisis worsens

Efforts to establish evacuation corridors for non-combatants have failed in recent days, even as the assault left hundreds of thousands of residents without water, heat or natural gas. Ukraine has accused Russia of disrupting two attempts to allow civilians to leave over the weekend and allow much-needed supplies to arrive. On Monday, the government rejected a proposal from Moscow to move residents of besieged towns to Russia.

“Just cynicism, just propaganda,” is how Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky described Russia’s talk of “humanitarian corridors.” He reiterated his call for a no-fly zone over Ukraine to counter the Russian onslaught, saying his country had been plunged into suffering “unlike any other European nation in 80 years”.

North of the capital Kyiv, the thump of artillery fire caused civilians to flee on Monday as parents with children and the elderly attempted to cross the Irpin River away from advancing Russian forces.

In Odessa, a major port and cultural center on the Black Sea, Mayor Gennadiy Trukhanov said he expected a possible Russian attack from the east, where Moscow forces had already captured the city of Kherson, and a group of Russian warships just outside Ukrainian territory. waters. “The aggressor is not far away,” warned Trukhanov, who said to himself keep a loaded pistol by your side at all times.

More than 400 civilians have been killed and 800 injured since the war began on February 24, according to the United Nations, although these figures are likely to be significantly underestimated due to delays in corroborating information. At least 1.7 million refugees from Ukraine, half of whom are children, had arrived in neighboring countries from Sunday, said Catherine Russell, Executive Director of UNICEF.

The World Health Organization has confirmed 14 attacks on health facilities and personnel in Ukraine since the start of the war.

In Washington, a bipartisan group of lawmakers announced Monday they had reached agreement on a bill that could ban US imports of Russian oil and further empower President Biden to impose tariffs on Russian products. Biden spoke with French, German and British leaders about developments in Ukraine, the White House said in a statement, adding that the leaders remained committed to “continuing to escalate the costs to Russia for its unprovoked invasion. and unjustified”.

Efforts to inflict pain on Russia are likely to have wider economic consequences, especially on the price of energy. On Monday, the price of oil briefly jumped to a 14-year high in $139 per barrel before pulling back, and US financial markets fell sharply. European leaders have said they plan to reduce their dependence on Russian energy imports, but do not want to commit to an immediate ban.

“Obviously there’s a lot of debate going on about energy sanctions,” Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said at a press conference on Monday. “Here, you can’t go wrong. We must ensure that they do not generate unmanageable risks for the energy supply of European countries and beyond.

Meanwhile, Moscow is trying to recruit fighters from Syria to help fuel its war effort, the senior US defense official said, because “nearly 100%” of Russian troops who were prepositioned around the Ukraine have already been sent into the country to fight. .

The official said there was no indication that Moscow was preparing to send additional Russian forces to supplement the 127 battalions that were organized around Ukraine before the invasion. The advance of these units has selectively slowed and blocked by logistical problems and Ukrainian resistance. Instead, the official said, Russia appears to be increasing its bombardment of population centers and using long-range missiles.

The Pentagon has tracked more than 625 Russian missile launches since the fighting began. Initially, most of them consisted of short-range projectiles, but now those missiles “are not the majority anymore”, the official said.

In Belarus, a third round of talks between Russia and Ukraine ended with no progress towards ending the conflict. Ukrainian negotiator Mykhailo Podolyak said the talks had made progress towards logistical arrangements for local ceasefires and evacuation corridors after several days of unsuccessful efforts. Still, “to date, there are no results that significantly improve the situation,” Podolyak said.

The head of the Russian delegation, Vladimir Medinsky, said he hoped there would be progress in a fourth round of talks in the coming days and that the humanitarian corridors would start operating on Tuesday.

The Russian and Ukrainian foreign ministers are due to meet in Turkey on Thursday, their first meeting since the start of the invasion of Moscow, the Turkish foreign minister announced on Monday. Other parties have also recently offered to act as mediators in the dispute, including China and the Vatican.

The Kremlin has demanded that Ukraine return much of the east of the country and recognize Crimea as part of Russia as conditions for ceasing hostilities. Russian President Vladimir Putin also insisted that Ukraine demilitarize, declare its neutrality and renounce any attempt to join NATO.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited Lithuania on Monday as part of a European tour aimed at showcasing Western unity against Russian invasion. As he welcomed the top US diplomat, Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda warned that Putin might not stop his territorial expansion if he succeeded in capturing Ukraine.

The Pentagon has said it will send 500 additional troops to bolster the US presence in Eastern Europe, a deployment that includes KC-135 tanker planes that will be based in Souda Bay, Greece, and forces that will establish an air operations center in Romania and Poland. The forces will join more than 12,000 troops who have deployed since Russia began assembling forces outside Ukraine’s borders. Biden said troops would not fight in Ukraine.

Ukraine has opened proceedings before the United Nations’ highest court in The Hague demanding an immediate end to the fighting and has dispatched teams to collect evidence from the bombed sites for possible future war crimes prosecutions. The case centers on Russia’s official explanation for its invasion, which Putin says aims to achieve the “denazification” of Ukraine and end a “genocide” in the east of the country. There is no evidence to support Russia’s claims. Representatives of Ukraine reiterated on Monday that the Russian accusations are false and represent a pretext for an illegal invasion. Russia did not show up for a hearing in the case on Monday, effectively boycotting the process.

On Monday, the Russian Defense Ministry announced the formation of six evacuation corridors, including three leading to Russia and one to Belarus, a close ally of Moscow. Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk called the offer “unacceptable”, insisting that the flow of people from combat zones should be allowed to western Ukraine or the countries of the ‘European Union.

French President Emmanuel Macron accused Putin of hypocrisy and said the corridors project was “not serious”.

“It’s moral and political cynicism,” Macron said in an interview with a French news channel.

In Mariupol, a city in southern Ukraine, around 200,000 civilians remain under siege. Residents are without heat, they don’t have access to basic supplies such as food and medicine, and the water system is broken, said Anton Gerashchenko, adviser to the Ukrainian government, on Facebook.

Approximately 1 million consumers in southeastern Ukraine will be cut off from natural gas, a key source of heating and cooking fuel, after Russian bombing damaged a main pipeline, according to to the operator of the country’s gas transmission network. Much of the population in southeastern Ukraine – in the Donetsk and Zaporizhzhia regions – “will be left without a gas supply“, he said in a statement.

The exodus of multinationals from Russia continued on Monday as companies come under pressure from employees and customers to repudiate the war. Ernst & Young, a leading global accounting firm, announced that it would end its activities in Russia, calling the conflict in Ukraine “shocking and odious.” Deloitte, another of the “big four” accounting firms, said it would also exit the market, following similar announcements from PricewaterhouseCoopers and KPMG on Sunday.

Aviation giant Boeing has stopped buying titanium from Russia, a company spokesman said, adding to a widespread boycott of Western companies that threatens to leave Russia economically isolated for years. Boeing uses Russian titanium in its 737, 767, 787, 777 and 777x aircraft for items such as fasteners, landing gear and flight control structures.

Demirjian reported from Washington and Raghavan from Kiev, Ukraine. David L. Stern in Mukachevo; Tony Romm, Dan Diamond, Aaron Gregg, Hannah Knowles and Lateshia Beachum in Washington; Amanda Coletta in Toronto; Missy Ryan in Tallinn, Estonia; Rick Noack in Paris; Annabelle Timsit, Karla Adam and Jennifer Hassan in London; Kareem Fahim and Zeynep Karatas in Istanbul; and other Washington Post staff contributed to this report.

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