As the war enters a bloody new phase, Ukraine again demands more weapons

Russian forces bombed several cities in eastern Ukraine on Sunday, destroying an airport and damaging several civilian targets as the war moves toward a crucial new phase. The shift in the war and the fear of full-scale military confrontation on open ground prompted Ukrainian officials to once again call on Western alliances to step up arms supply efforts to strengthen Ukraine’s position on the battlefield.

Ukraine is preparing for a “massive attack in the east,” its ambassador to the United States, Oksana Markarova, warned on Sunday on CBS ‘”Face the Nation.” About the Russian forces, she said: “There are so many of them and they still have so much equipment. And it looks like they are going to use it all. So we are preparing for everything.”

Military analysts have predicted the war’s move toward the eastern border that Ukraine shares with Russia in an area known as the Donbas. The energy-rich region includes territory where pro-Russian forces have been fighting the Kiev government since 2014.

Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, warned that although leaders have trumpeted the success of driving Russian forces out of Kiev, “there will be another blow, the battle for the Donbas,” he told NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday.

The expected Russian offensive could be reminiscent of World War II, Kuleba recently told NATO, with major military maneuvers involving thousands of tanks, armored vehicles, artillery and aircraft. With the atrocities increasing in Ukraine, calls have grown to supply the country with offensive weapons that would allow forces to attack inside Russia. Several foreign allies, including Britain, has promised new arms supplies in recent days to help Ukraine in what is expected to be a tougher battle ahead.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky once again called on Western countries in CBS ‘”60 Minutes” to step up in supplying weapons. “They have to supply weapons to Ukraine, as if they were defending themselves and their own people,” he said in an interview recorded on Wednesday and broadcast on Sunday. “If they do not accelerate, it will be very difficult for us to hold on to this pressure.”

Zelensky called for even tougher sanctions against Russia, warning that Western nations should not be lulled into complacency, believing they had averted World War III by not intervening further.

“I think no one in this world today can predict what Russia will do. If they invade further into our territory, they will definitely move closer and closer to Europe,” he said. stronger and less predictable. “

Zelensky’s message has been relentless since the start of the Russian invasion, in which he reportedly said “I need ammunition, not a trip.” Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told NATO leaders in Brussels last week that Zelensky had a three-pronged agenda: “weapons, weapons and weapons.”

The United States has been cautious in its approach to supplying weapons directly. The country’s focus “is on helping Ukrainians defend their territory in Ukraine and retake territory,” Jake Sullivan, President Biden’s national security adviser, told CBS ‘”Face the Nation.”

“The United States is increasing resources, weapons, military equipment, but also diplomatic resources to support the Ukrainians,” he said. He also rejected the idea that the United States had not gone up, saying the country has mobilized resources with “unprecedented scale, scale and speed.”

He noted that some of the steps include the purchase of weapons systems that Ukrainian forces are already familiar with, such as the Soviet-era S-300 air defense system supplied by Slovakia, to which the United States contributed a key component. The United States is also exploring systems that would require some training for the Ukrainian forces, Sullivan added.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) Said Sunday that the United States needs to be more aggressive in helping Ukraine. “I think the administration has been better, but they’ve had to be pushed every step of the way to be more aggressive before,” McConnell told Fox News.

Backup cannot come fast enough as an eight-kilometer-long convoy of Russian military vehicles was heading east, according to satellite images taken Friday and provided by Maxar Technologies, a U.S. space technology company.

As Russia shifts its military focus, officials in the eastern province of Luhansk urged the people to evacuate immediately, saying the region could face a “very ugly and very bloody” fight. Sunday’s attack damaged a school and hit two residential buildings, according to Luhansk Governor Serhiy Haidai, but no deaths were reported.

Already, more than 4.5 million Ukrainians have fled the country since the Russian invasion on February 24, according to UN data. That number is expected to grow as the fighting continues.

Ukrainians continued to flee eastern Ukraine through humanitarian corridors, though authorities said they were prevented by Russian troops who violated ceasefires and stopped buses at checkpoints.

About 2,800 people evacuated conflict areas via humanitarian corridors on Sunday, said Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk – far fewer than the more than 6,600 who fled conflict areas on Friday.

In the wake of escalating violence in Ukraine and economic devastation in Russia, President Vladimir Putin is expected to meet with Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer on Monday, the first time since the invasion that Putin will have met face to face with a European leader. Nehammer visited Ukraine on Saturday and met with Zelensky.

FAQ about Russia’s new Commander-in-Chief in Ukraine

Biden is scheduled to meet virtually with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday to pressure the country to give up its neutral stance on the war. India continues to buy Russian energy supplies, although many countries across the globe have severed ties to punish Russia for its actions.

