Ukraine-Russia war: At least 3,500 protesters arrested in Russia

Vinnytsia airport destroyed by Russian rockets • Russian shelling prevents humanitarian corridors in Mariupol

People demostrate during an anti-war protest called ''Stand with Ukraine'', amid Russia's invasion, in central Brussels, Belgium March 6, 2022 (photo credit: REUTERS/YVES HERMAN)
People demostrate during an anti-war protest called ''Stand with Ukraine'', amid Russia's invasion, in central Brussels, Belgium March 6, 2022
(photo credit: REUTERS/YVES HERMAN)

At least 3,500 people have been arrested in protests throughout Russia, the Russian Internal Affairs Ministry announced on Sunday, according to TASS.

The OVD-Info protest monitor reported that 3,079 protesters had been detained by Russian police in 49 cities on March 6.

About 5,200 people have taken part in what TASS called "unauthorized actions" in Moscow, St. Petersburg and other areas in Russia. The report stressed that Russian authorities had warned that all attempts to hold "actions that were not agreed in the prescribed manner with the executive authorities" would be "immediately suppressed" and the organizers and participants would be held accountable.

Russian forces opened fire at a protest against their occupation of the southern Ukrainian city of Nova Kakhovka on Sunday, wounding five people, Ukrainian news agency Interfax Ukraine said, citing eyewitnesses.

Around 2,000 people had taken to the streets of Nova Kakhovka to show their opposition to the invasion by waving Ukrainian flags and calling on Russian forces to leave, the agency reported. Similar protests were staged in other occupied areas, it said.

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky said Russian rockets had completely destroyed the civilian airport of the central-western region capital of Vinnytsia on Sunday.

Earlier the authorities said emergency services were working to put out fires at the airport caused by the rocket strikes.

Zelensky called again for the creation of a no-fly zone over Ukraine in a Sunday address: "The world has the power to close our skies to Russian missiles, to Russian fighter jets"

Other Ukrainian officials have repeatedly called for a no-fly zone over Ukraine. Western officials have rejected the requests, saying that such a move would mean entering a direct military conflict with Russia. "While someone is afraid to close the skies in Ukraine, our army is doing its job and destroying the enemy," chastised defense minister Oleksii Reznikov.

Read more on the Russia-Ukraine War:

 Local residents work among remains of a residential building destroyed by Russian shelling as a part of the invasion of Ukraine, in Zhytomyr, Ukraine, Mar. 2, 2022.  (credit: Viacheslav Ratynskyi/Reuters) Local residents work among remains of a residential building destroyed by Russian shelling as a part of the invasion of Ukraine, in Zhytomyr, Ukraine, Mar. 2, 2022. (credit: Viacheslav Ratynskyi/Reuters)

Casualties and Refugees

Casualties continued to rise from engagements across Ukraine.

The Russian military was reported to have lost over 10,000-11,000 personnel, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine claimed on Sunday morning. 

They also claimed to have destroyed 285 tanks, 985 armored fighting vehicles, 109 artillery systems, 50 multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS), 21 anti-air systems, 44 aircraft, 48 helicopters, 447 other ground vehicles,  60 fuel trucks, 2 speedboats and 4 UAVs.

The Ukrainian military claimed to have transferred 650 wounded Russian troops to a hospital in the Luhansk region. They were provided with first aid, but the Ukrainians said that they did not have room in their own medical facilities. 

"A total of 2,119 targets of Ukraine’s military infrastructure have been hit during the operation. Among them are 74 command posts and communication points of the Ukrainian Armed Forces; 108 air defense missile systems of S-300, Buk-M1 and Osa, as well as 68 radar stations," Konashenkov said in a Saturday briefing, according to TASS.

TASS reported that Konashenkov also said that Russian forces had destroyed 69 Ukrainian aircraft on the ground and 21 in air combat, in addition to 748 tanks and armored fighting vehicles, 76 MLRS, 274 artillery pieces and mortars, and a further 532 other military vehicles and 59 drones.

 On Saturday night the Ukrainian national guard claimed that 100,000 Ukrainians had joined their volunteer militia. 

Over the past week, 130,000 foreign citizens were said to have left Ukraine, "including 10,000 Indian, 2,500 Chinese and 1,700 Turkmen students," said the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry on Saturday night.

Also on Saturday night, Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed that up to 14,000 civilians have died in the breakaway Donetsk and Lugansk territories since 2014, TASS reported.

The United States has seen very credible reports of deliberate attacks on civilians in Ukraine, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Sunday, adding that Washington was documenting them to support appropriate organizations in their potential war crimes investigation over Russia's actions.

"We've seen very credible reports of deliberate attacks on civilians which would constitute a war crime," Blinken told CNN's "State of the Union" show. "We've seen very credible reports about the use of certain weapons," he said.

"What we're doing right now is documenting all of this, putting this all together, looking at it and making sure that as people and the appropriate organizations and institutions investigate whether war crimes have been or are being committed that we can support whatever they are doing," Blinken added.

