More attacks follow as Ukraine rejects Mariupol’s demand for surrender

When the besieged city of Mariupol refused a call to surrender, Russian forces carried out attacks across Ukraine overnight and into Monday, including a rocket attack that officials said hit a shopping center in Kyiv and killed at least eight people.

Amid growing fears that Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine will turn into a bloody war of attrition, Mariupol leaders rejected the Russian proposal – which provided evacuation routes for Ukrainian troops if they left by Monday morning – even after the reported bombing of a local art school where Officials said hundreds of people had sought refuge.

The mayor of Mariupol quickly ruled out giving in to enemy troops who have surrounded his city, which has become a symbol of Ukrainian suffering and destruction. Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk also rejected the Russian demand.

“There can be no question of capitulation, laying down of arms,” ​​she told the Ukrainian news organization “Pravda”.

Ukrainian soldier outside the damaged building in Mariupol

A Ukrainian soldier guards his position in front of a damaged building in Mariupol on March 12.

(Mstyslav Chernov/Associated Press)

In a late night address, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the bombing of the art school, where he said 400 people had taken refuge, was further evidence against Russian claims that civilians were not at stake.

“There were no military positions,” said Zelenskyy. “They are under the rubble. We don’t know how many are alive at the moment.”

The bombing in a war-torn city where journalists are few and internet connections have become sparse could not be independently confirmed. Ukrainian officials have also accused the Russians of forcing thousands of Mariupol residents to be deported to Russia. The accusation was not confirmed by an independent party either.

Almost a month after the February 24 invasion of Ukraine began, more than 3.3 million people — about one in 13 — have fled the country, according to the United Nations. Millions more have been internally displaced, with many trains and buses deadlocked towards western Ukraine, which has seen far fewer attacks than the east, where the war began.

The UN reported Monday that more than 900 civilians have died, although the real number is likely much higher.

With the capital Kyiv still under Ukrainian control, the Russian military has resorted to residential areas outside the city center for the past week, with rockets regularly hitting high-rise buildings and business districts. Some are direct effects of Russian launches. Damage to at least one high-rise building over the past week was the result of a Ukrainian attempt to contain the fire.

Late Sunday, Ukraine’s emergency medical service reported that rockets hit and partially destroyed a shopping center in Podilskyi district, northwest of central Kyiv. At least eight people were killed, according to the Ukrainian emergency services.

Mayor Vitali Klitschko said houses were also hit.

“Several explosions in the Podilskyi district of the capital. According to the current state of knowledge, some houses and one of the shopping centers in particular were hit by shells. Rescuers, paramedics and police are already there,” said Klitschko on his Telegram channel.

Small child sits on a piece of luggage

Refugees wait patiently in line for hours at the border crossing between Ukraine and Poland.

(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

The mall, called Retroville, had fast-food restaurants — including a KFC and McDonalds — a movie theater and a gym, among other things. According to a Facebook post, it had been shut down last month when the war started. It’s unclear if it was operational this week.

Amid the spate of attacks, the city will be subject to another 35-hour curfew from 8 p.m. Monday to 7 a.m. Wednesday. A similar curfew was imposed last week when Klitschko called a “dangerous moment” for the capital.

Despite daily shelling in Kyiv, where many embassies have been closed or staff evacuated over the past month, one European nation said Monday it would resume its presence in the city.

Prime Minister Janez Jansa of Slovenia, who evacuated diplomats in February, said several were returning to Kyiv. Jansa, who was part of a delegation of European leaders who made a daring visit to Kyiv last week, wrote on Twitter that the workers had returned voluntarily because the nation needed “direct diplomatic support.”

In the western city of Lviv, a relatively safe haven from the violence, life went on as normal on Monday despite fears Friday’s bombing of a disused aircraft repair facility next to the city’s airport heralds a new front for Russian attacks. It was the first strike within the city limits and authorities said one person was injured.

On Sunday, people crowded the streets of Lviv, where the population has increased dramatically due to a spate of displaced people. Cafes and parks were packed under a sunny sky. But city officials continue to sound air sirens regularly, warning residents to remain vigilant.

The White House said President Biden will meet with leaders of Britain, France, Germany and Italy on the Ukraine crisis on Monday. On Wednesday he is due to be in Brussels where an emergency meeting of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization is being held to discuss the war.

One item likely to be on the agenda is a proposal by NATO member Poland to send an international peacekeeping mission to Ukraine. NATO has deployed similar post-conflict missions elsewhere, but they did not take place while the war was raging. Such a move would no doubt also be seen as provocative by Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is bent on preventing any Ukrainian connection with NATO.

On Thursday, Biden is scheduled to attend a European Council summit and a G-7 meeting to discuss tightening sanctions on Russia. On Friday, Biden travels to Poland, which lies across Ukraine’s eastern border. More than half of the refugees who are supposed to leave Ukraine have fled to Poland.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Biden’s Europe visit “will focus on continuing to rally the world in support of the Ukrainian people and against President Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.”

Zelenskyy has called on NATO to enforce a no-fly zone over Ukraine. Leaders of NATO member states, including Biden, have refused. They say a no-fly zone would almost certainly lead to a direct military confrontation with Russian forces, which the US wants to avoid to prevent a major war. The US and other NATO member states have pledged billions of dollars in aid and arms to Ukraine.

As the death toll continues to rise, Zelenskyi wants to start direct negotiations with Putin.

“It’s time to meet, time to talk,” Zelenskyj said at the weekend. The Kremlin did not respond to his request.

US officials have said they support the attempt at negotiations, which would follow video meetings held by representatives of the warring parties last week, but indicated expectations are low.

“The Russians have not agreed to a negotiated and diplomatic solution,” Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US ambassador to the United Nations, told CNN on Sunday. “But we still hope that Ukraine’s efforts will end this brutal war.”

McDonnell reported from Lemberg and Kaleem from London. Staff writer Marcus Yam contributed reporting from Kyiv, Ukraine. More attacks follow as Ukraine rejects Mariupol’s demand for surrender

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