Stimulus Check Up | Apr 8, 2022 | 0
Zelensky says Ukrainians are ‘ready’ for new Russian attacks in the east as officials urge evacuation of civilians from the region
Western leaders are grappling with how far to escalate their military aid to Ukraine as the Russian invasion seems headed for a brutal new turn, a decision that may rest on whether the West’s goal is to push for a total defeat of President Vladimir Putin.
Heroic resistance from Ukrainian troops, with the help of Western anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles, has already claimed a famous victory — the saving of Kyiv and the government of President Volodymyr Zelensky. But now, Russia has named a new general to lead what has been a chaotic war effort and is grouping its forces in eastern Ukraine for a fearsome, concentrated assault that could stretch Ukraine’s outnumbered forces as never before.
The shift of strategy is forcing Western leaders to consider their own willingness to provide more offensive armaments to Kyiv ahead of what is shaping up to be a vicious battle that could dictate how much of Ukraine survives as a nation-state.
Pressure on the West to do more is being exacerbated by the fact that Russia’s new approach augurs yet more carnage for the civilians that it has been deliberately targeting with a vicious war plan.
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Ukrainian authorities are preparing for an anticipated major offensive in the country’s east, with a new general leading Russian forces.
Here’s the latest:
- Ukraine “ready”: During a Sunday night address to the nation, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky warned that Russia would launch full-scale combat actions in the east, but said: “we are ready.” He also accused the Russian leadership of “lying” in an attempt to shift responsibility for the war. “They have destroyed the lives of millions. They started a full-scale war and act as if we are to blame for this,” he said.
- Train station strike: The death toll has risen to 57 from a Russian missile strike Friday on a railway station in Kramatorsk that was being used by civilians trying to flee the fighting. Clean-up operations at the site have begun, with workers gathering debris, scattered documents, and human remains.
- Russia-Ukraine talks: Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Sunday it would be “extremely difficult” to even think about negotiations after alleged Russian atrocities, citing Kramatorsk and the town of Bucha, where the mayor estimates as many as 300 people died under Russia’s occupation. However, Kuleba, said, if talks can help prevent “at least one massacre … I have to take that opportunity.”
- Evacuation corridors: Nine routes were agreed for Sunday, covering the regions of Donetsk, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia.
- New general: Russian President Vladimir Putin has appointed a new general to direct the war after troops failed to take Kyiv, according to US and European officials. The new general was the first commander of Russia’s military operations in Syria, after Putin sent troops there in September 2015 to back the Syrian regime. Under the general’s command, Russian aircraft laid siege to rebel-held eastern Aleppo, causing major civilian casualties.
- Nuclear shift change: Staff at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant have carried out just their second rotation since the invasion began. Russian forces withdrew from the plant on March 31, and it is now under Ukrainian control — but the Russians left labs and equipment destroyed and looted, authorities say.
A teacher in western Russia has been under criminal investigation since late March for making anti-war comments in the classroom that were secretly recorded by students, according to an April 7 interview on Radio Liberty.
Irina Gen, 45, was an English teacher at an elite school for young athletes in the country, many of whom qualify for major championships abroad.
In an audio recording published on Telegram on March 31, a student is heard asking Gen why Russia had been banned from the upcoming multi-sport European Championships.
“So long as Russia doesn’t behave itself in a civilized manner, this will go on forever,” Gen replied in the recording. “They began to bomb Western Ukraine … They wanted to get to Kyiv, to overthrow Zelensky and the government. This is, by the way, a sovereign state. There’s a sovereign government there.”
“Well, we don’t know all the particulars,” a female student said.
“Exactly! You (plural) don’t know anything. In fact, you don’t know anything at all,” Gen replied. “We’ve got a totalitarian regime here in place. Any kind of dissidence is regarded a thought crime. We all will be sent away for 15 years.”
The conversation was recorded on March 18, according to Gen’s interview with Radio Liberty. She believes her students’ parents “persuaded the children to make a recording, which would be handed over to the authorities.”
Authorities alerted: Gen said a Russian Federal Security officer came to the school on March 23, and told her she “had made a big mistake” by telling the students about Russian attacks on Ukrainian civilian infrastructure including the bombings in Mariupol — which Russian authorities have denied.
“It never occurred to me that someone could snitch on their teacher, or anyone else for that matter,” Gen told Radio Liberty. She resigned from her position on April 1.
Jail threat: Gen is being investigated for violating a new censorship law that bans the spread of so-called “false information” discrediting the Russian military. It carries a prison sentence of up to 10 years and a fine of up to 5 million rubles (about $60,000).
