Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Tuesday likened the recapture of the southern city of Kherson to the Allied landings in France on D-Day in World War II, saying both were watersheds on the road to eventual victory. Speaking via video link to a Group of 20 summit in Indonesia, Zelenskyy said Kherson's liberation from eight months of Russian occupation was “reminiscent of many battles in the past, which became turning points in the wars." “It’s like, for example, D-Day — the landing of the Allies in Normandy. It was not yet a final point in the fight against evil, but it already determined the entire further course of events. This is exactly what we are feeling now,” he said. Read more: G20: Zelenskyy, Biden trying to persuade world leaders to further isolate Russia The retaking of Kherson was one of Ukraine’s biggest successes in the nearly 9-month-old Russian invasion and dealt another stinging blow to the Kremlin. But large parts of eastern and southern Ukraine remain under Russian control and fighting continues. Ukrainian authorities on Tuesday reported another civilian death, from Russian shelling, in eastern Ukraine — adding to the invasion's heavy toll of many tens of thousands killed and wounded. The liberation of Kherson — the only provincial capital that Moscow had seized — has sparked days of celebration in Ukraine and allowed families to be reunited for the first time in months. But as winter approaches, the city's remaining 80,000 residents are without heat, water or electricity, and short on food and medicine. Still, U.S. President Joe Biden called it a “significant victory” for Ukraine. Speaking on the sidelines of the G-20 summit, Biden added: "We’re going to continue to provide the capability for the Ukrainian people to defend themselves.” In his address to the G-20, Zelenskyy called for the creation of a special tribunal to try Russian military and political figures for the crime of aggression against Ukraine, and the creation of an international mechanism to compensate Kyiv for wartime deaths and destruction. Zelenskyy referred to the G-20 meeting as “the G-19 summit,” adhering to Kyiv’s line that Russia should be excluded from the grouping. Read more: Zelenskyy promises Ukraine will win as Russia redoubles effort “Everywhere, when we liberate our land, we see one thing — Russia leaves behind torture chambers and mass burials. … How many mass graves are there in the territory that still remains under the control of Russia?" Zelenskyy pointedly asked. Ukrainian authorities say there are signs of atrocities emerging in Kherson, just as in other liberated areas. Zelenskyy made a triumphant surprise visit on Monday to Kherson. He hailed the Russian retreat from the southern city as the “beginning of the end of the war,” but also acknowledged the heavy price Ukrainian soldiers are paying in their grinding effort to push back Russia's invasion forces.
Russia’s rush to mobilize hundreds of thousands of recruits to staunch stinging losses in Ukraine is a tacit acknowledgement that its “army is not able to fight,” Ukraine’s president said Sunday, as splits sharpened in Europe over whether to welcome or turn away Russians fleeing the call-up. Speaking to U.S. broadcaster CBS, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy also said he's bracing for more Russian strikes on Ukraine's electrical infrastructure, as the Kremlin seeks to ramp up the pressure on Ukraine and its Western backers as the weather gets colder. Zelenskyy warned that this winter “will be very difficult.” “They will shoot missiles, and they will target our electric grid. This is a challenge, but we are not afraid of that.” he said on “Face the Nation.” He portrayed the Russian mobilization — its first such call-up since World War II — as a signal of weakness, not strength, saying: “They admitted that their army is not able to fight with Ukraine anymore." Zelenskyy also said Ukraine has received NASAMS air defense systems from the U.S. NASAMS uses surface-to-air missiles to track and shoot down incoming missiles or aircraft. Zelenskyy did not say how many Ukraine received. Although the European Union is now largely off limits to most Russians, with direct flights stopped and its land borders increasingly closed to them, an exodus of Russian men fleeing military service is creating divisions among European officials over whether they should be granted safe haven. The partial mobilization is also triggering protests in Russia, with new anti-war demonstrations on Sunday. In Dagestan, one of Russia’s poorer regions in the North Caucasus, police fired warning shots to try to disperse more than 100 people who blocked a highway while protesting Russian President Vladimir Putin's military call-up, Russian media reported. Dozens of women chanted “No to war!” in the Dagestani capital of Makhachkala on Sunday. Videos of the protests showed women in head scarves chasing police away from the rally and standing in front of police cars carrying detained protesters, demanding their release. Women also protested in the Siberian city of Yakutsk, chanting “No to genocide!” and marching in a circle around police, who later dragged some away or forced them into police vans, according to videos shared by Russian media. At least 2,000 people have been arrested in recent days for similar demonstrations around Russia. Many of those taken away have immediately received a call-up summons. Unconfirmed Russian media reports that the Kremlin might soon close Russian borders to men of fighting age are fueling panic and prompting more to flee. Zelenskyy in his nightly address on Sunday described Russia's mobilization as “criminal” and reiterated his call for Russians to stand up to it. “Fight so that they don't send your children to die, all of those who they can take in this criminal Russian mobilization,” Zelenskyy said, switching to Russian for a brief portion of his speech. “Because if you come to take the lives of our children, I will tell you as a father — we will not let you go alive." German officials have voiced a desire to help Russian men deserting military service and have called for a European-wide solution. Germany has held out the possibility of granting asylum to deserters and those refusing the draft. In France, senators are arguing that Europe has a duty to help and warned that not granting refuge to fleeing Russians could play into Putin’s hands, feeding his narrative of Western hostility to Russia. “Closing our frontiers would fit neither with our values nor our interests,” a group of more than 40 French senators said. Yet other EU countries are adamant that asylum shouldn't be offered to Russian men fleeing now — when the war has moved into its eighth month. They include Lithuania, which borders Kaliningrad, a Russian Baltic Sea exclave. Its foreign minister, Gabrielius Landsbergis, tweeted: “Russians should stay and fight. Against Putin." His counterpart in Latvia, also an EU member bordering Russia, said the exodus poses “considerable security risks” for the 27-nation bloc and that those fleeing now can’t be considered conscientious objectors since they did not act when Russia invaded Ukraine in February. Many “were fine with killing Ukrainians, they did not protest then,” the Latvian foreign minister, Edgars Rinkevics, tweeted. He