Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenksyy welcomed Poland’s president to Kyiv on Sunday, saying the two nations are “defending a common universe called freedom and independence at a time when someone is committing barbarism of a cosmic scale.”
Zelenskyy lauded Polish President Andrzej Duda for sheltering millions of Ukrainians, including women, children, the elderly and “everyone else” who fled to Poland in the three months since Russia’s invasion began.
“Guest in the house, God in the house,” Zelenskyy said in welcoming Duda to the Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine’s parliament. “This is a Polish proverb with which I greet in Kyiv our guest, friend and brother.”
Russian missiles continue to relentlessly fly into Ukrainian homes, schools, hospitals, museums, theaters, temples, “even cemeteries,” Zelneskyy said. “Eighty-eight days of madness.”
Duda arrived in Kyiv on Sunday, the first head of state to address Ukraine’s legislative body since the war began Feb. 24. “The Russian invaders failed to break you, and I deeply believe they never will,” Duda said in a speech to the Ukrainian parliament.
MAPPING AND TRACKING RUSSIA’S INVASION: See where Russian forces are moving within Ukraine
►Gov. Serhii Haidai of the eastern region of Luhansk said the sole functioning hospital in the city has only three doctors and enough supplies for 10 days.
►National security adviser Jake Sullivan said Sunday that the Pentagon and White House are working out details for the first Ukraine weapons shipment under the $40 billion aid package President Joe Biden signed Saturday.
►German chancellor Olaf Scholz has said he will “work actively” to enable grain exports from Ukraine and to supply fertilizer to Ukraine, Reuters reported. Russia has blocked Black Sea ports that are vital to exporting Ukrainian wheat and other crops.
Russia has permanently barred nearly 1,000 Americans from entering the country in response to the United States’ support of Ukraine in the war, and the list includes numerous elected leaders but conspicuously leaves out a prominent one – former President Donald Trump.
President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy were among the 963 banned by Russia, a largely symbolic gesture.
Recent living former presidents like Barack Obama and George W. Bush were not on the banned list, but Trump’s name stands out because he has frequently been accused of being too cozy with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Two days before the Feb. 24 invasion, Trump referred to Putin’s strategy toward Ukraine as “genius” and “savvy.”
Russia also said it would deny entry to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, considering them among those “who incite Russophobia.”
Among others making the list: Facebook executive Mark Zuckerberg, actor Morgan Freeman and even deceased politicians such as former senators John McCain of Arizona and Harry Reid of Nevada.
Even with the war in Ukraine going much worse than expected for Russia, the probability of Russian President Vladimir Putin deploying a nuclear weapon is “low but not zero,” former US Secretary of Defense and CIA Director Robert Gates said Sunday.
Speaking on CBS’s “Face the Nation with Margaret Brennan,” Gates said Russia’s use of a tactical weapon would prompt a strong response from the West, including establishing a no-fly zone over Ukrainian skies. In addition, he said such a move wouldn’t “change the military equation on the ground” because Ukrainian forces are spread widely and are fierce in their resistance.
“The other thing that I hope somebody around Putin is reminding him of is that, in that part of the world, and particularly in eastern Ukraine, the winds tend to blow from the west,” Gates said. “If you set off a tactical nuclear weapon in eastern Ukraine, the radiation is going to go into Russia.”
Gates, who served as defense secretary under Republican President George W. Bush and Democratic President Barack Obama between 2006-2011, said the Biden administration should have started arming Ukraine for a conflict with the Russians months earlier. But he gives President Joe Biden high marks for rallying the US allies and assembling a coalition to confront Russia, resisting calls for a no-fly zone — which would require deeper intervention — and for refusing to bite on Putin’s nuclear threats.
Severe sanctions from the West and failures on the battlefield have dealt a major blow to Russia and its global standing, Gates said.
“Putin will remain a pariah,” Gates said, adding: “He has put Russia really behind the eight ball economically, militarily, and because now people are going to look at the Russian military and say, ‘You know, this was supposed to be this fantastic military. Well, they give a good parade, but in actual combat, not so hot.'”
— Jorge L. Ortiz
Having captured the strategic southern city of Mariupol, their first major victory of the war, the Russians are focusing their efforts on the Donbas region to its north with the aim of expanding the territory Moscow-backed separatists have held since 2014.
Russia has made incremental gains in the Donbas and is trying to conquer Sievierodonetsk, the main city under Ukrainian control in Luhansk province, part of the Donbas along with Donetsk province. The Ukrainian military said Sunday that Russian forces had mounted an unsuccessful attack on Oleksandrivka, a village outside of Sievierodonetsk.
