Wed, 29 Nov 2023

Zelenskyy: Situation Getting Tougher in Eastern Ukraine

Voice of America
05 Feb 2023, 16:07 GMT+10

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Saturday the situation is getting tougher in Eastern Ukraine, with a fresh wave of Russian shelling in Chernihiv, Zaporizhzhia, Dnipropetrovsk, Kharkiv, Luhansk, Donetsk and Mykolaiv regions.

In his nightly video address, the Ukrainian leader said Russia was "throwing more and more of its forces at breaking down our defense."

Ukrainian officials said they repelled a renewed Russian assault on the besieged eastern city of Bakhmut on Saturday. Zelenskyy vowed Friday not to "surrender Bakhmut. We will fight as long as we can."

In a phone conversation Saturday, Zelenskyy discussed with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak about the latest situation on the ground in Ukraine and they both agreed in accelerating additional military support from the West to push back Russian forces. They also discussed the long-term capabilities of Ukraine's armed forces.

The Ukrainian president thanked Sunak and Britain for helping Ukraine. "Now, in the U.K., our guys have already started training on Challenger tanks,' Zelenskyy said. 'It's a good vehicle. And it will be a big thing on the battlefield."

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said earlier this week the country would receive 120 to 140 Western tanks in a 'first wave' of deliveries from a coalition of 12 countries.

Kyiv secured pledges from the West to supply main battle tanks to help fend off Russia's full-scale invasion, with Moscow mounting huge efforts to make incremental advances in eastern Ukraine.

The United States announced Friday it would provide an additional $2.175 billion worth of military aid for Ukraine, including conventional and long-range rockets for U.S.-provided HIMARs, as well as other munitions and weapons. According to a U.S. official, the longer-range, precision-guided rockets would double Ukraine's strike range for the first time since Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Odesa plunges into darkness

Earlier Saturday, nearly 500,000 people were left without power after an overloaded electrical substation in Odesa, Ukraine's southern port city on the Black Sea, caught fire. The temperature in Odesa were 2 degrees Celsius (35.6 degrees Fahrenheit) Saturday and was forecast to drop below freezing for much of next week.

Ukrainian officials warned that repairs could take weeks. Regional Governor Maksym Marchenko said he did not have a timeline for when power would be restored to the city.

Volodymyr Kudrytskyi, the CEO of state grid operator Ukrenergo, said critical equipment that had already been damaged several times by Russian missile strikes burst into flames when it could no longer 'withstand the load,' delivering a fresh blow to the country's ailing energy grid that has been pounded by Russian strikes for months.

"[The equipment] has been struck so many times that its state leaves much to be desired,' Kudrytskyi told a briefing in Odesa.

The Ukrainian government said it would appeal to Turkey to send vessels that carry power plants to Odesa and ordered the energy ministry's nationwide stocks of high-power generators to be delivered to the city within a day.

'We will do everything we can for the improvement of the power supply situation to take days rather than weeks,' he said. Kudrytskyi warned any further Russian missile or drone attacks could make the situation worse.

Months of shelling

Since October, Moscow has waged a campaign of massive missile attacks on the energy infrastructure. Moscow claims the strikes aim to reduce Ukraine's ability to fight; Kyiv says they have no military purpose and are intended to hurt civilians.

During the 24th EU-Ukraine Summit Friday in Kyiv, European Union officials pledged their unwavering support to help Ukraine rebuild its infrastructure against Russia's ongoing war.

Charles Michel, president of the European Council, and Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, said the union will support Ukraine 'for as long as it takes.'

In a joint statement Friday, the officials promised to help rebuild Ukraine's devastated critical infrastructure, providing energy support and services for the country 'to get through the winter,' and beyond. They said that so far, the EU and its member states have provided $570 million in aid for energy and reconstruction, and another $525 million for humanitarian efforts.

The officials underscored their commitment to promote Ukraine's integration into the European Union, but they said there was no promise of a fast-track membership.

Kyiv applied to become an EU member shortly after Russia's invasion and wants to start formal accession talks as soon as possible.

'There are no rigid timelines, but there are goals that you have to reach,' von der Leyen told the news conference in response to a question about Ukraine's accession drive. One of the conditions for Ukraine's EU integration is its fight against corruption. The EU Commission president praised Kyiv for its expanded efforts to clamp down on graft.

Michel and von der Leyen condemned Russia's escalating war against Ukraine and its citizens as 'a manifest violation of international law, including the principles of the U.N. Charter.' They emphasized the need to establish a Special Tribunal at The Hague for the investigation and prosecution of war crimes against Ukraine.

They also emphasized that the EU will never recognize as lawful any illegal annexation of Ukraine by Russia.

In addition, the EU officials unveiled a new package of sanctions, the 10th, against Russia. It will target the trade and technology that supports its war against Ukraine, von der Leyen said.

Some information for this report came from The Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse.

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