War in Ukraine, Day 63 | Ukraine expects “extremely difficult weeks”

(Brussels) Ukraine on Wednesday said it expected “extremely difficult weeks” against the Russian army, which “has already amassed forces for a major offensive in the east of the country,” a priority for Moscow.

Posted at 6:29
Updated at 2:36 p.m

Daniel ARONSSOHN with Emmanuel PEUCHOT in Kharkiv
Media Agency France

what you need to know

  • Ukraine has recognized an advance by Russian forces in the east of the country;
  • Gazprom has stopped all gas supplies to Bulgaria and Poland;
  • UN Secretary-General Antonio Gutteres meets President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv;
  • According to EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, the EU has “prepared” for this interruption of Russian gas;
  • Moscow says it destroyed ‘large amount’ of arms shipped to Kyiv from US and European countries;
  • A weapons depot in a Russian village about twenty kilometers from the border with Ukraine is on fire;
  • Russia has been suspended from the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).
  • Vladimir Putin warned against external intervention in the conflict in Ukraine and promised a “swift and lightning-fast” response.
  • Ukraine’s Defense Minister said he expected “extremely difficult weeks”.

“We have extremely difficult weeks ahead of us,” Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov warned in a statement on Facebook, urging Ukrainians for “resilience and unity” after more than two months of conflict with Russia.

“Unfortunately, before we win, we will lose more soldiers,” he added, saying that “there will be more destruction and more injuries.”

According to him, the Russian army “already aware of its strategic defeat will try to inflict as much suffering as possible on the Ukrainian soldiers whom he is supposed to “hold out”.

Earlier in the day, the Ukrainian army recognized an advance by Russian forces in the east of the country, capturing several locations in the Kharkiv region and Donbass.

On April 18, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced the start of the Russian offensive against the east of the country, part of which has been in the hands of pro-Russian separatists since 2014 and which is now Moscow’s priority target.

“The implementation of the agreements [avec des pays étrangers]the training and deployment of logistics will take time,” Mr. Reznikov finally regretted, but welcomed that “aid to Ukraine would increase in the coming days,” he said.

EU accuses Russia of gas extortion

The European Union on Wednesday accused Russia of “gas extortion” after cutting off the “blue gold” faucet to Poland and Bulgaria, while Moscow claimed to have “destroyed a large quantity of arms supplied to Ukraine by Westerners.

After meeting Vladimir Putin in Moscow, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres arrived in Ukraine on Wednesday evening, his first visit to the country since the Russian invasion began on February 24.

As the West ramps up efforts to arm Ukrainians against Russia, the Russian Defense Ministry has claimed that “scales with a large quantity of foreign arms and ammunition supplied to the Ukrainian armed forces by the United States and European countries fired caliber Rockets were destroyed in the sea at the Zaporizhia aluminum plant in southern Ukraine.

However, the governor of that region denied this claim. “No ammunition and weapons depot was affected in Zaporijjia,” he assured, adding that the affected factory “was not operational for six years”.

Russian troops are bombing bridges and railroads to slow Western arms shipments to Ukraine, an adviser to Ukraine’s interior minister said Tuesday after destroying a strategic bridge linking that country with Romania.

These Russian attacks come as some forty countries around the United States met in Germany on Tuesday to coordinate an expedited shipment of military equipment Kyiv is demanding to repel the Russian invasion.

“flash reaction”

In a speech in London on Wednesday, British diplomatic chief Liz Truss called for aid to Ukraine to be “doubled” and prepared for a “prolonged” war. “Heavy weapons, tanks, planes, digging in our stocks, ramping up production, we have to do all of that,” she said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday again warned against foreign intervention in the conflict in Ukraine and promised a “swift and lightning-fast” response.

Russian forces, which have been stepping up their offensive in Donbass for the past two weeks, announced on Wednesday that they have launched airstrikes on 59 Ukrainian targets.

For its part, the Ukrainian army, which is rare on its part, has acknowledged Russian advances in the east, in the Kharkiv region and Donbass, a mining basin partially controlled by pro-Russian separatists since 2014.

Kyiv admitted that the Russians had taken locations stretching north-south, suggesting Moscow wants to take a vice in a big bag that is still in the hands of the Ukrainians.

Call for help in Mariupol

In Kharkiv, whose northern and eastern districts are less than 5 km from the front line, at least three people died and 15 were injured in shelling, Governor Oleg Synegoubov said on Telegram, adding: “The Russians continue their artillery and mortar fire on residential areas fort areas of Kharkiv and its region”.

Despite the bombs, three young volunteers, Nazar, Alexiï and Oleg, suitcases full of food, techno music on full blast, provide humanitarian aid every day in areas of this city regularly attacked by Russian missiles.

“Our main goal is to feed children and the elderly, they need it the most,” Nazar Tishchenko, 34, told AFP.

At the southern tip of the Donbass, in the strategic port city of Mariupol, besieged and devastated, “the enemy is shelling and blockading our units near the Azovstal factory,” Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said in its daily report.

Le commandant de la 36e Brigade des Marines de Marioupol, Sergueï Volyna, a lancé un nouvel appel à l’aide, soulignant avoir avec lui 600 soldats blessés et des centaines de civils.

« Mon message aujourd’hui est : sauvez la garnison de Marioupol, menez pour nous une opération d’exfiltration. Les gens vont simplement mourir ici […] Civilians die with us […] The city is almost erased from the face of the earth,” he implores in a message shared on Telegram.

Risk of escalation of the conflict

Outside Ukraine, Russia’s Gazprom group announced on Wednesday that it had suspended all its gas supplies to Bulgaria and Poland, giving assurances that those two countries had not paid in rubles, as Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has been demanding since March.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen denounced new “gas blackmail” and reiterated that these two EU and NATO member countries, which are heavily dependent on Russian gas, are now being supplied “by their neighbors in the European Union”.

“This is not blackmail,” but a reaction to “unfriendly acts,” countered Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, alluding to the freezing of Russian foreign exchange reserves abroad.

These events come at a time when many chancellery offices are concerned about the risk of escalating the conflict following a series of blasts that Kyiv is blaming Moscow on in Moldova’s pro-Russian separatist region of Transnistria.

“We condemn such actions in the strongest possible terms. The Moldovan authorities will take care not to drag the republic into a conflict,” Moldovan President Maïa Sandu said on Tuesday, urging Moldovans to calm down.

On Wednesday, the authorities of the separatist area said that a border village, where a large Russian army ammunition depot is located, had been shelled by Ukraine.

In this context, former US Marine Trevor Reed, who has been sentenced to nine years in prison in Russia for violence, was swapped on Wednesday with a Russian pilot who has been imprisoned in the US since 2010. An exchange that Washington said did not have “no” impact on relations between the two countries.

Guterres in Boutcha on Thursday

On the economic front, the European Commission on Wednesday proposed suspending all tariffs on Ukrainian products entering the EU for a year. The proposal still has to be approved by the European Parliament and the 27 member states.

The United Kingdom announced on Monday that it had taken such a measure.

The conflict is also weighing on the economies of the EU. Germany announced on Wednesday that it is revising its 2022 growth forecast to 2.2% from 3.6% in January and expects inflation to almost double to 6.1%.

The UN Secretary-General on Thursday will travel to the Kyiv suburbs of Boutcha, Irpin and Borodianka, scenes of abuses attributed to the Russian army by Ukrainians, where international investigators are being mobilized to collect elements of “war crimes”. .

Leave a Comment