the kyiv region “liberated”, testimonies on possible murders of civilians

Ukraine announced on Saturday that the entire kyiv region was now “liberated”, with Russian forces operating a “rapid withdrawal” from the north of the country, amid reports of civilian killings in some of these areas.

In an attempt to increase pressure on Moscow, the Baltic states announced on Saturday to cease their imports of Russian gas, on which they largely depend.

As the Russian troops withdraw as announced from the regions of kyiv and Cherniguiv (north), with the aim of redeploying towards the east, the Ukrainian forces have taken over dozens of localities, devastated by the fighting: “Irpin, Butcha, Gostomel and the entire Kyiv region have been liberated from the invader,” Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Ganna Maliar said.

But in Boutcha, northwest of kyiv, nearly 300 people had to be buried “in mass graves”, its mayor, Anatoly Fedoruk, told AFP. “All these people were shot, killed, with a bullet to the back of the head”, he assures us, adding that among the inhabitants of his city who perished there are “men and women of all ages”.

An AFP journalist saw the bodies of at least twenty men in civilian clothes there. One of the men has his hands tied behind his back with a piece of white cloth, an open Ukrainian passport lying on the floor next to it.

British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said on Twitter that she was “horrified by the atrocities in Boutcha and other cities in Ukraine”. Reports of “Russian forces targeting innocent civilians are despicable. The UK is working with other countries to gather evidence and support the war crimes investigation” by the International Criminal Court, it said. -she adds.

Boutcha and the nearby town of Irpin – where emergency services say 643 explosive devices have been deactivated since Russian forces left – have been the scene of some of the fiercest fighting since Russia attacked Ukraine February 24.

And in an area near kyiv, a veteran Ukrainian photographer and documentalist, Maks Levine, who had not been heard from for three weeks, was found dead, shot and killed, Ukrainian authorities announced on Saturday. For the Ukrainian prosecutor’s office, the photographer was the victim of shots by Russian soldiers.

– Moscow “oral” agreement –

The “rapid withdrawal” of Russian forces from the north of the country means that they “want to seize both Donbass and southern Ukraine”, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a video address on Saturday evening.

Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhaylo Podolyak warned on social media that “without heavy weapons we will not be able to drive out” Russian troops.

On the 38th day of the invasion of Ukraine, the chief Ukrainian negotiator in the peace talks with Russia, David Arakhamia, however claimed that Moscow had “verbally” accepted the main Ukrainian proposals, except for the one regarding Crimea, adding that kyiv was now awaiting written confirmation.

Speaking on a TV broadcast, he hinted that talks aimed at ending hostilities had made significant progress.

On Friday, Russia, accusing Ukraine of having carried out a helicopter strike on its soil, had nevertheless raised the threat of tougher negotiations. A fire has broken out at the fuel storage facilities of energy giant Rosneft in Belgorod, a Russian town about 40 kilometers from the border with Ukraine.

– End of Russian gas in the Baltics –

Additional pressure on Russia, the Baltic states have stopped importing Russian natural gas which “has not been transported to Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania since April 1”, the company’s leader said on Saturday. Latvian Conexus Baltic Grid storage facility.

“If we can do it, the rest of Europe can do it too!” he said. The Baltic countries are now served by gas reserves stored underground in Latvia.

On Twitter, Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda called on the rest of the European Union to follow the example of the Baltic countries: “From this month, no more Russian gas in Lithuania,” he said.

According to Eurostat, in 2020 Russia accounted for 93% of Estonian natural gas imports, 100% of Latvian imports and 41.8% of Lithuanian imports.

The United States banned the import of Russian oil and gas after the invasion of Ukraine, but not the EU, which was sourcing around 40% from Russia in 2021.

Efforts by Russian troops to consolidate their positions in southern and eastern Ukraine have met with resistance from Ukrainians in Mariupol, where some 160,000 people are still believed to be stranded and at least 5,000 of whom have been killed, according to reports. local authorities.

For Moscow, controlling Mariupol would ensure territorial continuity from Crimea to the two pro-Russian separatist republics of Donbass, Donetsk and Lugansk.

Unable for weeks, evacuations began on a small scale. On Friday, “humanitarian corridors operated in three regions: Donetsk, Lugansk and Zaporozhye. We managed to save 6,266 people, including 3,071 from Mariupol,” President Zelensky said overnight from Friday to Saturday.

On Saturday, some “1,263 people” traveled from Mariupol and Berdyansk to Zaporozhye on their own, and a dozen buses in a convoy left Berdyansk with 300 Mariupol residents on board, Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said. on Telegram. Other evacuations took place in the east of the country.

– The pope castigates the Russian invasion –

Also in the south, in Energodar, a city occupied by Russian forces, a demonstration of civilians was dispersed on Saturday by sound grenade fire which injured four, according to a Ukrainian official and videos posted on the internet.

In Russia, at least 211 people were arrested in 17 cities including Moscow and Saint-Petersburg, for protesting against the war, indicated the specialized NGO OVD-Info.

Sit-ins had been announced on social networks in around thirty cities, from Vladivostok (Far East) to Sochi (south). The organizers wanted to protest against “the collapse of the Russian economy, against (Russian President Vladimir) Putin” and for the release of imprisoned opponent Alexei Navalny.

Without naming him, Pope Francis, traveling on the island of Malta, also denounced the Russian president. “Some powerful person, sadly locked in his anachronistic pretensions of nationalist interests, provokes and foments conflicts”, declared the sovereign pontiff, in a transparent allusion to the leader of the Kremlin.

He added that he was planning to go to Ukraine soon, at the invitation of President Zelensky: “Yes, it’s on the table”, he said soberly.

On Sunday, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Martin Griffiths will be in Moscow to try to secure a “humanitarian ceasefire”, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres announced on Friday. .

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