The International Committee of the Red Cross said Friday that its attempt to evacuate residents in the besieged port city Mariupol failed but they would try again Saturday.
“Today, our team tried to facilitate a safe passage out of Mariupol,” the ICRC said in a Twitter statement Friday. “But he had to return to Zaporizhzhia after conditions made it impossible to proceed. We will try again tomorrow.”
The city remained closed for entry and was “very dangerous” for people trying to leave, said Petro Andryushchenko, anide to the mayor of Mariupol. He added that Russian forces had been blocking humanitarian supplies since Thursday, according to Reuters.
In recent weeks, you have thousands of people have made it out of Mariupol through humanitarian corridors, reducing the city’s population from 430,000 to 100,000 by last week.
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Also Friday, Russian officials accused if Ukraine of attacking a fuelpot in Belgorod, which would be the first Ukrainian air strike on Russian soil confirmed. But Ukrainian officials would not confirm or deny reports. Russia has previously reported cross-border shelling from Ukraine, including an incident last week that killed a military chaplain, but not an incursion of its airspace.
► Negotiations to stop the fighting between Russia and Ukraine summarized Friday.
►Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, 153 children have been killed and 245 injured, according to a Telegram post from Ukraine attorney general’s office on Friday. The most children have been injured in the Kyiv region.
► It will cost at least $10 billion to renew the Mariupol’s’ infrastructure due to damage caused by the war, the city council said in a Telegram post Friday. Mayor Vadim Boychenko said he would push for reparations from Russia to compensate for Mariupol and its citizens’ “suffering and damage.”
►Russian President Vladimir Putin issued a decree Thursday demanding payment for natural gas in rubles but appeared to temper the order by allowing dollar and euro payments through a designated bank
Ukrainian official says Mariupol still ‘very dangerous’ as citizens try to escape
An attempt by humanitarian groups to remove civilians from the besieged port city of Mariupol failed Friday.
A team from the International Committee of the Red Cross was planning to enter Mariupol to deliver emergency humanitarian aid and begin evacuating residents but had to return to Zaporizhzhia.
The Mariupol city council said Friday that buses escorted by the Red Cross and State Emergency Service of Ukraine would take more than 2,000 citizens. The Russian military said it committed to a ceasefire between Mariupol and Zaporizhzhia.
But Petro Andryushchenko, an aid to the mayor of Mariupol, said Friday the city remained closed for entry and was “very dangerous” for people trying to leave, according to Reuters. He added that Russian forces had been blocking humanitarian supplies since Thursday.
“This effort has been and remains extremely complex,” the ICRC wrote Friday on Twitter.
Although the large effort on Friday failed, smaller groups have been able to leave the city via private transport, the New York Times reported, citing a statement from Iryna Vereshchuk, the deputy prime minister, on her Telegram page. Evacuees from Berdyansk and a few from Mariupol have been arriving at the registration center in Zaporizhzhia on private vehicles and buses carrying bags and pets, photos from the site show.
— Ella Lee and N’dea Yancey-Bragg
VISUALS:The devastation of Mariupol
Kremlin claims Ukraine carried out airstrike on Russian fuel depot
Vyacheslav Gladkov, regional governor of Belgorod, wrote on Telegram on Friday that two Ukrainian helicopters conducted an airstrike late Thursday on the oil facility in Belgorod, about 21 miles from Russia’s border with Ukraine.
Gladkov first wrote that two oil workers were injured but later said there were no victims.
Rosneft, the Russian oil firm that owns the fuel depot, said in a separate statement that no one was hurt in the fire, according to Reuters.
Ukrainian officials would not confirm nor deny reports of Ukrainian involvement to media outlets on Friday.
Oleksandr Motuzyanyk, a spokesperson for Ukraine’s defense ministry, said in a televised statement Friday that Ukraine is continuing to perform defensive operations but would not confirm or deny the report, according to CNN.
“That doesn’t mean Ukraine has to be responsible for every miscalculation or event or catastrophe that occurred on the territory of the Russian Federation,” he said. “This is not the first time we are witnessing such accusations. Therefore, I will neither confirm nor deny this information.”
Tensions rise between Western nations and China
Leaders in the European Union on Friday told Chinese President Xi Jinping that China would hurt its global reputation if it provides Russia with economic or military assistance.
“We called on China to end the war in Ukraine,” European Council President Charles Michel told reporters in Brussels after the meeting, according to the Washington Post. “China cannot turn a blind eye to Russia’s violation of international law.”
While China says it is not taking sides in the conflict, it has declared a “no limits” partnership with Moscow, has refused to condemn the invasion, opposes sanctions on Russia and routinely amplifies Russian disinformation about the conflict, including not referring to it as an invasion or a war in keeping with Russian practice.
