Russia’s six-week-old offensive has failed to quickly seize the Ukrainian capital and achieve what Western nations say is President Vladimir Putin’s primary goal in overthrowing the Ukrainian government. Russia’s focus is now on Donbass, most of the Russian-speaking territory in eastern Ukraine.
In Brussels, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba called on NATO to help prevent further atrocities, as reported in the northern suburbs of Kiev, in order to provide more weapons for his war-torn country. Ukrainian authorities are working to identify the hundreds of bodies found in Bucha and other cities since the withdrawal of Russian troops, and to record what they say was a war crime.
“My agenda is very simple … it’s weapons, weapons and weapons,” Kuleba said as he arrived at NATO headquarters to discuss Ukraine’s fight for self-defense with the military’s foreign ministers.
“The more weapons we get and the sooner they arrive in Ukraine, the more lives will be saved,” he said.
Some NATO countries are concerned that they could be Russia’s next target, but the alliance is trying to avoid a move that could lead to a direct war with any of its 30 members. Nevertheless, he called on NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg to send more weapons to Ukraine, not just defensive ones.
“Ukraine is fighting a defensive war, so this distinction between offensive and defensive weapons has no real meaning,” he said.
Western nations have provided Ukraine with portable anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons, but they have been reluctant to supply aircraft or tanks and any equipment that Ukrainian troops must be trained to use.
Kuleba lists aircraft, ground-based missiles, armored vehicles and air defense systems to find out what more his country wants.
A U.S. defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Russia had withdrawn an estimated 24,000 or more troops from the northern Kyiv and Chernihiv areas, sending them to Belarus or Russia in preparation for their replenishment, reconstruction and possibly return to war. East
A growing number of Putin’s troops, along with mercenaries, have reportedly moved to Donbass, where Russian-backed separatists have been fighting Ukrainian forces for eight years and controlling two areas.
Prior to the February 24 invasion, Moscow recognized the Luhansk and Donetsk regions as independent states. Military analysts say Putin could also try to expand into government-controlled parts of Donbass.
Donetsk Governor Pavlo Kirilenko said at least five civilians had been killed and eight others wounded in a series of Russian shelling on Wednesday. Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Irina Vereshchuk has called on civilians to move to safer areas before it is too late.
“Later, people will come under fire, and there is nothing we can do to help them,” Vereshchuk said.
Another Western official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on condition of anonymity, said it could take up to a month for Russia to reorganize its war-torn forces in a major push in eastern Ukraine.
Oleksandr Shaputun, a spokesman for the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, said on Thursday that Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, was under siege near Donbass. He said Russian forces were also taking “cruel measures” in the occupied South Kherson region.
In a speech to the nation late Wednesday night, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Ukraine was also preparing for war.
“We will fight and not back down,” he said. “Until Russia starts seriously pursuing peace, we will look for all possible options for self-defense. This is our land. This is our future. And we will not let them go. “
In the northern part of the capital, Ukrainian officials collected evidence of Russian atrocities, including signs that Moscow troops had killed people indiscriminately before retreating.
Ukrainian authorities say the bodies of at least 410 civilians have been found in cities around Kiev, with Zelensky portraying his victims as a Russian campaign of murder, rape, mutilation and torture. Some victims were apparently shot from nearby range. Some were found handcuffed.
Western officials have warned that similar atrocities could take place in other areas occupied by Russian troops. Zelensky accused Russian forces of trying to cover up war crimes in areas under their control, saying “there was a fear that there would be a resurgence of global outrage over what was seen in Bucharest.”
“We have information that Russian troops have changed tactics and are trying to remove dead people, dead Ukrainians, from the streets and cellars of their occupied territories,” he said in a video address overnight. “It’s just an attempt to hide the evidence and nothing more.”
Switching from speaking Ukrainian to Russian, Zelensky urged ordinary Russians to “somehow deal with the Russian oppressors” instead of being “equivalent to the Nazis for the rest of their lives.”
He called on the Russians to demand an end to the war, “if you are a little ashamed of what the Russian military is doing in Ukraine.”
In response to the alleged atrocities outside Kiev, the United States has announced sanctions against Putin’s two teenage daughters and said it is taking “severe sanctions” against Russian banks. Britain bans investment in Russia and promises to end Russia’s dependence on coal and oil by the end of the year.
The US Senate on Thursday planned to codify President Joe Biden’s executive order to end normal trade relations with Russia, pave the way for higher tariffs on some imports and ban Russian oil imports.
The European Union is expected to impose additional sanctions, including a ban on coal.
The Kremlin has insisted that its troops have not committed any war crimes and has accused the Ukrainians of staging Bukhara’s pictures.
Bodies are still being collected in the city. On Wednesday, the Associated Press spotted the two men in a house in a quiet neighborhood. From time to time, the indiscriminate boasting of workers to clear mines and other unexploded ordnance disrupts the silence.
Cemetery workers begin loading more than 60 bodies into a grocery shipping truck for transportation to a facility for further investigation.
Police say they have found at least 20 bodies in the Makarov region, west of Kiev. In the village of Andrivka, residents say the Russians arrived in early March, picked up the locals’ phones and detained them, and then released some. Meet the unknown fate of others. Some have described shelters for a few weeks in cellars, usually used for storing vegetables.
“At first we were scared, now we’re hysterical,” said Valentina Klimenko, 64. She said she, her husband and two neighbors faced the blockade lying on a pile of potatoes covered with a mattress and blanket. “We did not cry at first. We are crying now. “
In the southern port city of Mariupol, Mayor Vadim Boichenko says 210 children are among the more than 5,000 civilians killed in weeks of Russian bombings and street fighting. He said Russian forces had bombed hospitals, including one where 50 people had been burned to death.
Boichenko said more than 90 percent of the city’s infrastructure had been destroyed. The attack on the strategic city of the Azov Sea cut off food, water, energy and medicine, and disrupted homes and businesses.
British defense officials say 160,000 people were trapped in the city, which had a population of 430,000. A humanitarian relief convoy with the Red Cross tried to enter the city for several days, but was unsuccessful.
Occupying Mariupol will allow Russia to secure an uninterrupted land corridor on the Crimean peninsula, which Moscow occupied in 2014 from Ukraine.
Oleksandr Stashevsky and Kara Anna from Bucha, Ukraine, Edith M. Lederer from the United Nations, Euras Karmanau from Lviv, Ukraine, and the Associated Press from around the world contributed to the report.
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