War in Ukraine: the highlights of Thursday, March 10

Westerners have denounced a "war crime" after the bombing of a hospital in Mariupol. The Russian authorities reject the accusation, but give divergent explanations.

War in Ukraine: the highlights of Thursday, March 10
The town of Irpin, north of Kiev (Ukraine), March 10, 2022.  (ARIS MESSINIS / AFP)

On the fifteenth day of the invasion of Ukraine , Thursday March 10, Russian forces tighten their grip around Kiev. While the international community denounces the bombing of a hospital in Mariupol, Moscow rejects the accusations of "war crime" . On the diplomatic field, negotiations between the heads of Russian and Ukrainian diplomacy in Antalya, Turkey, were fruitless.

At least 500 civilians killed since the start of the war

At least 516 civilians, including around 30 children, have been killed in Ukraine and more than 900 injured, according to a latest UN count, which specifies that its balance sheets are probably much lower than the reality.

Russian tanks have arrived at the northeastern edge of the capital, Kyiv , which they threaten to encircle after having already reached its northern and western outskirts. "The large Russian column north-west of Kiev has made little progress for more than a week and is suffering sustained losses ," said the British Ministry of Defence.

The Ukrainian army retains control of Chernihiv, north of Kiev, whose city center has been shelled, causing the death of many civilians. The city of Kharkiv too, 50 kilometers from the Russian border, is surrounded and hit by intense bombardments. Russian forces "are now just outside" Ukraine's second city (1.4 million inhabitants), the Pentagon said on Wednesday evening.

In southern Ukraine, Russian troops besiege the port city of Mariupol. Attempts to evacuate hundreds of thousands of civilians have repeatedly failed and both sides blame each other. 

Russian-Ukrainian talks fail

The heads of Russian and Ukrainian diplomacy failed to agree on a ceasefire in Ukraine during their first meeting since the start of the Russian army offensive. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba stuck to their guns during the meeting held in the Turkish seaside resort of Antalya.

"We have talked about a ceasefire but no progress has been made in this direction ," said Dmytro Kuleba, adding, however, that he "hoped" to be able to continue the discussion with his counterpart. According to him, Sergei Lavrov assured that Russia "will continue [its] aggression until we accept its request to capitulate" . "We are not planning to attack other countries, we have not attacked Ukraine ," Sergei Lavrov said from his side.      

Three sessions of talks between Russian and Ukrainian negotiators have already taken place in Belarus, a country allied with Russia, since the start of the invasion. They resulted in several local ceasefires and the opening of humanitarian corridors to evacuate civilians from besieged towns. But Russia has repeatedly been accused of violating these agreements.

Westerners condemn bombing of hospital in Mariupol

"This bombardment (...) is inhuman, heinous, cruel and tragic" , declared Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission  on franceinfo , after the Russian air raid on an establishment housing a maternity hospital and a pediatric hospital in Mariupol, in the south-east of Ukraine. "I am convinced that it can be a war crime and it really needs an investigation ," she added. 

The head of EU diplomacy, Josep Borrell, also pointed the finger at a "heinous war crime".   Emmanuel Macron also condemned  "with the greatest firmness"  what is  "an unworthy act of war" . Three people, including a girl, perished there, announced in a new report Thursday the town hall, which reported the day before of 17 wounded. 

On the same day, Thursday, three Russian sources gave different versions of events. The Kremlin said it would ask its army about the bombardment, saying it did not have "clear information" . The head of Russian diplomacy Sergei Lavrov justified this air raid by saying that the building served as a base for a nationalist battalion and housed neither medical personnel nor civilians. For its part, the Russian army denounced a  "staging" of  Ukrainian "nationalists" . “ The Russian air force has not carried out any target destruction missions in the Mariupol region ,” assured the spokesman of the Ministry of Defense, Igor Konashenkov.

Government anticipates up to "100,000 refugees" fleeing Ukraine to France

The French government anticipates the possible arrival in France in the coming weeks of "50,000, perhaps 100,000" people fleeing the conflict in Ukraine and "is preparing" to resize the planned reception, announced Thursday the coordinator of the interministerial crisis unit (CIC).

Of the more than 2.1 million displaced due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which began on February 24, France had received more than 7,200 people on Thursday, according to data from the Ministry of the Interior. “We are trying to be ready for volumes which will probably be much more significant in the days or weeks to come ,” said the prefect Joseph Zimet, who is in charge of the cell, during a press conference.

On a European scale, welcoming millions of Ukrainian refugees is a "very, very big challenge"  , says European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson, who says she is particularly worried about the fate of children who currently represent "half" of exiles . . In an unprecedented step, the Twenty-Seven agreed last week to grant a temporary protection regime to Ukrainians which allows them to stay for at least a year in the EU and to work there.


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