Russia intensifies strikes around Ukrainian capital as US warns against arming Kiev

A large area of ​​Makari, a village 30 miles west of Kiev, has been badly damaged by Russian airstrikes.

CNN geolocated and verified the authenticity of photos released Saturday on social media showing massive damage to apartment complexes, schools and medical facilities. One of the most blatant pictures of Makari shows a large hole in the north wall of an apartment building as a result of a military attack. Many of the buildings in the photos have been damaged on their north facade, indicating military strikes that they are Russians.

In Chernihiv, 100 kilometers north of Kyiv, the local main hotel Ukraine was attacked overnight. “I’m here now. There are no more hotels,” Vyacheslav Chaus, head of the Chernihiv regional administration, said Saturday.

The northern city, near the Belarusian border, has been under siege by Russian forces for more than a week, and video of the city showed the hotel’s crumbling sites and widespread damage from missiles and airstrikes.

Chass said civilians are dying due to strikes that have downgraded the city’s electricity network. “Many are wounded. The enemy is dropping bombs on civilian infrastructure without the army,” he said, adding that “the city has no electricity, almost no water, no gas and no heat.”

The Russian Defense Ministry has repeatedly said that Russian forces are not targeting civilians.

In Saturday’s speech, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zhelensky said that the whole country is now a front line. “Some small towns don’t exist now. It’s a tragedy. They’re gone now. And the people are gone.”

Zhelensky said talks to end Russia’s occupation of Ukraine should “begin with a ceasefire”, adding that Ukraine had lost about 1,300 troops as of Saturday. CNN could not verify these numbers independently.

Meanwhile, the US and NATO want to help Ukraine defend itself against Russian troops, but also to avoid being drawn into an open confrontation with Russia. U.S. President Joe Biden stressed that point on Friday that the United States will not send Ground forces within Ukraine.

“We will not wage a third world war in Ukraine,” Biden said, reiterating US full support for its NATO allies, after which the United States promised to protect “every inch” of NATO.

“However I want to be clear, we are going to make sure that Ukraine has the weapons to defend themselves from the invading Russian forces. And we will send money and food aid to save the lives of the Ukrainians,” he added.

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But Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Rybkov warned the United States of the possible consequences of transferring arms to Ukraine, saying convoys with foreign weapons would be “legal targets”.

“We have warned the United States that pumping Ukraine with the weapons of many countries is not a dangerous move, but these are actions that will turn the relevant convoys into legitimate targets,” Rybkov told the Russian state-run channel on Saturday. One, the state-owned RIA Novosti news agency said.

Strong opposition

In Ukraine, Russia has faced public opposition over the past two weeks. Several hundred people gathered on Saturday following the blockade of the town hall in the southern Ukrainian city of Melidopol by its mayor Ivan Fedorov.

Shortly after Fedorov’s arrest, a Russian – backed Luhansk regional prosecutor accused Fedorov of committing terrorist crimes, calling Zelensky “a crime against democracy” on Saturday.

The Zaporozhye regional administration said on Saturday that a new mayor had been installed. According to a report by the regional administration published in the Telegram, Galina Donilchenko, a former member of the city council of Melidopol, was introduced as acting mayor on local television. Donilchenko said in a televised statement that “his main task is to take all necessary measures to bring the city back to normal.”

He said people were still in Melidopol “to destabilize the situation and provoke a reaction to bad behavior”.

“Keep your intelligence about yourself and do not succumb to these temptations,” he said. “I appeal to representatives at all levels elected by the people. As you are elected by the people, it is your duty to care for the welfare of your citizens.”

In Kiev, Russia’s progress was met with fierce opposition from Ukrainian forces. On Saturday, the UK’s Ministry of Defense’s latest intelligence estimate put the majority of Russian ground forces 25 kilometers (15.5 miles) from the center of the Ukrainian capital.

In Berestanga - 10 miles west of the airport - several fuel trucks and several rocket launchers, Maxer says, are found in a field near trees.

Maxar satellite imagery taken on Thursday shows the 40-mile Russian column northwest of Kyiv largely disintegrated and reunited. But the intelligence assessment warned, “This may be in support of Russia’s attempt to encircle the city.

