Both Sides Harden Positions on Anniversary of Nazi Defeat in Europe

PARIS – On a day commemorating the end of World War Two in Europe, the war in Ukraine was marked by set and signaled Sunday, as each side ramped up its rhetoric and determination.

The leaders of the world’s wealthiest democracies have vowed to end their reliance on Russian energy and ensure that Russia does not triumph in “grave, unprovoked aggression and illegal” as President Vladimir V. Putin pursued indiscriminate bombardment of eastern Ukraine and celebrated Russia’s Victory Day on Monday.

A statement by the Group of Seven major industrialized nations said that, on a day when Europe remembers the devastation of World War II and its millions of victims, including those from the Soviet Union, ” Putin’s actions bring shame to Russia and the historic sacrifices of its people.”

The leaders signaled to Putin that their unwavering support for Ukraine would only grow, saying: “We remain united in our determination that President Putin must not win the war against Ukraine. ” The statement said the memory of all those who fought for freedom in World War II, compels them to “continue fighting for it to this day.”

The tone was firm, with no mention of any potential diplomacy or ceasefire.

In Moscow, as warplanes swarmed the skies and nuclear weapons were on display in preparation for Victory Day, Putin appeared to signal back to Western leaders that he was determined Double the fight until he can conjure something that can be declared a victory.

Local authorities said there was new evidence of that on Sunday, when rescuers picked up the wreckage in Bilohorivka, a village in the Luhansk region of eastern Ukraine where a bomb was Russia razed a school, killing those who were taking shelter there.

Governor Serhiy Haidai wrote on the messaging app Telegram: “Most likely, all 60 people remaining under the rubble are dead. But it’s not clear how many people are actually on campus and that tuition could be inflated. If confirmed, it would be one of Russia’s deadliest attacks since the war began in February.

Despite the commemoration of World War Two in most of Europe on Sunday and in Russia on Monday, a painful reminder of the tens of millions of lives lost, there is no sign of the war in Ukraine. is about to end. If anything, all signals point in the opposite direction. Russia’s attacks on Ukrainian towns and villages have met a culmination of Western rhetoric, accompanied by the danger of continued escalation.

Putin, whose militarization has stabilized Russian society in recent years, has turned the May 9 celebration of the Soviet Union’s defeat of Nazi Germany into an annual celebration of the strength of a recovering nation. born, was expected to portray a failed war in Ukraine as a success. drove to “de-Nazify” a neighboring country whose very existence denied him.

His much-anticipated speech could go further, possibly signaling that any conquest of Ukraine so far will be made permanent through annexation. Russia annexed Crimea in 2014 and began to stir up military conflict in the eastern Donbas region.

In Mariupol, the Ukrainian port city now devastated by Russia’s continued attack and a place Mr Putin wants to display as proof of his “victory”, Ukraine’s last defenders of Ukraine. the city swore to fight. Russian forces cleared the streets on Sunday in preparation for a commemorative parade on Monday.

Across eastern Ukraine, Russia intends to make a permanent occupation through the Russian flag, signs in Russian and the introduction of the ruble. The group of seven leaders said any attempt “to replace democratically elected Ukrainian local governments with illegitimate ones” would not be recognized.

Regional visits by first lady, Jill Biden, who traveled to western Ukraine to meet Ukraine’s first lady, Olena Zelenskaon an unannounced visit to Uzhhorod and Justin Trudeau, the Canadian prime minister, who made a surprise appearance in the war-ridden suburb of Kyiv, ostensibly intended to send home a message of the West’s steadfast commitment to .

Senior American diplomats have returned to the US Embassy in Kyiv for the first time since the war began.

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine released a black and white video speech on Sunday marking the Allied victory in 1945. Standing in front of a destroyed apartment complex on the outskirts of Kyiv heavily attacked by Russian troops before As they withdrew from the area around the capital, he said, “We pay tribute to all those who defended the planet against Nazism during the Second World War.”

Mr. Putin has described Mr. Zelensky, who is of Jewish descent, as the leader of a country that is threatening Russia with a resurgence of Nazism. His aim was to spread the spirit of the Great Patriotic War, as World War II is known in Russia, among the Russian armies, but to no apparent result.