added that they still have “plenty of countries outside EU to go.” Finland also said it intends to “significantly restrict” entry to Russians entering the EU through its border with Russia. A Finnish opposition leader, Petteri Orpo, said fleeing Russian military reservists were an “obvious” security risk and “we must put our national security first.” Russia is pressing on with its call-up of hundreds of thousands of men, seeking to reverse recent losses. Without control of the skies over Ukraine, Russia is also making increasing use of suicide drones from Iran, with more strikes reported Sunday in the Black Sea port city of Odesa. For Ukrainian and Russian military planners, the clock is ticking, with the approach of winter expected to make fighting much more complicated. Already, rainy weather is bringing muddy conditions that are starting to limit the mobility of tanks and other heavy weapons, the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War said Sunday. But the think-tank said Ukrainian forces are still gaining ground in their counteroffensive, launched in late August, that has rolled back the Russian occupation across large areas of the northeast and which also prompted Putin's new drive for reinforcements. The Kremlin said its initial aim is to add about 300,000 troops to its invasion force, which is struggling with equipment losses, mounting casualties and weakening morale. The mobilization marks a sharp shift from Putin’s previous efforts to portray the war as a limited military operation that wouldn’t interfere with most Russians’ lives. The mobilization is running hand-in-hand with Kremlin-orchestrated votes in four occupied regions of Ukraine that could pave the way for their imminent annexation by Russia. Ukraine and its Western allies say the referendums in Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions in the south and the eastern Luhansk and Donetsk regions have no legal validity, not least because many tens of thousands of their people have fled. They also call them a “sham." Some footage has shown armed Russian troops going door-to-door to pressure Ukrainians into voting. The voting ends Tuesday and there's little doubt it will be declared a success by the Russian occupiers. The main questions then will be how soon Putin's regime will annex the four regions and how that will complicate the war.
Heavy fighting continued Friday near Europe's largest nuclear power plant in a Russian-controlled area of eastern Ukraine, a day after experts from the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog agency voiced concerns about structural damage to the sprawling Zaporizhzhia site. Britain's Defense Ministry says shelling continued in the district where the Zaporizhzhia power plant sits. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's office said Russian shelling damaged houses, gas pipelines and other infrastructure in the Nikopol region on the other bank of the Dnieper River. The team of inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency, braving gunfire and artillery blasts along their route, crossed the frontlines to reach the Zaporizhzhia plant on Thursday in a mission to help safeguard the plant against catastrophe. Fighting Thursday prompted the shutdown of one reactor — underscoring the urgency of their task. Read:UN inspectors arrive at Ukraine nuclear plant amid fighting The 14-member delegation arrived in a convoy of SUVs and vans after months of negotiations to enable the experts to pass through the front lines. Speaking to reporters after leaving colleagues inside, IAEA director Rafael Grossi, said the agency was “not moving” from the plant from now on, and vowed Thursday a “continued presence” of agency experts. Grossi said it was “obvious that the plant and the physical integrity of the plant has been violated several times” — but couldn't assess whether by chance or on purpose. “I will continue to be worried about the plant until we have a situation which is more stable,” he said. Grossi said IAEA experts toured the entire site, including control rooms, emergency systems and diesel generators, and met with the plant’s staff. The plant has been occupied by Russian forces but run by Ukrainian engineers since the early days of the 6-month war. Ukraine alleges Russia is using it as a shield to launch attacks, while Moscow accuses Ukraine of recklessly firing on the area. Read:Russia launches war games with China amid tensions with US Before the IAEA team arrived, Energoatom, Ukraine’s state nuclear power company, said Russian mortar shelling had led to the shutdown of one of its reactors by its emergency protection system and had damaged a backup power supply line used for in-house needs. IAEA announced plans for a news conference later Friday from its headquarters in Vienna to discuss the mission. Energoatom on Friday accused Russian forces of “making every effort” to prevent the IAEA mission from getting to know the facts on the ground. On Thursday, Russian Foreign Ministry Sergey Lavrov said Russia was making sure that the plant was secure and safe, and that mission “accomplishes all of its plans there.” Elsewhere in Ukraine on Friday, Zelenskyy's office said four people were killed and 10 injured over the last day in the eastern Donetsk region, a key hub of the Russian invasion, and reported rocket attacks on Sloviansk that destroyed a kindergarten. It said heavy fighting continues in two districts of the Kherson region to the south.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is due to host the U.N. chief and Turkey’s leader Thursday for talks on the recent deal to resume Ukraine’s grain exports, the volatile situation at a Russian-occupied nuclear power plant and efforts to help end the nearly six-month-old war. U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres arrived Wednesday in Lviv, near Ukraine’s border with Poland, where he will meet Zelenskyy and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is making his first trip to Ukraine since the war started. U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said that among other issues, Guterres will discuss “his overall efforts to do what he can to essentially lower the temperature as much as possible with the various authorities.” Last month, Turkey and the U.N. helped broker an agreement clearing the way for Ukraine to export 22 million tons of corn and other grain stuck in its Black Sea ports since Russia invaded Feb. 24. A separate memorandum between Russia and the U.N. aimed to clear roadblocks to shipments of Russian food and fertilizer to world markets. The war and the blocked exports significantly exacerbated the global food crisis because Ukraine and Russia are major suppliers. Grain prices peaked after Russia’s invasion, and while some have since returned to prewar levels, they remain significantly higher than before the COVID-19 pandemic. Developing countries have been hit particularly hard by supply shortages and high prices. Even though ships are now leaving Russia and Ukraine, the food crisis hasn’t ended. Read:Crimea 'sabotage' highlights Russia's woes in Ukraine war U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters this week that Guterres’ trip to Ukraine will allow him “to see first-hand the results of an initiative … that is so critically important to