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While Russian President Vladimir Putin welcomes Victory Day, the war in Ukraine is not over

Zaporozhye, Ukraine – Russian President Vladimir Putin used Monday’s big patriotic holiday to justify his war in Ukraine again, but did not even declare a limited victory or signal where the conflict was heading, as his forces continued to hit targets across the country with few signs of significant progress.

The Russian leader watched the Victory Parade on Red Square, where troops were lined up, military equipment and a brass band, which played to mark the defeat of the Soviet Union over Nazi Germany. But his long-awaited speech did not offer a new understanding of how he was going to save a difficult war – and instead stuck to claims that Ukraine posed a threat to Russia, despite Moscow’s nuclear strength far exceeding in numbers and firepower.

“The danger was growing every day,” he said, inspecting the troops. “Russia has given a preventive response to aggression. It was a forced, timely and the only right decision. “

Ukrainian leaders and their Western supporters often reject claims that Kyiv poses a threat to its giant neighbor.

Many analysts have suggested that Putin could use his speech to declare a limited victory – potentially in the besieged strategic port city of Mariupol – as he seeks a way out of a conflict that has unleashed Western sanctions and strained Russia’s resources. Others have suggested that he may order a nationwide mobilization to increase the exhausted ranks for the protracted conflict.

“There was nothing significant in Putin’s speech today, but he will have to decide on mobilization in the coming weeks,” Rob Lee, a senior fellow at the Institute for Foreign Policy in Philadelphia, wrote on Twitter.

When Putin laid a wreath in Moscow, in Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, air raid sirens sounded again. But Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his Victory Day address that his country would eventually defeat the Russians.

“Ukraine will soon have two Victory Days,” he said in a video released before the holiday. “We have never fought with anyone. We always fight for ourselves … We fight for freedom for our children, and that’s why we will win. “

Zelensky’s adviser also dismissed the idea that Ukraine and its Western allies pose any threat to Russia.

Mikhail Podalak wrote on Twitter that “NATO countries were not going to attack Russia. Ukraine did not plan to attack Crimea,” which Russia seized in 2014.

The General Staff of the Ukrainian military warned on Monday about the high probability of missile strikes on holidays, and the British Ministry of Defense in its daily assessment said that Russian forces may increasingly subject Ukrainian cities and towns to “intense and indiscriminate bombing with little or no regard.” among the civilian population. ” “because they lack high-precision ammunition.

In fact, more than 60 people were killed after a Russian bomb destroyed a Ukrainian school used as a shelter in the village of Belogorovka, an eastern village, Ukrainian officials said.

When the war had been going on for 11 weeks, fighting was taking place on several fronts, but Russia may have been closest to victory in Mariupol, where Ukrainian fighters have recently entered battle at a large steel plant in a battle that has highlighted some of the worst suffering war.

A complete capture of Mariupol would deprive Ukraine of an important port, allow Russia to complete a land corridor to the Crimean peninsula and free troops for fighting elsewhere in the Donbas, which is now in the spotlight after Putin’s failure to seize the capital in the early days of the conflict. The fall of the city would ensure the much-needed symbolic victory of Russia.

Over the weekend, Russian troops stormed the plant, which is estimated to hold about 2,000 Ukrainian fighters.

“We are constantly being shelled,” said Captain Sviatoslav Palamar, deputy commander of the Azov Ukrainian Regiment, which operated the mill.

Another member of the regiment, Lt. Col. Ilya Samoilenko, said there were several hundred wounded soldiers inside. He declined to say how many combat-ready fighters remained. He said the fighters had to dig by hand to free people from bunkers that had collapsed under fire.

Within weeks, hundreds of civilians also hid with fighters at the plant, but the latter were evacuated on Saturday. In a column led by the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross, they arrived Sunday night in Zaporozhye, the first major Ukrainian city behind the front line. They talked about constant shelling, reduced food, widespread mold – and the use of hand sanitizers to prepare fuel.

The Ukrainian military has warned that the Russian military is taking “personal documents from the local population for no apparent reason” in parts of the Zaporizhia region they control, ostensibly to force residents to join the Victory Day celebrations.

As Ukraine’s fiercer-than-expected resistance, backed by Western weapons, threatened Russian forces, Moscow reduced its military targets. She is now continuing persistent offensive operations in some parts of southern Ukraine and the Donbas, where Moscow-backed separatists have fought Ukrainian troops for years. But they are still struggling to make significant strides, and Ukrainian and Russian forces have been fighting village after village in recent weeks.

The Ukrainian counteroffensive in the northeast near Kharkiv, outside the Donbass, but key to the offensive there, has achieved “significant success,” according to the Institute for War Studies, a think tank in Washington.

However, Radzivon Mirashnik, a pro-Kremlin official in the Luhansk region of Donbass, said Moscow-backed separatist forces and Russian troops had seized most of Papasna, a battle-ravaged city where two months of fierce fighting had taken place.

Fighting has also intensified in the southern Black Sea port of Odessa recently, with Ukrainian officials saying Russia fired four cruise missiles at the city on Monday from Crimea. It says that civilians were not injured in the attack, but did not specify what happened.

“The enemy continues to destroy the region’s infrastructure and exert psychological pressure on the civilian population,” the command said. “There is a very high probability of continued missile strikes in the region.”

With all their might to benefit, Russian troops repeatedly shelled towns and villages indiscriminately. About 90 people were hiding in the basement of a school in Belagorovka when it was attacked. Emergency crews found two bodies and rescued 30 people, but “most likely, all 60 people left under the rubble have now died,” Luhansk Oblast Governor Syarhei Haidai wrote in the Telegram program.

The Ukrainian military also warned that about 19 Russian battalion tactical groups were stationed directly across the border in Russia’s Belgorod region. These groups probably consist of about 15,200 troops with tanks, missile batteries and other weapons.

When Victory Day drew attention to Putin, Western leaders showed new signs of support for Ukraine.

A group of seven leading industrial democracies vowed on Sunday to ban or phase out Russian oil imports.

The United States, meanwhile, has announced new sanctions, cutting off Western advertising for Russia’s three largest television channels, banning US accounting and consulting firms from providing services, and disabling the Russian industrial sector from wood products, industrial engines, boilers and bulldozers.

US First Lady Jill Biden met with her Ukrainian counterpart on Sunday. The Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau raised the flag of his country at its embassy in Kiev. And Bona from U2 together with his bandmate The Edge performed at the Kiev metro station, which was used as a bomb shelter, singing the 1960s song “Stand by Me”.

Copyright © 2022, Associated Press. All rights reserved.


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