By AP, published by CBC News, plus Express.co.uk
UKRAINE’S president said Russia is trying to starve his country’s cities into submission but warned on Saturday that continuing the invasion would exact a toll on Russia for “generations.” The remarks came after Moscow held a mass rally in support of its bogged-down forces.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky accused the Kremlin in an overnight video address of deliberately creating “a humanitarian catastrophe” and appealed again for Russian President Vladimir Putin to meet with him to prevent more bloodshed.
Noting that the 200,000 people reported to have attended the rally was similar to the number of Russian forces deployed to Ukraine, Zelensky said Friday’s event in Moscow illustrated the stakes of the largest ground conflict in Europe since the Second World War.
“Picture for yourself that in that stadium in Moscow, there are 14,000 dead bodies and tens of thousands more injured and maimed,” the Ukrainian leader said, standing outside the presidential office in the capital, Kyiv. “Those are the Russian costs throughout the invasion.”
Meanwhile a Russian general, the fifth since Vladimir Putin’s invasion began on February 24, has been killed by Ukrainian forces.
Lieutenant-General Andrei Mordvichev, commander of the 8th Combined Arms Army, died in fighting at Chornobaivka, near the southern city of Kherson. It comes amid reports of heavy losses among the Kremlin’s troops, with more than 14,000 Russian soldiers said to have been killed since the start of the conflict. With analysts saying around 20 generals are leading Moscow’s operations in Ukraine, five confirmed deaths mean a quarter of Putin’s top men have been killed in action.
Ukraine’s General Staff of the Armed Forces said in a statement: “As a result of fire on the enemy by the Armed Forces of Ukraine, the commander of the 8th All-Military Army of the Southern Military District of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, Lieutenant-General Andrey Mordvishev was killed.”
Ukraine also said its anti-aircraft defences hit 12 Russian targets – two planes, three helicopters, three drones and four cruise missiles.
The news, which renews questions over why such high-ranking officials are so close to or at the front line, follows claims of low morale among Russians while Ukrainians show fierce resistance.
Putin lavished praise on his country’s military forces during Friday’s flag-waving rally, which took place on the anniversary of Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine. The event included patriotic songs such as Made in the U.S.S.R., with the opening lines “Ukraine and Crimea, Belarus and Moldova, it’s all my country.”
“We have not had unity like this for a long time,” Putin told the cheering crowd.
Taking to the stage where a sign read “For a World Without Nazism,” he railed against his foes in Ukraine with a baseless claim that they are “neo-Nazis” and insisted his actions were necessary to prevent “genocide” — an idea flatly rejected by leaders around the globe.
Russia launches hypersonic missile
Fighting raged on multiple fronts in Ukraine more than three weeks after Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion. United Nations bodies have confirmed more than 800 civilian deaths since the war began but say the real toll is considerably higher. The UN says more than 3.3 million people have fled Ukraine as refugees, including more than 1.5 million children.
The northwest Kyiv suburbs of Bucha, Hostomel, Irpin and Moshchun were under fire on Saturday, the Kyiv regional administration reported. The city of Slavutych, located 165 kilometres north of the capital, was “completely isolated,” the administration said.
In the besieged port city of Mariupol, the site of some of the war’s greatest suffering, Ukrainian and Russian forces battled over the Azovstal steel plant, one of the biggest in Europe, Vadym Denysenko, adviser to Ukraine’s interior minister, said on Saturday.
“One of the largest metallurgical plants in Europe is actually being destroyed,” Denysenko said in televised remarks.
Oleksiy Arestovych, an adviser to Zelensky, said the nearest forces that could assist Mariupol’s defenders were already engaged in battle against “the overwhelming force of the enemy” or at least 100 kilometres away — or both.
“There is currently no military solution to Mariupol,” he said late Friday. “That is not only my opinion, that is the opinion of the military.”
The Russian military reported on Saturday that it has used its latest hypersonic missile for the first time in combat. A spokesperson for the Russian Defence Ministry, Maj.-Gen. Igor Konashenkov, said Kinzhal missiles destroyed an underground warehouse storing Ukrainian missiles and aviation ammunition in the western Ivano-Frankivsk region of Ukraine.
Russia has said the Kinzhal, carried by MiG-31 fighter jets, has a range of up to 2,000 kilometres and flies at 10 times the speed of sound.
