Ukraine Evacuates Civilians From Besieged Sumy, But Millions Remain Trapped By Fighting With Russia

Ukraine evacuated convoys of civilians from the besieged northeastern city of Sumy on Tuesday, as renewed Russian shelling forced an interruption in evacuations and millions of people remained trapped in other areas cut off by the Russian advances.

With heavy fighting continuing across the country on day 13 of the Russian invasion, the civilian toll mounted, as did international efforts to find a way to press Russian President Vladimir Putin to stop the war. The number of people forced to flee Ukraine has now passed two million, with a further one million displaced inside the country after fleeing their homes, the United Nations refugee agency said on Tuesday.

In a statement President Biden announced plans for the US to ban oil and natural gas imports from Russia. Photo: Getty Images

The Biden administration is planning to ban Russian oil imports into the US, according to people familiar with the matter, as Washington looks to inflict further economic pain on Mr. Putin, who has shown no indication he would bow to global condemnation of the war that he started.

In the southeastern city of Mariupol, where efforts to implement a cease-fire failed for the fourth day in a row, residents have gone without power, cellphone coverage or water supplies for more than a week. Russian forces pounded Mariupol’s residential neighborhoods Tuesday as the city’s defenders refused to surrender. The city’s elected mayor, Vadim Boychenko, said Tuesday that children in the city of 400,000 have started dying of dehydration.

“My heart is full of pain and hatred of the fascists who have blocked our beloved Mariupol,” he said. “Something that we thought was impossible in the 21st century is happening today. It’s frightening news for Europe, and a frightening reality for Ukraine. “

Around the strategic town of Izyum, eastern Ukraine, Russian forces advanced as they attempted to encircle some of the country’s most hardened forces in the Donbas region. Ukraine continued to repel Russian attempts to break into the southeastern port city of Mykolaiv, the gateway to Odessa. Some 3,000 civilians managed to flee from the contested town of Irpin, northwest of the capital, Kyiv.

At least 700,000 people lacked electricity and heating across the country because of the destruction of civilian infrastructure, Ukrainian officials said. The country’s second-largest city of Kharkiv has been hit heavily by Russian attacks, with many of its 19th-century and early 20th-century buildings downtown reduced to rubble.

Civilians fled the city of Sumy as Ukraine and Russia agreed on a limited cease-fire there; residents said soldiers ransacked their homes in Irpin; Ukrainian President Zelensky posted defiant video messages. Photo: Emilio Morenatti / Associated Press

Russia keeps preventing an evacuation from Mariupol despite agreements reached via the International Committee of the Red Cross, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Tuesday. “War crimes are part of Russia’s deliberate strategy,” he said.

In Sumy, a regional capital of 260,000 people, Russian aerial bombardments overnight hit several residential high-rises, killing 19 adults and two children, the regional prosecutor’s office said. The regional government added that Ukrainian forces using Turkish-made drones were able to hit and destroy three Russian columns moving to attack the city.

Ukraine Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said Tuesday that, in an agreement with Russia brokered by the ICRC, civilians would be able to start leaving Sumy towards the city of Poltava in the morning, and that no combat activity would be conducted in the area until 9 pm, offering the opportunity to resupply Sumy’s population with food and medicine.

Rescuers picked through the rubble of a destroyed school in Chernihiv, Ukraine.


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str / Agence France-Presse / Getty Images

Emergency service workers in Zhytomyr tackled a fire at an oil depot following Russian airstrikes.


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Cover Images / Zuma Press

In the late morning, civilians in Sumy started boarding evacuation buses, and the first convoy, mostly made up of foreign students, safely reached Poltava. As the second convoy was about to depart, a Russian convoy including a tank on the city’s outer ring road came close to a Ukrainian checkpoint and opened fire, said Sumy Gov. Dmytro Zhyvytski in a video message. The evacuation effort resumed later, with buses and private cars leaving the city for Poltava.

“This incident has confirmed that there is no 100% security in leaving the city. Decide for yourselves whether it is more dangerous to stay or to leave, ”Mr. Zhyvytski told Sumy’s residents.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said Tuesday it had opened what it said were humanitarian corridors out of Kyiv, Chernihiv, Kharkiv and Mariupol in addition to Sumy. Ukrainian officials said that only the one out of Sumy has been coordinated by both sides, for now. Russia is offering to organize the evacuation of Ukrainian civilians to Russia or to the Russian-controlled statelets in the Donbas area of ​​eastern Ukraine, something that Kyiv rejects.

