Zelensky accuses Russia of genocide in the eastern region of Donbas, where the city of Severodonetsk is suffering an onslaught of Russian shelling.
In his daily televised address, Ukrainian President Volodomir Zelensky condemned Moscow’s brutal assault on the Donbas — where it has redirected its forces after having failed to capture Kyiv — adding that its bombardment could leave the entire region “uninhabited.”
“All this, including the deportation of our people and the mass killings of civilians, is an obvious policy of genocide pursued by Russia,” he said. Pro-Moscow separatist groups have since 2014 controlled parts of Donbas, but Russia now appears set on taking the whole region.
The pro-Russian rebels in the Donetsk region said they had “liberated and taken full control of 220 settlements, including Krasny Liman”, using an old name for Lyman.
Russian President Vladimir Putin in late February sent troops into Ukraine, saying the campaign aimed to stop the “genocide” of Russian speakers in the pro-Western country.
In April, Ukraine’s parliament backed a resolution recognising the actions of the Russian military in the country as “genocide”. US President Joe Biden used the same expression, saying Putin appeared intent on “trying to wipe out the idea of even being able to be a Ukrainian”.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau echoed the claim.
Invading forces are closing in on several cities, including the strategically located Severodonetsk and Lysychansk, which stand on the crucial route to Ukraine’s eastern administrative center in Kramatorsk. Three people died in attacks on those two cities, Kyiv’s Deputy Defense Minister Ganna Malyar told journalists, saying that fighting in the east has reached “its maximum intensity” since Russia invaded on Feb. 24.
“The situation remains difficult, because the Russian army has thrown all its forces at taking the Luhansk region,” regional governor Sergiy Gaiday said in a video on Telegram.
The intensified fighting across the country prompted Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba to air Kyiv’s increasing frustration with the West, accusing allies of dragging their feet on arms deliveries and telling his German counterpart that Ukraine needs heavy weapons “as soon as possible.”
Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin became the latest Western official to visit Kyiv on Thursday, where she said it would take Russia decades to repair its standing in the world after invading Ukraine.
“Trust is lost for generations,” Marin told a press conference.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who has faced criticism over Berlin’s slow response, also weighed in Thursday, saying Russian President Vladimir Putin will not negotiate seriously until he realises he might not win in Ukraine.
“Our goal is crystal-clear — Putin must not win this war. And I am convinced that he will not win it,” Scholz told the World Economic Forum in Davos.
The flow of grain exports from Ukraine, known as Europe’s breadbasket, has been disrupted since Russia’s invasion, threatening food security around the world and sending prices soaring.
The Kremlin on Thursday pointed the finger at Western countries for stopping grain-carrying vessels from leaving ports in Ukraine — rejecting accusations that Russia was to blame.
President Putin said in a telephone call with Italy’s Prime Minister Mario Draghi that Moscow was ready to make a “significant contribution” to averting a looming food crisis if the West lifts sanctions imposed on his country over Ukraine.
But the United States scoffed at the offer.