Ukraine is struggling to hold back Russian advances to the south and east, while the Kremlin seeks to seize the Donbass region

KHARKIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian forces on Saturday fought to stem a Russian advance in the south and east of their country, where the Kremlin is trying to seize the industrial Donbass region, and Western military analysts said Moscow’s offensive is progressing much more slowly than planned.

The United Nations continued to try to broker an evacuation of civilians from the increasingly hellish ruins of Mariupol, a southern port city that Russia has been trying to seize since it invaded Ukraine more than nine weeks ago.

Citizens are “begging to be rescued” from a steel mill that has become Mariupol’s last defense stronghold, Mayor Vadym Boichenko said on Friday. “It’s not a matter of days. It’s a matter of hours.” An estimated 2,000 fighters were holed up in the facility along with around 1,000 civilians.

Two Ukrainian women whose husbands are members of the Azov Regiment of the Ukrainian National Guard said they feared soldiers would be tortured and killed if left behind and captured by the Russians. They requested a Dunkirk-style mission to evacuate the fighters, a reference to the World War II operation launched to rescue the surrounded Allied troops in northern France.

“We can do this extraction operation … which will save our soldiers, our civilians and our children,” Kateryna Prokopenko, 27, told The Associated Press. “We have to do this now because people are dying — every hour, every second.”

For other developments:

– Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in an interview that Russian and Ukrainian negotiators talk to each other “almost every day”. However, he told China’s state news agency Xinhua that “progress has not been easy.”

– A former US Marine was killed while fighting alongside Ukrainian forces, his family said, in what would be the first known combat death of an American in the war. The US has not confirmed the report.

– The mayor of the city of Popasna in eastern Ukraine, Nikolai Khanatov, says that two buses going there to evacuate residents were shot at and that contact with the drivers was lost.

– Russian air defense forces spotted a Ukrainian military plane over Russia’s Bryansk region and attempted to repel the plane. Two grenades fell on a village, said regional governor Alexander Bogomaz. No one was injured, but an oil terminal sustained some damage, Bogomaz said.

It has been difficult to get a full picture of the unfolding battle to the east, as airstrikes and artillery fire have made it extremely dangerous for reporters to move about. Both Ukraine and Moscow-backed rebels fighting in the east have also imposed severe restrictions on reporting from the combat zone.

In terms of numbers, Russia’s military manpower far exceeds that of Ukraine. In the days leading up to the war, Western intelligence estimated that Russia had up to 190,000 troops stationed near the border; The standing military of Ukraine is about 200,000 spread across the country.

But so far in the month since Moscow announced it would focus its military strength on eastern Ukraine, Russia’s troops and separatist forces appear to have made little gains in the Donbass.

Partly because of the stubbornness of the Ukrainian resistance, the US believes the Russians are “at least a few days behind where they wanted to be” as they attempt to encircle Ukrainian troops in the east, said a senior US defense official, speaking under conditions of the Anonymity to discuss the assessment of the American military.

Britain’s Ministry of Defense gave a similar assessment in its daily assessment of the war, saying it believes Russian forces in Ukraine are likely suffering from “lower morale” along with a lack of unit-level capabilities and “inconsistent air support”. She did not say on what basis she made the assessment.

Despite the village-by-village struggle for ground gains in Donbass, Russia’s promised offensive could still materialize. In total, the Russian army has an estimated 900,000 active personnel. Russia also has a much larger air force and navy than Ukraine and possesses tactical nuclear weapons.

In Mariupol, around 100,000 people are said to be still in the city with little food, water or medicine. UN spokesman Farhan Haq said the organization is negotiating with authorities in Moscow and Kyiv to create conditions for safe passage.

Ukraine has blamed the failure of numerous previous evacuation attempts on continued Russian shelling.

For those staying in the Soviet-era Azovstal Steelworks, a vast underground network of tunnels and bunkers offers security from air raids. But the situation got worse after the Russians dropped “bunker busters” and other bombs on the plant, the mayor said.

Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, told Saudi Al-Arabiya TV that the real problem is that “humanitarian corridors are being ignored by Ukrainian ultranationalists.”

Moscow has repeatedly claimed that right-wing Ukrainians are thwarting evacuation efforts and using civilians as human shields. The claims have not been verified.

The Azov Regiment, which helps defend the steel mill, has its roots in the Azov Battalion formed in 2014 by far-right activists at the start of the separatist conflict in eastern Ukraine.

In additional comments released by Xinhua on Saturday, Lavrov said Russia had evacuated over 1 million people from Ukraine since the war began, including more than 300 Chinese civilians.

The foreign minister did not offer any evidence for his claim in the interview. Ukraine has accused Moscow of forcibly sending Ukrainians out of the country.

Lavrov also partly blamed “the bellicose rhetoric and inflammatory actions of Western supporters of the Kiev regime” for the lack of progress in discussions about an end to the war. Every evening, Russian state television brings guests who propose that Moscow use nuclear weapons in the conflict.

In his nightly video address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused Russia of destroying Donbass and everyone who lives there.

The constant attacks “show that Russia wants to clear this territory of all people,” he said.

“If the Russian invaders can even partially realize their plans, then they will have enough artillery and aircraft to turn the entire Donbass to stones, as they did Mariupol,” Zelenskyy said.

In a neighborhood on the outskirts of Kharkov that’s regularly shelled by Russian forces, some residents stayed in their homes even though the buildings had charred gaping holes. There’s no running water or electricity, so they gather outside to cook on the open flame.

Ukrainian reservists, who were staying in a nearby basement, said the Russians hit the buildings with rockets, artillery and tank fire.

“A tank can come at close range and fire all of its ammunition at residential areas. It doesn’t matter where. And it’s impossible to figure out where it’s going to fire,” said Vladislav, who, like others in the unit, would only give his first name.

Another reservist, nicknamed Malysh, expressed frustration at not being able to do more to stop the Russian advance.

“I took up arms, but unfortunately I can’t catch and throw back missiles in flight with my bare hands,” he said.

In the nearby village of Ruska Lozava, hundreds of people were evacuated after Ukrainian troops retook the town from the Russian occupiers, according to the regional governor. Those who fled to Kharkiv spoke of dire conditions under the Russians, with little water, food and no electricity.

“We hid in the basement. It was horrible. The basement shook from the explosions. We screamed, we cried and we prayed to God,” said resident Ludmila Bocharnikova.

Copyright © 2022 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved. Ukraine is struggling to hold back Russian advances to the south and east, while the Kremlin seeks to seize the Donbass region

Dais Johnston

USTimeToday is an automatic aggregator of the all world’s media. In each content, the hyperlink to the primary source is specified. All trademarks belong to their rightful owners, all materials to their authors. If you are the owner of the content and do not want us to publish your materials, please contact us by email – The content will be deleted within 24 hours.

Related Articles

Back to top button