Ukraine faces ‘tough battle’ in eastern regions, says Zelenskiy

Ukraine faces 'tough battle' in eastern regions, says Zelenskiy
  • Zelenskiy expects a tough battle in eastern Ukraine
  • At least 52 killed in train station attack
  • Civilians in the Luhansk region are told to flee

kyiv, April 9 (Reuters) – Ukraine is ready for a tough battle with Russian forces amassing in the country’s east, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Saturday, a day after a missile strike in the east that he said authorities, killed more than 50 civilians. trying to evacuate.

Air raid sirens sounded in cities in eastern Ukraine, which has become the focus of Russian military action following a pullout from areas near the capital kyiv.

After Friday’s strike at a train station packed with women, children and the elderly in the city of Kramatorsk in the Donetsk region, authorities urged civilians in the neighboring Luhansk region to flee. read more

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“Yes, (Russian) forces are gathering in the east (of Ukraine),” Zelenskiy said at a joint news conference with Austrian Foreign Minister Karl Nehammer in kyiv.

“This will be a tough battle, we believe in this fight and in our victory. We are ready to fight and simultaneously look for diplomatic ways to end this war,” Zelenskiy added.

Russia’s invasion, which began on February 24, forced more than 4 million people to flee abroad, killed or injured thousands, left a quarter of the population homeless and turned cities to rubble.

The civilian casualties have triggered a wave of international condemnation, in particular for the deaths in the town of Bucha, a town northwest of kyiv that until last week was occupied by Russian forces.

Russia has denied targeting civilians in what it calls a “special operation” to demilitarize and “denazify” its southern neighbor. Ukraine and Western nations have dismissed this as a baseless pretext for war.

Nehammer visited Ukraine a day after European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen visits aimed at underlining the West’s support for Zelenskiy. In another such move, Italy said it would reopen its embassy in kyiv after Easter.

FIFTY-TWO DIE AT THE STATION

Friday’s missile attack on the train station in Kramatorsk, a hub for civilians fleeing from the east, left shreds of bloodstained clothing, toys and damaged luggage strewn across the station platform.

The city’s mayor, Oleksander Honcharenko, who estimated 4,000 people were gathered there at the time, said on Saturday that the death toll had risen to at least 52.

The Russian Defense Ministry denied responsibility, saying in a statement that the missiles that hit the station were used only by Ukraine’s military and that Russia’s armed forces had no assigned targets in Kramatorsk on Friday.

Russian state television described the attack as a “bloody provocation” by Ukraine.

In Washington, a senior defense official said the United States did not accept the Russian denial and believed Russian forces had fired a short-range ballistic missile in the attack. read more

Reuters was unable to verify details of the attack.

Honcharenko said he expected only 50,000-60,000 of Kramatorsk’s population of 220,000 to remain within a week or two as people fled the violence.

The Ukrainian military says Moscow is preparing for an attempt to gain full control of the Donbass regions of Donetsk and Luhansk that have been partly in the hands of Moscow-backed separatists since 2014.

Air strikes in the south and east are likely to increase as Russia seeks to establish a land bridge between Crimea, which Moscow annexed in 2014, and Donbas, but Ukrainian forces are thwarting the advance, Britain’s Defense Ministry said in a statement. an intelligence update.

The Russian military said on Saturday it had destroyed an ammunition depot at the Myrhorod air base in east-central Ukraine. read more

VISIT OF FOREIGN LEADERS

EU chief von der Leyen said on Saturday that Russian forces appeared to have committed war crimes by targeting civilians in Ukraine, but said lawyers must investigate the alleged incidents.

She said she had seen with her own eyes the destruction in the town of Bucha, near kyiv, on Friday. A forensic team began exhuming a mass grave Friday containing the bodies of civilians who local officials say were killed while the Russians occupied the city. read more

“My instinct says: if this is not a war crime, what is a war crime? But I am a doctor by training and lawyers have to investigate carefully,” von der Leyen told reporters aboard a train left Ukraine. read more

The Kremlin has repeatedly rejected accusations that it has committed war crimes, calling allegations that its forces executed civilians in Bucha a “monstrous forgery.”

Visits by foreign leaders and Italy’s announcement on Saturday that it intends to reopen its embassy in kyiv later this month marked a further sign that the city is returning to some degree of normalcy after Russian forces withdraw from the northern areas of the country. capital just over a week ago.

Some Ukrainians have also started to return to the capital, with cafes and restaurants reopening. read more

The EU on Friday overcame some divisions to adopt sweeping new sanctions against Russia, including import bans on coal, wood, chemicals and other products. Russia’s oil and gas imports so far remain untouched. read more

Zelenskiy urged the West on Friday to do more. On Saturday, he said that he understood that sanctions could cause financial losses to the countries that impose them.

“However, there are countries that are not afraid of these important decisions. I am aware of Austria’s support on this issue,” he said, and again asked “our partners” for weapons.

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Additional reporting by Pavel Polityuk in Cherkassy, ​​Ukraine, James Mackenzie in Yahidne, Ukraine, Janis Laizans in Poland, and Reuters offices Written by Michael Perry, Conor Humphries, and Paul Carrel Edited by Robert Birsel, Angus MacSwan, and Frances Kerry

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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