Nearly three months into Russia’s war on Ukraine, invading forces increased their efforts to take the eastern part of the country.
Battles raged in the Donbas region, where Russian troops reportedly tried to seize the cities of Slovyansk and Severodonetsk. Russia made small advances toward the city of Severodonetsi, according to the BBC, and deployed heavier artillery to the region, the New York Times reported.
Since failing to take Ukraine’s capital, the Kremlin has focused on expanding the territory held by Russia-backed separatists the past eight years.
Over the weekend, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called the situation in Severodonetsi and nearby Slovyansk “extremely difficult.”
Seven houses in Severodonetsi and more than two dozens houses in neighboring towns have been damaged, CNN quoted Zelenskyy’s office as stating.
“The enemy forces are preparing to resume the offensive in the Slovyansk direction,” according to the Ukrainian military.
Ukraine’s parliament extended martial law for another 90 days and welcomed Poland’s President Andrzej Duda.
“Unfortunately, in Europe there have also been disturbing voices in recent times demanding that Ukraine yield to [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s demands,” said Duda, the first foreign leader to address Ukraine’s parliament since the Feb. 24 start of the invasion. “I want to say clearly: Only Ukraine has the right to decide about its future. Only Ukraine has the right to decide for itself.”
Millions of refugees have fled from Ukraine to Poland.
“This is really a historic opportunity not to lose such strong relations, built through blood, through Russian aggression,” Zelenskyy said. “All this not to lose our state, not to lose our people.”
Poland has been trying to win over other European Union members on letting Ukraine join the bloc.
But France attempted to deliver a reality check on Sunday, with a top official saying it could take up to two decades for Ukraine to join the E.U.
“We have to be honest,” said France’s European Affairs minister Clement Beaune. “If you say Ukraine is going to join the EU in six months, or a year or two, you’re lying.”
Meanwhile, conditions remained dire in Mariupol, the target of especially brutal Russian attacks that claimed at least an estimated 20,000 lives.
A health and humanitarian “catastrophe” loomed as authorities struggled to handle mass burials in shallow pits and the collapse of the sewage system, according to Mariupol Mayor Vadim Boychenko.
Concern grew over the fate of some 2,500 Ukrainian troops whom Russia says it took prisoner at the Mariupol steel plant, scene of an intense siege.
Russia has increased the pace of forced deportations of civilians from the devastated city and into Russia, according to Petro Andryushchenko, an adviser to Mariupol’s mayor.
On Saturday, 313 residents — 55 of them children — were taken to a so-called “filtration camp,” the BBC quoted Andryushchenko as saying.
The U.S. is trying to send $40 billion in additional military and humanitarian to Ukraine as quickly as possible. On Saturday, President Biden signed the aid package into law.
Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on Thursday spoke with his Russian counterpart for the first time since before the invasion.
“I am encouraged that those communication channels are back open,” Mike Mullen, former chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told ABC’s “This Week.” “I think those are critical to make sure that we don’t miscalculate and that we have a way to communicate.”
Poland’s President Duda, a right-wing populist, called for more support from the U.S. That’s even though he favored ex-President Donald Trump — who was impeached for pressuring Ukrainians to dig up dirt on Biden — in the 2020 election.
“Kyiv is the place from which one clearly sees that we need more America in Europe, both in the military and in this economic dimension,” said Duda.
The conflict has seemingly impacted the entire globe, including the world of sports.
The group that runs the Wimbledon Tennis Championships, set to begin next month, is barring athletes from Russia and its ally Belarus. That includes Daniil Medvedev, who won the U.S. Open last year.
The Association of Tennis Professionals and Women’s Tennis Association called the move “discrimination.” They won’t assign ranking points based on the London championships as a result.
“Our rules and agreements exist in order to protect the rights of players as a whole,” the ATP said. “Unilateral decisions of this nature, if unaddressed, set a damaging precedent for the rest of the tour.”
Some Ukrainians have been making it to the U.S.
A Maryland couple recently traveled to Ukraine to adopt a 6-year-old girl who’d been living in an orphanage that was evacuated during the war.
The adoption process began over a year ago but was hugely complicated by the invasion.
“I feel like it’s Christmas morning,” dad Phil Graves said at the end of the ordeal, “and all that frustration and anticipation was worth it.”
With News Wire Services