hundreds of millions of people.” Dujarric added that he expects “the need for a political solution” to the war to be raised in Thursday’s talks. He said the three leaders will also discuss the situation at the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine, Europe’s largest, which Moscow and Kyiv have accused each other of shelling. In his nightly video address Wednesday, Zelensky reaffirmed his demand for the Russian military to leave the plant, emphasizing that “only absolute transparency and control of the situation at and around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant for the Ukrainian state, for the international community, and for the IAEA can guarantee a gradual return to normal nuclear safety.” The International Atomic Energy Agency is a U.N. agency. Russia has rejected the demand. Erdogan’s office has confirmed that he would discuss the grain deal during the talks as well as ways to end the war through diplomatic means. Earlier this month, the Turkish leader met on the same issues with Russian President Vladimir Putin. In March, Turkey hosted a round of talks between Russian and Ukrainian negotiators, who discussed a possible deal to end the hostilities. The talks fell apart after the meeting in Istanbul, with both sides blaming each other. Erdogan has engaged in a delicate balancing act, maintaining good relations with both Russia and Ukraine. Turkey has provided Ukraine with drones, which played a significant role in deterring a Russian advance early in the conflict, but it has refrained from joining Western sanctions against Russia over the war. Facing a major economic crisis with official inflation near 80%, Turkey increasingly relies on Russia for trade and tourism. Russian gas covers 45% of Turkish energy needs, and Russia’s atomic agency is building Turkey’s first nuclear power plant. During their meeting in Sochi this month, Putin and Erdogan agreed to bolster energy, financial and other ties between their countries, raising concerns in the West that Ankara could help Moscow bypass the U.S. and European Union sanctions. On Wednesday night, Russian forces shelled Kharkiv and the surrounding region in northeast Ukraine, killing at least seven people, wounding 20 others and damaging residential buildings and civilian infrastructure, authorities said.
As Russian troops pressed their offensive in Ukraine's east, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy fired his state security chief and prosecutor general on Sunday, citing hundreds of criminal proceedings into treason and collaboration by people within their departments and other law enforcement agencies. “In particular, more than 60 employees of the prosecutor’s office and the SBU (state security service) have remained in the occupied territory and work against our state,” Zelenskyy said. “Such an array of crimes against the foundations of the state’s national security, and the links recorded between Ukrainian security forces and Russian special services raise very serious questions about their respective leaders,’’ he said in his nightly video address to the nation. Zelenskyy dismissed Ivan Bakanov, a childhood friend and former business partner whom he had appointed to head the SBU. Bakanov had come under growing criticism over security breaches since the war began; Politico last month cited several unidentified Ukrainian and Western sources saying Zelenskyy was looking to replace him. He also dismissed Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova, and replaced her with her deputy Oleksiy Symonenko. Venediktova has helped lead war crime investigations. Meanwhile, Russian missiles hit industrial facilities earlier Sunday at Mykolaiv, a key shipbuilding center in southern Ukraine. Mayor Oleksandr Senkevych said the missiles struck an industrial and infrastructure facility. Mykolaiv has faced regular Russian missile strikes in recent weeks as the Russians have sought to soften Ukrainian defenses. The Russian military has declared a goal to cut off Ukraine's entire Black Sea coast all the way to the Romanian border. If successful, such an effort would deal a crushing blow to the Ukrainian economy and trade, and allow Moscow to secure a land bridge to Moldova's separatist region of Transnistria, which hosts a Russian military base. Early in the campaign, Ukrainian forces fended off Russian attempts to capture Mykolaiv, which sits near the Black Sea coast between Russia-occupied Crimea and the main Ukrainian port of Odesa. Since then, Russian troops have halted their attempts to advance in the city but have continued to pummel both Mykolaiv and Odesa with regular missile strikes. Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Lt. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said Sunday that Russian missiles destroyed a depot for anti-ship Harpoon missiles delivered to Ukraine by NATO allies, a claim that couldn't be independently confirmed. The Russians, fearing a Ukrainian counteroffensive, also sought to reinforce their positions in the Kherson region near Crimea and in part of the northern Zaporizhzhia region that they seized in the opening stage of the war. “Given the pressures on Russian manpower, the reinforcement of the south whilst the fight for the Donbas continues indicates the seriousness with which Russian commanders view the threat,” the British Defense Ministry said Sunday. Read:Ukrainian rescue teams hunt for survivors in Vinnytsia For now, the Russian military has focused on trying to take control of Ukraine's eastern industrial heartland of the Donbas, where the most capable and well-equipped Ukrainian forces are located. Ukraine says its forces still retain control of two small villages in the Luhansk region, one of two provinces that make up the Donbas, and are fending off Russian attempts to advance deeper into the second one, the Donetsk region. The Ukrainian military's General Staff said Sunday that Ukrainian troops thwarted Russian attempts to advance toward Sloviansk, the key Ukrainian stronghold in Donetsk, and attacks elsewhere in the region. Yet Russian officials are urging their troops to produce even more territorial gains. During a visit to the front lines Saturday, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu issued an order "to further intensify the actions of units in all operational areas." The Russian military said it has struck Ukrainian troops and artillery positions in Donbas in the latest series of strikes, including a U.S.