Day 101 of the Invasion of Ukraine: Russian Forces Pushed Back East, Putin wants the Ports Demined
Here are the highlights of events related to the war in Ukraine over the past 24 hours:
Ukraine: Russian forces have been pushed east
Russian artillery struck Ukraine's eastern Donbas with fierce fighting around the city of Sievierodonetsk, but the local governor said there had been some progress in repelling the invading forces. Ukrainian troops continue to resist a complete takeover of the city. "They didn't take it completely," said Luhansk Oblast Governor Sergei Gaidai, who said the invading forces had been pushed out by 20 percent. "As soon as we get a lot of Western long-range weapons, we'll push their artillery back ... and then the Russian infantry will flee."
Ukrainian troops still hold an industrial zone in Sievierodonetsk, Gaidai said, a scenario reminiscent of Mariupol, where the steel plant was the last stronghold of resistance in the port city. The situation in Lysychansk, the twin city of Sievierodonetsk on the other side of the local river, seems increasingly worrying. About 60% of infrastructure and housing have been destroyed, and internet, mobile networks and gas services have been cut off, Mayor Alexander Zaika said. In the town of Slavyansk, about 80km south of Sievierodonetsk, the mayor called on residents to evacuate due to heavy bombing. Water and electricity have been cut off. "The situation is getting worse," student Gulnara Evgaripova told AFP as she boarded a minibus to leave the city. Paramedic Ekaterina Perednenko added: "I'm afraid there will be nothing to return to."
Kyiv keeps in touch with captured Azovstal fighters
Ukrainian intelligence services have been in contact with Ukrainian defense fighters at the Azovstal metallurgical complex in Mariupol, who were detained by Russian forces after Kyiv ended resistance to save their lives, a Ukrainian official said.
“Thanks to Ukrainian intelligence, we are learning about the conditions in the place of their detention, the food situation and the possibilities for their release”, said Ukrainian Interior Minister Denys Monastyrsky in a television broadcast.
"We know that they will all return here to Kyiv, and we are doing everything we can to achieve that," Monastyrsky assured.
Last month, Moscow said nearly 2,000 Ukrainian fighters had surrendered after months of stubbornly defending their positions amid the devastation in Mariupol.
Ukrainian authorities are seeking to negotiate their release through a prisoner-of-war agreement.
However, according to the Kremlin, Ukrainian soldiers will be tried according to the requirements of international law.
Putin called on Kyiv to demine Ukrainian-controlled ports
Amid fears of a global food crisis, Russian President Vladimir Putin has said there is no problem with grain exports from Ukraine.
He called on the Kyiv authorities to clear the ports they control and assured that Russia would not take advantage of the situation to attack Ukraine by sea.
In an interview with Russia 1, the Russian president called the accusations against his country of the food crisis "an attempt to transfer the problem from a sick head to a healthy one."
"The unfavorable situation on the world food market began to arise not yesterday and not even after the start of Russia's special military operation in Donbas and Ukraine. It began to emerge in February 2020 in the process of combating the effects of the coronavirus pandemic."
Vladimir Putin linked the food problem to the influx of large sums of money into the US economy as a means of combating the crisis.
Putin also commented on the rise in energy prices in Europe. According to him, it is a result of the short-sighted policy of the European Commission in this area: accelerated transition to green energy and abandonment of long-term contracts for the supply of Russian natural gas.
Putin: Millions of tons of grain blocked in Ukraine can be exported via Odessa or Mariupol
The millions of tons of grain blocked in Ukraine, which African countries need, can be exported via Odessa or the Russian-controlled port of Mariupol. This was stated by Russian President Vladimir Putin to his visiting president of the African Union, after weeks of warnings that the war could lead to famine in the poorest countries.
Macky Sall, who is also the president of Senegal, visited Putin in Sochi, talked to him for three hours and then announced that he was leaving satisfied with the "determination and knowledge" of the Russian head of state, that the “crisis and sanctions create serious problems for weak economies".
"President Putin has expressed his readiness to facilitate Ukraine's wheat exports. Russia is ready to ensure the export of its wheat and fertilizers. I call on all partners to lift sanctions on wheat and fertilizers," Macky Sall wrote on Twitter. However, he did not specify whether any conditions were related to Putin's proposal.
During the meeting, Putin said that exports through Odessa, where much of the blocked grain is located, would be difficult due to the need to remove Ukrainian mines around the port. However, this is a precaution against Russian ships.
According to Putin, the second option is the Russian-controlled port of Mariupol.
Last week, the Russian president made it conditional on lifting sanctions against his country to allow its warships to export grain. The UN has warned that the blockade could lead to food shortages for hundreds of millions. Today, the international organization described the talks with Moscow on the issue as very difficult.
Ukraine's exports of grain and other cereals provide much of the supply to African countries. The food crisis caused by Russia's invasion of Ukraine, in which Russian forces blocked Ukrainian ports and used their warships to control access to Black Sea trade routes, has hit Africa particularly hard.
Guterres: Ukraine's conflict has led to a three-dimensional global crisis
On the 100th day of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres reiterated his call for an end to the violence. "I renew my call for an immediate end to the violence, for unhindered humanitarian access to all those in need, for the safe evacuation of civilians trapped in hostilities, for the urgent protection of civilians and respect for human rights in accordance with international norms," said Guterres in a statement on Friday.
He said the conflict had already killed thousands, displaced millions of others, waged "unacceptable human rights abuses and ignited a three-dimensional global crisis - food, energy and financial - which is most devastating for vulnerable people and economies."
Guterres said the UN is "committed to humanitarian efforts", but that negotiations and dialogue will eventually be needed to resolve the conflict. "The sooner the countries commit to good faith diplomatic efforts to end this war, the better for Ukraine, Russia and the world," he said.
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