In the vast Azovstal steel plant, the last remaining part of Mariupol not under Russian control, the Ukrainian military again rejected the deadline for Russian surrender. During a virtual press conference, Lieutenant Illya Samoilenko, an officer in a battalion of the Ukrainian National Guard known as the Azov regiment, said: “We are basically the dead. Most of us know this. That’s why we fight.”

Captain Sviatoslav Palamar, deputy commander of the regiment, said, “We don’t have much time, we are under constant shelling” with attacks from tanks, artillery, planes and snipers. of Russia.

The remaining civilians in the steel mill were evacuated on Saturday. Local officials estimate the death toll in the city at more than 20,000.

If the United States and its allies refused to join forces for fear of triggering a Third World War, they turned to support Ukraine by all means, increasing their resolve and actions today. expanded with the brutality of individual Russians.

The Group of Seven statement includes a series of economic, military and judicial steps, with the express purpose of bringing Russia’s economy down and increasing pressure on Mr. Putin to turn his back on a political crisis. The war of choice turned him into a pariah and threatened much of his country’s progress over the past two decades.

“We are committed to phasing out our dependence on Russian energy, including by eliminating or banning imports of Russian oil,” the statement said. It added, without specifying, that this would be done in a “timely and orderly manner.” They added, alternative sources would be found to ensure “affordable prices for consumers.”

It is not clear how this Group 7 commitment has gone beyond existing, if any, commitments.

The 27-nation European Union has committed to an outright import ban on all Russian oil, with most countries to phase out Russian crude within six months and refined oil by the end of the year. The European Union, too dependent on Russian gas, should consider embargoes in the short term.

The war caused gasoline prices across most of Europe to rise amid general inflation. If the war drags on, it’s likely that support for the West’s commitment to Ukraine could be shaken in terms of consumers paying for the pump or in their utility bills.

The Group of Seven statement, meeting remotely, said seven countries – the United States, France, Great Britain, Japan, Germany, Canada and Italy – had provided or committed $24 billion to Ukraine for 2022. In the coming weeks, we will strengthen our collective short-term financial support,” they said.

We will continue to take action against Russian banks connected to the global economy and systematically important to the Russian financial system. More generally, they will “take measures to prohibit or prevent the provision of key services on which Russia depends”.

Military and defense support will continue to ensure that “Ukraine can defend itself now and deter future acts of aggression.”

The leaders said they “will spare no effort to arrest President Putin” and that his accomplices “must be held accountable for their actions in accordance with international law.”

Illegal accusations against Mr. Putin for invading a sovereign state are sure to infuriate the Russian President. NATO’s bombing of Belgrade in 1999 during the Kosovo War, the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 and Western support for Kosovo’s independence in 2008 made him distrustful of American references to the Constitution. United Nations chapter and international law.

War broke out in eastern Ukraine on Sunday, with the Ukrainian counteroffensive near Kharkiv, the country’s second largest city, gaining ground in the northeast. However, Ukrainian troops withdrew from the city of Popasna after two months of fierce fighting.

Overall, Russia’s planned offensive in the east of the country, like the rest of Putin’s war, went less smoothly than planned. Mr. Putin’s broad goal, at least for the time being, seems to be to connect Crimea via Mariupol with other occupied regions of eastern Ukraine, and with Russia itself, forming a cohesive territory. outcome and strategy.

William J. Burns, CIA director and former US ambassador to Russia, says the current stage of the war is at least as dangerous as Russia’s initial attempt to attack the capital and topple the Ukrainian government.

Speaking on Saturday in Washington, he said Putin “had in mind that he thought he couldn’t lose,” and believed that “doubles would still help him make progress.”

In the 77 years since the end of World War II, the possibility of a large-scale fire in Europe has rarely seemed more justifiable.

Report contributed by Emma Bubola in London; Eduardo Medina in New York; Marc Santora in Krakow, Poland; Maria Varennikova in Kyiv, Ukraine; Katie Rogers in Uzhhorod, Ukraine; Julian E. Barnes and Michael Crowley in Washington; and Cassandra Vinograd in London.

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