Kyiv, Ukraine – The month of the war, still rebellious.
With a government still standing and troops that, despite their numerical superiority, fiercely resist the Russian invaders, Ukraine is marked, she is wounded and mourns her dead, but, above all, she is far from being beaten, because she is preparing for a second blow. a month of bombing, fighting, casualties and resistance.
When Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine on February 24 in the largest European offensive since World War II, even raising the possibility of nuclear escalation if the West intervened, a lightning-like fall of the democratically elected Ukrainian government seemed possible. .
But after four full weeks of fighting, Russia is instead mired in an increasingly grueling, costly and uncertain military campaign with untold death toll, with an immediate conclusion and a blow to Western sanctions that have hit its government hard. currency.
US President Joe Biden and his key allies are meeting this week in Brussels and Warsaw to discuss possible new sanctions and additional military assistance to Ukraine.
Repeatedly fighting off highly mobile Ukrainian units armed with Western weapons, Russian forces are firing at targets from afar, reverting to tactics they have already used to reduce cities to rubble in Syria and Chechnya. The main Russian strategic goals have not yet been achieved: the capital Kyiv has been attacked several times, but not taken or even surrounded.
On Wednesday, the city was again rocked by artillery and artillery shelling, with plumes of black smoke billowing over the western outskirts, where both sides battled for control of several suburbs. A shopping center and residential buildings were damaged, four people were injured, the city administration said.
To the south, the port city of Mariupol, after several weeks of siege and bombardment, was badly damaged by the war. So far, the defense of Ukrainian forces has prevented its fall. This undermines the Russian goal of opening another permanent and secure land channel from the Crimean peninsula, seized from Ukraine in 2014, to Russia.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said 100,000 civilians remain in the devastated city, which has been hit by air, land and sea strikes. Repeated attempts to get desperately needed food and other supplies to those trapped often fail.
In his daily late-night address to the nation on Tuesday, President Zelenskiy said that efforts to create stable humanitarian corridors for the people of Mariupol were almost all “thwarted by Russian occupiers, bombing or deliberate terror.”
He accused Russian forces of hijacking a humanitarian convoy. Deputy Prime Minister Irina Vereshchuk accused the Russians of detaining 11 bus drivers, four rescuers and their vehicles.
The head of the International Committee of the Red Cross arrived in Moscow on Wednesday for expected talks with Russian representatives of foreign affairs and the Ministry of Defense on issues of prisoners of war, combat operations, delivery of aid and other humanitarian issues.
“The devastation caused by the conflict in recent weeks, as well as the eight-year conflict in Donbass, has been enormous,” said ICRC President Peter Maurer.
A senior US Defense Department official who spoke on condition of anonymity to assess the Pentagon said Russian ships in the Sea of Azov helped bomb Mariupol.
Russian forces also shelled and destroyed a bridge in encircled Chernihiv that crossed the Desna River and connected the city to Kiev, regional governor Vyacheslav Chaus said on Wednesday. This bridge was used for deliveries of humanitarian aid and evacuation of civilians. Local authorities have warned of a humanitarian catastrophe in the city, without water and electricity.
But when Biden went on a four-day trip to Europe on Wednesday to ratchet up pressure on Russia, the Kremlin warned that Russian President Vladimir Putin had not yet achieved his goals in Ukraine.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov assured that the military operation was taking place “in strict accordance with pre-established plans and tasks.”
Mr. Putin’s goals continue to be “to get rid of Ukraine’s military potential (and) to ensure that Ukraine turns from an anti-Russian center to a neutral country,” Mr. Peskov added.
Western officials say Ukrainian resistance has paralyzed much of Russia’s advance, and Russian troops are facing acute shortages of food, fuel and cold weather equipment, leaving some soldiers suffering from frostbite. The UK Ministry of Defense said on Wednesday that the war in northern Ukraine was largely “static” with Russian forces trying to reorganize.
“We are seeing signs that the Ukrainians are now taking the offensive a little more,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters separately in Washington. He said this was especially true in southern Ukraine, including near Kherson, where “they were trying to retake territory.”
However, some Western experts warn against overconfidence in Ukraine’s long-term chances against a much larger and more powerful Russian army. Russia’s practice in past wars in Chechnya and Syria has been to crack down on resistance with strikes that leveled cities, killing countless civilians and expelling millions.
But Russian troops appeared ill-prepared and often did a poor job of dealing with Ukrainian resistance.
The United States estimates that Russia has lost just over 10% of the total combat capability it had at the start of the conflict, including troops, tanks and other equipment.
According to the United Nations, the invasion has displaced more than 10 million people from their homes, nearly a quarter of Ukraine’s population.
Thousands of civilians are reported to have died. Estimates of Russian military casualties vary greatly, but even the most conservative figures from Western officials run into the few thousands.
Negotiations on the cessation of hostilities continued via video link. According to Zelensky, negotiations with Russia are moving forward “step by step, but they are moving forward.”
UN Secretary-General António Guterres said he sees progress “on several key issues” and that the results achieved are enough to end the fighting now. He didn’t give details.
Mr. Zelenskiy said more than 7,000 people were evacuated from Mariupol on Tuesday. Those who remain are suffering “in inhuman conditions, in complete blockade, without food, water, medicine and under constant shelling,” he said.
Before the war, 430,000 people lived in Mariupol.
Located on the Sea of Azov, Mariupol is an important port for Ukraine and spans a strip of territory between Russia and Crimea. It is not clear how much of the city is being held by Russia as fleeing residents say fighting continues street by street.
Farther west, in the seaside city of Odessa, street musicians performed under cloudless skies Tuesday as barricades lined the streets and couples parted in tears at a train station as locals withdrew, preparing for a possible escalation of a Russian attack.
Odessa, affectionately known as the Pearl of the Black Sea, was filled with bittersweet air—sandbags and enforcers skirmishing to romantic jazz blaring from the station’s loudspeakers.
“I can’t understand what happened,” said Igor Topsy, a 56-year-old musician who has been drumming on the streets of Odessa for more than three decades.
At the Central Station, a young man on the platform says goodbye by phone to his girlfriend, who is sitting on the train. Only a window separated them.