Civilians trapped in besieged Mariupol in southern Ukraine walk past buildings damaged by Russian shelling, March 20, 2022 (Anadolu/Getty)
UPDATE 1630 GMT:
The Ukraine Government is stepping up its call for China to play an “important role” in resolution of the Russian invasion.
Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba tweeted:
For decades, the Ukrainian-Chinese relations have been based on mutual respect, understanding and benefit. We share Beijing’s position on the need to find a political solution to the war against Ukraine and call on China as a global power to play an important role in this effort.
— Dmytro Kuleba (@DmytroKuleba) March 21, 2022
On Saturday, Presidential advisor Mykhailo Podolyak asked China to join the international community in condemning Russian “barbarism”.
China gave open political support to Moscow just before the invasion, notably through leader Xi Jinping’s appearance alongside Vladimir Putin at the Beijing Winter Olympics.
But the Chinese leadership has been unsettled by the Russian attacks, and has struggled to maintain a line between supporting measures against Moscow and appearing to back Putin’s assault (see 0745 GMT).
Beijing has publicly emphasized “de-escalation” and “mediation” while denying that it is providing economic and military aid enabling Russian operations.
UPDATE 1338 GMT:
A 96-year-old survivor of a Holocaust concentration camp has been killed in a Russian attack on Ukraine’s second-largest city Kharkiv.
Boris Romantschenko was slain on Friday when his home was hit by a projectile.
Romantschenko was a survivor of the Buchenwald, Peenemünde, Mittelbau-Dora, and Bergen-Belsen concentration camps. He campaigned for the memory of the Nazi crimes and was Vice President of the International Committee Buchenwald-Dora.
UPDATE 1330 GMT:
Russian troops have reportedly thrown grenades and opened fire on a group of civilians at a pro-Ukrainian rally in Russian-occupied Kherson in southern Ukraine.
At least two people were injured.
There have been recurrent protests in Russian-occupied areas, including in Kherson and Berdyansk on Sunday (see 0900 GMT).
Abhorrent. Disgusting. Inhumane. Unlawful.
Russian soldiers firing at civilians in #Kherson.
— Oksana Pokalchuk (@OPokalchuk) March 21, 2022
UPDATE 1130 GMT:
Russian forces have carried out their first strike on the outskirts of the city of Odesa in southern Ukraine on the Black Sea.
Local officials say residences were struck early Monday. A fire was started, but there were no casualties.
Mayor Gennadiy Trukhanov said, “These are residential buildings where peaceful people live.”
Odesa, with 1 million population, is at the western end of a 250-km (155-mile) corridor on the Black Sea and Sea of Azov which Russia is trying to seize.
UPDATE 1050 GMT:
Kyiv Mayor Vitaly Klitschko has announced a curfew from 8 p.m. Monday until 7 a.m. Wednesday after Russian shelling on the capital, including the killing of at least eight people in a demolished shopping center (see Original Entry).
Anyone on the streets during the curfew, unless he or she has a special pass or is en route to a shelter, will be considered an enemy combatant.
⚡️The video shows the destroyed Retroville shopping mall in Kyiv, following an overnight missile strike.
According to Prosecutor General's Office, at least eight people were killed.
Video: Proof of war in Ukraine/Telegram pic.twitter.com/GgUosETtCn
— The Kyiv Independent (@KyivIndependent) March 21, 2022
UPDATE 1040 GMT:
With Mariupol refusing to surrender, Russian State outlets are spreading disinformation that Ukrainian forces have fired on people trying to leave the besieged city.
TASS posts the lie of Eduard Basurin, the deputy chief of the Russian proxy “Donetsk People’s Republic People’s Militia”: “A lot of injured people have been evacuated from Mariupol, as the city is being purged; in the part we have already liberated, civilians are being fired at as they attempt to escape from this hell, resulting in many of them being wounded.”
Denis Pushilin, head of the Russian proxy “Donetsk People’s Republic”, said that it will take more than a week to occupy Mariupol.
“I am not so optimistic that two or three days or even a week will close the issue. Unfortunately, no, the city is big,” he acknowledged.
UPDATE 1030 GMT:
Russian shelling damaged a 50-ton tank of ammonia gas this morning, setting off a poisonous cloud in northeast Ukraine.
The cloud from the damaged Sumykhimprom facility affected an area of about 2.5km (1.5 miles), as residents of the nearby city of Novoselytsya were advised to shelter.
One person was injured.
Ammonia, used to make fertilizer, is a corrosive which can cause burns to the airway and injuries to the eyes.
