Russia-Ukraine war approaches Kyiv; 3.6 million refugees flee
As the Russia-Ukraine war completed a month on Thursday, intense fighting continued around the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv. Separately, Russian forces continue to attack the strategic port city of Mariupol in southeast Ukraine. Meanwhile, at least 3.6 million people have left Ukraine since the invasion began on February 24. Poland has absorbed over 2 million of these refugees.
Ukrainian forces reportedly reclaimed the territory east of Kyiv. However, the capital continues to be surrounded by several directions. Russian forces are apparently establishing "defensive positions" 15-20 kilometers from Kyiv, Al Jazeera reported. In Mariupol, Russian forces were blocking humanitarian aid, Ukrainian officials said. Separately, six people were killed by a missile in Kharkiv as civilians queued up for humanitarian aid.
Ukrainian troops are striking "high-value targets" in Russian-occupied regions, the defense ministry of the UK said. The ministry said that these targets included landing ship and ammunition depots in Berdyansk, a port occupied by Russia.
The United Nations told the BBC that Ukrainians are being arbitrarily detained in territories controlled by Russia. The UN has verified 36 such cases. Ukrainians now fear that these kidnappings and intimidation tactics may increase. Separately, Russia and Ukraine on Thursday exchanged imprisoned soldiers. Both sides exchanged 10 soldiers. Earlier this week, the two nations had exchanged nine Russian soldiers for Melitopol's imprisoned mayor.
Russia has destroyed 230 schools, 155 kindergartens, and killed 128 children, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Thursday. "Whole cities, villages. Just to ashes. Nothing remains," he said. Zelenskyy said the Russian forces killed journalists, ignoring the 'PRESS' inscription. "They may not have been taught to read. Only to kill," he added. Just on Wednesday, The Insider journalist Oksana Baulina was killed, the publication said.
Separately, United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson has told the BBC that Russia is planning to "Groznify" Ukrainian cities. The term is a reference to Chechen city of Grozny, which had been bombed by Russia in 1999-2000. Johnson said he is not optimistic that Russian President Vladimir Putin wants peace. Notably, the Kremlin had identified Johnson as the "most active anti-Russian leader."
On Thursday, G7 and EU leaders had met in Brussels. US President Joe Biden—who is visiting Poland on Friday—noted that NATO has never been more unified, asking the global community to maintain economic pressure against Russia through sanctions. Russia will leave the war weaker, a top US defense strategist said. Meanwhile, the European Council has urged Russia to immediately halt "war crimes" in Ukraine.
Australia has imposed fresh sanctions against Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and his family members, along with 22 Russian "propagandists and disinformation operatives." Belarus is an ally to Russia which is reportedly set to join the war in "the next few days." Meanwhile, Japan has frozen the assets of 25 more Russian citizens. It has also banned exports to 81 Russian organizations.