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Saturday, March 25, 2023

Ukraine Fights To Hold Off Russian Advances In South, East

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KHARKIV, April 30 (AP): Ukrainian forces fought Saturday to hold off a Russian advance in their country’s south and east, where the Kremlin is seeking to capture the industrial Donbas region and Western military analysts said Moscow’s offensive was going much slower than planned.

The United Nations continued trying to broker an evacuation of civilians from the increasingly hellish ruins of Mariupol, a southern port city that Russia has sought to capture since it invaded Ukraine more than nine weeks ago.

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Citizens are “begging to get saved” from a steel plant that has become Mariupol’s last defense stronghold, Mayor Vadym Boichenko said Friday. “There, it’s not a matter of days. It’s a matter of hours.” An estimated 2,000 fighters were holed up in the plant with about 1,000 civilians.

Two Ukrainian women whose husbands are members of the Azov Regiment of Ukraine’s National Guard said they feared soldiers will be tortured and killed if left behind and captured by the Russians. They asked for a Dunkirk-style mission to evacuate the fighters, a reference to the World War II operation launched to rescue surrounded Allied troops in northern France.

“We can do this extraction operation … which will save our soldiers, our civilians, our kids,” Kateryna Prokopenko, 27, told The Associated Press. “We need to do this right now, because people — every hour, every second — are dying.”

Numerically, Russia’s military manpower vastly exceeds Ukraine’s. In the days before the war began, Western intelligence estimated Russia had positioned near the border as many as 190,000 troops; Ukraine’s standing military is about 200,000, spread throughout the country.

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But so far, Russia’s troops and the separatist forces appeared to have made only minor gains in the Donbas in the month since Moscow said it would focus its military strength in eastern Ukraine.

In part because of the tenacity of the Ukrainian resistance, the US believes the Russians are “at least several days behind where they wanted to be” as they try to encircle Ukrainian troops in the east, said a senior US defense official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the American military’s assessment.

The British Defense Ministry offered a similar assessment in its daily assessment of the war, saying it believes Russian forces in Ukraine are likely suffering from “weakened morale,” along with a lack of unit-level skills and “inconsistent air support.” It did not say on what basis it made the evaluation.

Despite the village-by-village nature of the fight to gain ground in the Donbas, Russia’s promised offensive still could materialize. Overall, the Russian army has an estimated 900,000 active-duty personnel. Russia also has a much larger air force and navy than Ukraine and possesses tactical nuclear weapons.

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In Mariupol, around 100,000 people were believed to still be in the city with little food, water or medicine. UN spokesman Farhan Haq said the organization was negotiating with authorities in Moscow and Kyiv to create the conditions for safe passage.

Ukraine has blamed the failure of numerous previous evacuation attempts on continued Russian shelling.

For those who are in the Soviet-era Azovstal steel plant, a vast underground network of tunnels and bunkers has provided safety from airstrikes. But the situation has grown more dire after the Russians dropped “bunker busters” and other bombs on the plant, the mayor said.

Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, told Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya TV that the real problem is that “humanitarian corridors are being ignored by Ukrainian ultra-nationals.”

Moscow has repeatedly claimed right-wing Ukrainians were thwarting evacuation efforts and using civilians as human shields. The claims have not been verified.

The Azov Regiment helping to defend the steel plant has its roots in the Azov Battalion, which was formed in 2014 by far-right activists at the start of the separatist conflict in eastern Ukraine.

In his nightly video address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused Russia of trying to destroy the Donbas and all who live there.

The constant attacks “show that Russia wants to empty this territory of all people,” he said.

“If the Russian invaders are able to realize their plans even partially, then they have enough artillery and aircraft to turn the entire Donbas into stones, as they did with Mariupol,” Zelenskyy said.

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The Hills Timeshttps://www.thehillstimes.in/
The Hills Times, a largely circulated English daily published from Diphu and printed in Guwahati, having vast readership in hills districts of Assam, and neighbouring Nagaland, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur.
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