Trying to cover up the shelling, the Russian military is pushing disinformation that “Ukrainian nationalists” staged a “false flag” attack.
UPDATE 0910 GMT:
Ukrainian officials claim they have killed six Russian generals and an admiral during Moscow’s invasion. On Saturday, the Ukraine military reported the slaying of Lt. Gen. Andrei Mordvichev, commander of the 8th Combined Arms Army of the Southern Military District of the Russian Armed Forces.
Former US military commander David Petraeus explained to CNN why so many Russian commanders are being slain:
These are quite senior generals. The bottom line is that their command-and-control has broken down. Their communications have been jammed by the Ukrainians. Their secure comms didn’t work….
So, what happens? The column gets stopped. An impatient general is sitting back there in his armored or whatever vehicle. He goes forward to find out what’s going on because there’s no initiative. Again, there’s no non-commissioned officer corps. There’s no sense of initiative at junior levels. They wait to be told what to do. Gets up there. And the Ukrainians have very, very good snipers, and they have just been picking them off left and right.
UPDATE 0900 GMT:
Even as Russian forces are trying to break the civilians of Mariupol, residents of other cities in southern Ukraine are openly defying Russia’s occupation:
Another video from today's anti-occupation protest in Kherson shows a Russian truck retreating as some protesters are approaching it.
— Euromaidan Press (@EuromaidanPress) March 20, 2022
In Berdyansk, people went on a peaceful protest against Russians – they began to detain and beat them. Shots were also heard in the air.
The video was sent by a local resident#StandWithUkraine pic.twitter.com/7SW1tcMkpI
— Oleksandra Matviichuk (@avalaina) March 20, 2022
UPDATE 0820 GMT:
Russia has again resorted to cruise missiles, striking a military facility in the Rivne region in western Ukraine.
With warplanes at risk from Ukraine’s anti-air defenses, the Russian military has turned to the missiles, fired from warships in the Black Sea. A strike on a barracks in Mykolaiv in southern Ukraine last week killed at least 40 marines.
UPDATE 0810 GMT:
The number of Ukraine refugees who crossed into Poland is now 2,114,000, with 33,000 on Sunday.
About 1.2 million are still in Poland, with some going to other destination countries and 264,000 recrossing, many to join the fight against the Russian invasion.
The UN said last weekend that the number of Ukrainians fleeing their homes is 10 million, almost a quarter of the country’s population.
There are about 3.4 million refugees and 6.5 million displaced within Ukraine.
UPDATE 0745 GMT:
An essay from a Shanghai-based scholar, analyzing that China needs to detach itself from Vladimir Putin as soon as possible, was viewed more than a million times before Chinese authorities blocked it and the host website.
Hu Wei published the essay on the Carter Center’s US-China Perception Monitor.
When the authorities noticed the viral take-up of the article, they condemned it as “reckless and dangerous”, blocking the site as well as censoring the essay.
Hu evaluated that China needed to cut ties with Putin, amid the faltering Russian offensive in Ukraine, to avoid being on the losing side and facing “further containment” from the US and the west.
China should avoid playing both sides in the same boat, give up being neutral, and choose the mainstream position in the world.
On Sunday, China’s Ambassador to the US, Qin Gang, denied China is sending weapons and ammunition to support the Russian invasion and said Beijing will “do everything to de-escalate the crisis”.
He claimed, amid warnings by the Biden Administration of consequences if China props up Vladimir Putin’s war, that reports of Beijing’s military assistance are “disinformation”.
What China is doing is sending food, medicine, sleeping bags and baby formula, not weapons and ammunition to any party, and we are against the war.
On Monday the Chinese Foreign Ministry announced another 10 million RMB ($1.57 million) in humanitarian aid to Ukraine “based on the development of the situation and actual need.
China provided an initial 5 million RMB ($790,000) in humanitarian assistance to Ukraine earlier this month.
ORIGINAL ENTRY: Russian forces have demanded the surrender of Mariupol, threatening the further destruction of the southern Ukraine city and military tribunals — with the implication of long prison sentences or even executions — for its leaders.
In the fourth week of its siege, the Russian military set a deadline of 5 a.m. for the capitulation. Colonel-General Mikhail Mizintsev, director of the Russian national defence management centre, commanded, “Lay down your arms.” He said those who surrendered would be “guaranteed safe passage” out of the city later Monday morning.
Ukraine Deputy Prime minister Iryna Vereshchuk quickly responded that there is “no question” of surrender.
