Russia-Ukraine War: Ukrainian defenders engage while Russia increases firepower

Kyiv, Ukraine — A showdown looms in Ukraine after Russia appointed a new military commander and tried to focus its attacks on the east, while Ukraine’s president said his troops were holding their ground and called on western leaders, particularly President Joe Biden, more on that.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy warned in a late night address on Sunday that this week will be as crucial as any during the war, saying: “Russian troops will move to even bigger operations in the east of our state.”

Ukraine’s fate as the war shifts south and east depends on whether the United States will help offset a surge in Russian arms, he said, echoing comments he made in an interview with The Associated Press on Saturday had.

“To be honest, whether we’ll be able (to survive) depends,” Zelenskyy said in a “60 Minutes” interview. “Unfortunately, I don’t have the confidence that we’ll get everything we need.”

Zelenskyy said he was grateful to Biden for US military aid so far, but added that he “a long time ago” submitted a list of specific items that Ukraine urgently needs.

“He has the list,” Zelenskyj said. “President Biden can go down in history as the person who stood shoulder to shoulder with the Ukrainian people who won and voted for the right to their own country. (That) also depends on him.”

Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer was due to meet Putin in Moscow on Monday after meeting Zelenskyy in Kyiv. As a member of the European Union, Austria is militarily neutral and not a NATO member.

Also on Monday, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she would send a military transport plane and a 50-strong support team to Europe to transport much-needed equipment and supplies to key distribution centers.

More than six weeks of war in Ukraine has leveled cities, killed untold thousands and isolated Moscow economically and politically, and experts say the next phase of the struggle could begin with a full-scale offensive that could set the course of the conflict.

Questions remain about the ability of the exhausted and demoralized Russian forces to gain much ground after their advance on the capital Kyiv was repulsed by determined Ukrainian defenders. Britain’s MoD says Russia is trying to compensate for mounting casualties by recalling veterans laid off over the past decade.

In his speech on Sunday evening, Zelenskyy also accused Russia of evading responsibility for war crimes in Ukraine.

“When people lack the courage to admit their mistakes, apologize, adapt to reality and learn, they turn into monsters. And when the world ignores it, the monsters decide it’s the world that has to adapt to them,” Zelenskyy said.

“The day will come when they will have to admit everything. Accept the truth,” he added.

Ukrainian authorities have accused Russian forces of committing war crimes against civilians, including airstrikes on hospitals, a rocket attack that killed at least 57 people at a train station, and other acts of violence.

In another report of atrocities, the village of Buzova outside the capital Kyiv, charred vehicles and buildings marked an area where local official Taras Didych told Ukrainian media on Sunday bodies with “evidence of executions” were found after Russian forces moved had withdrawn from the region. It was unclear how many bodies were discovered.

Buzova is near Bucha, another town near Kyiv where hundreds of bodies were found after the Russian retreat, many with their hands tied and signs of torture. Russia has falsely claimed that the scenes in Bucha were staged.

In Washington, a senior US official said Russia had hired General Alexander Dvornikov, one of its most experienced military chiefs, to oversee the invasion. The officer was not allowed to be identified and spoke on condition of anonymity.

So far, Russia has no central war commander on the ground.

Dvornikov, 60, takes over as the Russian military prepares to focus on expanding control in eastern Ukraine, where Russian-backed separatists have been fighting Ukrainian forces in the Donbass region since 2014 and proclaiming some areas independent.

As the leader of the Russian forces deployed to Syria in 2015 to support President Bashar Assad’s government during the country’s devastating civil war, he achieved a record for brutality.

Russian authorities generally do not confirm such appointments and have said nothing about a new role for Dvornikov, who received the prestigious Hero of Russia medal from President Vladimir Putin in 2016.

US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan downplayed the significance of the appointment on CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday.

“What we learned in the first few weeks of this war is that Ukraine will never be subdued by Russia,” Sullivan said. “It doesn’t matter which general President Putin is trying to appoint.”

Western military analysts say Russia’s attack is increasingly focused on a crescent arc of eastern Ukraine – from Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city, in the north to Kherson in the south.

That could counteract Russia’s previous problem of spreading its offensive too far over too broad a geographic area.

Newly released satellite images from Maxar Technologies showed a 13-kilometer convoy of military vehicles heading south through Ukraine to the Donbass, reminiscent of images of the convoy halted outside Kyiv before Russia gave up an attempt to take the capital.

On Sunday, Russian forces shelled government-controlled Kharkiv and sent reinforcements toward Izyum in the southeast to try to breach Ukraine’s defenses, Ukraine’s military command said. The Russians also besieged Mariupol, a key southern port that has been under attack and surrounded for nearly a month.

A spokesman for the Russian Defense Ministry, Major General Igor Konashenkov, said the Russian military used air-launched missiles to hit Ukraine’s S-300 air defense missile systems in the southern Mykolaiv region and at an airbase in Chuhuiv, a city not far away, Kharkiv.

Russian cruise missiles launched from the sea destroyed the headquarters of a Ukrainian military unit stationed further west in the Dnipro region, Konashenkov said. Neither the Ukrainian nor the Russian military claims could be independently verified.

Rockets twice hit the airport in Dnipro, Ukraine’s fourth-largest city, on Sunday, the regional governor said.

In Mariupol, Russia used Chechen fighters who are considered particularly combative. The capture of the city on the Sea of ​​Azov would provide Russia with a land bridge to the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia captured from Ukraine eight years earlier.

The city’s residents lack food, water and electricity since Russian troops surrounded the city and thwarted evacuation missions. Ukrainian authorities believe an airstrike on a theater used as a bomb shelter killed hundreds of civilians, and Zelenskyy said he expects more evidence of atrocities to be found once Mariupol is unblocked.

On Sunday evening, Zelenskyj again asked for more help. Speaking to Chancellor Olaf Scholz, he said he spoke about “how to tighten sanctions on Russia and … force Russia to seek peace.”

“I am pleased to note that the German position has recently changed in favor of Ukraine. I think that’s absolutely logical,” Zelenskyj said.

The Institute for the Study of War, an American think tank, predicted that Russian forces in the campaign to seize the Donbass, which includes Ukraine’s industrial heartland, would “launch offensive operations” from Izyum, a town southeast of Kharkiv, “in the coming days.” , from will continue.

But according to the think tank’s analysts, “the outcome of the forthcoming Russian operations in eastern Ukraine remains highly questionable.”

Copyright © 2022 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved. Russia-Ukraine War: Ukrainian defenders engage while Russia increases firepower

Dais Johnston

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