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US speech on victory against Russia makes some allies nervous

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelositraveled to the Ukrainian capital over the weekend, leading the second high-level US delegation to meet with the president Volodymyr Zelensky in a week and declare your support for your country’s fight to push back the Russian invasion.

With each visit (the Secretaries of State and Defense traveled to kyiv last weekend), the promise of US commitment to a Ukrainian victory seems grow upeven as how the US defines victory remains uncertain.

On Sunday, a day after her visit to Ukraine, Pelosi told a news conference in Poland:

Ukrainian soldiers look at damaged buildings after a Russian missile attack overnight in downtown kyiv, on April 29, 2022. (David Guttenfelder/The New York Times

Ukrainian soldiers look at damaged buildings after a Russian missile attack overnight in downtown kyiv, on April 29, 2022. (David Guttenfelder/The New York Times

“The United States supports Ukraine. We support Ukraine until victory is achieved. And we support NATO.”

Pelosi, second in line to succeed President Joe Biden, is the highest-ranking US official to visit kyiv since the war began, and her words carry weight as they seem to underscore an expanded view of America’s war goals. United States and its allies.

His visit, with a congressional delegation, followed a joint visit to kyiv by Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and the Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin last Sunday.

Austin caused some controversy and debate afterward when he appeared to change the goal of the war from defending Ukraine’s independence and territorial sovereignty to weakening Russia.

“We want to see Russia weakened to the point that can’t do the kind of things what he has done by invading Ukraine,” Austin said, implying that the United States wanted to erode Russian military power for years to come, presumably that long. while the president Vladimir Putin of Russia remains in power.

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In a welcome development on Sunday, the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross helped organize what was described as a “continuous” evacuation of civilians from the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol, where a dwindling number took refuge. of Ukrainian civilians, soldiers who have refused to surrender to the Russians.

Between 80 and 100 civilians arrived in a bus convoy at a temporary accommodation center 18 miles east of the city, in the town of Bezimenne.

The evacuation appeared to be the fruit of a visit to Putin in Moscow and Zelensky in kyiv last week by Antonio GuterresUN Secretary General, who called the war in Ukraine “absurd”.

Guterres and the Red Cross have been working to get humanitarian aid and food and water supplies to civilians caught up in the fighting; any serious peace negotiations still seem a long way off.

In a Twitter message, Zelensky applauded the evacuation of what he said was a “first group of about 100 people” and said “tomorrow we will meet them in Zaporizhzhia.”

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, or OCHA, said in a statement that it would not provide details of the effort as it continued; e expects more evacuations to resume on Monday.

Russian forces have yet to finally take the last bit of Mariupol, which no longer matters militarily, but has been an inspiring symbol of Ukrainian courage, morale and resilience that will surely go down in Ukrainian history.

But if there is a new allied consensus on supplying Ukraine with heavier and more sophisticated weapons for the last stage of the war in eastern Ukraine, there is no allied consensus on change the target of the war from Ukraine to Russia.

There is a sense in Europe that “the United States is dragging everyone into a different war,” said François Heisbourg, a French defense analyst, citing similar comments by Biden about “the butcher of Moscow” and how “Putin must go.”

Some wonder what Washington is trying to say or do.

“Helping Ukraine prevail is not about waging war against Russia for reasons related to their rule,” Heisbourg said.

“Regime change can be A vision, but not a goal of war”.

He and others said that talk from Washington dovetailed perfectly with Putin’s narrative that NATO is waging war against Russia and Russia is waging a defensive war for its survival in Ukraine.

That may give Putin the excuse on May 9, the annual celebration of the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany, to declare this “special military operation” a war, which would allow him, if he so chooses, to mobilize the population and use recruits extensively in battle.

Talking about the victory over Russia “gives easy ammo to the other side and creates fear that the West might go further, and that is not what we want,” said Ulrich Speck, a German analyst.

“We don’t want to cut Russia into pieces.”

Gérard Araud, former French ambassador to the US and the UN, commented on Twitter:

“Support for Ukraine in its modalities and its objectives must be agreed at the political level among allies. Right now, we’re sleepwalking to no one knows where.”

Reaction

In response, Moscow has raised the tone of its own rhetoric.

On Wednesday, Putin said that any country that “creates a strategic threat to Russia” during this war in Ukraine can expect “retaliatory strikes” that would be “lightning fast.”

Days earlier, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that “NATO is essentially going to war with Russia through a proxy and arming that proxy.”

