Russia strikes near Ukraine’s capital

LVIV, Mar 12: Russian forces pounding the port city of Mariupol shelled a mosque sheltering more than 80 people, including children, the Ukrainian Government said today.
Fighting also raged on the outskirts of the capital, Kyiv, as Russia’s expanding invasion bombarded cities into rubble.
There was no immediate word of casualties from the shelling of Mariupol’s elegant, city-center mosque. The encircled city of 446,000 people has suffered some of the greatest misery from Russia’s war in Ukraine, with unceasing barrages thwarting repeated attempts to bring in food and water, evacuate trapped civilians and to bury all of the dead.
An Associated Press journalist witnessed tanks firing on a 9-story apartment building in the city and was with a group of hospital workers who came under sniper fire on Friday.
A worker shot in the hip survived, but conditions in the hospital were deteriorating: electricity was reserved for operating tables, and people with nowhere else to go lined the hallways.
Among them was Anastasiya Erashova, who wept and trembled as she held a sleeping child.
Shelling had just killed her other child as well as her brother’s child, Erashova said, her scalp crusted with blood.
“We came to my brother’s (place), all of us together. The women and children went underground, and then some mortar struck that building,” she said. “We were trapped underground, and two children died. No one was able to save them.”
Ukraine’s military said today that Russian forces captured Mariupol’s eastern outskirts, tightening the armed squeeze on the strategic port.
Taking Mariupol and other ports on the Azov Sea could allow Russia to establish a land corridor to Crimea, which it seized from Ukraine in 2014.
In his nightly video message, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy encouraged his people to keep fighting.
“It’s impossible to say how many days we will still need to free our land, but it is possible to say that we will do it,” he said from Kyiv.
In multiple areas around the capital, artillery barrages sent residents scurrying for shelter and air raid sirens wailed. Britain’s Defense Ministry said Russian ground forces massed north of Kyiv for most of the war had edged to within 25 kilometers (15 miles) of the city center and also spread out, likely to support an attempted encirclement.
As artillery pounded Kyiv’s northwestern outskirts, black and white columns of smoke rose southwest of the capital after a strike on an ammunition depot in the town of Vasylkiv caused hundreds of small explosions. A frozen food warehouse just outside the capital also was struck in an apparent effort to target Kyiv’s food supply.
Ukraine’s military and volunteer forces are preparing for a feared all-out assault. Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko has said that about 2 million people, half the metropolitan area’s inhabitants, have left and that “every street, every house … is being fortified.”
Russia’s slow tightening of a noose around Kyiv and the bombardment of other population centers with artillery and air strikes mirror tactics that Russian forces have previously used in other campaigns, notably in Syria and Chechnya, to crush armed resistance.
The Ukrainian Embassy in Turkey said 86 Turkish nationals, including 34 children, were among the people who had sought safety in Mariupol’s mosque of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent and his wife Roksolana, which was modeled on one of the most famous and largest mosques in Istanbul.(PTI)