Russia-Ukraine recap: All eyes on Mariupol

Michael Crimmins, Investigative Reporter

There is no shortage of newsworthy topics here in the United States. At times it is easy to get lost in it all, but equally crucial things happen all over the world.

Currently, the big foreign affair is the Russian-Ukraine crisis. This issue of the Herald’s Global Recap column is devoted solely to the several developments that have occurred this week.

These developments are complex, and it is highly encouraged to follow the links and read referenced stories in full.

Here’s a look at some of the headlines from this past week about the Russian-Ukrainian crisis:

Russian airstrikes on Mariupol continue 

Russia continued its air strikes on the port city of Mariupol on Tuesday after Ukraine declined Russia’s demand to surrender, Reuters reports.

According to the city council of Mariupol, the Russian airstrikes are leaving the city in “ashes of dead land.”

“There is nothing left there,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a video address to Italy’s parliament.

Hundreds of civilians are believed to be trapped in the city with no access to humanitarian aid, Reuters reports. Deputy Mayor Sergei Orlov told reporters Mariupol was completely blockaded by Russian forces.

“The city is under continuous bombing, from 50 bombs to 100 bombs Russian aircraft drops each day… A lot of death, a lot of crying, a lot of awful war crimes,” Orlov said.

Several Western officials said Russian forces appeared to have stalled around Ukraine’s capital city of Kyiv, but Russian forces seem to be gaining ground in the south and east, Reuters reports.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said “no one” thought the operation in Ukraine would only last a couple of days and that everything was going according to plan. That being said, Putin’s chief spokesman conceded in a CNN article that Russia has yet to achieve any of its military goals.

The United Nations human rights office in Geneva estimated on Tuesday that 953 civilians have been killed and 1,557 injured so far in the invasion. However, the Kremlin denies targeting civilians, Reuters reports.

The Ukrainian city of Mariupol has become one of Putin’s focuses because of the city’s location. It lies on the Sea of Azov, and if captured, would link the previously annexed region Crimea with pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine, Reuters reports.

Russian spokesman refuses to rule out nuclear weapons

During a CNN interview, Peskov repeatedly refused to rule out the possibility that Russia would use nuclear weapons in the face of an “existential threat” to the country.

“We have a concept of domestic security and it’s public, you can read all the reasons for nuclear arms to be used,” Peskov told CNN. “So if it is an existential threat for our country, then [the nuclear arsenal] can be used in accordance with our concept. There are no other reasons that were mentioned in that text.”

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres expressed his concerns over the situation on March 14 to the UN assembly.

“The prospect of nuclear conflict, once unthinkable, is now back within the realm of possibility,” Guterres said.

Last month, as the invasion was beginning, Putin ordered the Russian arsenal on high alert and warned the West that any interference would be met with harsh responses in a televised speech.

“No matter who tries to stand in our way or all the more so create threats for our country and our people, they must know that Russia will respond immediately, and the consequences will be such as you have never seen in your entire history,” Putin said.

NATO, US officials fear Belarus could enter war

When Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, it used its neighbor Belarus to host Russian troops on the Ukrainian border to carry out “training exercises.”

Now U.S. and NATO officials believe Belarus could officially join Russia in its war with Ukraine, according to CNN.

According to these officials, Belarus is already taking steps to join in the fighting. NATO military officials said it’s increasingly “likely” for them to send in help.

“[Russian President Vladimir] Putin needs support. Anything would help,” the NATO official said.

A senior NATO intelligence official said the Belarusian government “is preparing the environment to justify a Belarusian offensive against Ukraine.”

The West has applied heavy sanctions on Russia because of its war, but some of the imposed sanctions targeted Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko as well.

CNN reports Belarus moved to change its constitution last month to allow Russian troops and nuclear weapons to remain in the country indefinitely.

U.S. officials have said that there is no evidence of Russian nuclear weapons in Belarus yet, according to CNN.

Investigative Reporter Michael Crimmins can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @michael_crimm.