As Ukraine prepares to battle for control of its industrial east, NATO foreign ministers ended two days of meetings in Brussels with a promise to provide more support to fight the latest Russian offensive.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said coalition members “are determined to do more” to help Ukrainians “defend their homes and their country and push back the invading forces”.
“We agreed that we should further strengthen and maintain our support for Ukraine, so that Ukraine can win in the face of Russian aggression,” he said.
Authorities in Ukraine asked residents to leave the eastern Donbas region while they still can and urged Western nations to send more weapons on Thursday, a week after Russian forces moved from the shattered outskirts of Kyiv to the country’s east. Withdrew to regroup for an offensive.
The focus of Russia’s six-week-old invasion failed to quickly take Ukraine’s capital and Western countries say President Vladimir Putin’s initial aim was to overthrow the Ukrainian government. Russia’s focus is now on the Donbass, a mostly Russian-speaking region in eastern Ukraine.
In Brussels, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dimitro Kuleba urged NATO to provide more weapons for his country to help prevent atrocities reported in the city of Bucha, northwest of Kyiv.
“My agenda is very simple. It’s weapons, weapons and weapons,” Kuleba, who arrived for talks with NATO foreign ministers, said.
“We know how to fight. We know how to win. But without the lasting and adequate supplies requested by Ukraine, these victories will be accompanied by enormous sacrifices,” Kuleba said on Wednesday. “The more weapons we get and the sooner they reach Ukraine, the more human lives will be saved.”
After the meetings, Kuleba pleaded with colleagues for help within days, not weeks, “or your help will come too late, and too many people will die.”
Kuleba said that the discussion in NATO was not about the list of weapons Ukraine would receive, but about the time when they would be given, noting that he had no doubt that Ukraine had the necessary weapons to fight. Weapons will be there.
A US defense official said on condition of anonymity that Russia has withdrawn all of its estimated 24,000 or more troops from the Kyiv and Chernihiv regions in the north, sending them to Belarus or Russia to resupply and reorganize. is, perhaps to return to fight in the East. ,
Ukraine urges citizens to evacuate in the east
An increasing number of Putin’s troops with mercenaries are reported to have moved into the Donbass. “Later, the people will come under fire,” Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Irina Vereshchuk said, urging citizens to evacuate from the mostly Russian-speaking industrial zone, “and we will not be able to do anything to help them. “
It said Ukrainian and Russian authorities have agreed to establish 10 civilian evacuation routes from the Donetsk, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhya regions. He said residents would be able to seek safety in the cities of Zaporizhzhya in southeast Ukraine and Bakhmut in the east.
The Ukrainian military has been fighting Russia-backed separatists in the Donbass since 2014. Before the February 24 invasion, Moscow recognized the Luhansk and Donetsk regions as independent states.
Another Western official, also speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence projections, said it would take up to a month for Russia’s war-damaged forces to regroup to make a big push on eastern Ukraine. could.
In his nightly address on Wednesday, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky also warned that Russia’s military was gearing up for a new offensive in the east. He said Ukrainians fighting the offensive “will not back down.”
air strikes in the east
Russian airstrikes are now focused mainly on areas of eastern Ukraine, and Russian forces are trying to encircle Ukrainian troops in the region, Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksey Erastovich said on Thursday.
He said the besieged southern city of Mariupol was holding and believed that Russian attempts to encircle Ukrainian troops in the east would be in vain. Capturing Mariupol would allow Russia to secure a continuous land corridor to the Crimean peninsula, which Moscow seized from Ukraine in 2014.
More than 100,000 people from Mariupol still need to be evacuated urgently, Mayor Vadim Boichenko said on Thursday, describing the situation in the port city as a humanitarian catastrophe.
“The remaining 100,000 people are praying for rescue – a full-scale evacuation is needed,” he said on national television.
Boichenko said 210 of the more than 5,000 civilians killed during Russian bombings and street fighting were children. He said the Russian army bombed hospitals, killing 50 people with burns.
Boichenko said more than 90 percent of the city’s infrastructure has been destroyed. Attacks on the strategic city on the Sea of Azov have cut off food, water, fuel and medicine, and shattered homes and businesses.
In areas north of the capital, Ukrainian authorities continued to collect evidence of Russian atrocities, amid signs that Moscow’s troops indiscriminately killed people before retreating.
Ukrainian officials said bodies of at least 410 civilians were found in towns around Kyiv, in what Zelensky has characterized as a Russian campaign of murder, rape, dismemberment and torture. Some of the victims were apparently shot at close range. Some hands were found tied.
Vote on membership of the United Nations Human Rights Council
The Group of Seven (G7) countries issued a statement on Thursday saying they “strongly condemn the atrocities perpetrated by the Russian armed forces” in Bucha and other Ukrainian cities.
He said “the time has come” to suspend Russian membership in the UN Human Rights Council.
The UN General Assembly will vote on Thursday on a US push to suspend Russia from the council over reports of “gross and systematic violations and abuses of human rights” in Ukraine.
Zelensky on Wednesday accused Russia of interfering with an international investigation into possible war crimes by removing corpses and trying to hide other evidence at Bucha, northwest of Kyiv.
“We have information that Russian troops have changed tactics and are trying to clear dead people, dead Ukrainians, from streets and cellars in their occupied territory,” he said during his latest video address. “It is just an attempt to hide evidence and nothing else.”
He called on the Russians to demand an end to the war, “if you have even the slightest shame about what the Russian military is doing in Ukraine.”
In response to alleged atrocities outside Kyiv, the US announced sanctions against two of Putin’s adult daughters and said it was toughening penalties against Russian banks. Britain banned investment in Russia and pledged to end its dependence on Russian coal and oil by the end of the year.
EU hopes to halt Russian coal imports
The US Senate plans to enact legislation on Thursday to end normal trade relations with Russia and codify President Joe Biden’s executive action banning Russian oil imports. The trade suspension would allow Biden to impose higher tariffs on some Russian imports.
The EU is also expected to take additional punitive measures, including a ban on coal.
The Kremlin has insisted that its troops have committed no war crimes and alleged that the images outside of Buka were staged by Ukrainians.