LVIV, Ukraine (AP) – The humanitarian crisis in Ukraine deepened on Monday as Russian forces stepped up shelling and food, water, heat and medicine became increasingly scarce. .
The third round of talks between the two sides ended with a top Ukrainian official saying there had been little progress in creating safe corridors that would allow civilians to avoid fighting. Russia’s chief negotiator said he expects the corridors to open on Tuesday.
But this has yet to be clarified, given the failure of previous attempts to bring civilians to safety amid the biggest ground war in Europe since World War II.
Already in the second week of the invasion, when Russian troops made significant progress in southern Ukraine but stopped in some other regions, a senior U.S. official said several countries were discussing whether to give military planes requested by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s forces continued to fire rockets at cities, and fierce fighting broke out in some places.
In one of the most desperate cities, surrounded by the southern port of Mariupol, about 200,000 people – almost half the population of 430,000 – hoped to flee, and the Red Cross waited for the corridor to be created.
The city lacks water, food and electricity, and mobile networks are down. Shops were looted when residents were looking for essentials.
Police moved around the city, told people to remain in storage, until they hear officials on loudspeakers about evacuation.
Mariupol hospitals are facing a serious shortage of antibiotics and painkillers, and some emergency procedures doctors did without them.
The lack of telephone communication forced concerned citizens to turn to strangers to ask if they knew relatives living in other parts of the city and if they were safe.
In the capital, Kyiv, soldiers and volunteers have built hundreds of checkpoints to protect nearly 4 million people, often using sandbags, folded tires and spiked ropes. Some barricades looked significant, with heavy concrete slabs and sandbags more than two stories high, while others looked more casual, with hundreds of books used to weigh down stacks of tires.
“Every house, every street, every checkpoint, if necessary, we will fight to the death,” said Mayor Vitali Klitschko.
In Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city with a population of 1.4 million, heavy shelling shelled apartment buildings.
“I think we had the fourth floor below us,” said Dmitry Sedarenko from his Kharkov hospital bed. “Immediately everything started to burn and fall apart.” When the floor collapsed beneath him, he crawled across the third floor, past the bodies of some of his neighbors.
Klitschko said that fierce fighting continues in the Kiev region, in particular around Bucha, Gostomel, Vorzel and Irpen.
In the area of Irpen, which was cut off from electricity, water and heat for three days, eyewitnesses saw at least three tanks and said that Russian soldiers seized houses and cars.
A few miles away, in the town of Gorenka, where as a result of the shelling one area turned to ashes and shards of glass, rescuers and residents searched the ruins while chickens were pecking around them.
“What are they doing?” Vasily Oksak, the rescuer, asked the Russian attackers. “Two young people and two old people lived here. Come on in, take a look and enjoy yourself! ”
In the south, Russian troops also continued the offensive in Mykolaiv, opening fire on the Black Sea shipbuilding center with a population of half a million, according to the Ukrainian military. Rescuers said they were putting out fires caused by rocket fire in residential areas.
In The Hague (Netherlands), Ukraine has appealed to the International Court of Justice to stop Russia’s invasion, saying Moscow is committing widespread war crimes.
“Russia is resorting to tactics reminiscent of medieval siege war, surrounding cities, cutting off escape routes and killing civilians with heavy ammunition,” said Jonathan Gimblet, a member of Ukraine’s legal team.
Russia has dropped the lawsuit, leaving its seats in the Great Hall of Justice empty.
Efforts to organize a safe passage for civilians last weekend failed amid prolonged Russian shelling. Ahead of talks Monday, Russia announced a new plan, saying civilians would be allowed to leave Kyiv, Mariupol, Kharkiv and Sumy.
But this proposal was quickly rejected by Ukraine and others as an empty and cynical gesture, as most evacuation routes were directed towards Russia or its ally Belarus, which served as a launching pad for the invasion.
Deputy Prime Minister of Ukraine Iryna Verashchuk called the proposal unacceptable.
“I know little about Ukrainians who want asylum in Russia. This is hypocrisy, ”French President Emmanuel Macron said in an interview with French television station LCI.
Ukraine has instead proposed eight routes that allow civilians to travel to the western regions of the country where there is no shelling.
On Monday, the head of the UN humanitarian service said the United Nations was unable to meet the needs of millions of Ukrainian civilians affected by the conflict.
Speaking to the UN Security Council, Under-Secretary-General Martin Griffiths urged people to go “in the direction they choose” and humanitarian supplies to areas of hostilities.
The battle for Mariupol is crucial because its capture could allow Moscow to create a land corridor to Crimea that Russia seized from Ukraine in 2014.
The fighting has led to rising energy prices around the world and a sharp drop in stocks, as well as threatening food and livelihoods to people around the world who rely on crops in the fertile Black Sea region.
The UN Office for Human Rights reported 406 confirmed civilian deaths, but said the real number was much higher. The invasion also sent 1.7 million people who fled Ukraine.
On Monday, Moscow reiterated a number of demands to stop the invasion, including Ukraine’s recognition of Crimea as part of Russia and the recognition of independent eastern regions controlled by Moscow-backed separatist militants. He also insisted that Ukraine change its constitution to ensure that it does not join international bodies such as NATO and the EU. Ukraine has already rejected these demands.
Zelensky called for more punitive measures against Russia, including a global boycott of its oil exports, which is key to its economy.
“If (Russia) does not want to follow civilized rules, they should not receive goods and services from civilization,” he said in a video message.
He also asked for more fighter jets. U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman said officials were “trying to see if that’s feasible.”
While the West is throwing weapons into Ukraine, such as anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles, some officials fear that sending fighter jets to Moscow could be seen as a direct part of the war.
One possible scenario under discussion is that former Soviet bloc countries that are now members of NATO could send their own Soviet-era MiGs to Ukraine, piloted by Ukrainian pilots, and the United States then replacing those aircraft with American F-16s. .
Russia’s invasion has frightened neighboring countries that war could spill over on them.
US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken has begun a lightning-fast visit to the Baltic states – Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia – former Soviet republics that are members of NATO. Blinken hoped to assure them of defending the alliance.
NATO showed no interest in sending troops to the country and rejected Zelensky’s requests to establish a no-fly zone for fear of starting a major war.
Associated Press reporters from around the world contributed to this report.
Follow the coverage of the crisis in Ukraine in the AP at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine