UKRAINE UPDATES: Russian offensive stalled, attacking civilians; Putin Warns ‘Traitors’; Turkey plays the mediator

As Russia’s failing military campaign enters its fourth week, here are the latest headlines from the war in Ukraine…

• More than a thousand people had taken refuge in the bombed theater of Mariupol. According to the Ukrainian authorities, civilians emerged alive from the ruins of the theater. Between 1,000 and 1,200 people could have been inside, the town’s deputy mayor told the BBC. At least 53 children have already been killed in the city. People are lying dead in the street because it is not safe to collect them to bury them. 30,000 civilians have fled the city, while many remain stuck inside without Clearwater, food or electricity as Russian troops have blocked aid from entering the beleaguered city through humanitarian corridors.

• Russia’s offensive to seize kyiv has largely stalled, NATO officials say. Meanwhile, Ukraine announced on Thursday that it had launched a counter-offensive aimed at taking decisive control of the capital’s suburbs. According to British intelligence, Russian forces are being prevented from resupplying “forward troops even basic items such as food and fuel” due to challenges on the ground and their inability to control Ukrainian airspace.

• A British military assessment confirms that the incessant Ukrainian counter-attacks and logistical problems are holding back the Russian offensive. The situation on the ground is not changing dramatically and Ukraine could fight Russia to a standstill, according to Western officials. Similarly, the Pentagon claims that the Russian advance has frozen “around the country on several axis lines”.

• The Institute for the Study of Warfare says the southern port city of Mariupol is likely to come under sustained Russian assault in the coming weeks. But the ISW analysis reveals that Russian forces made no major territorial advances on Thursday, according to US and UK intelligence. But the ISW concludes the “total destruction” of Mariupol and increased targeting of its residential areas could lead to its capitulation or eventual capture. The US think tank also says Ukrainian forces appear to have inflicted heavy damage on Thursday on Russian forces around kyiv and repelled Russian operations in the Kharkiv region.

• Meanwhile, the ISW says Ukraine’s air defense continues to be effective and reportedly shot down 10 Russian planes on Wednesday. According to Ukrainian intelligence, Russia spent almost its entire stockpile of precision cruise missiles in the first 20 days of its invasion.

“Reluctance to maneuver across the country, lack of air control, and limited bridging capabilities prevent Russia from effectively resupplying its forward troops with basics such as food and fuel. The Ukrainian counterattacks relentless forces force Russia to divert large numbers of troops to its own supply lines, which severely limits Russia’s offensive potential.

• As his invasion stagnates in Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin attacked “traitors” in a televised speech. Putin said Russian society would benefit from what he called a “cleansing” of “scum and traitors” who align themselves with the West in his criticism of the war in Ukraine. It’s a reference to Stalin-era mass arrests – when repressions were justified to “cleanse” Soviet society of traitors – and it followed new laws criminalizing criticism of what the Kremlin calls its “military operation”. special” in UkraineRussia has seen an exodus of political activists, journalists, celebrities and entrepreneurs critical of the war or fearful of its consequences. In comments Wednesday, Putin lashed out at Russians that he was “mentally” aligned with the West amid the Ukraine crisis. Putin said their real goal was to work with the “collective West” to destroy Russia from within. In remarks that largely touched on Russia’s efforts to counter Western sanctions, Putin said…

“The Russian people will always be able to distinguish true patriots from garbage and traitors and simply spit them out like a gnat that accidentally flew into their mouths. I am convinced that such a natural and necessary cleansing of society will only strengthen our country, our solidarity, our cohesion and our readiness to meet all challenges.

• US President Joe Biden will meet with Chinese leader Xi Jinping on Friday to discuss issues such as… Biden says he thinks the war in Ukraine represents a real struggle between autocracy and democracy, and that Xi does not don’t think democracies can be sustained in the 21st Century. US officials believe Xi is one of the few world leaders who can wield some influence over Vladimir Putin. But he has so far refused to condemn Russia’s aggression, and America is very concerned that China might help Russia with military equipment for use in Ukraine. Biden will threaten to impose heavy costs on China if it helps Russia financially or militarily.

• Turkey has positioned itself to mediate with Russia and Ukraine – and it seems to be working. On Thursday afternoon, President Vladimir Putin phoned Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and told him of Russia’s specific demands for a peace deal with Ukraine. The claims fall into two categories. The first four demands would apparently not be too difficult for Ukraine to meet. Mainly, Ukraine should be neutral and not ask to join NATO, which Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has already conceded. other demands in this category appear to be face-saving features for the Russians. Ukraine should undergo disarmament to ensure that it does not pose a threat to Russia. There must be protection of the Russian language in Ukraine, as well as a so-called “denazification”.

• The European Court of Human Rights suspends all cases linked to Russia, while the G7 warns of serious consequences for Russian war criminals. Meanwhile, the UN Security Council met on Thursday and called on President Putin to stop his killing spree in Ukraine.

• As many as 53 civilians have reportedly been killed by Russian forces in the northern city of Chernihiv since Wednesday, according to its regional governor.

• Russia has launched more than 1,000 missiles since its invasion began three weeks ago.

• The UN says Russia has already attacked 43 health facilities across Ukraine, according to the UN.

• Moscow says it regrets the suspension of the Russian-European mission to Mars.

SOURCES: France24 | BBC | NC | WBUR

Sharon P. Juarez