- He cites the really difficult situation for the Kiev troops of Bakhmut
- Says “corresponding” decisions may be needed to save Kiev forces
- He praises Poland’s “historic” role in garnering Western support
- Poland pledges to provide more MiGs to Kiev during Zelensky’s visit
- French Macron in China to urge it to help end the Russian war
KIEV (Reuters) – President Volodymyr Zelensky thanked Poland for its “historic” help in mobilizing Western support for Ukraine during a visit to Warsaw and said Ukrainian forces were still fighting for Pakhmut in the east but could withdraw if they risked being cut off. on.
Poland has supplied vital weapons to Kiev since the Russian invasion and has taken in millions of Ukrainian refugees. During Zelensky’s visit, Warsaw announced that it would send another 10 MiG fighter jets to Kiev in addition to the four presented earlier.
Polish President Andrzej Duda said that Warsaw is also working to secure additional security guarantees for Ukraine during the NATO summit to be held in the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius, in July.
“… this will enhance Ukraine’s military potential,” Duda said at a joint news conference with Zelensky.
Zelensky said that the Ukrainian forces faced a really difficult situation in Bakhmut and that Kiev would take “corresponding” decisions to protect them if they risked hindering the Russian invasion forces.
Bakhmut’s Kiev forces, he said, sometimes advanced a little to be repelled by the Russian forces, but remained within the city. “We are in Bakhmut, and the enemy does not control it,” Zelensky said.
Bakhmut, located in the mostly Russian-occupied Ukrainian province of Donetsk, has proven to be one of the bloodiest and longest battles of the Russian invasion and is now in its 14th month. Kiev forces withstood the Russian attack, causing heavy losses on both sides, and the city, which was a mining and transportation hub, was reduced to ruins after months of street fighting and bombing.
“For me, the most important thing is not to lose our soldiers and, of course, if there is a moment of the hottest event and danger in which we may lose our people because of the encirclement – and of course the corresponding correct decisions will be made by the generals there,” Zelensky said.
He seemed to be referring to the idea of withdrawing.
Ukrainian military leaders stressed the importance of capturing Bakhmut and other towns and inflicting losses before the expected counterattack.
Mercenaries from the Wagner Group – who led the assault on Bakhmut – said over the weekend that they had captured the city centre, a claim denied by Kiev.
The US-based Institute for the Study of War said Wagner’s fighters had made progress in Bakhmut and were likely to continue trying to consolidate their control of the city center and advance westward through dense urban areas.
Reuters could not verify the battlefield reports.
China playing card
Meanwhile, French President Emmanuel Macron was visiting China after he and US President Joe Biden agreed to try to engage Beijing to hasten an end to Russia’s assault on Ukraine, which is now in its second year.
China has called for a comprehensive cease-fire and described its position on the conflict as “neutral”, although the two countries had pledged a “borderless” partnership shortly before the invasion.
Both Macron and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who are due in Beijing shortly after, have said they want to persuade China to use its influence over Russia to bring peace to Ukraine, or at least to deter Beijing from directly supporting Moscow in the conflict. .
The United States and NATO said China was considering sending weapons to Russia, which Beijing denied.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said at a news conference in Brussels on Wednesday that any Chinese supply of lethal aid to Russia for the war in Ukraine would be a “historic mistake with profound repercussions.”
‘shoulder to shoulder’
Poland played a large role in persuading the Western Allies to supply Ukraine with battle tanks and other heavy weapons, which has helped Kiev halt and sometimes reverse the Russian advance so far.
“You have stood shoulder to shoulder with us, and we are grateful for that,” Zelensky said after Duda awarded him Poland’s highest award, the Order of the White Eagle. “I think these are historical relations, a historical result and a historical strength between our two countries,” he added.
Duda said he was confident that Ukraine would emerge victorious from the conflict. “We have no doubt that your behavior saves Europe from the flood of Russian imperialism.”
Zelensky called on Polish companies to come to Ukraine before the war ended in order to secure a better position in the Ukrainian markets as well as in the post-war reconstruction campaign.
On Tuesday, the United States pledged $2.6 billion in additional military aid to Zelensky’s government, including three air-surveillance radars, anti-tank missiles and fuel trucks, bringing the pledged US military aid to more than $35 billion.
The Russian news agency TASS said that Moscow’s embassy in Washington accused the United States of wanting to prolong the conflict for as long as possible.
Ukraine’s Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov wrote in Telegram that MiG fighters from Poland will “significantly strengthen our defense, allow us to make our airspace safer, save the lives of our citizens, and also reduce the destruction caused by Russian attacks.”
The West has stepped up its aid as Ukrainian forces prepare to launch a counter-attack in the east against Russian forces, although the exact date for the start of the offensive has not been revealed.
Spain said that six Leopard 2A4 tanks it had promised to send to Ukraine would leave the country in the second half of April, later than initially planned. Spain also trained 40 tank crew members and 15 mechanics at a military base in the northeastern city of Zaragoza.
Other NATO countries including Germany, Poland and Portugal have promised to send 48 Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine.
(Reporting by Pavel Politiuk) With additional reporting by Ron Bubisky, Mike Stone, Alan Sharlich, Pawel Florkiewicz and Tom Palmforth; Writing by Angus McSwan and Mark Heinrichs; Editing by Philippa Fletcher
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