Russian authorities plan to introduce a register of people linked to “foreign agents”

Russian President Vladimir Putin showed no interest in ending his invasion of Ukraine during a March 12 call with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, a French presidential official said. .

French and German leaders, who have continued to speak with Putin since he launched his unprovoked attack two weeks ago, reiterated their call for an immediate ceasefire.

Macron reportedly accused Putin of “lies” for alleging that Ukrainian forces committed human rights abuses.

Russian forces have bombed Ukraine since February 24, when Putin announced his invasion, including civilian sites like a maternity hospital, killing innocent people.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said around 1,300 Ukrainian soldiers had died since the fighting began. The losses of the Russian troops were estimated at several thousand.

Fighting raged northwest of Kiev on March 12 as the British Ministry of Defense said the bulk of Russian ground forces were now just 25 kilometers from the center of the Ukrainian capital, while tanks and artillery pounded places already besieged.

Air raid sirens sounded in several Ukrainian cities early March 12, urging people to seek shelter, local media reported.

Zelenskiy said on March 12 that Russia was sending new forces to Ukraine after suffering what he called the worst losses in decades.

In a televised address, Zelenskiy urged Russia to maintain an agreed ceasefire to allow evacuations to continue from the beleaguered port city of Mariupol, after blaming Moscow for the failure of previous attempts.

The UN crisis coordinator for Ukraine said the body was seeking an agreement with both sides in the conflict to establish corridors to deliver much-needed aid.

Amin Awad told The Associated Press on March 12 that progress is being made on the corridors and accompanying ceasefires, but expressed frustration at the resistance to implementing them quickly.

According to reports, a Ukrainian military airfield south of Kiev was targeted by Russian missiles. The mayor of Vasylkiv said the attack destroyed the runway and a fuel depot, as well as caused explosions at an ammunition depot.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy speaks from his office in the capital in a video posted to Facebook early March 12.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy speaks from his office in the capital in a video posted to Facebook early March 12.

Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry accused Russian forces on March 12 of shelling a mosque in the southern port city of Mariupol, where more than 80 adults and children, including Turkish citizens, had taken refuge. .

He did not say whether there were people killed or injured.

Despite ample concrete evidence of Russian attacks on civilian areas documented by journalists, including RFE/RL correspondents on the ground, Moscow denies targeting civilian areas.

The UN said on March 11 that it had received credible information that Russian forces were using cluster bombs in populated areas of Ukraine. International law prohibits the use of bombs, which disperse smaller explosives over a wide area, in cities and towns.

WATCH: More than 2 million people have fled Ukraine to escape the onslaught of Russian military forces. On March 8, Current Time spoke with displaced Ukrainians in Kyiv and Lviv who hope to find a safe haven inside or outside the country. Current Time is the Russian-language network run by RFE/RL in cooperation with VOA.

Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said she hoped several humanitarian corridors out of Ukrainian towns and villages, including from the beleaguered port city of Mariupol, would be opened on March 12 so civilians could leave.

“I hope the day will go well, all planned routes will be open and Russia will fulfill its obligations to guarantee the ceasefire regime,” Vereshchuk said in a video address.

But the Kyiv region governor said fighting and threats of Russian air attacks continued during evacuation attempts.

In Mariupol, incessant blockades in the city thwarted repeated attempts to bring in food and water and evacuate trapped civilians.

The UN humanitarian office said those trapped in Mariupol were desperate.

“There are reports of looting and violent confrontations between civilians over the few basic supplies that remain in the city,” the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said on March 12. “Drugs for deadly diseases are running out quickly, hospitals are partially inoperable, and food and water are in short supply.”

The death toll in Mariupol topped 1,500 in 12 days of attacks, the mayor’s office said. The shelling forced crews to stop digging trenches for mass graves, so the “the dead are not even buried” said the mayor.

A deadly strike against a maternity ward in the city this week sparked international outrage and allegations of war crimes.

The World Health Organization has confirmed 29 attacks on health facilities in Ukraine, which have left 12 dead, including two health workers, and 34 injured.

Ukrainian officials have accused Russia of damaging a cancer hospital and several residential buildings in the southern city of Mykolaiv with heavy artillery shelling.

The hospital’s chief medical officer, Maksim Beznosenko, said several hundred patients were in the hospital during the attack, but no one was killed. The assault damaged the building and blew out the windows.

Meanwhile, residents of the southeastern town of Melitopol staged a protest demanding the release of the town’s mayor after surveillance video showed him walking out of the town hall, apparently surrounded by Russian soldiers.

Officials said on March 11 that Melitopol Mayor Ivan Fedorov was kidnapped by Russian forces after being charged with terrorism. Zelenskiy called the kidnapping “a new stage of terror”.

Zelenskiy said on March 12 that he had spoken to German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron about pressuring Russia to release Fedorov.

“We expect world leaders to show us how they can influence the situation,” Zelenskiy said.

According to Ukrainian officials, Fedorov was kidnapped because he “refused to cooperate with the enemy”.

Russian forces have intensified their attacks on Mykolaiv, located 470 kilometers south of Kiev, with the aim of encircling the city.

The conflict has already caused 2.5 million people to flee the country.

On the ground, Kremlin forces appeared to be trying to regroup and regain momentum after fierce resistance over the past two weeks. The British Ministry of Defense said on March 11 that Russia was trying to reset and “reposition” its troops, preparing for operations against Kiev.

In a March 12 update, he said fighting northwest of the capital continued and the cities of Kharkiv, Chernihiv, Sumy and Mariupol remained surrounded by heavy Russian shelling.

In a multi-pronged attack on Kiev, the Russian push from the northeast appeared to be making progress, a US defense official said, speaking on condition of anonymity to give the US assessment of the fight.

Meanwhile, US President Joe Biden has said that in unison with the G7 group of wealthy nations, Washington will revoke Russia’s “permanent normal trade relations” status, commonly referred to as most favored nation status, to punish President Vladimir Putin for his invasion of Ukraine. .

“The free world is coming together to take on Putin,” Biden said.

With reporting from Reuters, AP and AFP

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