Dhe Orthodox Easter is only a week away. This Sunday was therefore Palm Sunday for Russians and most Ukrainians. But even on a holiday, the Russian armed forces did not stop their shelling, Kharkov Mayor Igor Terekhov complained in an impassioned speech on Orthodox Palm Sunday.
The city is increasingly becoming the center of Russian attacks. According to Ukrainian President Zelenskyy, five people were killed and 15 injured in the shelling of downtown Kharkiv on Sunday. AFP journalists reported on several fires that spread through residential areas in central Kharkiv, causing roofs to collapse following the attacks.
As Zelenskyj explained in his evening video speech, 18 people have been killed and 106 injured in the city in the past four days alone. “This is nothing but premeditated terror. Mortars, artillery against ordinary neighborhoods, against ordinary civilians,” he said.
According to reports from Moscow, Russian troops shot down two Ukrainian MiG-29 fighter jets in the Kharkiv region on Sunday. In addition, two Ukrainian command posts and a radar system for S-300 surface-to-air missiles were destroyed in the town of Avdiivka, Donetsk region. This area, the Donbass, is also seen as a new main target for the Russian invaders.
The new objective of the Russian attackers would be to take possession of eastern Ukraine and separate it from the rest of the country. To this end, they recently withdrew from the north of the country. However, according to Ukraine’s military intelligence service, this has not changed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s plans.
“The purpose of the military aggression remained the same: it is an operation aimed at destroying the Ukrainian state,” intelligence chief Kyrylo Budanov told Spiegel, according to an advanced report on Sunday. According to Russia, Ukraine should “cease to exist as a state”.
When asked why Russia decided to withdraw its troops from the area around the capital Kyiv, Budanov replied: “They didn’t just pull out – we drove them out of the Kyiv region. It started by our recapture of the town of Irpin. This threatened to cut their forces in two in the kyiv region.
Budanov said he was not surprised that the Russian plan to conquer kyiv had failed. But he is surprised by something else: “How the Russian commanders approached the implementation of an operation of such a scale with incompetence and negligence. If they really believed they could do it in three days – and we understand they absolutely did – then Russian leaders must be asking themselves how competent their generals are.
Budanov also repeated the Ukrainian government’s demand for weapons from Germany: “We need artillery systems – the German army is especially strong in them,” the major general said. “And unfortunately, we need tanks, because we had very high losses of armored vehicles.”
The Ukrainian army wants to use arms to liberate occupied territories, Budanov said. This includes the Crimean peninsula, annexed by Russia in 2014. Budanov sees no problem with the training of Ukrainian soldiers, for example on the Leopard battle tank: “We will learn this quickly. With all due respect, this is not higher math.
In his Monday evening speech, President Zelensky again stressed the importance of arms deliveries, especially as Russian troops continue to prepare for an offensive in the east of the country.
“Just as Russian troops are destroying Mariupol, they also want to raze other towns and villages in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts,” he said. In the port city of Mariupol, besieged for weeks, thousands of residents are believed to have been killed.
The last Ukrainian soldiers would have holed up there on the site of the Azovstal steelworks. According to new information from local authorities, there are many civilians in addition to Ukrainian troops. Residents were hiding from shelling during the week-long siege of the city by the Russian military, Mariupol Police Patrol Chief Mikhail Werschinin told local television Monday night.
“They don’t trust the Russians. They see what’s happening in the city, so they stay put,” he said. The information could not be independently verified. Several thousand Ukrainian defenders of the city are said to have entrenched themselves in the huge steelworks, which also includes underground facilities. Large parts of Mariupol are now under the control of the Russian army.
About 100,000 residents remained in Mariupol, Vershinin said. Russian troops had them clear the rubble for food and had the bodies removed and buried in mass graves, he claimed. Before the war, Mariupol had about 400,000 inhabitants. Thousands of civilian deaths are to be feared after the long siege and the incessant bombardments.
Meanwhile, President Zelenskyy has said his government will do everything possible to ensure that the same thing does not happen again in the east of the country. At the same time, however, he criticized delays in arms deliveries to his country. Given the expected new offensive by Russian troops, this means “permission for Russia to take the lives of Ukrainians”, Zelenskyy said.
He did not name any country. However, there had recently been a dispute within the traffic light coalition in Germany over the delivery of heavy weapons. Politicians from the Greens and the FDP had accused Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) of hesitation. Military experts assume that Ukraine will need many more heavy weapons in the east of the country to resist attacks.
Ukraine is in constant contact with its partners to provide defense in the East, Zelenskyy said. We are grateful to those who “help with what they can”. “But those who have the arms and ammunition we need and who withhold their help must know that the fate of this battle also depends on them. The fate of the people who can be saved.
In some cases, a response has been awaited since the start of the Russian aggression war 53 days ago.