The Ukrainian city of Mariupol has halted the evacuation of its citizens for the second day in a row as authorities said it was not possible due to Russian shelling.
Authorities said it would be “extremely dangerous” to proceed as planned on Sunday as the industrial port city continues to be attacked despite a temporary ceasefire agreement.
Plans to evacuate residents were also scrapped yesterday due to safety concerns.
In another development, Russian forces are firing rockets at a physics institute in Kharkiv that contains nuclear material and a reactor, Ukraine’s National Security Service has claimed.
It has been alleged that Moscow’s armed forces are firing rockets from Grad launchers that have no precise target.
Meanwhile, a record number of refugees from Ukraine have arrived in Poland, with the total expected to top 1 million later today.
Polish border guards cleared up to 129,000 people at border crossings on Saturday, the latest data showed, the most in a single day since the war began on February 24, bringing the total to 922,400.
“Checking in is as easy as possible,” said Polish border guard spokeswoman Anna Michalska. “It’s about confirming people’s identities, verifying documents, checking databases to make sure they’re not wanted people. That will take a few minutes.”
“According to forecasts, the number of people who entered Poland from Ukraine from February 24 will exceed one million today.”
At the Medyka border crossing, the busiest along Poland’s roughly 500-kilometer border with Ukraine, refugees streamed past boxes with clothes laid out on them on a way from the border crossing.
Some carried babies, others dogs and cats wrapped in blankets. Many queued for buses to the nearby town of Przemysl, where friends, relatives and volunteers waited to take them to other cities in Poland and beyond.
Inside Ukraine, a 10-kilometer line of cars stretched from the Polish border, almost bumper to bumper and sometimes two abreast. Refugees followed on foot with bags or suitcases.
“In Kyiv there are a lot of bombs and you sit in the basement and you still hear it, and that’s why I left this city,” said Anna Klimova, 21, after crossing the border to Wroclaw to stay with her brother . “It’s a really difficult situation.”
The number of refugees from Ukraine surpassed 1.5 million on Sunday, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said, as Kyiv urged the West to tighten sanctions and supply more weapons to repel Russia’s onslaught.
Ukrainian police said there had been relentless Russian shelling and airstrikes in the northeastern Kharkiv region and reported many casualties, while the World Health Organization (WHO) said there had been multiple attacks on Ukrainian health facilities.
Romania has taken in 227,446 Ukrainians, including 31,628 who arrived on Saturday, border police data showed. More than 163,000 have entered Hungary since February 24.
The Romanian government plans to set up a hub near Suceava Airport in the northeast to receive and send international humanitarian aid to Ukraine.
Slovakian Prime Minister Eduard Heger visited the Vysne Nemecke border crossing on Saturday evening and warned the country to prepare for an increasing flow of refugees. Police data showed that almost 114,000 people have entered Slovakia so far.
“The number (of people crossing the road) is relatively stable and the speed of their handling is high,” he told reporters. “But we assume that the wave of refugees will increase before the war and that we have to be prepared for even higher numbers.”
The UN refugee agency estimates that the number of refugees could reach 4 million by July.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has warned world leaders: “We must now prepare for even darker days.”
In a nearly 1,300-word essay published today in the New York Times, Boris Johnson called on his counterparts to do more to resist normalizing Russia’s offensive.
“Have we done enough for Ukraine? The honest answer is no,” he wrote, as he unveiled a six-point plan he believes will tackle Russian President Vladimir Putin’s advance.
Mr Johnson said: “I’ve never seen an international crisis in my life where the dividing line between right and wrong was so strong,” as he insisted world leaders “must not let anyone in the Kremlin that he gets away with misrepresenting our intentions to find after-the-fact justification for their campaign.”
Mr Johnson called on leaders to mobilize an “international humanitarian coalition” for Ukraine and to support the country “in its efforts to secure its own self-defence”.
Mr Johnson also said that while diplomatic avenues must be pursued to resolve the war, this can only be done with the full participation of the “legitimate government of Ukraine”.
Meanwhile, in a televised address last night, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called on people in Russian-held territories to fight.
“We must go outside and drive this evil out of our cities,” he said.
Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boichenko told Retuers: “They are destroying us”.
After working his way up from locomotive engineer at the local steel mill to senior management, he became mayor in 2015, hoping to help modernize the city even as Ukraine’s conflict with Russian-backed separatists simmered on its doorstep.
“We created the conditions for people to live comfortably and dream about the future. And now they’re taking that future away from us,” he said.
“Right now I feel like they’re tearing my heart and soul away.”
Visa and Mastercard announced yesterday that they were suspending operations in Russia due to the invasion of Ukraine and are working with customers and partners to halt all transactions there.
Within days, all transactions initiated using Visa cards issued in Russia will stop working outside the country, and all Visa cards issued outside Russia will stop working inside the country, the company said.
“We are compelled to act following Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine and the unacceptable events we have witnessed,” Visa chief executive officer Al Kelly said in a statement.
British military intelligence said today Russian forces are attacking populated areas in Ukraine but the strength of the resistance is slowing their advance.
“The scale and strength of the Ukrainian resistance continues to surprise Russia,” British military intelligence said in an update.
With reports from Reuters.
https://www.independent.ie/world-news/europe/ukraine-russia-latest-ukrainian-city-of-mariupol-halts-the-evacuation-of-citizens-for-the-second-day-in-a-row-41416520.html Ukraine-Russia new: The Ukrainian city of Mariupol halts the evacuation of citizens for the second day in a row