Putin promises that Russia will push Ukraine’s invasion until the goals are reached

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) – President Vladimir Putin swore on Tuesday that Russia’s bloody offensive in Ukraine would continue until its goals are met, insisting that the campaign proceeded as planned, despite a major withdrawal in the face of fierce Ukrainian opposition and significant losses.

Russian troops, thwarted in their advance on Ukraine’s capital, are now focusing on the eastern Donbas region, where Ukraine said on Tuesday it was investigating a claim that a toxic substance had been thrown at its troops. It was not clear what the drug could be, but Western officials warned that any use of chemical weapons by Russia would be a serious escalation of the already devastating war.

Russia invaded on February 24 with the goal, according to Western officials, of occupying Kyiv, overthrowing the government and installing a Moscow-friendly one. In the six weeks that have passed since then, Russia’s land campaign came to a standstill, its forces suffered losses that could number in the thousands, and the country is accused of having killed civilians and other atrocities..

Putin on Tuesday insisted that his military action was aimed at protecting people in areas of eastern Ukraine controlled by Moscow-backed rebels and at “ensuring Russia’s own security.”

He said Russia had “no choice” but to launch what he calls a “special military operation” and promised that it would “continue until its full completion and the fulfillment of the tasks set. . “

For now, Putin’s forces are ready for a major offensive in the Donbas. which since 2014 has been torn apart by fighting between Russian-allied separatists and Ukrainian forces, and where Russia has recognized the separatists’ demands for independence. Military strategists say Russian leaders appear to be hoping that local support, logistics and terrain in the region favor Russia’s larger and better-armed military, potentially allowing its troops to finally turn the tide in their favor.

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In Mariupol, a strategic port city in the Donbas, a Ukrainian regiment defending a steelworks claimed that a drone had dropped a toxic substance on the city. This indicated that there were no serious injuries. The claim of the Azov Regiment, a right-wing extremist group now part of the Ukrainian military, could not be independently verified.

It came after a Russian-allied separatist official appeared to be calling for the use of chemical weapons, and told Russian state television on Monday that separatist forces should seize the facility by first blocking all exits. “And then we will use chemical troops to smoke them out of there,” said official Eduard Basurin. He denied on Tuesday that separatist forces had used chemical weapons in Mariupol.

Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said officials were investigating and that it was possible that phosphorus munitions – which cause horrific burns but are not classified as chemical weapons – had been used in Mariupol.

The city has been devastated in a six-week raid by Russian troops, which the mayor said Monday has left more than 10,000 civilians dead, their corpses “carpeted through the streets.” Mayor Vadym Boychenko said the death toll in Mariupol alone could exceed 20,000 and provided new details about allegations by Ukrainian officials that Russian forces have brought mobile cremation equipment to dispose of the bodies.

British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said the use of chemical weapons “would be a sharp escalation in this conflict”, while Australian Foreign Secretary Marise Payne said it would be a “wholesale breach of international law.”

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said in a statement that the United States could not confirm the drone report. However, he noted the administration’s persistent concerns “about Russia’s potential to use a variety of means of rioting, including tear gas mixed with chemical agents, in Ukraine.”

Britain, meanwhile, has warned that Russia could use phosphorus bombs – whose use in civilian areas is banned under international law – in Mariupol.

In the face of fierce resistance from Ukrainian forces backed by Western weapons, Russian forces have increasingly relied on bombing cities, flattening many urban areas and leaving thousands of people dead. The war has also displaced more than 10 million Ukrainians from their homes – including nearly two-thirds of all children.

Moscow’s retreat from cities and towns around the capital Kiev led to the discovery of a large number of apparently massacred civilianswhich led to widespread condemnation and accusations that Russia is committing war crimes in Ukraine.

Putin erroneously claimed On Tuesday, Ukraine’s accusation that hundreds of civilians were killed by Russian troops in the city of Bucha was “false.” Associated Press reporters saw dozens of bodies in and around the city, some with tied hands, who appeared to have been shot at close range.

The Russian leader spoke at the Vostochny space launch facility in the country’s Far East during his first known raid outside Moscow since the war began. He also said that foreign powers would not succeed in isolating Russia.

He said Russia’s economy and financial system resisted the blow from what he called Western sanctions “blitz”, claiming they would backfire by driving up prices for essential items such as fertilizer, leading to food shortages and increased migratory flows to The West.

As for the pace of the campaign, Putin said Russia continued “calmly and rhythmically” because it wanted to “achieve the planned goals while minimizing losses.”

While building forces in the east, Russia continued to attack targets throughout Ukraine in an attempt to erode the country’s defenses. Russia’s Defense Ministry said on Tuesday that it used used air and sea-fired missiles to destroy an ammunition depot and an aircraft hangar at Starokostiantyniv in the western Khmelnytskyi region and an ammunition depot near Kiev.


Karmanau reported from Lviv, Ukraine. Associated Press writer Robert Burns in Washington and AP journalists around the world contributed to this report.


Follow the AP’s coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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