Zelensky’s government has received a new impetus after the US Congress approved a $ 40 billion aid package, including funding to improve Ukraine’s armored vehicle fleet and air defense system.
Ukraine needs a much-enhanced capability to counter the kind of attacks Russia has been carrying out east of Donbass, a Russian-speaking area partially controlled by pro-Kremlin separatists since 2014.
“In Donbass, the occupiers are trying to increase the pressure,” Zelensky said in a video address late Thursday night. “There’s hell, and it’s not an exaggeration.”
At least 12 people have been killed and 40 others injured in Russian shelling in the eastern city of Severodonetsk, the regional governor has said.
Zelensky described the Severodonetsk bombing as “brutal and utterly meaningless,” as frightened residents in the basement described a boundless ordeal of terror.
The city is part of the last pocket of the Ukrainian resistance in Lugansk, the smallest of the two regions consisting of the Donbass war zone.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu says his forces’ operation in Lugansk is “coming to an end.”
Rising charges of alleged war crimes carried out by the Russians in Ukraine have led to indiscriminate bombings and targets of cold-blooded civilians.
Vadim Shishimarin, the first Russian soldier to face trial in Kiev, has admitted to killing an unarmed civilian and told the court on Friday that he was “really sorry”.
Shishimarin’s lawyer, Viktor Ovsyannikov, argued that the 21-year-old sergeant was “not guilty” of premeditated murder and war crimes.
“I urge you to acquit my client,” Ovsannikov told the judges, who are expected to rule on Monday. Shishimarin faces a possible life sentence.
Alexander Shelipov, 62, of Russia, was shot dead four days after an attack on a civilian trying to evacuate his unit after stealing a car.
In Donetsk, pro-Kremlin authorities are threatening to prosecute some Ukrainian soldiers who have been held for weeks in horrific conditions at the Azvestal steel plant in the southern port city of Mariupol.
Ukraine is hoping to exchange Azvastal troops for Russian prisoners instead.
A total of 1,908 Ukrainian troops surrendered to the steelworks this week, according to Moscow, which Kyiv called a “heroic” resistance signaling its effective end.
Russia has released a video showing tired Ukrainian soldiers coming out of a wide-ranging plant, forcing defenders and civilians trapped in tunnels after the blockade, to endure food, water and medicine shortages.
A Pentagon spokesman, John Kirby, said in Washington: “Our expectation is that prisoners of war will be treated in accordance with the Geneva Conventions and the laws of war.”
US President Joe Biden has called the Ukraine war part of the great struggle of US-led democracy against authoritarianism.
Biden offered “full, full, full support” to Finland and Sweden for joining NATO, as he welcomed the red-carpet of their leaders to the White House on Thursday.
‘We are not fools’
But the 30 existing NATO members must agree on any new entry, and Turkey has historically condemned the alleged tolerance of non-aligned Nordic neighbors towards Kurdish militants.
The United States and NATO chiefs have expressed confidence that Turkey’s objections will be overcome. And in Finland, a brewery has already made a special NATO beer.
It tasted like “safety with a hint of freedom,” said alcoholic Petrie Vantinen.
Shoigu said the Kremlin would respond to any NATO expansion by building more military bases in western Russia.
As well as redrawing Europe’s security map, the conflict has sent shockwaves through the world economy, particularly the energy and food markets.
Russia and Ukraine produce 30 percent of the world’s wheat supply and food prices have risen because of the war. Russia is also a fertilizer exporter.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has warned that war could lead to a year-long “famine” in impoverished parts of the world.
Washington has called on Russia to allow the export of Ukrainian grain stuck in the Black Sea port.
But former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has blamed the West.
“On the one hand, insane sanctions are being imposed on us, on the other hand, they are demanding food supplies,” he said. “Things don’t work out that way, we’re not stupid.”