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Week four, warped war

Western countries say Russia getting bogged down in Ukraine

British military intelligence said the invasion had 'largely stalled on all fronts', and Russian forces were suffering heavy losses from a staunch Ukrainian resistance

Reuters Kyiv Published 18.03.22, 02:57 AM
Russian forces captured in the city of Mariupol.

Russian forces captured in the city of Mariupol. Twitter/@sotiridi

Russian forces in Ukraine are blasting cities and killing civilians but no longer making progress on the ground, western countries said on Thursday, as a war Moscow was thought to have hoped to win within days entered its fourth week.

Local officials said rescuers in the besieged southern port of Mariupol were combing the rubble of a theatre where women and children had been sheltering, bombed by Russian forces the previous day.


“The bomb shelter held. Now the rubble is being cleared. There are survivors. We don’t know about the (number of) victims yet,” mayoral adviser Petro Andrushchenko told Reuters by phone.

Russia denied striking the theatre, which commercial satellite pictures showed had the word “children” marked out on the ground before it was blown up.

British military intelligence said in an update on Thursday that the invasion had “largely stalled on all fronts”, and Russian forces were suffering heavy losses from a staunch and well-coordinated Ukrainian resistance.

Mariupol has suffered the worst humanitarian catastrophe of the war, with hundreds of thousands of civilians trapped in basements with no food, water or power for weeks. Russian forces have begun letting some people out in private cars this week but have blocked aid convoys from reaching the city.

Viacheslav Chaus, governor of the region centred on the frontline northern city of Chernihiv, said 53 civilians had been killed there in the past 24 hours. The toll could not be independently verified.

In the capital Kyiv, a building in the Darnytsky district was extensively damaged by what the authorities said was debris from a missile shot down early in the morning.

As residents cleared glass and carried bags of possessions away, a man knelt weeping by the body of a woman which lay close to a doorway, covered in a bloody sheet.

Although both sides have pointed to limited progress in peace talks this week, President Vladimir Putin, who ordered Russia’s invasion on February 24, showed little sign of relenting.

In a vituperative televised speech, he inveighed against “traitors and scum” at home who helped the West, and said the Russian people would spit them out like gnats.

Dmitry Medvedev, deputy head of Putin’s security council, said the United States had stoked “disgusting” Russophobia in an attempt to force Russia to its knees. “It will not work — Russia has the might to put all of our brash enemies in their place.”

Heavily outnumbered Ukrainian forces have prevented Moscow from capturing any of Ukraine’s biggest cities so far despite the largest assault on a European state since World War II. More than 3 million Ukrainians have fled and thousands of civilians and combatants have died.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed the German Bundestag by video link, pulling no punches in a speech that invoked the Holocaust and the Berlin Wall, and seemed intended to shame pro-Russian politicians in Moscow’s main energy buyer.

“Every year, politicians repeat ‘never again’,” said Zelensky, who is of Jewish heritage, citing a slogan used to mark the Holocaust. “And now we see that these words are simply worthless. In Europe, a people is being destroyed, they are trying to destroy everything that is dear to us, what we live for.”

He accused Germany of helping build a new wall “in the middle of Europe between freedom and unfreedom”, by isolating Ukraine with its business ties to Russia and its earlier support for Nord Stream 2, a gas pipeline it has since frozen.

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