As Ukrainian forces dug in on Sunday, Russia lined up more firepower and tapped a decorated general to take centralized control of the war ahead of a potentially decisive showdown in eastern Ukraine that could start within days.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy warned Sunday in his nightly address to the nation that the coming week would be as crucial as any in the war, saying “Russian troops will move to even larger operations in the east of our state.”
He also accused Russia of trying to escape from responsibility for war crimes in Ukraine.
“When people lack the courage to admit their mistakes, apologize, adapt to reality and learn, they turn into monsters. And when the world ignores it, the monsters decide that it is the world that has to adapt to them,” said Zelensky.
“The day will come when they will have to admit everything. Accept the truth,” he added.Experts have warned that the next phase of the battle may begin with a full-scale offensive. The outcome could determine the course of the conflict, which has flattened cities, killed untold thousands and isolated Moscow economically and politically.
In an interview that appeared on “60 Minutes” Sunday night, Zelenskyy said Ukraine’s fate as the war shifts to the south and east depends on whether the United States will help match an expected surge in Russian weaponry in those regions.
“To be honest, whether we will be able to (survive) depends on this,” said Zelenskyy, speaking through a translator. “I have 100% confidence in our people and in our armed forces. But unfortunately, I don’t have the confidence that we will be receiving everything we need.”
Zelenskyy thanked President Joe Biden for U.S. military aide to date but added that he “long ago” forwarded a list of specific items Ukraine desperately needed and that history would judge Biden’s response.
“He has the list,” Zelenskyy said. “President Biden can enter history as the person who stood shoulder to shoulder with the Ukrainian people who won and chose the right to have their own country. (This) also depends on him.”Questions remain about the ability of Russia’s depleted and demoralized forces to conquer much ground after their advance on the capital, Kyiv, was repelled by determined Ukrainian defenders. Britain’s Defense Ministry reported Sunday that the Russian forces were trying to compensate for mounting casualties by recalling veterans discharged in the past decade.
A senior U.S. official from Washington said that Russia has appointed Gen. Alexander Dvornikov, one of its most seasoned military chiefs, to oversee the war. The official was not authorized to be identified and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Until now, Russia didnt have any central war commander on the ground.
The new battlefield leadership comes as the Russian military prepares for what is expected to be a large, focused push to expand control in Ukraine’s east. Russia-backed separatists have fought Ukrainian forces in the eastern Donbas region since 2014 and declared as independent some territory there.
Dvornikov, 60, gained prominence as head of the Russian forces deployed to Syria in 2015 to shore up President Bashar Assad’s government during the country’s devastating civil war. U.S. officials say he has a record of brutality against civilians in Syria and other war theaters.
Russian authorities do not usually confirm such appointments and have said nothing about a new role for Dvornikov, who received the Hero of Russia medal, one of the country’s highest awards, from President Putin in 2016.
U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan, speaking Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union,” played down the significance of the appointment. “What we have learned in the first several weeks of this war is that Ukraine will never be subjected to Russia,” Sullivan said. “It doesn’t matter which general President Putin tries to appoint.”