What happened on day 22 of the Russian invasion of Ukraine?


KYIV, Ukraine – A day after a Russian strike reduced to rubble a theater in southern Ukraine where hundreds of people had huddled together for shelter, rescuers wading through the debris – even as the Russian shells continued to fall – began to pull out survivors one by one.

“Adults and children are coming out alive,” Ukrainian human rights ombudsman Lyudmila Denisova reported early Thursday as rescue efforts continued at the Drama Theater in Mariupol, a southern port city besieged by the Russian forces.

But information was scarce from the desperate city, which has been squarely in Moscow’s sights since the invasion began three weeks ago. With as many as a thousand people, many of them children, believed to have taken refuge in the theater and still missing, fears remained that any hope emerging from the rescue scene on Thursday would ultimately be overshadowed by despair.

“Our hearts are broken by what Russia is doing to our people, to our Mariupol,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a public address overnight.

Rescue efforts in theater took place against a chilling backdrop of thousands of civilian casualties across much of Ukraine. Suffering heavy casualties on the battlefield, Russian forces are dropping more and more bombs and missiles on towns and cities. Unable to capture urban centers, they level them instead, and the civilian toll worsens.

In Mariupol, people take shelter in a theater where the word “children” is written in large letters on the sidewalk on both sides of the building, clearly visible from the air. In Chernihiv, people are waiting in a line of bread. In kyiv, it was a 16-story building pierced by a missile fragment and, amid the debris and broken glass outside, a man with a sweatshirt thrown over his head kneeled silently at side of a body under a bloody sheet, holding a lifeless hand for several minutes, then staggering in grief.

Credit…Lynsey Addario for The New York Times

As a fourth consecutive day of peace talks went unannounced and the UN Security Council held an emergency session on the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine, Western officials described the breakthrough Russian as bogged down.

While Russian forces have made some progress in the south and east, one of the officials said, they are stuck outside the capital, Kyiv, where they have suffered heavy casualties and – perhaps – to be most surprisingly – failed to dominate the air. . The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive intelligence assessments.

Given all the setbacks, Western officials said they were no longer convinced that Russia was planning a ground assault on kyiv, a major objective. “An ill-judged assault on such a well-prepared and well-defended city as kyiv would be a very costly undertaking,” one said. They warned that Russia could still decide to attack the city or, failing that, strangle it during a prolonged siege.

As cruise missiles pounded their capital, Ukrainian fighters described several successful, albeit small, counteroffensives against Russian forces.

East of kyiv, in the suburb of Brovary, the thrust of the counterattack focused on artillery, according to Lt. Pavlo Proskochilo, the city’s military commander. He said Ukrainian artillery strikes had in some places forced the Russians to entrench themselves, adopting a more defensive than offensive stance.

“We kicked them in the teeth,” he said. “They are now waiting for reinforcements.”

Credit…Lynsey Addario for The New York Times

It was unclear whether Ukrainian forces had indeed forced the Russians to withdraw to any location, and in outlying towns the regular booms and thuds of artillery fire were constant throughout the war. daytime.

But it wasn’t just the soldiers who swore to fight the invaders.

Outside the missile-damaged kyiv building, Tetiana Vaskovska, a 58-year-old lawyer, angrily inspected the wreckage of what had been her home for 25 years.

“I know how to shoot,” she said. “Give me a gun.”

In recent days, an increasingly brutal war of attrition has unfolded on the ground and in the air, with fierce battles raging on the outskirts of kyiv and Russian warships on the Black Sea launching missiles at towns around the southern city of Odessa. Eyewitness accounts, official statements and satellite images paint a picture of large-scale destruction. More than three million people have fled the country.

Credit…Lynsey Addario for The New York Times

On Thursday, President Biden unabashedly scorned Russian President Vladimir V. Putin, who ordered the invasion. A day after calling Mr Putin a war criminal, Mr Biden, speaking on Capitol Hill, called him “a murderous dictator, a pure thug who is waging an immoral war against the people of Ukraine.” Mr Biden will meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday and plans to warn Beijing not to help Moscow, his spokeswoman said.

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken hinted that Mr Putin “may be growing more desperate” and warned that Moscow may be preparing to use chemical weapons and has begun kidnapping local officials in Ukraine and replace them with allies of Mr. Putin.

The House of Representatives voted 424 to 8 to suspend normal trade relations with Russia, another blow to a country whose economy is already faltering under Western economic sanctions.

In recent days, Mr. Zelensky has taken his case directly to Western lawmakers, urging them to help Ukraine fight Russia. In the British Parliament, he recalled the terror campaign of the Nazis. In Congress, he talked about Pearl Harbor. On Thursday it was Germany’s turn: Mr Zelensky, addressing the Bundestag, made multiple references to German atrocities inflicted on Ukraine and Russia, among others, during World War II, and analogies with the Berlin Wall.

“You’re like behind the wall again,” he said. “Not the Berlin Wall but in the middle of Europe, between freedom and slavery.”

A British intelligence report said Russian forces have “made minimal progress on land, sea or air in recent days” and “continue to suffer heavy casualties”. US estimates put the Russian military death toll at 7,000, although this figure cannot be independently confirmed.

If Russia miscalculated, the cost may not be limited to the Ukrainian battlefields. On Thursday, French President Emmanuel Macron, who once accused NATO of “brain death”, said the war had invigorated it, giving the military alliance “an electric shock, a wake-up call”.

But despite all their struggles, Russian forces are said to have taken control of large sections of Ukraine, especially in the east and south. In Russian-controlled eastern cities, witnesses described desolation and ruin, as well as looting by Russian troops, where tens of thousands of people had once lived.

In the eastern town of Volnovakha, the Russian Defense Ministry declared it “liberated”, but after weeks of shelling, the price of Moscow was a landscape of rubble and ash.

About 200 miles north of Mariupol, the town of Izyum has been surrounded by Russian forces for two weeks.

“No water, no light, no heating, no food, no medicine, no communication. The situation is no better than in Mariupol,” Deputy Mayor Volodymyr Matsokin said. writes on facebook. “There is no one to bury the dead.”

Andrew E. Kramer reported from kyiv, Ukraine; Michael Schwirtz from Odessa, Ukraine; and Eric Nagourney from New York. Marc Landler contributed reporting from London; Marc Santora from Lviv, Ukraine; and Thrush Glenn from Washington.


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