Ukraine confirmed on Saturday 2 April that Russian forces were operating a “quick withdrawal” regions of kyiv and Cherniguiv, in the north of its territory, aimed at ” enjoy “ in the East and the South, where new evacuations of civilians were planned during the day.
“After a rapid Russian withdrawal from the kyiv and Cherniguiv regions (…), it is quite clear that Russia has chosen another priority tactic”, wrote a Ukrainian presidential adviser, Mykhaïlo Podoliak, on Telegram messaging. It is “to withdraw towards the East and the South, to keep control of vast occupied territories and to gain a foothold there in a powerful way”he continues.
160,000 people still stranded in Mariupol
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had previously claimed that the Russians were preparing for “powerful attacks” in the East, in particular on Mariupol where some 160,000 people are still stranded and of which at least 5,000 inhabitants have been killed since the start of the Russian invasion on February 24, according to local authorities.
For the Russians, control of Mariupol would ensure territorial continuity from Crimea to the two pro-Russian separatist republics of Donbass (Donetsk and Lugansk).
Seven humanitarian corridors
Unable for weeks, evacuations began on a small scale. Friday, March 31, “Humanitarian corridors have worked in three regions: Donetsk, Luhansk and Zaporozhye. We managed to rescue 6,266 people, including 3,071 from Mariupol,” said President Zelensky on the night of Friday April 1 to Saturday April 2.
Seven humanitarian corridors were planned in the east and south-east of the country for April 2, according to Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchouk. Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, for his part, offered the “maritime support, in particular for the evacuation from Mariupol of civilians and wounded Turkish or other nationalities”according to the official Anadolu news agency.
The Red Cross attempts another evacuation
After having to give up reaching Mariupol on Friday, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), announced that it would try again on Saturday “to facilitate the safe passage of civilians from Mariupol”. Corn “For the operation to succeed, it is essential that the parties respect the agreements and provide the necessary conditions and security guarantees”also underlined the ICRC.
Conditions weakened by the continued fighting. Russia on Friday accused Ukraine of carrying out a helicopter strike on its soil and threatening to toughen negotiations. The attack reportedly hit energy giant Rosneft’s fuel storage facilities in Belgorod, a Russian town about 40 kilometers from the border with Ukraine. Kyiv did not comment.
Ukraine, for its part, warned that Russian soldiers who left the Chernobyl nuclear power plant – site of the world’s worst nuclear accident in 1986 – after weeks of occupation could have been exposed to radiation, judging that “Russia behaved irresponsibly at Chernobyl” digging trenches in contaminated areas and preventing plant personnel from carrying out their duties.
Continuation of the bombings
In recent hours, several regions, particularly in the center and the east, have been bombarded. The strikes hit residential neighborhoods in Kharkiv (east), according to the presidency citing the regional authorities, but also infrastructure in Dnipro (center) according to the regional governor, or even localities in the regions of Donetsk and Lugansk (east), as well as Kherson (south).
Bombings also hit infrastructure in Kremenchuk (center, Poltava region), headquarters of the largest Ukrainian oil refinery, said the Ukrainian presidency, while the Russian Ministry of Defense announced on Saturday morning that it had destroyed with “high precision weapons” the refinery’s gasoline and diesel fuel depots.
Resumption of peace talks
As the United States announced up to $300 million more in military aid to Ukraine, peace talks resumed on Friday via video. On Sunday, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Britain’s Martin Griffiths, is due to travel to Moscow to try to obtain a “humanitarian ceasefire” in Ukraine, the head of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, announced on Friday.
Pope Francis on Saturday castigated in Malta the acts of “some mighty” locked in “nationalist interests” by evoking the “icy wind of war” came from “Eastern Europe” in a clear allusion to Russian President Vladimir Putin, without however naming him.