(Kyiv) More than six million Ukrainians have fled their country since the outbreak of the Russian offensive, whose gas deliveries to Europe were disrupted Thursday for the second consecutive day.

Poland alone hosts more than half – 3.27 million – of Ukrainians who have gone abroad since February 24, 90% of whom are women and children, said the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Geneva. , noting however that the flow of these departures has dried up considerably over time.

Added to this are the approximately eight million internally displaced people in Ukraine, which before the hostilities had a population of 37 million in areas under the control of its government, Crimea having been annexed in 2014 by the Russia and the eastern areas being controlled by pro-Russian separatists.

Also on Thursday, Ukrainian authorities and witnesses interviewed by AFP accused the Russian military of firing from a tank at a house in a village near Kharkiv, in northeastern Ukrainian territory, killing several civilians.

The American television channel CNN for its part broadcast the same day what it presents as CCTV images showing two Ukrainian civilians shot in the back by Russian soldiers, a case which the Ukrainian prosecutor’s office is investigating.

The scene takes place near a car dealership on March 17, in the suburbs of Kyiv. A group of five soldiers search the two men before letting them go. When they leave, two soldiers shoot at them.

According to Ukrainian Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova, a first Russian soldier is also to be tried soon for having killed a 62-year-old Ukrainian who was riding his bicycle unarmed.

The soldier, Vadim Chichimarine, 21, was traveling with four of his comrades after their convoy was attacked on February 28, she said. They allegedly stole a car in the Sumy region (east) and Vadim Chichimarine allegedly shot the civilian “so that he wouldn’t report them”.

At the same time, in Geneva, the UN Human Rights Council gave the green light to the opening of an investigation by a special commission formed in early March on Ukraine into the atrocities attributed to Russians.

These investigations should be added to those of the International Criminal Court and the Ukrainian authorities already underway.

At the same time, UN representatives in New York called for an end to the bombing of schools in Ukraine, while denouncing their use for military purposes.

On the diplomatic front, the Russian Foreign Ministry has threatened “reciprocal measures”, in particular “military-technical”, Finland, whose top leaders have said they favor joining NATO “without delay”. , in the context of the war in Ukraine.

A prelude to an official candidacy on Sunday from this Nordic country sharing a 1,300 km border with Russia, which has long forced it into a kind of forced neutrality.

On the Western side, the Secretary General of the Atlantic Alliance Jens Stoltenberg, then the German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and the French President Emmanuel Macron assured Finland of their support, as did key elected members of the American Senate.

If she applies, “she will be warmly welcomed into NATO and the membership process will go smoothly and quickly,” Stoltenberg said.

Tensions were also rising around energy issues.

Germany, one of the main European buyers of Russian gas, saw its supply via Ukraine melt by almost 40% in two days.

The Russian giant Gazprom confirmed on Wednesday that the volumes delivered to Europe via Ukrainian territory would drop by nearly 30% on Thursday, after 18% the day before.

Russia and Ukraine blame each other.

Kyiv has said since Tuesday that it can no longer guarantee deliveries via the Sokhranivka facilities, in the Luhansk region (east), due to the presence of the Russian armed forces, and has asked Gazprom to increase the volumes supplied via another point. of transit, that of Soudja.

But Moscow ensures that the transit can be done perfectly through Sokhranivka and that redirecting the flow towards Sudja is impossible.

While the cuts were offset on the German side by gas imported from Norway and the Netherlands, Gazprom appeared ready to further reduce its European deliveries on Thursday by announcing that it would no longer use a key gas pipeline passing through Poland, the Yamal-EuroPol.

German Energy Minister Robert Habeck accused Russia of using energy “as a weapon”.

President Vladimir Putin for his part judged Thursday that the economic sanctions imposed by the West on Russia affected Europe more than his country.

The issue of sanctions and disruptions in gas supplies should be on the menu of Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kouleba’s visit to Germany, where he was due to participate on Friday and Saturday in a meeting with his G7 counterparts (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, United Kingdom and United States).

“Europe must cut off energy oxygen” to Russia and “get rid of its dependence on Russian gas,” Kouleba said on Thursday.

The 27 EU states have been trying to reduce their dependence on Russian hydrocarbons since the start of the conflict, but have so far failed to agree on a gradual cessation of Russian oil purchases.

NATO foreign ministers will also meet on Friday and Saturday to discuss their military support for Ukraine and possibly Moldova as well.

Russia is indeed suspected of wanting to advance its troops to Transdniestria, a pro-Russian separatist region on Moldovan territory.

On Thursday, the Russian army continued its offensive in the Donbass, where it is progressing only slowly, and is trying in particular to take “full control” of the localities of Rubizhne and Severodonetsk, noted the Ukrainian presidency.

Residents of the region who refused to evacuate are often sympathetic to Moscow. “They give the Russians our coordinates, that’s for sure,” a soldier whose nom de guerre is “Zastava” told AFP he met on the front line in Novomykolaivka.

At Kyiv station, the return of Ukrainians who have gone abroad has multiplied since May 9, when Ukraine feared a military action by Russia for the anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany. .

When a train from Poland pulls into the station, shouts of joy ring out.

“We get used to war, to the threat. The fears we had two months ago are different from those of today, ”explains Dana Pervalska, 27, on a platform.



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