Gen told Radio Liberty she hoped she would only be given a fine, and not made an example of. “There will definitely be an excruciating trial waiting for me. And then a verdict, which will dictate how I can begin to build my life anew,” she said
CNN has reached out to Gen’s lawyer for comment on the case. The Human Rights media project OVD-info says Gen is under house arrest.
Chernobyl nuclear power plant staff have rotated for the first time in three weeks, the UN nuclear watchdog said on Sunday, citing Ukrainian authorities.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said it’s only the second time that staff have changed since the invasion began.
The shift change was important “for the safe and secure operation of the (Chernobyl power plant), which was controlled by the Russian military for five weeks until they withdrew on 31 March,” IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said.
Destroyed equipment: Ukraine told the IAEA that the plant’s analytical laboratories for radiation monitoring were “destroyed and the analytical instruments stolen, broken or otherwise disabled,” according to the IAEA.
“While it is very positive that Ukrainian authorities are gradually restoring regulatory control of the (Chernobyl) site, it is clear that a lot of work remains to return the site to normality,” Grossi warned.
Petro Kotin, the head of Ukraine’s state nuclear power operator, also said in a statement last week that Russian troops “looted and destroyed the offices and laboratory of the Institute for Nuclear Safety,” saying they “smashed or destroyed laboratory equipment and measuring devices, and looted garages with vehicles used to deliver scientists to research sites.”
Some context: Chernobyl, the site of the world’s worst nuclear disaster, fell into the hands of Russian troops in the first week of the war in Ukraine, in late February.
On March 31, Russian troops announced their intention to leave and handed over control to Ukrainian personnel. The plant is now back under the control of Ukrainian authorities.
On April 6, Ukrainian authorities released new drone video showing abandoned Russian military positions, including vacant pits and trenches — in a highly radioactively contaminated area of the uninhabitable exclusion zone near the plant.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed his nation Sunday, calling Ukrainians “the bravest people of the best country in the world.”
“We are coming to an end of another week,” Zelensky said in his speech, which he has given regularly during Russia’s attack on the country. “Our fight for freedom, for the state. Another week that Ukraine stayed alive, despite all the efforts of Russia to destroy us. We are fighting. We are defending. We are repelling the attacks.”
Zelensky said the nation is doing all it can to win the war and accused Russian leadership of “lying” in efforts to shift the blame away from them.
“When cowardice grows, everything turns into catastrophe,” he continued. “When people don’t have the courage to recognize their mistakes and apologize, to conform to reality, and to see that they are turning into monsters.”
The Ukrainian president said Russia has lost touch with reality, acting as aggressors yet blaming Ukraine for the actions committed by Russian troops, including the killings in Bucha, the missile strike on the train station in Kramatorsk, and “every destroyed city and burnt village.”
“They have destroyed the lives of millions. They started a full-scale war and act as if we are to blame for this,” Zelensky continued.
He added Russia, fearing defeat, will launch more full-scale combat actions in Ukraine’s east.
“But we are ready,” the president said, promising Ukraine will ensure it has enough weapons and demand stronger sanctions against Russia so that justice will be served.
Moments prior to his address, Zelensky said he honored “18 defenders of Ukraine” — including members of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, Special Communications Service and police officers — for their heroism. He also thanked the journalists sharing the truth of what is unfolding in the country.
“The truth will win and Ukraine will win,” Zelensky said. “This is for certain. Glory to Ukraine.”
The head of the Donetsk regional military administration said Sunday the death toll from a Russian missile strike on the train station in Kramatorsk, Ukraine, had risen to 57.
“As of 11 a.m. today, April 10 [the total is] 57 dead, 109 injured,” Pavlo Kyrylenko said.
“Those with minor injuries have been released to go home, the heavily injured are being transported to safe regions and being provided with the necessary aid.”
More than 4.5 million people have fled Ukraine since Russia’s invasion began on February 24, most crossing borders into neighboring countries, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
“The escalation of conflict in Ukraine has caused civilian casualties and destruction of civilian infrastructure, forcing people to flee their homes seeking safety, protection and assistance,” the UNHCR said in a statement on Saturday.
Poland has welcomed the highest number of refugees, at nearly 2.6 million. Romania, Hungary and Moldova together have accepted nearly 2 million Ukrainian refugees.
“In light of the emergency and the scale of humanitarian needs of refugees from Ukraine, an inter-agency regional refugee response is being carried out, in support of the efforts of refugee-hosting countries,” the UNHCR added.