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Sunday, April 14, 2024

‘Is NATO Run By Russia?’ – Ukrainian President, Zelensky Asks

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President Volodymyr Zelensky has called on the West to have ‘one percent of the courage exhibited by Ukrainian soldiers fighting constant Russian attacks, as he begged for more tanks, planes, and missiles to fend off Vladimir Putin’s troops.

A visibly angry Zelensky demanded that Western nations hand over military hardware that was ‘gathering dust’ in stockpiles, saying Ukraine needed just one percent of NATO’s aircraft and one percent of its tanks.

NATO leaders have so far given Ukraine anti-tank and anti-craft missiles as well as small arms and protective equipment, but have not offered any heavy armour or planes.

Zelensky accused the West of holding back on supplies because of ‘intimidation’ from Moscow and suggested Russia is in charge of NATO.

The leader hailed his troops fighting in Mariupol, the besieged port city that has suffered some of the war’s greatest horrors, as ‘heroes’ before calling on the West to have ‘one percent’ of his soldiers’ courage and provide Ukraine with hard armour.

‘I’ve talked to the defenders of Mariupol today. I’m in constant contact with them. Their determination, heroism, and firmness are astonishing,’ Zelensky said in a video address early on Sunday.

Referring to NATO, Zelensky bristled: ‘If only those who have been thinking for 31 days on how to hand over dozens of jets and tanks had one percent of their courage.’

Western military aid has so far not included fighter jets. A proposal to transfer Polish planes to Ukraine via the US was scrapped amid Nato concerns about getting drawn into conflict with Russia.

In a late night address on Saturday, Zelensky said: ‘We need more ammunition. We’ve already been waiting 31 days. What is NATO doing?

‘Who is in charge of the Euro-Atlantic community? Is it really still Moscow, because of intimidation? We are asking for one percent of what NATO has, nothing more.’

Russia’s constant artillery barrages and aerial bombing are reducing Ukrainian cities to rubble, killing thousands of people and driving millions to flee their homes.

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But Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, now in its 32nd day, has stalled in many areas, faltering in the face of Ukrainian resistance.

Zelensky angrily warned Moscow that it is sowing a deep hatred for Russia among his people.

‘You are doing everything so that our people themselves leave the Russian language, because the Russian language will now be associated only with you, with your explosions and murders, your crimes,’ Zelenskyy said.

In Kyiv, the situation is so desperate that people are starving and being forced to drink sewage water, a Ukrainian politician said.

The city is still facing a barrage of Russian missile strikes and suffering severe food and water shortages as a result.

Civilians in Kyiv are being ‘made to stay in basements and metro stations’ as they try to find shelter from Vladimir Putin’s bombs, Ukrainian politician Lesia Vasylenko said.

Speaking to Times Radio, Ms Vasylenko added: ‘People are actually starving without food, and drinking sewage water.

While Russia’s advance on Kyiv remains stalled due to the Ukrainian military’s fightback, continued bombardments has led to the city’s authorities to announce a new 35-hour curfew in the city that will last until Monday morning.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has ground into a war of attrition in many places, with the toll on civilians rising as Moscow seeks to pound cities into submission from entrenched positions.

Russian troops are now trying to encircle Ukrainian forces fighting in the separatist regions in the eastern part of the country, British intelligence chiefs said on Sunday.

Vladimir Putin’s forces are advancing southward from the area around the city of Kharkiv and north from the port city of Mariupol to the Donbas region in an attempt to surround Ukrainian troops, the Ministry of Defence said in an intelligence briefing today.

But in a further blow to Putin’s barbaric invasion, Ukrainian forces repulsed seven attacks in the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk and destroyed several tanks and armoured vehicles, the General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces said on Sunday.

Ukraine’s military chiefs said on Sunday that Russia is continuing with its ‘full-scale armed aggression’, with rocket attacks being launched on Ukrainian cities overnight.

Russian missiles struck Ukrainian fuel and food storage depots in the city of Lviv, sparking huge fires and wounding five people.

A security guard at the site, Yaroslav Prokopiv, said he saw three rockets strike and destroy two oil tanks. ‘The third strike threw me to the ground,’ he said.

The attack on the facilities means the government will have to disperse the stocks of both in the near future, Ukrainian Interior Ministry adviser Vadym Denysenko said today.