-supplied HIMARS multiple rocket launcher. The Russian claims couldn't be independently verified. Dmitry Medvedev, deputy head of Russia's Security Council chaired by President Vladimir Putin, responded to Ukrainian officials' statements that Kyiv may strike the bridge linking Crimea and Russia, warning that would trigger devastating consequences for the Ukrainian leadership. “They will momentarily face Doomsday,” Medvedev said Sunday. “It would be very hard for them to hide.” Medvedev, once touted by the West as more liberal compared to Putin, said Russia will press its offensive until fulfilling its stated goal of “denazifying” and “demilitarizing” Ukraine. He predicted the fighting will "undoubtedly lead to the collapse of the existing regime” in Kyiv. Zelenskyy condemned Medvedev’s Doomsday comment as “intimidation” and said it was Russia that would eventually face a “`Day of Judgment.” “And not in a figurative sense, not as loud talk, but literally,” he said Sunday. While focusing on the Donbas, the Russians have hit areas all across the country with missile strikes. In central Ukraine, relatives and friends attended a funeral Sunday for Liza Dmytrieva, a 4-year-old girl killed Thursday in a Russian missile strike. The girl with Down syndrome was en route to see a speech therapist with her mother when the missiles struck the city of Vinnytsia. At least 24 people were killed, including Liza and two boys, ages 7 and 8. More than 200 others were wounded, including Liza’s mother, who remains in an intensive care unit. “I didn’t know Liza, but no person can go through this with calm,” priest Vitalii Holoskevych said, bursting into tears as Liza’s body lay in a coffin with flowers and teddy bears in the 18th-century Transfiguration Cathedral in Vinnytsia. ‘’We know that evil cannot win,’ he added. In the Kharkiv region, at least three civilians were killed and three more were injured Saturday in a pre-dawn Russian strike on the city of Chuhuiv, just 120 kilometers (75 miles) from the Russian border, police said. One resident of the apartment building that was hit said she was lucky to have survived. “I was going to run and hide in the bathroom. I didn’t make it and that’s what saved me,” said Valentina Bushuyeva. Pointing to her destroyed apartment, she said: “There’s the bathroom — explosion. Kitchen — half a room. And I survived because I stayed put.”
One photograph shows a kneeling soldier kissing a child inside a subway station, where Ukraine families shelter from Russian airstrikes. In another, an infant and a woman who appears on the brink of tears look out from a departing train car as a man peers inside, his hand spread across the window in a gesture of goodbye. In an uplifting Father’s Day message Sunday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy posted 10 photos of parents and children set against the grim backdrop of war, praising fathers who “protect and defend the most precious.” Also read: Morale is concern as NATO chief warns war could last ‘years’ There are scenes of childbirth, as a man and woman look toward a swaddled baby in what appears to be a hospital room where the spackled walls show scars of fighting. In another, a man lifts a child over a fence toward a woman with outstretched arms on a train platform. “Being a father is a great responsibility and a great happiness,” Zelenskyy wrote in English text that followed the Ukrainian on Instagram. “It is strength, wisdom, motivation to go forward and not to give up." He urged his nation's fighters to endure for the "future of your family, your children, and therefore the whole of Ukraine.” His message came as four months of war in Ukraine appear to be straining the morale of troops on both sides, prompting desertions and rebellion against officers’ orders. NATO’s chief warned the fighting could drag on for "years." “Combat units from both sides are committed to intense combat in the Donbas and are likely experiencing variable morale," Britain's defense ministry said in its daily assessment of the war. “Ukrainian forces have likely suffered desertions in recent weeks,” the assessment said, but added that “Russian morale highly likely remains especially troubled.” It said “cases of whole Russian units refusing orders and armed stand-offs between officers and their troops continue to occur.” Separately, the Ukrainian Main Intelligence Directorate released what it said were intercepted phone calls in which Russian soldiers complained about front-line conditions, poor equipment, and overall lack of personnel, according to a report by the Institute for the Study of War. In an interview published on Sunday in the German weekly Bild am Sonntag, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said that “nobody knows” how long the war could last. “We need to be prepared for it to last for years," he said. He also urged allies ”not to weaken support for Ukraine, even if the costs are high, not only in terms of military aid, but also because of the increase in energy and food goods prices." In his nightly address Sunday, Zelenskyy said the week ahead would be “historic” and perhaps bring Ukraine closer to membership in the European Union. But that move could portend a more hostile response from Russia, he warned. EU leaders recommended Friday that Ukraine join the bloc, and their proposal was to go to members for discussion this week in Brussels. Zelenskyy called the outcome of those talks one of the most fateful moments for Ukraine since independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. “I am sure that only a positive decision meets the interests of the whole of Europe,” he said. “In such a week we should expect greater hostile activity from Russia," he added. "And not only against Ukraine, but also against Europe. We are preparing.” In recent days, Gazprom, the Russian gas company, has reduced supplies to two major European clients — Germany and Italy. In Italy's case, energy officials are expected to huddle this week about the situation. The head of Italian energy giant ENI said on Saturday that with additional gas purchased from other sources, Italy should make it through the coming winter, but he warned Italians that “restrictions” affecting gas use might be necessary. Germany will limit the use of gas for electricity production amid concerns about possible shortages caused by a reduction in supplies from Russia, the country's economy minister said on Sunday. Germany has been trying to fill its gas storage facilities to capacity ahead of the cold winter months. Economy Minister Robert Habeck said that Germany will try to compensate for the move by increasing the burning of coal, a more polluting fossil fuel. “That’s bitter, but it’s simply necessary in this situation to lower gas usage,” he said. Stoltenberg stressed, though, that “the costs of food and fuel are nothing compared with those paid daily by the Ukrainians on the front line.” Stoltenberg added: What's more, if Russian President Vladimir Putin should reach his objectives in Ukraine, like when he annexed Crimea in 2014, “we would have to pay an even greater price.” Britain's defense ministry said that both Russia and Ukraine have continued to conduct heavy artillery bombardments on axes to the north, east and south of the Sieverodonetsk pocket, but with little change in the front line. Luhansk governor Serhiy Haidai said via Telegram on Sunday: “It is a very difficult situation in Sievierodonetsk, where the enemy in the middle of the city is conducting round-the-clock aerial reconnaissance with drones, adjusting fire, quickly adjusting to our changes." Russia’s defense ministry claimed on Sunday that Russian and separatist forces have taken control of Metolkine, a settlement just to the east of Sievierodonetsk. Bakhmut, a city in the Donbas, is 55 kilometers (33 miles) southwest of the twin cities of Lysyhansk and Siervierodonetsk, where fierce military clashes have been raging. Every day, Russian artillery pummels Bakhmut. Also read:In Ukraine, funeral for activist killed and mourned in war But Bakhmut's people try to go about their daily lives, including shopping in markets that have opened again in recent weeks. “In