Ukrainian president says defense is at ‘turning point’

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukraine’s president said his country’s defense against Russian invasion was at a “turning point” and again pressed the United States for more help in the hours that followed. followed the reneging by the Kremlin forces of their promise to reduce some of their operations.

Russian forces shelled areas around kyiv and the northern city of Chernihiv and stepped up attacks in other parts of the country on Wednesday, adding to already deep doubts about any progress towards ending the punitive war.. The talks between Ukraine and Russia were to resume on Friday via video, according to the head of the Ukrainian delegation, David Arakhamia.

Meanwhile, a delegation of lawmakers from Ukraine’s parliament traveled to Washington to urge the United States for more aid, saying their country needed more military equipment, more financial aid and sanctions. tougher on Russia.

“We need to expel Russian soldiers from our lands, and for that we need all possible weapons,” Ukrainian MP Anastasia Radina told a press conference at the Ukrainian Embassy.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy made his case directly to US President Joe Biden.

“If we really fight together for freedom and for the defense of democracy, then we have the right to demand help in this difficult turning point. Tanks, planes, artillery systems. Freedom should not be weaponized worse than tyranny,” Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address to the nation, which he delivered while standing in the dark outside the dimly lit presidential offices in Kyiv. He thanked the United States for an additional $500 million in aid announced on Wednesday.

There seemed to be little confidence that a resolution would emerge anytime soon between Russia and Ukraine, especially after the Russian military’s about-face and its most recent attacks.

Russia said on Tuesday it would de-escalate its operations near kyiv and Chernihiv to “increase mutual trust and create the conditions for further negotiations”. The announcement was met with suspicion by Zelenskyy and the West. And soon after, Ukrainian officials reported that Russian shelling had hit homes, shops, libraries and other civilian sites in or near those areas.

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Russian troops have also stepped up their attacks on the eastern Donbass region and around the town of Izyum, which is on a key route to Donbass, after redeploying units from other regions, the police said. Ukrainian side.

Olexander Lomako, secretary of the Chernihiv city council, said the Russian announcement turned out to be “a complete lie”.

“At night they did not decrease, but vice versa increased the intensity of military action,” Lomako said.

Five weeks into the invasion that left thousands dead on both sides, the number of Ukrainians fleeing the country has surpassed a staggering 4 million, half of them children, according to the United Nations.

“I don’t know if we can still believe the Russians,” said Nikolay Nazarov, a Ukrainian refugee, as he pushed his father’s wheelchair at a border crossing into Poland. “I think a bigger escalation will happen in eastern Ukraine. That’s why we can’t go back to Kharkiv.

Zelenskyy said further negotiations with Russia were just “words without details”.

“We know it’s not about withdrawal but about the consequences of being kicked out,” Zelenskyy said of Russia’s engagement. “But we also see that Russia is now concentrating its forces for further strikes on Donbass, and we are preparing for it.”

Zelenskyy also said he had recalled Ukraine’s ambassadors to Georgia and Morocco, suggesting they had not done enough to persuade those countries to support Ukraine and punish Russia for the invasion.

“With all due respect, if there will be no weapons, if there will be no sanctions, if there will be no restrictions for Russian business, then s ‘please look for another job,’ he said.

In other developments:

—U.S. intelligence officials have concluded that Russian President Vladimir Putin is misinformed by his advisers about his army’s poor performance in Ukraine because they are too afraid to tell him the truth.

“The German government said it has received assurances from Russia that European companies will not have to pay for Russian gas in rubles. This prospect had raised fears that Russia could cut them. In addition, Poland announced measures to end all imports of Russian oil by the end of the year.

— The UN is investigating allegations that some residents of the besieged and devastated southern city of Mariupol were forcibly taken to areas controlled by Russian forces or to Russia itself.

In a series of talks held in Istanbul on Tuesday, the outlines of a possible peace agreement appeared to emerge as the Ukrainian delegation proposed a framework under which the country would declare itself neutral – abandoning its candidacy for the NATO, as Moscow has long demanded – in exchange for security guarantees from a group of other nations.

Senior Russian officials have responded positively, with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov saying on Wednesday that Ukraine’s willingness to accept neutrality and look outside NATO for security represents “significant progress”, according to officials. Russian news agencies.

But skepticism about Russian statements by Zelenskyy and others seemed well-founded.

Oleksandr Pavliuk, head of the kyiv region military administration, said the Russian shells targeted residential areas and civilian infrastructure in Bucha, Brovary and Vyshhorod regions around the capital.

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov said the military had also targeted fuel depots in two towns in central Ukraine with long-range cruise missiles launched by air. And Russian forces hit a Ukrainian special forces headquarters in the southern Mykolaiv region, he said, and two ammunition depots in the Donetsk region, which is part of Donbass.

In southern Ukraine, a Russian missile destroyed a fuel depot in Dnipro, the country’s fourth largest city, regional officials said.

The United States said that in the past 24 hours Russia had begun repositioning less than 20% of its troops that had been deployed around kyiv.

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said troops from there and some other areas have started moving largely north, and some have entered Belarus. Kirby said it appears Russia intends to restock and ship them back to Ukraine, but it’s unclear where.

The Ukrainian military said some Russian airborne units had been registered in neighboring Belarus and had withdrawn from Ukraine.

In northern Ukraine, Russian forces carried out no offensive action on Wednesday, focusing on reconnaissance and logistics, the general staff said in a statement. But Russia should soon step up its attacks on Ukrainian forces to protect its own troops as they reposition, he added.

The Russians should also try to block Chernihiv.

Senior Russian military officials have said in recent days that their main goal now is the “liberation” of Donbass, the predominantly Russian-speaking industrial heartland where Moscow-backed separatists have been fighting Ukrainian forces since 2014.

Some analysts have suggested that the focus on Donbass and the promise of de-escalation could simply be an effort to put a positive spin on reality: Moscow’s ground forces were thwarted – and suffered heavy casualties – in their attempt to seize the capital and other cities.

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Karmanau reported from Lviv, Ukraine. Associated Press reporters around the world contributed to this report.

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Follow AP coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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