LVIV, Ukraine – Air raid sirens sounded over the Ukrainian capital on Wednesday when officials said they were strengthening defenses in key cities threatened by Russian forces.

It is estimated that thousands of people, both civilians and soldiers, have been killed in nearly two weeks of fighting since President Vladimir Putin’s invasion. While Russian troops slowed their advance due to fiercer-than-expected resistance from Ukraine, they laid siege to several cities, capturing inside their civilians with or without food, water or medicine.

Repeated attempts to establish safe evacuation routes from several urban areas have failed, although several thousand people managed to escape from the northeastern city of Sumy on Tuesday through a safe corridor. Residents of the besieged Sea of ​​Azov port of Mariupol were unlucky: the worst of the war was unfolding there, but an attempt to evacuate civilians and deliver much-needed supplies failed, and Ukrainian officials said Russian forces fired on the convoy before reaching the city.

On Wednesday, Ukrainian authorities announced that Russia had agreed to a new ceasefire for several days on several evacuation routes for civilians fleeing besieged or occupied cities, although it was unclear whether Russian forces would respect that.

Meanwhile, a statement from the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said it was stepping up defense in cities in the north, south and east, and that forces around Kyiv, the capital, were resisting Russia’s offensive with inaccurate strikes and “holding the line”.

In the northern city of Chernihiv, Russian troops are deploying military equipment among houses and farms, the Ukrainian General Staff said. And in the south it is said that the Russians, dressed in civilian clothes, are attacking the city of Nikolaev, the center of the Black Sea shipbuilding with a population of half a million.

No details of the new battles are reported in it.

Negotiations aimed at ending hostilities have so far yielded nothing, but Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said a meeting between Russian and Ukrainian foreign ministers is expected on Thursday.

The meeting was supposed to take place on the sidelines of the summit hosted by Turkey, a NATO member state, but no details were reported.

In Kiev on Wednesday morning, air traffic alerts urged residents to get to the bomb shelters as soon as possible for fear of Russian missiles. Soon all the withdrawal was given for each warning.

Such alerts are periodic, keeping people in suspense. Kiev has been relatively quiet in recent days, although Russian artillery has pushed the outskirts.

The head of the Kyiv regional administration Alexei Kuleba said that the crisis for the civilian population is growing in the capital, especially the critical situation in the suburbs.

“Russia is artificially creating a humanitarian crisis in the Kiev region, disrupting the evacuation of people and continuing shelling and bombing of small towns,” he said.

More than 2 million people have fled Ukraine, according to the United Nations.

As Moscow forces laid siege to Ukrainian cities, fighting thwarted attempts to create corridors for the safe evacuation of civilians.

Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Verashchuk said on Wednesday that Russian authorities had confirmed a new ceasefire along evacuation corridors from Sumy, Mariupol, Energodar in the south, Volnovakha in the southeast, Izyum in the east and several cities in the Kiev region.

All corridors lead to facilities elsewhere in Ukraine that are currently in the Ukrainian government; Earlier Russian proposals to create evacuation routes to Russia or allied Belarus have been widely criticized.

Route from Sumy, which is on the border with Russia,

On Wednesday, Ukrainian officials released a video showing trucks and buses with Red Cross symbols heading to blockaded cities

Russia, which calls its invasion of Ukraine a “special military operation,” has focused official declarations of war almost exclusively on fighting and evacuations in separatist regions where Russian-backed forces have been fighting Ukrainian troops since 2014.

On Wednesday, Defense Ministry spokesman Major General Igor Kanashenkov said Russian forces had thwarted a large-scale attack in the east of the country, citing a television statement he claimed had intercepted a document from Ukraine’s National Guard.

He did not talk about shelling, airstrikes and attacks by Russia on Ukrainian civilians and cities, the loss of Russian troops or any other aspect of its impending campaign.

In the south, Russian troops have advanced deep along Ukraine’s coastline to build a land bridge to Crimea, which Moscow seized from Ukraine in 2014.

The city of Mariupol has been surrounded by Russian soldiers for several days now, and a humanitarian crisis is unfolding in the besieged city with a population of 430,000.

The corpses lie on the streets of the city, which sits on the shores of the Ossov Sea. Hungry people break into stores in search of food and melt snow for water. Thousands of people huddle in basements, trembling at the sound of Russian shells hitting their city.

“Why don’t I cry?” Goma Janna demanded as she cried by the light of an oil lamp underground surrounded by women and children. “I want my home, I want my job. I am so sad about the people and the city, about the children. “

Mariupol, said Deputy Prime Minister of Ukraine Irina Verashchuk, is in a “catastrophic situation.”

Natalia Mudrenko, the highest-ranking woman on the UN mission in Ukraine, told the Security Council that Mariupol residents had “actually become hostages” as a result of the blockade. Her voice trembled with emotion as she described how a 6-year-old child died shortly after her mother died in the Russian shelling. “She was alone in the last minutes of her life,” she said.

Authorities in Mariupol planned to start excavating mass graves for all the victims. As a result of the shelling, buildings were destroyed, the city has no water, heat, sewerage and telephone service.

Due to the power outage, many people are relying on information from their car radios to receive news from stations broadcasting from areas controlled by Russian forces or Russian-backed separatists.

Ludmila Amelkina, who was walking along the rubble-strewn alley and the walls killed by the shooting, said that the destruction was devastating.

“We have no electricity, we have nothing to eat, we have no medicine. We have nothing, ”she said, looking at the sky.

Copyright © 2022, Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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