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What we know — day 41: TUESDAY April 5
The UK Ministry of Defence predicted on Monday that fighting between Russian and Ukrainian forces to the north of Kyiv would “diminish significantly” this week after Ukraine’s military retook much of the area surrounding the capital.
Volodymyr Zelensky warned that Russians would begin a campaign to “hide their guilt” in the territories of Ukraine that remain under Moscow’s control, after its troops retreating from Kyiv’s suburbs in recent days left behind the corpses of hundreds of civilians.
Russian and Ukrainian military claims cannot be independently verified.
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Russian forces reached the outskirts of the Ukrainian capital within days of the initial invasion. Since then, progress has been slowed by strong resistance. Ukraine claims its counteroffensives have successfully regained territory in recent days.
Russia and Ukraine agreed on 12 humanitarian corridors in March allowing civilians to flee to safety, as well as enabling the transportation of humanitarian aid, including medicine, amid continued attacks on civilians, civilian infrastructure and facilities by Russian forces.
Oksana Pokalchuk, executive director of Amnesty International in Ukraine, told the Financial Times: “Humanitarian corridors are the only opportunity for civilians to run away from the hell they are experiencing.”
She added: “In Mariupol, Chernihiv, Izyum, Trostianets, Slavutych, Irpin, Hostomel and many other cities, hundreds, thousands of people remain in hell right now without water, food, electricity, gas and heating.”
The International Committee of the Red Cross has called for agreement on modalities, timing and locations of safe passage routes, and for timely information dissemination down the military chain of command and to civilians to ensure routes are respected.
The number of Ukrainians fleeing the conflict reached 10mn by March 21, the UN’s refugee agency reported. This includes 6.5mn displaced inside the country, highlighting the growing refugee crisis.
The country taking the highest number of refugees is Poland, with more than 2.1mn alone.
Civilian casualties included 549 deaths and 957 injuries by March 11, the UN said, amid concerns over Russia’s indiscriminate targeting of civilian infrastructure and facilities as well as the use of siege warfare.
Joanne Mariner, director of crisis response at Amnesty International, told the FT on March 14: “Given the patterns we are seeing, we can say with a pretty high degree of certainty that Russian forces have committed war crimes.”
On March 13, 35 people were killed by a Russian air strike on a Ukrainian base just 15km from the Polish border. The attack on the military base, which had been used by US troops to train Ukrainian soldiers, was the latest in Russia’s increasingly direct threats that Nato’s continued support of Ukraine risks making it an enemy combatant in the war. On March 24, Nato agreed to establish four new multinational battle groups in Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia, to add to troops in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland.
On February 28, Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan indicated he would invoke a clause in the 1936 Montreux Convention that allows Ankara to curb the passage of naval vessels belonging to warring parties through the Dardanelles and Bosphorus straits. “We have the authority and we have decided to use it in a way that will prevent the crisis from escalating,” he said.
Russia’s multipronged invasion suggests the plan is to advance south towards Kyiv from Belarus, encircle Ukraine’s forces in the east and cleave the country from the Russian border to the Black Sea.
On February 22, Russia’s president Vladimir Putin recognised the separatist governments in Luhansk and Donetsk, two provinces in the eastern Donbas region of Ukraine, and ordered Russian troops to enter them. On February 24, Moscow began a full-scale invasion of the country.
Sources: Institute for the Study of War, Rochan Consulting, FT research
Cartography and development by Steve Bernard, Chris Campbell, Caitlin Gilbert, Emma Lewis, Joanna S. Kao, Sam Learner, Ændra Rininsland, Niko Kommenda, Alan Smith Martin Stabe, Neggeen Sadid. Based on reporting by Roman Olearchyk and John Reed in Kyiv, Guy Chazan in Lviv, Henry Foy in Brussels, Neggeen Sadid in London