Today is the 61st day of the war in Ukraine. While military attention is still very much focused on Donbas, where the main front of the war is now, the Russian army continues to launch missile strikes across Ukraine, targeting critical infrastructure, railway stations, and, most importantly, residential buildings, killing countless Ukrainian civilians.
It's been a week since the start of Russia's all-out offensive on eastern Ukraine — so are the Kremlin's forces anywhere near a breakthrough?
Phillips O'Brien, a professor of strategic studies at the University of St Andrews, told BBC that airstrikes on civilians shows the true face of Russian army. The fact the Russians aren't letting them rest, he continues, "is a sign of either stupidity or desperation".
"These soldiers that were taken out of Kyiv were defeated soldiers — they'd seen and they had committed war crimes, they had seen people die, they were exhausted, their equipment had gone," says O’Brien.
Russian shelling in Vinnytsia region has left an undetermined number of dead and wounded, while on Sunday airstrikes hit Lviv, with an explosion occurring near the railway station.
On the morning of April 25, the Russian occupiers fired on five railway stations in central and western Ukraine, killing and injuring civilians and delayed at least 16 trains meant to evacuate civilians.
The total number of civilian casualties, according to the prosecutor's office, is 3,818 people — a figure that risks being way off mark, as it does not take into account the situation in besieged Mariupol or places in the Kyiv region to which the prosecutor's office has no access.
Zelensky Thanks U.S. For “Unprecedented” Support
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin met with President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv
“We want to see Russia weakened to the degree that it can’t do the kinds of things that it has done in invading Ukraine,” said U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in Kyiv on Monday.
Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken have been in Ukraine since Sunday, in the highest-level visit of U.S. officials to the country since the Russian invasion began, more than two months ago.
Austin and Blinken committed a total of $713 million in foreign military aid for Ukraine and 15 allied and partner countries, of which $322 million are meant for Ukraine alone. The rest will be shared between NATO members and other countries that have provided Ukraine with important military supplies, officials said.
Such funding differs from previous U.S. military assistance to Ukraine, as it does not consist of a donation from the U.S. Department of Defense: Instead, it is cash that countries can use to buy the supplies they need.
According to officials, the new aid, along with the sale of $165 million-worth of non-U.S. and Soviet-era munitions, increases total U.S. military aid to Ukraine to $3.7 billion since the invasion.
In response, Zelensky said, "We appreciate the unprecedented assistance of the United States to Ukraine. I would like to thank President Biden personally and on behalf of the entire Ukrainian people for his leadership in supporting Ukraine, for his personal clear position."
Russian Ambassador to the United States Anatoly Antonov said that the supply of weapons to Ukraine by the United States does not contribute to the search for a "diplomatic solution" in the war. “We stressed the unacceptability of the situation when the United States is stuffing Ukraine with weapons, we demanded an end to this practice," Antonov said in an interview with Russia-24, as quoted by TASS.
Pseudo-Referendum In KhersonFile:Kherson Railway Station.png - Wikimedia Commonscommons.wikimedia.org
Pseudo-referendums are a well-known practice of the Kremlin to entrench itself in occupied territories. British intelligence says Russia aims to hold one such referendum in Kherson, which is key for the invaders to justify its occupation. The city, an important port on the Black Sea, is key to Russia's goal of establishing a land connection with Crimea and dominating southern Ukraine.
Petro Andriushchenko, an adviser to the mayor of Mariupol, in an interview with Die Welt, told about the evidence of mass graves, and the dangerous search for evidence. “The situation on site at these graves is dangerous. At any moment, a Russian soldier may ask people to hand over their cellphones to check their photos. So it's a big risk for our people. We understand that it is very difficult to verify the information. And we try everything to find out as much as possible,” Andriushchenko said.
Mutilated bodies are also found in the plastic bags around the city, as locals report. “We found two massive graves near Mariupol. They are more than 300 meters tall. We had information about this before, but it's difficult to research given the current situation. We have now spoken to people who have seen what is in the graves: large plastic bags containing the bodies of our compatriots. In the worst cases, it is only parts of the body”, confirms mayor’s adviser.
The last defenders of the Mariupol — Azov battalion — continue their resistance in the Azovstal plant, where hundreds of civilians found shelter. They continue to publish videos of people trapped deep underground of Azovstal, showing mainly children.
Not all who escaped Mariupol are safe, many locals were taken by force to the filtration camps in Russia. The BBC published a story of a couple who managed to flee from one of such camps. "If a person was suspected of being a 'Ukrainian Nazi', they took them to Donetsk for further investigation or murder," says one man named Oleksandr, although the BBC has not been able to verify this claim. "It was very dangerous and risky. Any small doubt, any small resistance - and they could take you to the basements for interrogation and torture. Everybody was afraid to be taken to Donetsk."
The centers have been compared by Ukrainian officials to those used during Russia's war in Chechnya, when thousands of Chechens were brutally interrogated and many disappeared.
UN Secretary General's Controversial Moscow Visit
United Nations Secretary General António Guterres set to visit Ukraine
Against the backdrop of high-ranking U.S. officials' visits to Kyiv, President Zelensky advised UN Secretary General to first visit places of torture of Ukrainians before finding time for "honorable people from Moscow" — in reaction to the announcement that António Guterres would arrive in Moscow on April 26 to meet with Putin and Lavrov.
"We are not a country for tragic selfies. You can't come to us empty-handed," Zelensky added.
Arab Emirates Oil To Replace Russian Oil In Europe
Facilities of TotalEnergies Raffinerie Mitteldeutschland GmbH in Leuna, Germany
A shipping unit of France's TotalEnergies has provisionally chartered a tanker to load Abu Dhabi crude oil in early May for Europe — the first such shipment in two years, Reuters report. More cargoes are expected to head to Europe in the cmoing months to replace the Russian shortfall as the European Union prepares more sanctions on Russian oil imports, traders said, possibly diverting some supplies away from Asia.
The global trade flow is readjusting to reflect changes in Russian oil supplies, while it is Europe's biggest oil supplier, providing 26% of EU imported oil in 2020.
Borodyanka, a town 40 kilometers northwest of Kyiv, were at least 41 people died from Russian strikes.
Google Maps/Kostyantyn Chernichkin - Kyiv Independent
According to President Volodymyr Zelensky, since Feb. 24, Russia has launched 2,000 missiles at the Ukrainian territory. Beyond the dramatic human costs, shelling and airstrikes, have left infrastructural damages estimated to reach $100 billion, according to Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov.
Under continuous heavy bombardment, many of the Ukrainian cities and their trademark locations can be barely recognized now, as shown in these before-and-after photos in the Kyiv Independent.
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