(Dnipro) The Russian army on Friday extended its offensive to another major city in Ukraine, Dnipro, and continued its bombardments which strike homes and civilian infrastructure, at the risk of new “massive sanctions” from Europeans and Americans.
Joe Biden warned on Friday that Russia would pay “a heavy price” if chemical weapons were used in Ukraine, while pledging to “avoid” a direct confrontation between NATO and Moscow because it would provoke “the Third War world”.
Russia “will pay a high price if it uses chemical weapons” in its war against Ukraine, the President of the United States said during a speech at the White House. He declined to discuss any information that US intelligence has on the matter.
The Americans say they suspect the Russians of spreading “lies” to “accuse others of what they plan to do themselves”.
“We are going to make sure that Ukraine has the weapons to defend itself against the Russian invader”, also hammered Joe Biden, while Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, relayed by many elected members of the American Congress, deplores that Washington refuses the delivery of Polish combat aircraft to Kyiv.
The American president argued that the United States had already provided anti-tank weapons and defense systems capable of shooting down planes and helicopters.
“A direct confrontation between NATO and Russia would be World War III, and that is something we must avoid at all costs,” he said.
“We are not going to fight a war against Russia in Ukraine,” he said again. “But we already know that the war of [Vladimir] Putin against Ukraine will never be a victory” for the Russian president, he added.
French President Emmanuel Macron also warned, after an EU summit in Versailles, near Paris, that the Europeans were ready “if things continued militarily”, to take “massive sanctions against Russia.
On the ground, the conflict that began on February 24 was pushing more and more Ukrainians to flee to the west and to neighboring European states. More than 2.5 million people have already taken refuge abroad, mostly in Poland, and around two million have been displaced within Ukraine itself, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
So far spared by the advance of Russian soldiers, Dnipro, an industrial city of one million inhabitants on the Dnieper, the river which marks the separation between the partly pro-Russian east of Ukraine and the rest of its territory , was the target of raids early Friday that left at least one dead, local authorities said.
“There were three airstrikes on the city, on a kindergarten, an apartment building and a shoe factory […] where a fire then broke out,” Ukrainian emergency services said.
Adding its procession of images of desolation to those of Kharkiv (north-east) and Mariupol (south), two of the cities most affected since the beginning of the Russian invasion, Dnipro woke up dazed, in a setting of charred, gutted or blown buildings.
In the morning, we could see on video images provided by the emergency services of firefighters extinguishing flames in smoking ruins. Some buildings were nothing more than a pile of beams and twisted metal structures.
After a pediatric hospital on Wednesday in Mariupol on the Sea of Azov in the southeast, a facility for the disabled near Kharkiv in the northeast was hit by a strike on Friday, which however did not made of victims.
“It is a war crime against civilians, a genocide of the Ukrainian nation! “, lambasted the head of the regional administration, Oleh Singoubov.
According to him, 330 people – including 10 in wheelchairs and 50 with reduced mobility – were on the scene at the time of the attack. “The frameworks of the building were destroyed at the level of the 2and and 3and floors, “said the emergency services.
Kyiv taken in pincers
Four Ukrainian soldiers were also killed and six injured in the bombardment of the Lutsk military airport in northwestern Ukraine, said the mayor of the city. That of Ivano-Frankivsk, in the far west, was also targeted.
These bases have been “decommissioned”, the Russian Defense Ministry said.
Night air raids also took place over the cities of Chernihiv (north), Sumy (north-east) and Kharkiv, damaging apartment buildings.
From Kharkiv to Mariupol, via Mykolaiv in the south, the humanitarian situation continues to worsen in the localities besieged or threatened by the Russian offensive.
Bodies abandoned in the streets, a huge mass grave as the only burial place for the others, civilians trying to leave under the bombs: the very rare information emanating from the port of Mariupol, with which communications are almost cut off, tell of the despair of its inhabitants.
They are without water, without gas, without electricity, without communications, and in recent days you have seen people fighting for food.
At the morgue of Mykolaiv, a city on the shores of the Black Sea under Russian fire for days, the corpses pile up on the ground and in the courtyard of the establishment, on which the snow falls without stopping, noted the AFP.
One of the men killed lies with his hands clasped, as if in prayer. In fact, the morgue attendant said, he was throwing Molotov cocktails when the Russians caught him. They tied his hands and executed him.
“We pushed the enemy out of the limits of our city […] Now they [les militaires russes] are almost surrounded. We attack them. Every night there are some clashes to the west and north, but not near” Mykolaiv, regional governor Vitaly Kim told reporters.
“We are receiving reinforcements from the central regions of Ukraine” and, alongside the fighting, “we are evacuating civilians, women and children every day”, he added.
The Russians also continue to take Kyiv in pincers. After reaching its suburbs, they seek to eliminate the Ukrainian defenses in several localities to the west and north of the capital to “block” it, explained the Ukrainian general staff.
Nearly 20,000 people have already been evacuated on Wednesday and Thursday from the Kyiv region and some 100,000 in total over these two days from all areas plagued by fighting, the Ukrainian authorities reported.
“Assassins of Syria”
While the Russian army seems slowed in its progress by the fierce resistance of the Ukrainians, according to Western military sources, President Vladimir Putin has given the green light to the sending of “volunteer” fighters, in particular from Syria.
“If you see that people want to go there voluntarily, which is not for money, and help those who live in the Donbass [est de l’Ukraine, NDLR]so we have to go meet them and help them reach the combat zone,” he said in response to a proposal from his Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.
“This is a war with a very stubborn enemy […] who decided to hire mercenaries against our citizens. Assassins from Syria, from a country where everything has been destroyed by the occupiers, as they are doing to us,” reacted the Ukrainian head of state Volodymyr Zelensky.
Syrian mercenaries are already fighting the jihadists alongside the Russians and the army of the Damascus regime. Others are in Libya.
The master of the Kremlin has also asked his Minister of Defense to offer him military redeployments on the western border of Russia, in response to those of NATO in Eastern Europe.
Vladimir Putin, however, said that “progress” had been achieved during the Russian-Ukrainian talks. The last session took place on Thursday in Turkey, for the first time at the level of foreign ministers.
Meanwhile, Russia to sue Meta for ‘calling for the murders’ of Russians after Facebook and Instagram parent company loosens rules on violent posts to Russian military and leaders . Access to Instagram has also been restricted there.
This “raises concerns”, immediately commented the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCR).
Security Council meeting
US President Joe Biden was to announce for his part on Friday that he wanted to exclude Russia from the normal regime of global trade relations, which would pave the way for higher customs duties.
In addition to a wave of sanctions that aim to suffocate the Russian economy, the United States and its European allies are also trying to help Ukraine militarily while avoiding the direct involvement of NATO member states.
The US Congress voted on Thursday a staggering envelope of nearly 14 billion dollars for the Ukrainian crisis.
The United Kingdom has also decided to sanction 386 Russian elected officials who supported the invasion of Ukraine while Canada has targeted oligarchs.
The G7, however, urged the international community to avoid any measure limiting food exports.
The Twenty-Seven, for their part, ruled out Ukraine’s rapid accession to the EU, while opening the door to closer ties.
“We have to go harder. It’s not what we expect […] The decisions of politicians must coincide with the mood of their peoples, the European peoples […]. The European Union must do more for us, for Ukraine”, exclaimed President Zelensky.
The UN Security Council will meet for its part at 11 a.m. at the request of Moscow, to discuss the supposed manufacture of biological weapons in Ukraine, categorically denied by the Ukrainian head of state.