Denysenko also said Russia was bringing forces to the Ukrainian border on rotation, and could make new attempts to advance in its invasion of Ukraine.

Western intelligence officials say Russian forces now rely on indiscriminate bombardments rather than risking large-scale ground operations, a tactic that could limit Russian military casualties but would harm more civilians.

Whilst Russian troops appear to be advancing on the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine, battlefields in northern Ukraine remain ‘largely static,’ with Ukrainian counterattacks hampering Russian efforts to reorganise their forces, the UK’s MoD said.

Meanwhile Russian-backed separatists in the eastern Ukraine region of Luhansk are set to hold a referendum on joining Russia ‘in the near future’, prompting a severe rebuke from Ukraine who vowed a ‘total’ guerrilla warfare to prevent the country splitting in two.

Leonid Pasechnik, the head of the self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic, today said it may hold a referendum on making the region part of Russia.

Ukraine said that any such vote would have no legal basis and trigger a stronger international response.

Three days before ordering the February 24 invasion of Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin recognised the Ukrainian rebel regions of Luhansk and Donetsk as independent states, though the rest of the world considers them part of Ukraine.

The referendum on making Luhansk part of Russia could mark a precursor to the formal annexation of more Ukrainian territory by Moscow, as it did in Crimea after Russia seized the Ukrainian peninsula in 2014.

Crimeans voted overwhelmingly to break with Ukraine and join Russia – a vote that most of the world refuse to recognise.

The move prompted Ukraine’s military intelligence chief to accuse Russia of wanting to split Ukraine in two, as happened with North and South Korea.

‘In fact, it is an attempt to create North and South Korea in Ukraine,’ Kyrylo Budanov, the head of Ukrainian military intelligence, said in a statement, referring to the division of Korea after World War Two.

Vladimir Putin last month recognised the eastern regions of Luhansk and Donetsk, where pro-Russian separatists began fighting Ukrainian forces in 2014, as ‘independent’.

Putin used the apparent protection of the two eastern Ukrainian regions as a pretext to start their barbaric invasion on Ukraine.

Ukraine said a referendum in occupied Ukrainian territory would have no legal basis and would face a strong response from the international community, deepening Russia’s global isolation.

‘All fake referendums in the temporarily occupied territories are null and void and will have no legal validity,’ Ukraine’s foreign ministry spokesperson Oleg Nikolenko said in a statement to Reuters.

‘Instead, Russia will face an even stronger response from the international community, further deepening its global isolation.’

Meanwhile, a nuclear research facility in the besieged city of Kharkiv, near the Russian border, again came under fire Saturday, and Ukraine’s nuclear watchdog said that because of ongoing hostilities it was impossible to assess the extent of the damage.

Kharkiv has been besieged by Russian forces since the start of the invasion and has come under repeated shelling that has hit residential buildings and critical infrastructure.

Ukrainian authorities have previously reported that Russian shelling had damaged buildings at the facility, but there had been no release of radiation. The International Atomic Energy Agency has said the nuclear material in the facility is always subcritical and the inventory of radioactive material is very low, reducing the risks of radiation release.

On the western side of the country, Russian rockets struck Lviv on Saturday while President Joe Biden visited neighboring Poland, serving as a reminder that Moscow is willing to strike anywhere in Ukraine despite its claim to be focusing its offensive on the country’s east.

During his speech, Biden called for Putin to be removed from power, setting off alarm bells among US foreign policy experts, who fear that it could escalate tensions.

‘For God’s sake this man cannot remain in power,’ Biden said in a shocking apparent call for regime change in Moscow at the end of a impassioned speech from Poland on Saturday.

The unscripted remark, which the White House scrambled to walk back as the Kremlin expressed fury, came at the end of an otherwise resolute and fiery speech in Poland rallying the free world to unite in opposition to autocracy and support of Ukraine.

Meanwhile, in the encircled southern port of Mariupol, Mayor Vadym Boichenko said the situation remained critical, with street fighting in the centre.

Russia said last week it had evacuated several hundred thousand people from the war zone, but Ukraine said up to 15,000 civilians were forcibly deported from the Left Bank area of Mariupol to Russia.

Ukraine and Russia have since agreed on two ‘humanitarian corridors’ to evacuate civilians from frontline areas on Sunday, including allowing people to leave by private car from the southern city of Mariupol, Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said.

