At least 351 confirmed dead in Ukraine as evacuations postponed and Kremlin issues statement

At least 351 civilians have been killed and another 707 injured in Ukraine since Russian troops invaded on February 24, although the true number is likely “substantially higher,” a UN monitoring mission said.

Most of the civilian casualties were caused by long-range explosive weapons, including fire from heavy artillery and multiple-missile systems, as well as rocket and air strikes, according to observers from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). called.

“OHCHR believes that the actual numbers are significantly higher, particularly in government-controlled areas and particularly in recent days, as information from some locations where intense hostilities were taking place has been delayed and many reports are yet to be received waiting for confirmation,” it says.

The mission said hundreds of civilian casualties alleged in the town of Volnovakha – where attempts were underway to open a safe evacuation corridor by encircling Russian forces – have yet to be confirmed.

Separately, authorities in Mariupol said an evacuation of civilians scheduled for Saturday had been postponed because Russian forces surrounding the city failed to honor an agreed ceasefire.

In a statement, the city council urged residents to return to emergency shelters in the city and await further information on the evacuation.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said in a statement it had agreed evacuation routes with Ukrainian forces to allow civilians to evacuate the strategic southeast port of Mariupol and the eastern city of Volnovakha “from 10 a.m. Moscow time.”

The vaguely worded statement did not say how long the routes would remain open.

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The head of the Security Council of Ukraine, Oleksiy Danilov, had called on Russia to create humanitarian corridors to allow children, women and older adults to escape the fighting, calling such corridors “issue number one”.

Ukraine’s Interior Ministry adviser Anton Herashchenko said on Saturday there would be further agreements with Russia to set up humanitarian corridors to evacuate civilians from frontline communities.

“There will certainly be further agreements of this type for all other territories,” he said, referring to an existing evacuation plan for the besieged Ukrainian port of Mariupol.

Today is the tenth day of war in Ukraine as fighting in Mariupol and Chernihiv continued overnight.

The Kremlin said today that the West is acting like a bandit by cutting economic ties over the Ukraine conflict, but that Russia is far too big to be isolated as the world is much bigger than just the United States and Europe.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters the West was engaging in “economic banditry” against Russia and Moscow would respond. He did not specify what response there would be, but said it would suit Russian interests.
“As you understand, there must be an appropriate response to corporate banditry,” Peskov said.
“It doesn’t mean that Russia is isolated,” Peskov said. “The world is too big for Europe and America to isolate a country, let alone a country the size of Russia. There are many more countries in the world.”

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which it describes as a “military special operation” aimed at disarming its neighbor, has triggered a spate of sanctions and led to an exodus of large companies from the Russian market.

Peskov noted that there are still channels for dialogue between Moscow and Washington.
He said if the United States imposed sanctions on Russia’s oil and gas exports, it would give world energy markets a major jolt.

Asked about a law signed into law by President Vladimir Putin that would increase penalties for discrediting Russia’s armed forces, Peskov said such laws must be obeyed.

The law was introduced urgently in an extraordinary situation, he said, as Russia faces an unprecedented information war unleashed by the West.

Foreign companies, he said, would one day return to Russia, although some would find others had taken their places.

“Russia … has an interest in being attractive for investments. Yes, now we can hardly talk about being attractive for investments, but times are changing fast,” said Peskov.

“A period of rapid economic growth will replace this period. And a time when the same companies will return to the market and be more than keen to catch up on what they missed and restore their positions.

“In some areas we will really wait for them [the companies]. In other places, we will wait less for them as their places will be taken by companies from other countries.”

Last night, a Russian airstrike on a rural residential area in the Kyiv region killed at least seven people, including two children.

Police said the strike hit the village of Markhalivka, some 10 km from the south-west outskirts of the capital.

As Russian forces attack strategic locations, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has lashed out at NATO for refusing to impose a no-fly zone over his country, warning that “any people who die from this day forward will also die because of you.” will die”.

In a separate video message to anti-war demonstrators in several European cities, Zelenskyy continued to appeal for help. “If we fall, you will fall,” he said.

Earlier in the day, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg ruled out the possibility of a no-fly zone, saying NATO planes would have to shoot down Russian planes.

NATO said a no-fly zone in Europe could provoke widespread war with nuclear-armed Russia. But while the United States and other NATO members are sending arms to Kyiv and more than a million refugees are pouring across the continent, the conflict is already dragging countries well beyond Ukraine’s borders.

In his bitter and emotional speech late Friday, Zelenskyy slammed NATO for its lack of a no-fly zone and said it would completely relax Russia’s hands if it escalated its airstrike.

“The alliance has given the green light to bomb Ukrainian towns and villages,” he said, warning that “the history of Europe will remember this forever.”

Russia continues to crack down on independent media covering the war, also blocking Facebook and Twitter, and other media outlets say they are ceasing work in the country.

Ukraine’s president was scheduled to brief US senators via video conference on Saturday as Congress considers a request for $10 billion in emergency funding for humanitarian assistance and security needs.

And in a warning of an impending hunger crisis, the United Nations World Food Program says millions of people in Ukraine, a key global supplier of wheat, will need food aid “immediately”.

The UN Security Council has scheduled an open meeting on Monday on the deteriorating humanitarian situation.

The United Nations estimates that 12 million people in Ukraine and four million fleeing to neighboring countries will need humanitarian assistance in the coming months.

Russian forces on Friday made no significant progress in their offensive to cut off Ukraine’s access to the Black Sea and Sea of ​​Azov, which would deal a serious blow to the country’s economy. There were also no changes in the north and east, where the Russian offensive met stiff Ukrainian resistance.

While a huge column of Russian tanks threatening the Ukrainian capital remained blocked outside Kyiv, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s military launched hundreds of rocket and artillery attacks on cities and other locations across the country.

Advisor to the President of Ukraine Oleksiy Arestovich said fighting continued with airstrikes and artillery northwest of Kyiv and the northeastern cities of Kharkiv and Okhtyrka came under heavy shelling.

He said Ukrainian troops still had the northern city of Chernihiv and the southern city of Mykolayiv. Ukrainian artillery also defended Ukraine’s largest port city, Odessa, from repeated attacks by Russian ships, he said.

According to the Ukrainian government, more than 840 children were wounded and 28 killed in the war. A total of 331 civilians were killed, but the true number is likely much higher, the UN human rights office said.

Kyiv’s main railway station remained crowded with people desperate to flee the capital. “People just want to live,” said one woman, Ksenia.

It comes after Russia’s foreign minister said he will insist Ukraine never again poses a military risk to its powerful neighbor.
Earlier this week, Sergei Lavrov said it was up to Ukrainians to decide which government they should have.
He also expressed regret at the civilian casualties caused by the Russian invasion and bombing of Ukraine that began last week.
He insisted that the Russian military only use precision weapons against military targets.
However, while tacitly acknowledging that some Russian attacks could have killed civilians, he said: “Every military action involves casualties, not only among the military but also among civilians.”

The UK Ministry of Defense released an intelligence update this morning reporting that Russian air and military strikes have been falling over the past 24 hours.

“The overall rate of Russian air and artillery strikes observed over the past 24 hours was lower than in previous days,” it said.

“Ukraine continues to hold the key cities of Kharkiv, Chernihiv and Mariupol. There were reports of street fighting in Sumy.

“It is very likely that all four cities are encircled by Russian forces.

“Russian forces are likely to advance towards the southern port city of Mykolayiv. There is a realistic possibility that some forces will try to bypass the city to prioritize the advance towards Odessa.”

Additional coverage from Reuters At least 351 confirmed dead in Ukraine as evacuations postponed and Kremlin issues statement

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