Ukraine-Russia War: Russian navy commander killed in Mariupol

Russia strikes school in Mariupol acting as shelter for 400 • Another round of ceasefire negotiations 'could start on Monday'

 A view shows service members of pro-Russian troops and tanks during Ukraine-Russia conflict on the outskirts of the besieged southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine March 20, 2022 (photo credit: REUTERS/ALEXANDER ERMOCHENKO)
A view shows service members of pro-Russian troops and tanks during Ukraine-Russia conflict on the outskirts of the besieged southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine March 20, 2022
(photo credit: REUTERS/ALEXANDER ERMOCHENKO)

A senior naval commander in Russia's Black Sea Fleet has been killed in Ukraine, the governor of Sevastopol said on Sunday.

Post-Captain Andrei Paliy, deputy commander of the fleet, died during fighting in the eastern Ukrainian port city of Mariupol, Governor Mikhail Razvozhayev said on the messaging app Telegram.

The Russian navy did not respond to a request for comment. Sevastopol, which is a major base of Russia's Black Sea Fleet, is located on the Crimean peninsula, which Moscow annexed from Ukraine in 2014.

Fighting between Ukrainian and Russian forces is going on inside the eastern Ukrainian port city of Mariupol, regional governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said in a televised interview on Sunday. A Mariupol school sheltering 400 Ukrainian civilians was hit by a Russian airstrike on Saturday, the Mariupol city council said on Sunday morning. 

The city said that the art school was the hiding place of women, children, and the elderly. The building was destroyed, and the shelter is still under the rubble, making it difficult to determine the status of the civilians hiding at this time.

  A view shows a residential building which was damaged during Ukraine-Russia conflict in the besieged southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine March 18, 2022 (credit: REUTERS/ALEXANDER ERMOCHENKO) A view shows a residential building which was damaged during Ukraine-Russia conflict in the besieged southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine March 18, 2022 (credit: REUTERS/ALEXANDER ERMOCHENKO)

The city council also alleged that Russian forces transferred Mariupol residents to Russia or to the separatist Donbas region. The leadership of the besieged port city claimed that the expelled residents are having their Ukrainian passports confiscated, and being issued a new identification paper.

"Every war criminal will be held accountable for his crimes against humanity, against the people of Mariupol," the city council said in a statement. The news of the airstrike comes on the heels of a Wednesday incident in which Russian forces allegedly bombed a theater where civilians were sheltering.

"These are the ruins of the drama theater in Mariupol, where hundreds of civilians hid," Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said. "I want to ask multinational companies still working with or in Russia: how can you keep doing business with them?"

Read more from The Jerusalem Post's coverage of the Russia-Ukraine War:

Russia to Ukraine: Relinquish control of Mariupol

Ukrainian nationalists are to blame for the "humanitarian catastrophe" unfolding in Mariupol, Russia's defense ministry claimed on Sunday night according to Russian state-owned news agencies. 

The ministry said Ukrainian leadership has been given until the early hours of Monday morning to announce the surrender of the southern port city, which 330,000 Ukrainians were evacuated from since the start of the war, according to the ministry.

The defense ministry also claimed humanitarian corridors from Mariupol will be opened, both east and westward, on Monday, RIA reported.

Later on Sunday, adviser to Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky Oleksiy Arestovych said talks between Russia and Ukraine could resume on Monday, Ukrinform reported. Arestovych made the announcement on national Ukrainian TV, citing Ukraine's chief negotiator Mykhailo Podolyak.

Limited Russian advances amid indiscriminate shelling

In a Sunday intelligence update, the UK defense ministry warned that Russia "increased its indiscriminate shelling of urban areas resulting in widespread destruction and large numbers of civilian casualties."

"It is likely Russia will continue to use its heavy firepower to support assaults on urban areas as it looks to limit its own already considerable losses, at the cost of further civilian casualties," the ministry added.

There have been few changes in the battle lines of the Russia-Ukraine War, the general staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said on Sunday morning, as the British defense ministry stressed no Russian progress has been made.

"Over the past week Russian forces have made limited progress in capturing these cities," said the ministry on Sunday.

The Russian military spent Saturday replenishing losses, repairing damaged equipment, and transferring foreign mercenaries to the border of Ukraine, the Ukrainian military claimed. The Ukrainian Intelligence Directorate claimed that 14,700 Russian soldiers had been killed in action by Sunday night, though US estimates are half of that.

The Russian defense ministry on the other hand said that it hit 62 Ukrainian military sites on Saturday night, including 3 command posts, one multiple launch rocket system (MLRS), two arms stockpiles, and one fuel depot, according to TASS. The ministry also claimed that it had killed more than 100 Ukrainian soldiers and foreign mercenaries in a strike near Zhytomyr, which is west of Kyiv. RIA reported that it was a major training base for foreign volunteers.

According to RIA, pro-Russian separatists had seized a total of 98 population centers by Saturday.

Ukraine also claimed that on Saturday Russia had lost another 2 warplanes, 3 helicopters, 16 tanks, 22 armored vehicles, 1 anti-air system, 35 ground vehicles, 8 artillery pieces, and 5 UAVs. Russia has launched 1080 projectiles since the beginning of the invasion of Ukraine, the Ukrainian state Twitter account claimed late Saturday night.

Civilian casualties

At least 902 civilians have been killed and 1,459 injured in Ukraine as of midnight local time on March 19, the UN human rights office (OHCHR) said on Sunday. Most of the casualties were from explosive weapons such as shelling from heavy artillery and multiple-launch rocket systems, and missile and airstrikes, OHCHR said.

The actual toll is thought to be considerably higher since OHCHR, which has a large monitoring team in the country, has not yet been able to receive or verify casualty reports from several badly hit cities including Mariupol, it said.

The Ukrainian state Twitter account claimed 112 Ukrainian children have been killed and 140 wounded since the beginning of the conflict. They also stated that 559 schools, 117 medical facilities and thousands of homes had been destroyed.

Ukraine issues Belarus warning

The Ukrainian military again warned on Sunday of signs of preparation by Belarus to invade Ukraine.

"The direct involvement of Belarusian troops in the Russian armed aggression against Ukraine, contrary to the will of the military and the vast majority of the Belarusian people, will become a fatal mistake of Alexander Lukashenko," Ukraine's armed forces warned.

"Russia starts conscripting population living in occupied Donbas to reinforce its armed forces fighting in Ukraine," Ukrainian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Oleg Nikolenko alleged on Saturday night.

"The [Donbas] units formed in this way are characterized by extremely low combat training, discipline and morale," the Ukrainian Intelligence Directorate claimed on Saturday.  They asserted that those being recruited from separatist regions were by used as an advanced vanguard, described by the directorate as "cannon fodder" to detect Ukrainian firing positions. 

The directorate claimed that one of the Donbas reconnaissance units had lost about 60% of its personnel, and others were refusing to fight.

The directorate also claimed on Sunday that recruitment from Russia's military youth movement was being considered.