TARETSK, Ukraine – The United States pressured its allies on Tuesday to move “heaven and earth” to keep Kyiv well-armed as Russian forces flooded eastern and southern Ukraine amid growing fears the war could spill over to the country’s borders.
For the second day in a row, explosions erupted in the separatist Transnistrian region of neighboring Moldova, knocking out two powerful radio antennas near the Ukrainian border. No one has claimed responsibility for the attacks, but Ukraine has blamed Russia.
Poland has been the main gateway for arms supplies to Ukraine and this week confirmed that it is sending tanks to the country.
The potential shutdown effect was not immediately clear. Poland said it was well prepared for the move after years of working to reduce its dependence on Russian energy. Bulgaria receives more than 90 percent of its gas from Russia, and officials say they are working to find other sources.
After two months of fighting, Western weapons helped Ukraine delay Russia’s invasion, but leaders said they additional support is needed soon.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin on Tuesday convened a meeting with officials from about 40 countries at U.S. Air Force Base in Ramstein, Germany, and said more help along the way.
“This meeting reflects a galvanized world,” Austin said, adding that he wanted officials to leave the meeting with a common and transparent understanding of Ukraine’s security requirements in the near future because we are going to keep moving heaven and earth so we can meet. with them. “
“It’s bad. It’s very bad. It’s hopeless,” said Andrei Cheromushkin. “You feel so helpless that you don’t know what to do and what not to do. ».
According to the British military, it was reported that Russia was advancing and heavy fighting in the Donbass, with one city, Kremenno, according to the British military, apparently died after several days of street fighting.
Authorities say Russian forces have struck 35 air strikes on the Azovstal metallurgical plant in the destroyed southern port city of Mariupol in the past 24 hours. The plant is the last known stronghold of Ukrainian militants in the city.
About 1,000 civilians are estimated to find refuge there with about 2,000 Ukrainian defenders.
“Russia has sharply intensified its strikes over the past 24 hours and is using heavy bunker bombs,” said Mariupol Mayor’s Adviser Petro Andryushchenko. “The number of wounded will be known after the debris is cleared.”
He also accused Russian forces of shelling a route they proposed as an evacuation corridor from a metallurgical plant.
Behind Mariupol, local authorities said at least nine people had been killed and several others injured in Russian attacks on cities and towns in the east and south of the country.
The governor of the Donetsk region of Donbass Pavel Kirilenko said in a program for the exchange of messages Telegram that Russian troops “continue to deliberately fire on civilians and destroy critical infrastructure.”
Russian missile fire also smashed a strategic railway bridge along the route connecting the Odessa port region in southern Ukraine with neighboring NATO member Romania, Ukrainian authorities said. There are no victims.
Ukraine also said Russian forces had shelled Kharkiv, the country’s second-largest city in the northeast, outside the Donbass, but was seen as key to Russia’s apparent attempt to surround Ukrainian troops in the Donbass from the north, east and south.
Ukrainian forces responded in the Kherson region in the south.
The attack on the bridge near Odessa – along with a series of strikes at key railway stations the day before – seems to mean a major shift in Russia’s approach. Until now, Moscow has spared strategic bridges, perhaps in hopes of preserving them for its own use in capturing Ukraine. But now it seems to be trying to thwart Ukraine’s efforts to move troops and supplies.
Ukraine’s southern coast and Moldova have been on the border since a senior Russian military officer said last week that the Kremlin’s goal was to secure not only eastern Ukraine but the entire south to pave the way to Transnistria, a long, narrow strip of land. with about 470,000 people along the Ukrainian border, where about 1,500 Russian troops are based.
It was not clear who was behind the explosions in Transnistria, but the attacks raised fears that Russia was raising problems to create a basis for an invasion of Transnistria or use the region as another starting point for an attack on Ukraine.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the bombings were made by Russia and were “designed to destabilize”, with the intention of showing Moldova what could happen if it supports Ukraine.
Austin, the U.S. Secretary of Defense, said the U.S. is still considering the blasts and trying to determine what is happening, but added, “Of course we don’t want to see a transformation” of the conflict.
German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht said that her government will supply Ukraine with self-propelled armored anti-aircraft guns Gepard. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has faced increasing pressure to send heavy weapons such as tanks and other armored vehicles.
Austin noted that more than 30 allies and partners had joined the United States in sending military aid to Ukraine and that equipment worth more than $ 5 billion had been allocated.
The US Secretary of Defense said the war had weakened Russia’s military, adding: “We would like to make sure again that they do not have the same type of capabilities to launch their neighbors that we saw at the beginning of this conflict.”
A high-ranking Kremlin official, Nikolai Patrushev, warned that “the policy of the West and the Kiev regime under its control will only split Ukraine into several states.”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has warned that if the Western arms flow continues, talks aimed at ending hostilities will not yield any results.
The day before, Lavrov accused NATO of “adding fuel to the fire” with the support of Ukraine. He also warned against provoking World War III and said the threat of nuclear conflict “cannot be underestimated.”
“Nuclear war cannot be won and should not be fought,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said in an interview with CNN. “Such rhetoric is clearly not needed in the current scenario. Mr Putin is called upon to end this war. “
Diplomatic efforts to end the fighting continued. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has met with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and the UN said it agreed in principle that the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross should be involved in evacuating civilians trapped in the steel plant. . Putin said that the Ukrainian military uses civilians at the plant as a shield and does not allow them to leave.
Gambrel reported from Lviv, Ukraine. Associated Press journalist Yuras Karmanov in Lviv, David Keitan in Kyiv, Alexander Stashevsky in Chernobyl, Mstislav Chernov in Kharkiv and AP staff around the world.
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