Oleg, 56, mourns his mother Inna, 86, killed during the war against Russia in Bucha, on the outskirts of Kiev, Ukraine, on Sunday. (Rodrigo Abd, Associated Prss)
Estimated reading time: 7-8 minutes
KYIV, Ukraine – While Ukrainian forces dug in on Sunday, Russia lined up more firepower and arrested a decorated general to take centralized control of the war ahead of a potentially crucial showdown in eastern Ukraine that could begin within days.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy warned in his nightly speech to the nation on Sunday that the coming week would be as crucial as any other in the war, saying that “Russian troops will move to even larger operations in the eastern part of the country. our state. “
He also accused Russia of trying to evade responsibility for war crimes in Ukraine.
“When people lack the courage to admit their mistakes, apologize, adapt to reality and learn, they become monsters. And when the world ignores it, the monsters decide that it is the world that has to adapt to them,” Zelenskyy said.
“The day will come when they will have to admit everything. Accept the truth,” he added.
Experts have said the next phase of the match could begin with a full-scale offensive. The outcome could determine the course of the conflict, which has flattened cities, killed countless thousands and isolated Moscow economically and politically.
In an interview published on “60 Minutes” on Sunday night, Zelenskyy said that Ukraine’s fate as the war moves south and east depends on whether the US will help match an expected increase in Russian weapons in these regions .
“To be honest, whether we will be able to (survive) depends on this,” said Zelenskyy, speaking through a translator. “I have 100% confidence in our people and in our armed forces. But unfortunately I do not trust that we will receive everything we need.”
Zelenskyy thanked President Joe Biden for US military aid to date, but added that he “long ago” submitted a list of specific items Ukraine desperately needed, and that history would judge Biden’s response.
When people lack the courage to admit their mistakes, apologize, adapt to reality, and learn, they become monsters. And when the world ignores it, the monsters decide that it is the world that has to adapt to them.
– President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy
“He has the list,” Zelenskyy said. “President Biden can come into history as the person who stood shoulder to shoulder with the Ukrainian people who won and chose the right to have their own country. (This) also depends on him.”
There are still questions about Russia’s exhausted and demoralized forces’ ability to conquer much of the terrain after their advance towards the capital Kyiv was repulsed by determined Ukrainian defenders. The British Ministry of Defense reported on Sunday that Russian forces were trying to compensate for rising casualties by recalling veterans discharged in the past decade.
In Washington, a senior US official said Russia had appointed General Alexander Dvornikov, one of its most experienced military commanders, to oversee the invasion. The official was not authorized to be identified and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Until now, Russia has had no central warlord on the ground.
The new battlefield leadership comes as the Russian military prepares for what is expected to be a major, focused push to expand control in eastern Ukraine. Russia-backed separatists have been fighting Ukrainian forces in the eastern Donbas region since 2014, declaring an area there independent.
Dvornikov, 60, emerged as the leader of the Russian forces deployed to Syria in 2015 to support President Bashar Assad’s government during the country’s devastating civil war. U.S. officials say he holds a record for brutality against civilians in Syria and other war theaters.
Russian authorities generally do not confirm such appointments and have not said anything about a new role for Dvornikov, who received Russia’s Heroes Medal, one of the country’s highest awards, from President Vladimir Putin in 2016.
U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan spoke on Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union,” downplaying the significance of the appointment.
“What we have learned in the first weeks of this war is that Ukraine will never be exposed to Russia,” Sullivan said. “It does not matter which general president Putin is trying to appoint.”
Western military analysts say Russia’s attacks have increasingly focused on a seal-shaped arch in eastern Ukraine – from Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, in the north to Kherson in the south.
The narrower effort could help Russia’s problem, earlier in the war, to spread its offensive too wide over an oversized geographical area.
“Just looking at it on a map, you can see that they will be able to bring a lot more power to bear in a much more concentrated way,” by focusing mainly on eastern Ukraine, the Pentagon spokesman said. John Kirby Friday.
