A senior UN official will try in Moscow on Sunday to secure a “humanitarian ceasefire” in Ukraine, where possible abuses against civilians have been reported in the devastated region of kyiv, recaptured from the Russians by the Ukrainians, and a series of explosions heard in the strategic port of Odessa.
Russian forces are withdrawing from key towns near the capital and Cherniguiv in northern Ukraine to redeploy to the east and south in a bid to “maintain control” of the territories they already occupy there, confirmed Ukraine.
More than a month after the launch of the Russian invasion, the localities of “Irpin, Boutcha, Gostomel and the entire kyiv region have been liberated from the invader”, Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister said on Saturday , Ganna Maliar.
But the Russians, by withdrawing “on their own” or after fighting, leave behind “a total disaster and many dangers”, denounced the Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelensky, on Facebook. “The bombardments can continue,” he warned, also accusing the Russian military of “undermining the territories they are leaving, houses, ammunition and even corpses”.
– “Hands tied” –
In Boutcha, a town near kyiv, the bodies of about twenty men, one of whom has a large head wound, lie in a street, scattered over several hundred meters, noted a journalist from the AFP.
“All these people were shot, killed with a bullet in the back of the head,” assured AFP Anatoly Fedorouk, the mayor of this city that Ukrainian soldiers took over from the Russians, and where nearly 300 people were buried “in mass graves”.
“In some streets, we see 15 to 20 corpses on the ground” but “I can’t say how many there are still in the courtyards, behind the palisades”, continued the mayor. Several people found dead have their hands tied with a strip of white cloth, used to show that they had no weapons, Mr. Fedorouk said again.
British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said on Twitter that she was “horrified by the atrocities in Boutcha and other towns”.
Butcha and the nearby town of Irpin, rendered unrecognizable by shelling, have been the scene of some of the fiercest fighting since Russia attacked Ukraine on February 24, when Russian soldiers were trying to surround kyiv.
Also near the capital, the body of a veteran Ukrainian photographer, Maks Levine, was found shot dead after the withdrawal of Russian troops, Ukrainian authorities announced on Saturday. For the Ukrainian prosecution, he was the victim of shots by Russian soldiers.
– Russia’s “oral” agreement –
While the war has killed at least thousands of people and forced more than 4.1 million Ukrainians into exile, a UN leader is going to Moscow on Sunday to try to obtain a “cease -humanitarian fire”.
Until now, Russia has refused any visit by a senior UN official whose main subject is Ukraine.
The UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Britain’s Martin Griffiths, “will be in Moscow on Sunday and after that he will go to kyiv”, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres announced on Friday, recalling that he would had given the mission of “seeking a humanitarian ceasefire in Ukraine”.
Meanwhile, Ukraine’s chief negotiator in the peace talks with Russia, David Arakhamia, said on Saturday that Moscow had “verbally” accepted the main Ukrainian proposals, except those concerning Crimea, adding that kyiv was waiting for confirmation. written.
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.
Efforts by Russian troops to consolidate their positions in southern and eastern Ukraine have so far met with resistance from Ukrainians in Mariupol, where some 160,000 people are believed to still be stranded and at least 5,000 of whom have been killed. , according to local authorities.
For Moscow, controlling Mariupol would ensure territorial continuity from Crimea to the two pro-Russian separatist republics of Donbass, Donetsk and Lugansk.
– “Odessa attacked from the air” –
Unable for weeks, evacuations began on a small scale. On Saturday, some “1,263 people” traveled from Mariupol and Berdiansk to Zaporozhye by their own means, and a dozen buses in a convoy left Berdiansk, with 300 Mariupol residents on board, the Deputy Prime Minister announced in the evening. Iryna Vereshchuk on Telegram. Other evacuations took place in the east of the country.
In Odessa, Ukraine’s main port, which provides access to the Black Sea in the southwest, a series of explosions were heard on Sunday morning, causing at least three columns of black smoke and visible flames, apparently in a industrial zone, noted AFP.
A downtown hotel worker said she heard a plane, but a soldier near the scene of one of the strikes said it was a rocket or missile.
“Odessa was attacked from the air. Fires were reported in some areas. Part of the missiles were shot down by air defense. It is recommended to close the windows,” wrote Anton Gerashchenko, adviser to the Minister of Foreign Affairs. Ukrainian interior, on his Telegram account.
Russian forces also continue “to partially block the city of Kharkiv”, the second city of Ukraine, located in the east, where industrial and residential areas are the target of artillery fire, according to the staff. of the Ukrainian army, which however notes a decrease in their intensity.
Russia also plans “to create battalions made up of residents + volunteers + of the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine and mercenaries”, notes the same source.
– End of Russian gas in the Baltics –
Additional pressure on Moscow, 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 manager said on Saturday. Latvian storage Conexus Baltic Grid. The Baltic countries are now served by gas reserves stored underground in Latvia.
“From this month, no more Russian gas in Lithuania,” Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda tweeted, calling on the rest of the European Union to follow the Baltic example.
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.