A destroyed apartment building in the city of Mariupol  (ALEXANDER ERMOCHENKO)

By Stefan J. Bos 

March 31 2022

Moscow plays down hopes of a breakthrough following peace talks between Russian and Ukrainian delegates in Istanbul, Turkey. Fighting has continued in several areas as the Russian invasion of Ukraine enters its 6th week.

Young men whose Iives have barely begun battle for control over the port city of Mariupol. Russian forces fired at Ukrainian positions as an older woman carefully walked nearby between the rubble of destroyed buildings, footage showed. 

Thousands of civilians, including children, have been killed here, and analysts warn Russia is close to taking the city altogether. 

The clashes come as a Kremlin spokesman says there was nothing very promising or any breakthroughs achieved during Tuesday’s Ukrainian-Russian peace talks in Turkey. 

And Ukrainian officials claim Russia is shelling nearly all cities on the front line in the eastern Donetsk region. 

However, Russia pledged Tuesday to pull back forces from the capital Kyiv and another city, Chernihiv.

Losing ground? 

Western officials say this reflects failures to gain ground in many areas. It would be welcome news for Ukrainians trying to defend Kyiv.

Among them is Arthur Pereverziev, who shows off his anti-tank weapon. “The first time I was holding this thing was two weeks ago. I was assigned to this unit and to this position to fight,” he said. “So it blasts over the top of the tank where the armor is the biggest point. And it fires through the whole thing, and it could even ignite the whole ammunition inside. So it could blow up like a candle. You know we are defending Kyiv. It is not that we are far from the capital, so the stakes are high,” Pereverziev added. 

As Russian forces lost ground around the capital, they stepped up attacks against civilian targets. 

“This is a nightmare and a horror,” a desperate woman said as she walked through her bombed-out apartment.

In one of the most significant attacks in Kyiv, some eight people died when Russian forces pounded a shopping mall. Moscow claimed it was used to hide rockets and mobile launchers, charges Ukraine denies. 

Despite ongoing clashes and harsh rhetoric on both sides, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said initial signs from peace talks were “positive.” But he hastened to add that the negotiations, in his words, do not “drown out” the explosions of Russian shells

European and American officials have warned that only Russia’s actions, not words, can be judged. They advised against Ukraine dropping its guard in Europe’s bloodiest war in decades. -Vatican News