Updates from Day 83 of the war
Ukrainian defenders begin evacuating from Mariupol steel plant.
8 reportedly killed in Russian airstrike in Chernihiv, in northern Ukraine.
Missile strike reported in Lyiv, western Ukraine near Polish border.
Finnish government approves bid for NATO membership.
US Treasury Secretary Yellen calls on West to help finance short-term Ukraine needs.
Ukraine’s military said on Tuesday it was working to evacuate all remaining troops from their last stronghold in the besieged port of Mariupol, ceding control of the city to Russia after months of bombing.
The evacuation of hundreds of fighters, many wounded, to Russian-held towns, likely marked the end of the longest and bloodiest battle of the Ukraine war and a significant defeat for Ukraine. Mariupol is now in ruins after a Russian siege that Ukraine says killed tens of thousands of people in the city.
“The ‘Mariupol’ garrison has fulfilled its combat mission,” the General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces said in a statement.
“The supreme military command ordered the commanders of the units stationed at Azovstal to save the lives of the personnel… Defenders of Mariupol are the heroes of our time,” it added.
Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Anna Malyar said 53 injured troops from the steelworks were taken to a hospital in the Russian-controlled town of Novoazovsk, some 32 kilometers to the east, while another 211 people were taken to the town of Olenivka, in a controlled area by Russian-backed separatists.
All of the evacuees will be subject to a potential prisoner exchange with Russia, she added.
WATCH | On board a Canadian flight delivering aid to Poland, to eventually reach Ukraine:
About 600 troops were believed to have been inside the steel plant. Ukraine’s military said efforts were under way to evacuate those still inside.
“We hope that we will be able to save the lives of our guys,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in an early morning address. “There are severely wounded ones among them. They’re receiving care. Ukraine needs Ukrainian heroes alive.”
At least seven buses carrying surrendered Ukrainian fighters left the Azovstal steel works escorted by pro-Russian armed forces on Tuesday, a Reuters witness said.
Some of the Ukrainian fighters being transported did not appear to be wounded, the witness said.
Reuters saw five buses carrying troops from Azovstal arrive in Novoazovsk late on Monday. In one, marked with Z like many Russian military vehicles in Ukraine, men were stacked on stretchers on three levels.
A Russian defense ministry statement confirmed that fighters holed up in the Azovstal steel plant had surrendered, and that those who needed medical treatment were sent to a hospital in Novoazovsk.
The Kremlin said President Vladimir Putin had personally guaranteed the prisoners would be treated according to international standards.
Heavy shelling reported
Ukrainian fighters in recent days have driven Russian forces out of the area near Kharkiv, the largest city in the east, having earlier held the capital Kyiv and its surrounds.
But fierce fighting and shelling continued across a broad area of the country’s east.
WATCH | Ukrainians reeling from Kharkiv attacks as Russians retreat:
Zelensky’s office said on Tuesday the entire front line around Donetsk is under constant massive shelling, while in the northern region of Chernihiv, a missile strike on the village of Desna killed and wounded an unspecified number of people.
Ukraine’s general staff said Russian forces were reinforcing and preparing to renew their offensive near Slovyansk and Drobysheve, southeast of the strategic town of Izyum, having suffered losses elsewhere.
Areas around Kyiv and the western city of Lviv, near the Polish border, have continued to come under Russian attack. A series of explosions struck Lviv early on Tuesday, a Reuters witness said. One missile hit a military facility but there were no casualties, according to Zelensky’s office.
Russia’s defense ministry said on Tuesday that its missiles destroyed US and European arms shipments in Ukraine’s western Lviv region.
Ukraine also took losses in the north near its shared border with Belarus. Eight people were killed and 12 wounded in a Russian airstrike on the village of Desna in Chernihiv, the regional emergency service said.
A village in Russia’s western province of Kursk bordering Ukraine came under Ukrainian fire on Tuesday, regional Governor Roman Starovoit said. Three houses and a school were hit but there were no injuries, he said.
Russian border guards returned fire to quell the shooting from large-caliber weapons on the border village of Alekseyevka, Starovoit wrote on messaging app Telegram.
Reuters could not immediately confirm details of battleground accounts.
Finland legislature approves NATO bid
Finland’s parliament on Tuesday approved a proposal to apply for membership in the NATO military alliance, with 188 votes in favor and eight against, parliament’s Speaker Matti Vanhanen said.
The vote followed a two-day debate regarding a historic policy shift prompted by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
President Sauli Niinisto and the government officially decided on Sunday that Finland would apply for membership but the decision is pending Parliament’s approval, which is expected with an overwhelming majority.
Sweden held a similar vote on Monday, as the developments promise to end decades of military neutrality by the Nordic countries.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, a NATO member, has objected to allowing Sweden and Finland to join NATO, saying they failed to take a “clear” stance against Kurdish militants and other groups that Ankara considers terrorists, and imposed military sanctions on Turkey.
All 30 current NATO members must agree to let the Nordic neighbors join.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Tuesday that Finland and Sweden joining NATO would probably make “not much difference” as the two countries had long participated in the alliance’s military drills.
“Finland and Sweden, as well as other neutral countries, have been participating in NATO military exercises for many years,” Lavrov said.
“Let’s see how their territory is used in practice in the North Atlantic alliance,” he added.
Putin launched the invasion on Feb. 24 in what he said was an effort to check NATO’s expansion but has seen that strategy backfire. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has said the membership process for both could be quick.
The White House said Thursday it will welcome the Swedish and Finnish leaders to Washington to discuss their bid to join the alliance.
Ukraine requires $ 5B per month for basic needs: Yellen
With the war shuttering as much as half of Ukraine’s economy, the country requires near-term external financing of about $ 5 billion US per month to meet basic needs, according to Zelensky and the International Monetary Fund.
WATCH | Canada’s ambassador to Ukraine on flights beginning next week bringing refugees:
US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen called for US allies to step up financial support for Ukraine at the Brussels Economic Forum on Tuesday, saying that the country’s financing needs are significant and the funds announced so far would not be enough for the country’s short-term needs as it battles a Russian invasion.
“In the months until tax collection can resume at peace, Ukraine needs budget funding to pay soldiers, employees and pensioners, as well as to operate an economy that meets its citizens’ basic needs,” Yellen said. “In short order, it will need to turn to repairing and restoring critical utilities and services.”
The European Union on Wednesday is set to propose a new package of loans to Ukraine to provide immediate liquidity, along with commitments for longer-term reconstruction. While the short-term package is still being defined, two officials familiar with the discussions told Reuters they expected it to roughly cover Ukraine’s financial needs for two months.