Ukraine’s president said his country’s defense against the Russian invasion has reached a “critical juncture” and asked the US for greater assistance, only hours after the Kremlin’s soldiers failed to follow through on a promise to pull back some of their activities.
Russian shelling of Kyiv and the northern city of Chernihiv, as well as increased strikes elsewhere in Ukraine, has shattered expectations for a peaceful resolution to the brutal conflict, which has degraded into a war of attrition. Civilians stuck in besieged cities have borne the brunt of the suffering, however both sides said on Thursday that another evacuation from Mariupol, the port city, will be attempted.
According to David Arakhamia, the head of the Ukrainian team, video talks between Ukraine and Russia will continue on Friday.
On Wednesday, a group of Ukrainian politicians traveled to Washington to lobby for additional US aid, claiming that their country requires more military equipment, financial support, and tighter sanctions against Russia.
“We need everything, all conceivable weaponry to push Russian forces off our country,” Ukrainian parliament member Anastasia Radina stated at a press conference at the Ukrainian Embassy.
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine addressed his argument directly to US Vice President Joe Biden.
“If we truly are fighting for freedom and defending democracy together, we have the right to ask for assistance at this critical juncture.” Tanks, airplanes, and artillery systems are only a few examples. “Freedom should be armed no worse than tyranny,” Zelenskyy stated in his nightly video message to the country, which he delivered standing outside Kyiv’s poorly illuminated presidential offices in the dark. He expressed gratitude to the United States for an extra $500 million in help announced on Wednesday.
There appeared to be little hope that Russia and Ukraine would be able to end the war very soon, especially following the Russian military’s U-turn and recent strikes.
Russia announced on Tuesday that activities around Kyiv and Chernihiv will be de-escalated in order to “build mutual confidence and create grounds for future dialogue.” The West and Zelenskyy were sceptical. Soon after, Ukrainian officials stated that Russian bombardment had targeted houses, businesses, libraries, and other civilian targets in and around those regions.
Around Chernihiv, the British Defense Ministry acknowledged “heavy Russian shelling and missile attacks.”
“Despite the retreat of a small number of soldiers, Russian forces continue to control areas to the east and west of Kyiv,” it stated on Thursday. Heavy combat is expected to erupt in the city’s outskirts in the following days.”
After redeploying soldiers from other locations, Russian troops increased their attacks on the Donbas region in the east and surrounding the city of Izyum, which is on a critical road to the Donbas, according to the Ukrainian side.
The Russian statement turned out to be “a total falsehood,” according to Olexander Lomako, secretary of the Chernihiv city council.
“They didn’t reduce at night,” Lomako claimed, “but they did enhance the intensity of military operations.”
According to a senior British intelligence official, dejected Russian soldiers in Ukraine were refusing to carry out instructions, destroying their own equipment, and mistakenly shooting down their own plane.
Jeremy Fleming, the leader of the GCHQ electronic surveillance organization, said in a speech in Australia’s capital Canberra that President Vladimir Putin had “massively underestimated” the invasion. Despite the fact that Putin’s aides appeared to be terrified of telling the truth, he added the “amount of these misjudgments must be crystal evident to the leadership.”
Similar views have been made by US intelligence officials, who believe Putin is being deceived by advisers who are too afraid to deliver honest assessments.
According to the United Nations, the number of Ukrainians fleeing the nation has exceeded 4 million, with half of them being minors, five weeks after the invasion that has left thousands dead.
“I’m not sure if we can still trust the Russians,” Nikolay Nazarov, a Ukrainian immigrant, said as he pushed his father’s wheelchair across the Polish border. “I believe the situation in eastern Ukraine will worsen. That is why we are unable to return to Kharkiv.”
The ongoing talks with Russia, according to Zelenskyy, are just “words without specifics.” He said that Ukraine was preparing for a fresh round of focused strikes in the Donbas.
Zelenskyy also said that Ukraine’s ambassadors to Georgia and Morocco had been summoned, implying that they had failed to persuade those nations to support Ukraine and punish Russia for the invasion.
“With all due respect,” he added, “if there aren’t going to be weapons, sanctions, or limits on Russian industry, then please search for other employment.”
The outlines of a possible peace agreement appeared to emerge during talks Tuesday in Istanbul, when the Ukrainian delegation proposed a framework in which the country would declare itself neutral — abandoning its bid to join NATO, as Moscow has long demanded — in exchange for security guarantees from a group of other countries.
Top Russian officials reacted enthusiastically, with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov telling Russian news outlets on Wednesday that Ukraine’s willingness to embrace neutrality and search for security outside NATO signals “major progress.”
However, their remarks were met with counter-attacks.
Russian shelling targeted residential areas and civilian infrastructure in the Bucha, Brovary, and Vyshhorod regions of Kyiv, according to Oleksandr Pavliuk, the chief of the Kyiv region military administration.
Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, a spokesperson for the Russian Defense Ministry, said the military also used air-launched long-range cruise missiles to attack fuel facilities in two towns in central Ukraine. According to him, Russian soldiers attacked a Ukrainian special forces headquarters in the southern Mykolaiv area and two munitions stores in the Donbas’ Donetsk province.
A Russian missile hit a gasoline storage in Dnipro, Ukraine’s fourth-largest city, according to regional officials.
Russia had begun to relocate fewer than 20% of its soldiers stationed near Kyiv, according to the US. According to Pentagon press secretary John Kirby, troops from there and other zones began advancing north, with some going into Belarus. According to Kirby, Russia appears to be planning to restock them and deploy them back into Ukraine, but it is unclear where.
Some Russian airborne forces are thought to have withdrawn into Belarus, according to the Ukrainian military.
The “liberation” of the Donbas, the mostly Russian-speaking industrial heartland where Moscow-backed rebels have been battling Ukrainian forces since 2014, according to top Russian military authorities. Some observers believe that focusing on the Donbas and pledging to de-escalate is simply an attempt to put a good gloss on reality, given that Moscow’s ground forces have been bogged down and suffered huge losses.
The Russians may possibly attempt to blockade Chernihiv.
For weeks, Russian military have been blockingading Mariupol, a strategic port in the south. Many attempts to construct safe evacuation pathways have failed in the city, which has witnessed some of the greatest destruction of the conflict. Last week, Ukraine accused Russian soldiers of kidnapping bus drivers and rescue personnel on their way to Mariupol.
From Thursday morning, the Russian military claimed it will commit to a restricted cease-fire along the highway from Mariupol to the Ukrainian-controlled city of Zaporizhzhia.
Ukraine is sending out 45 buses to collect individuals, according to Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk. The International Committee of the Red Cross, she added, was serving as a go-between.
Similar evacuation attempts have failed in the past due to recriminations about fighting along the road.
Civilians who have been able to escape Mariupol have traditionally done so in private automobiles, but the number of drivable vehicles in the city has dropped, and gasoline supplies are running short.
Russia has also conducted its own evacuations from the Mariupol region it has taken over. Ukraine claims that Russia is forcefully transporting Ukrainian civilians to “filtration camps” in separatist-controlled eastern Ukraine.
Those charges are being investigated by the United Nations.