Polish, Baltic presidents head to Ukraine in show of support during Russian war

KIEV, Ukraine – The presidents of four countries on the threshold of Russia headed to Kyiv on Wednesday in support of Ukraine after Russian President Vladimir Putin vowed to continue the bloody seven-week offensive until it was “full.”

The presidents of Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia – all NATO countries worried that they could face a Russian attack in the future if Ukraine falls – were to meet with Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

In one of the most critical battles of the war, Russia said more than 1,000 Ukrainian soldiers had surrendered in the besieged port of Mariupol. The information could not be verified and it is not clear how important it would be if it were true.

Russia invaded on February 24 with the aim, according to Western officials, of occupying Kyiv, overthrowing the government and establishing a Moscow-friendly government. In the seven weeks since then, land advance has stalled and Russian forces have probably lost thousands of fighters – and the war has forced millions of Ukrainians to flee, shaken the world economy, threatened global food supplies and upset Europe’s equilibrium.

US President Joe Biden on Tuesday described Russia’s actions in Ukraine as “genocide” for the first time, saying “Putin is just trying to dispel the idea of ​​even being Ukrainian.”

Zelensky praised Biden’s use of the word, saying “saying things by name is necessary to resist evil.”

“We are grateful for the US assistance provided so far and we urgently need more heavy weapons to prevent further Russian atrocities,” he added in a tweet.

Lithuanian President Gitana Nauseda said the leaders who headed to Ukraine on Wednesday had “a strong message of political support and military assistance”.

Nauseda, Estonian President Alar Karis, Poland’s Andrzej Duda and Latvia’s Egils Levits also plan to discuss investigations into alleged Russian war crimes, including the massacre of civilians.

Putin denied that his troops had committed atrocities, and on Tuesday insisted that Russia “had no choice but to invade” and that the attack was aimed at protecting people in parts of eastern Ukraine and “ensuring the security of Russia itself.” ». He swore “he will continue until his full completion and fulfillment of the assigned tasks”.

He insisted that Russia’s campaign was going as planned despite heavy withdrawals and significant losses.

Preventing their push into the capital, Russian troops are now preparing for a major offensive in the eastern Donbass region, where Russian allied separatists and Ukrainian forces have been fighting since 2014 and where Russia has recognized the separatists’ claims of independence. Military generals say Moscow believes local support, logistics and ground in the region favor its larger, better-armed army, potentially allowing Russia to eventually turn the tide in its favor.

The British Ministry of Defense said on Wednesday that “a lack of coherence and coordination of military activity has prevented the Russian invasion to date.” Western officials say Russia has recently appointed a new commander-in-chief of the war, Alexander Dvornikov, to try to control its campaign.

A key part of this campaign is Mariupol, which is located in Donbas and which the Russians have besieged and defeated almost since the beginning of the war. Pockets of the city still appeared to be under Ukrainian control – but it is unclear how many forces are still defending it.

The representative of the Russian Ministry of Defense, Lieutenant General. Igor Konashenkov said 1,026 soldiers from the Ukrainian 36th Marine Brigade had surrendered to the city. It was not clear when the alleged deliveries took place.

Ukraine’s presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych did not comment on the allegation, but said in a Twitter post that elements of the same brigade had managed to connect with other Ukrainian forces in the city as a result of a “dangerous maneuver”.

Zelenskyy’s adviser Mykhailo Podoliak said on Twitter that the city’s defenders were short of supplies, but “fought under the bombs for every meter of the city. They are making (Russia) pay an exorbitant price.”

Ukrainian forces in Mariupol claimed that a drone had dropped a poisonous substance on the city. The claim of Azov’s Constitution, an extreme right-wing group now part of the Ukrainian army, could not be independently verified. The constitution stated that there were no serious injuries.

Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar said on Tuesday that officials were investigating and that it was possible that phosphorus munitions – which cause horrific burns but are not classified as chemical weapons – were used in Mariupol, which has been hit by weeks of Russian attacks.

Intentionally launching phosphorus munitions indoors to expose people to fumes could violate the Chemical Weapons Convention, said Marc-Michael Blum, former head of a laboratory at the Netherlands-based Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

Western officials have warned that any use of chemical weapons by Russia would be a serious escalation of the already devastating war. Zelensky said that while experts were trying to determine what the substance might be, “people need to react now.”

In Washington, a senior US defense official said the Biden administration was preparing another $ 750 million military aid package for Ukraine to be announced in the coming days. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss plans that have not yet been made public.

Biden used the word “genocide” to describe Russia’s actions during a visit to Iowa. He said it would be up to lawyers to decide whether Russia’s conduct meets international standards for genocide, but said “it certainly seems so to me.”

Neither he nor his government announced new consequences for Russia or assistance to Ukraine after the assessment.

A war crimes investigation is already under way in Ukraine, including atrocities uncovered after Moscow’s retreat from cities and towns around Kyiv.

Zelensky said there was still evidence of “inhuman cruelty” to women and children in Bhutan and other suburbs of Kiev, including alleged rapes.

More than 720 people were killed on the outskirts of Kiev occupied by Russian troops and more than 200 were reported missing, the interior ministry said early Wednesday.

In Bucha alone, Mayor Anatoly Fedoruk said 403 bodies had been found and that the death toll could rise as miners comb the area.

In the Chernihiv region, villagers said more than 300 people had been trapped for almost a month by Russian occupation troops in the basement of a school and were only allowed outside to go to the toilet or cook in open fireplaces.

Valentyna Saroyan told the Associated Press that she saw at least five people die in Yahidne, 140 kilometers (86 miles) north of Kiev. In one of the rooms, residents wrote down the names of those who went missing during the test – the list numbered 18 people.

The Prosecutor General’s Office of Ukraine said on Tuesday that it was also investigating incidents in the Brovary region, northeast of the capital. He said the bodies of six civilians were found with gunshot wounds in a basement in the village of Shevchenkove and that Russian forces were believed to be responsible.

Prosecutors are also investigating allegations that Russian forces shot dead a convoy of civilians trying to flee the village of Peremoha in the Brovary region, killing four people, including a 13-year-old boy. In another attack near Buha, five people were killed, including two children, when a car was shot at, prosecutors said.

Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister of Ukraine Iryna Vereshchuk said that the humanitarian corridors used to evacuate people from the cities under Russian attack will not work on Wednesday due to poor security.


Stashevskyi reported from the Yahidne of Ukraine. Associated Press reporters around the world contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2022 by the Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Polish, Baltic presidents head to Ukraine in show of support during Russian war Source link Polish, Baltic presidents head to Ukraine in show of support during Russian war

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