Zelenskiy prepares for ‘tough battle’ as Britain’s Johnson visits with help

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  • Zelenskiy expects tough battle in eastern Ukraine
  • Johnson visits him in Kyiv and offers his help
  • At least 52 dead in train station attack
  • Civilians in the Lugansk region ordered to flee

kyiv, April 9 (Reuters) – Ukraine is ready to confront Russian forces amassed in the east of the country, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Saturday, and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has visited to offer him a new financial and military aid. .

Johnson was the latest foreign leader to visit Kyiv after Russian forces withdrew from areas north of the capital just over a week ago. His visit had not been previously announced. Read more

Earlier today, the Ukrainian leader met Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer in Kyiv, warning at a joint press conference that while the threat to the capital has faded, it is gaining in the east.

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“Yes, (Russian) forces are gathering in the east (of Ukraine),” Zelenskiy said.

“It will be an uphill battle, we believe in this fight and in our victory. We are ready to fight simultaneously and seek diplomatic means to end this war,” Zelenskiy added.

Air raid sirens sounded in towns in eastern Ukraine, which became the focus of Russian military action after a withdrawal from areas near kyiv.

Ukrainian officials have urged civilians in the east to flee. On Friday, officials said more than 50 people were killed in a missile strike on a train station in the town of Kramatorsk, Donetsk region, where thousands had gathered to evacuate.

Russia’s invasion, which began on February 24, has forced about a quarter of the population of 44 million people from their homes, turned cities into rubble and killed or injured thousands.

The civilian casualties have sparked a wave of international condemnation, particularly for the dead in the town of Bucha, a town northwest of kyiv that until last week was occupied by Russian forces.

“We will never forget everything we saw here, it will stay with us all our lives,” said Bohdan Zubchuk, a community policeman in the city, describing his life before and after the war. Read more

Russia has denied targeting civilians in what it calls a “special operation” to demilitarize and “denazify” its southern neighbor. Ukraine and Western nations dismissed this as a baseless pretext for war.

Johnson tweeted that he had met with Zelenskiy to establish a financial and military aid package to show “our commitment to his country’s fight against Russia’s barbaric campaign”.

FIFTY TWO DIE AT THE STATION

Friday’s missile attack on the train station in Kramatorsk, a hub for civilians fleeing the east, left shreds of bloodstained clothes, toys and damaged luggage strewn across the station platform.

The city’s mayor, Oleksander Honcharenko, who estimated 4,000 people had gathered there at the time, said on Saturday the death toll had risen to at least 52.

The Russian Defense Ministry denied responsibility, saying in a statement that the missiles that hit the station were used only by the Ukrainian military and that the Russian armed forces had no assigned targets in Kramatorsk on Friday.

Russian state television described the attack as a “bloody provocation” of Ukraine.

In Washington, a senior defense official said the United States did not accept the Russian denial and believed Russian forces fired a short-range ballistic missile in the attack. Read more

Reuters was unable to verify details of the attack.

Honcharenko said he expected only 50,000 to 60,000 of Kramatorsk’s 220,000 residents to remain in a week or two as people flee the violence.

Ukraine’s military has said Moscow is preparing for a push to try to take full control of the Donbass regions of Donetsk and Lugansk, which have been partly held by Moscow-backed separatists since 2014.

Air attacks are expected to increase in the south and east as Russia seeks to establish a land bridge between Crimea – which Moscow annexed in 2014 – and Donbass, but Ukrainian forces are thwarting the advance, the ministry said British Defense in an intelligence update.

The Russian army announced on Saturday that it had destroyed an ammunition depot at the Myrhorod airbase in central-eastern Ukraine. Read more

VISIT OF FOREIGN LEADERS

Johnson and Nehammer traveled to Ukraine a day after European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen made visits aimed at underscoring Western support for Zelenskiy.

Von der Leyen said on Saturday that the European Commission would pledge €1 billion to support Ukraine and countries hosting refugees fleeing war. Read more

Earlier, she said Russian forces appeared to have committed war crimes by targeting civilians in Ukraine, but she said lawyers should investigate the alleged incidents. Read more

A forensic team began on Friday to exhume a mass grave containing the bodies of civilians who local authorities say were killed as the Russians occupied the town. Read more

The Kremlin has repeatedly dismissed accusations that it committed war crimes and called allegations that its forces executed civilians in Bucha a “monstrous forgery”.

Visits by foreign leaders and Italy’s announcement of plans to reopen its embassy in Kyiv later this month have been further signs that the city is returning to some degree of normalcy.

Some Ukrainians have also started returning to the capital, with cafes and restaurants reopening. Read more

On Friday, the EU overcame some divisions to adopt sweeping new sanctions against Russia, including import bans on coal, timber, chemicals and other products. Oil and gas imports from Russia so far remain untouched. Read more

Zelenskiy urged the West on Friday to do more. During the press conference with Nehammer, he said he understood that the sanctions could lead to financial losses for the countries imposing them.

“Nevertheless, there are countries that are not afraid of these important decisions. I am aware of Austria’s support in this matter,” he said, again calling for weapons from “our partners”. .

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Additional reporting by Pavel Polityuk in Cherkasy, Ukraine, James Mackenzie in Yahidne, Ukraine, Janis Laizans in Poland and Reuters bureaus Writing by Michael Perry, Conor Humphries and Paul Carrel Editing by Robert Birsel, Angus MacSwan and Frances Kerry

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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