Ukraine fought Russian troops in the east on Tuesday, while nighttime missile strikes hit the southern port of Odessa, as the United States warned Russian President Vladimir Putin that it was ready for a long war.
Washington’s gloomy forecast comes after Ukraine said its membership of the European Union was a “war and peace” issue for the entire continent, as it faced Russia more than two months after Moscow’s invasion.
Kyiv also welcomed what it said were EU powerhouse Germany’s changing stance on Russia’s oil embargo and arms supplies to Ukraine.
Violence raged in the south just hours after European Council President Charles Michel’s visit, with missile strikes in Odessa that destroyed buildings overnight, set a shopping mall on fire and killed one person.
Officials also said about 1,000 soldiers were still trapped at the Azovstal steel plant in the devastated city of Mariupol, in an increasingly dire situation.
Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24 – but Ukrainian forces managed to drive Moscow’s troops back from Kyiv. The mayor of the capital said on Tuesday that two-thirds of residents had returned.
Putin has given few hints of his plans, but U.S. National Intelligence Director Avril Haynes said on Tuesday that Russian leaders would not end the war with the Donbass campaign and were determined to build a land bridge in Moldova to Russian-held territory.
U.S. intelligence also believes Putin is increasingly likely to mobilize the entire country, including by ordering martial law, and count on his perseverance to weaken Western support for Ukraine.
– ‘Count the bombs’ –
Moscow has shifted its focus to the Russian-speaking Donbas region in the east, where separatists have been fighting since 2014 after failing to capture Kyiv.
Ukraine’s presidential palace said “the epicentre of the fighting has shifted” to Bilogorivka in Donbas’ Luhansk region, the site of Sunday’s deadly Russian airstrike that Ukrainian officials said killed 60 people.
Shelling also continued in Ukraine’s easternmost strongholds, the sister cities of Severo-Donetsk and Lysichansk, it said.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Russian troops were being “pushed out” of Kharkiv – but the region’s governor revealed 44 civilian bodies were found under the rubble of a destroyed building in the eastern town of Izyum, eased. up to this point. Russian control.
Three civilians were killed in the area on Tuesday, his counterpart in Donetsk said.
Civilians struggle to survive on shifting fronts.
“I feel utterly apathetic. I’m morally hungry — not to mention physically,” said 41-year-old bricklayer Artyom Cherukha as he collected the trickle of water from Lysychansk’s natural spring.
He is trying to get supplies for his family of nine as people in the area gradually lose access to water and food.
“We’re sitting here counting bombs,” Cherukha said.
Russia’s Defense Ministry said it hit 74 targets on Tuesday and shot down a Ukrainian drone over the strategic Snake Island in the Black Sea.
– Germany “changes position” –
Ukraine has been pushing for more support from the West, and has particularly criticized Germany for its slow response and reluctance to give up Russian energy.
That changed on Tuesday when German Foreign Minister Annalena Berbock made a surprise visit to the town of Bukha outside Kyiv, where Russian troops were charged with war crimes.
“I would like to thank Germany for changing its stance on many issues,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba and Berbok told reporters in Kyiv, including supplying Kyiv with arms and supporting Russia’s oil embargo.
Quleiba pushed for EU recognition of his country.
“Ukraine’s accession to the EU is about war and peace in Europe,” Kuleba said. “One of the reasons this war started is Putin’s conviction that Europe doesn’t need Ukraine.”
Meanwhile, U.S. President Joe Biden has revived World War II-era aid to Kyiv, opening the taps for artillery, anti-aircraft missiles, anti-tank weapons and other potent supplies.
On Tuesday, U.S. lawmakers will discuss a nearly $40 billion aid package that is expected to pass with rare bipartisan support.
Western powers on Tuesday separately accused Russian authorities of a cyberattack on a satellite network an hour before the invasion of Ukraine, paving the way for its attack.
– ‘Emergency evacuation’ –
Deputy Prime Minister Irina Vereshuk told AFP that Moscow had made more progress in southern Ukraine, but more than 1,000 Ukrainian soldiers remained at the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol.
The factory was the last bastion of the Ukrainian resistance movement in the city, which was ruthlessly destroyed.
An online petition calling on the United Nations to withdraw all remaining soldiers garnered more than 1.1 million signatures on Tuesday.
“Hundreds of people were injured. Some seriously injured people required emergency evacuation,” Vereshchuk said.
Many civilians have been evacuated from factories in recent days as Russia pushes for full control of Mariupol to open a land corridor with Crimea, which it seized in 2014.
With Ukraine’s sovereignty at stake, Zelensky spent time mourning the country’s first president, Leonid Kravchuk, who died Tuesday at the age of 88.
Zelensky said Kravchuk, who lived through Nazi occupation during World War II, understood the horrors of war.
“He wants peace in Ukraine wholeheartedly,” Zelensky said.
“I am confident that we will achieve this and we will achieve victory and peace.”