Ukraine’s defenders dig as Russia ramps up shelling

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — A showdown looms in Ukraine as Russia appointed a new military commander and looked to focus its attacks on the country’s eastern side, while Ukraine’s president said his troops were on their own soil. and urged Western leaders. Specifically to President Joe Biden, and more.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky warned in his nightly address to the nation on Sunday that the coming week would be as important as any time during the war, adding that “Russian troops are ready for even bigger operations in the east of our state.” Will go ahead.”

Zelensky also said that Ukraine’s fate as the war turns south and east depends on whether the United States will help counter the increase in Russian weapons in the regions.

“To be honest, whether we’ll be able to (survive) depends on it,” Zelensky said in a “60 Minutes” interview that aired Sunday night, speaking through a translator. “Unfortunately, I do not believe we will get everything we need.

Zelensky said he was grateful to Biden for the U.S. military assistance to this day, but added that he forwarded a list of specific items “long ago” that Ukraine desperately needed and that history would judge Biden’s response.

“He has the list,” Zelensky said. “President Biden can enter history as the man who stood shoulder to shoulder with the Ukrainian people who won and chose the right to keep their country. (It) also depends on him.”

Experts have said that the next phase of the fight may begin with a full-scale offensive. The outcome could set the course of the conflict, which has flattened cities, killed countless thousands and left Moscow economically and politically isolated.

Questions remain about Russia’s ability to weaken and demoralize forces after their advance on the capital, Kyiv, was repelled by determined Ukrainian defenders. Britain’s Defense Ministry said on Sunday that the Russian military was trying to cover rising casualties by recalling soldiers who had retired over the past decade.

In his address on Sunday night, Zelensky also accused Russia of trying to evade responsibility for war crimes in Ukraine.

“When people lack the courage to admit their mistakes, apologize, adapt to reality, and learn, they turn into demons. And when the world ignores this, the demons decide that it The world has to adapt to them,” Zelensky said.

“The day will come when they have to accept everything. Accept the truth,” he said.

In Washington, a senior US official said Russia has appointed General Alexander Dvornikov, one of its most experienced military chiefs, to oversee the invasion. The officer spoke on condition of anonymity and was not authorized to be identified.

Until now, Russia had no central combat commander on the ground.

The new battlefield leadership comes at what is expected to be a major, focused push to expand control of the Russian military east of Ukraine. Russia-backed separatists have fought Ukrainian forces in the eastern Donbass region since 2014 and declared some areas independent.

Dvornikov, 60, rose to prominence as the chief of the Russian military stationed in Syria in 2015 to sideline President Bashar Assad’s government during the country’s devastating civil war. US officials say he has a record of brutality against civilians in Syria and other war theaters.

Russian officials generally do not confirm such appointments and have said nothing about a new role for Dvornikov, who received the Hero of Russia Medal, one of the country’s highest awards, from President Vladimir Putin in 2016.

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan downplayed the importance of the appointment while speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday.

“What we learned in the first several weeks of this war is that Ukraine will never be subject to Russia,” Sullivan said. “It doesn’t matter which general President Putin tries to appoint.”

Western military analysts say Russia’s attack has focused on the sickle-shaped arc of eastern Ukraine from Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city in the north to Kherson in the south.

The narrow effort could help Russia’s problem at war, which could help spread its offensive over a much larger geographic area.

“Just looking at it on a map, you can see that they’re going to be able to bring a lot of power in a much more focused fashion,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said Friday.

Recently released Maxar Technologies satellite imagery showed an 8-mile (13-kilometer) convoy of military vehicles headed south through Ukraine to the Donbass, recalling images of a convoy that was trying to take over by Russia. Been on the roads to Kyiv for weeks before committing. capital.

The Ukrainian military command said on Sunday, Russian forces opened fire on government-controlled Kharkiv and sent reinforcements to Izium in the southeast to break through Ukraine’s defences. The Russians also continued their siege of Mariupol, a major southern port that has been under attack and besieged for about a month and a half.

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman, Major General Igor Konashenkov, said Russia’s military used air-launched missiles to hit Ukraine’s S-300 air-defense missile systems in the southern Mykolaiv region and at an air base in Chuhuyev. Kharkiv.

Konashenkov said Russian cruise missiles fired from the sea destroyed the headquarters of a Ukrainian military unit located to the west in the Dnipro region. Neither the Ukrainian nor the Russian military claims could be independently verified.

According to the regional governor, the airport of Dnipro, Ukraine’s fourth-largest city, was also hit twice on Sunday by missiles.

On Sunday night, Zelensky again called on Western countries to provide more aid to Ukraine. During talks with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Zelensky said, they discussed “how to strengthen sanctions against Russia and … force Russia to seek peace.”

“I am pleased to learn that recently the German position has changed in favor of Ukraine. I consider it absolutely logical,” said Zelensky.

The president of the European Commission said on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday that Ukraine’s response to a questionnaire recently submitted to Zelensky would enable it to decide whether a candidate should join the EU. whether to recommend to the nation or not.

This process typically takes years, but Ursula von der Leyen has said Ukraine’s application may take a few weeks to be considered.

“Yesterday, someone said to me: ‘You know, when our soldiers are dying, I want them to know that their children will be free and be part of the European Union,'” von der Leyen said.

Ukrainian authorities have accused the Russian military of committing war crimes against civilians, including airstrikes on hospitals, a missile attack at a train station that killed at least 57 people and other violence discovered as Russian troops raided Kyiv. withdrawn from the outskirts of

A day after meeting with Zelensky in Kyiv, Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehmer announced he would meet with Putin in Moscow on Monday. Austria, a member of the European Union, is militarily neutral and is not a member of NATO.

Ukraine has blamed Russia for killing civilians in Buka and other cities outside the capital, where hundreds of bodies, many with their hands tied and signs of torture, were found after Russian troops retreated. Russia has denied the allegations and falsely claimed that the scenes were staged in Buka.

In Mariupol, Russia was deploying Chechen fighters, who were considered particularly fierce. Capturing the city on the Azov Sea would give Russia a land bridge to the Crimean peninsula, which Russia seized from Ukraine eight years ago.

Residents are short of food, water and electricity as Russian forces have besieged the city and thwarted evacuation missions. Ukrainian officials believe an airstrike on a theater being used as a bomb shelter killed hundreds of civilians, and Zelensky has said he expects an air strike when Mariupol is now closed. If not done, then there will be more evidence of atrocities.

The Institute for the Study of War, an American think tank, predicted that Russian forces would “renew offensive operations in the coming days” from the southeastern city of Izium in Kharkiv in a campaign to conquer the Donbass, Ukraine’s industrial stronghold. is included.

But in the opinion of the think tank analysts, “the outcome of the upcoming Russian operations in eastern Ukraine is very much questionable.”

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Anna reported from Buka, Ukraine. Yesika Fisch in Borodianko, Robert Burns and Calvin Woodward in Washington, and Associated Press reporters from around the world contributed to this report.

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