The Latest: Russians keep pressure on Mariupol after hospital attack

Civilians trapped inside Mariupol desperately scrounged for food and fuel as Russian forces kept up their bombardment of the port city Thursday amid international condemnation over an airstrike a day earlier that killed three people at a maternity hospital.Western and Ukrainian officials called the hospital attack on Wednesday a war crime by Moscow. Meanwhile, the highest-level talks held since the invasion began two weeks ago yielded no progress, the number of refugees fleeing the country topped 2.3 million, and Kyiv braced for an onslaught, its mayor boasting that the capital had become practically a fortress protected by armed civilians.More than 1,300 people have died in the 10-day siege of the frigid city of Mariupol, according to Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk.Here’s the latest on the Ukraine-Russia conflict as of 2:45 p.m. (Eastern):Constant shelling has thwarted attempts to evacuate civilians from the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol, a senior Ukrainian official said. Goldman Sachs says it is closing its operations in Russia entirely, making it the first major Wall Street bank to do so since Russia invaded Ukraine.Ukraine’s foreign minister says talks between the top diplomats of Moscow and Kyiv produced no breakthrough on ending the war in Ukraine following Russia’s invasion.All three international hotel chains based in the United States — Marriott, Hyatt and Hilton — have frozen their investments in Russia and put on hold any planned openings of new hotels there.Britain has imposed a travel ban and asset freezes on seven more wealthy Russians, including Roman Abramovich, the billionaire owner of Premier League soccer club Chelsea. The Biden administration is warning that Russia might seek to use chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine as the White House rejected Russian claims of illegal chemical weapons development in the country it has invaded.Residents of the southern seaport of 430,000 have no heat or phone service, and many have no electricity. Nighttime temperatures are regularly below freezing, and daytime ones normally hover just above it. Bodies are being buried in mass graves.Grocery stores and pharmacies were emptied days ago by people breaking in to get supplies, according to a local official with the Red Cross, Sacha Volkov. A black market is operating for vegetables, meat is unavailable, and people are stealing gasoline from cars, Volkov said.Places protected from bombings are hard to find, with basements reserved for women and children, he said. Residents, Volkov, are turning on one another: “People started to attack each other for food.”Repeated attempts to send in food and medicine and evacuate civilians have been thwarted by Russians shelling, Ukrainian authorities said.“They want to destroy the people of Mariupol. They want to make them starve,” Vereshchuk said. “It’s a war crime.”Video: Maternity ward, children’s hospital targeted by Russian air strikes A child was among those killed in the hospital airstrike in Mariupol. Seventeen people were also wounded, including women waiting to give birth, doctors, and children buried in the rubble. Images of the attack, with pregnant women covered in dust and blood, dominated news reports in many countries.Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told Russian leaders that the invasion will backfire on them as their economy is strangled. Western sanctions have already dealt a severe blow, causing the ruble to plunge, foreign businesses to flee and prices to rise sharply.“You will definitely be prosecuted for complicity in war crimes,” Zelenskyy said in a video address. “And then, it will definitely happen, you will be hated by Russian citizens — everyone whom you have been deceiving constantly, daily, for many years in a row, when they feel the consequences of your lies in their wallets, in their shrinking possibilities, in the stolen future of Russian children.”Russian President Vladimir Putin dismissed such talk, saying the country has endured sanctions before.″Just as we overcame these difficulties in the previous years, we will overcome them now,” he said at a televised meeting of government officials. He did, however, acknowledge the sanctions create “certain challenges.”In addition those who have fled the country, millions have been driven from their homes inside Ukraine. Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said about 2 million people — half the population of the metropolitan area — have left the capital.“Every street, every house … is being fortified,” he said. “Even people who in their lives never intended to change their clothes, now they are in uniform with machine guns in their hands.”Video: Strike hits hospital in Mariupol On Thursday, a 14-year-old girl named Katya was recovering at the Brovary Central District Hospital on the outskirts of Kyiv after her family was ambushed as they tried to flee the area. She was shot in the hand when their car was raked with gunfire from a roadside forest, said her mother, who identified herself only as Nina.The girl’s father, who drove frantically from the ambush on blown-out tires, underwent surgery. His wife said he had been shot in the head and had two fingers blown off.Western officials said Russian forces have made little progress on the ground in recent days and are seeing heavier losses and stronger Ukrainian resistance than Moscow apparently anticipated. But Putin’s forces have used airpower to pummel Ukraine’s cities.Zelenskyy said 35,000 people managed to get out on Wednesday from several besieged towns, and more efforts were underway on Thursday.The Mariupol city council posted a video showing buses driving down a highway. It said a convoy bringing food and medicine was on the way. But as night fell, it was unclear if those buses had reached the city.French President Emmanuel Macron called the airstrike on the hospital “a shameful and immoral act of war.” Britain’s Armed Forces minister, James Heappey, said that whether the hospital was hit by indiscriminate fire or deliberately targeted, “it is a war crime.”U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, on a visit to Ukraine’s neighbor Poland, backed calls for an international war-crimes investigation into the invasion, saying, “The eyes of the world are on this war and what Russia has done in terms of this aggression and these atrocities.”Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov dismissed concerns about civilian casualties as “pathetic shrieks” from Russia’s enemies, and denied Ukraine had even been invaded.He also claimed without providing evidence that the Mariupol hospital had been seized by far-right radical fighters who were using it as a base — despite photographs from the aftermath that showed pregnant women and children at the site.Video: Ukrainian Red Cross at work in besieged MariupolLavrov and his Ukrainian counterpart, Dmytro Kuleba, held talks in a Turkish Mediterranean resort in the first meeting between the foreign ministers since the invasion.The two sides discussed a 24-hour cease-fire but made no progress, Kuleba said. He said Russia was still seeking “surrender from Ukraine.”“This is not what they are going to get,” he added.Lavrov said Russia was ready for more negotiations, but he showed no sign of softening Moscow’s demands.Russia has alleged that Western-looking, U.S.-backed Ukraine poses a threat to its security. Western officials suspect Putin wants to install a government friendly to Moscow in Kyiv as part of an effort to draw the former Soviet state back into its orbit.In Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, 91-year-old Alevtina Shernina sat wrapped in a blanket, an electric heater at her feet, as cold air blew in through a damaged window. She survived the brutal World War II siege of Leningrad, now St. Petersburg.Her daughter-in-law Natalia said she was angry that Shernina “began her life in Leningrad under the siege as a girl who was starving, who lived in cold and hunger, and she’s ending her life” in similar circumstances.”There were fascists there and there are fascists here who came and bombed our buildings and windows,” she said.

