LVIV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has accused the West of cowardice as his country struggles to repel invading Russian troops, issuing an exasperated plea for fighter jets and tanks to maintain a defense while let the war turn into a battle of attrition.
Speaking after US President Joe Biden said in a heartbreaking speech that Russian President Vladimir Putin could not stay in power – words the White House immediately sought to downplay – Zelenskyy lashed out at the “ping” on Sunday. -pong” of the West on who and how should hand over the jets” and other weapons while Russian missile attacks kill and trap civilians.
“I spoke to Mariupol defenders today. I am in constant contact with them. Their determination, heroism and steadfastness are astonishing,” Zelenskyy said in a video address, referring to the beleaguered southern city that suffered some of the greatest deprivation and horrors of war. “If only those who have been thinking for 31 days about handing over dozens of jets and tanks had 1% of their courage.”
Ukraine’s ambassador to the United States, Oksana Markarova, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that her country heard Biden “loud and clear.”
‘Now it’s up to all of us to stop Putin while he’s still local to Ukraine, because this war is not just about Ukraine,’ she said, but ‘an attack on democracy’ .
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, now in its 32nd day, has stalled in many areas. His aim to quickly encircle the capital, kyiv, and force its surrender failed in the face of Ukrainian resistance, bolstered by arms from the United States and other Western allies.
The British Ministry of Defense said Russian troops were trying to encircle Ukrainian forces directly opposite the two separatist-held areas in the east of the country. This would cut off the bulk of the Ukrainian military from the rest of the country.
Moscow says its goal is to wrest the entire eastern region of Donbass from Ukraine, which has been partially controlled by Russian-backed separatists since 2014. A senior Russian military official said on Friday that troops were being redirected to the is from other parts of the countryside.
The head of a separatist-controlled Donbass region said on Sunday he wanted to hold a vote on joining Russia, remarks that could signal a change in Russia’s position. Leonid Pasechnik, the leader of the self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic, said he planned to hold a referendum on joining Russia “as soon as possible”.
Russia has backed separatist rebels in Luhansk and neighboring Donetsk since an insurgency erupted there shortly after Moscow annexed the Crimean peninsula to Ukraine in 2014. In talks with Ukraine, Moscow has demanded that kyiv recognize the independence of Donetsk and Luhansk.
Kyrylo Budanov, Ukraine’s military intelligence chief, has accused Russia of seeking to divide Ukraine into two, like North Korea and South Korea.
“The occupiers will try to transform the occupied territories into a single quasi-state structure and pit them against independent Ukraine,” Budanov said in a statement released by the Defense Ministry. He predicted that Ukrainian-led guerrilla warfare would derail these plans.
Ukraine claims that to defeat Russia, the West must provide fighter jets and not just missiles and other military equipment. A proposal to transfer Polish planes to Ukraine via the United States was dropped amid NATO fears of being drawn into direct combat.
In his pointed remarks, Zelenskyy accused Western governments of being “afraid to prevent this tragedy.” Afraid to just make a decision.
“So who is in charge of the Euro-Atlantic community? Is it still Moscow, thanks to its scare tactics? He asked. “Our partners must step up their aid to Ukraine.”
His call was echoed on Sunday by a priest in the western city of Lviv, which was hit by rockets a day earlier. The airstrike showed that Moscow, despite claims it intends to move the war east, is ready to strike anywhere in Ukraine.
“When diplomacy doesn’t work, we need military support,” said Reverend Yuri Vaskiv, who reported fewer parishioners in the pews of his Greek Catholic church, likely due to fear.
Referring to Putin, he said: “This evil comes from him, and we have to stop it.”
Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov confirmed that Russia used air-launched cruise missiles to strike a fuel depot and defense factory in Lyiv, about 75 kilometers away. from the Polish border. He said another strike with sea-launched missiles had destroyed a depot in Plesetske, just west of kyiv, where Ukraine was storing air defense missiles.
A chemical smell lingered in Lyiv on Sunday as firefighters formed hose over the flames and black smoke poured from oil storage tanks hit in the attack.
A security officer, Yaroslav Prokopiv, said he saw three rockets destroy two oil tanks but no one was injured.
Consecutive Russian airstrikes rocked the city which became a haven for around 200,000 people who fled the bombed towns. Lviv, which was largely spared the shelling, has also been a stage for most of the 3.8 million refugees who have left Ukraine since the Russian invasion on February 24.
In a dark and crowded bomb shelter under a building near the first explosion site, Olana Ukrainets, a 34-year-old information technology professional, said she could not believe she had to hide again after fleeing the city of Kharkiv in the northeast of the country. one of the most bombed cities.
“We were on one side of the street and we saw it from the other side,” she said. “We saw the fire. I said to my friend, ‘What is this?’ Then we heard the sound of an explosion and glass breaking.
In his video speech, Zelenskyy angrily warned Moscow that he was sowing deep hatred for Russia among Ukrainians.
“You are doing everything so that our people themselves leave the Russian language, because from now on the Russian language will be associated only with you, with your explosions and murders, with your crimes,” Zelenskyy said.
In addition to the millions who fled Ukraine, the invasion drove more than 10 million people from their homes, nearly a quarter of Ukraine’s population. Thousands of civilians were reportedly killed.
As Russia’s advance on kyiv remains stalled, fighting raged in the suburbs and explosions from missiles fired at the city rocked St. Sophia’s Cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage Site old 1,000 years old which is the heart of Ukrainian spirituality and nationhood. identity.
Vadim Kyrylenko, an engineer and curator who is the church’s most senior remaining official, said a nearby strike “would be a point of no return for our landmark because it is very fragile and vulnerable”.
Pointing to the cathedral’s golden domes, Kyrylenko said the cross atop the center one had collapsed a month before the outbreak of World War II.
“The left cross fell a month before this war,” he said.
Andrea Rosa in Kharkiv, Nebi Qena in Kyiv, Cara Anna in Lviv, and Associated Press reporters around the world contributed to this report.
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