A third round of talks between Russia and Ukraine on how to end the war, held in Belarus on Monday, failed to achieve much progress as Kyiv refused to accept Russian demands that it recognize the 2014 annexation of the Crimean Peninsula by Russia and the independence of the Russian-created statelets in the Donbas region. Despite the Russian offensive, Ukrainian forces continued to hold most of the population areas in Donbas that they controlled before the invasion began.

“The discussion is difficult and talking about something positive is too early,” Russia’s chief negotiator, presidential aide Vladimir Medinsky, said after the talks.

Areas seized as of Saturday

Direction of invasion forces

Controlled by or allied to Russia

Primary refugee crossing locations

Ukraine territory, recognized by Putin as independent

Chernobyl

Not in operation

Controlled by

separatists

Areas seized as of Saturday

Direction of invasion forces

Controlled by or allied to Russia

Ukraine territory, recognized by Putin as independent

Primary refugee crossing locations

Chernobyl

Not in operation

Controlled by

separatists

Areas seized as of Saturday

Direction of invasion forces

Controlled by or allied to Russia

Primary refugee crossing locations

Ukraine territory, recognized by Putin as independent

Chernobyl

Not in operation

Controlled by

separatists

Areas seized as of Saturday

Direction of invasion forces

Controlled by or allied to Russia

Primary refugee crossing locations

Ukraine territory, recognized by Putin as independent

Areas seized as of Saturday

Direction of invasion forces

Controlled by or allied to Russia

Primary refugee crossing locations

Ukraine territory, recognized by Putin as independent

The Russian and Ukrainian foreign ministers are tentatively scheduled to meet on the sidelines of an international conference in Antalya, Turkey, on Thursday.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky released a selfie video from his office in the presidential palace in Kyiv, showing the familiar cityscape outside his window and pledging no surrender. “We are all here, working where we have to be. We are all at war, making a contribution to our victory, which is inevitable, ”he said. Russian state media continued reporting that Mr. Zelensky had fled the country.

Every day of continuing Ukrainian resistance creates a better negotiating position for Kyiv to end the war and guarantee the country’s peaceful future, Mr. Zelensky said.

In Izyum, eastern Ukraine, much of the city has been destroyed in the past several days by Russian bombing and artillery, said Natali Kirkach, who heads a volunteer group that has been evacuating civilians from there. “Conditions are still desperate and thousands still need to leave,” she said. The city has been without power for five days, and thousands of civilians have taken shelter at a tourist base near a monastery in the nearby town of Sviatohirsk, she said.

A barricade of sandbags was erected in central Odessa.


Photo:

Iryna Nazarchuk / REUTERS

A woman on a train headed for Poland from Lviv.


Photo:

Justyna Mielnikiewicz / MAPS for The Wall Street Journal

The Russian infantry has penetrated the northern part of Izyum up to the northern bank of the river that bisects it, Ms. Kirkach said. Bridges on the river have been blown up, and the Ukrainian army was pushing back to regain control Tuesday morning, Ukrainian officials said.

In Kharkiv, “the enemy has slowed down its offensive operations because all its attempts to enter Kharkiv are being repelled,” Gov. Oleh Synehubov said. “Our military has a high fighting spirit, and they keep receiving new weapons every day.”

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau joined British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte for talks on Ukraine in London on Monday. “We recognized the Ukrainians’ heroic efforts, and we’ll keep working together — and with others — to respond to these blatant violations of international law.” Trudeau wrote on Twitter.

Polish President Andrzej Duda, in remarks after a phone call with Mr. Zelensky, said that if Mr. Putin believed that “by tearing down houses and killing civilians, he will break the will and spirit of the Ukrainians, he is wrong.”

Returning from a trip to the Polish-Ukrainian border, the site of continuing flows of refugees westward, Secretary of State Antony Blinken wrote on Twitter that he was “inspired by the Polish people’s welcoming of Ukrainian refugees after seeing it firsthand. The US and Poland will continue to work together to respond to Russia’s aggression in Ukraine. ”

Mr. Blinken spoke with Ukraine’s Mr. Kuleba about joint efforts to end “Putin’s war of choice.”

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz spoke Monday with Mr. Johnson, President Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron and called on Russia to end the war immediately. “It leads to dramatic human suffering,” Mr. Scholz said.

A Red Cross station provided hot meals for refugees in Lviv.


Photo:

Justyna Mielnikiewicz / MAPS for The Wall Street Journal

Family and friends gathered around a grave during a joint funeral in Lviv for two soldiers who died during fighting in eastern Ukraine.


Photo:

Dan Kitwood / Getty Images

Write to Yaroslav Trofimov at yaroslav.trofimov@wsj.com and Brett Forrest at brett.forrest@wsj.com

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