Leave “as soon as possible”. Under the threat of a large-scale Russian offensive, the population of eastern Ukraine is called upon to evacuate or “risk death”, while Kyiv demands from NATO “weapons, weapons and weapons, ” to defend.
Russia, accused of war crimes and abuses against civilians in the areas it occupied, has for its part been hit by new sanctions and will face a vote on Thursday at the UN to suspend it from the Council. human rights.
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“We have to decide as soon as possible. The situation is very degraded”, pleaded the governor of the Lugansk region, in eastern Ukraine, Serguiï Gaïdaï, announcing on Facebook the establishment of “corridors” to evacuate the inhabitants of seven localities on Thursday. region partly occupied since 2014 by pro-Russian separatists.
The day before, 1,200 people had been evacuated from the area.
The new call to leave concerns in particular the city of Severodonetsk, the easternmost held by Ukrainian forces, regularly pounded by Russian forces.
On Wednesday, the inhabitants whom AFP journalists met there felt stuck, like Volodymyr, 38, in front of a burning building. “We have nowhere to go, it’s been like this for days. I don’t know who this war is for, but we are there under the bombs…”
It is the entire Donbass area, as well as the neighboring region of Kharkiv, that the Ukrainian authorities are calling on to evacuate, as Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk insisting on Wednesday that in the event of a Russian offensive, the civilians still there would ” risk death”.
Eastern Ukraine is indeed now the Kremlin’s priority target, and the Russian Ministry of Defense announced Thursday that it had again bombarded four fuel depots supplying Ukrainian forces with missiles overnight.
As a result of this new Russian strategy, the withdrawal of Russian forces from the Kyiv region and the rest of northern Ukraine “is largely complete”, according to a Western military source, even if the redeployment is not yet complete and that Russian forces remain stationed in Belarus, an ally of Moscow, on the northern border of Ukraine.
The Ukrainian authorities therefore fear for the eastern regions of the country a situation similar to that of Mariupol in the south, where thousands of people still stranded in this port city besieged and bombarded for weeks, are living through hell.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Wednesday accused Russia of blocking humanitarian access to Mariupol to hide the “thousands” of victims in this city.
To prepare for the expected offensive, kyiv asks for help from the West.
“I come to ask for three things: arms, arms and arms. The faster they will be delivered, the more lives will be saved and destruction avoided”, thus launched Thursday Dmytro Kouleba, the Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs, who came to Brussels for a meeting with his counterparts from NATO countries.
Dmytro Kuleba, Ukrainian Foreign Minister.
“Ukraine has the right to defend itself. We are going to listen to the needs that will be submitted to us” Mr. Kouleba and “discuss how to respond”, reacted the Secretary General of the Alliance Jens Stoltenberg.
Kyiv is not a member of NATO, but nothing prevents the 30 member countries from providing aid.
Another part of support for Ukraine, economic sanctions, further reinforced on Wednesday by Washington and London after the discovery of dozens of corpses in several localities near Kyiv, including Boucha, after the withdrawal of Russian forces.
Russia denies any abuse and denounces a Ukrainian “provocation”, but US President Joe Biden has castigated “major war crimes” and promised to “stifle for years” the economic development of Russia.
Washington wanted “devastating” this new series of sanctions, which target in particular the big banks and the two daughters of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Putin and his daughter Katerina Tikhonova | AFP and Reuters screenshot
Putin and his daughter Katerina Tikhonova.
According to Washington, Russia could see its economy collapse by some 15% this year.
The Europeans are expected to follow suit on most of these new measures, but still remain divided on energy sanctions, to the chagrin of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky who castigated European “indecision” on Wednesday.
Kyiv even directly accused Hungary on Thursday of undermining “the unity of the EU” and of “helping Putin to continue his aggression against Ukraine”, saying it was ready to buy Russian gas in rubles, contrary to the other countries of the European Union.
The EU is currently examining a fifth set of sanctions which should be approved on Monday and includes for the first time measures in the energy sector, with an embargo on coal purchases from Russia.
And despite the differences between countries more or less dependent on Russian deliveries, the President of the European Council Charles Michel and the head of European diplomacy, Josep Borrell, both estimated that decisions on gas and oil would have to be taken “early or later”.
“We must impose an embargo on Russian oil and gas and I hope that it will not take new atrocities in Ukraine for these sanctions to be decided,” warned Dmytro Kouleba for his part.
Another consequence of the wave of indignation that followed the images of dozens of civilians killed, the 193 member countries of the UN General Assembly are called to vote at 2:00 p.m. GMT on a suspension of Russia from the Human Rights Council. United Nations Man.
To obtain this exclusion, proposed by the United States supported by the United Kingdom, it would take a majority of 2/3 of the countries which will vote for and against during the ballot. A vote heavy with symbols and with an uncertain outcome, according to diplomatic sources.