Lauren Moye, FISM News
The weekend brought new civilian fatalities, successful evacuations, and additional military conflict in the Ukraine-Russian war.
Germany surrendered to Ally forces late on May 8, 1945, signaling the end of that war. For this reason, May 9 gained the distinction of becoming Victory Day, a holiday with great significance to the European countries most impacted by World War II. It is also celebrated by Russia in remembrance of their sacrifices in opposing the Axis forces. However, this year the holiday has taken on a new and somber meaning as Russia and Ukraine remained engaged in the greatest European conflict since the end of that war.
“The evil has returned. Again!” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a video message speech about Victory Day. “In a different form, under different slogans, but for the same purpose.”
Russia invaded their southern neighbor on Feb. 24 in what they termed a “special military operation” to disarm and “denazify” Ukraine. Since then, over 5 million citizens have fled the country while roughly double that number have been displaced internally due to fighting. Still, Zelensky voiced confidence that Ukraine will ultimately win.
“No evil can escape responsibility, it cannot hide in a bunker,” he added, alluding to Adolf Hitler’s final days spent in a Berlin bunker. Hitler ultimately committed suicide.
G7 leaders are planning to video conference with Zelensky today to demonstrate their unity with the country.
Since the start of the war, Russia has been accused of committing atrocities against civilians. They have denied intentionally targeting citizens and important infrastructure. However, a Russian bomb hit a school in Bilohorivka sheltering about 90 people. It took four hours for the resulting fire to be extinguished.
“Thirty people were evacuated from the rubble, seven of whom were injured. Sixty people were likely to have died under the rubble of buildings,” city Governor Serhiy Gaidai wrote on the Telegram messaging app. He reported two bodies found, though his independent account has not been independently verified.
A museum dedicated to philosopher and poet Hryhoriy Skovoroda also fell victim to Russian shelling on Saturday. Zelensky said he was “speechless” at the apparent targeted hit against a cultural icon. This year makes for the 300th anniversary of Skovoroda’s birth.
While civilians and culture were destroyed, Ukrainian officials announced that all women, children, and elderly citizens have been evacuated from the Azovstal steel mill in Mariupol. Officials say they will now focus on removing the wounded and medics. In total, Zelensky said that more than 300 citizens were rescued from the location.
The mill is considered a resistance symbol as the last Ukrainian military holdout in the city. Mauripol has been under bombardment and siege for weeks now. Their soldiers have vowed not to surrender to Russian forces.
Fighting remains heavy in the Eastern region of Ukraine. On Sunday, governor of the Luhansk region Serhiy Gaidai confirmed that Ukrainian forces had retreated from the city of Popasna to a more defensible location.
The Southern port city of Odesa has also seen heavy artillery this weekend. Six missiles pounded the city on Saturday, mainly causing damage to a furniture factory and an already damaged airstrip. Russia also reported destroying a navy ship stationed near the port city.
Overall, Russia has sustained heavy losses during the war and has struggled to secure major victories while soldier morale waned. Despite this, Russian President Vladimir Putin appears ready to redouble efforts in his conquest of Ukraine.
In a speech at the Financial Times’ Weekend Festival, CIA Director William Burns said that Putin believes “doubling down” will help his forces “make progress” against Ukraine. He added, “He’s in a frame of mind in which he doesn’t believe he can afford to lose.”
Meanwhile, a top Russian lawmaker accused the U.S. yesterday of being directly involved against Russian forces through the provision of military intelligence to Ukraine. Vyacheslav Volodin wrote on his Telegram channel: “Washington is essentially coordinating and developing military operations, thereby directly participating in military actions against our country.”
The U.S. has denied providing information that includes precise targeting data.