- Mentions the really difficult situation for the Kyiv forces in Bakhmut
- Said ‘relevant’ decisions may be needed to save Kyiv’s troops
- Poland’s ‘historic’ role in rallying Western support hailed
- Poland promised more MiG jets for Kyiv during Zelenskiy’s visit
- France’s Macron to China to nudge it to help end Russia’s war
KYIV, April 5 (Reuters) – President Volodymyr Zelenskiy thanked Poland for its “historic” help in rallying Western support for Ukraine during a visit to Warsaw and said Ukrainian troops were still fighting for Bakhmut in the east but could retreat if they were in danger of being cut off. off.
Poland has provided vital weapons to Kyiv since the Russian invasion and has taken in millions of Ukrainian refugees. During Zelenskiy’s visit, Warsaw announced that it would send 10 more MiG fighter jets to Kyiv in addition to the four provided earlier.
Polish President Andrzej Duda said Warsaw is also working to secure additional security guarantees for Ukraine at a NATO summit to be held in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius in July.
“…That will strengthen the military potential of Ukraine,” Duda said at a joint news conference with Zelenskiy.
Zelenskiy said that Ukrainian troops are facing a really difficult situation in Bakhmut and that Kyiv will take “appropriate” decisions to protect them if they are at risk of being cut off by Russian intervention forces.
He said that sometimes Kyiv forces in Bakhmut advanced a little only to be pushed back by Russian forces, but they stayed inside the city. “We are in Bakhmut and it is not controlled by the enemy,” Zelenskiy said.
Bakhmut, in Ukraine’s Russian-held Donetsk province, has proved to be one of the bloodiest and longest battles of the Russian invasion, which is now in its 14th month. Kyiv’s forces held back against a Russian offensive with heavy losses on both sides and the town, a mining and transport hub devastated after months of street fighting and bombing.
“For me, the most important thing is not to lose our soldiers and of course if there is a moment of hotter events and the risk of losing our personnel due to the siege – of course the corresponding correct decisions will be made by the generals there , “said Zelenskiy.
He appears to be referring to the idea of withdrawal.
Ukrainian military commanders stressed the importance of holding Bakhmut and other towns and inflicting losses before the expected counteroffensive.
Mercenaries from the Wagner group – which led the attack on Bakhmut – said over the weekend that they had captured the city center, a claim dismissed by Kyiv.
The US-based Institute for the Study of War said Wagner’s fighters had made advances in Bakhmut and would likely continue to try to consolidate control of the city center and push westward into dense urban areas.
Reuters could not verify reports on the battlefield.
PLAYING THE CHINA CARD
Meanwhile, French President Emmanuel Macron visited China after he and US President Joe Biden agreed that they would try to persuade Beijing to speed up the end of the Russian assault on Ukraine, which is in its second year.
China has called for a comprehensive ceasefire and described its position in the conflict as “neutral”, although the two had pledged an “unlimited” cooperation shortly before the invasion.
Both Macron and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who is due in Beijing shortly after him, have said they want to encourage China to use its influence in Russia to bring peace to Ukraine, or to deter Beijing from in directly supporting Moscow in the conflict. .
The US and NATO say China is considering sending weapons to Russia, which Beijing denies.
Any Chinese supply of lethal aid to Russia for the war in Ukraine would be a “historic mistake with deep implications”, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told a news conference in Brussels on Wednesday.
‘SHOULDER TO SHOULDER’
Poland has played a major role in persuading Western allies to supply battle tanks and other heavy weapons to Ukraine, which has helped Kyiv stave off and sometimes reverse Russian advances so far.
“You have stood shoulder to shoulder with us, and we are grateful for it,” Zelenskiy said after Duda presented him with Poland’s highest award, the Order of the White Eagle. “I believe that these are historic relations, a historic result, and historic strength between our countries.”
Duda said he was confident that Ukraine would emerge victorious from the conflict. “We have no doubt that your conduct is saving Europe from a deluge of Russian imperialism”.
Zelenskiy invited Polish businesses to come to Ukraine before the end of the war to gain a better position in Ukrainian markets as well as in the post-war reconstruction drive.
On Tuesday, the United States pledged $2.6 billion more in military aid for Zelenskiy’s government, including three air surveillance radars, anti-tank rockets and fuel trucks, bringing pledged US military aid to more than $35 billion.
Moscow’s embassy in Washington accused the United States of wanting to drag out the conflict as long as possible, Russian news agency TASS said.
Ukraine’s Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov wrote in Telegram that the MiG fighter jets from Poland “will significantly strengthen our defense, allow us to make our skies safer, save the lives of our citizens and also reduce the destruction caused by the Russian attack”.
The West has stepped up aid as Ukrainian forces prepare to mount a counter-offensive in the east against Russian forces, although exactly when it will begin has not been revealed.
Spain said six Leopard 2A4 tanks it had promised to send to Ukraine would leave the country in the second half of April, later than previously planned. Spain also trained 40 tank crew members and 15 mechanics at a military base in the northeastern city of Zaragoza.
Other NATO countries including Germany, Poland and Portugal have pledged to send a total of 48 Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine.
Reporting by Pavel Polityuk with additional reporting by Ron Popeski, Mike Stone, Alan Charlish, Pawel Florkiewicz and Tom Balmforth; writing by Angus MacSwan and Mark Heinrich; editing by Philippa Fletcher
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