Russian forces stepped up strikes overnight on suburbs of Kyiv and renewed their efforts to capture the important port city of Mariupol in the south as Ukrainian and Russian negotiators prepared for more talks aimed at reaching a cease-fire.
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A series of Russian strikes hit a residential neighborhood of Kyiv, igniting a huge fire in an apartment building in the west of the Kyiv. At least two people were killed and 27 people were rescued from the building, Ukraine’s emergency services said on Facebook.
The Ukrainian military said in a statement that artillery fire struck the residential area adjacent to the suburb of Irpin, which has seen some of the worst battles of the war. Overnight and early morning strikes also hit Hostomel and Bucha, the head of the Kyiv region, Oleksiy Kuleba, said on Ukrainian television.
Kyiv Major Vitali Klitschko announced a 35-hour curfew on March 15, warning that, as Russian forces step up their strikes and close in, the capital faces a “difficult and dangerous moment.”
Russian forces also unleashed new artillery strikes on the eastern city of Kharkiv, the general staff of Ukraine’s armed forces said on Facebook, and overnight shelling destroyed a runway and damaged the terminal at the airport in the eastern Ukrainian city of Dnipro, said Valentin Reznichenko, governor of the region.
A man in the town of Trostyanets in the Sumy region said he expects to have to bury his father in the backyard of their home after he was unable to hire a burial service or bury him himself. Volodymyr Toryanyk said Russian troops have fully destroyed the cars of one burial service, while others are scared to provide services.
Complicating matters further, Toryanysk told Current Time that Russian troops have placed a checkpoint and armed military personnel at the town cemetery and they fired on him and others when they started digging a grave for his father.
The situation in Melitopol, also in the southeast, remains tense, according to a resident quoted by Current Time, who gave her name only as Inna.
Russian troops have abducted an activist and the chief of a district administration in Melitopol, where the mayor, Ivan Fedorov, was abducted last week by Russians troops, triggering protests and calls by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy for his immediate release. Ordinary people also have started disappearing, Inna said.
“The city is on the edge of a humanitarian catastrophe,” she said. “The shelves in shops and drug stores are emptying and there is no gasoline. Russian troops only allow humanitarian cargo from Crimea to reach the city, but the majority of people reject that kind of assistance.”
The troops have also robbed them of their telephones and use them to call their families back in Russia, she said.
WATCH: At least two high-rise buildings in the capital’s Svyatoshyn district were heavily damaged and set ablaze. RFE/RL correspondent Levko Stek reported from the site of another attack in the city’s Kurenivka district that killed one person and injured 10 on March 14.
Ukraine faced new problems trying to deliver humanitarian aid to the southeastern city of Mariupol on March 15, Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said.
Vereshchuk said a convoy with supplies for Mariupol was stuck at nearby Berdyansk and accused Russia of lying about fulfilling agreements to help trapped civilians.
The city of some 400,000 inhabitants has been besieged by Russian troops for days and cut off from the rest of the country. Local officials estimate that more than 2,300 civilians have been killed in the siege.
An additional 2,000 civilian cars were able to drive out of Mariupol on March 15 along a designated humanitarian evacuation route. A convoy of about 160 civilian cars was allowed to leave the day before, the city council said on Telegram, adding that a further 2,000 vehicles were waiting to leave.
The statement did not specify how many people left in the vehicles. Verashchuk said convoys of private cars were not sufficient to get people out of Mariupol and demanded that buses be let through.
Zelenskiy said talks between Ukrainian and Russian delegations were to continue on March 15. Speaking in a video address, Zelenskiy said that the Ukrainian delegation did good work during talks on March 14. He provided no further details.
The latest negotiations, the fourth round involving high-level officials, were held by video and were the first in a week. The talks ended with the two sides expressing some optimism.
With reporting by AP, AFP, and Reuters