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The ministry added that the northern and northeastern cities of Chernihiv and Sumi, the eastern city of Kharkiv and Mariupol in the south were surrounded by Russian forces.

A senior Ukrainian official in southern Kherson, now under Russian control, said the “occupiers” were pressuring the regional council to agree to a referendum on partial “independence” from Ukraine. There was no word from the Russian side about the referendum plan.

A similar referendum was held in 2014 after Russian-backed separatists took control of parts of Luhansk and Donetsk. People’s Republics were then declared in both regions.

On Saturday, Russian officials arrived in Ukraine’s largest nuclear power plant, Zaporizhia, and demanded that the facility be shut down.

Intelligence: Russia lands in an attempt to jam the radar of a NATO aircraft

Zaporizhzhya has now been occupied by Russian forces for more than a week, Energoatom said, adding that its staff had previously been forced to work at “gunpoint”. The Chernobyl nuclear power plant is also under the control of Russian forces.

Despite the attack, Zhelensky said on Saturday that Ukrainian forces were inflicting “the biggest blow to Russia’s military in decades,” as 31 Russian tactical battalions had lost capacity and more than 360 Russian tanks had been lost.

Groups of Russian troops are surrendering to Ukrainian forces, but Russia is now recruiting militants, reservists, coerced and mercenaries who have “surpassed” the Ukrainian forces, Zhelensky added.

A Western defense official confirmed on Friday that Russia’s casualties included a third Russian general, Major General Andrei Kolsnikov, who had been killed by Ukrainian forces. He was the commander of the Eastern Military District, and according to the website of the Russian Defense Ministry, the Western official noted for the context that three Russian civilian officers were killed during the entire Syrian conflict.

Deteriorating conditions

As Russia continues to suffer losses, its bombing of the country continues to destabilize living conditions in many areas. Authorities are now rushing to send aid and evacuate civilians from the besieged cities.

Ukrainian authorities have announced a new effort to secure at least 13 exit routes from different cities, despite reports the previous day that only a few civilians could leave.

Speaking in the besieged city of Mariupol, Zelensky said on Saturday that Ukrainian forces would guarantee a ceasefire on an evacuation route so that supplies could enter and civilians could leave.

On Wednesday, March 9, 2022, Ukrainian emergency workers and volunteers carry an injured pregnant woman from a maternity hospital damaged by a shell attack in Mariupol, Ukraine.

With relatively clear skies over Mariupol, new satellite images taken from Maxar on Saturday morning showed the extent of the damage caused by the military strikes announced earlier in the week.

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In Zhovteneyvi, west of Mariupol, a large – still smoky – crater was found near the Okko gas station. Smoke billowed from the apartment across the street. The roofs of the warehouses on the street seemed to have large holes from military attacks.

Inside the apartment building, several buildings appear to have suffered significant damage. A garbage dump was found around some buildings with a large haze of smoke.

To the northwest of the gas station, an additional satellite image showed pits hitting the snow-covered field. Tracking and signs of the vehicle were also seen. About a mile to the south, in an industrial area in the vicinity of Primorsky, a large fire could be seen erupting.

There was some good news in the midst of the devastation. A pregnant woman who was rescued from a marijuana maternity hospital this week has been photographed on a viral AP and her family told CNN that she gave birth to a baby girl.

Mariana Vishekirskaya Mariupol, who survived the shelling, was one of several women at the maternity hospital.

Her aunt Tatiana Lyupchenko said the baby was named Veronica but she was concerned about the situation in the city. “We have been informed that the water and food of the people there are running out and we are very worried. The food did not come because the Russians did not allow the greenway to be opened. It is very cold there now. So they can not be hot,” Lyupchenko said.

The UN said on Friday that about 2 million Ukrainians had been displaced in the country by the fighting, and that 2.5 million people had fled its borders.

Tara John of CNN wrote from London. Maija Ehlinger reported from Atlanta. Tim Lister reported from Kiev. Max Foster and Eleanor Pixon reported from London. CNN’s Yulia Kesiva and Ivana Kottasova reported from LV. Paul b. Murphy reported from New York. Reported by Josh Pennington Columbus, Ohio.

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