A Ukrainian military official confirmed a Friday missile strike on a military warehouse in the Delatyn settlement of the Ivano-Frankivsk region, but he told the Ukrainskaya Pravda newspaper on Saturday that authorities have not yet verified the type of missile used.
Konashenkov said Russian forces also used the anti-ship Bastion missile system to strike Ukrainian military facilities near the Black Sea port of Odessa. Russia first used the weapon during its military campaign in Syria in 2016.
Ukrainian and Russian officials agreed to establish 10 humanitarian corridors for bringing aid in and residents out — one from Mariupol and several around Kyiv and in the eastern Luhansk region, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said Saturday.
She also announced plans to deliver humanitarian aid to the southern city of Kherson, which was seized by Russian forces.
‘The time has come to restore … justice for Ukraine’
In a separate development, Norway said four U.S. service members died in a plane crash during Nato drills in that country’s north. The annual exercise, “Cold Response,” is unrelated to the war in Ukraine.
In his nightly video address, Zelensky said Russian forces were blockading the largest cities with the goal of creating such miserable conditions that Ukrainians will surrender. But he warned that Russia would pay the ultimate price.
“The time has come to restore territorial integrity and justice for Ukraine. Otherwise, Russia’s costs will be so high that you will not be able to rise again for several generations,” he said.
In a call with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Friday, Putin said Ukraine was trying to “drag the negotiations by making a series of new, unrealistic proposals,” according to the Kremlin.
Britain’s foreign secretary, meanwhile, accused Putin of using the talks as a “smokescreen” while his forces regrouped. “We don’t see any serious withdrawal of Russian troops or any serious proposals on the table,” Foreign Secretary Liz Truss told the Times of London newspaper.
The British Department of Defence said in its latest intelligence assessment that the Kremlin “has been surprised by the scale and ferocity of Ukrainian resistance” and “is now pursuing a strategy of attrition” that is likely to involve indiscriminate attacks.
Russian forces pound Ukraine’s capital and also target Lviv, as British warn of ‘reckless’ new strategy
US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin, during a Saturday visit to Nato ally Bulgaria, said the Russian invasion had “stalled on a number of fronts,” but the US had not yet seen signs that Putin was deploying additional forces.
Around Ukraine, hospitals, schools and buildings where people sought safety have been attacked. Ludmyla Denisova, the Ukrainian Parliament’s human rights commissioner, reported on Friday that at least 130 people survived the Wednesday bombing of a Mariupol theatre that was being used a shelter, but another 1,300 were believed to be still inside.
“We pray that they will all be alive, but so far there is no information about them,” Denisova told Ukrainian television.
Satellite images on Friday from Maxar Technologies showed a long line of cars leaving Mariupol as people tried to evacuate. Zelensky said more than 9,000 people were able to leave the city in the past day along a route that leads 227 kilometres northwest to the city of Zaporizhzhya.
In a show of defiance against the Russian invasion, Kyiv residents gathered in the sunshine on Friday to arrange some 1.5 million tulips in the shape of Ukraine’s coat of arms in a central square. They said the flowers will be distributed in hospitals later to cheer up patients.
“We are continuing to live our lives as we do in peaceful times,” said Oleksandr Malykhin, one of the participating residents. “Children and grandchildren must be happy for the coming of spring, to breathe freely. We feel confident and we are not afraid.”
Top: Smoke billows around Barabashovo, Ukraine’s biggest market, after shelling during Russia’s attack on the country, in Kharkiv on Thursday. Photo: Mstyslav Chernov/ AP and published by CBC News
First insert: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks from Kyiv early Saturday in this image from a video. Zelensky said Russian forces are blockading the largest cities in Ukraine with the goal of creating such miserable conditions that Ukrainians will cooperate. Photo Ukrainian Presidential Press Office/ AP and published by CBC News
Second insert: Lieutenant-General Andrey Mordvichev. Photo: SakhalinInfo and published by Mirror.co.uk
Third insert: A person walks near a residential building damaged by shelling in Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, on Friday. Photo: Mykola Tymchenko/Reuters and published by CBC News
Home Page: A resident carries a suitcase with his belongings after his building was heavily damaged by bombing in Kyiv. Photo: Felipe Dana/ AP and published by CBC News