Biden and Modi will discuss the consequences of Russia’s war on Ukraine and “mitigate its destabilizing impact on global food supplies and commodity markets,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Sunday in a statement.

Russian forces have now completely withdrawn from the areas around Kiev and Chernihiv in the north, where their attempt to launch a sweep into the capital was thwarted by fierce Ukrainian resistance, U.S. officials said. These troops are being rebuilt and resupplied, apparently with a view to redistribution to the east, the Pentagon said.

In recent days, Ukrainian military officials said, the Russians have begun pushing south with the ultimate goal of conquering the city, where a shelling attack on a train station took place on Friday. At least 57 people have died as a result of the attack and 109 were injured, according to the city governor.

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) Said on Sunday in an interview with CNN that the attack on the train station was “clear genocide”, arguing that European countries that continue to buy Russian energy supplies “finance the genocide campaign.”

Ukrainian officials and the state railway company on Sunday announced new evacuation routes for civilians in eastern Ukraine. Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said that “all routes to the humanitarian corridors of the Luhansk region will work as long as there is a ceasefire from the Russian occupying forces.”

The refocusing to the east, away from the major cities, could be a challenge for Ukraine’s besieged forces and an advantage for Russian troops, said General Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, last week, noting that the Russians are better at to fight in rural terrain.

Unlike near Kiev, where Ukrainian forces were able to hide in forests, the expansive, open areas in the east will make it more difficult for Ukrainians to conduct guerrilla operations. Russian forces, for their part, will be able to muster large mechanized formations of tanks and armored vehicles. Both sides appear to be capable of digging into a long and bloody battle focused on the East, which U.S. officials have warned could last months or more.

Reports of torture, beheadings and corpses used as traps for landmines near Ukraine’s capital Kiev, as well as gruesome images of mass graves and bound corpses, have increased the need to call for help.

Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, who visited Bucha, Ukraine, last week, said on CNN’s “State of the Union” that “much has been done but more needs to be done.”

It will take at least two weeks before the bodies of those killed in the recent attacks near Kiev have been recovered from the rubble, Ukrainian Interior Minister Denys Monastyrsky said in a television interview. After 24 hours of sifting through debris in Bucha, workers uncovered more than 6,500 explosive devices in doorways, washing machines, cars and under helmets, Monastyrsky said.

Ukraine has opened 5,600 war crimes cases involving about 500 Russian leaders, including Putin, since Russia’s invasion, Attorney General Iryna Venediktova said Sunday. But the country will face an uphill battle to get Russian officials in court.

The attack on Friday at a railway station in the east was a Russian missile attack that came while evacuees were waiting to escape an expected attack in the region, Venice said. A missile fragment found near the train station was inscribed with the words “for the children” in Russian.

“These people just wanted to save their lives, they wanted to be evacuated,” Venediktova said, adding that the country has “evidence” that it was a Russian strike.

Emigration from Ukraine has caused a flood of global support, with donors pledging 9.1 billion euros ($ 10 billion) to refugees at an event Saturday convened by Canada and the European Commission.

Pope Francis called for an “Easter truce” and “peace” in Ukraine during a Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican.

“Put your weapons down,” he told Reuters as tens of thousands of people listened to his address. “Let an Easter truce begin. But not to rearm and resume the struggle, but a truce to achieve peace through real negotiations.”

Francis, who has repeatedly condemned Russia’s invasion but has not directly referred to Russia or Putin, said the “stupidity of the war” is causing people to commit “sensible acts of cruelty,” the Associated Press reported.

In Russia, those who speak out against the war are increasingly threatened. At least four teachers have been handed in by students or parents for anti-war speeches, in some of the sharpest examples of the government’s quest to identify and punish people who criticize the invasion.

It is a campaign with dark Soviet echoes, inspired last month by Putin, who praised the Russians for their ability to identify “outcasts and traitors” and “spit them out like a fly.”

Russian students hand over teachers who do not support the war

After weeks of denial, Russian officials have recently acknowledged the dozens of military casualties their forces have suffered. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the “significant loss of troops” was a “huge tragedy”, an unprecedented admission by a Russian government that has largely insisted that the operation in Ukraine proceed according to plan.

Now, as it seeks to rebuild its depleted forces for the next phase of the fight, Russia is addressing retired soldiers, according to an intelligence briefing Sunday from the UK Ministry of Defense.

“The Russian armed forces are seeking to strengthen the number of troops with personnel discharged from military service since 2012,” the ministry said. “Efforts to create more combat power also include attempts to recruit from the unrecognized Transnistrian region of Moldova.”

Salvador Rizzo, Lateshia Beachum, Jeanne Whalen, Brittany Shammas, Jennifer Hassan and Christine Armario contributed to this report.

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