- Ukrainian official expects ‘good news’ about Mariupol eviction
- Ukrainian forces recaptured the area around Kiev
- Local authorities say the missiles hit cities in central Ukraine
Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, April 2 (Reuters) – A contingent of Red Cross forces will try again on Saturday to evacuate civilians from the besieged port of Mariupol as Russian forces reunite for new offensive in southeastern Ukraine.
Surrounded by the early days of Russia’s five-week-old invasion, Mariupol has been Moscow’s main target in the southeastern Ukraine. Tens of thousands are stranded there without food and water.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) on Friday sent a team to direct about 54 Ukrainian buses and other private vehicles out of the city, but returned saying conditions could not continue. read more
Sign up now for unlimited free access to Reuters.com
“They will try again on Saturday to make it easier for the public to move safely,” the ICRC said in a statement on Friday. An earlier attempt by the Red Cross to oust him in early March failed.
An adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zhelensky said he was optimistic about the evictions of Mariupol.
“I think today or tomorrow we will hear good news about the eviction of residents of Mariupol,” Oleksiy Arestovych told Ukrainian television.
Russia and Ukraine agreed to humanitarian corridors to facilitate the evacuation of civilians from cities during the war, but often blamed the corridors for not succeeding.
Seven such walkways are scheduled for Saturday, including one for Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Irina Vareshchuk, private transport from Mariupol and one for people exiting by buses for Mariupol residents outside the city of Berdyansk.
Russia says it has shifted its focus to the southeast, where it has supported separatists since 2014, after failing to capture a major Ukrainian city since the invasion began on February 24.
In a morning video speech, Zelenskiy said Russian troops were moving towards the Donbass and the heavily bombed northeastern city of Kharkiv.
“I hope there may be more solutions to the Mariupol situation,” Zhelensky said.
Citizens in the hospital
In Chuhuiv, a city in Kharkiv province, two young women sat in adjoining hospital beds, handcuffed and fitted with metal braces as they survived an attack on a bus carrying about 20 civilians.
Speaking to Reuters Television on Friday, Alina Shekurets recalled her own screams and pointed to her injured legs and waist.
“The windows started to shake. Then I saw something like holes. Then bullets started flying up. Powder, smoke … I screamed, my mouth was full of it,” Securets said.
The other woman, who identified herself only as Yulia, said eight people were killed in the attack.
The war killed thousands, uprooted a quarter of Ukraine’s population and destroyed cities such as Mariupol.
Russia denies targeting civilians when President Vladimir Putin calls it a “special military operation” aimed at militarizing and “reducing” Ukraine.
Ukraine calls this an unprovoked war of aggression and Western nations have imposed severe sanctions in an attempt to crush Russia’s economy.
British military intelligence said on Saturday that Ukrainian forces had been advancing against the withdrawal of Russian troops near Kiev and that Russian troops had abandoned the Hostomel airport in the northwestern suburbs of the capital, where fighting had been going on since day one.
The British daily estimates that Ukrainian forces have gained a foothold in East Kharkiv after heavy fighting.
Russia has portrayed the deployment of its troops near Kiev as a gesture of goodwill in peace talks. Ukraine and its allies say they are forced to reunite after Russian forces suffered heavy casualties.
Early Saturday morning, Russian missiles struck two cities – Poltava and Kremenchuk in central Ukraine, Dmitry Lunin, head of the Poltava region, wrote in an online post.
He said infrastructure and residential buildings in the eastern part of Kiev had been attacked, but did not have a death toll. Reuters could not immediately confirm the news.
Valentyn Reznichenko, the region’s leader, said in an online post that missiles struck infrastructure facilities in the Dniebro region of southwestern Ukraine, injuring two people and causing significant damage. read more
Russia’s Defense Ministry says high – powered air missiles have shut down military airports in Boltawa and Dinibro.
Just before dawn on Saturday, the Ukrainian military announced Russian airstrikes on the cities of Sivrodonetsk and Rubisne in Luhansk, to the sound of sirens throughout Ukraine.
In that east, and in neighboring Donetsk, pro-Russian separatists declared secessionist republics, which Moscow recognized just before its invasion.
The Ukrainian military says security forces repulsed several attacks in Luhansk and Donetsk on Friday, and that Russian units in Luhansk have lost 800 troops in the past week alone. Reuters could not verify those claims.
Sign up now for unlimited free access to Reuters.com
Additional Reporting by Mukherjee, Natalia Ginetz in Ukraine, Alessandra Brentis and Reuters Bureau; Rami Job, Simon Cameron-Moore and Madeline Chambers Editing Daniel Wallis, William Mallard and Francis Kerry
Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.