Turning Tables on Russia With West’s Arms, Ukraine Goes on Offense

Ukraine’s military, armed with sophisticated weapons and Western-supplied long-range artillery, launched Friday’s offensive against Russian forces in the northeast, seeking to push them back from two key cities. important as the battle sinks deeper and deeper into a town – the battle for the town.

After weeks of intense fighting along a 300-mile front, neither side was able to achieve a major breakthrough, with one army capturing a few villages in one day, only to lose much in the following days. . In the latest attempt to regain territory, Ukraine’s military says “fierce battles” are underway as it fights to retake Russian-controlled areas around Kharkiv in the northeast and Izium. in the East.

The fighting intensified as the White House announced on Friday that President Biden would meet virtually on Sunday with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine and the leaders of the G7, which includes Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States. Statuses.

Jen Psaki, White House Press Secretary, noted that the leaders will convene as Russian President Vladimir V. Putin prepares to celebrate the annual Victory Day holiday on Monday with parades and speeches. Commemorating the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany.

The holiday season has raised concerns in Ukraine and some Western capitals that Mr. Putin could use the opportunity to scale up the invasion on February 24, after his initial attempt failed to defeat him. the Ukrainian army and overthrow the government.

“While he is expected to march through the streets of Kyiv, that is not really what will happen,” Ms. Psaki said. She called the G7 meeting “an opportunity to not only show how the West is united in the face of President Putin’s aggression and aggression, but also that unity requires effective”.

Ukraine on Friday urged civilians to prepare for heavier attacks ahead of Victory Day in Russia, warning them to avoid mass gatherings and placing a new curfew from Ivano-Frankivsk in the west to Zaporizhzhia. in the southeast.

Ukraine’s police force has also been put on high alert ahead of the holiday season, which will be commemorated in Russia with military parades in Moscow and hundreds of other cities.

Vadym Denysenko, an adviser to Ukraine’s Interior Ministry, warned civilians that they could risk their lives gathering in crowded places.

“We all remember what happened at the train station in Kramatorsk,” Mr. Denysenko said on Telegram, referring to a devastating missile attack in that eastern city last monthkilled dozens of people as they crammed onto the platforms, trying to flee the invasion.

“Be vigilant,” said Mr. Denysenko. “This is the most important thing.”

The governor of the Luhansk region in eastern Ukraine, Sergei Haidai, warned that Russian forces were preparing for a “major attack” in the next few days against a pair of eastern cities, Severodonetsk and Popsana. He attacked what he called “continued horror” in the area, where he said the latest Russian shelling had killed two people and destroyed dozens of homes.

The pace of Russian missile strikes across Ukraine has been increasing in recent days as Moscow tries to slow the flow of Western weapons across the country. But as with so many aspects of the war, uncertainty about Putin’s intentions deepens.

There is much speculation that he could use the upcoming holiday to turn what he calls a “special military operation” into an all-out war, which would provide justification for mass mobilization. Russian army and set the stage for a broader war- different conflicts. Kremlin officials have denied any such plans. But they have also denied plans to invade Ukraine.

Ukrainian officials have said a military draft in Russia could trigger a backlash among their citizens, many of whom, polls show, still view the war as a conflict. mostly filtered through complicated and sometimes contradictory stories provided by state-controlled media.

“General mobilization in Russia is in our favor,” Oleksei Arestovych, an adviser to Zelensky’s chief of staff, said in a Ukrainian television interview this week. “It could lead to a revolution.”

Some Western analysts speculate that Putin may instead point to territory Moscow has seized in eastern Ukraine to bolster his false claims that Russia is liberating the region from Nazi hand.

For its part, the Pentagon has avoided fueling speculation about Putin’s Victory Day plans.

“What they plan to do or say on Victory Day, it’s really up to them,” said John F. Kirby, Pentagon spokesman, say on Thursday. “I don’t think we have a perfect sense.”

Concerns that Russia could intensify attacks came when the United Nations Security Council adopted a statement on Friday supporting efforts by the United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, to work out a solution. diplomacy for the war.

The declaration, initiated by Mexico and Norway, is the first action related to Ukraine that the council has unanimously adopted since the invasion began. Russia supports the declaration and does not call the conflict “war,” a term the Kremlin forbids.

Mr. Zelensky stressed Friday that peace talks cannot resume until Russian forces pull back to their positions before the invasion. However, he still did not uphold the possibility of a negotiated settlement.

“Not all bridges are destroyed,” he said, speaking from afar at a virtual event organized by Chatham House, a British research organization.

Alexey Zaitsev, a spokesman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, on Friday said negotiations between Russia and Ukraine “are at a standstill,” Russian state media reported.

Zaitsev blamed NATO countries for prolonging the war by shipping billions of dollars in weapons to Ukraine, even as they urged Putin to withdraw.

“This leads to an increase in conflicts, more destruction of civilian infrastructure and civilian casualties,” he said.

Mr Zelensky said that Russian propagandists spent years instigating “hate” that led Russian soldiers to “hunt down” civilians, destroy cities and commit atrocities seen in ports. The southern Mariupol is besieged. Much of the city, once home to more than 400,000 people, has been razed, and it has become a powerful symbol of the devastation wrought by Russia in Ukraine.

Mr Zelensky said Russia’s determination to destroy the last of the Ukrainian warplanes lurking with desperate civilians in the bunkers below the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol only underscored the “cruelty” that defined the invasion. comb.

“This is terror and hatred,” he said.

On Friday, about 50 women, children and elderly people trapped underneath the Azovstal factory in Mariupol were evacuated in a humanitarian convoy, according to a senior Ukrainian official and Russian state media. The official, Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereschuk, said the evacuation was “extremely slow” due to the ceasefire violation by Russian troops.

According to Guterres, nearly 500 people have managed to leave the Azovstal, Mariupol and surrounding areas in recent days with the help of the United Nations and the Red Cross.

As hostilities drag on, fears grow that war could exacerbate a global hunger crisis.

The United Nations said on Friday there was mounting evidence that the Russian military had looted tons of Ukrainian grain and destroyed grain storage facilities, adding to export disruptions that have already driven prices down. The world has skyrocketed, with dire consequences for poor countries.

At the same time, the organization’s anti-hunger agency, the World Food Program, called for the reopening of ports in the Odesa region of southern Ukraine so that food produced in the war-torn country can spontaneously due to flow to the rest of the world. Ukraine, the top grain grower, has about 14 million tonnes in reserve for export, but Russia’s blockade of its Black Sea ports has prevented distribution.

“Currently, Ukraine’s grain vaults are full,” while “44 million people around the world are marching against hunger,” said David Beasley, executive director of the World Food Program.

Reporting was contributed by Dan Bilefsky, Nick Cumming-Bruce, Rick Gladstone, Zolan Kanno-Youngs and Farnaz Fassihi.

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