Written by ANDREO ROSE
Kyiv, Ukraine (AP) – Russia intensified its bombing of Kyiv on Tuesday, destroying a house and other buildings, while 2,000 civilians fled Mariupol along a humanitarian corridor in what is believed to be the largest evacuation from the desperately besieged.
Another round of talks between Russia and Ukraine began on the diplomatic front via video, and the leaders of three European Union countries – including Poland, which is on the threshold of Ukraine – a NATO member – have planned a visit to the fighting capital in a bold demonstration. support.
As the number of people expelled from the country as a result of the war exceeded 3 million, large explosions of, according to Ukrainian authorities, artillery strikes erupted in Kyiv before dawn.
The President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky said that the shelling fell on four high-rise buildings in the city and killed dozens of people. As a result of the shelling in a 15-storey apartment building, a huge fire broke out and prompted insane rescue operations.
The strikes on the 20th day of the Russian invasion were aimed at the western part of Kyiv, disrupting the relative calm that returned after the initial offensive by Moscow forces was halted in the early days of the war.
The leaders of Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovenia traveled to Kyiv by train, despite security risks, as part of a visit that EU officials said was not sanctioned by other bloc members from 27 countries.
“The purpose of the visit is to express unequivocal support of the European Union to Ukraine and its freedom and independence,” Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala said on Twitter. He was joined by Slovenian Prime Ministers Janez Jansa and Poland’s Mateusz Morawiecki, as well as Jaroslav Kaczynski, Poland’s de facto leader.
The UN said at least 636 civilians had been killed and 1,125 wounded in the conflict, with the true figure probably much higher.
The Ukrainian government said that on Tuesday, new measures will be taken to provide assistance and evacuation along nine corridors across the country, including the Kiev region. Past attempts have repeatedly failed amid prolonged fighting.
One of the most desperate situations is in Mariupol, a port city with a population of 430,000, where local authorities estimate that the week-long siege killed more than 2,300 people and desperately demanded food, water, heat and medicine.
Mariupol City Council said 2,000 civilian vehicles were able to drive along the humanitarian corridor, which runs more than 260 kilometers (160 miles) west of Zaporozhye.
The city council said another 2,000 cars were waiting to leave the route. It was not immediately clear whether the number of cars left on Tuesday included 160 cars that left the day before.
As for the last round of talks, Aide to the President of Ukraine Mikhail Podalak said that a ceasefire and the withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine are being discussed. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that Moscow insists on Ukraine’s demand to abandon its application for NATO membership, accept neutral status and “demilitarize.”
When Russia started the war three weeks ago, the Ukrainian capital was gripped by fear of imminent invasion, and residents slept at subway stations or crammed into trains to escape. But as the Russian offensive loomed, there was a relative lull in Kyiv. U.S. officials said Russian troops were about 15 kilometers (9 miles) from downtown on Monday.
In recent days on the outskirts of Kiev intensified fighting, and inside the capital howled sirens.
Mayor Vitali Klitschko has announced a 35-hour curfew that will last until Thursday morning.
Artillery strikes on Tuesday struck the Sviatoshynskyi district in western Kyiv, adjacent to the suburbs of Irpen, where some of the worst fighting of the war took place.
Flames erupted from a 15-story apartment building, and smoke muffled the air as firefighters climbed stairs to rescue people. As a result of the assault, several floors of the building were blackened, a hole in the ground was torn out and windows in neighboring apartment buildings were smashed.
Rescuers said one person was killed, several were rescued but others remained inside.
“Yesterday we put out one fire, today another, it’s very difficult,” said one young firefighter, resting near the building, with tears in his eyes.
“People are dying, and the worst thing is that children are dying. They have not lived their lives and they have already seen it, it is the worst, ”said the rescuer, who gave only his name – Andrei.
The shockwaves from the blast also damaged the entrance to a downtown subway station that was used as a bomb shelter. City officials posted a picture of the blown-up facade on Twitter, saying trains would no longer stop at the station.
In the Podolsk district of Kiev north of the government quarter damaged a 10-storey residential building. Russian forces also intensified attacks on Irpen and the northwestern Kiev suburbs of Gastomel and Bucha at night, said the head of the capital region Alexei Kuleba.
“Many streets have turned into a slurry of steel and concrete. People have been hiding in basements for weeks and are afraid to even evacuate, ”Kuleba said on Ukrainian television.
In the east of the country, Russian forces inflicted more than 60 strikes on Ukraine’s second largest city, Kharkiv, overnight, said Oleg Sinegubov, head of the regional administration. The strikes have damaged the historic city center, including the main market.
Sinegubov said that fires were raging, and rescuers pulled dozens of bodies of civilians from the ruins of destroyed apartment buildings.
On Tuesday, the Ukrainian parliament voted to extend martial law for another month, until April 24. According to the measure requested by Zelensky, men between the ages of 18 and 60 are prohibited from leaving the country so that they can be summoned to hostilities.
In Nikolaev, a strategic southern city near the Black Sea, where air strikes killed nine people on Sunday, residents were preparing for new attacks. Volunteers prepared food and sorted donated clothes at an abandoned naval shipyard that had become a troop support center. Molotov cocktails were at hand to take over the invaders.
“We are being bombed day and night,” said Svetlana Grishchenko, whose soldier’s son died in battle. “It’s a nightmare that Russia is doing in Ukraine.”
Associated Press authors Raf Casert from Brussels, Lolita Baldor in Washington and AP journalists from around the world contributed to this report.
Follow the coverage of the war in Ukraine in the AP at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine