The past week has been deadly for Ukrainians in the area of Mariupol and other areas in the southern part of Ukraine. On Wednesday, a maternity hospital was bombed; on Friday, an airfield in the western part of the country was under siege. On Saturday, reports from Ukraine offered that a mosque where people were hiding was shelled, as was a cancer hospital outside Kyiv.
Late Friday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy reported via video that the mayor of the town of Melitopol had been kidnapped by Russian operatives. Zelenskyy lamented, “They (the Russians) have transitioned into a new stage of terror.”
Zelenskyy asked Western nations to provide any help they could to assist in getting the mayor freed. Zelenskyy said during his announcement on Friday that he would “talk to whoever I need to.”
In his address, Zelenskyy said: “We address all the world leaders that talk to Moscow: France, Germany, Israel and others. I personally called the Chancellor of German Scholz and talked to him as well as to Macron.”
French President Emmanuel Macron has spoken to Putin personally multiple times since Russian troops went into Ukraine. He reported that the conversations appeared to have no effect on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s resolve to carry out what Putin called a “special military operation” in Ukraine.
Zelenskyy himself has been a target of Russian forces; however, he has refused to leave Kyiv. His courageous actions have won the embattled president the respect of the world.
Zelenskyy offered a somber announcement as a part of his Saturday address: at least 1,300 Ukrainian troops have been killed since Russia invaded the country on February 28. This conflicts with Russian information that reported nearly 3,000 Ukrainian forces killed and 3,500 more wounded. Prior to his announcement today, Zelenskyy had demurred to release the numbers of casualties.
At last count, at least 2.5 million Ukrainian civilians have fled the country (this number has doubled in the last week when estimates for March 5 held that about 1 million people had evacuated). Most have gone to Poland, on the western border of Ukraine. However, reports that some of these individuals have gone to other Eastern European countries nearby. This has created a humanitarian crisis unseen since World War II.
The United States Congress approved a $1.5 trillion spending bill on Thursday that includes $13.5 billion for Ukrainian aid. This aid is meant to include “billions for food, medicine, shelter, and support for the over two million refugees who have had to leave Ukraine,” according to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY). Schumer also added this funding will help pay for “weapons transfers” including anti-tank Javelin missiles and Stinger anti-aircraft missiles.
On Thursday, President Joe Biden also commented on the monies allocated to assist the Ukrainian people: “We will make sure Ukraine has weapons to defend against an invading Russian force. We will send money and food and aid to save the Ukrainian people.”
In the past year, the United States has provided over $1 billion in “security assistance and military aid” to Ukraine. This aid includes anti-aircraft and anti-tank weapons. In the past two weeks, the United States has given $107 million in humanitarian aid to the Ukraine as well.
The Biden Administration has declined to send other forms of military aid, including the approval of Poland sending MiG fighter jets to Ukrainians. Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned the United States and other Western countries that any type of assistance would be seen as an act of aggression by the Kremlin.
Last week, a group of forty Republican Congresspeople sent a letter to the Biden Administration imploring the White House to allow for the transfer of the Polish planes. Senator Mitt Romney said in remarks Thursday “Enough talk. People are dying. Send them the planes they need.”
The conflict in Ukraine has now entered day seventeen with no end to the fighting in sight, and reports are now coming in that the fight has moved to Western Ukraine.