Russia-Ukraine war: Key things to know about the conflict

AP , Sunday 20 Mar 2022

Ukraine's southern port city of Mariupol was again the site of intense combat on Saturday as Russian forces bombarded the city, damaging a major steel plant. One local police officer pleaded to the West for help, saying Mariupol has been ``wiped off the face of the earth.''

Lviv, Ukraine
Ukrainian civilians receive weapons training in Lviv, Western Ukraine, Saturday, March 19, 2022. AP

Mariupol has been the site of some of the war's greatest suffering. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said early Sunday that what Russian forces did to the peaceful city of 430,000 ``is a terror that will be remembered for centuries to come.''

In his nightly address to the nation, Zelenskyy said Ukraine is interested in peace, and that ongoing talks with Russia are ``not simple or pleasant, but they are necessary.'' He has requested to meet directly with Russian President Vladimir Putin, but a meeting like that hasn't happened.

Here are some key things to know about the conflict:


A day after Russian forces cut off Mariupol's access to the Sea of Azov, Ukraine's interior minister said intense fighting continued, and the key Azovstal steel plant was damaged. Vadym Denysenko said Saturday in televised remarks: ``We have lost this economic giant. In fact, one of the largest metallurgical plants in Europe is actually being destroyed.``

An adviser to Ukraine's president said there was no immediate military help for Mariupol, saying the nearest forces able to assist were already struggling against Russian forces at least 100 kilometers (60 miles) away.

In a video post from a rubble-strewn street, which was authenticated by The Associated Press, Mariupol police officer Michail Vershnin pleaded to Western leaders for help, saying: ``Children, elderly people are dying. The city is destroyed and it has been wiped off the face of the earth.``

In a statement, the Mariupol city council said Russian soldiers have forced several thousand residents _ mostly women and children _ to leave and be relocated to Russia. It didn't say where in Russia and the AP could not immediately confirm the claim.


In Mykolaiv, rescuers on Saturday searched the rubble of a marine barracks that was destroyed in an apparent missile attack a day earlier. It isn't clear how many marines were inside at the time, but a senior Ukrainian military official, who spoke to The New York Times on condition of anonymity to reveal sensitive information, estimated that as many as 40 marines were killed.

Around Kyiv, the northwestern suburbs of Bucha, Hostomel, Irpin and Moshchun were under fire Saturday, according to the Kyiv regional administration. It said Slavutich, 165 kilometers (103 miles) north of the capital, was ``completely isolated.''

More than 6,000 people were able to evacuate along eight of 10 humanitarian corridors Saturday, said Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk. That figure included 4,128 people from Mariupol, who were taken to the southeastern city of Zaporizhzhia.

In Zaporizhzhia, a 38-hour curfew was in effect until 6 a.m. Monday, after two missile strikes on the city's suburbs killed nine people. Local authorities say they continue to evacuate people from areas occupied by Russian troops.

Meanwhile, Zelenskyy said Russia is not recovering the bodies of its dead soldiers, saying that corpses ``simply pile up along our line of defense.''

He said Russian commanders keep sending in new units to keep up the offense. He cited a battle in Chornobayivka in the south, saying Ukrainian forces beat back the Russians six times, but the Russians kept ``sending their people to slaughter.''


The Russian military reported Saturday that it has used its latest hypersonic missile for the first time in combat. A spokesman for the Russian Defense Ministry, Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, said Kinzhal missiles destroyed an underground warehouse storing Ukrainian missiles and aviation ammunition in Ukraine's western Ivano-Frankivsk region.

The Pentagon said the U.S. cannot confirm the Russians used a hypersonic missile.

The British defense ministry said the Ukrainian Air Force and air defense forces are ``continuing to effectively defend Ukrainian airspace`` and Russia has failed to get control of the air, which was one of the Kremlin's key objectives.


The two countries have held several rounds of negotiations, but remain divided over key issues. Moscow wants Ukraine's demilitarization and Kyiv is demanding security guarantees.

British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss accused Putin of using the talks as a ``smokescreen'' while his forces regroup. ``We don't see any serious withdrawal of Russian troops or any serious proposals on the table,'' she told the Times of London.

Zelenskyy said he discussed the course of the talks with French President Emmanuel Macron on Saturday. He said: ``Ukraine has always sought a peaceful solution. Moreover, we are interested in peace now.``

Meanwhile, Putin spoke by phone Saturday with Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel. The Kremlin said Putin ``outlined fundamental assessments of the course of the talks between Russian and Ukrainian representatives.``


Thousands of refugees from Ukraine waited in long lines in the Polish capital of Warsaw to receive local identification papers that will allow them to move on with their lives.

Refugees started lining up by Warsaw's National Stadium overnight to get the coveted PESEL identity cards that will allow them to work, go to school and get medical care or social benefits for the next 18 months.

By mid-morning Saturday, many were told to come back another day because the demand was so high.

Poland has taken in more than 2 million refugees from Ukraine _ the bulk of more than 3.3 million people that the U.N. says have fled since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24. Hundreds of thousands have streamed into Hungary, Slovakia, Moldova and Romania.

A bipartisan delegation of U.S. lawmakers visiting Poland stopped by reception centers Saturday. The seven-member group led by Rep. Stephen Lynch, a Massachusetts Democrat, complimented the willingness of the Polish people to accept refugees. Some Poles have welcomed refugees into their homes.


That's hard to say. The U.N. human rights office says it has recorded a total of 816 civilian deaths and 1,333 civilian injuries since the war began, though it believes the figures are actually much higher.

The office of Ukraine's Prosecutor General reported Saturday that 112 children have been killed since the fighting started. More than 140 children have been wounded.

Dozens of civilians were killed and injured as a result of attacks over the past 24 hours in the eastern Donetsk region alone, Ukrainian police said Saturday. At least 37 residential buildings and infrastructure facilities were damaged in attacks on eight cities and villages.

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