Ukrainian crisis: Russian forces retreat, desert in the face of fierce resistance

Broken Russian troops retreat – and some desert – in the face of fierce resistance from Ukrainian soldiers.

Heads of Ukraine’s armed forces said Moscow had called in reinforcements after losing its “offensive potential”.

It’s an embarrassing turn of events for Russian President Vladimir Putin, who expected to quickly engulf Ukraine in a “short” war.

Instead, a month later, his forces are still fighting for key strategic cities.

Russian forces were unable to capture Makariv, a district about 60 km from the capital kyiv.

If Makariv fell, it would allow the Kremlin to surround kyiv in an all-out attack.

Ukrainian generals celebrated the “heroic actions of our defenders”, which forced the Russians to retreat.

Camera iconDamage in kyiv. Credit: Vadim Ghirda/PA

“Having lost offensive potential, Russian occupation troops continue to train and deploy reserves from the depths of the Russian Federation to the borders of Ukraine,” the leaders said.

In another sign that Russian forces are growing weary of combat, the Ukrainian Center for Defense Strategies said occupation troops in the Okhtyrka region of Sumy “left the area of ​​operations” in order to ” choose desertion to avoid death”.

He said some Russian soldiers stole cars to escape fighting on the Belarusian border.

Ukrainian generals also claim that Russian troops only have enough food, fuel and ammunition for several days of combat.

It comes as Moscow’s forces in the beleaguered city of Mariupol have become bogged down.

Mariupol authorities said the airstrikes had turned the city into “ashes of a dead land”.

Street fighting and shelling are raging in the city, a day after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky rejected a Kremlin ultimatum asking him to surrender.

A Ukrainian soldier on the kyiv front.
Camera iconA Ukrainian soldier on the kyiv front. Credit: Vadim Ghirda/PA

Hundreds of thousands of residents are believed to be trapped inside buildings, without access to food, water, electricity or heat.

Russian forces and Russian-backed separatist units had taken about half of the port city, which is normally home to around 400,000 people, Russian news agency RIA said, citing a separatist leader.

“There is nothing left there,” Mr Zelenskiy said in a video address to the Italian parliament.

Mariupol Deputy Mayor Sergei Orlov told CNN the city was under complete blockade and had not received any humanitarian aid.

“The city is continuously bombed, 50 to 100 bombs dropped by Russian planes every day…a lot of dead, a lot of crying, a lot of horrible war crimes,” he said.

Mariupol became the center of the war which erupted on February 24 when Mr Putin sent his troops across the border in what he called a “special military operation” to demilitarize the Ukraine and replace its pro-Western leaders.

The city is located on the Sea of ​​Azov and its capture would allow Russia to connect the areas to the east held by pro-Russian separatists with the Crimean peninsula, annexed by Moscow in 2014.

The war has forced more than 3.5 million Ukrainians to flee, led to an unprecedented isolation of the Russian economy through sanctions and raised fears of a wider conflict.

Much of Mariupol was flattened.
Camera iconMuch of Mariupol was flattened. Credit: PA

Western nations plan to increase economic pressure on the Kremlin.

US President Joe Biden will join his allies in applying additional sanctions and strengthening existing ones during his trip to Europe this week.

The trip will include an announcement on joint action to strengthen energy security in Europe, which is heavily dependent on Russian gas.

Mr Biden will show solidarity with Ukraine’s neighboring Poland by visiting Warsaw.

Having failed to capture the capital kyiv or any other major city with a swift offensive, Russia is waging a war of attrition that has reduced some urban areas to rubble and has prompted fears in the West that the conflict escalates, perhaps into a nuclear war.

Russia’s security policy stipulates that the country would only use such weapons if its very existence was threatened, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

A car destroyed by bombing in Kharkiv.
Camera iconA car destroyed by bombing in Kharkiv. Credit: Andre Marienko/PA

“If it’s an existential threat to our country, then it (the nuclear arsenal) can be used,” he said.

The United Nations human rights office in Geneva said it had recorded 953 civilian deaths and 1,557 injuries since the invasion.

The Kremlin denies targeting civilians.

Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk, speaking on television, demanded the opening of a humanitarian corridor for civilians.

She said at least 100,000 people wanted to leave Mariupol but could not.

“Our military are heroically defending Mariupol,” Ms. Vereshchuk said. “We did not accept the ultimatum to surrender. They offered surrender under a white flag.

kyiv has accused Moscow of deporting residents of Mariupol and separatist-held regions of Ukraine to Russia.

It includes the “forcible transfer” of 2,389 children to Russia from Luhansk and Donetsk regions, Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova said.

Moscow denies forcing people to leave, saying it is taking in refugees.

In an address, Mr Zelinsky drew attention to the death of 96-year-old Boris Romanchenko, who survived three Nazi concentration camps during World War II but was killed when his building in besieged Kharkiv was bombed last week.

By killing Mr. Romanchenko, “Putin succeeded in accomplishing what even Hitler could not,” said the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense.

Christi C. Elwood