Civilians trapped inside Mariupol desperately scrounged for food and fuel as Russian forces kept up their bombardment of the port city Thursday amid international condemnation over an airstrike a day earlier that killed three people at a maternity hospital.

Western and Ukrainian officials called the hospital attack on Wednesday a war crime by Moscow. Meanwhile, the highest-level talks held since the invasion began two weeks ago yielded no progress, the number of refugees fleeing the country topped 2.3 million, and Kyiv braced for an onslaught, its mayor boasting that the capital had become practically a fortress protected by armed civilians.

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More than 1,300 people have died in the 10-day siege of the frigid city of Mariupol, according to Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk.

Here’s the latest on the Ukraine-Russia conflict as of 2:45 p.m. (Eastern):

  • Constant shelling has thwarted attempts to evacuate civilians from the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol, a senior Ukrainian official said.
  • Goldman Sachs says it is closing its operations in Russia entirely, making it the first major Wall Street bank to do so since Russia invaded Ukraine.
  • Ukraine’s foreign minister says talks between the top diplomats of Moscow and Kyiv produced no breakthrough on ending the war in Ukraine following Russia’s invasion.
  • All three international hotel chains based in the United States — Marriott, Hyatt and Hilton — have frozen their investments in Russia and put on hold any planned openings of new hotels there.
  • Britain has imposed a travel ban and asset freezes on seven more wealthy Russians, including Roman Abramovich, the billionaire owner of Premier League soccer club Chelsea.
  • The Biden administration is warning that Russia might seek to use chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine as the White House rejected Russian claims of illegal chemical weapons development in the country it has invaded.

Residents of the southern seaport of 430,000 have no heat or phone service, and many have no electricity. Nighttime temperatures are regularly below freezing, and daytime ones normally hover just above it. Bodies are being buried in mass graves.

Grocery stores and pharmacies were emptied days ago by people breaking in to get supplies, according to a local official with the Red Cross, Sacha Volkov. A black market is operating for vegetables, meat is unavailable, and people are stealing gasoline from cars, Volkov said.

Places protected from bombings are hard to find, with basements reserved for women and children, he said. Residents, Volkov, are turning on one another: “People started to attack each other for food.”

Repeated attempts to send in food and medicine and evacuate civilians have been thwarted by Russians shelling, Ukrainian authorities said.

