KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky called on people around the world to publicly gather Thursday to show support for his beleaguered country on the one-month anniversary of the Russian invasion, saying that ” The heart of every free man is broken “planet.”
Zelensky – whose video messages have repeatedly attracted the world’s attention – also said he would speak to NATO members by video to ask the coalition to provide “effective and unrestricted” support to Ukraine, including Includes any weapon the country needs to deter a Russian attack.
“Come to your squares, your streets. Make yourself visible and heard,” Zelensky said in English during an emotional video address late Wednesday that was recorded in the dark near the presidential office in Kyiv. “Say that people matter. Freedom matters. Peace matters. Ukraine matters.”
When Russia launched its offensive on 24 February in the largest invasion of Europe since World War II, Ukraine’s government was likely to fall rapidly. But with a full four weeks of fighting on Wednesday, Moscow is caught in a grinding military operation.
NATO estimates that 7,000 to 15,000 Russian soldiers have been killed in the four-week war in Ukraine, where fierce resistance has denied Moscow the victory victory it had sought.
By comparison, Russia in Afghanistan lost about 15,000 soldiers in 10 years.
A senior NATO military official said the coalition’s estimates were based on information from Ukrainian officials that Russia has released – intentionally or not – and intelligence obtained from open sources. The official spoke on condition of anonymity under ground rules set by NATO.
Russia, in its last update on March 2, said about 500 soldiers were killed and about 1,600 wounded.
Ukraine has released little information about its own military losses, and the West has given no estimates, but Zelensky said about two weeks ago that about 1,300 Ukrainian soldiers were killed.
Ukraine also claimed to have killed six Russian generals. Russia accepts only one dead general.
Ukrainian units armed with Western supplies have slowed or stopped their ground forces, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s troops have been bombing targets from afar, being used to turn cities into rubble in Syria and Chechnya. Falling back on strategy.
Russian ground forces are digging and establishing a defensive position 15 to 20 kilometers (9 to 12 miles) outside the capital Kyiv, a senior US defense official said on Wednesday, as they saw no progress toward the city center. We do.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss military assessments, said it appeared that the army was no longer trying to advance into the city, and that in some areas east of Kyiv, Ukrainian troops had Russian troops have been pushed further away.
Instead, Russian troops are prioritizing fighting in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions in the Donbass, the official said, in what could be an attempt to cut off Ukrainian troops and prevent them from moving west to defend other cities. The official said the US has also observed movement of Russian ships in the Sea of Azov, including attempts to send landing ships with supplies, including vehicles.
Despite evidence to the contrary, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov insisted the military operation was proceeding “strictly” as planned.
In an ominous sign that Russia is considering using nuclear weapons, a senior Russian official said the country’s nuclear arsenal would help prevent the West from interfering in Ukraine.
“The Russian Federation is capable of physically destroying any attacker or any attacking group within minutes at any distance,” said Dmitry Rogozin, who heads the state aerospace corporation, Roscosmos and oversees missile-manufacturing facilities. We do. He noted in his televised remarks that Moscow’s nuclear stockpile includes strategic nuclear weapons designed for use on battlefields, as well as more powerful nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missiles.
US officials have long warned that Russia’s military doctrine envisages the option of using battlefield nuclear weapons to force the enemy to retreat in a situation when Russian forces are confronted with an imminent threat. Had to face defeat. Moscow has denied having such a plan.
Rogozin, known for his ridicule, did not specify which actions by the West would be seen as interference, but his comments almost certainly reflected the thinking inside the Kremlin. Putin has warned the West that an attempt to introduce a no-fly zone over Ukraine would come into conflict with Russia. Western countries have said they will not create a no-fly zone to defend Ukraine.
As US President Joe Biden headed to Europe to meet with key allies about new sanctions against Moscow and more military aid to Ukraine, he warned there was a “real danger” that Russia could use chemical weapons. could.
On the eve of a meeting with Biden, EU countries signed 500 million euros ($550 million) in military aid for Ukraine.
Zelensky appealed to Western countries to unite with “some partners” to bring them to their side in the face of Russia’s efforts to “lobbies its interests”, and noted during his national address that Ukraine should be considered a fighter. Jet or modern air not found – Defense system requested it. He said that Ukraine also needs tank and anti-ship systems.
“It’s been a month of defending ourselves from attempts to destroy us, wipe us off the earth,” he said.
The US has determined that Russian troops have committed a war crime in Ukraine, and will work to prosecute the perpetrators, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said. He cited evidence of indiscriminate or intentional attacks against civilians and the destruction of apartment buildings, schools, hospitals, shopping centers and other sites.
In Kyiv, where near-constant shelling and gunfire engulfed the city on Wednesday as both sides battled for control of several suburbs, Mayor Vitaly Klitschko said at least 264 civilians had been killed since the war began. . Independent Russian news outlet The Insider said Russian journalist Oksana Boulina was killed in a gunfight in a Kyiv neighborhood on Wednesday.
To the south, the besieged port city of Mariupol has seen the worst devastation of the war, enduring weeks of bombing and, now, street-by-street fighting. But Ukrainian forces have halted its collapse, thwarting an apparent bid by Moscow to fully secure a land bridge from Russia to Crimea, which was seized from Ukraine in 2014.
In their last update a week ago, Mariupol officials said at least 2,300 people had died, but the true number is probably much higher. Last week airstrikes destroyed a theater and an art school where civilians were taking refuge.
Zelensky said 100,000 citizens lived in the city, which had a population of 430,000 before the war. Efforts to deliver food and other supplies to those in dire need have often failed.
Zelensky accused the Russian army of seizing the humanitarian convoy. Deputy Prime Minister Irina Vereshchuk said the Russians had taken 11 bus drivers and four rescuers with their vehicles captive.
Regional governor Viacheslav Chaus said that in the besieged northern city of Chernihiv, Russian forces bombed and destroyed a bridge, which was used for aid delivery and civilian evacuation.
Katerina Mytkevich, 39, who fled Chernihiv to Poland, wiped her tears and said that the city was without gas, electricity or running water, and entire neighborhoods had been destroyed.
“I don’t understand why we have such a curse,” she said
Anna reported from Lviv, Ukraine. Associated Press writer Robert Burns in Washington, Urus Karmanau in Lviv and other AP journalists from around the world contributed to this report.
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