Ukraine says Russian offensive in east picks up momentum in war

IRPIN, Ukraine – Moscow’s attack on eastern Ukraine intensified as several areas came under heavy bombardment on Thursday amid suspicions that Russian President Vladimir Putin wants to have a major battlefield victory in time for Victory Day, one of the most proud holidays of Russia, on May 9.

Ukrainian authorities have reported heavy Russian fire in Donbas – the eastern industrial heart the Kremlin wants to seize – and near Kharkiv, a northeastern city outside Donbas that is considered key to the attack.

In the devastated southern port city of Mariupol, Ukrainian fighters were huddled in the steel plant representing the last pocket of the resistance, saying concentrated overnight bombings killed and injured more people. Authorities also warned that a lack of safe drinking water in the city could lead to deadly diseases.

The new attacks came as the head of the United Nations met in Kyiv with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and examined the devastation in small towns outside the capital that saw some of the worst atrocities of the first war.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has condemned the atrocities committed in cities such as Bucha, where evidence of mass killings of civilians has been found following Russia’s retreat in the face of unexpectedly fierce resistance. He said Ukraine had become “a hotbed of unbearable pain and suffering”.

“Where there is war, the highest price is paid by civilians,” Guterres said, reiterating the importance of investigating alleged war crimes.

Separately, Ukraine’s prosecutor has accused 10 Russian soldiers, including a general, of being “involved in the torture of peaceful people” in Bhutan. Attorney General Iryna Venediktova did not say that her office had filed criminal charges and called on the public to help gather evidence. Russia denies targeting civilians.

“During the occupation of Bucha, they took hostage unarmed civilians, killed them out of hunger and thirst, kept them on their knees with their hands tied and their eyes closed, mocked them and beat them,” Venediktova said.

Shortly after the press conference of Zelenskyy and Guterres, explosions rocked Kyiv and flames erupted from windows in at least two buildings in the capital, which has been relatively unharmed in recent weeks. Rich smoke was visible over the city. There was no immediate word on casualties, but Guterres and his team were safe, a spokesman said.

The blasts, which appear to be one of the deadliest attacks in Kyiv since Russian forces withdrew from the capital weeks ago, have come as Kiev residents return to the city. Cafes and other businesses have reopened, and a growing number of people are circulating outside, enjoying the spring weather.

It was difficult to get a complete picture of the unfolding battle in the east, because air raids and artillery barricades have made the movement of journalists extremely dangerous. Several journalists have been killed in the war, which is in its third month.

Also, both Ukraine and Moscow-backed rebels fighting in the east have imposed severe restrictions on reports from the battle zone.

Western officials say the Kremlin’s apparent goal is to seize Donbass by encircling and crushing Ukrainian forces from the north, south and east.

But so far, Russian troops and their allied separatist forces appear to have made only small gains, capturing several small towns as they try to move into relatively small groups against the fierce Ukrainian resistance.

The Russian military units were destroyed in the failed attempt to invade Kyiv and had to be reorganized and reorganized. Some analysts say the delay in launching a full-scale offensive may reflect Putin’s decision to wait until his forces are ready for a decisive battle – instead of rushing and risking another failure that could shake his dominance. through deteriorating economic conditions at home due to Western sanctions.

Many observers expect Putin to try to claim a major victory in the east by Victory Day, which marks the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II.

Putin, like many of his predecessors, often uses patriotic Russian holidays and anniversaries to make announcements, call for solidarity, or demonstrate the strength of his nation. In March, he appeared at a Moscow stadium at a rally marking the eighth anniversary of Russia’s annexation of Crimea and used the event to support the war.

The discovery of mass killings around Kyiv helped mobilize support for Ukraine in the West. Bulgarian Prime Minister Kirill Petkov has vowed that his country will join others in providing military assistance as he touches another scene of atrocities outside Kyiv in Borodyanka.

“We can not be indifferent. We can not say that this is a Ukrainian problem. We can not say that some people are dying, but we do not care about that,” he said. “This is not just a battle for Ukraine, it is a matter of culture to choose which side to take.”

Bulgaria, under a new liberal government that took office last autumn, has severed many of its old ties with Moscow and backed punitive measures against the Kremlin.

The Bulgarian leader’s visit comes a day after Russia cut off gas supplies to its country and NATO member Poland in what was seen as an attempt to punish and divide the West.

As Russia intensifies its offensive, civilians are once again carrying the brunt.

“It’s not just scary. It’s when your stomach cramps in pain,” said Tatiana Pirogova, a Kharkiv resident. “When they shoot during the day, it’s still okay, but when night comes, I can not describe how scary it is.”

The Ukrainian military says Russian troops have opened fire on several points in Donbas and that Ukrainian forces have repulsed six attacks in the region in the past 24 hours.

Four civilians were killed in heavy bombardment of residential areas in the Luhansk region of Donbass, according to the governor.

Columns of smoke appear to be rising at various points in the Donetsk region of Donbass, while artillery and sirens are heard and extinguished.

In Zaporizhzhia, a critical landmark for tens of thousands of people fleeing Mariupol, an 11-year-old boy was among at least three people injured in a rocket attack that authorities say was the first to hit a residential area in the southern city since the war. Fragments of glass cut the boy’s leg to the bone.

“It only takes a second and you have nothing,” said Vadim Vodostoyev, the boy’s father.

Satellite images analyzed by the Associated Press also showed evidence of heavy Russian fire in Mariupol in recent days.

A video posted on the Internet by Ukraine’s Azov Constitution inside the steel plant shows people combing the rubble to remove the dead and help the injured. The regiment said the Russians had struck an improvised underground hospital and its operating room, killing an unspecified number of people. The video could not be verified independently.

Hundreds of thousands of Mariupol residents have fled. Authorities say an estimated 100,000 remain at risk for diseases such as cholera and dysentery.

“Deadly epidemics could break out in the city due to the lack of central water supply and sewerage,” the council said in a Telegram messaging app. He said the bodies were decomposing under the rubble and there was a “catastrophic” lack of drinking water and food.

Russia, meanwhile, says a city under its control in the south has come under fire. In a Ukrainian counterattack, a series of explosions erupted near the television tower late Wednesday in Kherson, which has been occupied by Russian forces since the beginning of the war. The blasts at least temporarily blew up Russian channels.

Strong clicks were reported in the Belgorod region of Russia bordering Ukraine, but there was no immediate explanation. In recent days, fuel and ammunition depots on Russian soil have been hit by explosions and fires, and suspicions have fallen on Ukraine.

Ukraine has urged its allies to send even more military equipment to repel the Russians. US President Joe Biden plans to ask Congress for an additional $ 33 billion to help Ukraine.

Keyton reported from Kyiv, Ukraine. Associated Press reporters Jon Gambrell and Yuras Karmanau in Lviv, Mstyslav Chernov in Kharkiv, Yesica Fisch in Sloviansk and AP staff around the world contributed to this report.

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

Ukraine says Russian offensive in east picks up momentum in war Source link Ukraine says Russian offensive in east picks up momentum in war

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