Despite a huge pullback and heavy losses, Russia pledged to continue its murderous attack in Ukraine as the war entered its seventh week Wednesday. President Vladimir Putin said the campaign was progressing according to plan.
After failing to reach Kyiv, Russian soldiers turned their attention to the eastern Donbas area, where Ukraine claimed it was examining a report that a deadly substance had been dumped on its troops. Although it remained unclear what the material was, Western officials cautioned that Russia’s deployment of chemical weapons would be a severe escalation of the already terrible conflict.
According to Western sources, Russia attacked on February 24 with the objective of capturing Kyiv, overthrowing the government, and installing a Moscow-friendly dictatorship. The ground progress has stagnated in the six weeks afterwards, and Russian soldiers have been accused of murdering civilians and committing other crimes.
Putin stated on Tuesday that Moscow “had no option” and that the invasion was carried out to defend civilians in eastern Ukraine as well as to “secure Russia’s own security.” He promised it would “continue until it is fully completed and the duties assigned to it have been completed.”
Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was scheduled to meet with the presidents of Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia on Wednesday.
“We are going Ukraine to offer our great support for the Ukrainian people,” Estonian President Alar Karis tweeted. “We will meet close friend President Zelenskyy.”
For the time being, Putin’s forces are preparing for a massive operation in the Donbas, where Russian-backed separatists have been battling Ukrainian forces since 2014 and where Russia has acknowledged the rebels’ claims to independence. Local support, logistics, and the topography in the region, according to military strategists, favor Russia’s bigger, better-armed force, perhaps allowing Russia to eventually turn the tide in its favor.
A Ukrainian unit defending a steel plant in Mariupol, a major port city in the Donbas, said that a drone dumped a deadly material on the city. It was unable to objectively verify the claim made by the Azov Regiment, a far-right militia that is now part of the Ukrainian military. There were no significant casualties, according to the regiment.
“The world must react immediately,” Zelenskyy added, while specialists strive to figure out what the drug is.
The comments came after a separatist leader associated with Russia appeared to advocate the use of chemical weapons, saying Russian state television on Monday that separatist forces should capture the factory by closing all exits first. “Then we’ll deploy chemical soldiers to smoke them out,” Eduard Basurin, the official, added. He denied separatist fighters deployed chemical weapons in Mariupol on Tuesday.
Officials are investigating, according to Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar, and it’s probable that phosphorus bombs — which produce horrific burns but aren’t classified as chemical weapons — were used in Mariupol, which has been battered by weeks of Russian attacks.
If chemical weapons are proved to have been deployed, Western officials have warned that it will be a grave breach of international law.
For the first time, President Joe Biden called Russia’s invasion a “genocide,” saying, “Putin is basically attempting to wipe out the notion of even being a Ukrainian.”
The Pentagon said it couldn’t corroborate the drone report but expressed alarm over Russia’s use of chemical weapons. Meanwhile, Britain has warned that Russia may use phosphorous bombs on Mariupol, which are prohibited under international law in residential areas.
Phosphorus bombs are used by most armies to light targets or create smoke screens. According to Marc-Michael Blum, a former laboratory head of the Netherlands-based Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, deliberately firing them into a confined location to expose people to fumes might violate the Chemical Weapons Convention.
“Once you start exploiting the hazardous qualities of white phosphorus directly and purposefully, it becomes prohibited,” he explained.
In Washington, a senior US defense source said the Biden administration was planning a new package of military aid for Ukraine, which may reach $750 million, to be disclosed in the coming days. The official talked on the condition of anonymity in order to discuss plans that had not yet been made public. The $800 million in military support that Biden ordered a month ago is set to be delivered this week.
Faced with fierce opposition from Ukrainian forces backed by Western weaponry, Russian forces have resorted to bombing cities, leveling numerous cities and killing tens of thousands. More than ten million Ukrainians have fled their homes as a result of the conflict, including roughly two-thirds of the country’s children.
Iryna Vereshchuk, Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister, warned that due to inadequate security, humanitarian corridors designed to evacuate people out of cities under Russian bombardment will not work on Wednesday.
Russian soldiers were blocking evacuation buses in the southeast Zaporizhzhia district, and they were breaking the cease-fire in the Luhansk region, she claimed. “Not only do the invaders disobey international humanitarian law, but they also lack the ability to govern their people on the ground.” All of this increases the risk on the roads to the point that we are unable to activate humanitarian corridors today.”
The discovery of significant numbers of allegedly massacred people during Moscow’s retreat from cities and villages around Kyiv prompted worldwide outrage and charges of war crimes.
Evidence of “inhuman brutality” toward women and children in Bucha and other Kyiv suburbs, including alleged rapes, continues to emerge, according to Zelenskyy.
“Not every serial rapist reaches the level of brutality displayed by Russian military,” Zelenskyy remarked.
The Interior Ministry said early Wednesday that over 720 people were dead and over 200 were missing in Kyiv areas captured by Russian soldiers.
Mayor Anatoliy Fedoruk of Bucha said 403 dead have been discovered, with the number expected to grow as minesweepers scour the region.
Villagers in the Chernihiv district alleged more than 300 people had been confined in the basement of a school for over a month by invading Russian forces and were only let outdoors to go to the restroom or cook over open flames.
At least five people died near Yahidne, 140 kilometers (86 miles) north of Kyiv, according to Valentyna Saroyan of the Associated Press. The inhabitants scribbled the names of those who died throughout the tragedy in one of the rooms – a total of 18 persons were on the list.
Villagers said they have no idea what caused the fatalities. They were allowed to retrieve the remains from time to time to bury them in a mass grave at the local cemetery by Russian forces.
According to Julia Surypak, the Russians only permitted certain individuals to return home provided they sung the Russian national song. Svitlana Baguta, another local, claimed a Russian soldier forced her to drink from a flask while holding a gun at her face.
The prosecutor-office general’s in Ukraine announced Tuesday that it was also investigating incidents in the northeastern Brovary area. The deaths of six citizens with gunshot wounds were discovered in a cellar in the village of Shevchenkove, and Russian soldiers were suspected of being involved, according to the report.
Prosecutors are also looking into claims that Russian soldiers opened fire on a convoy of residents leaving the village of Peremoha in the Brovary area by automobile, killing four people, including a 13-year-old child. Prosecutors claimed five people were murdered in another incident near Bucha, including two children, when a vehicle was fired upon.
Putin erroneously stated on Tuesday that Ukraine’s claims that Russian forces murdered hundreds of people in Bucha were “fake.” Associated Press journalists spotted scores of dead in and around town, some of whom looked to have been shot at close range and had their wrists bound.