Ukraine calls for evacuation of wounded fighters as war rages on

  • Ukraine in ‘complex talks’ on evacuation of wounded fighters
  • Ukrainian deputy prime minister says war ‘enters new and long phase’
  • Hundreds of Russian war dead brought to marshalling yard

KYIV, May 14 (Reuters) – Ukraine’s president said very difficult talks were underway over the evacuation of “large numbers” of injured soldiers from a besieged steelworks in the strategic southern port of Mariupol -is, in exchange for the release of Russian prisoners of war.

Mariupol, which has seen the heaviest fighting in nearly three months of war, is now in Russian hands, but hundreds of Ukrainian defenders are still holding out at the Azovstal steelworks despite weeks of heavy Russian bombardment.

Fierce Ukrainian resistance, which military analysts say President Vladimir Putin and his generals did not anticipate when they launched the invasion on February 24, has also slowed and in some places reversed Russian advances around Ukraine.

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“At the moment, very complex negotiations are underway on the next phase of the evacuation mission – the evacuation of seriously injured, medics,” President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in a late night speech.

He said “influential” international intermediaries were involved in the talks, without giving further details. Russia, which initially insisted that the defenders of the sprawling Soviet-era bunkers under the steelworks surrender, has said little publicly about the talks.

Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk told local television on Saturday that efforts were now focused on evacuating around 60 people, including the most seriously injured as well as medical personnel.

Many of those still at the factory are members of the Azov regiment. Deputy Commander Sviatoslav Palamar said on Friday that his forces would continue to resist as long as they could.

“Our enemy, supported by planes and artillery, continues to attack. They continue their assault on our positions but we continue to push them back,” he said in an online forum broadcast on YouTube.

DIPLOMATIC tremors

Moscow’s invasion, which she calls a “special operation” to disarm Ukraine and protect it from fascists, has shaken European security, prompting Finland – which shares a long border with Russia – and most likely Sweden to abandon their long-cherished military neutrality and seek NATO membership.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko, quoted by Russian news agencies on Saturday, said Moscow had no hostile intentions towards the two Nordic countries, but would take “adequate precautionary measures” if NATO was deploying nuclear forces and infrastructure closer to the Russian border.

In their first conversation since the invasion, U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin spoke by phone Friday with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, calling for an immediate ceasefire in Ukraine and stressing the importance open lines of communication. Read more

Despite Ukrainian resistance, Russian forces have made steady progress in southern Ukraine and the eastern Donbass region.

“We are entering a new and long phase of the war,” Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said in a Facebook post, predicting extremely difficult weeks in which Ukraine would be largely alone against an “enraged aggressor”.

In its latest bulletin, the Russian Defense Ministry said its forces struck Ukrainian command posts, ammunition depots and other military equipment in several regions, including Donbass, killing at least 100 Ukrainian ‘nationalists’. .

Reuters could not independently verify the report.

STACKED BODIES

In a grim illustration of the toll on Russian forces, Reuters footage on Friday showed the bodies of Russian soldiers being brought to a marshalling yard outside kyiv and piled with hundreds of others on a refrigerated train, awaiting the moment where they can be sent. back to their families.

“Most of them were brought from the Kyiv region, there are some from the Chernihiv region and some other regions as well,” Volodymyr Lyamzin, the head of the civil-military liaison, stretcher-bearer, told Reuters. in white, from head to toe. protective suits lifted body bags into boxcars. Read more

He said refrigerated trains stationed in other parts of Ukraine were being used for the same sinister purpose.

Moscow has imposed a military-civilian administration in the Kherson region in southern Ukraine and plans to hold a referendum there on its possible membership of the Russian Federation, mirroring similar votes held in the adjacent peninsula of Crimea in 2014 and in two regions of Donbass.

Russia would almost certainly manipulate the results of such a vote, the UK Ministry of Defense said.

Anna Kuznetsova, deputy speaker of the Duma or lower house of Russia’s parliament, visited Kherson, offering assistance to residents of the small southern town seized in the first week of the invasion, l official RIA news agency. Read more

Ukrainian forces drove their enemies out of the second-largest city, Kharkiv, near the Russian border, but Moscow was still shelling nearby villages, including Dergachi, about 10 km (six miles) north of Kharkiv.

“I can’t call it anything other than a terrorist act,” Dergachi Mayor Vyacheslav Zadorenko told Reuters after missiles hit a building used to distribute aid. Read more

Russia, which denies targeting civilians, said its forces struck an arms depot, shot down a Ukrainian Su-27 plane in the Kharkiv region and disabled the Kremenchuk oil refinery in central Russia. ‘Ukraine.

Reuters could not independently verify the claims.

A day after Finland pledged to apply to join NATO, Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde also made a plea on Friday for her country’s membership, although NATO member Turkey , raised objections. Read more

Russia views NATO enlargement as a threat to its own security, and Putin has said one of the goals of the war in Ukraine was to prevent it from joining the Western alliance.

Meeting in Germany, the foreign ministers of the group of rich countries of the G7 supported Friday the granting of aid and arms to Ukraine. European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell announced additional military support of 500 million euros ($520 million) expected to be approved by EU members next week.

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Additional reporting by Natalia Zinets, Tom Balmforth, Idrees Ali, David Ljunggren and Reuters bureaus; Written by Simon Cameron-Moore and Gareth Jones; Editing by William Mallard and David Clarke

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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