There can be no talk of any surrenders, laying down of arms. We have already informed the Russian side about this. Instead of wasting time on eight pages of letters, just open a [humanitarian] corridor.
Addressing Israel’s Knesset, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy spoke of the Russian tactics of bombardment and siege of civilian areas such as Mariupol. He drew a link with Nazi Germany’s “final solution” for extermination of the Jews during World War II, challenging the Israeli Government’s refusal to impose sanctions on Russia.
Zelenskiy said to the US outlet CNN, “Russian forces have come to exterminate us, to kill us”:
On today's GPS, I spoke w/ Ukrainian Pres. @ZelenskyyUa in an exclusive interview about the state of his country & its war w/ Russia.
Pt. 1 of our in-depth conversation: the prospect of negotiating w/ Putin & what Zelensky makes of Russia's demands pic.twitter.com/rOlK59NMe7
— Fareed Zakaria (@FareedZakaria) March 20, 2022
Mariupol is at the eastern end of a 250-km (155-mile) corridor along the Black Sea and Sea of Azov which the Russians are trying to seize, linking it with their 2014 occupation of Crimea.
The area has been the single success for Russian ground forces, soon capturing cities such as Kherson and Melitopol after the February 24 launch of the invasion.
The forces then surrounded Mariupol. They have blocked all aid, cutting off heat, electricity, and water and threatening starvation as food supplies are exhausted. They broke ceasefires and shelled evacuees. About 35,000 people finally made it out of the city, but 350,000 remain.
When there was no surrender, the Russian units stepped up shelling of civilian sites. A children’s hospital and maternity ward was bombed, leading to the deaths of five people including a child, a woman, and her newborn baby. Last Wednesday, the Drama Theatre was destroyed, trapping about 1,000 civilians in a basement shelter — about 130 have been rescued, with the fate of others unknown. Over the weekend, an arts center was destroyed as 400 people sheltered.
The city council and resident say the Russian military has begun deportations, with 4,000 to 4,500 people, including entire families, taken across the border to Taganrov in Russia.
Having destroyed the city, Russia’s Colonel-General Mizintsev said, with no hint of irony, as he issued the ultimatum for surrender, “A terrible humanitarian catastrophe has developed.”
Greece’s Consul General in Mariupol, the last European Union diplomat to leave the city, sumamrized the catastrophe wrought by the Russians:
What I saw, I hope no one will ever see.
Mariupol will become part of a list of cities that were completely destroyed by war; I don*t need to name them- they are Guernica, Coventry, Aleppo, Grozny, Leningrad.
Former journalist Roman Kruglyakov, who brought 25 people including family members out of Mariupol, said of the besieged residents:
I went to take people from basements but they didn’t want to leave because they were so used to sitting there. They were scared of what awaited them outside the concrete walls. They were being destroyed every night.
I had to use force to get them out. I lied to them, whatever I could think of, I said, “There’s hot food waiting for you, electricity, mobile phone signal.”
I lied and I’m not ashamed. I believe that the people I got out are in less danger than they were inside the city.
Russia Accused of Killing 56 Elderly in Luhansk
Still frustrated in their ground assaults, Russian forces maintained bombardment of civilian areas on Sunday as they were accused of killing 56 elderly people with tank fire on a residential facility on March 11.
Ukraine’s human rights ombudsman Ludmila Denisova said the attack was in Kreminna in the Luhansk region in eastern Ukraine.
She said 15 survivors were taken to Russian-occupied territory in Svatova.
“It is still impossible to get to the site of the tragedy to bury the dead old people,” she noted.
At least eight people were killed in Kyiv on Sunday as Russian forces shelled homes and a shopping district. Video showed firefighters trying to rescue people trapped in the rubble of the 10-story Retroville shopping center in the northwestern Podilskyi area.
An aerial shot of the destroying shopping center (Emin Sansar/Anadolu/Getty):
A mother was seriously wounded while shielding her baby from a missile strike on the capital.
Olga, 27, recalled as she sat on a bed at the Okhmatdyt Children’s Hospital, cradling her child, “I was wounded in the head, and blood started flowing. And it all flowed on the baby.”
A Russian shell also exploded outside an apartment block, wounding five people.
Local officials said it was fortunate that there were no fatalities. One resident said, “My sister was on the balcony when it happened, she was nearly killed.”
⚡️ Another missile strike on the Sviatoshyn district in Kyiv. Parts of a projectile hit the yard of a ten-storey residential building, causing a fire. According to mayor Klitschko, 5 people were injured. #StopRussia
— Stratcom Centre UA (@StratcomCentre) March 20, 2022