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US Announces Biden Visit to Poland After Russian Onslaught on Ukraine

https://ift.tt/nt1bgoy White House announced on Friday that President Joe Biden will travel to Poland on February 20 to meet with Polish President Andrzej Duda and Eastern European allies.

Coming just before the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, Biden’s visit “will make it very clear that the United States will continue to stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes,” said John Kirby, spokesperson for the White House National Security Council.

The announcement came after Russia’s massive strikes Friday morning across Ukraine. Heavy shelling targeted civilians and civilian infrastructure and caused new power outages. According to VOA’s Anna Chernikova, who is in Kyiv, Ukraine’s energy minister, Herman Halushchenko, confirmed there were strikes at thermal and hydro-generation facilities, as well as at high-voltage infrastructure in six regions.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called Russia’s massive strikes “a challenge to NATO, collective security. This is terror that can and must be stopped,” he said in a video address.


The most difficult situations are in the Zaporizhzhia, Kharkiv and Khmelnytskyi regions. Ukraine’s air defense downed 61 of the 71 Russian missiles launched, according to the Ukrainian Air Force.

“Unfortunately, there were hits. Unfortunately, there are victims,” Zelenskyy said.

The Ukrainian president said several Russian missiles flew through the airspace of Moldova and Romania.

“Another proof that terror does not know and will never know any borders. Another proof that the protection of Ukraine is the protection of the whole of Europe and the world, of every country that simply wants to live,” he added.


Moldova air space

Moldova acknowledged that Russian missiles had flown through its air space and summoned Moscow’s ambassador to complain.

In a published statement, Romania’s Defense Ministry denied Ukrainian reports that a missile had also flown through Romanian air space but acknowledged the missile did enter Moldova’s airspace, reportedly passing just 35 kilometers beyond the Romanian border on its way to Ukraine.

During a press conference, Ukraine’s Air Force spokesman Yurii Ihnat said Ukrainian radar systems recorded two Russian Kalibr cruise missiles flying into Romanian and Moldovan airspace during Russia’s 14th mass missile attack on Ukraine.


Reacting to Ukraine’s claims, U.S. State Department Deputy Spokesperson Vedant Patel said Friday there’s no indication of a direct military threat by Russia to Moldova or Romania at this time.

Speaking to European Union leaders in Brussels on Thursday, Zelenskyy warned that his country has intercepted plans by Russian secret services to destroy Moldova, and Moldovan intelligence confirmed the claim.

His warnings were echoed by a member of the Moldovan parliament, Sinchevici Eugeniu, who told VOA’s Eastern European Division chief Myroslava Gongadze the sudden change in Moldovan government Friday reflects the need for fresh defense measures in Moldova.

“We need to put a big focus on security in our government, which was one of the factors that motivated us to change the government,” Eugeniu said, pointing to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s recent comments on state-owned the Russian news network TASS that the actions of Western nations could soon turn Moldova into the “next Ukraine.”


Additional weaponry

The attacks on Ukraine Friday renewed calls for more weapons aid to Ukraine. European Council President Charles Michel said the missile barrage constituted war crimes.

“The EU and its member states stand by Ukraine and all Ukrainians. And will further speed up the provision of military equipment, including air defense,” he tweeted.

Western countries that have provided Ukraine with arms have so far refused to send fighter jets or long-range weapons capable of striking deep inside Russia.


However, Slovakian Prime Minister Eduard Heger announced Friday that Slovakia can start talks on delivering MIG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine. Zelenskyy said he heard from several European Union leaders at the summit that they were ready to provide aircraft, hinting at what would be one of the biggest shifts yet in Western support for Ukraine.

“Our MIGs can save innocent lives in Ukraine,” Heger said.

In an interview with VOA on Friday, Kirby said Washington has “prioritized air defense whether it’s short-, medium- or long-range” and it will continue to do so.

Kirby did not answer, though, whether the U.S. will provide fighter jets to Ukraine.


“I am not going to get ahead of decisions that haven’t been made yet. We continue to evolve our contributions as the war evolves itself,” he said, noting the U.S. is “in lockstep, talking to the Ukrainians almost every day.”

Ukraine has been promised tanks from the U.S., Germany, and other NATO allies, but it does not yet have enough tanks to launch a counteroffensive against Russia.

Britain’s Defense Ministry said Friday Russian forces “have likely made tactical gains” in two key locations in Ukraine — on the northern outskirts of the Donbas town of Bakhmut and around the western edge of the town of Vuhledar.

The ministry said that on the northern outskirts of Bakhmut, Wagner Group forces have pushed 2 to 3 kilometers further west, controlling the area near the main route to town.


The report said Russia likely has suffered heavy casualties, however, because of the “inexperienced units” deployed there. “Russian troops likely fled and abandoned at least 30 mostly intact armored vehicles in a single incident after a failed assault,” the ministry said.

‘Mixed picture’

In a briefing Friday at U.S. the Center for a New American Security, Celeste Wallander, the assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, said Russia’s military overall “is a mixed picture.” She said as Russia continues to suffer losses in Ukraine, it is also learning both tactically, operationally and somewhat strategically how to adapt. The U.S. is seeing Russia apply lessons learned from previous losses and failures in Ukraine.

“We’re seeing some of those play out in how Russia’s conducting, for example, the operations right now in Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine,” she said.


Wallander emphasized that Russia has “a deep bench of personnel” it can draw upon, and she said the Russian Federation “will remain a militarily capable adversary that we have to right size our plans, our operations and our capabilities to cope with.”

She expressed confidence that “Russia will not achieve its strategic or even its operational objectives, and we are confident that the Ukrainian armed forces are up to the task of defending its country.”

VOA’s Eastern European Division Chief Myroslava Gongadze in Kyiv, Ukraine, and VOA’s National Security Correspondent Jeff Seldin in Washington contributed to this report.

Some information came from The Associated Press and Reuters.


Author webdesk@voanews.com (VOA News)
Source : VOA

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