Ukrainian forces pushed to thwart the Russian invasion, launched a multi-front counter-offensive and recaptured a city outside Kiev on Tuesday, while the more heavily armed Russians, so far unable to gain a decisive upper hand, attempted to seize Ukrainian cities and people. to force submission.
As fighting raged around Kiev, Ukrainian soldiers were victorious in Makariv, a key crossroads in the city’s western approaches, as they tried to reclaim the Kherson region in the south of the country. Mariupol’s southern port, however, continued to undergo a brutal siege, with the government saying some 100,000 civilians were trapped in that ravaged city with little food, water, power or heat.
“This war will not end easily or quickly,” US national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters on the eve of President Biden’s departure to a NATO summit in Europe.
Mr Biden will this week impose sanctions on hundreds of members of Russia’s State Duma, according to a person familiar with the planned announcement.
In Russia, the government of President Vladimir V. Putin, which had apparently expected a lightning-fast conquest, responded to its setbacks in Ukraine and its plummeting reputation in the West by extending its recent draconian crackdown on dissent, making it a criminal offense to the activities of all government agencies operating abroad, such as embassies. A Russian court has sentenced already imprisoned opposition leader Aleksei A. Navalny, who opposes Russia’s war against Ukraine, to nine years in prison on charges of fraud.
A Pentagon review concluded that Russia’s “combat strength” in Ukraine had fallen below 90 percent of its original strength for the first time — the more than 150,000 troops that had gathered in western Russia and Belarus before the February 24 invasion. had collected. That reflected the steady losses suffered by the Russian military, to an extent that US officials say units are incapable of carrying out combat duties.
According to a senior Defense Ministry official, who was not authorized to officially discuss the details of Russia’s actions in Ukraine, Russian forces “had a hard time on many fronts,” including routine supply lines and logistics. The Pentagon had even seen indications that some Russian troops had been evacuated due to frostbite, the official said.
The official declined to comment on the number of Russian casualties, though the Pentagon last week estimated that at least 7,000 Russians had been killed.
New satellite images analyzed by DailyExpertNews showed that Russia had removed all of its planes from the airport in the southern city of Kherson, the largest city Russian forces have captured to date. Ukrainian forces have claimed to have hit the airport twice, destroying an unspecified number of helicopters. The removal is a telltale sign that the Russians are struggling as they attempt to control the region, experts said.
The removal of the equipment, visible by comparing photos taken over six days by the space company Planet Labs, comes as the Ukrainian military presses to reclaim lost territory in the Kherson region.
Control of Kherson, taken by Russia on March 2, is essential in any attempt to control southern Ukraine. But Russia has failed to dominate the region as a whole.
Putin’s spokesman Dmitri S. Peskov repeatedly refused to rule out the possibility of Russia using nuclear weapons in a televised interview on Tuesday. When asked under what conditions Mr Putin would use such weapons, mr. Peskov told DailyExpertNews“If it’s an existential threat to our country, then it can be.” While he didn’t define “existential threat,” Russian officials have suggested in the past that it meant attacking Russia itself, but invaded Ukraine. questioned the previous policy.
It is difficult to estimate the current landscape of the war there, with a senior US defense official characterizing the fighting only as “a very dynamic, active battlefield”.
The Pentagon has seen no indications that Russian forces are moving towards using chemical or biological weapons, the official said.
On Monday, Mr. Biden highlighted the possibility that Mr. Putin could turn to such weapons, which are banned by an international treaty. “His back is against the wall,” Mr Biden said at a meeting of US business leaders.
Mr Biden will attend a summit of NATO leaders in Brussels on Thursday to discuss, among other things, a possible response to such weapons. The United States will also announce new sanctions against Russia in conjunction with its NATO allies, Sullivan said.
“The West has been united in recent months,” he said. “The President is traveling to Europe to ensure we remain united, to strengthen our collective resolve, to send a strong message that we are prepared and committed to this for as long as it takes.”
