As the days go by, a Russian offensive that at first seemed unstoppable seems to be losing steam, and the Ukrainian authorities reported on Tuesday that the advance of the Kremlin's army has slowed down, coming to a halt in some parts of the country. President Volodymir Zelensky's advisor, Oleksii Arestovich, said in a televised speech. "The pace of the enemy's advance has slowed down considerably, and in some directions it has practically stopped. The forces that continue to advance do so in small groups," the official said.
In recent days, Russian forces have seized the towns of Mykolaiv and Kherson, and are now battling to take control of Mariupol, a town that would allow them to create a corridor from the Donbas region in the east of the country to the Crimean peninsula, cutting off Ukrainian access to the Black Sea. "Ukrainian forces continue to conduct a defence operation within the southern, eastern and northern operational zones," read the official Facebook account of the General Command of the Ukrainian Armed Forces.
In Kiev "the situation is under control", said the capital's mayor, Vitali Klitschko, who encouraged his fellow citizens: "The enemy will not pass. We will defend our city, our homes, our country. "We understand that the city of Kiev is the aggressor's target. We are doing everything we can to make every street, every building, every checkpoint a fortress," Klitschko said.
Meanwhile, the first evacuations of civilians through humanitarian corridors agreed by the two powers got underway today. While in the towns of Irpin and Sumi - where a Russian attack tonight killed more than 20 people - the evacuations were carried out in an orderly and peaceful manner, the corridor from Zaporiyia to Mariupol was shelled by Russian soldiers, according to the Ukrainian authorities. However, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has assured EFE that it is not taking part in the evacuations, despite the fact that the trucks carry the organisation's emblem.
"Russia is holding 300,000 civilians hostage in Mariupol and is preventing humanitarian evacuations despite agreements mediated by the International Red Cross", denounced the foreign minister, Dmitro Kuleba, on his Twitter account. "Eight trucks and 30 buses are ready to deliver humanitarian aid to Mariupol and evacuate civilians to Zaporiyia. The pressure on Russia must be intensified so that it fulfils its commitments," he said.
However, the total number of refugees forced to leave the country has been growing steadily in recent hours, generating one of the fastest upward curves since World War II. The UN has already reported more than 2 million refugees, 300,000 more people than 24 hours ago, while the first displaced people have already begun to arrive at more distant borders, such as northern Italy.
For its part, the international community has pressed ahead with the imposition of sanctions. One of the most important measures of the day came from the Biden administration, which announced a block on imports of Russian crude oil and natural gas from Tuesday. Despite talks among Western powers to adopt this measure jointly, so far only Washington, unilaterally and without the support of any other country, has implemented this sanction.
"Russian imports account for about a third of all European oil imports," said White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki. "In 2021, before the invasion, the US was importing about 700,000 barrels a day and the Europeans were importing about 4.5 million barrels a day, so we're very aware that the implications would be very different for each. For his part, the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, has warned Europe that ending dependence on Russian gas and crude oil is now an "imperative", since Moscow is using the continent's energy security "as a weapon", as reported by CNN.
In this line, the European Union has confirmed that it is working on a plan to expel the Russian company Gazprom from the European market. This Brussels strategy involves classifying natural gas deposits as "critical infrastructure" in order to be able to demand their sale to any owner considered a threat to the region's energy security. Meanwhile, the Commission is open to considering "all possible options" to "limit the contagion effect of gas prices" on electricity prices, which continue to reach record highs.
Other measures taken by international organisations, such as NATO, have been aimed at reinforcing military contingents in the territories bordering Ukraine, as announced by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Monday. The head of the Alliance warned Vladimir Putin that "there are credible reports of attacks against civilians, and this is a war crime, and it is totally unacceptable". According to Stoltenberg, the German prosecutor's office has unilaterally announced the opening of an investigation into possible war crimes committed by Russian troops on Ukrainian territory. These include attacks on residential areas, the use of cluster bombs or methods of warfare prohibited by international conventions.
So far, the Kiev authorities have reported more than 11,000 casualties among Russian forces, while Moscow has not confirmed more than 500 deaths in its ranks. Ukrainian deaths are still unknown, but according to the Ukrainian government the number of civilian casualties rose to more than 2,000 yesterday, although the UN has as of today confirmed only 474 dead.