Russia intensifies strikes around Ukraine’s capital, warns US against arming Kyiv

A large area of ​​Makarev, a village 30 miles west of Kyiv, was badly damaged apparently by Russian air raids.

CNN geo-located and verified photos posted on social media on Saturday, which show extensive damage to apartment complexes, schools and medical facilities. One of the most stark photos taken by Makarev shows a large hole in the north wall of an apartment building from a military strike. Many of the buildings in the photos had damage to their northern facades, evidence that the military strikes on them were Russian.

In Chernihiv, about 100 kilometers north of Kyiv, the historic Hotel Ukraine was bombed overnight. “I am here now. There is no longer a hotel,” Vyacheslav Chaus, head of the Chernihiv region administration, said on Saturday.

The northern city, close to the Belarus border, has been besieged by Russian forces for more than a week, and a video from the city showed crumbled hotel floors as well as widespread destruction from missiles and air strikes.

Chaos said civilians were dying from the strikes that brought down the city’s power grid. “Many people were injured. The enemy is bombing the civilian infrastructure, where there is no military,” he said, explaining that the city “has no electricity, water, gas, or heating.”

The Russian Defense Ministry has repeatedly claimed that Russian forces do not target civilians.

Ukraine’s President, Volodymyr Zelensky, said in a speech on Saturday that the whole country is now on the front line. “There aren’t a few small towns left. And that’s a tragedy. They’re just gone. And the people are gone, too.”

Negotiations to end Russia’s invasion of Ukraine “must start with a ceasefire,” Zelensky said, adding that Ukraine had lost about 1,300 soldiers as of Saturday. CNN has not been able to independently verify these numbers.

Later on Saturday, Zelensky said he was grateful for the international support but urged allies to provide more aid.

“I keep repeating to our allies and friends abroad; they must continue to do more for our country, for the sake of Ukrainians and for Ukraine. Because it is not just for Ukraine, but for the whole of Europe,” he said. “An evil that deliberately targets peaceful cities and ambulances and blows up hospitals will not stop with just one country if it has the strength to go on.”

The United States and NATO say they are taking steps to help Ukraine defend itself against Russian forces, and have continued to provide security assistance to Ukraine, including anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons. But the United States and NATO have also tried to avoid being drawn into direct conflict with Russia. US President Joe Biden confirmed on Friday that the United States would not send them Ground forces in UkraineIt is not a member of NATO.

“We will not fight World War III in Ukraine,” Biden said after he reiterated the United States’ full support for its NATO allies and promised that the United States would defend “every inch” of NATO territory.

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“I want to be clear however, we will make sure that Ukraine has the weapons to defend itself from invading Russian forces. We will send money and food aid to save Ukrainian lives,” he added.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov warned the United States on Saturday against transferring weapons to Ukraine, saying that convoys carrying foreign weapons would be considered “legitimate targets”.

“We have warned the United States that the infusion of Ukraine with weapons from a number of countries that orchestrated it is not just a dangerous step, but measures that turn the corresponding convoys into legitimate targets,” Ryabkov said on Saturday on the Russian state channel. One, according to the state-owned RIA Novosti news agency.

specific resistance

In Ukraine, Russia has faced a challenge from the public in the past two weeks. On Saturday, several hundred people gathered in the town hall in the southern Ukrainian city of Melitopol after gunmen arrested mayor Ivan Fedorov the day before.

Shortly after Fedorov’s arrest, the Russian-backed Luhansk regional prosecutor claimed Fedorov had committed terrorist crimes, allegations Zelensky called a “crime against democracy” on Saturday.

On Saturday, the regional administration in Zaporozhye said a new mayor had been installed. Galina Danilchenko, a former member of the Melitopol city council, was introduced as the acting mayor on local television, according to a statement from the regional administration posted on Telegram. “Its main task is to take all necessary steps to return the city to normal,” Danilchenko said in her televised statement.

She claimed that there were still people in Melitopol who would try to destabilize the “situation and provoke a reaction of bad behaviour”.

“I ask you to maintain your intelligence and not succumb to these provocations,” she said. “I appeal to representatives elected by the people at all levels. Since you are elected by the people, it is your duty to take care of the welfare of your citizens.”

In Kyiv, the Russian advance met stiff resistance from Ukrainian forces. On Saturday, Britain’s latest Defense Ministry intelligence assessment said the bulk of Russia’s ground forces were about 25 kilometers (15.5 miles) from the center of the Ukrainian capital.

In Berestyanka - 10 miles west of the air base - a number of fuel trucks were seen and what Maxar says were apparently multiple rocket launchers positioned in a field near the trees.

