Ukrainians have essentially ‘won the battle of Kyiv’, according to White House press secretary Jen Psaki, while Russia continues shelling targets in eastern Ukraine.
- Donetsk’s governor says the death toll from a missile strike on a train station in Ukraine’s Kramatorsk had risen to 57 people
- Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer will travel to Russia to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday
- The US says it expects recently newly appointed general overseeing Ukraine, Alexander Dvornikov, to authorize more brutality
Ms Psaki made the comments on Fox News Sunday when she was asked about Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov admitting to “significant” military losses.
“We agree that it was interesting, rarely do they acknowledge from the Russian leadership any elements of weakness or any elements of defeat,” Ms Psaki said.
“They’ve protected their city. And that is because of their bravery, their courage. But it is also because of the supplies, the military equipment, everything we’ve expedited – $ US1.7 billion ($ 2.2 billion) worth from the United States – and the commitment and dedication of the American people to this war. “
Russian forces have continued shelling targets in eastern Ukraine, as Washington said it would meet Kyiv’s request for more military aid by providing “the weapons it needs” to defend itself against Russia.
Ukraine at a crucial point in the war
Russia has failed to take any major cities since it launched its invasion on February 24, but Ukraine says it has been gathering its forces in the east for a major assault and has urged people to flee.
Warning: This story contains graphic images that may disturb some readers.
Russian forces fired rockets into Ukraine’s Luhansk and Dnipropetrovsk regions on Sunday, officials said.
Missiles completely destroyed the airport in the city of Dnipro, said Valentyn Reznichenko, Governor of the central Dnipropetrovsk region.
Russia’s defense ministry said high-precision missiles had destroyed the headquarters of Ukraine’s Dnipro battalion in the town of Zvonetsky.
Reuters could not immediately confirm the reports.
Ukraine’s President warned his nation on Sunday night that the coming week would be as crucial as any in the war.
“Russian troops will move to even larger operations in the east of our state,” Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his nightly address.
He accused Russia of trying to evade responsibility for war crimes.
“When people lack the courage to admit their mistakes, apologize, adapt to reality and learn, they turn into monsters,” Mr Zelenskyy said.
“And when the world ignores it, the monsters decide that it is the world that has to adapt to them. Ukraine will stop all this.
“The day will come when they will have to admit everything. Accept the truth.”
A total of 2,824 people were evacuated from Ukrainian cities through humanitarian corridors on Sunday, including 213 residents of the besieged southern port of Mariupol, Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said in an online post.
War to slash Ukraine’s GDP output by over 45 per cent, World Bank forecasts
Ukraine’s economic output will likely contract by a staggering 45.1 per cent this year as Russia’s invasion has shuttered businesses, slashed exports and rendered economic activity impossible in large swathes of the country, the World Bank said on Sunday in a new report.
The bank said the estimate excludes the impact of physical infrastructure destruction but said it would scar future economic output, along with the outflow of Ukrainian refugees to other countries.
“The Russian invasion is delivering a massive blow to Ukraine’s economy and it has inflicted enormous damage to infrastructure,” Anna Bjerde, the World Bank’s vice president for Europe and Central Asia, said in a statement.
The World Bank’s “War in the Region” economic update estimates that over half of Ukraine’s businesses are closed, while others still open are operating at well under normal capacity.
The closure of Black Sea shipping from Ukraine has cut off some 90 per cent of the country’s grain exports and half of its total exports.
Estimates of infrastructure damage exceeding $ 100 billion by early March – about two-thirds of Ukraine’s 2019 GDP – are well out of date “as the war has raged on and caused further damage”.
The World Bank also forecast 2022 GDP output to fall 11.2 per cent due to punishing financial sanctions imposed by the United States and its Western allies on Russia’s banks, state-owned enterprises and other institutions.
Ukraine’s appeal for more aid
Since Russia invaded, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has appealed to Western powers to provide more defense help and to punish Moscow with tough sanctions.
In extracts from an interview with CBS’s 60 Minutes, Mr Zelenskyy said he had confidence in his own armed forces but, “unfortunately I don’t have the confidence that we will be receiving everything we need” from the United States.
Mr Zelenskyy said earlier on Twitter that he had spoken on the phone with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz about additional sanctions, as well as more defense and financial support for his country.
He also discussed with Ukrainian officials Kyiv’s proposals for a new package of EU sanctions, his office said.
In a video address late on Saturday, Mr Zelenskyy renewed his appeal for a total ban on Russian energy products and more weapons for Ukraine.
The EU on Friday banned Russian coal imports among other products, but has yet to touch oil and gas imports from Russia.
First EU leader to meet Putin since invasion
Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer, who met Mr Zelenskyy in Kyiv on Saturday, will travel to Russia to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday, the Austrian government said.
He will be the first European Union leader to have a face-to-face meeting with Putin since the invasion.
Mr Nehammer said on social media he had informed fellow EU leaders of his upcoming trip and called on the Russian leader for a ceasefire in Ukraine.
“I will meet Vladimir #Putin in Moscow tomorrow. We are militarily neutral, but [we] have a clear position on the Russian war of aggression against #Ukraine, “he wrote on Twitter.
New Russian general to oversee invasion
Mounting civilian casualties have triggered widespread international condemnation and new sanctions.
A grave with at least two civilian bodies has been found in Buzova village near Kyiv, said Taras Didych, head of the Dmytrivka community that includes Buzova.
Mr Sullivan said on Sunday he expected Russia’s newly appointed general overseeing Ukraine, Aleksandr Dvornikov, to authorize more brutality against the Ukrainian civilian population.
He did not cite any evidence.
Moscow has rejected accusations of war crimes by Ukraine and Western countries.
Moscow has repeatedly denied targeting civilians in what it calls a “special operation” to demilitarize and “de-Nazify” its southern neighbor. Ukraine and Western nations have dismissed this as a baseless pretext for war.
Russia’s invasion has forced about a quarter of Ukraine’s 44 million people from their homes, turned cities into rubble and killed or injured thousands.
Death toll from train station missile strike rises
Some cities in the east were under heavy shelling, with tens of thousands of people unable to evacuate.
Calls by Ukrainian officials for civilians to flee gained more urgency after a missile strike hit a train station on Friday in the city of Kramatorsk, in the Donetsk region, that was full of people trying to leave.
Donetsk region governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said on Sunday the death toll from a missile strike at the train station in Ukraine’s Kramatorsk had risen to 57 people.
Mr Kyrylenko said 109 people were wounded in the attack, which Ukraine has blamed on Russia.
Russia has denied responsibility, saying the Tochka-U missiles used in the attack were only used by Ukraine’s military.
Military analysts have pointed to evidence that Russia has also been using Tochka-U missiles, which are known to be extremely inaccurate.
Reuters was unable to verify the details of that attack.
Residents of the Luhansk region would have nine trains on Sunday to get out on, the region’s governor, Serhiy Gaidai, wrote on the Telegram message service.
Pope calls for Easter ceasefire
In a Palm Sunday homily, Pope Francis called for an Easter truce in Ukraine and, in an apparent reference to Russia, questioned the value of planting a victory flag “on a heap of rubble”.
“Put the weapons down! Let An Easter truce start. But not to re-arm and resume combat but a truce to reach peace through real negotiations open to some sacrifices for the good of the people,” he said.
At a sermon in Moscow, Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church and a close ally of President Vladimir Putin, called on people to rally around the authorities.