‘I will turn you into fertiliser on our land’ Mayor issues defiant warning to Putin troops

Military expert reveals why Russia is running out of troops

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As Russia’s war in Ukraine nears its second week, Col Sviatoslav Stetsenko, who once served in the Soviet military with the Russians, has reminded Putin’s troops the country will fight to the death to defend Mykolaiv, a southern port city of around 476,000 about 65 miles from Odesa.

After Russian forces fought to take it for several days, Col Stetsenko said of Ukrainian servicemen’s determination to fight: “Few expected such strength from our people.

“When you haven’t slept for three days and when you only have one dry ration because the rest burned up, when it’s minus temperature out and there is nothing to warm you, and when you are constantly in the fight, believe me, it is physically very difficult.

“But our people endured this.”

Mykolaiv is a critical target that would allow the Russians to push further towards Odesa, Ukraine’s main port, which experts have suggested could give Putin a “chokehold” on the country’s economy by cutting it off from global shipping.

Col Stetsenko, who currently finds himself battling against some of the same soldiers he fought alongside back in the Soviet army, told the New York Times: “They are now my enemy.

“And each one of them who comes here with arms, who comes here as an invader, I will do everything I can to ensure that he remains as fertiliser for our land.”

On Thursday, around 800 Russian vehicles were reported to be advancing to Mykolaiv.

Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said its navy had deliberately sunk the flagship of its Black Sea fleet to prevent Russian troops from seizing it in the event of an assault.

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On Friday, Vitaliy Kim, the region’s governor, said enemy troops had been driven back, leading to a standoff around the city as the enemy seemingly retreated.

He said on his Telegram account: “We don’t shoot anymore. They do not shoot.

“In general, not a fun situation – they seem to be here, but it seems like they are not in the city, sometimes they shoot, protect themselves.

“I can’t call it a victory, because the enemy was not knocked out, not burned, they retreated.”

And fighting continued, with Oleksandr Senkevych, the city’s mayor, confirming Russian troops had targeted a residential building.

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Sharing a video of a block of flats engulfed in flames, he wrote on social media: “There are many shells in the city that did not explode.

“Do not approach, do not lift, and do not try to move them yourself.”

On Sunday, after Russian forces attacked the city’s airport, Ukrainian troops retook control of it.

On Monday, as video footage showed new explosions from military strikes and large plumes of smoke, Mr Kim added in a televised statement: “The roads are open, we control the bridges, you can safely leave Mykolayiv (city) and other towns.”

On the 12th day of the war, Russian attacks have again prevented the evacuation of civilians from across Ukraine.

People in Kyiv, Mariupol, Sumy, Kharkiv, Volnovakha and Mykolayiv have all failed to flee due to intense shelling, with the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry urging global leaders to force Moscow to observe a ceasefire to help avoid a humanitarian catastrophe.

The ministry said in a statement: “This prevents the safe passage of humanitarian columns with Ukrainian and foreign citizens, as well as the delivery of medicines and food.”

On Monday afternoon, a Ukrainian negotiator confirmed there had been small developments in a third round of conflict talks with Russia over potential humanitarian corridors.

It comes as more than 1.7 million Ukrainians are known to have fled Russia’s invasion into Central Europe, the UNHCR said.

If Russia’s bombardment does not stop, the number could fast grow to five million, the EU’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, warned.

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