KYIV: Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was described on Thursday as “largely stalled on all fronts” as Europe’s largest conflict in 80 years entered its fourth week.
In the besieged city of Mariupol, rescue workers dug survivors out of the rubble of a theater that Ukraine said had been hit by a Russian airstrike while people sheltered there from bombardments.
Russia denied striking the theater, but its forces have blasted cities and killed many civilians in its assault on Ukraine.
Mariupol has suffered the worst humanitarian catastrophe of the war, with hundreds of thousands of civilians trapped in basements with no food, water or power as Russian forces pound it with artillery and airstrikes.
A city mayoral adviser, Petro Andrushchenko, said the number of victims of the strike on the theater on Wednesday was not known, but the shelter had held. “Now the rubble is being cleared,” he said. “There are survivors.”
Satellite pictures showed the word “children” had been marked out on the ground in front of the building before it was hit.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the allegation that Russia had bombed the theater was a “lie,” and repeated Kremlin denials that Russian forces had targeted civilians. “Russia’s armed forces don’t bomb towns and cities,” she said.
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The war has settled into a grinding pattern of sieges of cities, but the Russians have failed to capture a major city in the face of spirited resistance from Ukrainian forces. British military intelligence said the invasion had “largely stalled on all fronts,” and Russian forces were suffering heavy losses.
Northeastern and northwestern suburbs of Kyiv have suffered heavy damage but the capital itself has held firm, under a curfew and subjected to deadly nightly rocket attacks.
A fourth straight day of talks between Russian and Ukrainian negotiators took place by videolink but Western officials said they remained far apart. “Both sides are taking them seriously but there is a very, very big gap between their positions,” one official said.
An aide to President Volodymyr Zelensky said Ukraine was sticking to its core position that it retain sovereignty over areas occupied since 2014 by Russian and pro-Russian forces.
Zelensky addressed the German Parliament by video link that invoked the Holocaust and the Berlin Wall. “Every year politicians repeat ‘never again’,” said Zelensky, who is Jewish. “And now we see that these words are simply worthless. In Europe, a people is being destroyed.”
He accused Germany of helping to build a new wall “in the middle of Europe between freedom and unfreedom” by isolating Ukraine with its business and energy ties to Russia.