LONDON – Britain’s defense ministry says the continuing siege of Mariupol is tying up Russian forces and slowing its advance ahead of a planned major offensive in eastern Ukraine.
In a daily intelligence update, Britain’s military says “concerted Ukrainian resistance has severely tested Russian forces and diverted men and materiel, slowing Russia’s advance elsewhere.”
The Sea of Azov port city has been devastated in weeks of Russian pummeling. Britain says “large areas of infrastructure have been destroyed” and there are “significant” civilian casualties.
Britain accuses Russia of using similar tactics of all-out war on civilian areas that it deployed in Chechnya and Syria, despite Russian claims at the start of its invasion “that Russia would neither strike cities nor threaten the Ukrainian population.”
KEY DEVELOPMENTS IN THE RUSSIA-UKRAINE WAR:
– ‘No surrender’: Ukrainians fight on in Mariupol steel plant
– Mother, grandmother weep over 15-year-old killed in shelling of Kharkiv
KYIV, Ukraine – Multiple explosions believed to be caused by missiles have struck the western Ukrainian city of Lviv, according to witnesses there.
Lviv and the rest of western Ukraine has been less affected by the fighting than other parts of the country, and is considered to be a relatively safe haven.
Lviv Mayor Andriy Sadovyi said on Facebook that five missiles struck the city and that emergency services were responding to the blasts. He said more details would follow.
“Torture chambers are built there,” Zelenskyy said in an evening address to the nation. “They abduct representatives of local governments and anyone deemed visible to local communities.”
Zelenskyy said humanitarian aid has been stolen, creating famine.
In occupied parts of the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions, he said, the Russians are creating separatist states and introducing Russian currency, the ruble. Intensified Russian shelling of Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, has killed 18 people and wounded 106 in the last four days alone, Zelenskyy said.
“This is nothing but deliberate terror. Mortars, artillery against ordinary residential neighborhoods, against ordinary civilians,” he said.
He said a planned Russian offensive in eastern Ukraine “will begin in the near future.”
Zelensky again called for increased sanctions against Russia, including its entire banking sector and oil industry. “Everyone in Europe and America already sees Russia openly using energy to destabilize Western societies,” Zelenskyy said. “All of this requires greater speed from Western countries in preparing a new, powerful package of sanctions.”
WASHINGTON – Ukraine’s foreign minister is describing the situation in Mariupol as dire and heartbreaking and says Russia’s continued attacks there could be a “red line” that ends all efforts to reach peace through negotiation.
Dmytro Kuleba tells CBS’ “Face the Nation” that the remaining Ukrainian military personnel and civilians in the port city are basically encircled by Russian forces.
He says the Ukrainians “continue their struggle” but that the city effectively doesn’t exist anymore because of massive destruction.
Kuleba says his country has been keeping up “expert level” talks with Russia in recent weeks in hopes of reaching a political solution for peace. But citing the significance of Mariupol, he echoed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in saying the elimination of Ukrainian forces there could be a “red line” that stops peace efforts.
WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden says he’s praying on Easter for those living in the “dark shadow” of war, persecution and poverty.
Biden released an Easter message Sunday in which he says he’s also praying for peace, freedom and basic dignity and respect for all of God’s children.
The American president says he’s grateful that the easing of the COVID-19 pandemic has allowed many people around the world to celebrate by attending religious services and in-person family gatherings. He also acknowledges that the holiest day on the Christian calendar “falls on heavy hearts for those who have lost loved ones and those among us living in the dark shadow of war, persecution and poverty.”
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