Ground combat

Russia is concentrating on creating a land corridor between Luhansk and Donetsk and Crimea, and depriving Ukrainian access to the Sea of Azov and Black Sea, the Ukrainian military claimed in a statement. 

They also claimed that having already invested all the forces allocated for the campaign, Russia is preparing to send additional units from Russia's Eastern, Central and Western military districts.

Russia reportedly continued to encircle Kyiv, Kharkiv, Chernihiv, and Mykolayiv, but a Sunday morning UK Defense Ministry intelligence update said that "The scale and strength of Ukrainian resistance continue to surprise Russia."

Russia "has responded by targeting populated areas in multiple locations, including Kharkiv, Chernihiv and Mariupol," said the intelligence update. "This is likely to represent an effort to break Ukrainian morale. Russia has previously used similar tactics in Chechnya in 1999 and Syria in 2016, employing both air and ground-based munitions."

The Ukrainian forces also said they were defending Chernihiv, and were preparing the defenses of the Volyn province, which is in the north bordering Belarus and Poland. 

A Russian column was claimed to have been stopped as it was advancing from south of Kharkiv in the direction of the river city Dnipro.

"Russian supply lines reportedly continue to be targeted, slowing the rate of advance of their ground forces. There is a real possibility that Russia is now attempting to conceal fuel trucks as regular support trucks to minimize losses," continued the UK Defense Ministry's Sunday intelligence update.

Fighting over the skies of Ukraine

The Ukrainian armed forces have said that they are focusing on air defenses, as both sides have claimed to have downed several jets over the weekend. Despite these losses, Russia has continued to encircle key Ukrainian cities with air support, the Ukrainian military said on Sunday. 

"The Air Force of the Armed Forces of Ukraine has focused its efforts on repelling enemy missile and airstrikes, air cover of important (critical) objects of Ukraine and groups of troops," the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said in a statement on Sunday morning. "In total, as of now, the losses of aircraft of the Russian occupation forces are up to 88 aircraft and helicopters."

Several of these losses were reported over the weekend, as videos have surfaced of aircraft being hit with MANPADS. 

"Several enemy pilots have been captured — These are important witnesses at the upcoming military tribunal," Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov in an address on Sunday morning.
Bayraktar TB2 of the Ukrainian Air Force (credit: MINISTRY OF DEFENCE OF UKRAINE/CC BY 4.0/VIA WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)Bayraktar TB2 of the Ukrainian Air Force (credit: MINISTRY OF DEFENCE OF UKRAINE/CC BY 4.0/VIA WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)

The Russian military in turn claimed that it had shot down several Ukrainian aircraft and destroyed air defense infrastructure.

"More strikes against Ukrainian military infrastructure were carried out today. On March 5 alone, the Russian forces destroyed five radars and two air defense missile systems Buk M-1," Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said, according to Russian state media outlet TASS. "In an air clash near Zhytomyr, four Ukrainian Sukhoi-27 jets were shot down. The air defense system downed one Sukhoi-25 plane near Nezhin. Also, the air defense forces destroyed one Ukrainian Mi-8 helicopter and one Bayraktar TB-2 drone."

Russia claims to have shot down 90 Ukrainian aircraft and 59 drones since the fighting began. 

Zelensky called for its allies to supply it with new aircraft on Sunday. 

"If anyone still doubts, Ukraine needs planes. In fact, it's easy when you have the will. To make the sky safe. The sky of Ukraine. The sky of Europe," Zelensky said. 

The US is discussing the possibility of providing Poland with F-16s if Warsaw sends Soviet-made aircraft it owns to Ukraine, but a White House spokesperson stressed that there were "a number of challenging practical questions, including how the planes could actually be transferred from Poland to Ukraine," according to the Financial Times.

Ukrainian pilots have been trained to fly Russian-made aircraft, meaning that such aircraft are the only ones that could be quickly brought into use by Ukrainian armed forces.

A number of eastern European countries, including Poland, Bulgaria and Slovakia, possess dozens of Russian-made aircraft but have expressed reservations about providing these aircraft to Ukraine amid the Russian invasion.

A Russian aircraft was shot down over the Black Sea by the Ukrainian Armed Forces, the Odessa Regional Military Administration spokesperson Serhiy Bratchuk said in a Sunday Facebook post.

This is the fourth enemy plane shot down in the last three days by Ukrainian air defense units, Ukrinform reported.

Humanitarian corridors delayed again

A convoy of evacuees was not able to leave Ukraine's besieged city of Mariupol on Sunday because Russian forces continued shelling despite a temporary ceasefire agreement, local authorities said.

"It is extremely dangerous to take people out under such conditions," the city council said in an online statement.

A convoy of evacuees was not able to leave Ukraine's besieged city of Mariupol on Sunday because Russian forces continued shelling despite a temporary ceasefire agreement, local authorities said.

"It is extremely dangerous to take people out under such conditions," the city council said in an online statement.

Both the Ukrainian and Russian forces accused one another of interrupting the previous attempts to carry out the evacuation of some civilians on Saturday.