SAPORIANSCHIA – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Kyiv’s military had made small advances in the east, driving Russian forces out of four villages near Kharkiv, as his country’s foreign minister suggested Ukraine could do more than just Russia back in To force areas it held before eleven weeks before the invasion began.
Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba expressed what appeared to be growing self-confidence – and expanded goals – in the face of Russia’s stalled offensive in the east. But that is no longer the case.
“If we are strong enough on the military front now and win the battle for Donbass, which will be decisive for the further dynamics of the war, then, of course, victory for us in this war will be the liberation of the rest of our territories,” Kuleba said .
Russian forces have advanced in the Donbass and control more than before the war began. But Kuleba’s statement – which seemed to reflect political ambitions rather than battlefield reality – highlighted how Ukraine has been thwarting a larger, better-armed Russian military, surprising many who expected a much quicker end to the conflict.
One of the most dramatic examples of Ukraine’s ability to avoid easy victories is Mariupol, where Ukrainian militants holed up in a steel mill are denying Russia full control of the city. The regiment defending the plant said Russian warplanes continued to bomb it, striking 34 times in 24 hours.
In recent days, the United Nations and the Red Cross organized a rescue of what some officials said were the last civilians trapped at the facility. But two officials said on Tuesday about 100 are believed to remain in the complex’s underground tunnels. Donetsk regional governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said those who remained were people “who the Russians did not choose for evacuation.”
Kyrylenko and Petro Andryushchenko, an adviser to the Mariupol mayor, did not say how they knew civilians were still inside the complex – a maze of tunnels and bunkers that stretched over 11 square kilometers (4 sq mi). Others said their statements were impossible to confirm.
Fighters from the Azov regiment posted photos of their wounded comrades at the facility, including some with limbs amputated. They said the wounded were living in unsanitary conditions “with open wounds associated with unsterile remnants of bandages, without the necessary medicines and even food.”
In its statement on Telegram, the regiment appealed to the United Nations and the Red Cross to evacuate the wounded soldiers to areas controlled by Ukraine.
The photos could not be independently verified.
Ukraine said on Tuesday that Russian forces had fired seven rockets at Odessa a day earlier, hitting a mall and a warehouse in the country’s main port. One person was killed and five injured, the military said.
Pictures showed a burning building and debris – including a tennis shoe – in a debris pile in the Black Sea city. Mayor Gennady Trukhanov later visited the warehouse and said it had “nothing to do with military infrastructure or military objects.”
Since President Vladimir Putin’s forces failed to capture Kyiv early in the war, his focus has shifted to the eastern industrial heartland of Donbass. But one general has suggested that Moscow’s goals also include cutting off Ukraine’s maritime access to both the Black and Azov Seas.
It would also give Russia a swathe of land linking it to both the Crimean Peninsula, which it captured in 2014, and Transnistria, a pro-Moscow region of Moldova.
Even if Russia fails to separate Ukraine from the coast – and seems lacking the forces to do so – the ongoing missile attacks on Odessa reflect the city’s strategic importance. The Russian military has repeatedly targeted its airport, claiming it destroyed several batches of Western weapons.
Odessa is also a major gateway for grain shipments, and its blockade by Russia is already threatening the global food supply. In addition, the city is a cultural gem dear to Ukrainians and Russians alike, and attacking it has symbolic significance.
As Russian forces scramble to gain ground in the Donbass, military analysts suspect an attack on Odessa could serve to stoke concerns about southwestern Ukraine, forcing Kyiv to deploy more forces there. That would pull Ukrainian units away from the Eastern Front while the Ukrainian military launched counter-offensives near the northeastern city of Kharkiv to push the Russians back across the border there.
Meanwhile, Kharkiv and the surrounding area have been under sustained Russian attack since the war began. In recent weeks, grisly images have testified to the horrors of these battles, with charred and mangled bodies strewn down a street.
The bodies of 44 civilians were found in the rubble of a five-story building that collapsed in March in Izyum, some 120 kilometers (75 miles) from Kharkiv, regional administration head Oleh Synehubov said on Tuesday.
Russian planes twice fired unguided rockets into the Sumy region northeast of Kharkiv on Tuesday, according to Ukraine’s Border Guard Service. The region’s governor said the rockets hit several residential buildings but no one was killed. The Chernihiv region along Ukraine’s border with Belarus was hit by mortars fired from Russian territory. There was no word there about sacrifice.
Zelenskyj said on Tuesday that the military is gradually driving Russian troops out of Kharkiv. Ukraine’s military general staff said its forces pushed Russians out of four villages northeast of Kharkiv as they tried to push them back to the Russian border.
Zelenskyi also used his late-night address to pay tribute to Leonid Kravchuk, the first president of an independent Ukraine, who died Tuesday at the age of 88. Zelenskyi said Kravchuk showed courage and knew how to get the country to listen to him.
That’s especially important at “crisis moments when the future of the whole country may depend on the courage of one man,” said Zelenskyy, whose own communication skills and decision to stay in Kyiv when it came under a Russian attack made him one Strength made war leaders.
Gambrell reported from Lviv, Ukraine. Yesica Fisch in Bakhmut, David Keyton in Kyiv, Yuras Karmanau in Lviv, Mstyslav Chernov in Kharkiv, Lolita C. Baldor in Washington, Kelvin Chan in London and AP collaborators around the world contributed.
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https://www.local10.com/news/world/2022/05/11/ukrainians-make-gains-in-east-hold-on-at-mariupol-mill/ Ukrainians make profits in the east, hold on to the Mariupol mill