Chris Lange, FISM News
Russian forces intensified their attacks on residential communities in Ukraine over the weekend, dashing hopes that residents would find safe passage out of besieged cities, according to an AP report. Shelling intensified in areas surrounding Kyiv, the northern city of Chernihiv, Mykolaiv in the south, and Kharkiv.
Moscow also stepped up its brutal attack on the southern port city of Mariupol after agreeing to an 11-hour ceasefire agreement with Ukraine to facilitate a humanitarian corridor that would have allowed civilians and the wounded to be evacuated, Reuters reports. Locals scrambled to grab what they could carry with them in bags and small boxes and began making their way out of the city only to be forced to turn back and run for cover as bombs rained down from the sky. Non-stop shelling in the region has caused food, water, and medicine to be in perilously short supply.
“There can be no ‘green corridors’ because only the sick brain of the Russians decides when to start shooting and at whom.” Interior Ministry adviser Anton Gerashchenko said on Telegram. Ukrainian and Russian delegates are expected to meet again today for a third round of talks.
A New York Times film crew captured the tragic moment a young family of four was killed in Irpin, a town on the outskirts of Kyiv, as Russian forces shelled fleeing civilians.
“They were just trying to get out of town. To escape. The whole family,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said during his Sunday address. “How many such families have died in Ukraine? We will not forgive. We will not forget. We will punish everyone who committed atrocities in this war,” he continued. “There will be no quiet place on this earth for you. Except for the grave.”
Zelenskyy urges citizens to keep up resistance, pleads with West to do more
Zelenskyy, who remains in Kyiv, continued to urge citizens to keep fighting in the streets, while Russian President Vladimir Putin said that his forces will halt attacks “only if Kyiv ceases hostilities.”
Zelenskyy, who has managed to survive three known assassination attempts, continues to communicate daily with the citizens of Ukraine through social media, leading to fears that Moscow could track his whereabouts. He remains undeterred, however, as he continues to galvanize Ukrainians to continue their resistance efforts against Russian forces.
“You should take to the streets! You should fight!” he said Saturday on Ukrainian television. “It is necessary to go out and drive this evil out of our cities, from our land.”
The Russian Defense Ministry on Sunday announced that its forces will strike Ukraine’s military-industrial complex with precision weapons, after which Zelenskyy criticized Western leaders for not responding. “I didn’t hear even a single world leader react to this,” he said Sunday evening.
The Ukrainian president also asked the United States and NATO countries to provide Ukraine with more warplanes. He and members of Ukraine’s parliament last week stepped up their efforts to enlist Western partners to establish a no-fly zone over Ukraine, pointing to the growing number of civilian casualties and residential attacks. The requests have been denied, however, on the grounds that enforcing no-fly zones would mean drawing NATO countries into a potential war with Russia.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Sunday that a “green light” had been given to provide more military jets to Poland so that they could in turn give some of their U.S.-based supply to Ukraine.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian leaders continue to try to strike the right balance between expressing gratitude to the U.S. and European nations for assistance provided, in terms of defense weapons and sanctions on Moscow, and frustration that they aren’t doing more. Zelenskyy has repeatedly called on the U.S. and Europe to initiate much harsher sanctions on Moscow, including placing embargoes on Russian oil, saying “the audacity of the aggressor is a clear signal” that existing punishments have done nothing to thwart Putin’s military aggression. The U.S. agreed in 1994 to provide security guarantees to Ukraine in exchange for its relinquishment of the country’s nuclear arsenal.
Biden weekends in Delaware following phone call with Zelenskyy
President Biden spoke with President Zelenskyy on Friday before heading to Delaware again for the weekend. According to a White House readout of the call, Biden said the U.S. is increasing “security, humanitarian, and economic assistance to Ukraine and is working closely with Congress to secure additional funding.” The two leaders also spoke about Russia’s attack on Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhianuclear plant, with Biden praising “the skill and bravery of the Ukrainian operators who have kept the reactors in safe condition.”
Macron and Putin speak again am id heightened concern over nuclear plants
Meanwhile, Putin and French President Emmanuel Macron spoke on Sunday about the nuclear plant situation in Ukraine, where Russian forces have overtaken the Chernobyl and Zaporizhzhia power plants. Putin has blamed last week’s fire at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant on a “provocation organized by Ukrainian radicals.”
The men agreed in principle to a dialogue in the coming days involving Russia, Ukraine and the U.N.’s atomic watchdog, according to a French official who spoke on condition of anonymity to the AP. Ukraine has 15 nuclear reactors at four power plants.
Pope decries ‘rivers of blood and tears’ amid war; takes unprecedented step toward peace
More than 1.5 million displaced Ukrainians have fled the country while hundreds of thousands more – mostly women, children, and the elderly and disabled – are desperately trying to escape fighting in what the U.N. is calling “the fastest-growing refugee crisis in Europe since WWII.” Ukrainians clamor for space on trains leading to countries at their southern and western borders – a two-day journey, in many cases. Desperate citizens hoping to escape have been giving up precious seats and floor space to allow women with infants and small children to board first.
Meanwhile, international leaders have been urging Putin to negotiate a ceasefire, including Pope Francis who, in a highly unusual move, announced that he has dispatched two cardinals to Ukraine to try to broker a peaceful resolution to the crisis.
“In Ukraine, rivers of blood and tears are flowing,” the pontiff said during a Sunday blessing.
Amid the ongoing chaos, it has been nearly impossible to determine the death toll in Ukraine. The U.N. has confirmed only a few hundred civilian deaths but acknowledges that the number is likely a vast undercount.
Russia boycotts U.N. hearings
On Monday, Russia boycotted hearings at the U.N.’s highest court over Ukraine’s request for an emergency order for a ceasefire. Ukraine will argue that Moscow falsely applied a genocide law in an effort to justify an unprovoked war on its sovereign neighbor. Putin has said that “special military operation” against Ukraine was necessary in order to “protect people who have been subjected to bullying and genocide,” referring to Russian-speaking Ukrainian citizens, which Ukraine denies. The International Court of Justice said that it regrets Russia’s decision not to attend.