principle, it can be calm in the morning,'' said one resident, Oleg Drobelnnikov. ”The shelling starts at about 7 or 8 in the evening." Still, he said, it has been pretty calm in the last 10 days or so. “You can buy food at small farmer markets,'' said Drobelnnikov, a teacher. ”It is not a problem. In principle, educational institutions, like schools or kindergartens, are not working due to the situation. The institutions moved to other regions. There is no work here." Ukraine’s east has been the main focus of Russia’s attacks for more than two months. On Saturday, Zelenskyy made a trip south from Kyiv to visit troops and hospital workers in the Mykolaiv and Odesa regions along the Black Sea. He handed out awards to dozens of people at every stop, shaking their hands and thanking them again and again for their service. Zelenskyy, in a recorded address aboard a train back to Kyiv, vowed to defend the country’s south. "We will not give away the south to anyone. We will return everything that’s ours and the sea will be Ukrainian and safe.” He added: "Russia does not have as many missiles as our people have a desire to live.” Zelenskyy also condemned the Russian blockade of Ukraine’s ports amid weeks of inconclusive negotiations on safe corridors so millions of tons of siloed grain can be shipped out before the approaching new harvest season. In other attacks in the south, Ukraine’s southern military operational command said Sunday that two people were killed in shelling of the Galitsyn community in the Mykolaiv region and that shelling of the Bashtansky district is continuing. Russia's defense ministry said seaborne missiles destroyed a plant in Mykolaiv city where Western-supplied howitzers and armored vehicles were stored. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has expressed concerns “that a bit of Ukraine fatigue is starting to set in around the world." “It would be a catastrophe if Putin won. He’d love nothing more than to say, ‘Let’s freeze this conflict, let’s have a cease-fire,'" Johnson said on Saturday, a day after a surprise visit to Kyiv, where he met with Zelenskyy and offered offer continued aid and military training. Western-supplied heavy weapons are reaching front lines. But Ukraine's leaders have insisted for weeks that they need more arms, and sooner.
Russian and Ukrainian troops traded blows in fierce close-quarter combat Sunday in an eastern Ukrainian city as Moscow’s soldiers, supported by intense shelling, attempted to gain a strategic foothold to conquer the region. Ukraine's leader also made a rare frontline visit to Kharkiv, the country’s second-largest city, to assess the strength of the national defense. In the east, Russian forces stormed Sievierodonetsk after trying unsuccessfully to encircle the strategic city, Ukrainian officials said. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy described the situation there as “indescribably difficult,” with a relentless Russian artillery barrage destroying critical infrastructure and damaging 90% of the buildings. Also read:'Now I am a beggar': Fleeing the Russian advance in Ukraine “Capturing Sievierodonetsk is a principal task for the occupation force,” Zelensky said, adding that the Russians don’t care about casualties. The city's mayor said the fighting had knocked out power and cellphone service and forced a humanitarian relief center to shut down because of the dangers. The deteriorating conditions raised fears that Sieverodonetsk could become the next Mariupol, a city on the Sea of Azov that spent nearly three months under Russian siege before the last Ukrainian fighters surrendered. Sievierodonetsk, located 143 kilometers (89 miles) south of the Russian border, has emerged in recent days as the epicenter of Moscow's quest to capture all of Ukraine's eastern industrial Donbas region. Russia also stepped up its efforts to capture the nearby city of Lysychansk, where civilians rushed to escape persistent shelling. The two eastern cities span the strategically important Siverskiy Donetsk River. They are the last major areas under Ukrainian control in Luhansk province, which makes up the Donbas together with the adjacent Donetsk region. Zelenskyy, meanwhile, visited soldiers in Kharkiv, where Ukrainian fighters pushed Russian forces back from nearby positions several weeks ago. "I feel boundless pride in our defenders. Every day, risking their lives, they fight for Ukraine’s freedom,” Zelenskyy wrote on the Telegram messaging app after the visit. Russia has kept up its bombardment of the northeastern city from afar, and explosions could be heard shortly after Zelenskyy's visit. Shelling and airstrikes have destroyed more than 2,000 apartment buildings in the city since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, according to the regional governor, Oleh Syniehubov. In a video address later Sunday, Zelenskyy praised Kharkiv regional officials but said he had fired the regional head of the country’s top security agency, the SBU, for his poor performance. In the wider Kharkiv region, Russian troops still held about one-third of the territory, Zelenskyy said. After failing to seize Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine, Russia is focused on occupying parts of Donbas not already controlled by pro-Moscow separatists. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told French TF1 television Sunday that Moscow's "unconditional priority is the liberation of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions," adding that Russia sees them as "independent states.” He also suggested other regions of Ukraine should be able to establish close ties with Russia. In Luhansk, constant Russian shelling has created what provincial governor Serhiy Haidai called a “severe situation.” “There are fatalities and wounded people,” he wrote on Telegram. On Saturday, he said, one civilian died and four were injured after a Russian shell hit a high-rise apartment building. But some Luhansk supply and evacuation routes functioned Sunday, he said. He claimed the Russians had retreated “with losses” around a village near Sievierodonetsk but conducted airstrikes on another nearby river village. Civilians who reached the eastern city of Pokrovsk, 130 kilometers (80 miles) south of Lysychansk, said they held out as long as they could before fleeing the Russian advance. Also read:Russia takes small cities, aims to widen east Ukraine battle Yana Skakova choked back tears as she described leaving with her 18-month and 4-year-old sons while her husband stayed behind to take care of their house and animals. The family was among 18 people who lived in a basement for the past 2 1/2 months until police told them Friday it was time to evacuate. “None of us wanted to leave our native city,” she said. “But for the sake of these small children, we decided to leave.” Oksana, 74, who was too afraid to give her surname, was evacuated from Lysychansk by a team of foreign volunteers along with her 86-year-old husband. “I’m going somewhere, not knowing where,” she wept. “Now I am a beggar without happiness. Now I have to ask for charity. It would be better to kill me.” Sievierodonetsk Mayor Oleksandr Striuk said there was fighting at the city’s bus station on Saturday. Residents remaining in the city, which had a prewar population of around 