In a general staff morning report, Russia said it was preparing to summarize its offensive toward Slovyansk, a city in Donetsk province that is critical to Russia’s objective of capturing all of eastern Ukraine.
— Jorge L. Ortiz
Russia says 2,500 Ukrainian fighters from the Mariupol steel plant have been taken prisoner, raising concerns about their fate and the fate of the city that was home to 450,000 people before the war. Mariupol is in ruins after weeks of shelling, and more than 20,000 residents are feared dead. All but an estimated 100,000 survivors have fled.
The Azovstal steel mill for weeks was the last defense holdout in Mariupol and became a symbol of Ukrainian tenacity. Now family members of the fighters, who came from a variety of military and law enforcement units, have pleaded for the Russians captors to threaten them as prisoners of war and eventually return them to Ukraine.
Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said Ukraine “will fight for the return” of all of them. Denis Pushilin, the pro-Kremlin head of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, vowed the fighters would face tribunals.
In the three months since the invasion of Ukraine, Russian forces have damaged and destroyed thousands of buildings, including cultural sites, hospitals, schools and homes, and Ukrainian officials are taking stock of the damage. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his nightly address Saturday that nearly 2,000 educational institutions have been destroyed.
“This is a colossal scale of losses,” he said.
A Russian missile strike in Lozova in the Kharkiv oblast (province) damaged more than 1,000 apartments Friday, Major Serhiy Zelensky said
In Ukraine’s second-largest city of Kharkiv, from which Russian forces withdrew last weekend after months of bombardment, about 30% of 8,000 residential high-rises were “more or less destroyed,” Ukraine’s Center for Strategic Communications and Information Security said in a Telegram post.
Ukrainian lawmakers on Sunday extended by 90 days both the general mobilization of forces and a decree of martial law. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy requested the extension until Aug. 23, saying a counteroffensive would take time, according to Ukrainian media startup Hromadske International.
Fedir Venislavsky, Zelenskyy’s representative in the Constitutional Court, said the martial law order could be lifted at any time by the Rada, the Ukrainian parliament, according to Ukrayinska Pravda.
Russian Terminator tank support vehicles have rolled into the war in Ukraine, according to the latest assessment from Britain’s Defense Ministry. The company of BMP-T Terminators has “likely been deployed to the Severodonetsk axis of the Donbas offensive,” the ministry tweeted on Sunday. Severodonetsk is a key city in the Donbas region, which Russia aims to control.
The presence of the tanks suggests the Central Grouping of Forces (CGF) — the only formation fielding this vehicle — is involved in this attack.
“CGF previously suffered heavy losses while failing to break through to eastern Kyiv in the first phase of the invasion,” the ministry said. The vehicles actually protect the Russian army’s battle tanks and were developed for that role after the Afghan and Chechen wars, according to the ministry.
“The Severodonetsk area remains one of Russia’s immediate tactical priorities,” the ministry said. “However, with a maximum of ten Terminators deployed they are unlikely to have a significant impact on the campaign.”
— Katie Wadington
Ukraine’s 30th Mechanized Brigade said Saturday it had “destroyed” a Russian battalion tactical group as it attempted to cross the Seversky Donets River, a major obstacle for the Russians in their focus on the eastern region.
Ukraine’s forces have destroyed bridges to complicate the effort, forcing Russians to build pontoon bridges to cross, New York Times reported. The 30th Mechanized Brigade said it had “dealt a significant blow” to Russian forces attempting to cross the river.
“As a result, the Russians lost considerable strength – at least one battalion tactical group, pontoon bridge equipment was disabled during the forcing of the river, destroyed several units of equipment and several dozen personnel,” it said in a Facebook post.
With the additional $40 billion in aid money to Ukraine that President Joe Biden signed on Saturday, the combined $53.7 billion in total aid sent is about 81% of Russia’s 2021 defense budget. It’s also more than one-quarter the size of Ukraine’s pre-war economy.
That money includes amounts to directly aid Ukraine’s governmental functions, supply emergency food assistance, increase US crop production to make up for global food shortages and provide for the up to 100,000 Ukrainian refugees who will arrive in the US
“The cost of this fight is not cheap,” Biden said when he made the funding request to Congress, “but caving to aggression is going to be more costly if we allow it to happen.”
— Maureen Groppe
Contributing: The Associated Press
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism