Ukraine informed this Saturday that it is carrying out very complex conversations to evacuate a large number of wounded soldiers from a besieged steel mill in the strategic port of Mariupol, in the south-east of the country, in exchange for the release of Russian prisoners of war.
Mariupolwhich has suffered the most intense fighting in almost three months of war, is now in the hands of Russia, but hundreds of Ukrainian defenders are still holding out at the Azovstal steelworks despite weeks of intense bombardment.
The harsh Ukrainian resistance, which according to analysts was not anticipated by Russian President Vladimir Putin or his generals when they launched the invasion on February 24has slowed and in some places reversed Russian advances to gain absolute control of Ukraine.
In addition to losing a large number of men and much military equipment, Russia is recovering from economic sanctions. The Group of Seven major world economies (G7) pledged on Saturday to “further increase economic and political pressure on Russia” and supply more weapons to Ukraine.
the war too has led to Finland and most likely to Sweden to abandon its long-awaited military neutrality and seek NATO membership, a move Finnish President Sauli Niinisto defended in a phone call to Putin on Saturday.
The President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyreferred to the plight of people trapped at the Azovstal plant in a speech overnight.
“Right now very complex negotiations are taking place on the next phase of the evacuation mission: the withdrawal of the seriously injured, the doctors,” he said, adding that in the talks “influential” international intermediaries participated.
Russia, which initially insisted that defenders of sprawling Soviet-era bunkers beneath the steel mill turn themselves in, has said little publicly about those talks.
Deputy Prime Minister of Ukraine Iryna VereshchukHe told local television on Saturday that efforts are now focused on evacuating some 60 people, including the most seriously injured and medical personnel.
The invasion of Moscow, which he calls a “special operation” to disarm Ukraine and protect it from the fascists, has shaken European security. Ukraine and its Western allies say the claim of fascism is a pretext to launch unprovoked aggression.
The Finnish minister told Putin that his country, which shares a 1,300-kilometre border with Russia, wanted to join NATO to bolster its security after the invasion of Ukraine, during a “direct, honest and uncompromising” conversation, according to the Niinisto’s office.
Putin told Niinisto that it would be a mistake for Helsinki to abandon its neutralitythe Kremlin said, adding that the move could damage bilateral relations.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko, quoted by Russian news agencies, said Moscow had no hostile intentions towards Finland and Sweden, but would take “adequate precautionary measures” if NATO were to deploy nuclear forces and infrastructure closer. from the border with Russia.
Russian Su-27 fighter jets took part in drills to repel a simulated airstrike on the Russian Baltic Sea exclave of Kaliningrad that borders Poland and Lithuania, the Interfax news agency reported on Saturday, citing the Baltic Sea Fleet.
The German Chancellor, Olaf Scholz, who spoke with Putin by phone on Fridaysaid he did not detect any signs of change in the Russian leader’s thinking on the conflict.
In an interview for the news website t-online published on Saturday, Scholz also said that Western sanctions on Russia would remain in place until it reached an agreement with Ukraine, adding: “Our goal is for this invasion to fail.”