As battles erupt, Ukraine refuses Macron’s plea not to ‘humiliate’ Russia

KRAMATORSK, Ukraine – As Ukraine’s military tries to regain territory and stave off a Russian assault along the country’s eastern front, the government on Saturday also sought to push back on earlier claims by Russia. French President Emmanuel Macron said that Moscow must not be humiliated to increase the chances of reaching a diplomatic solution.

“We must not humiliate Russia so that by the day the fighting stops, we can build a way out through diplomatic means,” said Macron, who has sought to become the world’s chief negotiator. with the Kremlin, said in an interview with French Newspaper. “I believe that France has a role as an intermediary power.”

Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, responded with a scathing post on social media.

“Calls to avoid humiliating Russia can only humiliate France and every other country,” Kuleba wrote. Instead, he argues, peace and saving lives can best be achieved when Russia is “putting it right”.

The exchange took place as the war subsided into what seemed increasingly destined to be a slogan.

Ukrainians and Russians both claimed on Saturday to have inflicted decisive casualties on each other in the battle for Sievierodonetsk, the last major city in the eastern Ukraine’s Luhansk region still under Ukrainian control.

But the war was not limited to that town. A senior Ukrainian official announced on Saturday that the country’s military has reached an important milestone in destroying the Russian invasion force in eastern Ukraine. Andriy Yermak, chief of staff to President Volodymyr Zelensky, posted on the social network Telegram that most of Russia’s major military units have been annihilated in fierce fighting in recent weeks.

“Almost the entire All-Russian 35th Army has been annihilated,” he wrote.

Mr. Yermak’s statement was supported by a commentary by a Russian military blogger cited in an influential Institute for the Study of War report. The report said that Russia’s incompetent commanders failed to prepare troops for battle in a densely forested area near the city of Izium.

The Russian unit’s routing claim cannot be independently verified.

Ukrainian soldiers interviewed over the past week described fierce fighting in the forests around Izium, a strategic city that Russia is using as a base for its southern offensive against the cities of Kramatorsk and Sloviansk. Zelensky said Ukrainian forces are also suffering heavy losses, 60-100 people are killed every day.

Britain’s Ministry of Defense said on Saturday that Russia’s recent use of air strikes and artillery fire was a factor in the country’s limited success in eastern Ukraine, in contrast to the attacks. by air was largely ineffective by the country earlier in the war. Russian dependence on The ministry said long-range strikes could have depleted the country’s stock of precision-guided missiles, leading to greater use of unguided munitions that could cause significant casualties. civilians.

Also on Saturday, an air-launched cruise missile hit the Odesa region on Ukraine’s Black Sea coast, Odesa city officials said on Telegram. According to officials, the missile hit a mostly agricultural area with warehouses, injuring two people.

And Russian and Ukrainian officials have blamed the burning of the main shrine of the All Saints hermitage, a 16th-century monastery in eastern Ukraine considered one of the three holiest sites in Ukraine for Orthodox believers.

The growing terror from the skies comes a day after Ukraine, on the occasion of the 100th day of the war, demonstrated success in containing and in key places repelling the Russian invasion, which sought to quickly capture the capital, Kyiv. , and overthrow the government. Mr. Zelensky affirmed that “victory will be ours” and announced that 50 foreign embassies had resumed operations in the capital.

But on day 101, Ukraine again faces harsh realities on the ground, and increasingly from above.

Russian air strikes provided support for their troops to engage in fierce fighting in the disputed city of Sievierodonetsk.

And the Russian military continues to target the last remaining bridge into Sievierodonetsk to prevent Ukraine from sending reinforcements, food and medicine into a city that has become a war theater and the epicenter of Russia’s war machine. . Despite the early and devastating defeats, Russia occupied a fifth of the country’s area.

The intensity of the Russian offensive and the frequency with which Russian reinforcements reached Sievierodonetsk led to predictions that the city would soon fall. But Serhiy Haidai, the governor of Luhansk province, who recently had a bad prognosis for the city’s survival, told Ukrainian state television that Ukrainian troops had recaptured 20% of the territory they had lost, adding that city ​​would be “unrealistic”. fall in the next two weeks.

As Ukrainian forces attempted to retake territory in the East, the State Emergency Service of Ukraine removed 127,393 explosive devices, with efforts mainly focused on urban areas in Kyiv, The Sumy and Zhytomyr regions were occupied by Russia early in the war, according to a report by United Nations Development Program.

The report says Russia’s withdrawal from these areas has made them more accessible for cleanup operations, adding that the Ukrainians already cover an area of ​​more than 28,714 square kilometers (more than 11,000 square miles). but that it can take years to clear all mines in Ukraine. Ukrainian forces also launched a counterattack near the occupied city of Kherson in the south of the country.

But a punitive, costly and tragic military stalemate is increasingly predicted by experts. Ukraine has been scrapped but will soon receive the M142 Long Range Mobile Missile System, commonly known as HIMARS, from the United States. The increasingly lethal exchange of fire is likely to add millions who have been displaced, a death toll of at least 4,000 civilians and a Ukrainian economy that is already reeling from an estimated $100 billion in damage. .

Kremlin spokesman Dmitri S. Peskov said on Friday that Russia would continue what it called a “special military operation” in Ukraine until “all objectives have been achieved”.

But one thing Russia has achieved is international isolation and strengthening the Western alliance against it. Jens Stoltenberg, Secretary General of NATO, met on Friday with Prime Minister Sanna Marin of Finland in Washington about the country’s application to join the military alliance. He advised allies to prepare for the “long haul” and warned this week that the conflict had turned into a “war of attrition”.

On Saturday, an American warship, USS Kearsargemoored in Stockholm, Sweden, with 26 fighters and 2,400 marines and sailors on board, a symbol of protection. NATO membership will include Sweden and Finland, both of which are seeking accession.

As the front lines become more entrenched between Russia and the West, experts predict Russian cyberattacks, global disinformation campaigns and a potential food crisis unleashed by the Russian navy. radiate. Ukraine is one of the world’s top exporters of grains and cooking oils, and Russian President Vladimir Putin has been accused by Western leaders of trying to take advantage of his control of those supplies for relief. sanctions.

And those sanctions continue to be felt. On Friday, Marriott became the latest multinational corporation to suspend operations in Russia, where it has been operating for 25 years. The hotel chain said restrictions put in place by Western governments prevented it from continuing to operate.

Ukraine’s fighting has now kept its status quo, but how that will ultimately turn out is another matter. Russia’s strategy is essentially to hit specific areas with seemingly indiscriminate shelling, killing or forcibly fleeing anyone there before rushing in to claim territory for Moscow.

It was a brutal way of waging war that some experts have compared to World War I and Ukrainian officials call “medieval”. Craters from bombs and shells dig deep into the fields. Farmers collect rocket shells from the bomb in their barn.

Andrew E. Kramer reports from Kramatorsk, Ukraine and Jason Horowitz from Rome. Cassandra Vinograd and Matthew Mpoke Bigg contribution reports from London, Carlotta Gall from Kramatorsk, Helene Cooper in Stockholm and Alexandra E. Petri from New York.

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