If Russia withdraws part of its forces from northern Ukraine, it is better to concentrate its forces in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions. These two regions in the southeast of the country are still under violent attack, about three months after the start of the Russian invasion.
In Kyiv, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky warned in an interview that the current stage of the war, in which the Russians focus their efforts in the east, “will be bloody”, but that in the end it will have to be resolved “through diplomacy”. “Talks between Ukraine and Russia will inevitably take place,” he told Ukrainian ICTV, while talks that were planned in Turkey a few weeks ago remained a dead letter. He said that he was ready again if necessary to hold a meeting “at the presidential level” with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, which he has not yet followed.
The end of the fighting in Mariupol
This is a symbolic step forward for the Russians. On Friday evening, Moscow announced that it had taken full control of the steel plants in Azovstal – the last enclave of Ukrainian resistance in Mariupol – when the last fighters surrendered. Footage released by Russia showed groups of men in combat gear emerging from steel mills, some wearing crutches or bandages, after a long battle that has become a symbol of Ukrainian resistance to the Russian invasion. In total, nearly 2,500 men of Ukrainian troops have surrendered this week, according to the Russians.
video. War in Ukraine: Hundreds of Ukrainian soldiers have surrendered from Azovstal since Monday
Kyiv, for its part, refuses to talk about surrender. “I ordered the High Military Command to save the lives of the soldiers of our barracks and stop defending the city,” said the regiment commander Denis Prokopenko, during the day in a video on a telegram. Right and left arm swollen, from what appeared to be an underground room.
Ukraine hopes to exchange prisoners of war, but Russia has indicated that it considers some of them “neo-Nazi” fighters, implicitly targeting the Azov regiment. The ICRC has urged both sides to grant it access to prisoners of war and civilian detainees “wherever they are held”.
However, Russia will study the possibility of exchanging fighters from the captured Ukrainian Azov Regiment in favor of Viktor Medvedchuk, a close friend of Vladimir Putin, Russia’s deputy negotiator Leonid Slutsky said Saturday.
Luhansk and Donetsk under attack
This was announced by Moscow and expected by Ukraine: Russian forces are now focusing their attacks on Donbass. The report stated that “the enemy is constantly carrying out offensive operations in the eastern area of operations in order to establish full control over the territory of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions and to preserve the land corridor with the temporarily occupied Crimea.” Facebook on Saturday morning.
Ukraine’s Defense Ministry spokesman, Oleksandr Motozyank, said the situation was “showing signs of deteriorating” and that “Russian occupying forces are launching intense fire along the entire front line.”
Major attacks are “limited to the Severodonetsk region,” says the Institute for the Study of War (ISW). This American think tank continued that Russian forces made “marginal gains in the north, west and south of the city, particularly around Popasna, in an attempt to take Severodonetsk.” Governor Pavlo Kirilenko announced in a Telegram that seven civilians were killed and 10 wounded on Saturday in the Donetsk region.
However, the governor of the Luhansk region remains optimistic. “As we resist, our forces receive foreign weapons, rearm, regroup, and I believe that in June we will have a counterattack,” Sergei Judic emphasized at night from Friday to Saturday.
Ukrainian police said on their Facebook account that they had evacuated about 60 people, including children, from a bombed-out church in Bogorodichny. There were no injuries, according to the same source.
To the north, the governor of the Kharkiv region (northeast), Oleg Senegubov, said that the areas around this city had been targeted by numerous artillery fire in the past 24 hours, killing one person and wounding 20 others.
Near Kharkiv, the country’s second city near the Russian border, the burial was scheduled for Saturday at the military field of Bezlyudikova cemetery, a village liberated a month ago at the cost of heavy fighting. “They were found with five other bodies that we could not identify. They are suspected of having been executed. They were shot in the back of the head,” a soldier said on the condition of anonymity, of the first two soldiers buried. It was not immediately possible to learn more or verify these suspicions.
40 billion dollars for Ukraine
Joe Biden, during his official trip to South Korea, signed the law passed by Congress on Thursday that envelops a massive $40 billion envelope for Ukraine’s war effort against Russia. The same source said that the law includes six billion dollars to allow Ukraine to equip itself with armored vehicles and strengthen its anti-aircraft defense. On Twitter, President Zelensky thanked his US counterpart for his “decisive” support.
Western weapons destroyed?
But the Russian Defense Ministry said on Saturday that its forces had destroyed a large shipment of weapons supplied by the West in northwest Ukraine. “The high-precision long-range Kalibr missiles fired from the sea destroyed a large shipment of weapons and military equipment provided by the United States and European countries near the Malin railway station in the Zhytomyr region,” the ministry said. It was not possible to verify this information from an independent source.