Chris Lange, FISM News
Russia hammered targets all over Ukraine on Thursday, including an attack on Kyiv less than an hour after the U.N. secretary general and President Zelenskyy held a joint news conference in the capital.
Both men are safe, but 10 people were wounded in a strike on an apartment complex. The attacks in and around Kyiv came as residents were returning to their homes and businesses following the withdrawal of Russian forces from the region three weeks ago.
Russia also launched attacks on Odesa near Belarus overnight, though Odesa’s mayor said some rockets were intercepted by Ukrainian air defenses.
Elsewhere, officials reported heavy fire in the Donbas, Ukraine’s industrial heartland in the East. Observers and military analysts believe President Vladimir Putin wants to claim a major victory in the region ahead of Russia’s Victory Day on May 9, which commemorates the anniversary of the capitulation of Nazi Germany in 1945.
Western officials say the Kremlin’s strategy centers around taking the Donbas by surrounding and crushing Ukrainian forces from the north, south, and east but note that Russia has only managed to make small gains so far, and at significant cost to their forces.
NEW: Ukraine’s stiff resistance has limited Russian territorial gains in the Donbas and inflicted “significant” costs on Russian forces: UK Defense Intelligence
Fighting is heavy around Lysychansk & Severodonetsk. 🇷🇺 STILL hopes to gain full control of Luhansk & Donetsk regions pic.twitter.com/X2leSkROMq
— Jack Detsch (@JackDetsch) April 29, 2022
Moscow accuses West of encouraging attacks
Kremlin officials have accused Western countries of encouraging Ukraine to launch strikes inside Russia. The accusation follows a spate of recent fires reported at Russian gas depots and a missile factory. Russia’s Foreign Ministry warned the West not to “test our patience,” saying that any attack on Russian soil will lead to a “tough response,” the Washington Post reported.
The comments apparently come in response to comments Antony Blinken made at a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing in which he said the U.S. was “determined to get [Ukraine] what they need to deal with this Russian aggression and to push Russians out of the country.” He added that it was his “own view” that it is “vital [Ukrainians] do whatever is necessary to defend against Russian aggression and the tactics of this are their decisions.”
Conditions in Mariupol spark new fears of deadly disease outbreak
In Mariupol, Ukrainian fighters holed up in the Azovstal steel plant said intense bombing killed and wounded more people in the battered southern port.
The plight of those who remain trapped in the city has become even more dire, as authorities are now warning that a “catastrophic” lack of safe drinking water and decaying bodies inside the city may lead to outbreaks of deadly diseases like cholera and dysentery.
“Deadly epidemics may break out in the city due to the lack of centralized water supply and sewers,” the city council said on the messaging app Telegram.
Biden asks lawmakers for additional $33 billion in aid
Back in Washington, President Biden is asking Congress for an additional $33 billion in aid for Ukraine. “The cost of this fight is not cheap, but caving to aggression is going to be more costly if we allow it to happen,” Biden said at a press briefing Thursday, adding that the U.S. has nearly exhausted the “drawdown authority” unanimously authorized by Congress last month to help Ukraine defend itself against Russia. “Basically, we’re out of money,” Biden said.
The GOP has so far thrown its full support behind military and humanitarian aid for Ukraine, but the latest request could hit a snag. Republicans expect the Democrats to try to link the aid package to a $22 billion COVID-19 budget request in an apparent effort to smear Republicans ahead of the midterms. The GOP says it supports additional aid for Ukraine but will not sign off on any budget that includes pandemic funding unless the Biden administration reverses its decision to lift Title 42.
Biden appeared to set the tone for potential politicization of aid for Ukraine when he said, “We either back the Ukrainian people as they defend their country, or we stand by as the Russians continue their atrocities and aggression in Ukraine.”
U.S. intelligence helped shoot down plane carrying Russian troops, officials say
U.S. officials are now saying that detailed intelligence they provided to Ukraine helped its forces locate and shoot down a Russian transport plane carrying hundreds of troops in the early days of the war, as first reported by NBC. The real-time reports also allowed Ukraine to thwart a Russian assault on a major airport near Kyiv. The unnamed official attributed these successes to “a massive and unprecedented intelligence-sharing operation with a non-NATO partner.”