adds quotes from Zelensky, Biden signing legislation providing $40 billion in aid to Ukraine
kyiv (awp/afp) – Russia continued its offensive in Ukraine on Saturday, bombarding a convoy of Western weapons, and US President Joe Biden signed the law providing 40 billion US aid to kyiv.
For his part, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky assured that only “diplomacy” would end the war in his country.
After failing to take control of kyiv and its region, Russian troops are now concentrating their efforts in an offensive against eastern Ukraine where fighting is intense.
A large shipment of weapons, supplied by the West to Ukrainian forces in the eastern region of Donbass, have been destroyed in northwestern Ukraine, the Russian Defense Ministry said on Saturday.
“High-precision long-range Kalibr missiles, launched from the sea, destroyed a large consignment of weapons and military equipment supplied by the United States and European countries, near Malin railway station, in the region of Zhytomyr,” the ministry said.
For his part, US President Joe Biden signed during his official trip to South Korea the law adopted Thursday by Congress providing a gigantic envelope of 40 billion dollars for the Ukrainian war effort against Russia.
The law includes 6 billion dollars to allow Ukraine to equip itself with armored vehicles and to strengthen its anti-aircraft defense.
On Friday, the G7 countries meeting in Germany also promised to mobilize 19.8 billion dollars (18.7 billion euros) to help Ukraine “fill its financial gap”.
“The end (of the conflict) will be diplomatic,” Volodymyr Zelensky said in an interview with the private Ukrainian television channel ICTV, during which he assured that 700,000 Ukrainian fighters were fighting against Russia.
The war “will be bloody, it will be fighting, but it will end definitively through diplomacy”, he assured. “Discussions between Ukraine and Russia will definitely take place. I don’t know in what format: with intermediaries, without them, in a wider circle, at the presidential level.”
While the negotiations conducted a few weeks ago under Turkish mediation are at a standstill, Mr. Zelensky recalled having set as a sine qua non for the continuation of the talks the fact that the Ukrainian soldiers entrenched in the vast metallurgical complex of Azovstal in Mariupol, in the south-east of Ukraine, are not killed by the Russian army.
“They will be brought home”
But the Russian troops “gave the possibility, found a way for these people to come out alive” from Azovstal, he noted.
“They will be brought home,” he promised during his interview with ICTV. Discussions are taking place with France, Turkey and Switzerland regarding the fate of Mariupol, he said, without giving further details.
The Azovstal steel complex in Mariupol, the last pocket of resistance in this strategic port on the Sea of Azov, has “passed under the complete control of the Russian armed forces” after the surrender of the last Ukrainian soldiers, the spokesman said on Friday evening. from the Russian Ministry of Defense, stating that the news had been passed on to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
kyiv rejects the term surrender, Mr. Zelensky referring to “the rescue of our heroes”.
In the meantime, Russian President Vladimir Putin is trying to circumvent the financial sanctions of Western allies, in particular by demanding that they pay for their gas in rubles.
Finland, which refused these conditions, saw its supply of natural gas cut off on Saturday by the Russian supplier Gazprom.
“Natural gas deliveries to Finland under the Gasum supply contract have been interrupted,” said the Finnish public energy company, assuring that it could obtain gas from other suppliers and continue its activities “normally”. Supplier Gazprom confirmed the suspension.
The Nordic country, which angered Moscow by deciding to apply for NATO membership, joins Poland and Bulgaria among the countries to which Gazprom cut off gas because they refused to pay in rubles, a requirement formulated in April.
Finland has already been deprived of Russian electricity exports since mid-May.
In the Donbass coal basin, partially controlled since 2014 by pro-Russian separatists, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu assured that the conquest of the Lugansk region was “almost complete”.
Ukrainian Defense Ministry spokesman Oleksandre Motouzianyk said the situation “showed signs of worsening”, and that “Russian occupation forces are conducting intense fire along the entire front line”.
Three people were killed on Friday and five injured on Saturday in the Donetsk region, governor Pavlo Kyrylenko announced on Telegram on Saturday. For his part, the governor of the Kharkiv region (northeast), Oleg Sinegoubov, said that villages and small towns around Kharkiv have been targeted by numerous artillery fire in the past 24 hours, making a dead and 20 injured.
A Russian missile targeted a “military infrastructure” in the city of Rivne (northwest), said on Telegram the governor of the eponymous region, Vitaliï Koval. Close to the Polish border, this city has very rarely been attacked since the beginning of the conflict.