Russia has ‘already lost’ war in Ukraine, Blinken says; Zelenskyy lobbies for more defense systems
Russia has “already lost” the war in Ukraine in terms of the goals Russian President Vladimir Putin had when his tanks rolled across the border 17 months ago, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in an interview released Sunday.
Blinken said Ukraine has taken back about half the land seized by Russia. He spoke with confidence about the war’s outcome the same day Russian missiles slammed into the historic district of the Ukrainian port city of Odesa and Putin dismissed as a failure Ukraine’s much-anticipated counteroffensive.
“The objective was to erase Ukraine from the map, to eliminate its independence, its sovereignty, to subsume it into Russia. That failed a long time ago,” Blinken told CNN.
Blinken acknowledged that Ukraine faces “a very hard fight” and predicted the counteroffensive would continue for several more months. But weaponry support from the West combined with the Ukrainian military grit and resolve should win the day, he said.
“Unlike the Russians, Ukrainians are fighting for their land, for their future, for their country, for their freedom,” Blinken said, adding that the Ukraine military had “already taken back about 50% of what was initially seized.”
◾ Russian tennis player Vera Zvonareva, a former world No. 2 now ranked 60th, has been banned from entering Poland for the PNB Paribas Warsaw Open tournament that begins Monday.
◾ A Ukrainian drone strike Saturday caused a massive explosion at an ammunition depot in Russia-annexed Crimea, forcing the evacuation of nearby homes. Ukraine has stepped up attacks on Crimea in recent weeks. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has pledged to return control of the peninsula to Ukraine.
◾ The Biden administration continues to decline Ukraine’s request for long-range missiles known as ATACMS, believing Kyiv has more urgent needs and worrying about maintaining sufficient stocks in case of need, the Washington Post reported.
◾ The Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs summoned Russian ambassador Serhiy Andreyev after the “provocative” statement from Putin that western Poland was a “gift from Stalin.” Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki tweeted that “Stalin was a war criminal, guilty of the death of hundreds of thousands of Poles.”
Zelenskyy lobbies for more defense systems
Ukraine needs more help from supporting nations to develop a “full-fledged sky shield” to defeat Russian missile attacks, Zelenskyy said. He said his military has proven it can shoot down “even the Russian missiles that the terrorists boasted about” thanks to air defense systems already provided by Western nations.
“Our defenders of the sky have saved thousands of lives,” he said. “But we need more air defense systems for our entire territory, for all our cities and communities. The world must not get used to Russian terror. Terror must be defeated, and it is possible.”
Russian missiles destroy Ukraine historic sites
Russian missiles tore through the historic district of Odesa early Sunday, damaging or destroying dozens of architectural landmarks in a city under siege from Russian might since Moscow on Monday broke off a deal that had allowed grain shipping from Odesa’s port.
Regional Gov. Oleh Kiper said at least one person was killed in the latest assault, and at least 22 were wounded, including four children. Authorities said 40 buildings were severely damaged or destroyed, including 25 landmarks. Among them was the historic Transfiguration Cathedral, which traces its roots to 1794 and took a direct hit from a missile that reached the basement, Archdeacon Andrii Palchuk said.
“Everything that was created by great architects, destroyed by cynical people!” the Odesa Regional Authority wrote in a Telegram post. Olena Buynevych, the director of the Department of Education, reported on Telegram that five preschool buildings were also damaged.
UNESCO condemned the attack “in the strongest terms,” and Director-General Audrey Azoulay said, “This outrageous destruction marks an escalation of violence against the cultural heritage of Ukraine.”
Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the destruction should be “on the conscience of the Kyiv regime and incompetent operators of air defense systems, which are deliberately deployed by the Ukrainian army in residential quarters.”
‘Kremlin madmen’ won’t succeed, Zelenskyy says
Zelenskyy said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has scheduled for Wednesday the first meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Council, a new feature implemented at last week’s summit of the alliance in Lithuania.
Ukraine is aiming for what Zelenskyy called “everything that brings the defeat of Russian terrorists closer: More air defense for Ukraine, more artillery, more long-range weapons.”
Zelenskyy vowed to restore what the Russians destroyed in Odesa, and he made a point of saying the recent attacks also damaged the Chinese and Greek consulates.
“Obviously, all this is a global threat,” he said in his nightly video address. “The destruction of cities, the destruction of culture, the destruction of ports that are fundamental to the world’s food security. There has never been a terrorist capable of overcoming the world, and these Kremlin madmen will not succeed either.”
Putin dismisses Ukraine counteroffensive as a failure
Ukraine’s counteroffensive has failed and Kyiv’s military has suffered losses of more than 26,000 troops in addition to mercenaries from other countries who have died “because of their stupidity,” Putin said Sunday. The Russian leader held a public discussion with Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko in St. Petersburg. Lukashenko, Putin’s biggest ally, last month mediated the talks that halted a rebellion of Wagner Group fighters who had begun a march to Moscow. Thousands of those fighters are now bivouacked in Belarus.
Putin previously said Kyiv’s counteroffensive appeared unable to succeed despite “the colossal resources pumped in, nor the supply of weapons, tanks, artillery, armored vehicles, missiles, nor the dispatch of thousands of mercenaries and advisers.” Ukraine’s leaders have acknowledged that the counteroffensive has been a slow go but claim to liberate small amounts of occupied land every day.
Zelenskyy promises retaliation for Odesa strikes
Ukrainian authorities said 19 Russian missiles were fired and nine of them were shot down by Ukraine’s missile defense system. Odesa provides a crucial port for the export of Ukrainian grain desperately needed in parts of Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Last week, Russia broke off the safe-shipping agreement, reinstituted a blockade and began nightly strikes. Until Saturday night, most of the missiles targeted the city’s grain silos and docks.
“Missiles against peaceful cities, against residential buildings, a cathedral,” Zelenskyy wrote on Telegram. “There can be no excuse for Russian evil. As always, this evil will lose. And there will definitely be a retaliation to Russian terrorists for Odesa. They will feel this retaliation.”