War in Ukraine, Day 66 | Moscow increases pressure on Kharkiv, Kyiv claims tactical successes

(Kharkiv) Russian forces on Saturday kept up their pressure on Ukraine’s eastern and southern regions, particularly around Kharkiv in the north-east, where they are trying at all costs to increase their control despite setbacks on the field, according to Kiev.

Posted at 7:44 am

Emmanuel PEUCHOT
Media Agency France

In the night from Friday to Saturday, heavy explosions were heard in Kharkiv, the country’s second largest city, which were shelled by Russian artillery for weeks.

According to the regional military administration, these bomb attacks on Friday caused at least one death and several injuries.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy acknowledged that the situation in the region, where Russian forces have refocused their offensive, is “difficult”. “But our military is making tactical gains,” he said.

In an interview with the official Chinese news agency published on Saturday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov nevertheless assured that the “special military operation” launched on February 24 would “continue as planned”. All of his goals “will be achieved despite the hindrance from our opponents,” he added.

According to Alexander Bogomaz, the governor of Russia’s Bryansk region in northern Ukraine, “Russian air defense systems detected a plane belonging to the Ukrainian Armed Forces” at 6:50 a.m. local time on Saturday.

“During the conduct of actions aimed at preventing the object from entering (Russian) territory, two shells hit the settlement of Zhecha, Starodubsky District”, still in the Bryansk region, without causing casualties, but where in particular, buildings at an oil terminal were damaged by the shock wave, he said on Telegram.

With New China, Sergei Lavrov urged “the United States and NATO” to halt their arms sales to Ukraine “if they are genuinely interested in solving the crisis.”

Military aid to Kyiv has increased significantly since the conflict began, and the effects are beginning to be felt on the ground, where Russian forces sometimes find themselves in trouble.

This is particularly the case in Rouska Lozova, a Ukrainian-taken village north of Kharkiv, from where Russian forces say they bombed the city. According to the Ukrainian Defense Ministry, more than 600 residents have been evacuated from the village, which has been occupied for two months.

Photo DIMITAR DILKOFF, Agence France-Presse

An elderly woman who fled the village of Ruska Lozova lies at the evacuation point in Kharkiv.

“Like hell”

“It’s been two months of terrible anxiety. nothing else. Only fear, without ceasing,” said one evacuee, Natalia, 28.

Before our release, “we had two nights that were scary as hell… The night before last we thought the sky was on fire, the whole village was on fire,” said Svitlana Perepilitsa, 23.

“We stayed in the cellars for two months without food, we ate what we had,” said Sviatoslav, 40, eyes red with fatigue, and refused to give his last name.

Oleksandr Skachko, a resident of Slatyne near Rouska Lozova, which was also taken by Ukrainian troops, said 15 people from the village were killed. “No matter what we say, no matter what Putin says, our people die here,” said the 47-year-old.

Further south and east, in the Donbass region, which the Kremlin aims to recapture completely, “the occupiers are doing everything they can to destroy all life,” Volodymyr Zelenskyy asserted, saying that “the constant bombing of infrastructure and inhabited show areas”. that Russia wants to make this area uninhabited”.

The General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces announced on Saturday that 14 attacks by Russian forces had been repelled in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions in the past 24 hours.

According to a senior Pentagon official, Russian forces are “far from establishing a link between troops invading through the Kharkiv region north of the Donbass and those coming from the south of the country, one of the Russian army’s objectives to defeat the Ukrainian forces to flank forces stationed on the front lines around the Donetsk and Luhansk separatist zones.

But “we believe they continue to create the conditions for a sustained, bigger and longer offensive,” he added.

To better substantiate their resolve, Russian forces on Friday clearly assumed they had bombed the capital Kyiv the day before, just as UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was there. This bombardment, sharply condemned by Germany and France, left ten wounded and at least one dead.

Photo SERGEI SUPINSKY, Agence France-Presse

Rescuers carry a body from a damaged building after Russian attacks in Kyiv.

“Brutal Humiliation”

Mr Zelensky regretted “that such a brutal and deliberate humiliation of the United Nations has gone unanswered” in a video message Friday night.

For its part, Washington on Friday accused President Vladimir Putin of “depravity” and “cruelty” in the behavior of Russian forces in Ukraine.

Guterres traveled to Boutcha and other locations near Kyiv on Thursday, where Ukraine blamed Russian forces for abuses and called on Moscow to “cooperate” with the International Criminal Court’s investigation into possible war crimes.

At the same time, the office of the Prosecutor General of Ukraine Iryna Venediktova revealed that ten Russian soldiers have been charged with alleged war crimes in Boutcha.

This is the first such action since the bodies of twenty people in civilian clothes were discovered by AFP on April 2 on a local street, sparking condemnation and uproar around the world.

The Ukrainians blamed the Russians, Moscow denied any responsibility and spoke of Kiev’s “staging”.

In total, “more than 8,000 cases” of suspected war crimes have been identified in Ukraine, the prosecutor said.

An evacuation operation was scheduled for Friday in Mariupol, a port city in south-eastern Ukraine.

But Denis Pushilin, head of the separatist region of East Donetsk, accused Ukrainian forces of “behaving like open terrorists” and holding civilians hostage at the Azovstal metallurgical complex.

Several hundred Ukrainian soldiers and civilians are holed up in underground tunnels in Azovstal.

Photo Associated Press

Several hundred Ukrainian soldiers and civilians are holed up in Soviet-era underground galleries in the vast Azovstal metallurgical complex.

AFP heard heavy shelling in Azovstal on Friday morning and into the afternoon during a press trip to Mariupol organized by the Russian army.

On the diplomatic front, while the Russian president was invited, like his Ukrainian counterpart, to the G20 summit scheduled for November in Indonesia, the United States said it refused to negotiate with Vladimir Putin “as if nothing had happened.”

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