Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has told Italian MPs his country was on the brink of surviving its war with Russia and warned Moscow wanted to break through to the rest of Europe. Zelensky, who has been addressing the Italian parliament by video link in his latest address to national assemblies around the world, said, “For Russian troops, Ukraine is the gates of Europe, where they want to break in, but barbarism must not be allowed to pass.” He repeated his appeal made in prior addresses for more sanctions to be imposed on Russia. Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi said his country wanted to see Ukraine in the EU, and that it must offer military aid to the country to halt massacres.
Zelensky calls for Vatican to mediate
Zelensky has spoken to Pope Francis and suggested the Vatican could play a mediating role in ending the war with Russia. In a post on Twitter, Zelensky said he told the Pope of the “difficult humanitarian situation” and how rescue corridors were being blocked by Russian troops. Zelensky added: “The mediating role of the Holy See in ending human suffering would be appreciated.” It comes after Zelensky said on Monday that Jerusalem could potentially be a location for future top-level peace talks between Ukraine and Moscow.
Ukraine retakes key Kyiv suburb
Ukrainian forces said they retook a strategically important suburb of Kyiv early Tuesday, as Russian forces squeezed other areas near the capital and their attack on the embattled southern port of Mariupol raged unabated. Explosions and bursts of gunfire shook Kyiv, and black smoke rose from a spot in the north. Intensified artillery fire could be heard from the northwest, where Russia has sought to encircle and capture several suburban areas of the capital, a crucial target. Residents sheltered at home or underground under a 35-hour curfew imposed by city authorities that runs to Wednesday morning.
Russians out of Makariv
Early Tuesday, Ukrainian troops forced Russian forces out of the Kyiv suburb of Makariv after a fierce battle, Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said. The regained territory allowed Ukrainian forces to retake control of a key highway and block Russian troops from surrounding Kyiv from the northwest. Still, the Defense Ministry said Russian forces battling toward Kyiv were able to partially take other northwest suburbs, Bucha, Hostomel and Irpin, some of which had been under attack almost since Russia’s military invaded almost a month ago.
Battle for Mariupol rages on
Russian forces also carried on with their siege of Mariupol after the southern port city’s defenders refused demands to surrender, with fleeing civilians describing relentless bombardments and corpses lying in the streets. In Mariupol, with communications crippled, movement restricted and many residents in hiding, the fate of those inside an art school flattened on Sunday and a theatre that was blown apart four days earlier was unclear. More than 1,300 people were believed to be sheltering in the theatre, and 400 were estimated to have been in the art school.
10 million displaced from Ukraine
Moscow’s invasion has driven nearly 3.5 million people from Ukraine, according to the United Nations, with another 6.5 million displaced inside the country. The UN has confirmed over 900 civilian deaths while saying the real toll is probably much higher. Estimates of Russian deaths vary, but even conservative figures are in the low thousands. US and British officials say Kyiv remains Russia’s primary objective. The bulk of Moscow’s forces remain miles from the centre, but missiles and artillery have destroyed apartment buildings and a large shopping mall, which was left a smoking ruin after being hit late Sunday by strikes that killed eight people, according to emergency officials. A senior US defense official said Russia had increased air sorties over the past two days, carrying out as many as 300 in the past 24 hours, and has fired more than 1,100 missiles into Ukraine since the invasion began. Perched on the Sea of Azov, Mariupol is crucial port for Ukraine and lies along a stretch of territory between Russia and Crimea. It had a pre-war population of about 430,000. Around a quarter were believed to have left in the opening days of the war, and tens of thousands escaped over the past week by way of the humanitarian corridors. Other attempts have been thwarted by the fighting. Mariupol officials said on March 15 that at least 2,300 people had died in the siege, with some buried in mass graves. There has been no official estimate since then, but the number is feared to be far higher after six more days of bombardment.
“Hell on earth”
For those who remain, conditions have become brutal. The assault has cut off Mariupol’s electricity, water and food supplies and severed communication with the outside world, plunging residents into a fight for survival, described by some as “hell on earth”. Fresh commercial satellite images showed smoke rising from buildings newly hit by Russian artillery. In all, more than 8,000 people escaped to safer areas Monday through humanitarian corridors, including about 3,000 from Mariupol, Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said.
Football: PSG’s Neymar no longer trains
Paris Saint-Germain are going through a crisis following their Champions League elimination at the hands of Real Madrid and their 3-0 loss to Monaco in Ligue 1, with Brazilian forward Neymar one of the players at the receiving end of criticism. He has been accused by journalist Daniel Riolo of barely training with the rest of his teammates, arriving almost drunk at sessions. “Neymar hardly trains anymore, he arrives in a sorry state, almost drunk,” Riolo told RMC Sport. “Neymar is in a spirit of revenge against PSG,” he said. Fan believe the Brazil international should depart the club, saying “ He’s doing a lot of damage to the club”.