On the 100th day of the Russian invasion, Zelenskyy swears victory

KYIV, UKRANE: Ukraine will emerge victorious in the war started by Russia, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Friday as Moscow’s invasion of its neighbor entered its 100th day with Russian troops storming the Donbas region.
Thousands have been killed, millions displaced and cities turned to rubble since Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his troops into Ukraine on Feb. 24.
Russia’s advance was held back by fierce Ukrainian resistance that drove them from all over the capital and forced Moscow to shift its goals towards conquering the east.
Russia has since taken one-fifth of Ukraine’s territory — tripling the land under its occupation since 2014 when it took Crimea and parts of Donbas.
Moscow ruled that “certain results have been achieved,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters, pointing to the “liberation” of some areas from what he called the “pro-Nazi forces of Ukraine.”
But Zelenskyy said Russia will not prevail in a video accompanied by the same key political leaders seen in a video posted on Feb. 24 as they vowed to defend their country.
“Our team is much bigger. The armed forces of Ukraine are here. The most important — the people, the people of our state are here. They have been defending Ukraine for 100 days,” he said.
“Victory will be ours,” he declared in a display of defiance in the video with the presidential office building in the background.
Putin’s forces are now concentrating their forces in the Donbas, to the east, where some of the fiercest fighting is taking place in the industrial center of Severodonetsk.
Fighting continues in Severodonetsk city center, the president’s office said, adding that the invaders “fired on civilian infrastructure and the Ukrainian military”.
Severodonetsk “is the most difficult area at the moment,” Zelenskyy said late Thursday.
“They have been leveling everything for 100 days,” Lugansk regional governor Sergiy Gaiday said on Telegram.
Gaiday accused the Russians of destroying hospitals, schools and roads, but said “we are only getting stronger.
“Hatred of the enemy and belief in our victory make us unbreakable.”
Ukrainian troops still held an industrial zone, Gaiday said, a situation reminiscent of Mariupol, where a steel mill served as the southeastern port’s last sentry until Ukrainian forces finally surrendered in late May.
The situation in Lysychansk – Severodonetsk’s sister city, which lies across a river – also looked increasingly dire.
About 60 percent of infrastructure and housing had been destroyed, while internet, mobile networks and gas services were shut down, the city’s mayor, Oleksandr Zaika, said.
“The shelling is getting stronger every day,” he said.
In the town of Sloviansk, about 80 kilometers (50 miles) from Severodonetsk, the mayor has urged residents to evacuate as bombing intensified and water and electricity were cut off.
Student Goulnara Evgaripova, 18, told of heavy bombing as she boarded a minibus to leave the city.
“The situation is getting worse, the explosions are getting stronger and stronger and the bombs are falling more and more,” she told AFP.
And in Mykolaiv in the south, Russian shelling killed at least one person and injured several others, Ukrainian military officials said late Thursday.
“This war has and will not have a winner,” Amid Awad, the United Nations’ deputy secretary-general and crisis coordinator for Ukraine, said in a statement.
“On the contrary, we witnessed for 100 days what was lost: lives, homes, jobs and prospects.”
Under the leadership of the United States, Western countries have been pumping weapons and military supplies into Ukraine to help it survive the attack.
Earlier this week, the United States announced it would send more advanced missile launch systems to Ukraine as part of a $700 million package. The Kremlin accused Washington of “putting fuel on the fire”.
Western allies have also sought to choke Russia’s financial lifeline in an effort to change Putin’s course.
The United States on Thursday blacklisted an already long list of embargoes and blacklisted Putin’s money manager and a Monaco company that supplies luxury yachts to Moscow’s elite.
Across the Atlantic, EU countries agreed on new sanctions that would halt 90 percent of Russian oil imports to the bloc by the end of the year.
Russia warned that European consumers would be the first to pay the price for the partial oil embargo.
Major crude oil producers agreed to increase production by about 50 percent more per month in an effort to calm an overheated market and ease inflationary pressures.
But the move disappointed investors and prices rose after the announcement.
With a global food crisis also on the way, the head of the African Union, Senegalese President Macky Sall, is expected in Russia on Friday for talks with Putin.
Sall will try to get Putin to release stockpiles of grains and fertilizers
Ukraine is one of the world’s largest grain producers, and the war has already translated into higher costs for essential goods, from grains to sunflower oil to corn, with the poorest among the worst hit hardest.

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