Ukraine-Russia War Update: Ukraine accuses Russia of kidnapping rescue workers helping civilians trapped in Mariupol

by mcardinal

Chris Lange, FISM News


Ukrainian leaders accused Russia of kidnapping 15 rescue workers and bus drivers from a humanitarian convoy trying to bring food and other desperately needed supplies into Mariupol early Wednesday, despite agreeing to the route ahead of time.

“We are trying to organize stable humanitarian corridors for Mariupol residents, but almost all of our attempts, unfortunately, are foiled by the Russian occupiers, by shelling or deliberate terror,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a statement from his presidential offices early Wednesday.

The Red Cross confirmed a humanitarian aid convoy trying to reach the city had been denied access to the hundreds of thousands of civilians that are believed to be trapped inside buildings with no access to water, food, or power. Civilians numbering in the thousands have died.

Reports and images from the area show that Mariupol’s devastation is all but complete. The once thriving port has been reduced to “ashes of a dead land,” the city council said Tuesday, according to Reuters. Following weeks of relentless bombardment by air and land strikes, Russian forces have begun launching naval attacks from the Sea of Azov, according to a U.S. Department of Defense official who said there are about seven Russian ships in that area.

Zelenskyy optimistic as negotiations continue; says West ‘doesn’t know what to do with us’

President Zelenskyy expressed some hope that ongoing talks between Russia and Ukraine could result in a ceasefire agreement, despite little progress having been made thus far.

“It’s very difficult, sometimes confrontational. But step by step, we are moving forward,” Zelenskyy said, adding that the latest negotiations have centered around reaching an agreement to open humanitarian corridors in the regions of Kyiv, Kharkiv, Zaporizhzhia, and Luhansk. 

President Zelenskyy said he would agree not to seek NATO membership in exchange for a cease-fire, the withdrawal of Russian troops, and security guarantees from Moscow. He characterized his offer as “a compromise for everyone: for the West, which doesn’t know what to do with us with regard to NATO, for Ukraine, which wants security guarantees, and for Russia, which doesn’t want further NATO expansion.”

Until Russian President Vladimir Putin accepts Zelenskyy’s repeated offers to engage in face-to-face discussions, it remains impossible to determine whether Russia has any desire to stop the war.

Putin spokesman won’t rule out use of nukes

Meanwhile, Russia has not ruled out the use of nuclear weapons in its war on Ukraine, according to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov who spoke to CNN on Tuesday. When asked if Russia would consider using its nuclear weapons, Petrov replied, “If it is an existential threat for our country, then it can be.”

Peskov acknowledged that Putin “hasn’t achieved yet” his goals concerning Ukraine, with Russian forces still unable to take the capital city of Kyiv and topple Ukraine’s government, but said the invasion is “going on strictly in accordance with the plans and the purposes that were established beforehand.”

One of Putin’s chief objectives, according to Peskov, is to “get rid of the military potential of Ukraine” and to “ensure that Ukraine changes from an anti-Russian center to a neutral country.” 

Peskov also denied that Russian forces have targeted Ukrainian civilians, contradicting reports from the United Nations and other independent bodies.

Lavrov sends chilling warning to NATO

Russian Foreign Minister Sergeĭ Lavrov, meanwhile, warned that if NATO sends peacekeepers into Ukraine amid Russia’s invasion, members of the alliance will be drawn into the war. 

“Sending NATO peacekeepers to Ukraine would lead to a direct clash between the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation and the alliance,” Lavrov said Wednesday morning, according to the Russian state-news agency TASS

Ukrainian and Russian forces fighting block by block for control of Kyiv suburbs

Meanwhile, continued shelling and street fighting occurred overnight in Kyiv, where Russian forces have encircled the capital city. Ukraine’s defense ministry on Tuesday said its forces partially lost three suburbs in the area but recaptured Makariv to Kyiv’s west. Several reports indicate that fighting in the suburbs is moving block by block.

“We have seen indications that the Ukrainians are going a bit more on the offensive now,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters separately in Washington, adding that this is particularly true in southern Ukraine, including near Kherson, where they are fighting to regain territory.

The U.S. estimates Russia has lost a little over 10% of its overall combat capability since the war began, including troops, tanks, and other military weaponry. Western officials continue to report that Russian forces face food and fuel shortages and that some soldiers are suffering from frostbite due to a lack of sufficient cold weather gear.

Analysts have cautioned that, while these setbacks point to a surprising lack of preparedness on the part of the Russians, they should not be viewed as any sort of guarantee that Ukraine’s military will be able to withstand what is shaping up to be a protracted and bloody war of attrition.