Russian Rocket Attacks During Alleged Cease-Fire Disrupts Evacuations

Russian Rocket Attacks During Alleged Cease-Fire Disrupts Evacuations
Ukraine city Mariupol streets following Russian rocket attacks. | Image from the Associated Press

Russian troops encircled Ukrainian cities, and an attempt to evacuate civilians from Mariupol failed due to rocket attacks on the port city. According to Ukrainian officials, the attacks disrupted what was supposed to be a cease-fire when a pro-Russian official said safe-passage corridors would be opened for civilian evacuation.

The number of Ukrainians forced to leave their country rose to 1.5 million, and the Kremlin said that Ukrainian statehood was in danger and the West was “declaring war” through placing sanctions on Russia.

A humanitarian cease-fire was declared and broken. The halt on fighting was supposed to allow Ukrainian civilians to leave the country but ended abruptly, stranding thousands without food, water, or heat, FOX News reports.

The Ukrainian city of Mariupol – a strategic port on the Sea of Azov – has been surrounded by Russian troops for days. Approximately 450,000 thousand residents are without water, electricity, or heat there. The Washington Post reported that bombs, shells, and rocket attacks rained down on civilians desperately seeking shelter.

There had been hopes that at least half of those residents were allowed to leave under a Russian proposed cease-fire that guaranteed a humanitarian corridor. Ukrainian officials, however, said the Russians continued the rocket attacks. Mariupol municipal officials say the city may run out of food.

Authorities believe 1.5 million people will have left Ukraine fleeing Putin’s army by the end of the weekend.

“If they keep doing what they are doing, they are putting the future of Ukraine’s statehood in question,” Putin said on Saturday.

President Zelenskyy, who was still defiant, told his people to fight against the Russians with guns.

“It is a special kind of heroism – to protest when your city is occupied,” Zelenskyy said. “Ukrainians in all of our cities that the enemy has entered – go on the offensive! You should take to the streets! You should fight!”

Putin warned on March 5 that any third-party declaration of a no-fly zone over Ukraine would be seen as participation in the war. 

That declaration came as Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskyy begged U.S. lawmakers to push NATO into action and asked for more humanitarian aid and for NATO to declare a no-fly zone over Ukraine.

NATO is also refusing to supply Ukraine with fighter jets, but lawmakers promised to push U.S. President Joe Biden to make that happen.

President Zelenskyy also asked the United States to stop buying Russian oil, which amounts to about 3-4% of American consumption.

The U.S. State Department and the Canadian government advised their citizens to leave Russia immediately. The announcement came as news emerged that Russia arrested WNBA star Brittney Griner last month, charging her with drug smuggling for allegedly having vape cartridges containing hashish oil in her carry-on luggage.

U.S. officials say there is no reliable independent judiciary in Russia, so consequently, the expectation of a fair trial in the country is not there. Griner plays basketball for a Russian team during the WNBA off-season. If convicted, she could spend up to 10 years in prison.

On the evening of March 6, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan asked Putin to stop fighting in Ukraine during a phone call, according to the Turkish president’s office

Erdogan is one of Putin’s most important allies in the wider region, even though Turkey is a member of NATO and has been against Russia in several proxy wars and sided with Ukraine in the current crisis.

Erdogan said that “urgent steps” must be taken to get a cease-fire, open humanitarian corridors, and sign a peace deal “as soon as possible.”

The passage of warships through the Bosphorus and Dardanelles straits has been prohibited by Turkey, blocking Russian war vessels from passing through its waters to the Black Sea since the start of the Ukraine crisis.

On Monday evening, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that Ankara had “warned neighboring countries not to send warships through the Black Sea.” Last week, Turkey strongly condemned Russia’s aggression in Ukraine.

Russian State Media reported Putin told Erdogan that Moscow was still willing to work with him to solve the Ukraine crisis through dialogue, but only if Ukraine stopped fighting and “fulfills Russia’s well-known requirements.”

Erdogan’s decision to buy an air defense system from Russia caused a split between Turkey and the United States in 2017. As they try to find a diplomatic way out of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Turkey and the United States will keep working together, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said after talks between the two countries’ deputy foreign ministers on March 5.

“We reject Russia’s military action,” Erdogan said last week. The invasion was a “devastating blow to peace and stability in the region.”

Also, a Turkish company sold Ukraine armed drones that have helped slow down the Russian army.

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