Kyiv, Ukraine (AP) – Ukraine said it has retaken a strategically important suburb of Kyiv On Tuesday, as Russian forces pressed into other areas near the capital and tightened their offensive on the besieged southern port of Mariupol.
Explosions and bursts of gunfire shook the city of Kyiv, and black smoke rose from a spot in the north. Intense artillery fire could be heard from the northwest, as Russia sought to encircle and capture several districts on the outskirts of the capital, a crucial objective.
Residents took shelter in their homes or underground under a 35-hour curfew imposed by city authorities that extends until Wednesday morning.
Russian forces continued their siege of Mariupol After the defenders of the southern port city rejected demands to surrender, fleeing civilians described constant bombardment and dead bodies in the streets. But the Kremlin’s ground offensive in other parts of the country progressed slowly or not at allwhich was undone by deadly hit-and-run attacks by the Ukrainians.
The Ukrainian Defense Ministry said that the Ukrainian forces expelled the Russian forces in the early hours of Tuesday morning from the Makarev suburb of Kyiv after a fierce battle. The recaptured territory allowed Ukrainian forces to regain control of a major highway and prevented Russian forces from surrounding Kyiv from the northwest.
However, the Defense Ministry said that Russian forces were able to partially capture other suburbs in the northwest of the country, such as Bucha, Hostomil and Irben, some of which have been attacked almost since the Russian military invasion about a month ago.
The Russian invasion caused the displacement of more than 10 million people from their homes, nearly a quarter of Ukraine’s pre-war population, according to the United Nations. The United Nations confirmed 953 civilians were killed, while saying the real number may be much higher.
Estimates of Russian military casualties in the grinding war were difficult to obtain and vary, but even conservative figures by Western officials were few in the thousands. Russia has not provided an update since it said on March 2 that 498 soldiers had been killed in battle in Ukraine. Russia’s pro-Kremlin newspaper, Komsomolskaya Pravda, citing the Defense Ministry, briefly reported on Monday that nearly 10,000 Russian soldiers had been killed. The report was quickly removed, and the newspaper blamed the hackers. The Kremlin declined to comment on Tuesday.
In addition to the heavy casualties, the war shook the global security consensus after the Cold War, endangering global supplies of major crops including wheat.It has repeatedly raised concerns that it could lead to a nuclear accident. Ukraine’s Minister of Natural Resources said that forest fires near the Chernobyl nuclear power plant have been extinguished and that radiation levels in the region are within standards. Fires are not uncommon in the area, but they do raise concerns about the possible release of radiation from the fallout from the 1986 explosion and fire at the plant.
Safety concerns have been expressed at the plant, which has been decommissioned since it was seized by Russian forces last month. Power was temporarily cut amid fighting earlier this month, and Ukraine’s nuclear watchdog said on Monday that radiation monitors around the plant had stopped working.
Facing unexpectedly stiff resistance, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s forces are increasingly focusing their air power and artillery on Ukrainian cities and the civilians who live there. A senior US defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the military’s assessment, said Russia has increased its sorties, flying as many as 300 over a 24-hour period.
US and British officials say Kyiv remains Russia’s primary target. The bulk of Moscow’s forces remain within miles of the city center, but rockets and artillery destroyed apartment buildings and a large mall, leaving ruins after they struck it late Sunday with strikes that killed eight people, according to emergency officials.
US President Joe Biden, who heads to Europe later in the week to meet allies, suggested Monday night that the worst may be yet to come.
“Putin is up against the wall,” Biden said. He did not expect the extent or strength of our unity. And the more he puts his back against the wall, the sharper the tactics he might use.”
Biden repeated the accusations That Putin is considering resorting to the use of chemical or biological weapons, though Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said on Tuesday that the United States had seen no evidence to suggest the use of such weapons was “imminent.”
Talks on ending the fighting by video continued but failed to heal the rift between the two sides. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told Ukrainian television late Monday that he would be willing to consider giving up any attempt by Ukraine to join NATO – a key Russian demand – in exchange for a ceasefire, withdrawal of Russian forces and a guarantee of Ukraine’s security.
Zelensky also suggested that Kyiv be open to future discussions on the status of Crimea, which Russia seized in 2014, and areas of the eastern Donbass region controlled by Russian-backed separatists. But he said that was a topic for another time.
As part of a series of letters to foreign legislatures to drum up support for Ukraine, Zelensky spoke to Italian lawmakers on Tuesday, telling them that the besieged port of Mariupol had been completely destroyed in the Russian attack. He also spoke to Pope Francis.
“Imagine Genoa being completely burnt out,” he said to anger lawmakers, citing an Italian port city of similar size. Mariupol officials said on March 15 that at least 2,300 people had been killed in the siege, and they have not provided any update since. Zelensky said 117 children have been killed in the war so far.
Some people have managed to escape from Mariupol, where weeks of Russian bombing have cut off electricity, water and food and cut off contact with the outside world.. The city council said on Tuesday that more than 1,100 people who had fled the besieged city were on their way in a convoy of buses to another city northwest of Mariupol.
But the Red Cross said a humanitarian convoy was trying to reach the besieged city with much-needed supplies still unable to enter.
Perched on the Sea of Azov, Mariupol is an important port of Ukraine and is located on an expanse of land between Russia and Crimea. The siege of Mariupol isolated the city from the sea and allowed Russia to establish a land corridor to Crimea.
But it is not clear how much of the city it controls, with fleeing residents saying fighting continues street after street. On Tuesday, Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said its forces were still defending the city and destroyed a Russian patrol boat and an electronic warfare complex. The British Ministry of Defense said its intelligence showed that “Ukrainian forces continue to repel Russian attempts to occupy” the city.
Those who survived Mariupol told of a destroyed city.
“Mariupol has destroyed almost 99%,” said 39-year-old Victoria Tutsen, who managed to escape from the city and cross the border into Poland. They’ve bombed us for the past 20 days. For the past five days planes have been flying over us every five seconds and dropping bombs everywhere – on apartment buildings, kindergartens, art schools everywhere.”
In all, more than 8000 people fled to safer areas Deputy Prime Minister Irina Vereshuk said the two were through humanitarian corridors, including about 3,000 from Mariupol.
Overall, more than 3.5 million people have fled Ukraine, while another 6.5 million have been displaced within the country.
Matthew Saltmarsh, a spokesperson for the UN refugee agency, described the speed and scale of people fleeing danger in Ukraine as “unprecedented in recent memory”.
Anna reported from Lviv, Ukraine. Associated Press writer Juras Karamanu in Lviv, and other AP journalists around the world contributed to this report.
Follow the AP’s coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine
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