As Western Arms Pour Into Ukraine, Zelensky Promises Victory

Chairperson Volodymyr Zelenskysupported by a series of heavy weapons from Western nations, expressed growing confidence on Saturday that Ukraine is ready to defeat Russian forces in what is believed to be a a long and brutal battle to control the eastern industrial heartland.

“We will be able to show the occupiers that the day when they will be forced to leave Ukraine is drawing near,” Zelensky said in a speech to the nation.

The statement appeared to mark a decisive change for Zelensky, who has spent months begging and embarrassing allies around the world to supply Ukraine with heavy, long-range weapons. more to repel Russian forces as they hit the east in the latest of two attacks. -the old war month.

At a news conference on Saturday, Mr. Zelensky said that the US Secretary of State, Antony J. Blinken, and Defense Secretary, Lloyd J. Austin III, had planned to visit the capital Kyiv on Sunday to discuss the matter. “Military support. we need.” They would be the highest-ranking US officials to visit since the invasion began.The Pentagon and State Department declined to comment.

World leaders “shouldn’t come to us empty-handed, not just presents and cakes,” Zelensky said, but with “concrete weapons.”

Military analysts say that the tanks, artillery, deadly drones, armored vehicles and mountains of ammunition pouring into Ukraine from Western allies are key factors in helping the country’s military fight back. the Russian army is better equipped and larger.

Despite the increased fighting, Russian forces have made “no major gains” in the past 24 hours, as Ukrainian counterattacks continue to hamper their efforts, Britain’s Ministry of Defense said on Thursday. Seven, inside Latest reviews belligerent.

The ministry said that despite Russia’s claims that it had captured the heavily damaged southern port of Mariupol, where the last remaining Ukrainian fighters were holed up in a steel mill with civilians, “combating” fierce” continued to frustrate the Russian attempt to capture the city, slowing their progress into the Donbas region.

The fighting in the eastern theater increased the sense of urgency among the Western allies to bolster Ukraine’s defenses with more powerful weapons. The terrain there mostly open farmlandwhich tended to favor tanks and other heavy weapons rather than the guerrilla-style rapid-fire tactics the Ukrainians used to have such devastating impact in the north of the country.

Canada on Friday announced that it had delivered heavy artillery, including M777 howitzers and anti-armor ammunition, to Ukrainian forces in conjunction with the United States.

The shipment came after President Biden announced Another $800 million in military aid traveled to Ukraine on Thursday, saying he wanted to send an “unmistakable message” to Russian President Vladimir V. Putin, that he would “never succeed in dominating and occupying all of Ukraine.”

At Saturday’s press conference, Zelensky reiterated his willingness to meet Putin in person, saying “I don’t want” to meet him, “I have to meet the president” to end the war. He also appealed to the Russian people that: “Living in the Russian Federation is like virtual reality, like a video game. Let’s go back to the world. It’s nicer and more honest.”

While Russia has not made any significant territorial gains since launching a new offensive in the Donbas this week, Ukraine’s defense intelligence agency warned that Russian forces are trying to identify the most vulnerable points of the Ukrainian army to organize a larger attack. It also says that some of the elite Russian soldiers who fought in Mariupol have begun to move east to join the battle in Donbas.

Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine, Oleksiy Danilov, said that Ukraine had managed to transfer weapons by helicopter in the dark to the steel plant in Mariupol, Related press reported.

The city is becoming increasingly desperate with 100,000 people trapped there and struggling to survive under Russian occupation, said Iryna Vereshchuk, Deputy Prime Minister of Ukraine. . On Saturday, an aide to the city’s mayor said that Russian forces had thwarted the latest attempt to evacuate civilians from Mariupol.

Most of the fighting over the past week has been for control of towns and villages directly on the front lines, which stretch more than 300 miles in eastern Ukraine and include many communities that have been ravaged by weeks of war.

In villages and towns largely in the north of the country that have been recaptured by Ukrainian troops, officials have been working with international investigators to document incidents of violence against civilians.

Ukraine’s prosecutor general, Iryna Venediktova, said she was examining more than 8,000 reported atrocities, including summary executions, sexual violence and forced deportation of children to Russia.

Moscow shifted its focus to the Donbas after failing to capture Kyiv in the north, where the Russian army was hampered by logistical and tactical problems as well as low morale. These problems are likely to persist in the fight for the Donbas, according to independent analysts, who said Russia did not rest, strengthen or adequately resupply its troops before the start of the war. Latest attack.

While Russia is focused on seizing the east, at least eight people were killed and 18 injured on Saturday when two cruise missiles hit a residential area on the outskirts of the country, Ukrainian officials said. city ​​of Odesa, in the south of the country. Among the dead was a 3-month-old baby, said Andriy Yermak, head of the presidential palace.

Mr Zelensky reacted angrily to the attack, denouncing Mr Putin as “this bastard” and asking “how do they believe in God” that the Russians could kill a 3-month-old baby.

Photographs and video from the scene show the entire large damaged building, which is partially obscured by thick plumes of black smoke. Foreign Minister of Ukraine, Dmytro Kuleba, say on Twitter that “terror” was the “sole target” of the attack on Odesa.

Three people were also killed and seven wounded in shelling on the northeastern city of Kharkiv on Saturday, the regional governor said.

For its part, the Ukrainian military claims to have blown up a Russian forward command post in the southern Kherson region, which is largely under Russian control.

In his overnight speech, Mr. Zelensky captured a Russian general’s claim on Friday that Moscow not only intends to dominate the east, but also rolling through southern Ukraine all the way to MoldovaUkraine’s southwestern neighbor.

“This just confirms what I have said many times,” Mr. Zelensky said. “Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is just the beginning, then they want to invade other countries.”

Military and political analysts have cast doubt on the statement of the Russian general, Rustam Minnekayevsuggests that it may be intended to confuse Ukraine and its supporters, and that it will be difficult for Russian forces, already involved in the fierce fighting in the east, to advance further. into the south.

But the commander’s suggestion that Russia had broader ambitions shook the region, turn off the alarm in Moldovaa former Soviet republic where Moscow-backed separatists have controlled a breakaway territory known as Transnistria since 1992.

In response to General Minnekayev’s claim that Russian-speaking people are being persecuted in Transnistria, the Moldovan government summoned the Russian ambassador to complain that such comments are “not only unacceptable but also baseless.” persist” and lead to “increased tension”.

Moldova is one of a number of countries along the Ukrainian border that have accepted more than five million refugees who have fled since the war began on February 24. But even as many have raced to leave Ukraine, More than a million Ukrainians have returned to the country, according to Ukraine’s Interior Ministry.

Some have ventured home after Russian forces withdrew from areas around Kyiv, bringing a sense of stability to the region and allowing some foreign embassies and businesses to reopen. there.

Poland, which has received almost three million Ukrainian refugees, more than any other country, said that nearly 24,000 won crossed back to Ukraine on Saturday alone. Lesia Vasylenko, a Ukrainian lawmaker, shared a photo on Twitter The cars she said were lined up and waiting to travel from Poland to Ukraine for Orthodox Christian Easter, which will be held on Sunday.

“Ukrainians are returning home,” she wrote. “Easter is a time to unite and pray for Ukraine.”

Victoria Kim and Alexandra E. Petri contribution report.

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