Russian-Ukrainian war: what you need to know about the conflict | national news

March 19, 2022

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Fighting raged on multiple fronts in Ukraine on Saturday, with heavy fighting in the beleaguered port city of Mariupol, site of some of the war’s greatest suffering. Ukrainian officials say their forces are fighting the Russians for the Azovstal steelworks, one of the biggest in Europe.

The war is now in its fourth week. Overnight, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky accused the Kremlin of deliberately creating “a humanitarian catastrophe”, but also called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to meet him for direct talks.

The UN migration agency says the fighting has displaced nearly 6.5 million people inside Ukraine, in addition to the 3.2 million refugees who have already fled the country. Ukraine says thousands of people have been killed.

Here are some key things to know about the conflict:


In town after town around Ukraine, hospitals, schools and buildings where people sought shelter were attacked.

The Ukrainians announced on Saturday that 10 humanitarian corridors had been agreed with the Russians – one from Mariupol, several in the Kyiv region and several in the Lugansk region. Humanitarian aid deliveries are also planned for the city of Kherson, currently under Russian control.

In Mariupol, Ukrainian troops were losing control of the key Azovstal steel plant, now damaged and heavily contested, according to comments from an adviser to the Ukrainian interior minister.

“Now there is a fight for Azovstal,” Vadym Denysenko said in televised remarks on Saturday. “I can say that we have lost this economic giant. In fact, one of the largest metallurgical plants in Europe is being destroyed.”

Zelenskyy said in his Friday night video address to the nation that more than 9,000 people were able to leave Mariupol in the past day, and in total more than 180,000 people were able to flee through humanitarian corridors.

The Russian military announced on Saturday that it had used its latest hypersonic missile for the first time in combat. A Russian Defense Ministry spokesman, Major General Igor Konashenkov, said Kinzhal missiles destroyed an underground warehouse storing Ukrainian missiles and aviation ammunition in the western Ivano-Frankivsk region of Ukraine. .

A 38-hour curfew has been announced in the southeastern city of Zaporizhzhia to last from 4 p.m. local time Saturday until 6 a.m. Monday. Officials said two missile strikes on the city’s suburbs a day earlier killed nine people. Local authorities say they continue to evacuate people from areas occupied by Russian troops.


Three Russian cosmonauts arrived at the International Space Station on Friday, and as they floated there in zero gravity, they wore bright yellow flight suits with blue accents. These are the colors of the Ukrainian flag.

Later, cosmonauts were able to talk to their family on Earth, and cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev was asked about flight suits. He said each crew chooses their own flight suits and “actually we had accumulated a lot of yellow gear, so we had to use it. That’s why we had to wear yellow.”

Since the beginning of the war, many people have used the Ukrainian flag and its colors to show their solidarity with the country. It was unclear what message, if any, the yellow uniforms were meant to send.


President Joe Biden and China’s Xi Jinping spoke for nearly two hours Friday via video as the United States seeks to dissuade Beijing from providing military or economic aid to invading Russia. Biden described the consequences the Chinese would face from the United States if it provided military or economic assistance to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. White House press secretary Jen Psaki declined to detail the possible consequences, but a senior administration official said Biden pointed to the economic isolation Russia faces.

For his part, Xi urged the United States and Russia to negotiate and blamed the United States for the crisis.

French President Emmanuel Macron called for an immediate ceasefire in a Friday phone call with Putin. Macron’s office said Putin blamed Ukraine. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz also pressed Putin for a ceasefire during a conversation on Friday.

Biden plans to travel to Europe next week for talks with European leaders on the Russian invasion and will attend an extraordinary NATO summit in Brussels.


The head of the Russian delegation, in talks with Ukrainian officials, said the parties have moved closer to an agreement on a neutral status for Ukraine – one of the key Russian demands as its offensive continues. Vladimir Medinsky said on Friday that the parties had also narrowed their differences over the issue of Ukraine’s abandonment of its NATO bid.

But Mikhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Zelenskyy, tweeted: “Our positions are unchanged. Ceasefire, withdrawal of troops and strong security guarantees with concrete formulas.”


The UN human rights office says it has recorded a total of 816 civilians killed and 1,333 injured since the start of the Russian invasion on February 24, although it only reports figures it can. to verify. He believes that the figures greatly underestimate the real toll. Ukrainian officials say thousands have been killed.

The country’s attorney general’s office reported on Saturday that a total of 112 children have been killed since the fighting began. More than 140 children were injured.


Since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, AP journalists have relayed images of destruction, distress and defiance across the country.

A soldier standing guard near the site of the strike in Lviv said he heard three explosions in quick succession around 6 a.m. A nearby resident described his building vibrating with explosions and panicking people. Smoke continued to rise from the site hours later.


The United States and its allies have implemented a series of sanctions aimed at crippling the Russian economy. Hundreds of international companies have announced they are reducing their operations in Russia, and those that remain are under pressure to pull out.

Pope Francis on Friday denounced what he called the “evil abuse of power” in Russia’s war in Ukraine and called for help for Ukrainians whose identity, history and tradition are attacked. Francis’ comments were among his strongest to date in affirming Ukraine’s right to exist as a sovereign state.

Aid agencies are stepping up their efforts to deliver relief to civilians affected by the fighting and refugees who have fled Ukraine. The Polish town of Rzeszow, about 100 kilometers from the Ukrainian border, has become a humanitarian hub for the region.


Follow AP coverage of the Russia-Ukraine war: