As the Red Cross renewed efforts to evacuate citizens from the besieged city of Mariupol, Pope Francis on Saturday called Russia’s invasion of Ukraine “childish”.
Speaking during a visit to Malta, the pontiff criticized Russian President Vladimir Putin and his attempt to seize territory from Ukraine.
“Once again a potentate, sadly caught up in anachronistic claims of nationalist interests, is provoking and fomenting conflict, while ordinary people feel the need to build a future that will either be shared or not shared by everything,” the pope said. , reported the Independent.
Shortly after, the pope told reporters on his plane that a trip to kyiv was “on the table,” but offered no further details.
The comments came as the Red Cross sent another convoy to the beleaguered southern port city of Mariupol, battered by continuous shelling since the invasion began five weeks ago.
Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said seven new evacuation corridors were opened on Saturday, including one that would allow battered residents of Mariupol to escape to the city of Zaporizhzhya, and others for towns neighboring cities, as well as towns in the breakaway regions in the east, according to Russia. .
Vereshchuk said 6,266 people were evacuated from cities on Friday, including 771 from Mariupol. Tens of thousands of people are still trapped there with limited access to food and water.
Ukraine and Russia have announced several agreements for civilian evacuations and humanitarian aid shipments in recent weeks, but convoys from both have been blocked. Buses intended for evacuations were often diverted from military checkpoints, while food, water and medical supplies were reportedly confiscated by troops.
Russia has changed tactics in recent days after failing to take a major Ukrainian city in the first month of the war. Troops appear to be withdrawing from suburbs surrounding the capital kyiv and attention has shifted to the eastern region, known as Donbass, which includes two states where Russian-backed separatists have fought Ukrainian troops since 2014.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky claimed that in retreating Russian forces left behind mines and booby traps, around houses, abandoned equipment and even corpses.
“It is still not possible to return to normal life, as before, even in the territories that we take back after the fighting,” Zelensky said in his nightly video message. “We have to wait for our land to be cleared, wait for us to be able to assure you that there will be no new bombardments.”
Separately, Russian forces said they struck the country’s last operational oil refinery, in Kremenchuk, about 180 miles southeast of kyiv.
Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said the refinery was hit by “high-precision long-range air and sea weapons”. The strike destroyed storage facilities containing gasoline and diesel that supplied Ukrainian troops in central and eastern regions of the country, he said.
The attack came a day after Russia accused Ukraine of sending helicopters over the border to bomb a Russian oil depot, which Ukraine denied.
Russia also struck military airfields in Poltava and Dnipro, towns east of Kremenchuk, using high-precision aerial missiles, Konashenkov said, CNN reported.
In other developments:
-The Russian ambassador to the UK said he would consider British artillery and anti-ship weapons as “legitimate targets” if sent to the Ukrainian military. “Any arms delivery is destabilizing,” Ambassador Andrei Kelin told Russian news agency TASS. “They are exacerbating the situation and making it bloodier.”
– Ukrainian war photographer Maxime Levin, 40, became the eighth known journalist killed during the war when his body was found near a village north of kyiv by police, his employer LB.ua said. He had not been heard from since March 13. Ukrainian presidential aide Andriy Yermak confirmed in a Telegram post that “Levin’s body was found near the village of Guta Mezhygirska on April 1, the BBC reported.
– Ukraine has accused Russia of “kidnapping” another government official, this time the deputy mayor of a town in the besieged Sumy region near the Russian border in the north. Oleksiy Shibayev, deputy mayor of Nova Sloboda, was accompanying an aid delivery that was stopped by Russian troops at a checkpoint on Friday.
– The death toll from a rocket strike Tuesday on a government building in the Black Sea port of Mykolaiv has risen to 33, with 34 injured. Rescuers continue to dig through the rubble and remove bodies from the scene.
With pole wires
New York Post