Russia announced Friday that it intends to control all of southern and eastern Ukraine, nearly two months after an offensive that put its forces in the sights of the United Nations for possible “war crimes”.
“One of the goals of the Russian army is to establish complete control over Donbass and southern Ukraine.”said Rustam Minkayev, deputy commander of the forces of the Central Russian Military District.
In this way, he added, a “land corridor” will be created between the pro-Russian breakaway regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, in the eastern region of Donbass, with Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014.
The invasion of southern Ukraine would help separatists in the Moldavian region of Transnistria, “where We also note cases of persecution of the Russian-speaking population, “ The officer said.
The pro-Western government of Moldova has summoned the Russian ambassador and He expressed his “deep concern” about those statements.
Russian President Vladimir Putin launched the attack on Ukraine on February 24, in the name of defending the Russian-speaking population in the east of the country.
specially, President Putin has claimed responsibility for the control of the strategic city of Mariupol in the southeast, after nearly two months of fighting, Although the vast Azovstal industrial complex is still under the control of the Ukrainian resistance.
“The success of the Russian offensive in the south depends on the fate of Mariupol,” he said to France Press agency District Governor Pavlo Kirillink added that “300 civilians” are also in Azovstal.
Authorities estimate that about 20,000 people died in Mariupol, due to the bombing or lack of water, food and electricity in the winter months.
Putin said he would guarantee the lives of “the Ukrainian army, patriotic fighters and foreign mercenaries if they lay down their arms,” But the Ukrainian government “does not allow this possibility.”
On the other hand, the Russian Defense Ministry said it was ready to agree to a humanitarian truce in that area and give civilians the option to go to the territories under Russian or Ukrainian control.
But Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Russia had rejected the armistice proposal. During Orthodox Easter.
European Council President Charles Michel asked Putin to implement humanitarian corridors In Mariupol and other cities of Ukraine.
Three buses carrying civilians managed to leave Mariupol for safer areas of Ukraine, but this Friday the humanitarian passage was not guaranteed for security reasons.
Head of EU Diplomacy, Josep Borrell, He regretted that Russia had not responded to Ukraine’s efforts to find a diplomatic outlet to evacuate civilians.
But Putin, for his part, emphasized that European leaders were committed to a military solution to the conflict.
The Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov stressed that negotiations are on hold, pending a response from UkraineAa proposal made by Russia five days ago.
The United Nations indicated that The Russian military committed actions in Ukraine that “could constitute war crimes.”
“The Russian armed forces have indiscriminately bombed populated areas, killing civilians and destroying hospitals, schools and other civilian infrastructure,” said Ravina Shamdasani, spokeswoman for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet.
Shamdasani did not rule out that the Ukrainian side also violated humanitarian lawBut “the majority of these violations, to date, are attributed to the Russian forces.”
The official explained that investigators of that organization carried out a mission in Ukraine at the beginning of April and were able to document “murders, some of them summary executions”, against 50 civilians in the city of Bucha, on the outskirts of the city. from Kyiv.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres heads to Russia next week, where he will be received by Putin, announced the Kremlin. This will be the first meeting between them since the start of the attack.
The so-called referendum
The Ukrainian authorities continue the tasks of exhumation and forensic analysis of bodies found in several cities After the withdrawal of Russian forces from the Kyiv region.
A government official indicated that the mortuary in the Kyiv region received “1020 civilian bodies.” “Everything is being investigated,” Oleksandr Pavlyuk, head of the region’s military administration, told reporters.
In a video released Thursday evening, Zelensky also accused Russia of preparing a referendum in the areas under its control in Kherson and Zaporizhia in the south.and pressure residents to provide personal data to invading forces.
And he warned that “the alleged rigging of a referendum on their land if the order to organize this parody is issued by Moscow.”
In 2014, such a referendum, which Kyiv and Western powers denounced, justified Russia’s annexation of Crimea.. Later, the pro-Russian rebels in Donetsk and Luhansk resorted to similar voices to declare their independence.
In the financial sphere, the International Monetary Fund warned on Friday that Russia would suffer 20% inflation and its energy exports would fall due to sanctions imposed by Western powers over the invasion of Ukraine.
*With information from Agence France-Presse
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