Ukraine’s child refugees a big challenge for host countries

KYIV: Russia’s military forces battered Ukraine’s capital region and other major cities to crush resistance that has disappointed any hopes for a Kremlin power victory, while the two countries held talks on Wednesday as part of scheduled talks. And projected optimism for the round.
Russia’s ground progress on Kyiv stalled despite continued bombardment, with statements from both sides suggesting room for progress in their negotiations. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said a neutral military position for Ukraine was being “seriously discussed”, while Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky described Russia’s demands to end the war as “more realistic”.
Zelensky said Russian forces had been unable to penetrate deep into Ukrainian territory, but continued heavy shelling of cities including Mariupol, a southern port that had been attacked almost all during the three-week war.
Kyiv residents hid in homes and shelters amid a citywide curfew that lasted until Thursday morning, as Russia opened fire on the city and its surrounding areas. A 12-storey apartment building in central Kyiv engulfed in flames after being hit by shrapnel.
“Efforts are still needed, patience is needed,” Zelensky said in his nightly video address to the nation. “Any war ends with a pact.”
British and US intelligence assessments supported the Ukrainian leader’s view of the battle, saying that Russian ground forces were about 15 kilometers (9 mi) from the center of Kyiv.
Zelensky said on Tuesday that hopes for diplomatic progress were raised after Ukraine realized it could not join NATO, his most obvious acknowledgment that the goal enshrined in Ukraine’s constitution was unlikely to be met. Russian President Vladimir Putin has long portrayed Ukraine’s NATO aspirations as a threat to Russia, which the Western military alliance denies.
Lavrov welcomed Zelensky’s remarks, saying that “business spirit” begins to emerge in the talks “hoping that we can agree on this issue.”
“The neutral position regarding security guarantees is being seriously discussed,” Lavrov said on the Russian channel RBK TV on Wednesday. “There are solid threads that are close to agreeing with my view.”
Russia’s chief negotiator, Vladimir Medinsky, said the sides were discussing a possible settlement idea for a future Ukraine with a small, non-aligned military.
The prospects for a diplomatic success were highly uncertain, however, with a gap between Ukraine’s demand that the invading forces withdraw completely and Russia’s suspected war aims to replace Kyiv’s west-looking government with a pro-Moscow leadership. have to change.
Ukraine’s presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolik denied Russian claims that Ukraine was open to adopting a model of neutrality comparable to that of Sweden or Austria. Podolik said on Telegram that Ukraine needed powerful allies and “clearly defined security guarantees” to keep it safe.
In a rare speech by a foreign leader to the US Congress on Wednesday, Zelensky was preparing to make a direct appeal for more US help, according to a White House official, with President Joe Biden offering $800 million in new military aid to Ukraine. announced.
There was no immediate end to the fighting that has upheld Europe’s post-Cold War security order, driven millions out of their homes in Ukraine and turned large parts of the country into war zones.
The United Nations says the number of people fleeing Ukraine has passed 3 million in the midst of Europe’s worst fighting since World War II. The UN human rights body says 691 civilians have been killed and 1,143 injured, but admits those numbers were small.
The head of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Peter Maurer, arrived in Ukraine on Wednesday to try to gain greater access to aid groups and increase security for civilians.
Amid the huge humanitarian crisis caused by the war, the Red Cross has helped evacuate civilians from besieged areas and provided 200 tons of aid including blankets, water and more than 5,200 body bags to “treat the dead with dignity”. To be.” ,
No more damage has been done than Mariupol, a strategic port city of 430,000 on the Azov Sea, surrounded by Russian troops for two weeks. Local officials say more than 2,300 people have been killed in missile attacks and shelling and residents are struggling for food, water, heat and medicine.
There are bodies of children in a mass grave ditch, and more corpses lie in the streets and in hospital basements, waiting for someone to pick them up. With food running out and humanitarian aid unavailable amid the constant bombing, people burn furniture scraps in makeshift grills to warm their hands and cook with the little food still available.
In a sign of relief, 20,000 people in 4,000 vehicles managed to flee the city on Tuesday, according to Zelensky’s office.
But Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Irina Vereshchuk on Wednesday expressed dismay at reports that Russian forces had taken hundreds of people hostage at Mariupol Hospital and were using it as a firing position.
Regional leader Pavlo Kirilenko said Russian troops forced about 400 people from nearby homes into the regional intensive care hospital and were not allowing them and about 100 patients and staff to be used as human shields.
Doctors at other Mariupol hospitals made a video to let the world know what horrors they were witnessing. “We don’t want to be posthumous heroes and martyrs,” said one woman. She said it was insufficient to refer to patients being treated as wounded: “It’s arms and legs torn out, eyes popped out, bodies torn into pieces, falling inside out.”
Artillery shrapnel that hit a 12-story apartment building in central Kyiv on Wednesday eroded the top floor and ignited a fire that spread a plume of smoke in the area. Residents took property and pets from the building to douse the flames amid a sea of ​​debris. The Kyiv emergency agency said there were two victims, without specifying whether they were injured or killed.
Kyiv regional leader Oleksiy Kuleba said Russian forces had intensified fighting in the Kyiv suburbs and a highway leading to the west.
In the capital region, “kindergartens, museums, churches, residential blocks and engineering infrastructure are suffering endless gunfire,” Kuleba said, and 12 cities around Kyiv were reported without water and six without heat.
He said the Russian military was trying to destroy logistics capabilities while planning a comprehensive attack to cut off transport links to the capital and seize the capital.
Kuleba said that Russian forces were successful in capturing the city of Ivankiev, 80 kilometers (50 mi) north of Kiev and controlling the surrounding area on the border with Belarus.
According to local officials, in addition to airstrikes and shelling by ground forces, Russian naval ships fired overnight on a city south of Mariupol on the Azov Sea and another city near Odessa on the Black Sea.
Ukraine also appeared to be having success, with satellite photos from Planet Labs PBC analyzed by The Associated Press showing helicopters and vehicles at Russian-held Kherson International Airport and Air Base following a suspected Ukrainian attack on Tuesday.
Zelensky’s office said Ukrainian forces foiled Russian attempts to enter Ukraine’s second largest city, Kharkiv, which has been hit by almost non-stop attacks in the past 24 hours. There was a loud bang in the city overnight.
City hospital workers found themselves on two fronts, battling COVID-19 in intensive care units as war broke out outside. The director of the hospital, Dr. Pavel Nartov, said air raid sirens sounded several times daily, forcing vulnerable patients into the Kharkiv Regional Clinical Infectious Diseases Hospital’s temporary bomb shelter.
“The bombings happen from morning till night. Thank God the bomb hasn’t dropped in our hospital yet. But it can hit at any time,” Nartov told the Associated Press.
Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov claimed that Russia destroyed 111 Ukrainian aircraft, 160 drones and more than 1,000 tanks or other military vehicles since the start of its “special military operation” in Ukraine.
The Russian military’s daily public statements on the war focus almost exclusively on fighting in the separatist-occupied Donetsk and Luhansk regions and on Ukrainian military targets without acknowledging attacks on civilians.
As the West tries to bolster Ukraine’s defenses by imposing sanctions on Russia, defense ministers of NATO member states met in Brussels on Wednesday ahead of an emergency summit of the military alliance next week.
Meanwhile, the prime ministers of Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovenia returned to Poland on Wednesday after a risky trip to Kyiv to show support for Ukraine. They went ahead with the hours-long train journey, despite concerns within the EU about safety risks.