Lauren Moye, FISM News
The intense fighting and cost to civilian life continues in the Ukrainian conflict initiated by Russia on Feb. 24 with reports of up to 1600 civilian lives lost in one city alone.
Early on Saturday morning, it was reported by Interfax Ukraine that an airbase near the town of Vasylkiv – located in the Kyiv region – had been destroyed by Russian rockets. An ammunition depot was also damaged at the same time.
Oleksiy Arestovych, an adviser to Ukraine’s chief of staff, indicated they expected renewed attacks on Kyiv, Kharkiv, and the Donbas regions on Saturday but did not expect Belarus to join in the invasion at this time.
The crisis of besieged Mariupol – in which citizens have now been without food, clean water, and electricity for several cold nights – grows more dire. After shelling an in-use hospital within the city on Wednesday, Russia is now accused of attacking a Muslim mosque that sheltered over 80 people.
Reuters reported that the Ukrainian foreign ministry said, “The mosque of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent and his wife Roxolana (Hurrem Sultan) in Mariupol was shelled by Russian invaders. More than 80 adults and children are hiding there from the shelling, including citizens of Turkey.”
Concerns about ceasefire violations and airstrikes, meanwhile, have hindered evacuation efforts from both Mariupol and the capital city of Kyiv. Several attempts at establishing humanitarian corridors out of besieged cities have failed in the past week with both countries blaming each other.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy claims that no negotiations can occur between the two countries unless they start with an immediate ceasefire. Putin stood by his assertion that the fault of alleged human rights abuses stands with Ukrainian forces during a Friday diplomatic conference with the top leaders of France and Germany.
The civilian death toll in Mariupol was reported at 1,580 fatalities. In comparison, Ukraine claims they’ve only lost 1,300 soldiers.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy claimed on Saturday that 31 Russian tactical battalions had been removed from action within the conflict. Zelenskyy boasted that up to 600 Russian troops had surrendered on Friday.
On Friday, Britain said that Russia had initiated air and missile strikes on the cities of Lutsk and Ivano-Frankivsk, which are both located on the western side of the country.
Washington Imposes New Sanctions
Washington initiated a new round of sanctions against Moscow on Friday, including shutting down development funds and banning imports of seafood, vodka, and diamonds.
A state department spokesperson said on Saturday, “We are working to put the Ukrainians in the strongest possible negotiating position, including by increasing pressure on Russia by imposing severe costs and by providing security assistance to help Ukrainians defend themselves.”
The European Union has also initiated a new attack on Russia’s economy by revoking their “most-favored nation” trade status. They will ban the export of luxury goods to the former soviet nation, as well as imports of Russian iron and steel goods.
Israel denies encouraging Ukraine to surrender
As part of diplomatic efforts between external countries to end the war, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett spoke to both Putin and Zelenskyy. Israeli news sources reported claims from an anonymous Ukrainian official that Bennett encouraged the smaller nation to surrender as part of these conversations.
This report has now been denied by both Israel and Ukraine.
“Bennett has at no point told Zelenskyy how to act, nor does he have any intention to,” an anonymous top Israeli official told Reuters.
Ukrainian adviser Mykhailo Podolyak tweeted it was “impossible.” He asserted, “On the contrary, Israel urges Russia to assess the events more adequately.”