KHERSON, Ukraine (AP) — Fleeing shelling, civilians left the southern Ukrainian town on Saturday that they had celebrated taking over a few weeks earlier.
The exodus from Kherson came as Ukraine solemnly remembered a Stalin-era famine and sought to ensure that Russia’s war in Ukraine did not deprive others around the world of its food exports. vital.
A line of trucks, vans and cars, some towing trailers or carrying pets and other goods, stretched for a kilometer or more on the outskirts of Kherson city.
Days of heavy shelling by Russian forces prompted a bittersweet exodus: Many civilians were happy that their town had been recaptured, but lamented that they could not stay.
“It’s sad that we’re leaving our house,” Yevhen Yankov said, as the van he was in drove up. “Now we are free, but we have to leave, because there are shellings and there are deaths among the population.”
Sticking her head out from behind, Svitlana Romanivna added: “We went through real hell. Our neighborhood was burning, it was a nightmare. Everything was in flames.
Emilie Fourrey, emergency project coordinator for aid group Doctors Without Borders in Ukraine, said an evacuation of 400 patients from the psychiatric hospital in Kherson, located near both a power plant and the front line, had started on Thursday and was expected to continue for years to come. days.
In recent days, Ukraine has faced an avalanche of Russian artillery fire and drone attacks, with the shelling particularly heavy in Kherson. Often the barrage has largely targeted infrastructure, although civilian casualties have been reported. Repair crews across the country were working to restore destroyed heat, power and water services.
Russia has stepped up its attacks on critical infrastructure after suffering setbacks on the battlefield. A prominent Russian nationalist said on Saturday that the Russian army does not have enough doctors, in what was a rare public admission of problems within the army.
In the capital Kyiv, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy oversaw a busy diplomatic day, hosting several European Union leaders for meetings and hosting an “International Food Security Summit” to discuss the country’s food security and agricultural exports . A UN-brokered deal with Turkey has allowed safe Ukrainian grain exports to the Black Sea amid wartime disruptions that have affected traffic.
“The total amount we have raised for ‘Grain from Ukraine’ is already around 150 million dollars. The work continues,” Zelenskyy said in his evening televised address. “We are preparing up to 60 ships. All together, we are not content to send Ukrainian agricultural products to the countries that are suffering the most from the food crisis. We reaffirm that hunger must never again be used as a weapon.
The Belgian, Polish and Lithuanian Prime Ministers and the Hungarian President were present, many others participated by video. Zelenskyy said more than 20 countries are supporting the summit.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said Ukraine – despite its own financial difficulties – had allocated 900 million hryvna ($24 million) to buy maize for countries including Yemen, Sudan, Kenya and Nigeria .
Our food security summit was supported by more than 20 countries. The total amount we have raised for “Grain from Ukraine” is already around 150 million US dollars. The work continues. We are preparing up to 60 ships. All together, we are not content to send Ukrainian agricultural products to the countries that are suffering the most from the food crisis. We reaffirm that hunger must never again be used as a weapon.
The food supply reminder was timely: Ukrainians were marking the 90th anniversary of the start of the “Holodomor,” or Great Famine, which killed more than 3 million people in two years as the Soviet government under dictator Josef Stalin confiscated food and grain. and expelled many Ukrainians.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz marked the commemoration by drawing parallels with the impact of the war against Ukraine on world markets. Ukraine’s exports have resumed under a UN-brokered deal, but are still far from pre-war levels, pushing up world prices.
“Today we are united in declaring that hunger must never again be used as a weapon,” Scholz said in a video message. “This is why we cannot tolerate what we are witnessing: the worst global food crisis in years with dire consequences for millions of people – from Afghanistan to Madagascar, from the Sahel to the Horn of Africa “.
He said Germany, together with the United Nations World Food Programme, would provide an additional €15 million for new shipments of grain from Ukraine.
Scholz speaks as a group of cross-party lawmakers in Germany seek to pass a parliamentary resolution next week that would recognize the 1930s famine as “genocide”.
Last year, Ukraine and Russia provided around 30% of the world’s exported wheat and barley, 20% of its corn and more than 50% of its sunflower oil, according to the UN.
In a message posted on the Telegram social network on Saturday, Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said that more than 3,000 specialists from a local utility continued to work “around the clock” and managed to restore heat to more than more than 90% of residential buildings. While around a quarter of Kyiv residents were left without electricity, he said the water service had been returned to everyone in the city.
The scramble to restore power came as Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo met with Zelenskyy in Kyiv on Saturday.
“This winter could be difficult,” he said, referring to Belgium’s contributions of generators and support for schools and hospitals in Ukraine, as well as military aid such as “fuel, machine guns, propelled artillery, etc.”.
“And by standing here, we hope we bring you hope and resilience in the fight through this difficult time.”
Keaten reported from Kyiv, Ukraine.
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