The US Congress Thursday issued a massive envelope worth 40 billion dollars to support Ukraine’s war effort against Russia. The G7 finance ministers began counting the billions that each country could pump into Kyiv.
“For our partners, it’s not just spending or donation,” Mr. Zelensky replied in his video title Thursday night to Friday. “It is their contribution to their security because protecting Ukraine means protecting them against new wars and crises that Russia might cause,” he said.
New US aid in particular should allow Ukraine to equip itself with armor and strengthen its anti-aircraft defense, at a time when Russia is focusing its efforts in the east and south of the country after it failed to capture Kyiv and Kharkiv, in the north.
Moscow in particular seeks to fully occupy Donbass, a Russian-speaking region that has been partially controlled since 2014 by pro-Russian separatists.
The Ukrainian armed forces continue to make progress in the liberation of the Kharkiv region. But the occupiers are trying to increase the pressure in the Donbass. “It’s hell,” said the Ukrainian president, “and it’s no exaggeration.”
Severodonetsk crushed under fire
Russian shelling left 12 people dead and 40 wounded Thursday in Severodonetsk in the (eastern) Lugansk region, according to local governor Sergio Gaidai. He said that most of the shots hit apartment buildings and that the death toll could rise.
For several days this industrial city turned into a battlefield and was crushed by artillery fire. “I don’t know how long we can hold out,” said Neela Kachina, 65, a retired municipal employee.
Severodonetsk and Lyssytchansk form the last pocket of Ukrainian resistance in the Lugansk region. The Russians besieged these two regions, separated by a river, and bombarded them relentlessly.
Separately, Russian soldiers on Thursday killed five civilians in the Donetsk region, also in the Donbass, according to Governor Pavlo Kirilenko.
Russia announced Thursday that nearly 800 Ukrainian soldiers entrenched in the bowels of the Azovstal steel complex in the port of Mariupol surrendered in the past 24 hours, bringing the total to 1,730 since Monday.
Moscow has released footage showing groups of men in budding combat gear, some with crutches or bandages, after a long battle that has become a symbol of Ukrainian resistance to the Russian invasion in Mariupol. According to Kyiv, this martyr city was destroyed by 90% and at least 20 thousand people died there.
The Russian Defense Ministry confirmed that these soldiers, including 80 wounded, “made themselves prisoners.” Kyiv did not talk about surrender.
The evacuees, who were members of the Marine Rifle Unit and Azov Battalion founded by Ukrainian nationalists, had been holed up for weeks in a labyrinth of Soviet-era underground galleries dug under giant steel mills, extensively bombed by the Russians.
Svyatoslav Balamar, deputy commander of the Azov regiment, confirmed in a video posted on Thursday that he was still at the plant with the rest of the command, refusing to reveal the details of the ongoing “operation”.
Their fate is undecided: Ukraine wants to organize an exchange of prisoners of war, but Russia declared that it considers at least some of them not soldiers, but “neo-Nazi” fighters.
The war threatens to exacerbate the global food crisis as it seriously disrupts agricultural activity and grain exports from Ukraine, a country that until then was the world’s fourth largest corn exporter and on track to become the third largest exporter of wheat.
“Stop blockading the ports of the Black Sea! The head of US diplomacy, Anthony Blinken, launched Thursday evening at a meeting of the United Nations Security Council, allowing free movement of ships, trains and trucks carrying food out of Ukraine.