War in Ukraine | The east of the country holds its breath

The next few days could be decisive in the conflict in Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Sunday evening. The east of the country is preparing for a major Russian offensive in the echo of the bombings, still in progress.

Updated yesterday at 0:29

Lila Dussault

Lila Dussault
The Press

“Russian troops will be heading for a larger operation to the east of our state,” Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky said in an address to the nation Sunday night.


PHOTO PROVIDED BY THE UKRAINIAN PRESIDENCY/ASSOCIATED PRESS

Volodymyr Zelensky, President of Ukraine

However, the inhabitants of these regions have already experienced war. “The majority of them have already been displaced once, and now they have to flee again,” laments Maria Popova, a professor in the political science department at McGill University, specializing in post-Soviet affairs. “Those who are on the front line, or in the eastern regions, are really very afraid,” she adds.

Since 2014, clashes between the Ukrainian army and separatist groups financially and militarily supported by Russia have left 14,000 dead and hundreds of thousands displaced, recalls Ms.me Popova.

According to her, Russian support in the Donbass region in the east of the country was the first sign of the invasion of Ukraine.

There wasn’t a bubbling separatist movement, it was really Russian interference, and its military support, that started the insurgency.

Maria Popova, Professor in the Department of Political Science at McGill University

According to American military specialists, Russian troops could carry out a major offensive from the town of Izium, near Kharkiv, in the northeast of the country, towards Dnipro, “considered a strategic target in the region of Eastern Donbass of Ukraine”, and located north of Mariupol, reported on Sunday the New York Times. The governor of the Dnipro region also claimed that the airport had been hit twice by missiles on Sunday, according to the Associated Press.


PHOTO PROVIDED BY MAXAR TECHNOLOGIES/REUTERS

This satellite image shows an overview of a convoy of armored vehicles and trucks moving south around Velykyi Burluk, east of Kharkiv in eastern Ukraine on Friday.

If eastern Ukraine falls, pro-Ukraine residents risk being specifically targeted by Russian forces, Maria Popova fears. “Since Russia could not take Kyiv in three days, as she had planned, she came to the conclusion that it is not only the Ukrainian government that is ‘Nazi’, but that ‘Nazism’ has infected the Ukrainian nation, explains Mme Popova. So his goal will be to eradicate anyone who is considered a Ukrainian “activist”. »

Evacuations continue


PHOTO LEONHARD FOEGER, REUTERS

Ukrainian refugees arrive in Medyka, Poland, after crossing the border.

For days, the Ukrainian authorities have therefore been enjoining the population of the east of the country to leave the region before the fighting. On Sunday, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said that 4,532 civilians had been evacuated the day before from threatened areas. Evacuations were to take place from Mariupol, a city besieged for six weeks now, but also from Berdyansk, Tokmak and Enerhodar (to the south), as well as from Sieverierodonetsk, Lysychansk, Popasna and Rubizhne (to the east).

Recall that on Friday, a missile attributed to Russia hit the Kramatorsk station in the east of the country, killing 52 civilians, including 5 children, who were preparing to flee.

Apart from the separatist zones of Donetsk and Luhansk, “if Russia takes territories in the east, it will be an occupation, estimates Maria Popova. Russian troops will discover that they are not welcome in this territory, that they are seen as invaders, not as liberators”.

More than 4.5 million Ukrainian refugees have fled their country since February 24, according to figures from the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) published on Sunday.

War crimes and bombings


PHOTO SERGEI CHUZAVKOV, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Rescuers carry a body to the village of Andriivka in the Kyiv region.

More than 1,200 bodies – not necessarily just civilians – have been discovered so far in the Kyiv region. Around Kharkiv, in the northeast, 10 people were killed and at least 11 injured in strikes the day before, the governor of the region announced on Sunday.

In the south of the country, a curfew has been in effect since Saturday evening and until Monday morning in Odessa, the major Ukrainian port on the Black Sea. Indeed, in Mykolaiv, located about a hundred kilometers to the northeast, seven missiles fell overnight from Saturday to Sunday, according to the local military command.

Ukraine has opened 5,600 investigations for alleged war crimes on its territory since the start of the Russian invasion, the country’s attorney general, Iryna Venediktova, said on Sunday.

Sanctions and diplomacy


PHOTO SERGEY BOBOK, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Building damaged by shelling in Kharkiv

The foreign ministers of the European Union will discuss this Monday in Luxembourg new sanctions against Moscow. Halting oil and gas purchases to stop funding the Russian war effort, however, still divides the 27.

Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer is also to become the first European leader to meet President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Monday since the start of the Russian invasion.

The conflict in Ukraine will also be on the menu of a virtual exchange on Monday between Joe Biden and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Pope Francis called from St. Peter’s Square on Sunday for an “Easter truce” in Ukraine “to achieve peace through genuine negotiations”.

A plummeting economy

Ukraine’s economy will contract by 45.1% this year due to the war waged by Russia, whose GDP is itself expected to collapse by 11.2%, according to the latest forecasts of the World Bank published on Sunday.

With Agence France-Presse and the Associated Press

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  • 2200
    Number of Ukrainian men of military age detained so far for attempting to flee the country in violation of martial law.

    source: Ukrainian border services, reported by Agence France-Presse

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