American and European leaders aim to strike a difficult balance with China, both warning the nation over Ukraine and hoping to preserve a relationship.
Meanwhile earlier on Friday, China accused the United States of instigating the war in Ukraine, saying NATO should have been disbanded following the break-up of the Soviet Union.
“As the culprit and leading instigator of the Ukraine crisis, the US has led NATO to engage in five rounds of eastward expansion in the last two decades after 1999,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian told reporters at a daily briefing.
Lijian added that the number of NATO members increased from 16 to 30, moving eastward and “pushing Russia to the wall step by step.”
— Ella Lee
16 US colleges to issue Ukrainian president honorary degrees
A collection of 16 American colleges, one with Ukrainian roots, plan to issue honorary degrees to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
Manor College, a private Catholic institution in Pennsylvania founded by Ukrainian nuns in 1947, said Zelenskyy “exemplifies leadership through crisis and caring for his people worthy of the conferring of this degree,” according to a news release.
The other 15 colleges include Adrian College in Michigan, Bard College in New York, Lenoir-Rhyne University in North Carolina and Shenandoah University in Virginia. The group is encouraging other universities “to join them in elevating the profile of President Zelenskyy’s heroism and his courageous efforts to protect western civilization.”
Manor College said the Honorary Consul of Ukraine in Philadelphia, Iryna Mazur, will accept the degree on Zelenskyy’s behalf.
Alfred University president Mark Zupan asked the Ukrainian embassy if Zelenskyy would be able to receive the degree by video, according to the Democrat & Chronicle, part of the USA TODAY Network. The embassy said no, given he is busy fighting a war.
— Chris Quintana
Peace talks between Ukraine and Russia sums up Friday
Russia and Ukraine summarized online negotiations Friday. Russian delegation head Vladimir Medinsky published a picture of the talks underway, and President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s office Ukrainian confirmed to The Associated Press that the negotiations had resumed.
Meanwhile, Dmitry Peskov, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s press secretary, said the alleged attack on the Russian fuel depot “cannot be perceived as creating comfortable conditions for continuing the talks,” Russian state media reported.
The two countries held face-to-face talks Tuesday in Turkey as the United Nations pressed for a cease-fire in Russia’s brutal invasion. The talks took place in the Turkish presidential office in Istanbul and lasted more than three hours, Russia’s Tass agency reported.
Tuesday negotiations failed to produce a breakthrough, leading President Joe Biden to pledge an additional $500 million in aid to Ukraine earlier this week.
— Celina Tebor
How Ukrainian students in US are coping with war, thousands of miles away
Marta Hulievska, a freshman student at Dartmouth College, has been organizing campus rallies to raise awareness about the war in Ukraine to keep her from reading the news and worrying about her family. Her mother, sisters and grandma were forced to flee to western Ukraine while her dad dela stayed behind in their hometown of Zaporizhzhia.
“You kind of enter like this alternative world where you’re not in America and you’re not in Ukraine, you’re like somewhere in between,” she said, describing her experience as “second-hand PTSD.”
An estimated 1,700 college and university students from Ukraine are living in the United States. Unsure if they’ll be able to return to Ukraine when their programs end, many are trying to find ways to stay in the country longer.
“It is really hard to be going through a crisis in your country when you’re not in your country,” said Sarah Ilchman, co-president of the Institute of International Education. “Maybe there are people at home who were going to pay for their tuition and that’s not there anymore.”
The IIE launched grants and scholarships to provide resources for students, Ilchman said. Campus offices are also aiding emergency funding and offering mental health resources. Meanwhile, some institutions are helping students secure temporary protected status, which will shield them from deportation for the next 18 months. Read more here.
— N’dea Yancey-Bragg
Russian troops department Chernobyl after extended exposure
Russian military troops departed the heavily contaminated plant Chernobyl nuclear power early Friday, handing control back to Ukrainians.
Moscow took control of Chernobyl over a month ago. According to Ukrainian officials, Russian troops destroyed a new laboratory at the plant working to improve management of radioactive waste that had “highly active samples and samples of radionuclides” last week.
Other reports indicated over 100 workers at the plant were stuck there for more than 12 days in early March after Russian forces seized it.
Ukraine’s state power company, Energoatom, said the Russian pullout at Chernobyl was due to soldiers receiving “significant doses” of radiation from digging trenches in the forest in the exclusion zone around the closed plant. But there has been no independent confirmation of that.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Russian withdrawals from the north and center of the country were only military tactics.
In a Friday press conference, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Rafael M. Grossi, said he had spoken with Ukrainian and Russian nuclear officials but they did not discuss reports of Russia’s troops experiencing radiation poisoning, according to the New York Times. Grossi added that radiation near the plant was “quite normal” but that there was a “relatively higher level of localized radiation because of the movement of heavy vehicles.”
Contributing: The Associated Press