But there are fears over whether Russia will adhere to allowing Ukrainian citizens to leave via the humanitarian corridors, after previous Russian attacks have killed civilians fleeing via those routes.

Russia’s back-to-back airstrikes shook Lviv on Saturday, a city that has become a haven for an estimated 200,000 people who have had to flee their hometowns. The city had been largely spared since the invasion began, although missiles struck an aircraft repair facility near the main airport a week ago.

In the dim, crowded bomb shelter under an apartment block a short ways from the first blast site, Olana Ukrainets, a 34-year-old IT professional, said she couldn’t believe she had to hide again after fleeing from the northeastern city of Kharkiv, one of the most bombarded cities of the war.

‘We were on one side of the street and saw it on the other side,’ she said. ‘We saw fire. I said to my friend, `What’s this?’ Then we heard the sound of an explosion and glass breaking. We tried to hide between buildings. I don’t know what the target was.’

Two cities on opposite ends of the country are seeing some of the worst suffering at the moment, Chernihiv in the north – strategically located on the road from the Belarusian border to the capital, Kyiv – and Mariupol in the south, a key port city on the Sea of Azov.

Both are encircled by Russian forces, but still holding out.

Chernihiv has been under attack since the early days of the invasion and over the last week, Russia destroyed the main vehicular bridge leading out of the city and rendered a nearby pedestrian bridge impassable, cutting off the last route for civilians to flee, or for food and medicine to be brought in.

Chernihiv’s remaining residents are terrified that each blast, bomb, and body that lies uncollected on the streets ensnares them in the same macabre trap of unescapable killings and destruction.

‘In basements at night, everyone is talking about one thing: Chernihiv becoming (the) next Mariupol,’ said 38-year-old resident Ihar Kazmerchak, a linguistics scholar.

More than half of the city’s 280,000 inhabitants have already fled and hundreds who stayed have been killed, Mayor Vladyslav Atroshenko said.

Russian forces have bombed residential areas from low altitude in ‘absolutely clear weather’ and ‘are deliberately destroying civilian infrastructure: schools, kindergartens, churches, residential buildings, and even the local football stadium,’ Atroshenko told Ukrainian television.

Refugees from Chernihiv who fled the encirclement and reached Poland this week spoke of broad and terrible destruction, with bombs flattening at least two schools in the city center and strikes also hitting the stadium, museums, and many homes.

They said that with utilities knocked out, people are taking water from the Desna to drink and that strikes are killing people while they wait in line for food. Volodymyr Fedorovych, 77, said he narrowly escaped a bomb that fell on a bread line he had been standing in just moments earlier. He said the blast killed 16 people and injured dozens, blowing off arms and legs.

So intense is the siege that some of those trapped cannot even muster the strength to be afraid anymore, Kazmerchak said.

‘Ravaged houses, fires, corpses in the street, huge aircraft bombs that didn’t explode in courtyards are not surprising anyone anymore,’ he said. ‘People are simply tired of being scared and don’t even always go down to the basements.’

Britain’s defense ministry said Saturday that it doesn’t expect a reprieve for citizens of Ukraine’s bombarded cities anytime soon.

‘Russia will continue to use its heavy firepower on urban areas as it looks to limit its own already considerable losses, at the cost of further civilian casualties,’ the U.K. ministry said.

Previous bombings of hospitals and other nonmilitary sites, including a theater in Mariupol where Ukrainian authorities said a Russian airstrike is believed to have killed 300 people last week, already have given rise to war crimes allegations.

The invasion has driven more than 10 million people from their homes, almost a quarter of Ukraine’s population. Of those, more than 3.8 million have fled the country entirely, according to the United Nations. Thousands of civilians are believed to have died.

Of those who have left, 2.2 million have fled for neighbouring Poland, while more than half a million have made it to Romania. Nearly 300,000 have gone to Russia.

Before the crisis began a month ago, EU member Poland was home to around 1.5 million Ukrainians.

The UN children’s agency, UNICEF, said Thursday that 4.3 million children – more than half of Ukraine’s estimated 7.5-million child population – had been forced to leave their homes.

It puts at some 1.5 million the number of those children who have become refugees, while another 2.5 million are displaced inside their war-ravaged country, it said.

The number leaving daily has fallen well below 100,000 per day, and even 50,000 in recent days, even as living conditions in Ukraine worsen.

The figures do not include citizens of neighbouring states who have left Ukraine to return home.

Source: Daily Mail

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