kyiv: Russian forces have intensified their fighting in eastern Ukraine and fired missiles at the port city of Odessa, as President Joe Biden signed a law speeding up arms deliveries to kyiv.
The southern city was hit by a series of missiles on Monday, destroying buildings, setting a shopping center on fire and killing one person, its city council said, just hours after a visit by European Council President Charles Michel.
As Russia intensified its fight to seize eastern Ukraine, US President Joe Biden resurrected a WWII measure to help kyiv, opening the spigots of artillery, anti-aircraft missiles, anti-tank weapons and other powerful western stuff.
The United States has already sent some $4 billion in military aid to Ukraine, but “giving in to aggression is even more costly,” Biden said as he signed the law, which passed with unusual bipartisan support.
Missiles earlier rumbled into Moscow’s Red Square as Russia’s President Vladimir Putin sought to channel national pride on the anniversary of Nazi Germany’s defeat into support for a war that has killed thousands and sent millions to To exile.
On the ground in Ukraine, the Luhansk governor reported “very serious battles” in the Bilogorivka and Rubizhne frontline areas.
An AFP The team reported seeing columns of trucks full of soldiers and heavy equipment moving along the main road leading away from the city of Severodonetsk, one of its last eastern strongholds against Russia, suggesting Ukraine was withdrawing from some parts of the front.
In the devastated southern port of Mariupol, pro-Russian separatists celebrated Victory Day, with leader Denis Pushilin and residents wearing a giant black and orange ribbon of Saint George, a symbol of Russia’s World War II celebrations, through a city that has seen some of the heaviest fighting since the February 24 invasion.
Full control of Mariupol would allow Moscow to create a land bridge between the Crimean peninsula, which it annexed in 2014, and eastern regions run by pro-Russian separatists.
Some have speculated that Putin was trying to accomplish that goal in time for Victory Day, but a small contingent of depleted Ukrainian forces continued their defense of one last stronghold at the Azovstal steel mill.
“I bow to Putin”
In his speech in Moscow, the Russian leader blamed the West and Ukraine for the two-and-a-half-month conflict, told the parade his country faced an “absolutely unacceptable threat” and warned against the “horror of a global war.” “.
“They are fighting for the Homeland, for their future, so that no one forgets the lessons of World War II,” he said.
The celebration in Red Square also featured some 11,000 soldiers and more than 130 military vehicles, although a planned military flight was cancelled.
“Putin runs politics very well, well done to him. He makes sure that our guys don’t die, that there is as little blood as possible. I bow to him,” added Taisiya Chepurina, 81, whose husband fought in war. Battle of Stalingrad in 1943.
But Ukrainians and Western powers have accused Putin of exploiting the anniversary, with protesters in Warsaw throwing blood-red paint at the Russian ambassador, shouting “fascists!” and raising a Ukrainian flag, while he visited a cemetery.
Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky also invoked the ghosts of World War II, chiding Russia for taking sole credit for winning.
“We will not allow anyone to annex this victory. We will not let them take it over,” he said in a video address shortly before Putin spoke.
In kyiv, commemoration day was largely avoided as life slowly returned to normal, weeks after fierce fighting broke out in the suburbs.
Camps in the east?
Civilians in Ukraine still face the brunt of the fighting, as the country reels from a Russian attack on a school over the weekend that killed 60 people.
And the Pentagon said Monday it has seen signs that those caught up in Russia’s invasion are being forcibly removed from their homeland.
“I can’t say how many camps or what they are like,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters when asked about statements from kyiv that some 1.2 million Ukrainians were being sent across the border and placed in camps.
“But we have indications that Ukrainians are being taken to Russia against their will,” Kirby said. He called these actions “inconceivable” and “not the behavior of a responsible power.”
The deportation of Ukrainians from their own nation, often to isolated or economically depressed regions of Russia, according to kyiv, is another indication that Putin “simply will not accept or respect Ukrainian sovereignty,” he added.
Progress towards the embargo
In another move to increase pressure on Russia, EU chief Ursula von der Leyen said she made “progress” on a proposed Russian oil embargo during talks with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.
The populist Orban is one of Putin’s closest friends in Europe and had delayed the bloc’s attempt to phase out Russian oil, one of the most painful steps the West has taken so far, while pointing to the economic fallout in untouched Hungary. exit to the sea
But French President Emmanuel Macron poured cold water on Ukraine’s repeated desire to join the European Union quickly, saying it would take “decades”.
Macron, however, suggested building a broader political bloc that could also include Britain.
A ray of hope comes from the prisoner exchanges.
Ukrainian soldier Glib Stryzhko, 25, was seriously injured and captured in Mariupol in April, but was eventually released after a secret phone call to his mother.
“After we were put on the waiting bus, the driver said, ‘Guys, you can breathe. You’re home now,'” Stryzhko said. AFP from his hospital bed in Zaporizhzhia.