LVIV, Ukraine (AP) – A second attempt to evacuate civilians from a city in besieged southern Ukraine failed on Sunday as Russian attacks halted plans to build a humanitarian corridor, a Ukrainian government spokesman said, and Pope Francis called for a halt to rivers of blood and tears. created by war.
In the port city of Mariupol, where Russian and Ukrainian forces agreed to an 11-hour ceasefire to allow the evacuation of civilians and the wounded, there was a desperate shortage of food, water, medicine and almost all other goods. But Russian attacks quickly closed the corridor, Ukrainian officials said.
“There can be no ‘green corridors’, because only the sick brains of Russians decide when and from whom to start shooting,” Interior Ministry adviser Anton Gerashchenko told Telegram.
The news shattered hopes that more people would be able to avoid fighting in Ukraine, where Russia’s plan to quickly seize the country was halted by fierce resistance. Russia has made significant progress in southern Ukraine and along the coast, but many of its efforts have stalled, including a huge military convoy that has been nearly stationary for days north of Kiev.
The war, which has been going on for 11 days, has forced 1.5 million people to leave the country. The head of the UN refugee agency called the outcome “the fastest growing refugee crisis in Europe since World War II.”
As he often did, Russian President Vladimir Putin accused him of fighting Ukraine, telling Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday that the invasion could only be stopped “only if Kyiv ceases hostilities,” the Kremlin said in a telephone statement. bell.
He said Ukraine must comply with “Russia’s well-known demands”, which include what he calls “demilitarization” and “denazification” of Ukraine.
The presidents of Turkey and France, as well as Pope Francis, have called on Putin to negotiate.
With a very unusual step, the Pope said he had sent two cardinals to Ukraine, saying the Vatican would do everything possible to end the conflict.
“Rivers of blood and tears are flowing in Ukraine,” the pontiff said in his traditional Sunday blessing. “It’s not just a military operation, but a war that sows death, destruction and suffering.”
After a ceasefire in Mariupol failed on Saturday, Russian forces intensified shelling of the city and dropped massive bombs on residential areas of Chernihiv, a city north of Kiev, Ukrainian officials said.
British military officials have compared Russia’s tactics to those used by Moscow in Chechnya and Syria, where besieged cities have been destroyed by air strikes and artillery.
“Perhaps this will be an attempt to break the morale of Ukraine,” – said the British Ministry of Defense.
Separately, the National Security Service of Ukraine reported that Russian forces in the city of Kharkov fired rockets at a physical institute containing nuclear material and a reactor.
The President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky reiterated his request to foreign protectors to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine, which NATO has so far ruled out for fear that such actions would lead to a much wider war.
“The world is strong enough to close our skies,” Zelensky said in a video message Sunday.
Zelensky’s adviser Alexei Arastovich said that Ukrainian officials and international humanitarian organizations are working with Russia through intermediaries to create humanitarian corridors from Bucha and Gostomel, which are suburbs of Kiev, where heavy fighting is taking place.
As Russian troops surrounded several Ukrainian cities, Zelensky appeared on television Saturday night and rallied his men to hold the challenge.
“Ukrainians in all our cities, where the enemy entered – on the offensive!” said Zelensky, who was dressed in his usual military green T-shirt. “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.”
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.
The death toll 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.
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 cities that fell, there were signs of resistance.
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.”
Russia has made significant progress in southern Ukraine, trying to block access to the Sea of Azov. 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.
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, so the Ukrainians themselves to fight with Russian troops.
U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken spent the weekend visiting NATO member countries in Eastern Europe that received refugees from Ukraine. In Moldova on Sunday, he vowed to support a pro-Western former Soviet republic that is vigilantly monitoring Russia’s steps in Ukraine.
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 Gebreies said on Twitter.
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