As the war between Russia and Ukraine entered its 21st day, the situation remains tense between both countries. With Russian forces thumping Ukrainian cities, inching towards the capital Kyiv in a relentless bombardment, the humanitarian crisis in this war seems to be deepening in the third week. Still, with more talks taking place between the two sides, a narrow diplomatic channel stays open. A senior Ukrainian official said on Tuesday that the negotiation was difficult and there were fundamental contradictions but there was “certainly room for compromise. Russia is also issuing a proposed UN Security Council resolution calling for a cease-fire to allow civilians to be evacuated and humanitarian aid to be delivered safely. Ukrainian presidential adviser, Volodymyr Zelenskyy says, the war is at a crossroads which could lead to either an agreement or Russia will begin a new onslaught. Meanwhile, a representative for Russia’s defense ministry claimed that Ukraine’s southern Kherson region is now entirely under Russian control. However, in his most recent address, Ukraine President Zelenskyy urged Russian forces to surrender rather than face the “shame” of fighting on. He described the conflict as a “horror,” claiming that Russia had lost more troops in Ukraine than in both Chechen conflicts combined. Here are the key events so far on Wednesday, March 16.
- Russia Holds 400 Hospital Patients and Staff Hostage in Mariupol
Russian troops seized control of a hospital in the eastern Ukrainian port city of Mariupol on Wednesday and took around 400 people hostage, including patients and medical staff, Ukraine’s deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said. Locals were stuck in the hospital that the Russians took over yesterday amid heavy artillery fire, she added. After many failed attempts to open humanitarian corridors, over 20,000 people have managed to flee the besieged port of Mariupol, according to the Ukrainian interior ministry, but hundreds of thousands remain trapped by Russian shelling with no access to food, water, and electricity.
The regional leader, Pavlo Kyrylenko said that the hospital’s main structure has been extensively damaged by shelling, but medical workers are continuing to treat patients in improvised wards built up in the basement. He urged the rest of the world to respond to these “egregious crimes against humanity” and “severe violations of war norms and conventions.” According to the General Staff of the Ukrainian army, Russian troops are attempting to blockade the city from the western and eastern edges.
- Fresh Blasts Hit Kyiv
A cloud of smoke was seen rising above western Kyiv on Wednesday morning when shrapnel from an artillery shell crashed into a 12-story apartment building in downtown Kyiv, obliterating the top floor and igniting a fire. A neighboring structure was also harmed. The explosions came as Russia intensifies its attacks on Kyiv, which was under a 35-hour curfew late Tuesday due to a “difficult and hazardous period,” according to its mayor. In the early morning, at least three huge explosions were reported in the city’s western outskirts, with heavy clouds of smoke billowing into the sky. “Two people reported wounded, 35 evacuated,” the Ukrainian state emergency service said on Telegram. Since the Russian Invasion on February 24, more than 2,700 houses destroyed in Ukraine. According to the officials of the Ukrainian state service for emergencies, thousands of buildings, including more than 2,500 houses have been shattered by the Russian offensive.
- Kyiv Rejects Proposed Neutrality in Peace Talks as Russian Troops Shot Dead 10 People
Ukraine refuted Russian claims that it was willing to embrace a neutrality model similar to Sweden as part of a peace pact. Russian negotiators claimed that Ukraine had volunteered to become a demilitarized state, but Kyiv refuted this, claiming that Ukraine needs “legally verifiable security assurances” to keep it safe and would not support any other model. Security assurances for Ukraine outside of Nato membership are being “seriously examined” alongside neutrality, according to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. He stated that several options were “near to consensus” in his opinion. Yesterday, Volodymyr Zelensky stated that his country should accept the fact that it will not become a member of Nato, implying a surrender on a crucial Russian demand. Meanwhile, according to the reports from the US embassy in Ukraine, Russian forces shot dead 10 people in Chernihiv, queuing for bread. However, in the statement released on its official Twitter and Facebook pages, the embassy did not specify what evidence it had of the attack. This morning, air raid sirens were heard in Chernihiv and other parts of Ukraine. Independent witnesses said that Russia was beefing up its military presence around Chernihiv.
- Number Of Refugees Fleeing Ukraine Surpassed Three Million
According to figures from the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), more than 3,000,381 people have left Ukraine so far. Refugee organizations warned in the early days of the conflict that up to 4 million people could flee Ukraine. However, this figure is likely to be increased further, with western officials warning this week that this dire prediction might come true within days. According to UN refugee agency chief, Filippo Grandi, the flight from Ukraine is the greatest in Europe since World War II.
- 90% of Ukrainians Could Will Fall below the Poverty Line in Protracted War
According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), if the war continues for another year, 90 percent of the Ukrainian population will confront poverty and significant economic vulnerability. If the war drags on for much longer, a shocking number of populations might experience destitution and it might end up wiping out two decades of economic achievements, states UNDP. “The conflict in Ukraine is causing unimaginable human suffering, with tragic losses of life and millions of people displaced. An alarming economic decline and the suffering and hardship it will bring to an already traumatized population must now come into sharper focus,” said Steiner.