Moscow maintains its “goals” in Ukraine despite Western aid

Russia acknowledged on Thursday that Western aid was slowing its offensive in Ukraine, but said it “would not prevent it from achieving its goals,” amid conflicting reports of the evacuation of civilians seeking refuge in Ukraine’s latest hotbed of resistance in Mariupol.

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“The US, UK and NATO as a whole are constantly sharing intelligence data with the Ukrainian armed forces. Combined with the supply of weapons (…) these actions ensure that the operation cannot be completed quickly,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the press.



Dmitry Peskov, spokesman for the Russian presidency.

AFP

Dmitry Peskov, spokesman for the Russian presidency.

He responded to information from New York Times that intelligence provided to the Ukrainian military by the United States led to several Russian generals being attacked at the front.

However, these Western actions “cannot prevent” the objectives of the Russian offensive in Ukraine from being achieved, he added, after 10 weeks of a war that has already claimed thousands of lives and caused the exodus of more than 5 million people. Ukrainians.

So far, Moscow has only been able to claim full control of one major Ukrainian city, Kherson, in the south. But Russia hopes, after two months of siege and bombing, to soon completely capture the strategic port of Mariupol, where the last Ukrainian fighters are entrenched, with civilians in the underground passages of the immense Azovstal steel factory.

Dmitry Peskov said on Thursday that humanitarian corridors “worked” to evacuate the remaining civilians in this Mariupol factory – who would still be 200, according to the city’s mayor, Vadim Boitchenko. He also assured that the Russian military would respect the ceasefire around the steel plant, which it had announced the day before, for three consecutive days, from Thursday to Saturday from 05:00 to 15:00 GMT.




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However, the Ukrainians have not confirmed a ceasefire.

“The Russian occupiers are busy blocking and destroying Ukrainian units in Azovstal territory,” the Ukrainian army said in a statement Thursday morning, adding that troops from Moscow “had resumed the offensive with support from aircraft to take control of to take over the factory.”

In a video message broadcast Wednesday evening, the commander of the Azov regiment defending the factory, Denys Prokopenko, claimed that “bloody fighting is underway in Azovstal”, with Russian soldiers present “in the fence of the steel factory”.

Global Fundraising Call

According to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, some 344 people were evacuated Wednesday from Mariupol and the surrounding area to Zaporizhzhya, a city under Ukrainian control some 230 km away.

About a hundred civilians from Azovstal were also able to flee this weekend as part of an evacuation organized with the UN and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Zelensky also called on UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres to help “rescue” the injured at the steel plant.

Hundreds of people — Ukrainian fighters and civilians — have been hiding in World War II underground galleries running beneath the Azovstal site since early March. Moscow has been focusing its firepower on the steel plant since President Vladimir Putin announced the “liberation” of the city on April 21.

The total capture of Mariupol, an industrial port south of the Donbass that was devastated by two months of Russian siege and bombing, would be a major victory for Moscow as May 9, the day Russia celebrates with a major military parade on the sqaure. his victory over Nazi Germany.

The Ukrainians claimed that the Russians were preparing to hold a military victory parade in Mariupol that day.

In this context, the Ukrainian president, who continues to demand more sanctions against Russia and more arms supplies to the West, launched a global fundraising campaign for Ukraine on Thursday, through a platform specially created for the occasion United24.


“With one click, you can donate money to help our defenders, save our citizens and rebuild Ukraine,” he said in a video posted on Twitter announcing the launch.

Black gold embargo

For its part, the European Commission on Wednesday proposed a gradual European Union embargo on oil imported from Russia.

If EU member states unanimously give the green light, “we will phase out Russian supplies of crude oil within six months and of refined products by the end of the year,” said Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.



Ursula von der Leyen

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Ursula von der Leyen

The Commission’s draft provides for a temporary exemption for Hungary and Slovakia, two landlocked countries wholly dependent on supplies via the “Druzhba” pipeline, which will be able to continue their purchases from Russia in 2023.

However, Budapest refused to accept this project in its current form and drew the ire of the head of Ukrainian diplomacy, who accused any country opposing such an embargo of “complicity” in the crimes attributed to Russians in Ukraine.

Under the influence of the embargo project, oil prices have soared, with the price of a barrel of Brent from the North Sea reaching its highest level in two and a half weeks.

deadly strikes

On the basis of military operations, Russian troops continue their offensive, especially in the east of the country, the Ukrainian army said.

According to the governor of the Donetsk region, 25 civilians were injured in an attack that hit a residential area in Kramatorsk overnight.




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The Russian army, for its part, said it had attacked a Ukrainian command post and two military warehouses at the city’s airport.

Moscow also said it had struck with “precision missiles” in the south, including a military airport near Kirovograd, as well as an ammunition and fuel depot in the Mykolaiv region.

“Thanks to the successful actions of the Ukrainian defenders, the enemy has lost control of several places near the Mykolaiv and Kherson regions,” the Ukrainian General Staff nevertheless said on Thursday morning.

On Ukraine’s northern borders, Belarus — an ally of Moscow — began “surprising” military maneuvers on Wednesday to test the military’s response capabilities, the defense ministry said.


And Moscow announced Wednesday evening that its army had simulated the firing of nuclear weapons in the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, located between Poland and Lithuania, two EU member states. More than 100 soldiers took part in these exercises.

From Chisinau, European Council President Charles Michel announced to him that Europeans planned to “significantly increase” their support for Moldova this year by providing additional military equipment to its armed forces.

Recent attacks on the pro-Russian Moldovan separatist area of ​​Transnistria have raised concerns about extending the conflict to this former Soviet republic of 2.6 million inhabitants.

New penalties

In addition to an embargo on Russian oil, the European Union also proposed on Wednesday to exclude three additional Russian banks – including Sberbank, the largest Russian institution – from the international financial system Swift.

The European Commission also recommends sanctions be imposed on the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, who has reproduced his sermons in support of the military intervention in Ukraine.

For his part, US President Joe Biden said he would discuss possible “additional” sanctions against Moscow with the other G7 countries this week.

A Security Council meeting on Ukraine was also scheduled for Thursday evening in New York.

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