Ukraine, Russia: Ukraine begs NATO for arms as battle looms on Eastern Front

Kyiv, Ukraine — Ukraine urged residents of its industrial heartland to leave while they still can and urged Western nations to send “arms, arms, arms” on Thursday after Russian forces pulled out of the devastated outskirts had withdrawn from Kyiv to regroup for an offensive in the country East.

Russia’s six-week invasion failed to quickly seize the Ukrainian capital and achieve what Western countries call President Vladimir Putin’s original goal of toppling the Ukrainian government. Russia is now focused on the Donbass, a predominantly Russian-speaking region in eastern Ukraine.

In Brussels, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba called on NATO to provide more arms to his war-torn country to prevent more atrocities like those in Kyiv’s northern suburbs. Ukrainian authorities are working to identify hundreds of bodies they say were found in Bucha and other cities after Russian troops withdrew, and to document what they say are war crimes.

“My agenda is very simple … it’s guns, guns and guns,” Kuleba said, arriving at NATO headquarters to speak with the military organization’s foreign ministers about Ukraine’s defensive struggle.

“The more weapons we get and the sooner they get to Ukraine, the more lives will be saved,” he said.

Some NATO countries fear they could be Russia’s next target, but the alliance is trying to avoid actions that could drag any of its 30 members straight to war. Nonetheless, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg urged member states to send more weapons to Ukraine, and not just defensive ones.

“Ukraine is waging a defensive war, so this distinction between offensive and defensive weapons actually has no real meaning,” he said.

Western countries have provided Ukraine with man-portable anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons, but have been reluctant to provide aircraft or tanks and any equipment that Ukrainian troops would need to be trained to use.

When asked what else his country was looking for, Kuleba listed aircraft, land-based missiles, armored vehicles and air defense systems.

A US defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Russia had withdrawn all of its estimated 24,000 or more troops from the Kyiv and Chernihiv areas in the north and sent them to Belarus or Russia to resupply to reorganize and probably preparing to return to combat East.

It has been reported that a growing number of Putin’s troops, along with mercenaries, are moving to the Donbass, where Russian-backed separatists have been fighting Ukrainian forces for eight years and control two areas.

Before its February 24 invasion, Moscow recognized the Luhansk and Donetsk regions as independent states. Military analysts have said that Putin may also try to expand into government-controlled parts of Donbass.

Donetsk Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said at least five civilians were killed and another eight injured by Russian shelling on Wednesday. Deputy Prime Minister of Ukraine Iryna Vereshchuk urged civilians to evacuate to safer regions before it’s too late.

“Later, people will come under fire and we won’t be able to do anything to help them,” Vereshchuk said.

Another Western official, who also spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence estimates, said it could take up to a month for Russia’s battle-damaged forces to regroup for a major push into eastern Ukraine.

Oleksandr Shputun, spokesman for the General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces, reported on Thursday that Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city, near the Donbass remained blocked. He said Russian forces are also carrying out “brutal measures” in the southern Kherson region, which they hold.

In his nightly address to the nation late Wednesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Ukraine was also preparing for battle.

“We will fight and not retreat,” he said. “We will seek all possible options to defend ourselves until Russia starts seriously seeking peace. This is our country. This is our future. And we will not give them up.”

In areas north of the capital, Ukrainian officials were gathering evidence of Russian atrocities amid signs Moscow’s forces were indiscriminately killing people before retreating.

Ukrainian authorities said the bodies of at least 410 civilians have been found in towns around Kyiv, victims of what Zelenskyy has portrayed as a Russian campaign of murder, rape, dismemberment and torture. Some victims had apparently been shot at close range. Some were found with their hands tied.

Western officials warned that similar atrocities are likely to have taken place in other areas occupied by Russian forces. Zelenskyy accused Russian forces of trying to cover up war crimes in areas still under their control “for fear that global anger over what was seen in Bucha would be repeated.”

“We have information that the Russian troops have changed their tactics and are trying to remove the dead people, the dead Ukrainians, from the streets and basements of the territory occupied by them,” he said in a late-night video address. “This is just an attempt to hide the evidence and nothing more.”

Switching from Ukrainian to Russian, Zelenskyy urged ordinary Russians to “kinda confront the Russian machine of oppression” instead of “being equated with the Nazis for the rest of their lives.”

He urged the Russians to demand an end to the war “if you’re even a little ashamed of what the Russian military is doing in Ukraine.”

In response to the alleged atrocities outside of Kyiv, the US announced sanctions against Putin’s two adult daughters and said it would increase penalties against Russian banks. Britain banned investment in Russia and vowed to end its reliance on Russian coal and oil by the end of the year.

The US Senate planned to pass legislation on Thursday to end normal trade ties with Russia, pave the way for higher tariffs on some imports and codify President Joe Biden’s executive action to ban imports of Russian oil.

The European Union is also expected to impose additional punitive measures, including an embargo on coal.

The Kremlin has insisted that its forces have not committed any war crimes and has claimed that the pictures from Bucha were staged by the Ukrainians.

Bodies were still being collected in the city. On Wednesday, The Associated Press spotted the two inside a home in a quiet neighborhood. From time to time the muffled roar of workers clearing the town of mines and other unexploded ordnance broke the silence.

Workers at a cemetery began loading more than 60 bodies into a food truck for transport to a facility for further examination.

Police said they found at least 20 bodies in the Makariv area west of Kyiv. Residents of the village of Andriivka said the Russians arrived in early March, stole locals’ phones and arrested and then released some people. Others met unknown fates. Some described hiding for weeks in basements normally used for vegetable storage.

“First we were scared, now we’re hysterical,” said Valentyna Klymenko, 64. She said she, her husband and two neighbors survived the siege by sleeping on piles of potatoes covered with a mattress and blankets. “We didn’t cry at first. Now we cry.”

In the southern port city of Mariupol, Mayor Vadym Boichenko said that of the more than 5,000 civilians killed during weeks of Russian bombing and street fighting, 210 were children. Russian forces bombed hospitals, including one that burned 50 people, he said.

Boichenko said more than 90% of the city’s infrastructure had been destroyed. The attacks on the strategic city on the Sea of ​​Azov have cut off food, water, fuel and medicines and razed homes and businesses.

British defense officials said 160,000 people remained trapped in the town, which had a pre-war population of 430,000. A humanitarian aid convoy escorted by the Red Cross has been trying unsuccessfully to get into the city for days.

The capture of Mariupol would allow Russia to secure a continuous land corridor to the Crimean Peninsula, which Moscow seized from Ukraine in 2014.


Oleksandr Stashevskyi and Cara Anna in Bucha, Ukraine, Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations, Yuras Karmanau in Lviv, Ukraine, and Associated Press journalists around the world contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2022 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved. Ukraine, Russia: Ukraine begs NATO for arms as battle looms on Eastern Front

Dais Johnston

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