Ukraine prepares to fight Russia’s eastern offensive

Experts say a full-scale offensive in the east will begin in a few days, although questions remain about the ability of Russia’s weak and depressed forces to seize many lands after Ukrainian defensive guards thwart their drive to seize the capital, Kiev.

Britain’s Defense Ministry announced on Sunday that Russia’s armed forces were trying to make up for the growing casualties by recalling staff who had been discharged over the past decade. Most of Ukraine’s military forces are in the east; Estimates vary, but they are believed to number in the tens of thousands.

Meanwhile, a senior U.S. official has said that Russia has appointed one of its most experienced military leaders, General Alexander Dvornikov, to command the armed invasion of Ukraine, which Moscow calls a “special military operation.” And spoke anonymously.

The new battlefield leadership is expected to be a major, focused focus on expanding control of the country’s east, following Russia’s failed drive to seize the Ukrainian capital, Kiev. Russia-backed separatists have been fighting Ukrainian forces in eastern Donbass since 2014, declaring parts of the country independent.

The 60-year-old Dvornikov, who rose to prominence as head of Russian forces, said Moscow had established the regime of President Bashar Assad in Syria in 2015 amid the country’s devastating civil war. Russian officials have generally not confirmed such appointments, and Duvornikov, who received the Hero of Russia medal, one of the country’s highest awards from President Vladimir Putin in 2016, has said nothing about a new role.

U.S. National Security Adviser Jack Sullivan, speaking on CNN’s State of the Union program on Sunday, underestimated the potential importance of a general’s appointment during the war.

“What we have learned in the first several weeks of this war is that Ukraine was never subject to Russia,” Sullivan said. “It does not matter what general president Putin is trying to appoint.”

Western military analysts say Russia’s offensive is focusing more on eastern Ukraine’s sickle-shaped curve – from Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city in the north, to Kherson in the south. However, the regional governor said that the airport in Ukraine’s fourth largest city, Dinibro, was hit twice by missile strikes on Sunday.

Newly released Maxar Technologies satellite images collected on Friday showed 8-mile (13-kilometer) military vehicles heading south to Donbass, reminiscent of images of a convoy parked on the roads leading to Kiev a few weeks before abandoning its attempt to take over Russia. Capital.

On Sunday, Ukrainian military command said Russian forces had shelled government-controlled Kharkiv and sent reinforcements to the isthmus in the southeast in an attempt to break through Ukrainian security. The Russians continued their siege of Mariupol, a major southern port that had been under siege and besieged for about 10 months.

A spokesman for the Russian Defense Ministry, Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, said the Russian military had used airstrikes to launch Ukraine’s S-300 air defense missile systems in the southern Mikholev region and at the air base in the city of Suzhou, not far from Kharkiv. .

Konashenkov said the ship’s missiles fired into Russian waters also destroyed the headquarters of the Ukrainian military unit stationed west in the Dniebro region. Neither Ukrainian nor Russian military claims have been independently verified.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has appealed for strong military and political support from the West, including NATO members who have been sending weapons and military equipment to Ukraine since the Russian invasion, but have rejected some demands for fear of being dragged into the war.

In a midnight video message, Zelenskyy argued that Ukraine’s future was in danger: that Russia’s occupation was “not limited to Ukraine” and that “the whole European program is a target.”

“That is why it is not only the moral duty of all democracies, but all European powers to support Ukraine’s desire for peace,” Zelenskyy said. “In fact, it’s a defense strategy for every civilized state.”

The Ukrainian leader also thanked British Prime Minister Boris Johnson for his visit to Kiev on Saturday, which was not announced in advance by the UK government. Zelenskyy said they had decided “what assistance the United Kingdom should provide for Ukraine’s post-war reconstruction, especially to rebuild the Kyiv region.”

Ukrainian officials have accused Russian forces of committing war crimes against thousands of civilians during the invasion. A series of missile strikes on Friday at a train station in eastern Ukraine have led to airstrikes on hospitals and the evacuation of Russian soldiers as they flee Kiev.

Speaking on the phone on Sunday, Zelenskyy said he and German Chancellor Olaf Scholes had “insisted that all those involved in war crimes be identified and punished.”

Ukraine has blamed Russia for atrocities against civilians in Pucha and other cities outside the capital, where hundreds of bodies, handcuffed and found with signs of torture, have been found since the withdrawal of Russian troops. Russia has denied involvement in war crimes and has falsely claimed that the scenes in Pucha were staged.

After Russian forces withdrew from the north and reunited in the east this week, firefighters went through the rubble of buildings to search for victims or survivors. Maria Vasselenko, 77, who lives in Porodianka, said her daughter and son-in-law were killed and her grandchildren were orphaned.

“The Russians were firing. And some wanted to come and help, but they were firing at them. They put ammunition under the dead,” Vaselenko said. “That’s why my children have been under the rubble for 36 days. Bodies are not allowed to be removed.”

In Mariupol, Russia stationed Chechen fighters, particularly fierce. The capture of the city on the Sea of ​​Azov would give Russia a ground bridge to the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia captured eight years ago from Ukraine.

Residents had no food, water or electricity as Russian forces surrounded the city and deceived evacuation workers. Ukrainian officials say hundreds of people are believed to have been killed in the airstrikes on the theater where the civilian refuge took place, and Zhelensky said he expects more evidence of atrocities once Mariupol is stopped;

In the campaign to capture Donbass, which includes Ukraine’s industrial hub, Russian think tanks from the southeastern city of Izyum in Kharkiv are predicted to “renew offensive operations in the coming days,” the US think tank War Research Institute said.

But in the eyes of think tank analysts, “the outcome of Russia’s forthcoming operations in eastern Ukraine remains questionable.”

Ukrainian authorities are begging the Western powers to send more weapons every day and punish Moscow with sanctions. This includes the exclusion of Russian banks from the World Monetary Fund and a total EU ban on Russian gas and oil.

In an interview with the Associated Press on Saturday inside his heavily guarded presidential office complex, Zhelensky said Russia was committed to negotiating a diplomatic end to the war, even if it “tortured” Ukraine.

He also acknowledged that peace would not come soon. Neither Putin nor other Russian officials have been included in the talks so far.

“We have to fight, but we have to fight for life. We can not fight for the soil when there is nothing, when there are no people. That is why it is important to stop this war,” the president said.

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Anna reported from Pucha, Ukraine. Journalists Yesica Fisch in Borodyanko, Robert Burns and Calvin Woodward in Washington and the Associated Press around the world contributed to the report.

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Follow AP’s information on the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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