Ukraine News: Eastern Ukraine under heavy fire ahead of Russian holiday
Ukrainian authorities have reported intense Russian fire in Donbass – the eastern industrial heartland the Kremlin is determined to capture – and near Kharkiv, a northeastern city outside Donbass that is seen as the key to the offense.
In the ruined port city of Mariupol, in the south of the country, Ukrainian fighters have holed up in the steel works which represent the last pocket of resistance. And authorities have warned that a lack of clean water in the city could lead to outbreaks of deadly diseases.
The new attacks came as the UN chief met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv and reviewed the destruction in small towns outside the capital that saw some of the worst horrors of the war’s first onslaught.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres condemned atrocities in towns like Bucha, where evidence of civilian massacres was found after Russia withdrew in the face of surprisingly strong resistance. He called these towns “the epicenter of unbearable grief and pain”.
“Wherever there is a war, the highest price is paid by civilians,” Guterres lamented, reiterating the importance of investigating alleged war crimes.
In addition, the Ukrainian prosecutor accused 10 Russian soldiers, including a general, of being “involved in the torture of peaceful people” in Bucha. Attorney General Iryna Venediktova did not say her office had filed criminal charges and appealed to the public to help gather evidence. Russia denies that it targets civilians.
“During the occupation of Bucha, they took unarmed civilians hostage, killed them from hunger and thirst, held them on their knees with their hands tied and blindfolded, mocked them and beaten,” Venediktova said.
Getting a full picture of the battle unfolding in the east has been difficult as airstrikes and artillery barrages have made it extremely dangerous for journalists to travel. Several journalists have been killed during the war, which is now in its third month.
In addition, Ukraine and Moscow-backed rebels fighting in the east have introduced strict restrictions on reporting from the combat zone.
Western officials say the Kremlin’s apparent goal is to take Donbass by encircling and crushing Ukrainian forces from the north, south and east.
But so far Russian troops and their allied separatist forces appear to have made only minor gains, taking several small towns as they attempt to advance in relatively small groups against fierce Ukrainian resistance.
Russian military units were crippled in the failed attempt to storm Kyiv and had to regroup and refit. Some analysts say the delay in launching a full-fledged offensive may reflect Putin’s decision to wait until his forces are ready for a decisive battle – rather than rushing in and risking another failure that could undermine his reigns in a context of deteriorating economic conditions because of the West. punishments.
Many observers expect Putin to try to claim a major victory in the east by VE Day, which marks Nazi Germany’s defeat in World War II.
Putin, like many of his predecessors, often uses patriotic Russian holidays and birthdays to make announcements. In March, he appeared at a Moscow stadium at a rally marking the eighth anniversary of Russia’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula and used the event to boost support for the war.
The discovery of the massacres around Kyiv helped galvanize support for Ukraine in the West. Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov promised his country would join others in providing military assistance as he visited another scene of atrocities outside Kyiv, at Borodyanka.
“We cannot be indifferent. We cannot say that it is a Ukrainian problem. We can’t say that some people are dying, but that doesn’t interest us,” he said. “It’s not just the battle for Ukraine, but it’s up to civilization to choose which side to take.”
Bulgaria, under a new liberal government that took office last fall, has severed many of its old ties with Moscow and backed punitive measures against the Kremlin.
The Bulgarian leader’s visit came a day after Russia cut off natural gas supplies to his country and NATO member Poland in what was seen as an attempt to punish and divide the country. West.
As Russia continues its offensive, civilians are once again the most affected.
“It’s not just scary. It’s when your stomach constricts from pain,” said Tatiana Pirogova, a resident of Kharkiv. “When they’re spinning during the day it’s still fine, but come evening I can’t describe how scary it is.”
The Ukrainian military said Russian troops were subjecting several locations in Donbass to “intense fire” and that in the past 24 hours Ukrainian forces had repelled six attacks in the area.
Four civilians were killed in heavy shelling of residential areas in the Lugansk region of Donbass, according to the regional governor.
Columns of smoke could be seen rising from different places in the Donetsk region of the Donbass, and artillery and sirens could be heard.
Satellite photos analyzed by The Associated Press also showed evidence of intense Russian fire on Mariupol in recent days.
A video uploaded by the Ukrainian Azov regiment inside the steelworks showed people combing through the rubble to remove the dead and help the injured. The regiment said the Russians hit a makeshift underground hospital and its operating room, killing an unknown number of people. The video could not be independently verified.
Hundreds of thousands of Mariupol residents fled. Authorities have said the approximately 100,000 people who remain are at risk of diseases such as cholera and dysentery.
“Deadly epidemics could break out in the city due to the lack of centralized water supply and sewage,” the council said on the Telegram messaging app. She reports decomposing bodies under the rubble and a “catastrophic” shortage of drinking water and food.
Russia, meanwhile, said a town under its control in the south had come under fire. In what could have been a Ukrainian counterattack, a series of explosions went off near the television tower on Wednesday evening in Kherson, which has been occupied by Russian forces since the start of the war. The explosions at least temporarily interrupted Russian channels.
Loud bangs were reported in the Russian region of Belgorod, bordering Ukraine, but there was no immediate explanation. In recent days, fuel and ammunition sites on Russian soil have been hit by explosions and fires, and suspicion has fallen on Ukraine.
Ukraine has urged its allies to send even more military hardware to push back the Russians. US President Joe Biden expects Congress to provide an additional $33 billion to help Ukraine.