100,000, risked exposure to shelling just to get water from a half-dozen wells, and there was no electricity or cellphone service. Striuk estimates that 1,500 civilians in the city have died since the war began, from Russian attacks as well as from a lack of medicine or treatment. The Institute for the Study of War, a think tank based in Washington, questioned the Kremlin’s strategy of assembling a huge military effort to take Sieverodonetsk, saying it was proving costly for Russia and would bring few returns. “When the battle of Sieverodonetsk ends, regardless of which side holds the city, the Russian offensive at the operational and strategic levels will likely have culminated, giving Ukraine the chance to restart its operational-level counteroffensives to push Russian forces back,” the institute said late Saturday. In Mariupol on Sunday, an aide to its Ukrainian mayor alleged that after Russia's forces gained complete control of the city, they piled the bodies of dead people inside a supermarket. The aide, Petro Andryushchenko, posted a photo on the Telegram messaging app of what he described as a “corpse dump” in the occupied city. It showed bodies stacked alongside closed supermarket counters. “Here, the Russians bring the bodies of the dead, which were washed out of their graves during attempts to restore the water supply, and partially exhumed. They just dump them like garbage,” he wrote. It was not immediately possible to verify his claim. Regions across Ukraine were pummeled overnight by renewed Russian airstrikes. On the ground in the eastern Donetsk region, fighters battled back and forth for control of villages and cities. The Ukrainian army reported heavy fighting around Donetsk, the provincial capital, as well as Lyman to the north, a small city that serves as a key rail hub in the Donetsk region. Moscow claimed Saturday to have taken Lyman, but Ukrainian authorities said their fighters remained engaged in combat in parts of the city. “The enemy is reinforcing its units,” the Ukrainian armed forces’ General Staff said. “It is trying to gain a foothold in the area.”
The U.S. secretaries of state and defense met Sunday night with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in the highest-level visit to the country’s capital by an American delegation since the start of Russia’s invasion. The secretive meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin came as Ukraine pressed the West for more powerful weapons against Russia’s campaign in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, where Moscow’s forces sought to dislodge the last Ukrainian troops in the battered port of Mariupol. Blinken and Austin told Ukraine’s president, Volodomyr Zelenskyy, and his advisers that the United States would provide more than $300 million in foreign military financing and had approved a $165 million sale of ammunition. They also said that U.S. President Joe Biden would soon announce his nominee for ambassador to Ukraine and that American diplomats who left Ukraine before the war would start returning to the country this coming week Reporters who accompanied Austin and Blinken to Poland were barred by Pentagon and State Department officials from reporting the Kyiv visit until the two men physically left Ukraine. U.S. officials cited security concerns. Before the session with Blinken and Austin, Zelenskyy said he was looking for the Americans to produce results, both in arms and security guarantees. “You can’t come to us empty-handed today, and we are expecting not just presents or some kind of cakes, we are expecting specific things and specific weapons,″ he said. Zelenskyy’s last face-to-face meeting with a top U.S. official was Feb. 19 in Munich with Vice President Kamala Harris, five days before Russia’s invasion. While the West has funneled military equipment to Ukraine, Zelenskyy has stressed repeatedly that his country needs more heavy weapons, including long-range air defense systems and warplanes. In an apparent boost for Ukraine, polling agencies said French President Emmanuel Macron would win reelection over far right candidate Marine Le Pen, who has faced questions about her ties to Moscow. Read: In Kyiv, Blinken and Austin announce aid, diplomatic surge The result was hailed by France’s allies in the European Union as a reassuring sign of stability and continued support for Ukraine. France has played a leading role in international efforts to punish Russia with sanctions and is supplying weapons systems to Ukraine. Zelenskyy’s meeting with U.S. officials took place as Ukrainians and Russians observed Orthodox Easter. Speaking from Kyiv’s ancient St. Sophia Cathedral, Zelenskyy, who is Jewish, highlighted its significance to a nation wracked by nearly two months of war. “The great holiday today gives us great hope and unwavering faith that light will overcome darkness, good will overcome evil, life will overcome death, and therefore Ukraine will surely win!” he said. Still, the war cast a shadow over celebrations. In the northern village of Ivanivka, where Russian tanks still littered the roads, Olena Koptyl said “the Easter holiday doesn’t bring any joy. I’m crying a lot. We cannot forget how we lived.” The Russian military reported hitting 423 Ukrainian targets overnight, including fortified positions and troop concentrations, while its warplanes destroyed 26 Ukrainian military sites, including an explosives factory and several artillery depots. Since failing to capture Kyiv, the Russians have aimed to gain full control over the eastern industrial heartland, where Moscow-backed separatists controlled some territory before the war. Russian forces launched fresh airstrikes on a Mariupol steel plant where an estimated 1,000 civilians are sheltering along with about 2,000 Ukrainian fighters. The Azovstal steel mill where the defenders are holed up is the last corner of resistance in the city, otherwise occupied by the Russians. Zelenskyy said he stressed the need to evacuate civilians from Mariupol, including from the steel plant, in a Sunday call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is scheduled to speak later with Russian leader Vladimir Putin. Arestovych, the Zelenskyy adviser, said Ukraine has proposed holding talks with Russia next to the sprawling steel mill. Arestovych said on the Telegram messaging app that Russia has not responded to the proposal that would include establishing humanitarian corridors and the exchange of Russian war prisoners for the fighters still in the plant. