biden: Rockets hit western Ukraine as Biden heads to Poland, Putin slams


LVIV: Rockets hit the western Ukrainian city of Lviv on Saturday, signaling a potential new front in the invasion of Moscow as US President Joe Biden decried Russian President Vladimir Putin’s grip on power and sought to arm Europe for a long fight ahead.
Intense fighting raged in several parts of Ukraine, suggesting there will be no quick let down in the month-long war as Biden framed the fight as part of the historic fight for freedoms democrats in a major speech from Poland as he concluded his European trip. aimed at strengthening Western resolve.
“For the love of God, this man can’t stay in power,” Biden said in Warsaw. A White House official later said that Biden was not calling for regime change, but saying that “Putin cannot be allowed to wield power over his neighbors or the region.”
The Kremlin dismissed Biden’s comment, saying “it was not for Biden to decide.”
After more than four weeks of fighting, Russia has failed to capture any major Ukrainian city and the conflict has killed thousands, sent almost 3.8 million abroad and driven more than half of Ukrainian children in their homes, according to the United Nations.
Moscow signaled on Friday that it was scaling back its military ambitions to focus on territory claimed by Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine, while Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Saturday implored the West to speed up military aid.
Four rockets hit the outskirts of Lviv on Saturday, about 60 km (40 miles) from the border with Poland just before Biden made his remarks in Warsaw.
The attack appeared to be the first time the western Ukrainian city had been hit after so far escaping the heavy shelling that has devastated other towns closer to Russia.
Regional Governor Maksym Kozytskyy said five people were injured and residents were ordered to move to shelters after an initial strike mid-afternoon. Reuters witnesses saw black smoke rising from the northeast side of the city and the mayor of Lviv said an oil storage facility had been hit.
Ukrainian officials later reported that another strike had extensively damaged Lviv’s infrastructure, but so far no fatalities had been reported.
Russian forces also seized Slavutych, a town where Chernobyl nuclear power plant workers live, and three people were killed, Interfax Ukraine news agency reported citing the local mayor.
Ukrainian personnel continued to work at Chernobyl after the plant was seized by Russian forces, and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) expressed alarm at the situation if workers could not turn.
Russian forces also fired on a nuclear research facility in the city of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s parliament said in a Twitter post on Saturday.
In the beleaguered southern city of Mariupol, Mayor Vadym Boichenko said the situation remained critical, with street fighting in the center. Mariupol has been devastated by weeks of Russian fire.
Ukraine waited
A visibly irritated Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, in his evening speech, again called on Western countries to send military equipment and asked if they were intimidated by Moscow, saying: “We have already been waiting for 31 days” .
Zelenskiy also expressed disappointment at the lack of transferred planes during a call with his Polish counterpart Andrzej Duda on Saturday, Zelenskiy’s office said. Washington had rejected a surprise offer from Poland to transfer Russian-made MiG-29 fighter jets to a US base in Germany to replenish Ukraine’s air force.
The United States, which has already pledged billions in aid, will provide an additional $100 million for field equipment and other civil security aid for Ukrainian border guards and police, it announced. Saturday.
Zelenskiy previously compared the devastation in Mariupol to the destruction inflicted on the Syrian city of Aleppo by the combined Syrian and Russian forces in Syria’s civil war, speaking to Qatar’s Doha Forum via video link.
He also warned of dire consequences if his country – one of the world’s leading grain producers – could not export its food and urged energy-producing countries to increase their production so that Russia could not not use its oil and gas wealth to “blackmail” other nations.
Biden in Poland
Biden earlier Saturday sharpened his tone by calling Putin a ‘butcher’ after meeting with Ukrainian refugees in Poland – a Kremlin comment quoted by Russian news agency TASS as saying would further damage prospects for mending Russian-US relations .
Biden also saw Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov in the Polish capital Warsaw in his first face-to-face meeting with senior Ukrainian officials since the war began.
Biden’s visit to Poland was his final stop on a trip to Europe that highlighted his opposition to the Russian invasion, his solidarity with Ukraine and his determination to work closely with Western allies to address the crisis.
“We must be clearheaded. This battle will not be won in days or months… We must head for a long fight ahead,” Biden said in his speech. He also urged Europe to accelerate the shift to cleaner renewable energy and wean itself off Russian oil and gas.
Zelenskiy pressed on Friday night for further talks with Russia after his defense ministry said a first phase of its operation in Ukraine was nearing completion and would now focus on the Donbass region bordering Russia. , where Russian-backed forces fought against the government. strengths since 2014.
Reframing Russia’s goals could make it easier for Putin to claim a face-saving victory, analysts said.
Moscow has so far said its goals for what it calls its “special military operation” include the demilitarization and “denazification” of its neighbor. Ukraine and its Western allies have called this a baseless pretext for an unprovoked invasion.
“That’s a lie,” Biden said. “Russia strangled democracy – sought to do so elsewhere, not just in its homeland.”
The United Nations has confirmed 1,104 civilian deaths and 1,754 injuries in Ukraine since the February 24 invasion, but says the true toll is likely higher. Ukraine says 136 children were killed.
The Russian Defense Ministry said 1,351 Russian soldiers had been killed and 3,825 wounded, the Interfax news agency reported on Friday. Ukraine claims that 15,000 Russian soldiers have been killed. Reuters could not independently verify the claims.
Footage from Mariupol, where 400,000 people lived before the war, showed destroyed buildings, burnt-out vehicles and shell-shocked survivors venturing out in search of supplies. Residents buried their victims in makeshift graves as the ground thawed.
“It’s scary, I don’t know how we’re going to survive,” said an elderly resident, refusing to identify herself by name. “We’re lying there, hoping they won’t bomb us. Look how many corpses we’ve buried around the building.”
To the north, battle lines near the capital kyiv have been frozen for weeks with two main Russian armored columns pinned down northwest and east of the city.
The Russian Defense Ministry said its troops seized an entrenched command center on the outskirts of kyiv and captured more than 60 Ukrainian servicemen. Reuters could not immediately verify this.
Ukraine’s Armed Forces General Staff on Facebook said Russia’s losses were such that Moscow was carrying out “hidden mobilizations” and removing battle tanks from long-term storage.
A British intelligence report said Russian forces were relying on indiscriminate bombing rather than risking large-scale ground operations, a tactic the report said could limit Russian military casualties but harm more civilians in Ukraine. A later report cited a 60% failure rate among these Russian munitions.

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