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On Friday morning, Russian forces bombed an area near Lviv, the Ukrainian city located 80 kilometers from the Polish border, which has so far been affected in a rather limited way by the fighting that is taking place mainly further east. The airport area was hit by artillery, although the damage appears to have been limited to an aircraft repair depot that was empty at the time.
Lviv is important because it is the fundamental crossing point for many refugees trying to escape from war zones: many continue towards the Polish border, but hundreds of thousands have stopped in the city. In Lviv there are also all the Western diplomats, where their embassies in Kiev had been transferred in recent weeks, as well as most of the journalists.
The attacks on Lviv have so far been infrequent, and always carried out from a long distance: the Russian forces are hundreds of kilometers away, and do not directly threaten the city. But the bombing is a sign that Russia may want to expand the conflict to those parts of Ukraine that have not been affected by the war so far.
The situation on the ground
In the last few hours – as has been the case for a week now – the Russian army has not made any major territorial conquests. Both in the north (where the clashes are concentrated on the capital Kiev) and in the east (where there is fighting mainly around the second city of the country, Kharkiv) and in the south (where the Russian army has been trying for days to conquer Mariupol and Mykolaiv) the forces Russians are practically blocked, or in any case very slow in their progress.
Various military analyzes argue that the Russian army is reorganizing itself: that, especially in Kiev, it is bringing new men and vehicles to the front from the rear. However, it is a matter that has been talked about practically from the early stages of the invasion, for example when, at the beginning of March, satellite photos showed a huge convoy of vehicles reaching Kiev, but which, however, in the following days had stopped and then missing. It is therefore information that must be taken with a little caution.
If the advance overland has stopped, the same is not true for bombing. They continue on to Kiev, but between Thursday and Friday Kharkiv in particular was hit hard: on Thursday the bombs destroyed a school in Merefa, a city a few kilometers away, causing more than 20 deaths. During the night, however, some shops in the suburbs were bombed, and one of the firemen who had arrived to put out the fire died following an explosion.
The bombings in Mariupol also continue, the city under siege where the humanitarian situation is desperate: according to local authorities, on Thursday 80 percent of the city’s buildings had been damaged or destroyed by Russian bombs.
The Mariupol Theater
On Wednesday, Russian forces bombed the Mariupol Theater of Dramatic Art, a large building in the city center that was well known for being a refuge for civilians: after the building was largely destroyed, it was feared for many hours. that the hundreds of people inside (1,200, mostly women and children, according to local authorities) had been killed.
Instead, it seems that much of the underground structure of the theater has held up, and that many people are still alive. This does not mean that the situation is under control. Civilians are trapped under the rubble, and rescue operations are made very complicated by the continuous bombing of Russian forces: digging to recover the trapped people means exposing oneself to new attacks. For this reason, the extraction of the survivors among the ruins of the theater is proceeding slowly, and amidst enormous problems: so far about 130 people have been pulled out.
The “humanitarian corridors”
Unlike last week, these days it has been extremely difficult to establish “humanitarian corridors” in the cities most affected by Russian bombing to allow civilians to escape, despite numerous attempts by the Ukrainian authorities to find agreements with Russian forces. As early as Thursday, the government tried to open seven new “corridors”, but the project failed because the Russians refused to stop bombing.
In some circumstances, however, extemporaneous but still sufficiently effective solutions have been found. In Mariupol, for example, Russian forces have been allowing the passage of private cars for a few days. They do not allow the escape of large convoys by buses, nor the arrival of humanitarian aid in the city, but about 30,000 people managed to escape by traveling by car. In all, more than 400,000 people live in the city and the complete evacuation of civilians is still a long way off.
How are diplomatic talks going
The Russian and Ukrainian delegations have continued to speak practically since the beginning of the invasion, but to no avail. In recent days, the Ukrainian authorities in particular had expressed greater optimism on the possibility of reaching an agreement on the end of the war, or at least on a ceasefire, but in the night Antony Blinken, the American secretary of state, said he was pessimistic: there they are signs that Russia is “preparing to stop” the invasion, he said. “The actions we see that Russia is taking every day, practically every minute, are in absolute contrast to any serious diplomatic effort to stop the war.”
Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky continues to turn to parliamentary assemblies in Western countries to ask for weapons and aid.
On Thursday he did so in front of the German Bundestag, with a moving speech in which he evoked the Holocaust and called for a stronger reaction from Europe. As always, Zelensky was greeted with applause, but his requests for help were ignored. Indeed, the German Chancellor Olaf Scholz he said that we must “give diplomacy a chance”.
Things to expect Friday
The most anticipated event is undoubtedly the scheduled phone call between US president Joe Biden and Chinese president Xi Jinping. China is holding an ambiguous stance on the Ukrainian war, but seems to be leaning more and more towards Russia. Biden is expected to warn the Chinese president that helping Russia could have serious consequences.