Mariupol Evacuation Effort Resumes as Ukraine Braces for Renewed Russian Offensive

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A fresh effort is underway to evacuate trapped civilians from the besieged city of Mariupol as Ukrainian forces brace for a renewed Russian offensive in the east.

Ukrainian officials said they’re sending a convoy of buses to evacuate people from Mariupol on Thursday after Russia said it was ready to observe a one-day ceasefire in the city, where tens of thousands of civilians remain trapped after weeks of heavy bombardment.

Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereschuk said that 45 buses were being sent to Mariupol after the Red Cross notified Ukrainian authorities Russia’s defense ministry had agreed to open access for a humanitarian convoy.

“We will do everything possible so that buses enter Mariupol today and pick up people who have not yet been able to get out of the city,” Vereschuk said, Interfax reported.

The Mariupol mayor’s office estimates that nearly 5,000 people have been killed in the besieged city and about 170,000 people remain trapped amid ruins without food, heat, power, or running water.

Epoch Times Photo
A service member of pro-Russian troops walks near a destroyed apartment building in Mariupol, Ukraine, on March 28, 2022. (Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters)

Russian President Vladimir Putin told French President Emmanuel Macron in a phone call on Tuesday that Russian shelling of Mariupol would continue until Ukrainian troops surrendered, according to a Kremlin statement.

French officials later said Putin had agreed to consider plans to evacuate civilians from Mariupol, with Russia later proposing a one-day ceasefire for Thursday.

In an early morning video address, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that “we will not give up anything” and that “we will fight for every meter of our land, for every our person.”

Zelenskyy added that Ukraine was seeing “a build-up of Russian forces for new strikes on the Donbas,” adding that “we are preparing for that.”

Epoch Times Photo
People dig a grave for victims killed in the Ukraine–Russia conflict in a street in the besieged city of Mariupol, Ukraine, on March 20, 2022. (Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters)

Russia has withdrawn a limited number of its units from Kyiv but they continue to hold positions to the east and west of the city, British intelligence said, adding that it expects heavy fighting in Kyiv in the coming days.

“Heavy fighting continues in Mariupol, a key objective of Russian forces, however Ukrainian forces remain in control of the center of the city,” UK intelligence said.

Capturing Mariupol is a key aim for Russia, which would allow it to control the Azov Sea coastline between Russia and Crimea, which Moscow annexed in 2014.

Epoch Times Photo
General view of the remains of a theater that was reportedly hit by a bomb when hundreds of people were sheltering inside, in Mariupol, Ukraine, on March 18, 2022. (Azov/Handout via Reuters)

Russia said its forces have completed regrouping operations around Kyiv and the northern Ukrainian city of Chernihiv and are poised for a renewed offensive in eastern Ukraine.

“The objective of the regrouping of the Russian Armed Forces is to intensify action in priority areas and, above all, to complete the operation for the total liberation of Donbas,” the ministry said.

The Donbas region in eastern Ukraine encompasses the two separatist-controlled so-called “people’s republics” that Russia claims it is helping to liberate.

As part of its renewed offensive, Russia’s defense ministry said its forces have broken through heavily fortified defenses on the approach to the town of Velikaya Novoselka, around 75 miles northwest of Mariupol, and were engaging with a Ukrainian mechanized brigade.

A senior Ukrainian official said that Russia and Ukraine plan to resume peace talks online on April 1.

Tom Ozimek

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Tom Ozimek has a broad background in journalism, deposit insurance, marketing and communications, and adult education. The best writing advice he’s ever heard is from Roy Peter Clark: ‘Hit your target’ and ‘leave the best for last.’





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