Ukraine: some Russian wins, but Kyiv retains the initiative

Ukraine: some Russian wins, but Kyiv retains the initiative

Russian forces assumed responsibility for capturing some towns in eastern Ukraine on Friday after a series of bitter setbacks on multiple fronts, but Kyiv appears to retain the initiative and is urging Russian soldiers to surrender.

The Ukrainian army has taken over nearly 2,500 km2 of territory from Russian forces since late September, including nearly 800 km2 and 29 locations “just this week,” President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his daily address on Friday evening.

At the same time, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded in Oslo to imprisoned Belarusian activist Ales Beliatski, the Russian NGO Memorial and the Ukrainian Center for Civil Liberties, a symbolic award amid the war in Ukraine.

Major Western capitals welcomed the decision, and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres underscored “the power of civil society to advance peace”.

US President Joe Biden, who warned of the danger of an “apocalypse” for the first time since the Cold War, congratulated the victors who stood up to “intimidation and oppression”.

But in Russia, in response, the judiciary ordered the seizure of Memorial’s offices.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) announced on Friday that it would release $1.3 billion in emergency funding to Ukraine through its new food shock relief instrument.

This new financial framework aims to “help Ukraine meet its urgent balance of payments needs” but also “to play a catalytic role in future financial support from donors and creditors to Ukraine”.

Earlier in the day, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced the IMF’s assistance, adding that “the funds will arrive in Ukraine today.”

– call for surrender –

At the scene, Defense Minister Oleksiï Reznikov promised to “guarantee life, security and justice” to Russian soldiers who decide to surrender, in a sign of the confidence Ukrainians have gained after the success of their counteroffensive.

“You can still save Russia from tragedy and the Russian army from humiliation,” he said, as the defeats prompted Russian President Vladimir Putin to mobilize several hundred thousand people in the army.

For its part, Moscow said it had gained ground – three villages in eastern Ukraine – after losing thousands of square kilometers on multiple fronts further north and south in recent weeks.

The three captured villages are south of the Ukrainian-controlled town of Bakhmout. The Russian army has been trying to take the area for months, so far without success.

– “Street Fighting” –

AFP journalists heard heavy artillery fire and multiple rocket launchers in Bakhmout on Friday in the town, which had a population of 70,000 before the war.

Occasional machine gun fire could also be heard. A civilian volunteer with the humanitarian group Vostok SOS, Edouard Skorik, 29, told AFP that “street fighting” had taken place near his home across the Bakhmouta River.

To the south of the city, towards the villages captured by the Russians, columns of black smoke rose from shell explosions, causing civilians to jump up and sometimes throw them to the ground.

According to pro-Russian official Kirill Stremoussov, in the occupied Kherson region (south), at least five civilians were killed by a Ukrainian attack and five injured when a bus carrying civilians heading to work was hit over a bridge.

Kyiv has repeatedly attacked bridges in this region to disrupt Russian logistics.

The Ukrainian Presidency reported for the second day in a row a new Russian attack on the region of Zaporijjia (south), in which one person was injured. “The infrastructure was destroyed in two districts. The occupiers used drones for the first time,” she said.

The day before, according to Ukrainian emergency services, eleven people had been killed in Russian attacks on Zaporizhia.

– Risque “d’apocalypse” –

The leader of the pro-Russian separatists in the Donetsk region (east), Denis Pushilin, noted that the “most difficult” situation was near Lyman, a railroad junction recently taken over by Ukrainian forces and where Russian troops are advising on accuracy escaped the encirclement.

According to him, the latter are reinforcing a new line of defenses near the Kreminna, further east, which Ukrainian forces are “testing day and night.”

“I think we have every chance to gather forces and start liberating areas with new reserves,” he added, announcing the dispatch of reinforcements.

Russia last week called for the annexation of four regions it controls at least partially in Ukraine after “referendums” denounced by the UN, Kyiv and its western allies.

As for the nuclear threat, things are looking up.

After Vladimir Putin’s threats to use nuclear weapons to defend areas the Kremlin considers Russian, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy spoke on Thursday of the need for “preemptive strikes” against Russia.

While the Ukrainian presidency quickly backtracked, saying that Mr Zelenskyy was talking about preventive “sanctions” rather than strikes, Russian officials castigated his comments.

The Kremlin condemned a “call to start a new world war,” and the head of Russian diplomacy, Sergei Lavrov, felt that such statements confirmed the veracity of the Russian invasion.


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