Putin Says Ukraine War Will Continue Until Goals Are Met

KYIV, Ukraine — Vladimir Putin vowed Tuesday that Russia’s bloody offensive in Ukraine would continue until its goals are fulfilled and insisted the campaign was going as planned, despite a major withdrawal in the face of stiff Ukrainian opposition and significant losses.

Russian troops, thwarted in their push toward Ukraine’s capital, are now focusing on the eastern Donbas region, where Ukraine said Tuesday it was investigating a claim that a poisonous substance had been dropped on its troops. Although it was unclear what the substance could be, Western officials warn that Russia’s use of chemical weapons would lead to a further escalation in the already deadly war.

According to Western officials, Russia invaded Kyiv on February 24, with the aim of capturing the capital and toppling its government to install a Moscow-friendly government. Over the next six weeks, Russian forces suffered a slowdown in their ground offensive and lost thousands of combatants. They were also accused of atrocities such as killing civilians.

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Putin insisted Tuesday that his invasion aimed to protect people in parts of eastern Ukraine controlled by Moscow-backed rebels and to “ensure Russia’s own security.”

He said Russia “had no other choice” but to launch what he calls a “special military operation,” and vowed it would “continue until its full completion and the fulfillment of the tasks that have been set.”

For now, Putin’s forces are gearing up for a major offensive in the Donbas, which has been torn by fighting between Russian-allied separatists and Ukrainian forces since 2014, and where Russia has recognized the separatists’ claims of independence. According to military strategists, Moscow seems to believe that the area’s support and logistics will favor its bigger, more-armed army, which could allow Russia to turn the tide.

Mariupol is a strategic port in the Donbas. A Ukrainian regiment protecting a steel mill said that a drone had dropped a toxic substance onto the city. They did not report any serious injuries. This assertion was made by the Azov Regment, which is a far-right faction of the Ukrainian military. It couldn’t be independently confirmed.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that while experts try to determine what the substance might be, “The world must react now.” Evidence of “inhuman cruelty” toward women and children in Bucha and other suburbs of Kyiv continued to surface, he added, including of alleged rapes.

“Not all serial rapists reach the cruelty of Russian soldiers,” Zelenskyy said.

These claims were made after an official of Russia’s allied separatists appeared to advocate the use chemical weapons. He told Russian state TV that the separatists should first block the exits from the plant, and then seize it. “And then we’ll use chemical troops to smoke them out of there,” the official, Eduard Basurin, said. On Tuesday, he denied that the separatists had used chemical weapons at Mariupol.

Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said officials were investigating, and it was possible phosphorus munitions — which cause horrendous burns but are not classed as chemical weapons — had been used in Mariupol.

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After weeks of Russian soldiers’ pummeling, much of the city was destroyed. The mayor said Monday that the siege has left more than 10,000 civilians dead, their bodies “carpeted through the streets.” Mayor Vadym Boychenko said the death toll in Mariupol alone could surpass 20,000.

Mykhailo Podolyak is a Zelenskyy adviser and acknowledged the difficulties that Ukrainian troops are facing in Mariupol. He said via Twitter that they remain blocked and are having issues with supplies, while Ukraine’s president and generals “do everything possible (and impossible) to find a solution.”

“For more than 1.5 months our defenders protect the city from (Russian) troops, which are 10+ times larger,” Podolyak tweeted. “They’re fighting under the bombs for each meter of the city. They make (Russia) pay an exorbitant price.”

British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said the use of chemical weapons “would be a callous escalation in this conflict,” while Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said it would be a “wholesale breach of international law.”

U.S. President Joe Biden for the first time referred to Russia’s invasion as a “genocide.” He was even blunter later Tuesday, repeating the term and saying: “It’s become clearer and clearer that Putin is just trying to wipe out the idea of even being a Ukrainian.”

John Kirby, the Pentagon’s spokesperson, stated in a statement that it was not possible for the U.S. to confirm the drone reports. But he noted the administration’s persistent concerns “about Russia’s potential to use a variety of riot control agents, including tear gas mixed with chemical agents.”

Britain has, however, warned Russia that it may use phosphorus bombs in Mariupol, as they are prohibited in civilian areas.

Phosphorus munitions are used by most armies to light targets and create smoke screens. Marc-Michael Blum is a former head of the laboratory at the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in the Netherlands.

“Once you start using the properties of white phosphorus, toxic properties, specifically and deliberately, then it becomes banned,” he said.

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A senior U.S. Defense official stated that the Biden administration is preparing another package of military assistance for Ukraine, possibly amounting to $750 million. This will be revealed in the next few days. An anonymous source spoke out to reveal plans that were not publicly disclosed. Biden authorized $800 million of military assistance last month and delivery will be made this week.

In face of the stiff resistance from Ukrainian forces, bolstered with Western weapons, Russian forces increasingly used bombardment to flatten many cities and kill thousands. The war has driven more than 10 million Ukrainians from their homes — including nearly two-thirds of the country’s children.

Moscow’s retreat from cities and towns around Kyiv led to the discovery of large numbers of apparently massacred civilians, prompting widespread condemnation and accusations of war crimes.

According to the Interior Ministry, more than 780 people died in Kyiv suburbs under occupation by Russian troops.

Bucha Mayor Anatoliy Fedoruk stated that 403 bodies were found in Bucha. The number could increase as miners sweep the region.

Ukraine’s prosecutor-general’s office said Tuesday it was also looking into events in the Brovary district, which lies to the northeast.

According to the report, six bodies were discovered with gunshot wounds by civilians in Shevchenkove’s basement. Russian forces are believed responsible.

The investigation by the prosecution also involves allegations that Russian forces opened fire on civilians who attempted to drive from Peremoha village in the Brovary region. Four people were killed, including a thirteen-year-old boy. Five people, including two children, were shot at by an attacker in another incident near Bucha.

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Putin falsely claimed Tuesday that Ukraine’s accusation that hundreds of civilians were killed by Russian troops in the town of Bucha were “fake.” Associated Press journalists saw dozens of bodies in and around the town, some of whom had their hands bound and appeared to have been shot at close range.

Speaking at the Vostochny space launch facility in Russia’s far east, in his first known foray outside Moscow since the war began, Putin also said the West would fail to isolate Russia and its economy has withstood a “blitz” of sanctions.

Addressing the pace of the campaign, he said Moscow was proceeding “calmly and rhythmically” to “achieve the planned goals while minimizing the losses.”

Russian defense ministry stated Tuesday that it had used sea-launched and air-launched missiles in order to eliminate an ammunition depot at Starokostiantyniv (in the western Khmelnytskyi area) and an airplane hangar near Kyiv.

Karmanau reported in Lviv, Ukraine. This report was contributed by Robert Burns, an Associated Press journalist in Washington.


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