Recently released Maxar Technologies satellite images showed an 8-mile convoy of military vehicles heading south through Ukraine to the Donbas, reminiscent of images of a convoy that stalled on the roads to Kiev for weeks before Russia gave up trying to occupy the capital.
On Sunday, Russian forces shelled government-controlled Kharkiv and sent reinforcements against Izyum to the southeast in an attempt to break Ukraine’s defenses, the Ukrainian military command said. The Russians also continued their siege of Mariupol, an important southern port that has been under attack and surrounded for almost 1½ months.
A spokesman for the Russian Ministry of Defense, Major General Igor Konashenkov, said Russia’s military used air-fired missiles to hit Ukraine’s S-300 air defense missile systems in the southern Mykolaiv region and at an air base in Chuhuiv, a town not far from Kharkiv.
Sea-fired Russian cruise missiles destroyed the headquarters of a Ukrainian military unit stationed further west in the Dnipro region, Konashenkov said. Neither the claims of the Ukrainian nor the Russian military could be verified independently.
The airport in Dnipro, Ukraine’s fourth largest city, was also hit by missiles twice on Sunday, according to the regional governor.
On Sunday night, Zelenskyy again called on Western countries to provide more aid to Ukraine. During talks with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Zelenskyy said he was discussing “how to strengthen sanctions against Russia and … force Russia to seek peace.”
“I am pleased to note that the German position has recently changed in favor of Ukraine. I consider it absolutely logical,” Zelenskyy said.
The president of the European Commission said on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday that Ukraine’s response to a questionnaire she recently handed to Zelenskyy would enable her to decide whether to recommend the nation as a candidate for membership. of the EU.
The process usually takes years, but Ursula von der Leyen has said that Ukraine’s application can take only weeks to consider.
“Yesterday, someone said to me, ‘You know, when our soldiers die, I want them to know that their children will be free and part of the European Union,'” von der Leyen said.
Ukrainian authorities have accused Russian forces of committing war crimes against civilians, including airstrikes on hospitals, a missile attack that killed at least 57 people at a train station and other violence discovered as Russian soldiers withdrew from the outskirts of Kiev .
One day after meeting with Zelenskyy in Kiev, Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer announced that he would meet with Putin in Moscow on Monday. Austria, a member of the European Union, is militarily neutral and not a member of NATO.
Ukraine has blamed Russia for killing civilians in Bucha and other cities outside the capital, where hundreds of bodies, many with tied hands and signs of torture, were found after Russian troops withdrew. Russia has denied the allegations, claiming that the scenes in Bucha were staged.
Maria Vaselenko, 77, a resident of Borodyanka, said her daughter and son-in-law were killed, leaving her grandchildren orphaned.
“The Russians shot. And some people wanted to come and help, but they shot them. They put explosives under dead people,” Vaselenko said. “Therefore, my children have been lying under the rubble for 36 days. It was not allowed” to remove corpses.
In Mariupol, Russia deployed Chechen fighters known to be particularly violent. Conquering the city on the Sea of Azov would give Russia a land bridge to the Crimean peninsula, which Russia conquered from Ukraine eight years ago.
Residents have been short of food, water and electricity since Russian forces surrounded the city and frustrated evacuation missions. Ukrainian authorities believe an air strike on a theater used as a shelter killed hundreds of civilians, and Zelenskyy has said he expects more evidence of atrocities to be found when Mariupol is no longer blocked.
The Institute for the Study of War, a US think tank, predicted that Russian forces would “renew offensive operations in the coming days” from Izyum, a city southeast of Kharkiv, in the campaign to conquer the Donbas, which includes Ukraine’s industrial heartland.
But given the think tank analysts: “The outcome of upcoming Russian operations in eastern Ukraine is still very questionable.”
Contributes: Yesica Fisch, Robert Burns, Calvin Woodward and Associated Press Journalists Worldwide