[guest post by Dana]
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Ukrainian troops, dug in, continue to defy the odds:
A Russian ultimatum to Ukrainian troops in Mariupol to surrender or die expired on Wednesday afternoon with no mass capitulation, but the commander of a unit believed to be holding out in the besieged city said his forces could survive just days or hours.
Ukraine said it had so far held off an assault by thousands of Russian troops attempting to advance in what Kyiv calls the Battle of the Donbas, a new campaign to seize two eastern provinces Moscow claims on behalf of separatists.
In a video, the commander of Ukraine’s 36th Marine Brigade, one of the last units believed to be holding out in Mariupol, asked for international help to escape the port city’s siege.
“This is our appeal to the world. It may be our last. We may have only a few days or hours left,” said Major Serhiy Volyna in a video uploaded to Facebook. “The enemy units are dozens of times larger than ours, they have dominance in the air, in artillery, in ground troops, in equipment and in tanks.”
In the ruins of Mariupol, site of the war’s heaviest fighting and worst humanitarian catastrophe, Russia was hitting the last main Ukrainian stronghold, the Azovstal steel plant, with bunker-buster bombs, Kyiv said.
President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said an estimated 1,000 civilians were sheltering at the plant. He said he remained ready to swap Russian prisoners of war in exchange for safe passage for the trapped civilians and Ukrainian soldiers.
Dozens of civilians later boarded a small convoy of buses in Mariupol that then departed to Ukraine-controlled territory, two Reuters witnesses said.
Mariupol city authorities said earlier on Wednesday they were hoping to evacuate about 6,000 people under a preliminary agreement with Russia – the first in weeks – on establishing a safe corridor.
In an ongoing effort help Ukraine hold off Russia’s advance, last week President Biden pledged an enormous $800-million military aid package:
The newly announced assistance includes a wide range of weapon systems for the Ukrainian military designed to help them fight off the superior heavy forces Russia is putting into the field. The transfer includes Howitzer artillery, armored personnel carriers and Mi-17 helicopters, and a dozen advanced radar systems. It also sends the Ukrainians multiple tank-killing systems, including 500 Javelin missiles, 300 Switchblade drones and thousands of other anti-armor weapons.
The desperation of trapped Ukrainians is just heartbreaking:
Woke up to a video of a Mariupol defender begging the world to get them and civilians out, because they are outnumbered and have days, if not hours left to live. There are more than 500 wounded soldiers and over 1000 civilians sheltering there at Azovstal pic.twitter.com/oFHrooapEr
— Anastasiia Lapatina (@lapatina_) April 20, 2022
At the same time, Reuters is reporting that there are expected protests today at the G20 meeting in Washington:
Western nations are preparing to stage coordinated walk-outs and other diplomatic snubs to protest against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine at Wednesday’s meeting of G20 finance ministers in Washington, their officials said.
While some in Western capitals argue that Russia’s actions should mean it is excluded from global meetings altogether, that is not a view shared by others in the Group of 20 big economies, including notably China and Indonesia, which is chairing the group this year.
Moscow confirmed on Tuesday Finance Minister Anton Siluanov would lead Russia’s delegation at the talks despite repeated protestations by Western diplomats that they could not go ahead as usual during a war in which thousands of civilians have died in bombardments by Russian troops.
This sums up my feelings about this, and I’m pretty sure yours as well:
I cannot believe that Russia is even allowed to attend the G20 meeting. How is this even possible? https://t.co/VQr1Zx5hNl
— Bill Browder (@Billbrowder) April 20, 2022
I also wanted to post part of Alexander Navalny’s Twitter thread addressing France because it certainly speaks to Americans who also call themselves conservatives yet support Putin and his invasion of Ukraine:
Finally, CNN has vetted different charities that are providing humanitarian aid to Ukraine. If you are interested, go here to see what charities are on the list and how you can help.