bnd default bg 275x160 18 - Ukraine leaves battle marks in the east as Russia prepares for a long battle

Ukraine leaves battle marks in the east as Russia prepares for a long battle 

 April 10, 2022

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DNIPRO, Ukraine — Residents of the besieged region of eastern Ukraine continued to flee Saturday after officials agreed on 10 humanitarian corridors, as government officials grew increasingly concerned that the next phase of war could become a full-scale confrontation not seen in generations.

The governor of Luhansk, a province in eastern Ukraine, Serhiy Haidai, on Saturday urged residents to leave immediately as more Russian troops arrived and shooting escalated. But Haidai noted that residents were terrified after Friday’s ballistic missile attack, thought to have been a Russian air strike, hit a train station in the eastern city of Kramatorsk, where thousands of people were trapped at the train station waiting to leave.

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The horrific attack killed more than 50 people as fears mounted over the danger civilians faced as Russian troops regrouped to concentrate on capturing southern and eastern Ukraine. “Compared to other days, far fewer people want to,” Haidai wrote on the Telegram messaging app. “The tragedy affected this.”

Haidi said authorities would continue to try to persuade people to leave. “We will not stop,” he said in a Ukrainian television interview. More than 6,600 people fled embattled areas of the region via humanitarian corridors on Friday, according to Kyiv, the highest number this week.

The gruesome scene of the latest attack comes just days after evidence emerged that Russian troops had tortured and massacred hundreds of civilians in Bucha, just outside Kyiv. Images of the dead, many with their hands tied behind their backs and apparently executed, have increased pressure on Western governments to support Ukraine and provide more heavy weaponry.

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After the train station attack, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson paid a surprise visit to Kyiv on Saturday and met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. It was his first visit to the country since the Russian invasion began.

Calling the war “unforgivable,” Johnson vowed to intensify sanctions against Russia by not only freezing assets but also moving away from the use of Russian oil and gas. He also promised British help to clear mines left by Russian troops and said Britain would liberalize trade with Ukraine. The day before, Johnson announced that Britain would provide Ukraine with an additional $130 million worth of weapons.

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In a press conference with Johnson after their meeting, Zelensky called on Western democratic leaders to “follow Britain’s example” by imposing an embargo on Russian energy sources and supplying more arms to Ukraine.

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Later Saturday, Zelensky shared a video on Telegram showing the two men walking the mostly empty streets of Kyiv, flanked by soldiers. Ukraine faces a new and potentially more challenging phase in the war as Russia repositions its forces.

Unlike near Kyiv, where Ukrainian troops can hide in the jungle, the wide open spaces in the east will make it difficult for Ukraine to carry out guerrilla operations. For their part, Russian troops will be able to assemble large mechanized formations of tanks and armored vehicles. Both sides appear to be in a position to engage in a long and bloody battle focused on the east that US officials have warned could last months or more.

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After many missteps and surprisingly fierce resistance from Ukrainian forces, Russia appears to be trying to fix some of the problems its troops initially faced. A senior US official said on Saturday that Russia had appointed a general with extensive experience in Syria and the Donbas to oversee the war effort, marking the first time a commander has taken control of an entire Ukrainian operation.

The appointment of Alexander Dvornikov, commander of Russia’s southern military district, signals Moscow’s efforts to bring some coherence to what military experts describe as a chaotic operation that has claimed the lives of several generals.

Part of the challenges facing Russia include stubborn resistance from Ukraine, which has prevented Russia from establishing a land corridor linking Crimea to the eastern Donbas region, Britain’s Ministry of Defense said in an intelligence update Saturday.

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Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer also visited Kyiv on Saturday and met with Zelensky, pledging to help ease the suffering of Ukrainians. Austria, which remained neutral throughout the war, provided humanitarian aid to Ukraine but not weapons.

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