LVIV, Ukraine (AP) – A Ukrainian official said a second attempt to evacuate civilians from a besieged southern city within a week had failed due to continued Russian shelling.
The evacuation from the port city of Mariupol was to begin at noon local time (10 a.m. Greenwich Mean Time) during a local ceasefire from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Ukrainian military authorities said earlier Sunday.
Interior Ministry adviser Anton Gerashchenko said that the planned evacuation along the designated humanitarian corridors was stopped due to the ongoing assault.
“There can be no ‘green corridors’, because only the sick brain of Russians decides when and from whom to start shooting,” he told the Telegram.
A similar ceasefire, scheduled for Mariupol and the neighboring city of Volnovakha, collapsed on Saturday, with Russian troops dragging residents under heavy shelling and aerial bombardment.
Separately, the National Security Service of Ukraine reports that Russian forces are shelling a physical institute in the city of Kharkiv, which contains nuclear material and a reactor.
The security service said a strike on the nuclear facility could lead to a “large-scale environmental disaster”.
The service reported on Facebook on Sunday that the Russians were firing from Grad launchers. These missiles do not have a clear targeting, which is a concern that someone might get lost.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has reiterated a request to foreign protectors to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine, which NATO has so far ruled out for fear that such actions could draw the West into war.
“The world is strong enough to close our skies,” Zelensky said in a video message Sunday.
Russian President Vladimir Putin warned on Saturday that Moscow would consider a statement by a third party to close Ukraine’s airspace to be a hostile act.
THIS IS AN UPDATE OF NEWS. The previous history of the AP is given below.
LVIV, Ukraine (AP) – Ukrainian authorities prepared Sunday for a second attempt to evacuate civilians from a southern city affected by Russia’s week-long attack as economic pressure on Moscow intensified and diplomats traveled across Europe to try to end the war.
The evacuation from the port city of Mariupol was to begin at noon local time (10 a.m. Greenwich Mean Time) during a local ceasefire from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Ukrainian military authorities said. A similar ceasefire, planned there and in the neighboring town of Volnovakha, collapsed on Saturday, seizing women, children and the elderly under heavy shelling and aerial bombardment by Russian forces.
The resumed statement came after Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and a Russian-speaking member of his cabinet traveled to Moscow and spoke with the Ukrainian president in hopes of concluding a broader ceasefire agreement that now lasts 11 days.
U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken spent the weekend visiting NATO member states in Eastern Europe, which saw 1.5 million refugees flowing across their borders since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24. The head of the UN refugee agency called the outcome “the fastest growing.” the refugee crisis after World War II ”.
President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky reiterated his request to foreign protectors to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin warned on Saturday that Moscow would consider a third-party statement to close Ukraine’s airspace hostile, and the West has so far rejected Zelensky’s requests for fear of confrontation with Russia.
“The world is strong enough to close our skies,” Zelensky said in a video message Sunday.
As Russian troops surrounded several Ukrainian cities and held a convoy outside the capital, Kyiv, Zelensky appeared on television Saturday night in what has become a habitual military green T-shirt, and rallied his men to remain hostile.
“Ukrainians in all our cities, where the enemy entered – on the offensive!” said Zelensky. “We need to go outside! You have to fight! “We must come out and drive this evil out of our cities, out of our land.”
After a ceasefire in Mariupol failed to contain, Russian forces intensified shelling of the city and dropped massive bombs on residential areas of Chernihiv, a city north of Kiev, Ukrainian officials said.
In Mariupol, dead mothers mourned the deaths of their children, harnesses were applied to wounded soldiers, and doctors worked by cell phones while gloom and despair reigned.
“The city is in a very, very difficult state,” Mariupol Mayor Vadim Boychenko told Ukrainian television. “Relentless shelling of apartment buildings continues, planes drop bombs on residential neighborhoods. The Russian occupiers are using heavy artillery, including Hail multiple rocket launchers.
Russian President Vladimir Putin continues to blame the war on Ukraine’s leadership, condemning their resistance to Russian troops.
“If they continue to do what they are doing, they are questioning the future of Ukrainian statehood,” Putin said on Saturday. “And if that happens, it will be entirely on their conscience.”
He also attacked Western sanctions, which crippled Russia’s economy and led to a fall in the value of its currency. Meanwhile, more and more companies, including Mastercard and Visa, are suspending operations in Russia.