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is scheduled to travel to Turkey on Monday and then Moscow and Kyiv. Zelenskyy said it was a mistake for Guterres to visit Russia before Ukraine. “Why? To hand over signals from Russia? What should we look for?” Zelenskyy said Saturday. “There are no corpses scattered on the Kutuzovsky Prospect,” he said, referring to one of Moscow’s main avenues. Read: China promotes coal in setback for efforts to cut emissions Mariupol has endured fierce fighting since the start of the war because of its location on the Sea of Azov. Its capture would deprive Ukraine of a vital port, free up Russian troops to fight elsewhere, and allow Moscow to establish a land corridor to the Crimean Peninsula, which it seized from Ukraine in 2014. More than 100,000 people — down from a prewar population of about 430,000 — are believed to remain in Mariupol with scant food, water or heat. Ukrainian authorities estimate over 20,000 civilians have been killed. Recent satellite images showed what appeared to be mass graves to the west and east of Mariupol. Children in an underground bunker were seen receiving Easter presents in a video released Sunday by the far-right Azov Battalion, which is among the Ukrainian forces at the steel plant in Mariupol. The group’s deputy commander, Sviatoslav Palamar, said the video was shot at the plant. One toddler is seen wearing homemade diapers made of cellophane and people are seen hanging laundry on makeshift hangers. “Please help us,” one woman in the video said through tears, appealing to world leaders. “We want to live in our city, in our country. We are tired of these bombings, constant air strikes on our land. How much longer will this continue?” Mykhailo Podolyak, another presidential adviser, tweeted that the Russian military was attacking the plant with heavy bombs and artillery while accumulating forces and equipment for a direct assault. Zelenskyy over the weekend accused Russians of committing war crimes by killing civilians and of setting up “filtration camps” near Mariupol for people trying to leave the city. He said the Ukrainians — many of them children — are then sent to areas under Russian occupation or to Russia itself, often as far as Siberia or the Far East. The claims could not be independently verified. Zelenskyy highlighted the death of a 3-month old girl in a Russian missile strike Saturday on the Black Sea port of Odesa. The baby was among eight people killed when Russia fired cruise missiles at Odesa, Ukrainian officials said. Ukrainian news agency UNIAN, citing social media, reported that the infant’s mother, Valeria Glodan, and grandmother also died when a missile hit a residential area. Zelenskyy promised to find and punish those responsible. “The war started when this baby was 1 month old,″ Zelenskyy said. “Can you imagine what is happening? They are filthy scum; there are no other words for it.” For the Donbas offensive, Russia has reassembled troops who fought around Kyiv and in northern Ukraine. The British Ministry of Defense said Ukrainian forces had repelled numerous assaults in the past week and “inflicted significant cost on Russian forces.” A fire erupted early Monday at an oil depot in Russia near its border with Ukraine, but Russia’s Tass news agency gave no immediate cause for the blaze in oil storage tanks. NASA satellites that track fires showed something burning at coordinates that corresponded to a Rosneft facility some 110 kilometers (70 miles) north of the Ukrainian border. Moscow previously has blamed Ukraine for attacks on the Russian region of Bryansk, which borders Ukraine. The spiritual leaders of the world’s Orthodox Christians and Roman Catholics on Sunday appealed for relief for Ukraine’s suffering population.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy pressed the West for more powerful weapons as he prepared to meet with top U.S. officials in the war-torn country's capital Sunday, while Russian forces concentrated their attacks on the east, including trying to dislodge the last Ukrainian troops in the battered port of Mariupol. Zelenskyy announced the planned visit by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin at a news conference Saturday night in a Kyiv subway station. The White House has not commented. Zelenskyy said he was looking for the Americans to produce results, both in arms and security guarantees. "You can’t come to us empty-handed today, and we are expecting not just presents or some kind of cakes, we are expecting specific things and specific weapons,'' he said. The visit would be the first by senior U.S. officials since Russia invaded Ukraine 60 days ago. Blinken stepped briefly onto Ukrainian soil in March to meet with the country's foreign minister during a visit to Poland. Zelenskyy’s last face-to-face meeting with a U.S. leader was Feb. 19 in Munich with Vice President Kamala Harris. While the West has funneled military equipment to Ukraine, Zelenskyy has stressed repeatedly that the country needs more heavy weapons, including long-range air defense systems, as well as warplanes. Also read:Ukraine battered again; Zelenskyy says US officials to visit His meeting with Austin and Blinken was set to take place as Ukrainians and Russians observed Orthodox Easter, when the faithful celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. Speaking from Kyiv's ancient St. Sophia Cathedral, Zelenskyy, who is Jewish, highlighted the significance of the occasion to a nation wracked by nearly two months of war. “The great holiday today gives us great hope and unwavering faith that light will overcome darkness, good will overcome evil, life will overcome death, and therefore Ukraine will surely win!” he said. Still, the war cast a shadow over celebrations. In the northern village of Ivanivka, where Russian tanks still littered the roads, Olena Koptyl said "the Easter holiday doesn’t bring any joy. I’m crying a lot. We cannot forget how we lived.” Victor Lobush of Kyiv said Ukraine needs more weapons and financial support, and for Western nations “not to buy even a drop of the Russian oil." "Actions, not words, are needed," he said on Independence Square. The Russian military reported hitting 423 Ukrainian targets overnight, including fortified positions and troop concentrations, while its warplanes destroyed 26 Ukrainian military sites, including an explosives factory and several artillery depots. Most of Sunday's fighting focused on the Donbas in the east, where Ukrainian forces are concentrated and where Moscow-backed separatists controlled some territory before the war. Since failing to capture Kyiv, the Russians are aiming to gain full control over the eastern industrial heartland. Ukraine’s national police said two girls, aged 5 and 14, died in shelling in the town of Ocheretyne, part of the industrial region. Russian forces launched fresh airstrikes on a Mariupol steel plant where an estimated 1,000 civilians are sheltering along with about 2,000 Ukrainian fighters. The Azovstal steel mill where the defenders are holed up is the last corner of resistance in the city, which the Russians have otherwise occupied. Zelenskyy said he stressed the need to evacuate civilians from Mariupol, including from the steel plant, in a Sunday call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is scheduled to speak later with Russian leader Vladimir Putin. