RUSSIA,US,UKRAINE: Nearly two months after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin declared the port of Mariupol “liberated”, despite hundreds of defenders still holding out inside a giant steel works. In a televised meeting with his defence minister inside the Kremlin, Putin said there was no need for a final confrontation with the last defenders who were boxed in after surviving nearly two months of Russia’s siege, news agency Reuters reported.
In a televised meeting at the Kremlin, Putin told Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu: “You successfully completed the combat effort to liberate Mariupol. Let me congratulate you on this occasion, and please convey my congratulations to the troops”. Ukraine, on the other hand, said Putin’s attempt to avoid a final clash with its forces in the city was an acknowledgment that he lacked the forces to defeat them.
“I consider the proposed storming of the industrial zone unnecessary. I order you to cancel it,” Putin told Shoigu. “There’s no need to climb into these catacombs and crawl underground through these industrial facilities … Block off this industrial area so that not even a fly can get through.”
Meanwhile, President Joe Biden on Thursday announced an additional US$ 800 million in military aid to help Ukraine fight back against the Russian invasion, and he warned that Congress will need to approve additional assistance. The new military package includes much needed heavy artillery, 144,000 rounds of ammunition, and drones for Ukrainian forces in the escalating battle for the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine.
Meanwhile, Russia on Thursday expanded an entry ban on U.S. officials to include U.S. Vice-President Kamala Harris and 28 other American officials, business people and journalists.
The sanctions list, published by the Russian foreign ministry, included Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, Deputy Defence Secretary Kathleen Hicks and Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby, among others. “These individuals are denied entry into the Russian Federation indefinitely,” the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement.
Meanwhile,newly disclosed “Ghost” drones that are part of America’s latest arms package for Ukraine were developed by the U.S. Air Force for attacking targets and are destroyed after a single use, the Pentagon said on Thursday.
The United States and its allies have ramped up arms shipments to Kyiv ahead of Russia’s announced offensive in eastern Ukraine, as Moscow tries to salvage its nearly two-month old campaign.
Ukrainian forces have used Western weapons including Stinger and Javelin missiles along with drones, like the Turkish Bayraktar TB2 and U.S.-made Switchblade, effectively to target Russian positions.
The White House said earlier on Thursday that over 121 Phoenix Ghost Tactical Unmanned Aerial Systems would be provided to Ukraine as part of the new arms package. – THE HINDUSTAN TIMES, INDIA TODAY