Tuesday. 31.01.2023
WAR IN UKRAINE

Russian troops advance as Zelensky signals willingness to compromise

Kiev said Russian forces had bombed a maternity hospital in Mariupol, injuring 17 people. The United Nations and aid organizations condemned the attack, which UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called "horrific"

06 March 2022, Ukraine, Zaporizhzhia: Anti-tank obstacles, known as Czech hedgehogs, block a street near a convoy of buses ready to take off for besieged Mariupol to deliver humanitarian aid and evacuate people. Photo: -/Ukrinform/dpa.
Anti-tank obstacles, known as Czech hedgehogs, block a street near a convoy of buses ready to take off for besieged Mariupol to deliver humanitarian aid and evacuate people. Photo: Ukrinform/dpa.

Desperation was growing in Ukraine on Wednesday as Russian forces continued their advance, while the safe routes agreed for the evacuation of civilians were only implemented with partial success.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky signalled a willingness to compromise, a day before peace talks are due to be held in Turkey.

Kiev said Russian forces had bombed a maternity hospital in Mariupol, injuring 17 people. The United Nations and aid organizations condemned the attack, which UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called "horrific."

So far, 1,207 civilians have been killed in Mariupol alone since Russia's invasion began, according to a local official.

By the evening, Russian forces were said to have made further gains in Donbass and have advanced another kilometre closer to Mariupol, Russian Defence Ministry spokesperson Igor Konashenkov said.

The Russian army has also made progress around Kharkiv, with Russian soldiers recently having moved closer to the city, according to the Pentagon, and around Mykolaiv, where they were within 15 kilometres north of the city.

A Russian Defence Ministry spokesperson said that conflict-wide, Moscow has destroyed 81 Ukrainian air defence radar stations, meaning Ukrainian air defence systems were no longer able to repel the Russian air force.

A US defence official claimed the Ukrainian air defence system remained viable.

Civilian casualties

Washington also said Russia is targeting Ukraine with bombs that lack a system to guide them precisely. "We have seen indications that they have dropped dumb bombs," a US defence official said, noting however that this could not be proved in particular cases. He described the "increasing damage to civilian infrastructure and civilian casualties."

Attempts to ensure safe passage out of the areas Russia is bombarding proved slow and faltering as Moscow and Kiev traded blame for ceasefire breaches.

Earlier, there were reports of Russian troops firing as civilians attempted to flee besieged cities, despite Ukraine and Russia agreeing in principle to the opening of six escape corridors.

Hundreds of thousands of civilians in the port city of Mariupol in particular were hoping to be rescued from desperate conditions there, but the agreed corridor has still not become operational, according to separatists in the Donetsk region.

"Russia continues to hold more than 400,000 people hostage in Mariupol, blocking humanitarian aid and evacuation," Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba tweeted.

However, Moscow rejected the assertions and said Ukraine was shelling Russian positions and was also refusing to evacuate citizens to Russia.

Attempts to resolve the crisis continued worldwide, ranging from talks to sanctions.

EU diplomats agreed to widen a third round of sanctions on Belarus and Russia to target more oligarchs and officials.

Poland fighter jets

Meanwhile, Washington issued a clear rejection to a proposal by Poland to transfer MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine via a stopover at a US base in Germany, saying that the plan "could result in significant Russian reaction that might increase the prospects of a military escalation with NATO."

We need to be careful about every decision we make that we aren't making the potential for escalation worse," Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said.

Separately, a high-ranking US defence official in Washington said that two US Patriot missile batteries were moved from Germany to Poland, without going into operational details.

As the bombardment of Ukrainian cities continued, Zelensky has emphasized his willingness to compromise ahead of peace talks with Russian representatives on Thursday.

"In any negotiation, my goal is to end the war with Russia. And I am also ready to take certain steps," Zelensky told Germany's Bild newspaper.

Thursday's talks are due to be held between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his Ukrainian counterpart Kuleba in Antalya, Turkey. They are to be the highest level talks between the two sides since the Russian invasion began two weeks ago.

Kuleba had already arrived in Antalya "for the talks on Russia ceasing its hostilities and ending its war against Ukraine," Ukraine Foreign Affairs Ministry's spokesperson Oleg Nikolenko said on Wednesday evening.

"Compromises can be made, but they must not be the betrayal of my country," Zelensky said, without providing any further details. He also said that the other side should likewise be prepared to compromise.

He did not want to "talk about the details" publicly "yet," Zelenksy said, especially as he has not yet had direct contact with Russian President Vladimir Putin. "Only after the direct talks between the two presidents can we end this war."

Meanwhile, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) approved the disbursement of 1.4 billion dollars in emergency financing for Ukraine.

Russian troops advance as Zelensky signals willingness to compromise
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