Thursday, May 19, 2022

Aid organizations are trying Mariupol. to evacuate again

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The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is again attempting an evacuation from the southern Ukrainian city of Mariupol after similar attempts failed earlier in the week. The strategic port city has turned into a humanitarian disaster in the past five weeks of fighting, with dwindling food and medical supplies, no electricity, heat or clean water, and no safe humanitarian corridor for civilians to flee to.

“The ICRC team left Zaporizhzhya this morning,” an ICRC spokesman told cafemadrid via email on Saturday. “They are spending the night on their way to Mariupol and have yet to reach the city.” The spokesman did not elaborate on the circumstances that caused Friday’s evacuation attempt to fail.

The ICRC’s role in the evacuation was to escort humanitarian convoys from Mariupol to Zaporizhzhya, indicating that the vehicles are civilian and not military targets; Friday’s mission was to escort about 54 buses carrying evacuees, as well as civilians in private vehicles. however, the terms of the ceasefire were unclear Tetiana Ignatenkova, a spokesman for the Donetsk regional administration, said some of the buses in the convoy came under fire on Thursday afternoon as they approached the city of Berdyansk.

According to Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Irina Veryschuk, some residents of Mariupol managed to leave for the Zaporizhzhya region by private car, and presidential aide Kyrylo Tymoshenko reported that about 3,000 fled the city on Friday, according to Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Irina Veryschuk. New York Times† According to Veryschuk, humanitarian routes have been built from seven areas, including Mariupol, for Saturday’s evacuation attempts.

Ukrainian officials report that 5,000 civilians of Mariupol have been killed in the conflict so far. according to Reutersand the Washington Post reports that 100,000 people are still trapped in the besieged city. Large-scale evacuation attempts both on Friday and on earlier in March were unsuccessful because a safe escape route could not be established; an ICRC team of three vehicles and nine personnel from Zaporizhzhya, about 200 miles from Mariupol, had to return to facilitate the evacuation due to “impossible” circumstances, according to a statement. The statement did not go into detail about the terms, saying only that for the humanitarian mission to succeed, “it is critical that the parties respect the agreements and provide the necessary conditions and security guarantees.”

A separate, privately organized convoy of buses arrived in Zaporizhzhya, Ukraine from Mariupol on April 1, 2022, after a 42-hour evacuation process.
Andrea Carrubba/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Even the use of so-called “green” or humanitarian corridors puts evacuees at risk; while these are believed to be safe routes, “there have been times when tanks have fired at civilian vehicles trying to leave,” Oleksandr Lysenko, the mayor of the Ukrainian city of Sumy, said in a panel discussion with journalists in March. His claims are not isolated; a number of similar incidents have been reported, iincluding the death of a family from Russian shelling as they tried to flee the town of Irpin.

Ukraine and the Kremlin had agreed a humanitarian ceasefire on Thursday, but US officials noted that Russian airstrikes in the capital Kiev and Mariupol continued in the 24 hours leading up to the ceasefire. the Washington Post† During that period, civilians and aid groups had to leave safely to deliver critical humanitarian aid to Mariupol, which has been surrounded for weeks by Russian forces and cut off from supplies.

Conditions in Mariupol make it difficult for civilians to get out – or for help to get in

Despite prolonged, intense Russian shelling and bombing that devastated Mariupol, Ukrainian forces have struggled for control of the city even as Russian forces surrounded the city. Meanwhile, attempts to negotiate a lasting ceasefire so civilians can evacuate the besieged city have repeatedly failed, and despite Russia’s slow withdrawal from Kiev and other areas to the north, Mariupol remains an active conflict zone. According to Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych . looks like it will stay that way for the foreseeable future“We must get rid of illusions: we face difficult battles in the south, Mariupol, for the east of Ukraine,” he said in a nationally televised address on Saturdayindicating that those left behind in Mariupol will continue to suffer, especially if Saturday’s evacuation attempt is unsuccessful.

By mid-March, conditions in Mariupol had already deteriorated significantly; Drinking water infrastructure had been destroyed and MSF (MSF) aid workers reported that residents were searching for sources of groundwater to drink – after boiling it over a wood fire, as the heat and electricity had also been cut off.

Mariupol’s deputy mayor Serhiy Orlov noted in March that the city was already critically short of medical supplies such as insulin, as well as food, fuel and warm clothing. “Let me make it clear … we have a total destruction of the city of Mariupol,” he said at the time.

The fragile infrastructure of cities like Mariupol means that damage to part of it, for example a water pipe, could affect thousands of people’s access to clean drinking water, heat or electricity. Targeting that kind of civilian infrastructure, however, is a hallmark of Russian urban warfare, Rita Konaev, associate director of analysis at Georgetown University’s Center for Security and Emerging Technology, told cafemadrid in March.

“The Russian approach to urban warfare places a strong emphasis on ground preparation and preparation for any kind of ground operation with this aerial destruction. It is to break morale, it is to cause significant damage to the infrastructure of cities, it is to cause a high degree of displacement from the cities,” she said.

Statements by both the ICRC and the United Nations on Thursday, the appalling conditions in Mariupol underlined the critical and immediate need to get humanitarian supplies to the people. “We and our partners have still not been able to reach areas where people urgently need support, including Mariupol, Kherson and Chernihiv, despite extensive efforts and continued engagement with the parties to the conflict,” said UN spokesman Stéphane Dujarric. Thursday to reporters. † The ICRC expressed a similar urgency in its statement: “It is extremely important that this operation takes place. The lives of tens of thousands of people in Mariupol depend on it.”

Russia will not just give up Mariupol

Although peace talks between Russia and Ukraine resumed on Fridaythere is little indication that Russia will withdraw from Mariupol, a city it sees as critical for its control of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions – parts of which Russia recognized as independent breakaway republics just before invading Ukraine.

With the Russian military seemingly unable to capture Kiev, the Kremlin appears to be turning its attention back to the southeast — specifically Mariupol† Russian control of the city would link Donetsk and Luhansk, cutting off the rest of Ukraine from the Sea of ​​Azov, which could cause serious, ongoing economic hardship for Ukraine, as Mariupol and other port cities are grain export hubs.

Ukrainian troops have refused to surrender Mariupol, tie up Russian troops in a difficult urban battle that prevents them from reinforcing Russian units elsewhere; if Russia captured the city, it would free those troops for other campaigns.

But capturing Mariupol, which has resisted such fierce resistance despite weeks of near-constant bombing, would also give a morale boost to Russian troops and the public in what had otherwise been a deeply disappointing campaign.

“Putin wants to capture the city regardless of casualties and damage,” Orlov said. “The city is brought back to the Middle Ages by the Russians. People can only cook on fire and mothers and newborn children are not fed. This is a genocide against the Ukrainians.”

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