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres Guterres is scheduled to travel to Turkey on Monday and then Moscow and Kyiv. Zelenskyy it was a mistake for Guterres to visit Russia before Ukraine. “Why? To hand over signals from Russia? What should we look for?” Zelenskyy said Saturday. “There are no corpses scattered on the Kutuzovsky Prospect,” he said, referring to one of Moscow’s main avenues. Mariupol has seen fierce fighting since the start of the war due to its location on the Sea of Azov. Its capture would deprive Ukraine of a vital port, free up Russian troops to fight elsewhere, and allow Moscow to establish a land corridor to the Crimean Peninsula, which it seized from Ukraine in 2014. More than 100,000 people — down from a prewar population of about 430,000 — are believed to remain in Mariupol with scant food, water or heat. Ukrainian authorities estimate that over 20,000 civilians have been killed. Recent satellite images showed what appeared to be mass graves dug in towns to the west and east of Mariupol. Mykhailo Podolyak, a Ukrainian presidential adviser, called for a localized Easter truce. He urged Russia to allow civilians to leave the steel plant and suggested talks to negotiate an exit for the Ukrainian soldiers. Also read:Massive devastation leaves 25% of Ukrainians in need of humanitarian assistance, protection Podolyak tweeted that the Russian military was attacking the plant with heavy bombs and artillery while accumulating forces and equipment for a direct assault. During his nightly address to the nation, Zelenskyy accused Russians of committing war crimes by killing civilians, as well as of setting up “filtration camps” near Mariupol for people caught trying to leave the city. From there, he said, Ukrainians are sent to areas under Russian occupation or to Russia itself, often as far as Siberia or the Far East. Many of them, he said, are children. The claims could not be independently verified. But they were repeated by Yevheniya Kravchuk, a member of Ukraine’s parliament, on ABC’s “This Week.” “They have pulled these people from Mariupol -- they are put to filtration camps ... it’s sort of something that can’t be happening in the 21st century,” Kravchuk said. Zelenskyy claimed that intercepted communications recorded Russian troops discussing “how they conceal the traces of their crimes” in Mariupol. He also highlighted the death of a 3-month old girl in a Russian missile strike Saturday on the Black Sea port of Odesa. In attacks on the eve of Orthodox Easter, Russian forces pounded cities and towns in southern and eastern Ukraine. The baby was among eight people killed when Russia fired cruise missiles at Odesa, Ukrainian officials said. Ukrainian news agency UNIAN, citing social media posts, reported that the infant's mother, Valeria Glodan, and grandmother also died when a missile hit a residential area. Zelenskyy promised to find and punish those responsible. “The war started when this baby was 1 month old,'' Zelenskyy said. Can you imagine what is happening? They are filthy scum, there are no other words for it." For the Donbas offensive, Russia has reassembled troops who fought around Kyiv and in northern Ukraine. The British Ministry of Defense said Ukrainian forces had repelled numerous assaults in the past week and "inflicted significant cost on Russian forces.” “Poor Russian morale and limited time to reconstitute, re-equip and reorganize forces from prior offensives are likely hindering Russian combat effectiveness,” the ministry said in an intelligence update. The spiritual leaders of the world's Orthodox Christians and Roman Catholics appealed for relief for Ukraine's suffering population. From Istanbul, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I said a “human tragedy” was unfolding. Bartholomew, considered the first among his Eastern Orthodox patriarch equals, cited in particular “the thousands of people surrounded in Mariupol, civilians, among them the wounded, the elderly, women and many children.” Pope Francis, speaking from a window overlooking St. Peter's Square, renewed his call for an Easter truce, calling it “a minimal and tangible sign of a desire for peace.” “The attacks must be stopped, to respond to the suffering of the exhausted population,” Francis said without naming the aggressor.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is among five people named Thursday as recipients of the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award for acting to protect democracy. Zelenskyy was chosen because of the way he has “marshaled the spirit, patriotism and untiring sacrifice of the Ukrainian people in a life-or-death fight for their country,” as Russia pours in troops and assaults cities and towns, the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation said. The foundation said four U.S. officials were chosen for standing up for free and fair elections, as the system is challenged in ways it has never been before. They are: Republican U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers and Fulton County, Georgia, elections worker Wandrea “Shaye” Moss. Also Read: Zelenskyy: Russian offensive in eastern Ukraine has begun Caroline Kennedy and her son, Jack Schlossberg, will present the awards May 22 at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston. The award was created by the family of the late president to honor public figures who risk their careers by embracing unpopular positions for the greater good, and is named after Kennedy’s 1957 Pulitzer Prize-winning book, “Profiles in Courage.” “There is no more important issue facing our country, and the world, today than the fight for democracy,” Kennedy said in a statement. “The war in Ukraine has shown the world that we can’t take freedom for granted, and the courage of our elected officials in the U.S. reminds us that as citizens we each have a responsibility to protect our democracy and exercise our fundamental right to vote.” Cheney chaired the Republican House Conference before being ousted from her post last year because of her unrelenting criticism of former President Donald Trump and statements blaming him for the violence at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. The foundation said Cheney “broke with most in her party, urged fidelity to the Constitution, and stood her ground with honor and conviction,” and that she has remained a “consistent and courageous voice in defense of democracy.” Michigan was one of the battleground states where Trump allies demanded further review of the 2020 election. Benson defended the certification of the results. Protestors showed up at her home one evening in December 2020, angry about what they incorrectly said was voter fraud leading to Trump’s loss. The foundation said Benson defended the will of Michigan voters, repeatedly refused to back down from fulfilling the duties of her office and continues to speak out about the risks to free and fair elections. Bowers, a Republican, broke ranks with many in his party in December 2020 when he rejected a request from Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani for the Arizona Legislature to step in and replace electors legally pledged for Joe Biden with others who would support Trump. Also Read: Russian troops carrying out torture: Zelenskyy The foundation said Bowers made a “decision of conscience,” for which he endured persistent harassment and intimidation tactics from Trump supporters, and he acted again to protect the integrity of Arizona elections by stopping a wide-ranging election bill that would eliminate nearly all forms of early voting and require ballots to be counted by hand, though Republicans are still trying to pass these changes. Moss has worked for the Fulton County elections department since 2012 and supervised the absentee ballot operation during the 2020 election. Trump allies falsely claimed she engaged in ballot fraud. The foundation said “despite the onslaught of random, undeserved and malicious attacks,” Moss continues to do the “hard and unseen work to run our democracy.”