Ukraine warned on Monday the humanitarian crisis in the pulverized city of Mariupol was now “catastrophic”, with thousands dead, as fighting surged around Kyiv ahead of new face-to-face peace talks with Russia in Turkey.
A senior Ukrainian official told AFP Monday that around 5,000 people have been buried in the besieged city of Mariupol.
Russian attacks near Kyiv cut power to more than 80,000 homes, officials said, underscoring the peril facing the capital despite an apparent retreat in Moscow’s war aims to focus on eastern Ukraine.
“To capture Kyiv is essentially a captured Ukraine, and this is their goal.”
Guterres told reporters he had asked UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths “immediately to explore with the parties involved the possible agreements and arrangements for a humanitarian ceasefire in Ukraine.”
— 20,000 Ukrainians killed –
Ukraine Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova said Monday there was proof that Russian forces have used banned cluster bombs in the southern Odessa and Kherson areas.
Ukraine’s foreign ministry said the situation there was “catastrophic” and Russia’s assault from land, sea and air had turned a city once home to 450,000 people “into dust”.
– Bodies unburied –
Unburied bodies line streets and residents cowering in basement shelters have been forced to eat snow to stay hydrated, local lawmaker Kateryna Sukhomlynova told AFP.
Macron warned that any escalation “in words or action” could harm his evacuation efforts, after US President Joe Biden’s shock declaration in Poland that Putin “cannot remain in power”.
On Monday he also announced that United States will allocate billions of dollars in aid to Ukraine, tax the wealthy and lower its deficit under a budget proposal President Joe Biden unveiled on Monday.
– Peace ‘without delay’ –
In the Lugansk city of Rubizhne, one person was killed and another wounded by overnight Russian bombardment, according to regional Ukrainian officials.
“There are Russian corpses all over the place,” a Ukrainian soldier told AFP, who said more than two dozen soldiers dispatched to Ukraine by Moscow had been killed in the fight for the hamlet.
Ukrainian “neutrality”, and the future status of Donbas, could be in the mix for the Istanbul meeting. Ukraine’s delegation said it had been delayed and the talks would open on Tuesday.
But he stressed: “Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity are beyond doubt. Effective security guarantees for our state are mandatory.”
Russia last week appeared to scale back its campaign when senior general Sergei Rudskoi said the first phase of the war was over and the “main goal” was now on controlling Donbas in the east.
Western analysts say Ukraine’s unexpectedly dogged resistance, coupled with logistical and tactical failures by the Russians, explain any reorientation by Moscow.
UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said Monday that any peace deal between Kiev and Moscow must not “sell Ukraine out” and should include provisions to automatically re-trigger sanctions if Russia acts aggressively.
The Novaya Gazeta newspaper, whose chief editor Dmitry Muratov was last year awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, said it was suspending publication until the end of the invasion.
Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich and Ukrainian negotiators were targets of a suspected poison attack, potentially by Moscow hardliners seeking to sabotage peace talks, the Wall Street Journal reported Monday, citing people familiar with the matter.
But resistance in besieged Mariupol is the main obstacle preventing Moscow from gaining unbroken control of land from the Donbas to the Crimea.