Bruised by the bombs, the Ukrainians regain ground

Faced with the deadlock on several fronts, including that of diplomacy, Ukraine is going on the offensive. Ukrainian forces have managed to recapture some swathes of territory lost to the Russians, according to US intelligence.

The Pentagon assured Tuesday that the Ukrainian army was leading counter-offensives which allowed it to regain ground. “We definitely see anecdotal facts that prove that not only are Ukrainians defending themselves well […]but also that they are making efforts to take back the territory that the Russians have won in recent days, ”confirmed a senior American officer in a press briefing.

He noted that “for the first time” since the beginning of the war, the combat capability still available to the Russian army deployed in Ukraine has fallen below 90%. “Some of his soldiers suffer from frostbite because he lacks appropriate equipment against the cold, described this official on condition of anonymity, for security reasons. The forces also have problems with the supply of food, fuel and even personal equipment. »

The Ukrainian military “are now, in certain situations, on the offensive”, also attested the spokesman for the American Defense, John Kirby, on CNN. “We know that they carried out counter-attacks […], especially in recent days in Mykolaiv, a key city in southern Ukraine. ” We saw [ces gains territoriaux] increase in recent days” in favor of Ukraine, he added.

The Ukrainian army also launched a counterattack in Izium, a small town southeast of Kharkiv, which Russian forces had taken in an attempt to link up with the pro-Russian areas of Luhansk and Donetsk.

US intelligence sources, quoted by the American daily The New York Timesestimated last week that more than 7,000 Russians have been killed since the start of the war.

In addition, the Ukrainian general staff said on Tuesday that nearly 300 Russian soldiers had defected in the region of Sumy, in the northeast of the country.

“Icy Hell”

These military gains were made while artillery fire continues on many Ukrainian cities: kyiv, Kharkiv, Mariupol, Odessa, Mykolaiv, Chernihiv, etc.

In the south, the besieged municipality of Mariupol said the city was bombed on Tuesday by two “superpowered bombs”, without being able to give an assessment. “The occupiers are not interested in the city, […] they want to shave it,” the town hall said.

The inhabitants who fled this disaster described to the NGO Human Rights Watch “a freezing hell, with streets strewn with corpses and rubble of destroyed buildings”, and “thousands of people cut off from the world”, buried in under -soils, without water, without food, without electricity, without communications. More than 200,000 people are still in Mariupol, according to Petro Andryushchenko, deputy mayor quoted by Human Rights Watch. According to him, more than 3,000 civilians died there, but the exact toll remains unknown.

To the east, in Donbass, at least 124 civilians have been killed in the Luhansk region since the start of the invasion, the regional administration said on Facebook. The Russian Ministry of Defense reported on Tuesday the capture of a dozen villages in the region by pro-Russian separatists.

In kyiv, subject to a new curfew until Wednesday, bombing sirens and distant detonations sounded at regular intervals throughout the day. At least one person died Tuesday in an attack against a building of the National Academy of Sciences, in the northwest of the city, AFP noted. On the spot, a Ukrainian military intelligence officer announced three victims, killed by Russian “kamikaze” drones.

In the west, north and east of the capital, not a crossroads is devoid of a wall of sandbags or anti-tank obstacles. Trenches and combat posts were arranged at random from the slightest potential axis of fire, at the foot of the towers of buildings or on vacant lots.

The shelling was particularly intense on Tuesday on the outskirts of kyiv. Fighting was ongoing in Irpin and Gostomel, according to the region’s governor, Oleksandr Pavlyuk. Russian forces have been trying since the start of their offensive to encircle the capital, without success. “In the worst case, we will die, but we will never surrender,” exclaimed the mayor of kyiv, Vitali Klitschko, on Tuesday in a videoconference before the Council of Europe.

Diplomatic deadlock

For the first time since the beginning of the war, the Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelenskysaid he was ready on Tuesday to discuss a “compromise” over Crimea and Donbass – two regions claimed by Moscow.

In an interview with several media, Mr. Zelensky however indicated that such an agreement would have to be ratified by the Ukrainians by referendum. “The issue of Crimea and Donbass is a very difficult story for everyone,” said Zelensky, who said he wanted to speak directly to his Russian counterpart. We need “security guarantees” and an end to hostilities, and “once this blockage is lifted, let’s talk”, he stressed.

But on Tuesday morning, the Kremlin judged that the ongoing talks were not “substantial” enough. Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov declined to say what the Russian and Ukrainian delegations were working on, “because currently making [ces sujets] public can only hamper the negotiation process, which is already taking place more slowly and less substantially than we would like”.

“Stopping the war now is the question,” according to Mr. Zelensky.

In addition, the French President, Emmanuel Macron, spoke once again on Tuesday with Vladimir Poutine, without an agreement being reached for the ceasefire demanded by the West. After this eighth telephone exchange with the Russian leader since the start of the invasion of Ukraine on February 24, “there is no agreement for the time being, but the President [Macron] remains convinced of the need to continue its efforts,” explained the Élysée. Emmanuel Macron also called his Ukrainian counterpart again on Tuesday to assure him of his support. President Zelensky will offer a video speech on Wednesday to French elected officials to ask for their support. He has done the same in recent days before Italian, American, Canadian, British, German and Israeli elected officials.

Next weekend will be marked by intense diplomatic activity. US President Joe Biden will take part in an extraordinary NATO summit, a G7 meeting and a European Union summit in Brussels on Thursday, before spending Friday and Saturday in Poland, the main country of arrival of Ukrainian refugees.

Nearly 3.5 million people, mostly women and children, have fled Ukraine since February 24, according to the United Nations.

With Agence France-Presse

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