The vicinity of the airport of Lviv (Lviv), in western Ukraine, were hit on Friday by Russian “missiles”, said the mayor of that city, in a conflict that “is not in anyone’s interest,” Chinese President Xi Jinping told his US counterpart, Joe Biden.
“Missiles hit the Lviv airport neighborhood,” Andriy Savody, the mayor of that city near the Polish border, posted on Facebook, saying the bombing did not directly affect the airport facilities but an aircraft repair plant. It caused no casualties, he said.
“This is a bombing of the city of Lviv, a humanitarian center where more than 200,000 displaced people are located,” which shows that “they are fighting, not against the military, but against the population,” said Maksym Kozytsky, regional governor of Lviv, reporting a minor injury.
An AFP journalist saw smoke emanating from the area, and police vehicles and ambulances quickly heading in that direction.
“We heard the alarm. We had been warned […] but we don’t take refuge because we’re not afraid of anything,” said Olga, 56. “At night, we pray for all our cities subjected to Putin’s vicious attack.”
And with the fighting wreaking havoc on the ground, the Chinese and U.S. presidents spoke by phone about the conflict on Friday, and Xi told Biden that “a conflict is not in anyone’s interest,” according to Chinese television reports.
Read: The UN has not said that Ukraine does not exist, it is a country with recognized sovereignty
Ahead of the talk, Washington had indicated it planned to warn Beijing against any support for its close ally, Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Biden “will tell you clearly that China will bear responsibility for any act aimed at supporting Russian aggression and we will not hesitate to impose a cost on it,” the head of U.S. diplomacy, Antony Blinken, said Thursday.
Since the start of the invasion on February 24, the Chinese communist regime has sought to safeguard its fluid relationship with the Kremlin and has avoided asking Putin for a withdrawal of his troops from Ukraine.
But, at the same time, it has taken certain distances with an increasingly isolated Russia. For example, Beijing did not back a Russian resolution on the Ukraine war in the UN Security Council, which was eventually withdrawn by Moscow.
These days, Biden also spared no criticism of Putin. If on Wednesday he called him a “war criminal,” on Thursday he called him a “thug” and a “bloodthirsty dictator.”
Battles in Mariupol
Among the hardest hit cities is Mariupol, a strategic port city in the southeast, besieged. Russian soldiers and their separatist allies were fighting in the city center on Friday, the Russian Defense Ministry announced.
“In Mariupol, the units of the Donetsk People’s Republic, with the support of Russian forces, tighten the siege and fight the nationalists in the center of the city,” ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said.
In addition, he claimed that Russian forces and separatists from Luhansk already controlled 90% of the territory of the eponymous Ukrainian region. Shortly before the offensive, which began on February 24, Moscow recognized the independence of the separatist Donbas territories of Luhansk and Donetsk.
Ukrainians also accused the Russian air force on Wednesday of having “deliberately” bombed a theatre in Mariupol in which hundreds of civilians were reportedly taking refuge, something Russia denied. According to Ukrainian emissary for human rights Liudmyla Denisova, 130 people were able to get out of the rubble, but it remains impossible to establish a balance.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky reported the same figures in a video but stressed that “hundreds of inhabitants of Mariupol are still under the rubble.”
The mayor’s office of that city said that the situation is “critical”, with “uninterrupted” Russian bombings and “colossal” damage. According to the first estimates, 80% of the houses would have been destroyed.
Read: Jump the crater if there are more bombings!: the fierce battle inside the last line of defense of Kharkiv
Shelling also continues in the capital, Kiev, and in Kharkiv, the country’s second city, where at least 500 people have been killed since the war began.
According to the Ukrainian emergency service, Russian gunfire hit “a higher education establishment” and “two neighboring residential buildings,” causing one death and 11 injuries in Kharkiv on Friday.
About half of Kiev’s 3.5 million inhabitants have reportedly left the city, where, according to the mayor’s office, 222 people – including 60 civilians – have left the city.they had been dead since the invasion began.
On the other hand, Moscow announced that it launched two short-range ballistic missiles against Ukrainian positions on the outskirts of Zaporizhia (southeast), from where missiles would have been launched in the direction of Melitopol (south), a town controlled by Russian forces.
At the moment no global balance was released although President Zelensky mentioned on March 12 the death of “about 1,300” Ukrainian soldiers, and Moscow reported ten days earlier that it had registered almost 500 casualties in its ranks.
According to the March 16 count of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Ukraine, consulted by AFP, at least 780 civilians – including 58 children – have died violently in Ukraine and more than 1,250 have been injured. However, the agency warns that these figures are likely to be underestimated.
And there is no indication that Moscow will cease its offensive, despite open dialogue between the belligerents.
On Friday, during a conversation with German Prime Minister Olaf Scholz, Putin accused Ukraine of “delaying” negotiations to end the conflict, by presenting proposals “that are not realistic.”
Read: UN chief warns of world famine due to war in Ukraine
Russia said it wants to negotiate for Ukraine to become a neutral and demilitarized country. The Ukrainian authorities, who do not rule out the idea of neutrality, demanded the designation of countries guaranteeing their security, which would defend their country in the event of Russian aggression.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on RT that Moscow “does not close the door to the west,” denouncing an “attempt” by Washington to create a “unipolar world.”
To date, more than three million Ukrainians have fled the country, most of them to Poland, where more than two million migrants from Ukraine had already arrived on Friday, according to Polish border guards.
Humanitarian needs in Ukraine are “increasingly urgent”, with more than 200,000 people without water in the Donetsk region and a “severe shortage” of food, water and medicine in cities such as Mariupol or Sumy, a spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Matthew Saltmarsh, said on Friday.
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