Russia-Ukraine War: What to know on Russia’s war in Ukraine

Ukraine flag (Source: Storyblocks)

(AP) – Russia’s invasion of Ukraine entered its 12th day following what Ukrainian authorities described as increased shelling of encircled cities and another failed attempt to start evacuating hundreds of thousands of civilians from the besieged areas, including the southern port of Mariupol.

Russia announced yet another cease-fire and humanitarian corridors to allow civilians to flee Ukraine for Monday but nothing has happened so far. Two previous cease-fire attempts have failed and Russian forces continue to pummel Ukrainian cities with rockets.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has called for a global boycott of all Russian products — including oil — ahead of a third round of talks between Russian and Ukrainian leaders planned for Monday.

More than 1.7 million Ukrainians had been forced from the country. Zelenskyy urged his people to keep resisting, and Ukraine’s foreign minister said more than 20,000 people from 52 countries had volunteered to fight in Ukraine’s newly created international legion.

Russian President Vladimir Putin likened the West’s sanctions on Russia to “declaring war.”

Here’s a look at key things to know about the war:

VIOLENCE STOPS PLANNED CIVILIAN EVACUATIONS AGAIN

Moscow has offered evacuation routes that led mostly to Russia and its ally Belarus, drawing withering criticism from Ukraine and others.

Ukrainian Interior Ministry adviser Anton Gerashchenko has blamed Russian artillery fire for halting efforts to evacuate an estimated 200,000 civilians from Mariupol, where food, water and medicine are scarce. Putin accused Ukraine of sabotaging the effort.

Russia has sought to cut off Ukraine’s access to the Sea of Azov in the south. Capturing Mariupol could allow Russia to establish a land corridor to Crimea, which it annexed in 2014.

WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING ON THE GROUND?

Russian forces launched hundreds of missiles and artillery attacks, dropping powerful bombs on residential areas of Chernihiv, a city north of the capital of Kyiv, Ukrainian officials said. But a miles-long Russian armored column threatening the capital remained stalled outside Kyiv.

On Sunday evening, Mykolaiv in the south and Kharkiv, the country’s second-largest city, were also shelled.

A senior American defense official said Sunday the U.S. believes about 95% of the Russian forces that had been arrayed around Ukraine are now inside the country. Ukrainian air and missile defenses remain effective and in use, and the Ukrainian military continues to fly aircraft and to employ air defense assets, the official said.

Ukrainian forces were also defending Odesa, Ukraine’s largest port city, from Russian ships, Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovich said.

The Russian Defense Ministry on Sunday announced plans to strike Ukraine’s military-industrial complex, and alleged Ukrainian forces were plotting to blow up an experimental nuclear reactor in Kharkiv and to blame it on Russia. The ministry offered no evidence to back its claims, which could not be independently verified.

ZELENSKYY PUSHES CALL FOR NO-FLY ZONE

Zelenskyy pushed his call for foreign countries to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine. Establishing a no-fly zone would risk escalating the conflict by involving foreign militaries directly. Although the United States and many Western countries have backed Ukraine with weapons shipments, they have sent no troops.

Zelenskyy said in a video address on Sunday that “the world is strong enough to close our skies” and over the weekend he urged U.S. officials help his country obtain warplanes to fight the invasion and retain control of its airspace.

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said Sunday that some Ukrainian combat planes had redeployed to Romania and other Ukraine neighbors he didn’t identify. He warned an attack from planes operating out of those nations could be deemed an engagement by them in the conflict.

DIRECTLY WITNESSED OR CONFIRMED BY THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Onlookers in Chernihiv cheered as a Russian military plane fell from the sky and crashed, according to video released by the Ukrainian government. In Kherson, hundreds of protesters waved blue and yellow Ukrainian flags and shouted, “Go home.”

In Mariupol, Associated Press journalists saw doctors make futile attempts to save wounded children. Pharmacies ran bare and hundreds of thousands of people faced food and water shortages in freezing weather.

In Irpin, near Kyiv, a sea of people on foot and even in wheelbarrows trudged over the remains of a destroyed bridge to cross a river and leave the city. Assisted by Ukrainian soldiers, they lugged pets, infants, purses and flimsy bags stuffed with minimal possessions. Some of the weak and elderly were carried along the path in blankets and carts.

Kyiv’s central train station remained crowded with people desperate to leave, and frequent shelling could be heard from the center of the capital city.

WHAT’S HAPPENING WITH DIPLOMATIC EFFORTS

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is in Vilnius, Lithuania, as part of a lightning trip to three Baltic states increasingly on edge as they watch Russia press ahead with its invasion of Ukraine. He pledged NATO protection and American support.

Blinken said Sunday that the United States and its allies are having a “very active discussion” about banning the import of Russian oil and natural gas, while the New Zealand government plans to rush legislation that will allow it to impose economic sanctions against Russia.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the foreign ministers of Russia and Ukraine will meet near the Turkish Mediterranean coastal city of Antalya this week.

China’s foreign minister called Russia Beijing’s “most important strategic partner” and has continued to refuse to condemn the invasion of Ukraine.

While most of the world shuns Putin, one of the few leaders keeping an open line of communication is French President Emmanuel Macron. However, Macron in an interview Monday on French news broadcaster LCI criticized “hypocritical” rhetoric and “cynicism” from Moscow about offering to open humanitarian corridors to Russia for Ukrainian civilians. “This is cynicism” that is “unbearable,” he said.

Meanwhile, Russia lawyers snubbed a hearing at the United Nations’ top court into an effort by Kyiv to halt Moscow’s devastating invasion of Ukraine.

Putin continued to blame the war on the Ukrainian leadership, saying, “They are calling into question the future of Ukrainian statehood.” In a call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday, Putin said the invasion could be halted only “only if Kyiv ceases hostilities,” according to a Kremlin account.

THE HUMANITARIAN SITUATION

The death toll of the conflict has been difficult to measure. The U.N. human rights office said Monday it has confirmed the deaths of 406 civilians since the beginning of the Russian invasion. It said 801 wounded civilians have been confirmed as of midnight Sunday. The agency says it believes the real figures are considerably higher.

The World Health Organization said it verified at least six attacks that have killed six health care workers and injured 11 others.

Ukrainian refugees continue to pour into neighboring countries, including Poland, Romania and Moldova. The number of people who have left since fighting began has now reached 1.7 million, according to the U.N. refugee agency. Among the multitudes is a Ukrainian youth orchestra.

Ukraine has rejected a Russian proposal for refugee evacuation routes to Russia and Belarus “unacceptable.”

BUSINESS IN RUSSIA

A growing number of multinational businesses have cut off Russia from vital financial services, technology and a variety of consumer products in response to Western economic sanctions and global outrage over the war.

Two of the so-called Big Four accounting firms — KPMG and PricewaterhouseCoopers — said Sunday they were pulling out of Russia, ending relationships with member firms based in the country.

TikTok said users won’t be able to post new videos in Russia in response to the government’s crackdown on what people can say on social media about the invasion, and American Express announced it was suspending all operations in Russia and Belarus.

Netflix also announced it was suspending its service in Russia.

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