“These sanctions are similar to a declaration of war,” he said during a televised meeting with Russian Aeroflot flight attendants, which suspended all international flights except Belarus on Saturday. “But, thank God, we haven’t arrived yet.”
The World Health Organization on Sunday condemned attacks on health workers in Ukraine, saying it had confirmed at least six such attacks, which killed six people and injured 11 others.
Attacks on health workers are a violation of international humanitarian law, WHO Director-General Tedras Adhanom Gebreisus said on Twitter.
The British military on Sunday compared Russia’s tactics in Ukraine to those used in Chechnya and Syria, where besieged cities were killed by air strikes and artillery after Russian forces faced unexpected resistance.
The force of the Ukrainian resistance continues to surprise Russian forces, and they retaliated by attacking settlements, including the cities of Kharkiv, Chernihiv and Mariupol, the British Defense Ministry said at a daily briefing.
“This is likely to be an attempt to break the morale of Ukraine,” – said in the ministry. “Russia used similar tactics in Chechnya in 1999 and Syria in 2016, using both air and ground ammunition.”
The death toll in the conflict is difficult to measure. The UN Office of Human Rights said at least 351 civilians had been killed, but the true figure was probably much higher. Russian and Ukrainian defense officials did not provide information about their military casualties.
The Ukrainian military is far ahead of the Russian, but its professional and volunteer forces fought back with fierce tenacity. In Kyiv, volunteers lined up on Saturday to join the military.
Even in the fallen cities, there were signs of resistance, which Zelensky asked for.
Observers in Chernihiv rejoiced as they watched a Russian military plane fall from the sky and crash, according to a video released by the Ukrainian government. In Kherson, hundreds of demonstrators waved blue and yellow Ukrainian flags and shouted, “Go home.”
But the struggle for a temporary ceasefire in Mariupol and Volnovakha on Saturday showed volatile ceasefire efforts across Ukraine.
The third round of talks between Russia and Ukraine will take place on Monday, said a member of the Ukrainian delegation David Arahamiya. He did not provide further details, including where they will take place.
Previous meetings were held in Belarus. The talks led to a ceasefire agreement that failed on Saturday and resumed on Sunday.
Russia has made significant progress in southern Ukraine, trying to block access to the Aurov Sea. The capture of Mariupol could allow Moscow to create a land corridor to Crimea, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014, which most other countries considered illegal.
Meanwhile, the head of the Chernihiv region said that Russia had dropped powerful bombs on residential areas of the city of the same name with a population of 290 thousand people. Vyacheslav Chavus posted a photo on the Internet, which, according to him, showed an unexploded FAB-500 bomb weighing 1,100 pounds (500 kilograms).
“Usually these weapons are used against military-industrial facilities and fortified structures,” Chaus said.
The West has widely supported Ukraine by offering aid and arms supplies and imposing heavy sanctions on Russia. But no NATO troops were sent to Ukraine, the Ukrainians leave to fight with Russian troops.
“Ukraine is bleeding, but Ukraine has not fallen,” Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba said in a video released on Saturday.
Zelensky tried to enlist the support of U.S. lawmakers on Saturday by speaking to more than 300 members of Congress via video link. He asked for extra help, particularly from fighters, to help secure the skies over Ukraine, even if he insisted on defeating Russia.
Russian troops were advancing on the third nuclear power plant, Zelensky said. They have already taken control of the Zaporozhye station in Ukraine, as well as Chernobyl, the site of the world’s largest nuclear disaster.
U.S. President Joe Biden called Zelensky early Sunday in Kyiv time to discuss Russian sanctions and accelerating U.S. aid to Ukraine. The White House said the talks also touched on talks between Russia and Ukraine, but did not provide details.
Blinken was in Moldova on Sunday, where he vowed to support the former Soviet-leaning Soviet republic, which is coping with an influx of refugees and vigilantly monitoring Russia’s steps in Ukraine.
Moldovan officials are asking for international assistance in resolving the refugee crisis, as well as seeking security guarantees in the event of any Russian aggression. More than 230,000 people have fled Ukraine to Moldova since the fighting began.
The UN has said it will increase its humanitarian operations both inside and outside Ukraine, and the Security Council has scheduled a meeting on Monday to worsen the situation.
The UN World Food Program has warned of an impending famine crisis in Ukraine, the world’s largest supplier of wheat, saying millions of people will need food aid “immediately.”
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