The US Congress on Thursday approved a gigantic envelope of 40 billion to arm and support Ukraine. This came as Moscow secured a symbolic victory with images of hundreds of Ukrainian fighters emerging from the Azovstal factory in Mariupol.
In particular, this major $6 billion aid package will allow Ukraine to equip itself with armored vehicles and strengthen its anti-aircraft defenses while fighting rages in the east and south of the country. Moscow has decided in recent weeks to focus its efforts there after failing to bring Kyiv and Kharkiv to the north.
G7 finance ministers meeting in Germany on Thursday began counting the billions of euros, pounds and dollars each country could quickly spend to support Ukraine’s economy and its military efforts.
The law now only needs to be ratified by President Joe Biden. In mid-March, Congress had already released almost $14 billion for the Ukraine crisis, but Joe Biden had been calling for a significant budget expansion to support Ukraine in the new phase of the conflict for several weeks.
Heroes of Azovstal
The major announcement, which has been eagerly awaited in Kyiv, comes as Russia announced on Thursday that nearly 800 Ukrainian soldiers holed up in the bowels of the gargantuan Azovstal steel complex in Mariupol had surrendered over the past 24 hours , giving a total of 17:30 since Monday.
Moscow released images showing cohorts of men in riot gear emerging, some with crutches or Bandages the country where at least 20 thousand people died, according to Kyiv.
These soldiers, including 80 wounded, “made themselves prisoners,” the Russian Defense Ministry said in a press release.
UN calls for talks
Kyiv has not spoken of a surrender and Ukrainian officials declined to comment at this time. But President Volodymyr Zelenskyy spoke on Monday of an “evacuation” aimed at saving the lives of these Ukrainian “heroes” through international mediation.
The UN implicitly endorsed the version of a negotiated settlement, as previously seen under the ICRC’s aegis in the evacuation of civilians from Mariupol, and on Thursday called on Russia and Ukraine to resume talks to “end this war.”
The evacuated fighters, mostly members of a unit of naval riflemen from the Ukrainian army and the Azov regiment set up by Ukrainian nationalists, had holed up for several weeks in the maze of underground tunnels dug under the gigantic steelworks during the Soviet era, heavily bombed the Russians.
Commanders still on site
Pro-Russian separatist leader Denis Pushilin clarified Wednesday that the commanders had not yet surrendered, saying there were initially “more than 2,000 people” at the site.
In a video released Thursday evening, Sviatoslav Palamar, deputy commander of the Azov regiment, confirmed he was still at the factory with the rest of the command and refused to reveal details about the ongoing “operation”.
However, their fate remains unclear: Ukraine wants to organize an exchange of prisoners of war, but Russia has repeatedly indicated that it considers at least some of them not soldiers but “neo-Nazi” fighters.
“War of Independence”
Despite this sequence of essentially symbolic value for Russia, which had almost completely controlled the city for several weeks, President Zelenskyy declared in a video marking Vychyvanka Day on Thursday that his people are “strong, indestructible, courageous and free”. famous traditional Ukrainian embroidered shirt that he wore for the occasion.
“For us, this war is undoubtedly a war of independence,” he said in a speech to students, stressing that Russia “will probably always remain a threat.”
“Please excuse me”
Highly symbolic for Ukraine this time, the first-ever war crimes trial of a Russian soldier resumed in Kyiv on Thursday.
“I know you cannot forgive me, but I beg your pardon,” Sergeant Vadim Chichimarine, 21, told the widow of the 62-year-old man accused of being shot dead in the northern United States on February 28 . east of Ukraine while attempting to rejoin his people after his column of armored vehicles was attacked.
A life sentence has been sought against the young soldier, who pleaded guilty. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov had previously described the allegations against Russian troops as “false or staged”.
However, another war crimes trial opened Thursday in northeastern Ukraine: the trial of two Russian soldiers accused of firing rockets at civilian infrastructure in the Kharkiv region.
Twelve dead in Severodonetsk
Russian bombing continues to claim casualties. According to local governor Serguiï Gaïdaï, they left 12 dead and 40 injured in Severodonetsk in the Lugansk region (east) on Thursday. He said most of the shots hit apartment buildings and the death toll could be rising.
An AFP team on the ground found that this industrial city had been turned into a battlefield for several days and crushed under artillery fire.
Severodonetsk and Lysychansk form the last nest of Ukrainian resistance in the Luhansk region. The Russians now surrounded these two places, separated only by a river, and bombarded them relentlessly to exhaust the resistance and prevent the arrival of reinforcements.
Pentagon: The conflict could continue
According to a daily report by the Ukrainian military, “the enemy has increased its attacks and attempted attacks to improve its tactical positions” in the Donbass, the Russian-speaking eastern region that has been partially controlled by pro-Russian separatists since 2014 and that Moscow is unable to take Kyiv and the rest of the country wants to take total control.
The Pentagon warned Thursday that despite the successes of Ukrainian forces in the north, the Russian military is managing to tighten its grip on Donbass and the country’s south, meaning the conflict could drag on.
“We are absolutely committed to doing everything we can to help the Ukrainians defend themselves,” a senior US Defense Department official told reporters.
On the economic front, the big moneymakers of the G7 met in Germany on Thursday and Friday to support Ukraine and examine the global fallout from the war started by Moscow.
On Wednesday, the European Commission proposed “new macro-financial assistance” to Ukraine of “up to €9 billion” for this year.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday warned of the “spectre of global food shortages in the coming months” and implored Russia to unblock Ukrainian grain exports and the West to allow Russian fertilizers access to world markets.
This article was published automatically. Sources: ats/afp
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