Maksar satellite images taken on Thursday showed that the 40-mile-long Russian column northwest of Kyiv had largely dispersed and regrouped. But the intelligence assessment warned that “this likely supports a Russian attempt to encircle the city. It could also be an attempt by Russia to reduce its exposure to Ukrainian counter-attacks that inflicted heavy losses on Russian forces.”

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The ministry added that the cities of Chernihiv and Sumy in the north and northeast, the eastern city of Kharkiv and Mariupol in the south were still surrounded by Russian forces.

A senior Ukrainian official in the southern Kherson region, now controlled by Russia, said the “occupiers” were pressing the regional council to agree to a referendum on the region’s “independence” from Ukraine. There was no news from the Russian side about any plans for the referendum.

Similar referendums were held after Russian-backed separatists took control of parts of Luhansk and Donetsk regions in 2014. People’s republics were later proclaimed in both regions.

The Ukrainian state-run nuclear power company said on Saturday that Russian officials have arrived at Ukraine’s largest nuclear power plant, Zaporizhzhya, demanding control of the facility.

Intelligence: Russia tried to jam the radar of NATO planes

Russian forces have occupied Zaporizhia for more than a week now, with Energoatom previously alleging that its employees were forced to work at “gunpoint”. The Chernobyl nuclear power plant is also under the control of Russian forces.

Despite the attack, Zelensky on Saturday claimed that Ukrainian forces are dealing “the biggest blow to the Russian army in decades,” saying that 31 Russian tactical battalion groups have lost ground, losing more than 360 Russian tanks.

Zelensky added that groups of Russian forces had been surrendering to the Ukrainian forces, but that Russia was now recruiting fighters, reservists, conscripts and mercenaries that “outnumbered” the Ukrainian forces.

A Western defense official confirmed on Friday that Russia’s losses include Major General Andrei Kolesnikov, the third Russian general to be killed by Ukrainian forces. He was the commander of the Eastern Military District, according to the website of the Russian Ministry of Defense, and the Western official referred in the context to the killing of three Russian General Staff officers during the entire Syrian conflict.

deteriorating situation

With Russia incurring losses, its bombing of the country continues to deteriorate living conditions in several regions. Officials are now racing to send aid and evacuate citizens from besieged cities.

Ukrainian officials announced a new attempt to secure at least 13 evacuation corridors from different cities, although it was reported that only a few civilians could leave the previous day.

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Addressing the besieged city of Mariupol, Zelensky said on Saturday that Ukrainian forces would ensure a ceasefire along the evacuation corridor so that supplies could enter, and civilians could leave.

Ukrainian emergency staff and volunteers carry an injured pregnant woman from a maternity hospital damaged by the bombing in Mariupol, Ukraine, Wednesday, March 9, 2022.

With relatively clear skies over Mariupol, new satellite images taken Saturday morning from Maksar showed the extent of the damage there, including some from military strikes reported earlier in the week.

In the Zhovteneyvi district of western Mariupol, a large crater was seen – still burning – near the Okko gas station. Smoke appeared to rise from an apartment complex across the street. The roofs of the warehouses down the street also appeared to have large holes from military strikes.

Within the apartment complex, several buildings appear to have sustained severe damage. A debris field was seen surrounding some of the buildings with a large plume of smoke.

Just northwest of the gas station, an additional satellite image showed craters scattered in a snow-covered field. Car tread marks were also seen. More than a mile south, in an industrial estate in the Primorsky district, a large fire was seen burning.

There was some good news amid the devastation. Her family told CNN that a pregnant woman, whose rescue from Mariupol’s maternity hospital was captured this week in an Associated Press viral photo, has given birth to a baby girl.

Mariana Fishgerskaya She was among a number of women in the maternity hospital in Mariupol who survived the bombing.

Her aunt Tatiana Lyubchenko said the baby’s name was Veronica but she was worried about the situation in the city. “We got information that the people there are running out of water and food and we are very worried, because the green corridor is not open and the Russians do not allow it, and the food is not coming. It is very cold there now so they do not feel warm,” said Lyubchenko.

The United Nations said on Friday that the fighting has displaced nearly 2 million Ukrainians in the country, and 2.5 million people have fled its borders.

CNN’s Tara John writes from London. Maya Ellinger reported from Atlanta. Tim Lister reported from Kyiv. Max Foster and Eleanor Pixton reported from London. CNN’s Yulia Kisaeva and Ivana Kutsova reported from Lviv. Paul B. Murphy reports from New York. Josh Pennington reports from Columbus, Ohio.

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