Chris Lange, FISM News
President Biden will convene top U.S. military leaders today in an annual military policy meeting at the White House. The yearly gathering does not typically garner many headlines, but this year’s session takes on heightened significance as the war in Ukraine enters a new phase that has increasingly involved the U.S.
Today’s assembly will cover a “variety of topics,” with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and senior military leaders in attendance, according to a National Security Council spokesperson.
U.S. working with Ukraine in ‘real time’ to provide needed military aid
The U.S. is expected to announce yet another military aid package for Ukraine in the coming days that could match the $800 million pledged last week – the seventh package of military munitions the Biden administration has provided to Ukraine since last August.
Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said aid from the U.S. “played an important role” in thwarting Russia’s attempt to overthrow the capital city of Kyiv.
“It’s the middle of April, the Russians have had to recalibrate,” Kirby said Tuesday in a press briefing. “They’re focusing on the Donbas. That is a different terrain. That is a different fight. It requires different capabilities for both sides.”
Kirby said the administration regularly consults with Ukraine in order to provide defenders with what they need.
“Everything we’re sending is a result of iterative conversations that we’re having with the Ukrainians, literally in real time, about what they need and what we can provide,” Kirby said. “We do the best we can with each package to tailor it to the need at the time. And now the need has changed, because now the war has changed.”
Kirby also said the U.S. has seen “no evidence” to confirm reports that Russia has used chemical weapons in Ukraine.
Japan announced Tuesday that it is sending equipment into Ukraine to help protect its military against potential chemical attacks.
Kirby was also asked about what concerns the U.S. had about Putin’s nuclear threats to which he replied, “We are actively monitoring every single day. Even today, the secretary remains comfortable that we have an appropriate strategic deterrent posture in place and there’s no need to make any changes to it.”
.@PentagonPresSec John Kirby on Putin's threats about nuclear weapons: "We are actively monitoring every single day. Even today, the Secretary remains comfortable that we have an appropriate strategic deterrent posture in place and there's no need to make and changes to it." pic.twitter.com/mXVyjDLe7p
— CSPAN (@cspan) April 19, 2022
Russia rejects UN’s Holy Week ceasefire request as ‘insincere’
Moscow has rejected a plea for a temporary ceasefire in Ukraine during the Eastern Orthodox Holy Week. The request was made by the United Nations secretary-general for civilian evacuation. Russia’s deputy UN ambassador said the ceasefire request is a ploy to buy time for Ukrainian soldiers to regroup and receive shipments of weapons.
Dmitry Polyanskiy, the deputy ambassador, told the Security Council Tuesday that the ceasefire request was “insincere, and in practice, they merely point to an aspiration to provide Kyiv nationalists breathing room to regroup and receive more drones, more antitank missiles, and more MANPADS,” The New York Times reported. “MANPADS” refers to man-portable surface-to-air missiles.
Eastern offensive continues to escalate
Russia continues its campaign to seize control of Ukraine’s industrial heartland in the east, unleashing its military might across hundreds of miles of the Donbas last night. The Ukrainian General Staff said Wednesday that Russia has escalated offensives throughout the east as its forces search for weak points in the Ukrainian lines, as reported by the Associated Press.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Russia’s military is throwing everything it has into the battle, with most of its combat-ready forces now concentrated in Ukraine and just across the border in Russia.
“They have driven almost everyone and everything that is capable of fighting us against Ukraine,” Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address to the nation.
“The Russian army in this war is writing itself into world history forever as the most barbaric and inhuman army in the world,” he said, pointing out that the Russians continue to ruthlessly target residential areas and kill civilians.
Russia has repeatedly denied that it is targeting civilians.
Last holdout in Mariupol virtually leveled by bombs
The Russian military unleashed a barrage of heavy bombs on what remained of the Azovstal steel mill in Mariupol, thought to be the defenders’ last holdout in the decimated port city. Ukrainian troops said bombs also struck a hospital where hundreds were sheltering, including wounded troops.
Ukraine’s General Staff said eliminating the last point of resistance in Mariupol is Moscow’s top priority in a statement.
Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk on Wednesday said that both sides had come to a “preliminary” agreement to allow women, children, and the elderly to evacuate the city via humanitarian corridors, grimly noting that they are facing a “catastrophic humanitarian situation.” Russia has not confirmed any agreement.
The Russian Defense Ministry said that anyone remaining in Mariupol will be allowed to live and given medical treatment if they surrender. Ukrainian forces have rejected similar ultimatums, vowing to continue their resistance.
Elsewhere, the eastern cities of Kharkiv and Kramatorsk also came under deadly attack. Russia said it struck areas around Zaporizhzhia and Dnipro west of the Donbas with missiles.
Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said his forces targeted troop clusters and missile-warhead storage depots in several areas. Those claims have not been independently verified.
A senior U.S. defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Russia has added two additional battalion tactical groups to the south and east within the last 24 hours, bringing the total units in Ukraine to 78, up 65 from last week.