Zelensky looks defiant as Russian forces regroup near Kiev

Lviv.- The president Volodymyr Zelensky declared on Friday that Ukraine had reached a “strategic turning point” in the conflict with Russia, but Moscow’s forces shelled cities across the country and appeared to be regrouping for a possible assault on the capital, Kiev.

The governor of the Kharkov region, on the Russian border, said a psychiatric hospital had been attacked, and the city’s mayor said some 50 schools had been destroyed there.

In the besieged city of Mariupol, in the south of the country, the city council said at least 1,582 civilians had been killed as a result of Russian bombing and a 12-day blockade that has left hundreds of thousands of people trapped without food, water, heat or electricity.

The Russian Defense Ministry declared that the Black Sea port was completely surrounded and the Ukrainian authorities accused Moscow of deliberately preventing the departure of civilians and the entry of humanitarian convoys.

A new effort to evacuate civilians along a humanitarian corridor appears to have failed.

“The situation is critical,” said Ukrainian Interior Ministry adviser Vadym Denysenko.

Meanwhile, Western countries have taken further steps to try to force Russian President Vladimir Putin to end his assault on Ukraine.

US President Joe Biden declared that the G7 industrialized countries would revoke Russia’s “most favored nation” trade status. He also announced Washington’s ban on imports of Russian seafood, alcohol and diamonds.

European Union leaders, meeting in France, were willing to impose tougher economic sanctions on Russia and could give Ukraine more funds for weapons, but rejected Kiev’s request to join the bloc.

In a meeting with the President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko, Putin said there were “certain positive changes” in talks with Kiev, but did not elaborate.

With the Russian assault now in its third week, Zelensky, who has rallied his people with a series of speeches, said Ukraine had “already reached a strategic turning point.”

“It is impossible to say how many days we have left (ahead) to liberate the Ukrainian land. But we can say that we will do it,” he said. “We are already moving towards our goal, our victory.”

Russia’s main strike force has stalled on roads north of Kiev, having failed in what Western analysts say was an initial blitzkrieg plan.

troop movement

Images released by the private US satellite company Maxar showed armored units maneuvering in and through towns near an airport in Hostomel, on the northwestern outskirts of Kiev, the site of heavy fighting since Russia unloaded paratroopers there in the early hours. from the war.

Other elements had repositioned near the small settlement of Lubyanka, just to the north, with towed artillery shells in firing positions, Maxar said.

“Russia is likely to be trying to re-establish and reposition its forces for further offensive activity in the coming days,” the British Ministry of Defense said in an intelligence update. “This will probably include operations against the capital, Kiev.”

Ukraine said Russian forces were regrouping after suffering heavy losses.

The mayor of Kiev, former heavyweight boxing champion Vitali Klitschko, said the capital had enough essential supplies to last a couple of weeks. Supply lines are still open for now.

Oleh Synegubov, governor of the Kharkiv region, said 330 people were in the psychiatric hospital when he was attacked: “This is a war crime against the civilian population, a genocide against the Ukrainian nation,” he wrote on the messaging app. Telegram.

The attack came less than two days after RUSA bombed a maternity hospital in the besieged port of Mariupol, an attack that Washington has called a war crime.

Ukraine said pregnant women were among the wounded, but Russia said the hospital was no longer functioning and was occupied by Ukrainian fighters when it was attacked.

On Friday, three airstrikes in the central Ukrainian city of Dnipro killed at least one person, state emergency services reported, adding that the strikes occurred near a kindergarten and an apartment building.

While Russia’s advance on Kiev has stalled and has so far failed to capture any cities in northern or eastern Ukraine, it has made more substantial progress in the south. Moscow said on Friday that its separatist allies in the southeast had captured the town of Volnovakha north of Mariupol.

The United States Senate voted Thursday to pass legislation that provides $13.6 billion to help Ukraine finance ammunition and other military supplies, as well as humanitarian support.

Russia is the world’s largest exporter of combined oil and gas. Its energy exports have been largely exempt from sanctions so far, although Washington has announced it will stop buying Russian crude.

The information war also intensified on social media, with Russia demanding Washington end the “extremist activities” of Facebook owner Meta Platforms, which temporarily lifted a ban on calls for violence against the military and leaders. Russians.

The social media company will temporarily allow some posts calling for the death of President Putin or Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko in countries including Russia, Ukraine and Poland, according to internal emails sent to its content moderators.

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