Moscow mayor says 200,000 jobs at risk in city as Western companies leave

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As Mariupol’s defense was on the verge of collapse, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy vowed that his forces would resolutely resist the expected large-scale Russian offensive in the east of the country.

“We will not give up our territory,” Zelenskiy told CNN in an interview on April 16 and broadcast on April 17.

Live briefing: Russian occupation of Ukraine

Radio Free Europe Direct briefing gives you all the major developments on the Russian occupation, the way Kiev is fighting, the plight of civilians and the Western reaction. For all the coverage of the war by Radio Free Europe, click here.

Zelenskiy said there was no guarantee that Russian forces would not try to retake the capital, Kiev, if its army was successful in eastern Ukraine, adding that the outcome of the war could be decided in the Donbas region, the center. industrial east of Ukraine.

“That’s why it’s very important for us not to let them, to stand on their feet, because this battle could affect the course of the whole war,” Zelenskiy told CNN. “Because I do not trust Russia. The military and Russian leadership.”

“That’s why we understand that the fact that we fought them and they left, and they were fleeing from Kiev – from the north, from Chernihiv and from that direction – does not mean that they are able to capture “Donbas, they will not go further to Kiev.”

Russian forces faced fiercer resistance than expected from Ukrainian troops and civilians in and around the Kiev area, forcing them to withdraw and refocus their efforts on impending attacks in eastern and southern Ukraine.

Russian troops continued to strike Mariupol after claiming to have cleared the urban area of ​​Ukrainian soldiers and surrounded the remaining troops at a massive steel plant.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal has vowed a “fight to the end” between the ruins of Mariupol and said the strategic port city “has not fallen”, despite claims by Russian offensive forces.

Shmyhal told ABC on April 17 that “the city has not fallen yet. There are still our military forces, our soldiers. So they will fight to the end.”

Shmyhal said Kiev wanted a diplomatic solution “if possible”, but said: “If the Russians do not want negotiations, we will fight to the end, absolutely. We will not give up. We will not leave our country. “, families, our land. We will fight to the end.”

Shmyhal again begged the West to send more weapons and ammunition to help Ukrainian forces. He also asked the nations to send additional financial aid. Ukraine is experiencing a “major humanitarian catastrophe” and needs further assistance “to save our economy for the next recovery,” he said.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said about 2,500 Ukrainian troops remain in Azovstal, a claim that could not be independently verified. Ukrainian officials did not mention any numbers for the city’s defenders.

Look: The port city of Mariupol was home to 400,000 people before the Russian invasion. It has been under siege by Russian troops and under constant shelling for more than 50 days. The city is back in ruins, amid claims by Russia that it now has almost complete control. Thousands of civilians are believed to have died and tens of thousands remain stranded in the city.

Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar said on April 17 that Mariupol’s defenders have linked significant Russian forces surrounding the city. She described Mariupol as a “shield that protects Ukraine”.

Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said Ukraine and Russia had failed to agree on humanitarian corridors for the evacuation of wounded Ukrainian civilians and troops from Mariupol.

“We have not been able to agree on a ceasefire on the evacuation routes. That is why, unfortunately, we are not opening humanitarian corridors today,” Vereshchuk told her Telegram account on April 17.

If the capture of Mariupol by Russia is confirmed, it would be the first major Ukrainian city to fall since the start of the unprovoked Moscow war on February 24th.

Look: A Ukrainian woman has given to Radio Free Europe a detailed account of how she was raped by a Russian army soldier. To protect her privacy, we have pixelated her face and are not disclosing her name. Ukrainian police have been notified of the case.

The capture of Mariupol would allow Russian forces in the south, which emerged through the illegally annexed Crimean peninsula, to fully connect with troops in the Donbas region, the eastern industrial center of Ukraine, and the focus of the planned Russian offensive.

The British Ministry of Defense said in its regular bulletin that Russian forces continue to redeploy combat and support equipment from Belarus to eastern Ukraine, including locations near Kharkiv and Severdonetsk.

Russian artillery continues to strike Ukrainian positions across the east of the country, where Russia plans to resume its offensive activity, the ministry said. But he stressed that although Russia’s operational focus has shifted to eastern Ukraine, Russia’s ultimate goal remains the same.

“It is committed to forcing Ukraine to abandon its Euro-Atlantic orientation and assert its regional dominance,” the ministry said.

At least five people were killed in a series of Russian artillery attacks in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city, local officials said on April 17. Maksym Khaustov, head of the health department in the Kharkiv region, said the attacks had ignited fires and blown up roofs. of buildings throughout the northeastern city.

Oleh Syneyhubov, the governor of the region, told his Telegram channel that 31 people had been injured in the attacks.

AFP reporters reported hearing two explosions and witnessing five fires in residential areas in central Kharkiv, which had a pre-war population of 1.4 million.

Separately, Serhiy Gaidai, governor of Ukraine’s Luhansk region, said at least two people were killed and four wounded on April 17 by the bombing of the eastern city of Zolote.

Local media reported an explosion in the capital Kiev, although Deputy Mayor Mykola Povoroznyk said air defense systems had thwarted Russian attacks.

A Russian missile strike damaged infrastructure on the outskirts of Kiev, Brovary, Ukrainian officials said. Mayor Ihor Sapashko warned that as a result of the attack there could be interruptions in water supply and electricity.

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said the military had used precision-guided missiles fired from the air to attack the ammunition factory in Brovary overnight.

He said other Russian airstrikes also destroyed Ukrainian air defense radars near Severodonetsk in the east and several ammunition depots elsewhere.

Rocket attacks continued in the region around the southern city of Mykolaiv, according to regional governor Vitaly Kim, while officials in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city, said Russian attacks had killed at least five civilians on April 17.

Reported by AP, Reuters, dpa and AFP

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