In Ukraine, the Defense Ministry announced that its troops had raised the blue and gold Ukrainian flag over Makariv, about 40 miles west of Kiev, where control has repeatedly changed hands. The city borders the main road that leads from the capital to western Ukraine and Lviv, so keeping it out of Russian hands is important to avoid encircling Kiev.
The Russians had gotten no further than nine miles northwest of Kiev or 29 miles east of the city — essentially where they were last week, the senior Pentagon official said.
Ukraine’s determination to push back extended to the air force and air defense units, which managed to fight on despite being vastly outnumbered and defeated by the Russians.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky said the besieged city of Mariupol, a port on the Sea of Azov, “was reduced to ashes.” About 100,000 civilians, or 22 percent of the original population, remain trapped there, the government said. The Pentagon official said Russian naval ships had joined land forces in bombing the city. Russia’s Black Sea fleet is headquartered in the nearby Crimean peninsula, and a dozen ships are navigating the waters off Ukraine, according to the Pentagon.
War between Russia and Ukraine: important developments
Russia’s shrinking power. The Pentagon said Russia’s “combat force” in Ukraine has fallen below 90 percent of its original strength. The assessment reflects the significant losses suffered by Russian troops at the hands of Ukrainian soldiers.
Mr Zelensky, who continued to address parliaments around the world via video link, warned the Italian parliament that parts of the world would be hit by famine if farmers in Ukraine, a major wheat producer, were unable to work. “Famine was approaching for several countries” that depended on Ukrainian corn, oil and wheat, he said, including North African states across the Mediterranean from Italy.
In response, Italy’s Prime Minister Mario Draghi said his country wanted Ukraine to join the European Union, praising the Ukrainians’ “heroic” resistance to Mr Putin’s “cruelty”.
Mr Draghi said Italy had frozen more than EUR 800 million (nearly $900 million) in assets belonging to Russian oligarchs and was working to overcome its dependence on Russian energy supplies as soon as possible.
Speaking to the United Nations, António Guterres, the secretary-general, said 10 million Ukrainians had been displaced from their homes, or just under a quarter of the population.
Guterres called the war in Ukraine unwinnable. Ukrainians had “endured a living hell – and the resonance is being felt worldwide with skyrocketing food, energy and fertilizer prices threatening to become a global hunger crisis,” he said. Guterres reiterated his plea for Russia to end the war and called for serious negotiations.
Russia’s parliament, the State Duma, which reliably responds to the Kremlin, has amended an already draconian censorship law to make “discrediting” the activities abroad of all government agencies – not just the military – a potential criminal offense to make. The law prohibits terms such as “war” or “invasion” to describe Russia’s military operations in Ukraine, and punishes anyone who spreads “false information” about the invasion with up to 15 years in prison. Russia has taken other measures to suppress information, causing independent news outlets to shut down or move out of the country for fear of punishment, and it has blocked access to Facebook and Instagram, both heavily used by government officials and businesses.
The conviction and sentencing of Mr. Navalny has been widely seen as a way to keep him behind bars and further limit his ability to address the outside world, while the Kremlin tries to tightly control the narrative of the war at home and put up sparks. exterminate . Navalny has urged Russians to protest the invasion, via letters from prison that his lawyers posted on social media.
Zhanna Agalakova, a veteran Russian foreign correspondent who resigned earlier this month from Channel One, one of the most popular networks in a country where the state controls virtually all broadcasts, announced she had quit to protest Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. . “I’m doing this for Russians,” she said in a series of Twitter posts via Reporters Without Borders. “Our news does not reflect reality.”
Reporting contributed by John Ismay in Washington; Marc Santora in Krakow, Poland; Andrew E. Kramer in Kiev, Ukraine; Dan Bilefsky in Montréal; Anton Trojanovskic in Istanbul; Valeriya Safronova† Gaia Pianigianic in Rome; Christian Triebert in Paje, Tanzania; and Christoph Koettl and Farnaz Fassihi in New York City.