War between Russia and Ukraine: important things to know about the conflict

Russia warns that relations with the US are “about to be severed”, Russia has summoned the US ambassador to protest President Joe Biden’s criticism of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Here are some important things to know about the conflict:

WHAT’S LATEST IN MARIUPOL?

Ukrainian officials rejected a Russian offer to grant its troops safe passage out of the encircled city, which would hand Mariupol over to Russia and unite Russian forces in southern and eastern Ukraine along the Sea of ​​Azov.

It is not clear how many victims were killed in the Russian art school bombing, Zelenskyy said in a video speech early Monday. That attack came just days after a bomb hit a theater in Mariupol on Wednesday, where more than 1,000 people are said to have been sheltering. It is not clear how many people were killed in the attack.

“Nearly 90% (of the city) has been destroyed,” Mariupol resident Maria Fiodorova, 77, said Monday as she crossed the border into Medyka, Poland. “There are no more buildings there.”

WHAT HAPPENS ELSEWHERE IN UKRANE?

The Russian military says it will continue to use hypersonic Kinzhal missiles to hit particularly important targets in Ukraine.

Russian shelling near the city center of the capital Kiev killed eight people on Sunday, emergency services said. The attack damaged a nearby high-rise building and destroyed a shopping center, which Major General Igor Konashenkov, the spokesman for the Russian Defense Ministry, said it was targeted because it was used to store missiles. The claim cannot be independently verified.

Russian troops are trying to surround the Ukrainian capital, which was home to nearly 3 million people before the war.

Ukraine’s Attorney General said a Russian grenade hit a chemical plant outside the city of Sumy just after 3 a.m. Monday, causing a leak in a 50-ton ammonia tank that took hours. Konashenkov claimed the leak was a “planned provocation” by Ukrainian forces to falsely accuse Russia of a chemical attack.

Konashenkov also said a nighttime cruise missile hit a Ukrainian military training center in the Rivne region, killing 80 foreign and Ukrainian troops. A Ukrainian official confirmed a strike, without releasing the number of casualties.

Ukraine’s nuclear regulatory agency said on Monday that radiation monitors around the Chernobyl nuclear power plant — site of the world’s worst 1986 meltdown — have stopped working. It also said firefighters are no longer available in the region to protect forests damaged by decades of radioactivity.

WHAT DID THE AP WITNESS OR CONFIRM DIRECTLY?

AP video journalist Mstyslav Chernov has shared his harrowing experience, along with AP photographer Evgeniy Maloletka, of being the only international journalists in besieged Mariupol before fleeing last week.

“We were the last journalists in Mariupol. Now there are none,” he said.

The Russian siege of Mariupol has led to shortages of food, water and energy. Video captured by AP shows residents pushing carts and carrying bags of food and supplies along rubble-infested streets and thoroughfares.

AP journalists at the scene of Russian shelling in Kiev witnessed the crushed ruin of the mall, which was still smoldering Monday morning. The force of the explosion shattered every window in the adjacent high-rise building and twisted the metal frames. In the distance was the sound of artillery as firefighters made their way through the devastation in the densely populated Podil district.

DO RUSSIAN FORCES MAKE ANY PROGRESS?

Russians have increased the number of military aircraft flights over Ukraine in the past two days, according to a senior US defense official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the military’s assessment. That reportedly includes as many as 300 in the past 24 hours, most of which involve air-to-ground attacks. On Monday, Russia had fired more than 1,100 rockets into Ukraine, the official said.

The official said on Monday that Ukraine — which uses short- and long-range air defense systems and drones to target Russian planes — has also increased the pace of its military flights, but declined to provide figures.

The British Ministry of Defense said on Monday that Ukrainian resistance had kept the bulk of Russian forces more than 25 kilometers (15 miles) from Kiev city center but that the capital “remains Russia’s main military target”.

WHAT ABOUT THE DIPLOMATIC EFFORTS AROUND THE CONFLICT?

Russian and Ukrainian officials have held a series of talks, but no substantive solution to the conflict has emerged from that dialogue.

Zelenskyy spoke to Israeli lawmakers via video link on Sunday and thanked Israel for its efforts to broker talks with Russia. Zelenskyy has said he would be willing to meet Putin in person, but Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Monday more progress needs to be made first.

Biden will travel to Europe this week, where he will attend a summit with NATO leaders who will seek ways to bolster the bloc’s own deterrence and defenses to deal with the now openly confrontational Putin. Citing “unacceptable statements” by Biden about Putin — a clear reference to the American calling the Russian a “war criminal” — the Russian Foreign Ministry has warned that relations with the US are “on the brink of becoming broken” and summoned the US ambassador.

Biden discussed the war on Monday with European leaders, including President Emmanuel Macron of France, Chancellor Olaf Scholz of Germany, Prime Minister Mario Draghi of Italy and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Biden and NATO have repeatedly said that while they will provide weapons and other defensive support to Ukraine that is not a member of NATO, they are determined to avoid any escalation that risks a wider war with Russia.

HOW MANY CITIZENS ARE DIE IN UKRANEAN?

Comprehensive casualty figures are difficult to confirm. From the start of the war through Sunday, the UN human rights agency recorded 925 dead and 1,496 injured. Ukrainian officials say thousands of civilians have been killed. Estimates of Russian deaths vary, but even conservative figures run into the small thousands.

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