“They want to destroy the people of Mariupol. They want to make them starve,” Vereshchuk said. “It’s a war crime.”

Video: Maternity ward, children’s hospital targeted by Russian air strikes

A child was among those killed in the hospital airstrike in Mariupol. Seventeen people were also wounded, including women waiting to give birth, doctors, and children buried in the rubble. Images of the attack, with pregnant women covered in dust and blood, dominated news reports in many countries.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told Russian leaders that the invasion will backfire on them as their economy is strangled. Western sanctions have already dealt a severe blow, causing the ruble to plunge, foreign businesses to flee and prices to rise sharply.

“You will definitely be prosecuted for complicity in war crimes,” Zelenskyy said in a video address. “And then, it will definitely happen, you will be hated by Russian citizens — everyone whom you have been deceiving constantly, daily, for many years in a row, when they feel the consequences of your lies in their wallets, in their shrinking possibilities, in the stolen future of Russian children.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin dismissed such talk, saying the country has endured sanctions before.

″Just as we overcame these difficulties in the previous years, we will overcome them now,” he said at a televised meeting of government officials. He did, however, acknowledge the sanctions create “certain challenges.”

In addition those who have fled the country, millions have been driven from their homes inside Ukraine. Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said about 2 million people — half the population of the metropolitan area — have left the capital.

“Every street, every house … is being fortified,” he said. “Even people who in their lives never intended to change their clothes, now they are in uniform with machine guns in their hands.”

Video: Strike hits hospital in Mariupol

On Thursday, a 14-year-old girl named Katya was recovering at the Brovary Central District Hospital on the outskirts of Kyiv after her family was ambushed as they tried to flee the area. She was shot in the hand when their car was raked with gunfire from a roadside forest, said her mother, who identified herself only as Nina.

The girl’s father, who drove frantically from the ambush on blown-out tires, underwent surgery. His wife said he had been shot in the head and had two fingers blown off.

Western officials said Russian forces have made little progress on the ground in recent days and are seeing heavier losses and stronger Ukrainian resistance than Moscow apparently anticipated. But Putin’s forces have used airpower to pummel Ukraine’s cities.

Zelenskyy said 35,000 people managed to get out on Wednesday from several besieged towns, and more efforts were underway on Thursday.

The Mariupol city council posted a video showing buses driving down a highway. It said a convoy bringing food and medicine was on the way. But as night fell, it was unclear if those buses had reached the city.

French President Emmanuel Macron called the airstrike on the hospital “a shameful and immoral act of war.” Britain’s Armed Forces minister, James Heappey, said that whether the hospital was hit by indiscriminate fire or deliberately targeted, “it is a war crime.”

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, on a visit to Ukraine’s neighbor Poland, backed calls for an international war-crimes investigation into the invasion, saying, “The eyes of the world are on this war and what Russia has done in terms of this aggression and these atrocities.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov dismissed concerns about civilian casualties as “pathetic shrieks” from Russia’s enemies, and denied Ukraine had even been invaded.

He also claimed without providing evidence that the Mariupol hospital had been seized by far-right radical fighters who were using it as a base — despite photographs from the aftermath that showed pregnant women and children at the site.

Video: Ukrainian Red Cross at work in besieged Mariupol

Lavrov and his Ukrainian counterpart, Dmytro Kuleba, held talks in a Turkish Mediterranean resort in the first meeting between the foreign ministers since the invasion.

The two sides discussed a 24-hour cease-fire but made no progress, Kuleba said. He said Russia was still seeking “surrender from Ukraine.”

“This is not what they are going to get,” he added.

Lavrov said Russia was ready for more negotiations, but he showed no sign of softening Moscow’s demands.

Russia has alleged that Western-looking, U.S.-backed Ukraine poses a threat to its security. Western officials suspect Putin wants to install a government friendly to Moscow in Kyiv as part of an effort to draw the former Soviet state back into its orbit.

In Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, 91-year-old Alevtina Shernina sat wrapped in a blanket, an electric heater at her feet, as cold air blew in through a damaged window. She survived the brutal World War II siege of Leningrad, now St. Petersburg.

Her daughter-in-law Natalia said she was angry that Shernina “began her life in Leningrad under the siege as a girl who was starving, who lived in cold and hunger, and she’s ending her life” in similar circumstances.

“There were fascists there and there are fascists here who came and bombed our buildings and windows,” she said.

Contributed by local news sources

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