Ukrainian leader warns war will cost Russia for generations

Zinaida Pivtsova, 75, who fled war in Ukraine, wipes away tears inside a sports stadium at a high school in Przemysl, southeastern Poland, where refugees are taking refuge, on Friday March 18, 2022. Pivtsova, from the city of Sloviansk, eastern part of Ukraine, arrived in Poland 2 days ago.  (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

Zinaida Pivtsova, 75, who fled war in Ukraine, wipes away tears inside a sports stadium at a high school in Przemysl, southeastern Poland, where refugees are taking refuge, on Friday March 18, 2022. Pivtsova, from the city of Sloviansk, eastern part of Ukraine, arrived in Poland 2 days ago. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)


Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Russian forces were blockading his country’s biggest cities to subjugate the population, but he warned on Saturday that the strategy would fail and Moscow would lose in the long run if it did not end its war.

Zelenskyy accused the Kremlin of deliberately creating “a humanitarian catastrophe” and called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to meet him, using a huge rally at a Moscow stadium where Putin praised Russian forces on Friday to illustrate what was in play.

“Imagine that in this stadium in Moscow there are 14,000 dead bodies and tens of thousands more wounded and mutilated. These are the Russian costs throughout the invasion,” Zelenskyy said in a video address. night at the nation recorded in front of the presidential office in Kyiv.

The rally and a concert in Moscow were held to commemorate the anniversary of Russia’s annexation of Crimea, which it seized from Ukraine in 2014. The event featured patriotic songs such as ‘Made in the USSR”, with the first lines “Ukraine and Crimea, Belarus and Moldova, this is my whole country.

“We haven’t had such unity for a long time,” Putin told the cheering crowd.

The rally came as Russia faced heavier-than-expected battlefield casualties and an increasingly authoritarian regime at home. The event was shrouded in suspicion that it was a Kremlin-fabricated display of patriotism. Russian police have arrested thousands of people protesting Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Fighting continued on several fronts in Ukraine. In the beleaguered port city of Mariupol, the site of some of the war’s greatest suffering, Ukrainian and Russian forces fought over the Azovstal steelworks, one of Europe’s biggest, Vadym said on Saturday. Denysenko, adviser to the Ukrainian Minister of the Interior.

“I can say that we have lost this economic giant,” Denysenko said in televised remarks. “In fact, one of the biggest metallurgical plants in Europe is being destroyed.”

The Russian military announced on Saturday that it had used its latest hypersonic missile for the first time in combat. A Russian Defense Ministry spokesman, Major General Igor Konashenkov, said Kinzhal missiles destroyed an underground warehouse storing Ukrainian missiles and aviation ammunition in the western Ivano-Frankivsk region of Ukraine. .

Konashenkov said Russian forces also used the Bastion anti-ship missile system to strike Ukrainian military installations near the Black Sea port of Odessa. Russia first used the weapon during its military campaign in Syria in 2016.

Ukrainian and Russian officials have agreed to establish 10 humanitarian corridors to deliver aid and residents – one from the beleaguered port city of Mariupol, several in the Kyiv region and several in the Lugansk region, the deputy said on Saturday. – Ukrainian Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk.

She also announced her intention to provide humanitarian aid to the city of Kherson, which is currently under the control of Russian forces.

In his nightly video address, Zelenskyy said Russian forces blockaded major cities in an effort to create conditions so miserable that Ukrainians would cooperate. He said the Russians were preventing supplies from reaching surrounded towns in central and southeastern Ukraine.

He said Friday’s rally in Moscow to celebrate Russia’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine in 2014 had gathered around 200,000 people, the same number of Russian servicemen involved in the current invasion of Ukraine.

“The time has come to restore territorial integrity and justice for Ukraine. Otherwise, the costs from Russia will be so high that you will not be able to recover for several generations,” Zelenskyy said.

Putin’s appearance at Friday’s rally marked a change from his relative isolation of recent weeks, when he was shown meeting world leaders and his staff either at extraordinarily long tables or via video conference.

