Russia-Ukraine war: Ukrainian defenders dig in as Russia boosts firepower

KIIV, Ukraine – A confrontation is approaching in Ukraine after Russia appointed a new military commander and tried to focus its attacks on the east, while the Ukrainian president said his troops would maintain their position, urging Western leaders, especially President Joe Biden, to do more.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy warned Sunday night that this week would be as critical as any other during the war, saying “Russian troops will move into even larger operations in the east of our country.”

Ukraine’s fate as the war shifts south and east depends on whether the United States will help deal with the increase in Russian weapons, he said, echoing comments he made in an interview with the Associated Press on Saturday.

“To be honest, whether we can (survive) depends on that,” Zelensky said in an interview with 60 Minutes. “Unfortunately, I’m not sure we will get everything we need.”

Zelensky said he was grateful to Biden for US military assistance to date, but added that “a long time ago” he had sent a list of specific items that Ukraine desperately needed.

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

Austrian Chancellor Carl Nehammer was scheduled to meet with Putin in Moscow on Monday, following a meeting with Zelensky in Kyiv. Austria, a member of the European Union, is militarily neutral and is not a member of NATO.

Also Monday, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she was sending 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 have razed cities, killed untold thousands and isolated Moscow financially and politically, and experts say the next phase of the war could begin with a large-scale offensive that could determine the course of the conflict.

Questions remain about the ability of exhausted and frustrated Russian forces to gain ground after their advance on the capital, Kyiv, which has been repulsed by determined Ukrainian defenders. The British Ministry of Defense says Russia is trying to compensate for the growing losses by recalling veterans who have been fired over the past decade.

In his speech Sunday night, Zelensky also accused Russia of trying to avoid responsibility for war crimes in Ukraine.

“When people do not have the courage to admit their mistakes, apologize, adjust to reality and learn, they turn into monsters. And when people ignore it, the monsters decide that the world needs to adjust to them.” said Zelensky.

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

Ukrainian authorities have blamed Russian forces for 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 other news of the atrocities, the village of Buzova outside the capital, Kyiv, charred vehicles and buildings marked an area where local official Taras Didic told Ukrainian media on Sunday that bodies had been found showing “evidence of execution” after forces from the area. It was not clear how many bodies were found.

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

In Washington, a senior US official said Russia had appointed General Alexander Dvornikov, one of its most experienced military leaders, to oversee the invasion. The official was not authorized to be named and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Until now, Russia has had no central warlord on the ground.

Dvornikov, 60, is taking power as the Russian military prepares to focus on expanding control of eastern Ukraine, where Russian-backed separatists have been fighting Ukrainian forces in the Donbas region since 2014, declaring some areas independent.

He won a record of barbarism as head of the Russian forces deployed in Syria in 2015 to support the government of President Bashar al-Assad during the country’s devastating civil war.

The Russian authorities do not generally confirm such appointments and have not said anything about a new role for Dvornikov, who received the honorary medal of Hero of Russia from President Vladimir Putin in 2016.

U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, speaking Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union,” downplayed the significance of the appointment.

“What we have learned in the first weeks of this war is that Ukraine will never surrender to Russia,” Sullivan said. “It does not matter which general Putin tries to appoint.”

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

This could address Russia’s previous problem of extending its attack to an overly wide geographical area.

Recently released satellite images of Maxar Technologies showed an 8-mile (13-kilometer) convoy of military vehicles heading south through Ukraine to Donbass, reminiscent of the convoy that stopped outside Kyiv before Russia abandoned its attempt to seize control. .

On Sunday, Russian forces bombed government-controlled Kharkov and sent reinforcements to Izyum in the southeast to try to break through Ukraine’s defenses, the Ukrainian military said. The Russians also continued the siege of Mariupol, a key southern port that was attacked and surrounded for almost a month.

A spokesman for the Russian Defense Ministry, Lt. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, said the Russian military had used air-to-air missiles to strike Ukrainian air defense systems in the southern Mykolaiv region and at an air base not far from Chuhuiv.

Russian cruise missiles fired 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 allegations could be independently verified.

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

In Mariupol, Russia has deployed Chechen fighters, who are known to be extremely tough. Occupying the city in the Sea of ​​Azov would give Russia a land bridge over the Crimean peninsula, which Russia occupied from Ukraine eight years ago.

Residents of the city have been deprived of food, water and electricity since Russian forces surrounded the city and canceled evacuation missions. Ukrainian authorities believe an airstrike on a theater used as a bomb shelter has killed hundreds of civilians, and Zelensky said he expects more evidence of atrocities to be found when Mariupol is no longer under siege.

On Sunday night, Zelensky again appealed for more help. Speaking to German Chancellor Olaf Solz, he said he discussed “how to step up sanctions against Russia and … force Russia to pursue peace.”

“I am pleased to note that the German position has recently changed in favor of Ukraine. I think it makes perfect sense,” Zelensky said.

The Institute for the Study of War, an American think tank, has predicted that Russian forces will “resume offensive operations in the coming days” from Izyum, a city southeast of Kharkov, in the campaign to seize the Donbas, which includes the industrial heart of Ukraine.

However, according to analysts of the tank, “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 dig in as Russia boosts firepower Source link Russia-Ukraine war: Ukrainian defenders dig in as Russia boosts firepower

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