As airstrike sirens cried repeatedly on Sunday in the capital, Kiev, and in the towns and cities of Ukraine, First Lady Jill Biden made a foray into the besieged country, meeting her Ukrainian counterpart near the Slovakian border.
Meanwhile, rescuers in an eastern village dug out of the rubble of a bombed school have become a shelter where up to 60 people were missing and feared dead, according to Ukrainian officials.
As fighting raged in eastern Ukraine, tensions escalated on the eve of the year great Russian holiday celebrating the role of the then Soviet Union in defeating Nazi Germany 77 years ago. Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to use Monday’s Victory Day commemorations to somehow glorify, or at least rename, his army’s invasion of Ukraine that began in late February.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky gave a very different stamp to the occasion, which is celebrated on Sunday in Ukraine – a Soviet republic before it became independent more than 30 years ago – as the Day of Remembrance and Reconciliation. The United States and most of Europe celebrate May 8 as VE Day.
in a definitely dramatic video Shot in the badly damaged satellite city of Kiev of Borodianka, occupied by Russia during Moscow’s failed attempt at the start of the war to capture Kiev, Zelensky compared his country’s fierce resistance against invasion to the fight against fascism in WWII world.
“Never again?” churches, with ruined buildings as a backdrop. “Try telling Ukraine”.
Separately, the Ukrainian leader said in his nightly video speech that the brutality of Russia’s unprovoked war against its smallest neighbor “should remind every state and nation that it is impossible to defeat evil once and for all.”
Amid ongoing Western efforts to persuade Putin to halt his assault, leaders of Group of Seven nations, including President Biden, reportedly held a video consultation with Zelensky on Sunday. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz is hosting the call, the German government said.
Jill Biden’s visit to western Ukraine, revealed only after she left the country, was the latest in a series of high-level visits aimed at showing US support. She spent about two hours in Ukraine, holding a Mother’s Day meeting with Zelensky’s wife, Olena Zelenska, in the town of Uzhorod, a short distance from the Slovakian border, and visiting a school.
In the south, in the flattened bomb port city of MariupoThere, Ukrainian officials said efforts on Sunday will turn into extracting defenders of a vast steel plant that is the last Ukrainian redoubt in the strategic city.
The last civilians trapped there – women, children and the elderly – were brought to safety on SaturdayUkrainian officials said after spending hungry and frightened weeks seeking safety in the steel mill’s maze of underground bunkers and tunnels.
“We are also working to evacuate our military,” Zelensky said in his night speech. “We do not lose hope, we do not stop: every day we look for a diplomatic option that could work”.
Russia, which has been trying to capture Mariupol since the start of the war, is believed to attach not only practical but symbolic importance to finally submitting the city in time for Monday’s Victory Day celebrations.
Put in declared victory in the Battle of Mariupol on April 21, but full control of the city will give Moscow the ability to create a land bridge between the territory it dominates and the Crimean peninsula, which Russia seized in 2014.
Municipal officials said up to 20,000 Mariupol residents have died in the war, now in its 11th week, and satellite images have identified mass graves on the outskirts of the ruined city.
In Ukraine’s eastern battle zone, Ukrainian officials described a terrible tribute to the non-combatants involved in the intensification of Russian bombing. Moscow forces used artillery bursts, often hitting civilian areas, to try to break through Ukrainian lines.
In the village of Bilohorivka in Luhansk province, about 90 people were taking refuge in a school when it was bombed and exploded on Saturday afternoon, Ukrainian officials said. Regional Governor Serhiy Haidai said about 30 people were saved, with two confirmed dead and seven injured, leaving dozens missing in the incinerated rubble.
“Sixty people are likely to have died under the rubble,” he wrote on the Telegram messaging app on Sunday.
Ukrainian Foreign Ministry called the bombing school a war crime. Noting that the attack took place just hours before Ukrainian commemorations of the defeat of Nazi Germany began, the ministry said Russian forces “are constantly repeating the tragedy of World War II.”
In a separate episode in the village of Shypilovo, about 11 people were thought to be inside a bombed-out house, Haidai said, citing preliminary information. His province, Luhansk, is one of two that make up the Donbas region, the industrial heart that Russia is trying to conquer.
Western military analysts have portrayed the much-vaunted Russian offensive in eastern Ukraine as plagued by problems. In evaluation Sunday from British military intelligence he cited “command and control difficulties, plus shaky Russian frontline performance,” a 300-mile span that stretches from south-east Ukraine to north-east.