Seeking to portray war as just, Putin paraphrased the Bible to say of Russian troops: “There is no greater love than to lay down your soul for your friends.

Taking the scene where a sign read ‘For a world without Nazism’, he railed against his enemies in Ukraine with a baseless claim that they were ‘neo-Nazis’ and insisted his actions were necessary to prevent “genocide” – an idea outright rejected by world leaders.

Putin’s citation of the Bible and an 18th-century Russian admiral reflects his growing attention in recent years to history and religion as constraining forces in Russia’s post-Soviet society. His branding of his enemies as Nazis evoked what many Russians consider their country’s finest hour, the defense of the fatherland against Germany during World War II.

Following the invasion, the Kremlin further cracked down on dissent and the flow of information, arresting thousands of anti-war protesters, banning sites such as Facebook and Twitter, and instituting heavy prison sentences for those who is considered fake reporting on the war, which Moscow calls a “special military operation.”

Above the conflict, three Russian cosmonauts arrived at the International Space Station on Friday wearing bright yellow flight suits with blue accents to match the colors of the Ukrainian flag.

Since the beginning of the war, many people have used the Ukrainian flag and its colors to show their solidarity with the country.

But cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev said each crew chose their own suits and they had a lot of yellow gear to use “that’s why we had to wear yellow”.

Vladimir Medinsky, who led Russian negotiators in several rounds of talks with Ukraine, said the two sides have come closer to an agreement on the issue of Ukraine dropping its bid for the EU. NATO and the adoption of a neutral status. In remarks carried by Russian media, he said the parties were now “halfway” on issues regarding the demilitarization of Ukraine.

However, Mikhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Zelenskyy, said the assessment was meant to “cause tension in the media”. He tweeted: “Our positions are unchanged. Ceasefire, withdrawal of troops and strong security guarantees with concrete formulas.

British Defense Intelligence chief Lt. Gen. Jim Hockenhull has warned that after failing to take key Ukrainian cities, Russian forces are turning to an “attrition strategy” that will lead to “reckless and blind firepower”, leading to increased civilian casualties and aggravation of the humanitarian crisis.

Across Ukraine, hospitals, schools and buildings where people were seeking shelter were attacked. Ludmyla Denisova, Ukrainian parliament’s human rights commissioner, said at least 130 people survived Wednesday’s attack on a theater in Mariupol that served as a shelter.

“But according to our data, there are still more than 1,300 people in those basements, in that bomb shelter,” Denisova told Ukrainian television. “We are praying they are all alive, but so far there is no information about them.”

On Friday, satellite images from Maxar Technologies showed a long line of cars leaving Mariupol as people tried to evacuate. Zelenskyy said more than 9,000 people were able to leave the city over the past day.

One person was reportedly killed in a missile attack near Lviv, the closest strike to date to the city center. Satellite photos showed the strike destroyed a repair shed and appeared to damage two other buildings. Ukraine said it shot down two of the six missiles in the volley, which came from the Black Sea.

Lviv has become a crossroads for people fleeing from other parts of Ukraine and for others entering to provide aid or join the fight, with its population growing by around 200,000 people.

Early morning barrages that hit a residential building in kyiv’s Podil district killed at least one person. Emergency services said 98 people were evacuated from the building and Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said 19 people were injured.

Ukrainian officials said a firefighter was also killed when Russian forces shelled an area where firefighters were trying to put out a fire in the village of Nataevka, Zaporizhzhia region. Two other people were killed when strikes hit residential and administrative buildings in the eastern city of Kramatorsk, according to regional governor Pavlo Kyrylenko.

Major General Oleksandr Pavlyuk, who leads the defense of the region around the Ukrainian capital, said his forces were well positioned to defend the city and vowed: “We will never give up. We will fight until the end. Until the last breath and until the last ball.


Associated Press writer Yuras Karmanau in Lviv, Ukraine, and other AP reporters from around the world contributed to this report.


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