Ukraine says Russian offensive in the east gains momentum

Russia’s offensive in the east Ukraine it has gained momentum as the United Nations chief surveyed the destruction in cities outside kyiv that experienced some of the worst horrors of the war’s first onslaught.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres condemned the atrocities committed in towns such as Bucha, where evidence of mass killings of civilians was found after Russia withdrew from the area in the face of tougher-than-expected Ukrainian resistance.

Forced to regroup after failing to take the capital, Russia shifted its focus to the vital industrial heartland to the east, where the fighting is now heating up. The Ukrainian military said several areas in Donbas have come under heavy fire the previous day, and satellite images showed further shelling damage in the last known pocket of Ukrainian resistance in Mariupol.

Ukrainian servicemen install a machine gun on the tank during repair work after fighting Russian forces in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine. (AP)

Ukrainian authorities have warned that civilians still in the southeastern port city face dangerously unsanitary conditions, while many of the dead of a two-month-old siege remain unburied.

“Wherever there is a war, civilians pay the highest price,” Guterres said while visiting the bombed-out kyiv suburb of Irpin.

He tried to drive home the devastation, saying he imagined his own family having to flee bombs falling on their home, and reiterated how important it was that alleged war crimes be investigated.

“But when we talk about war crimes, we can’t forget that the worst crime is war itself,” he added, at his stop in Bucha.

The revelation of mass killings around kyiv helped galvanize support for Ukraine in the West, which has imposed sanctions on Russia and shipped weapons to Ukraine. Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov promised his country would join others in providing military assistance as he toured another scene of atrocities outside kyiv, Borodyanka.

“We cannot be indifferent. We cannot say that this is Ukraine’s problem, we cannot say that some people are dying, but that does not interest us,” he said. “This is not only the battle for Ukraine, but it is a matter of civilization to choose which side to take.”

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres during his visit to Borodyanka, near kyiv, Ukraine. (AP)

Bulgaria, under a new liberal government that took office last fall, cut many of its old ties with Moscow and supported punitive measures against the Kremlin.

The Bulgarian leader’s visit comes a day after Russia suddenly cut off natural gas supplies to his country and NATO member Poland in what was seen as an attempt to punish and divide the West for its support of Ukraine earlier. of the potentially crucial battle in the eastern industrial region of Donbas.

Residents face new ‘terrifying’ Russian offensive

As Russia presses with that offensive, civilians are once again bearing the brunt.

“It’s not just scary. It’s when the stomach contracts from the pain,” said Tatiana Pirogova, a resident of the northeastern city of Kharkiv. “When they shoot during the day, it’s still fine, but when night comes, I can’t describe how terrifying it is.”

Ukraine’s Army General Staff said Russian forces were “exerting heavy fire” at various locations in Donbas. He said that in the last 24 hours, Ukrainian forces have repelled six attacks in the region.

The heaviest action was around Donetsk and near Kharkiv, which lies outside Donbas but is seen as key to Russia’s apparent attempt to encircle Ukrainian troops there.

Luhansk Governor Serhiy Haidai said the Russian military also heavily shelled residential areas in his region, also in Donbas, saying four civilians had been killed the day before and four more wounded.

An injured man waits for emergency workers after a Russian bombing in Kharkiv, Ukraine. (AP)

Satellite photos analyzed by The Associated Press also showed evidence of heavy Russian fire in Mariupol in recent days. The footage shows how concentrated attacks have heavily damaged a central facility at the Azovstal steelworks, the last stronghold of Ukrainian fighters in the key battlefield town.

An estimated 1,000 civilians are sheltering along with some 2,000 Ukrainian fighters in the steelworks, a massive Soviet-era complex with a maze of underground facilities built to withstand air raids.

Hundreds of thousands of Mariupol residents have fled, but the city council said Thursday that the remaining 100,000 face “deadly danger” from diseases such as cholera and dysentery due to deeply unsanitary conditions in the city that have shrunk in big measure. to rubble from the Russian siege.

“Deadly epidemics may arise in the city due to lack of centralized water supply and sewage,” the council said on the Telegram messaging app. He added that bodies were decomposing under the rubble and there was a “catastrophic” shortage of drinking water and food.

Meanwhile, Russia said a city under its control in the south was attacked. In what could be a Ukrainian counterattack, a series of explosions rang out near the television tower on Wednesday night in Kherson, which has been occupied by Russian forces since the beginning of the war. The blasts, at least temporarily, took Russian channels off the air, Ukrainian and Russian news organizations reported.

Ukraine has urged its allies to send even more military equipment so it can continue its fight.

This Planet Labs PBC satellite image shows damage to the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol, Ukraine. (AP)

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said on Thursday that “To date, NATO allies have committed and provided at least US$8 billion in military support to Ukraine. And we see the importance of further intensifying our support for Ukraine”.

While Russia’s initial bombardment stalled, and it suffered the humiliating loss of a massive warship, Britain’s Defense Ministry said the Russian navy still has the ability to hit coastal targets in Ukraine.

In an intelligence report published Thursday morning, the ministry says that around 20 Russian warships, including submarines, are currently operating in the Black Sea area.

But the ministry says Russia cannot replace the Moskva guided-missile cruiser, which sank earlier this month in the Black Sea, because the Bosporus Strait remains closed to all non-Turkish warships. Russia also lost the landing ship Saratov, which was destroyed by explosion and fire on March 24.

In addition to its battlefield maneuvers, Moscow has also ratcheted up the pressure by tapping into its crucial energy exports.

European leaders criticized the decision to isolate Poland and Bulgaria as “blackmail”, saying the move and the Kremlin’s warning that it could suspend shipments to other countries is a failed attempt to divide the West over its support for Ukraine.

Gravedigger Alexander digs a grave at the Irpin Cemetery on the outskirts of kyiv, Ukraine. (AP)

The tactic against the two EU countries could eventually force target nations to ration gas and deal another blow to economies suffering from rising prices. At the same time, it could deprive Russia of much-needed revenue to finance its war effort.

The gas cuts do not immediately put the two countries in any serious trouble. Poland, especially, has been working for many years to line up other providers, with the continent heading into summer, making gas less essential for households.

Gazprom said it isolated the two countries because they refused to pay in rubles, as President Vladimir Putin demanded from “enemy” nations.

European countries have resisted Russia’s demand for rubles. Moscow has since proposed a system that it says meets their demand, but that Europeans say they are still paying in euros or dollars.

“Europe (and) Germany will make payments in euros and others can pay in dollars, and not in rubles,” German Economy Minister Robert Habeck said on Wednesday. “The conversion, once the payments have been made, is a matter for Gazprom. We have discussed it with the European Union. We will continue on this path.”

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