Putin’s military, having lost what Britain estimates were at least 15,000 killed in action – that’s more than in the entire Soviet Union war in Afghanistan – has been fighting to cut weapons supply lineswestern ammunition and heavy weapons to Ukrainian forces in eastern Ukraine.

On Sunday, the Russians said they had bombed a runway and an ammunition depot at a military airfield near Odessa that stored Western weapons, and Russia has been trying to hit highways and especially rail terminals, as most heavy weapons travel to the east by train.

The Russian goal is to slowly isolate or encircle most of the Ukrainian army east of the Dnipro River and deprive it of new supplies.

But that crushing effort is moving slowly, with fierce artillery battles and heavy casualties on both sides.

Now there is a shortage of gasoline and diesel, at least for civilian use.

It is not just Ukraine’s military that is running short of supplies due to Russia’s blockade of Ukrainian ports and attacks on refineries and fuel depots.

Long lines to buy fuel have been seen even in cities like Lviv, and there are concerns about the impact of shortages on agriculture, even in fields that have not been affected by the war.

A report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations said that only a fifth part of nearly 1,300 large agribusinesses surveyed by the government in mid-March had enough fuel to run the farm equipment needed to plant corn, barley and other crops this spring, which is already causing the price increase of food in countries far from Ukraine.

In a possible sign that Russian morale is slipping, the Russian armed forces’ chief of staff, General Valery Gerasimov, the country’s top uniformed officer, paid a visit to a dangerous front-line position in eastern Ukraine this weekend in an effort to “ change course” of Russia’s offensive there, according to a senior Ukrainian official with knowledge of the visit.

Ukrainian forces launched an attack on a Russian headquarters in Izium on Saturday night, but Gerasimov had already left to return to Russia, the official said.

Still, some 200 soldiers, including at least one general, were killed, said the Ukrainian official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive military operation.

A US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed that Gerasimov had been to eastern Ukraine, but did not confirm the rest of the Ukrainian account.

Fighting has intensified around the large eastern city of Kharkiv in recent days as Ukrainian forces have tried to push Russian units away.

Although the gains have been small, they are emblematic of the strategy of Ukrainian and Russian forces as the war moves into its third month, one that focuses on one village at a time and harnesses concentrated artillery fire to dislodge others.

Ukraine’s military said in a statement on Saturday that it had been able to retake four villages around Kharkiv:

Verkhnya Rohanka, Ruska Lozova, Slobidske and Prilesne.

The claims have been difficult to verify as much of those areas are currently closed to the media;

On Sunday, Ukraine announced that it had rejected Russian advances towards villages in the Donbas, but that too could not be confirmed.

Ukrainian forces were also suspected in another border attack near the Russian city of Belgorod, a staging area for Russian forces, where a fire broke out at a Defense Ministry facility, the regional governor said.

Russian forces that control the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson and the surrounding province on Sunday began imposing a transition from the Russian ruble to the Ukrainian currency, a move Ukrainian authorities described as part of a He tried to cleanse a part of the country of its national identity and embed it in Moscow’s sphere of influence.

At the same time, Ukrainians reported Sunday that almost all cell phone and internet service in the area was down.

Ukraine’s Interior Ministry accused Russian forces of cutting off the service, saying it was an attempt to prevent Ukrainians from seeing accurate information about the war.

Hollywood actress Angelina Jolie, who has been a special representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees since 2011, made his own surprise visit to Ukraine over the weekend, visiting the eastern city of Lviv to meet with displaced Ukrainians from the east who have found refuge there. , including children receiving treatment for injuries sustained in Russia’s missile attack on the Kramatorsk train station in early April.

Pelosi was joined by lawmakers whose comments largely echoed her own.

“This is a fight of freedom against tyranny,” said Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif.

“And in that fight, Ukraine is on the front line.”

Rep. Jason Crow, D-Colo., a veteran and member of the House armed services and intelligence committee, said his focus was on weapons supply.

“We have to make sure the Ukrainians have what they need to win,” he said.

Praising Ukraine’s bravery, he said:

“The United States of America is in this to winand we will support Ukraine until victory is achieved.”

But as always, what is meant by “victory,” whether it involves driving Russia out of Ukraine altogether or simply blocking its advance until its offensive runs out of steam and negotiations take place, remains an open question.

The same goes for the equally central question of what Putin decides is a sufficient victory for his own chosen war.

Steven Erlanger reported from Brussels, Jane Arraf from Lviv, Ukraine, and Marc Santora from Krakow, Poland. Michael Schwirtz contributed reporting from Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine; and Thomas Gibbons-Neff from Kharkiv, Ukraine.

c.2022 The New York Times Company

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