Ukrainian leaders say civilians are increasingly suffering and dying as Russia’s assault on Ukraine enters its third week.
Multiple hospitals have been attacked, about two million people have fled the country and more are struggling to leave. On the outskirts of Kyiv, hundreds of residents in towns occupied by Russian troops fled Wednesday. Some said they hadn’t eaten in days, while others told harrowing tales of war.
“Occupiers came to our house and they were ready to shoot us,” said Iuliia Bushinska, a Vorzel resident. “They took away our house, our car, they took away our documents. So we need to start our life from the beginning. We survived things that I never experienced in my life,” Bushinska said.
The Biden administration warned on Wednesday that Russia may be signaling its intention to further escalate the conflict. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said recent Russian statements have led to concerns it could use “chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine, or to create a false flag operation using them.”
Meanwhile, the US ratcheted up economic pressure on Russia: the House voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to write into law a ban on US imports of Russian oil and energy products that President Joe Biden imposed to punish Moscow. It also passed $13.6 billion in aid money to Ukraine as part of a larger spending bill.
But despite repeated pleas from Ukrainian leaders, US defense officials distanced themselves more from military requests which the Biden administration believes would run the risk of escalating the conflict: A NATO-backed no-fly zone over Ukraine and plans to funnel jets to Ukraine.
►Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov are scheduled to meet in Turkey on Thursday, the highest level meeting between both sides before the start of the conflict. Turkish President Recep Erdogan said he hopes “the meeting between the ministers will open the way to a permanent ceasefire,” according to Guardian.
►The World Health Organization said it has confirmed 18 attacks on medical facilities since the Russian invasion began.
► Russian artillery has continued to shell Kyiv suburbs. Oleksiy Kuleba, the head of the Kyiv region, said: “Russian troops are methodically turning our life into a hell. People day and night have to sit underground without food, water or electricity.”
► President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said about 35,000 civilians have used humanitarian corridors to flee to western Ukraine to escape the fighting.
► The Pentagon on Wednesday appeared anxious to move beyond what had become an awkward disconnect with a NATO ally: a Polish proposal for providing Ukraine with MiG fighter jets. Defense officials said it would run a “high risk” of escalating the war.
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A Russian airstrike on a maternity hospital in the southern Ukrain city of Mariupol left 17 people wounded on Wednesday, another against civilians as the Kremlin continues its assault on Ukraine.
Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskyy tweeted that Russian troops had made a “direct strike” on the maternity hospital. He called it an “atrocity” and said: “People, children are under the wreckage.”
“How much longer will the world be an accomplice ignoring terror,” Zelenskyy tweeted. “Close the sky right now! Stop the killings! You have power but you seem to be losing humanity.”
The attack on the hospital complex in Mariupol drew widespread condemnation from advocates for refugees and humanitarian aid.
– Rick Rouan, Joey Garrison and Maureen Groppe
Vice President Kamala Harris arrived in Warsaw Wednesdayhours after Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told Polish leaders that the United States does not support the transfer of additional fighter aircraft to the Ukrainian Air Force, according to Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby.
“We believe the best way to support Ukrainian defense is by providing them the weapons and the systems that they need most to defeat Russian aggression, in particular, anti-armor and air defense,” Kirby said.
Harris wants to show that the United States is firmly united with its NATO allies in support of Ukraine.
“This trip comes at an important moment as the United States continues to demonstrate unity with our NATO allies and provide support to the people of Ukraine in response to Putin’s invasion of Ukraine,” Harris tweeted after landing in Warsaw.
– Maureen Groppe, Josh Meyer and Rebecca Morin
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has given the smaller nation’s embassy in Washington an unexpected role: recruitment center for Americans who want to join the fight.
Diplomats working out of the embassy, in a townhouse in the Georgetown section of the city, are fielding thousands of offers from volunteers seeking to fight for Ukraine, even as they work on the far more pressing matter of securing weapons to defend against an increasingly brutal Russian onslaught.
“They really feel that this war is unfair, unprovoked,” said Ukraine’s military attaché, Maj. Gen. Borys Kremenetskyi. “They feel that they have to go and help.”
US volunteers represent just a small subset of foreigners seeking to fight for Ukraine, who in turn comprise just a tiny fraction of the international assistance that has flowed into the country. Still, it is a reflection of the passion, supercharged in an era of social media, that the attack and the mounting civilian casualties have stirred.
“This is not mercenaries who are coming to earn money,” Kremenetskyi said. “This is people of goodwill who are coming to assist Ukraine to fight for freedom.”
The US government discourages Americans from going to fight in Ukraine, which raises legal and national security issues.
– The Associated Press
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism