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As Russian forces amass in the east, Vladimir Putin declares that the conflict will go on

On Wednesday, as the conflict in Ukraine entered its seventh week, Russia promised to continue its murderous attack, with President Vladimir Putin insisting that the operation was progressing as planned despite a large pullback and heavy casualties.

After being thwarted in their advance on the Ukrainian capital, Russian soldiers turned their attention to the eastern area of Donbas, where Ukraine stated it was examining claims that a deadly substance had been thrown on Ukrainian troops. Although it was not immediately obvious what the material was, Western officials cautioned that the deployment of chemical weapons by Russia would represent a significant escalation of the already devasting conflict currently underway.

According to Western sources, Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24 with the intention of seizing Kyiv, overthrowing the government, and establishing a regime that was sympathetic to Moscow. In the six weeks since, the ground advance has been halted, and Russian troops have lost thousands of fighters and been accused of murdering civilians and committing other crimes in the process.

President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday that Moscow “had no option” but to invade Ukraine in order to protect civilians in sections of the country’s eastern region and “secure Russia’s own security.” He swore that it would “continue until it is completely completed, as well as until the fulfilment of the duties that have been established.”

For the time being, Putin’s troops are preparing for a massive operation in the Donbas, where Russian-allied separatists and Ukrainian forces have been engaged in combat since 2014 and where Russia has accepted the rebels’ claims to self-determination. Local support, logistics, and the topography in the area are believed to favour Russia’s bigger, better-equipped force, which might enable the country to eventually tip the tide in its favour, according to military analysts.

A Ukrainian unit defending a steel plant in Mariupol, a major port city in the Donbass, said that a drone dumped a deadly material on the city. The Azov Regiment, a far-right force that is now a component of the Ukrainian military, made the claim, which could not be independently confirmed by a third party. There were no significant casualties, according to the regiment’s report.

Despite the fact that researchers are attempting to ascertain what the material may be, Ukrainian President  said that “the world must respond quickly.”

A separatist official with ties to Russia seemed to advocate for the use of chemical weapons on Monday, saying Russian state television that separatist troops should capture the facility by first blocking all of its exits before attempting to take control. According to the official, Eduard Basurin, “we’ll next employ chemical soldiers to smoke them out of there.” He categorically denied on Tuesday that separatist fighters in Mariupol had deployed chemical weapons.

Russian attacks on Mariupol have been ongoing for weeks, and Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said investigators were looking into the possibility that phosphorus bombs — which produce horrific burns but are not classified as chemical weapons — were used in the city.

Leaders from Western countries have cautioned that if chemical weapons are discovered to have been deployed, it would constitute a serious violation of international law.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has been referred to as “genocide” for the first time by Vice President Joe Biden, who also said that “Putin is just attempting to wipe away the notion of even being a Ukrainian.”

In Washington, a senior U.S. defence official said the Biden administration was putting together another another package of military assistance for Ukraine, which would be disclosed in the coming days and might amount up to $750 million in all. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to discuss plans that have not yet been made public. The delivery of $800 million in military support ordered by Vice President Biden a month ago is expected to be finished this week.

In the face of fierce opposition from Ukrainian troops backed by Western weaponry, Russian forces have increasingly resorted to shelling towns, razing whole cities and murdering tens of thousands of civilians in the process. More than 10 million Ukrainians have been forced from their homes as a result of the conflict, including roughly two-thirds of the country’s children.

According to Zelenskyy, new evidence of “inhuman cruelty” against women and children in Bucha and other Kyiv suburbs has continued to emerge, including allegations of rape and exploitation.

More than 720 people were murdered in Kyiv areas that had been captured by Russian soldiers, and more than 200 individuals are still unaccounted for, according to the Interior Ministry, which released a statement early Wednesday.

The Prosecutor-Office General’s of Ukraine said on Tuesday that it was also investigating occurrences in the Brovary area, which is located to the northeast. According to the report, the remains of six individuals with gunshot wounds were discovered in a cellar in the hamlet of Shevchenkove, and Russian soldiers were suspected of being involved.

Additionally, prosecutors are examining accusations that Russian soldiers shot and killed four individuals, including a 13-year-old boy, as they were attempting to flee by vehicle from the town of Peremoha in the Brovary area, according to the Associated Press. According to authorities, a vehicle was shot at in another incident near Bucha, resulting in the deaths of five individuals, including two children.

Russian President Vladimir Putin erroneously stated on Tuesday that Ukraine’s allegations that Russian forces had murdered hundreds of residents in the Ukrainian village of Bucha were “fake.” In and around the village, journalists from the Associated Press spotted scores of dead, some of which had their wrists tied and seemed to have been shot at close range.

Putin made his first known public appearance outside of Moscow since the conflict started, at the Vostochny space launch site in Russia’s far eastern region. He also said that the West would fail to isolate Russia and that Russia’s economy has weathered sanctions.

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