European Leaders Flock to Ukraine on Two Year Anniversary of Invasion

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) – Western leaders gathered in Kiev on Saturday to commemorate the second anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen traveled overnight to Kiev by train with Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, Belgian Prime Minister Alexander de Croo and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

They arrived shortly after a Russian drone attack hit a residential building in the southern city of Odesa, killing at least one person. Local governor Ole Kiper said on his social media account that three women also suffered severe burns in Friday night’s attack on a residential building. Rescue teams are still combing through the rubble looking for survivors.

Foreign leaders are visiting Ukraine to express solidarity as the Ukrainian military runs out of ammunition and weapons and Western aid is in jeopardy.

“Now more than ever, we firmly support Ukraine: financially, economically, militarily and morally. Until this country is finally free,” von der Leyen said. said in a post on X (formerly Twitter) after arriving in Kiev.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, and European Commission President Ursula von der are pictured during a joint meeting in Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, February 24, 2024.・Chairman Leyen, Prime Minister Alexander de Croo. BENOIT DOPPAGNE/BELGA MAG/BELGA via AFP (BENOIT DOPPAGNE/BELGA MAG/AFP via Getty Images)

However, on the front lines in eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk region, Ukrainian soldiers begged for ammunition.

“When the enemy attacks, many of our comrades die. … We are sitting here without anything,” said Volodymyr, 27, a senior artillery officer.

“To protect the infantry… we need a lot of shells, and right now we don’t have them,” said Oleksandr, 45, the commander of an artillery unit.

War has come to Russia too. A steel mill in Russia’s southern Lipetsk region was attacked by a drone on Saturday, causing a massive fire, regional governor Igor Artamonov said, adding that there were no casualties. Russian independent media reported that the Novolipetsk Metallurgical Plant is Russia’s largest steel plant. Videos shared on Russian social media showed multiple fires breaking out at the factory and the sound of explosions.

Russia’s independent news agency Mediazona reported on Saturday that around 75,000 Russian men died in the war in 2022 and 2023.

The paper, along with reporters from other news organizations, said the rate of Russian military losses in Ukraine is unabated, with the Russian military losing about 120 people per day. Journalists said about 83,000 soldiers had likely died by Saturday, the second anniversary of the full-scale invasion, based on a statistical analysis of soldier death records compared to Russia’s heritage database. Ta.

According to Mediazona analysis, the Russian regular army suffered the heaviest losses in the first months of the war. But after prisoners were given freedom in exchange for fighting and President Vladimir Putin ordered a partial mobilization, these groups began to inflict even more casualties, especially in the early months of 2023.

There is a somber mood in Ukraine as the war with Russia enters its third year and Kiev’s military faces increasing difficulties on the front amid dwindling ammunition supplies and personnel. Recently, Russian troops withdrew from the eastern strategic city of Avdiivka, handing Moscow one of its greatest victories.

Earlier this month, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy fired military chief Valery Zarzhiny and replaced him with Colonel Oleksandr Shirschiy, in the most significant leadership shakeup since the full-scale invasion.

Russia still controls about a quarter of the country after Ukraine failed to make a major breakthrough in a summer counteroffensive. Meanwhile, millions of Ukrainians continue to live in precarious conditions amid the barrage of fighting, and many others face a constant struggle under Russian occupation. Most people are waiting for the liberation of Ukraine, which has not yet come.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s wife Olena Zelenska said on Saturday that more than 2 million Ukrainian children have left the country since the war began and that at least 528 have been killed. “The war started by Russia is deliberately targeting children,” she says.

In the US Congress, Republicans have stalled $60 billion in military aid to Kiev, which is desperately needed in the short term. The EU recently approved a 50 billion euro (about $54 billion) aid package for Ukraine aimed at supporting the country’s economy, despite resistance from Hungary.

US President Joe Biden linked the loss of Avdiivka, a defensive stronghold in the Donetsk region after months of heavy fighting, to the stagnation in US aid. Concerns have since grown that Ukrainian forces will face similar difficulties in other parts of the 1,000-kilometre (620-mile) front as pressure from Russian attacks increases.

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