As the Russian military slogs through war, notching what the Pentagon describes as “incremental and somewhat anemic” results, Ukraine has expanded its goals to include retaking territory Russia claimed before its February 24th invasion, including Crimea.
“In the first months of the war the victory for us looked like withdrawal of Russian forces to the positions they occupied before February 24 and payment for inflicted damage,” Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said in an interview with The Financial Times.
“Now if we are strong enough on the military front and we win the battle for Donbas, which will be crucial for the following dynamics of the war, of course the victory for us in this war will be the liberation of the rest of our territories.”
Kubela said continued support from the West is crucial to advance his country’s military goals.
“They already feel that our victory will also be their victory and this is why I believe they will stand by us,” Kuleba said, referring to the United States and European Union.
At a Senate hearing on Tuesday, Avril D. Haines, the director of national intelligence, told lawmakers that the next two months will be crucial in determining the outcome of the war. She warned that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s actions will become “more unpredictable and escalatory” as he reckons with the fact that his military is not capable of meeting his grandiose ambitions.
Russian forces launched a barrage of missiles at Odesa on Monday evening and Tuesday morning. The Wall Street Journal reports:
The strikes began after Russia paraded military hardware through Red Square on Monday and as fireworks lit up the sky over Moscow during celebrations to mark Victory Day, an annual holiday marking the defeat of the Nazis that President Vladimir Putin has seized on to promote the aims of his war in Ukraine.
Among the objects struck was a shopping mall and a consumer-goods warehouse, according to Ukraine’s southern military command.
“The enemy continues its psychological pressure and such hysterical attacks on civilian residents and civilian infrastructure,” the Ukraine command said in a statement.
The Associated Press provides important context:
Even if it falls short of severing Ukraine from the coast — and it appears to lack the forces to do so — continuing missile strikes on Odesa reflect the city’s strategic importance. The Russian military has repeatedly targeted its airport and claimed it destroyed several batches of Western weapons.
Odesa is also a major gateway for grain shipments, and its blockade by Russia already threatens global food supplies. Beyond that, the city is a cultural jewel, dear to Ukrainians and Russians alike, and targeting it carries symbolic significance as well.
The Journal adds:
In Washington, meanwhile, the House of Representatives was expected this week to take up a nearly $40 billion U.S. aid package for Ukraine to help the beleaguered nation fight against the Russian invasion and sustain its economy, according to Democratic aides.
“I call on Congress to pass the Ukrainian Supplemental funding bill immediately, and get it to my desk in the next few days,” President Biden said in a statement Monday.
Ukraine desperately needs the assistance. On Tuesday, The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development estimated that the nation’s economy would shrink 30% this year, 10% more than previously estimated.
The human toll is even worse. Matilda Bogner, the head of the U.N. Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine, said Tuesday the official civilian death toll in the war-torn country is 3,381 but the real figure is “thousands higher.”
The Washington Post reports:
“The big black hole is really Mariupol, where it has been difficult for us to fully access and to get fully corroborated information,” Bogner told the news briefing, referring to the port city in southeastern Ukraine that has been under siege for roughly two months. Ukrainian officials from Mariupol have estimated that as many as 20,000 civilians have died in Russia’s bombardment of the city.
In the past week, hundreds of civilians were rescued from a steel plant in Mariupol, where many had been sheltering for weeks. The plant was relentlessly targeted by Russians. Reuters explains:
Ukraine says the bombardment of the plant has continued and that Russia was using tanks and artillery in “storming operations” on Monday.
“In Mariupol, the enemy continues to destroy the infrastructure of the Azovstal plant with artillery and air strikes. Hostilities continue,” the general staff of Ukraine’s armed forces said on Tuesday.