US President Joe Biden traveled to NATO’s eastern flank on the 30th day of the Russian attack on Ukraine and accused Kremlin chief Vladimir Putin of being a war criminal. Just 90 kilometers from the Ukrainian border, Biden met President Andrzej Duda in the Polish city of Rzeszow on Friday (25 March) and got an idea of the situation of the war refugees.
“The devastation in Ukraine was caused by a man who, frankly, I believe is a war criminal,” Biden said. Despite reports of heavy casualties and uncertain advance, the Russian general staff was satisfied and would now like to focus on the “liberation” of Donbass in eastern Ukraine. Other weapons came to Ukraine from Germany to fight Russian attackers.
“Overall, the basic tasks of the first phase of the operation have been completed,” said Sergey Rudskoy, Russian deputy chief of staff, according to the Interfax news agency. The combat potential of the Ukrainian armed forces is significantly reduced. This will allow directing the main efforts to “achieve the main goal: the liberation of Donbass”.
According to Western military experts, the Russian military is also reacting to progress in larger cities like Kiev and Kharkiv, which faltered after four weeks.
Pentagon: the Russians have overestimated their capabilities
Referring to Russian troops, a senior US Defense Department official said: “They are concentrated in the Donbass.” At the moment there is no advance on the capital Kiev. “They dug, they created defensive positions.” The Pentagon official said: “They obviously overestimated their ability to take Kiev. And frankly, they overestimated their ability to capture any population center. And they clearly underestimated Ukrainian resistance.”
One of the reasons Putin ordered the attack on February 24 was to support the breakaway regions of eastern Ukraine of Donetsk and Luhansk, which are recognized as independent. The Kremlin claims that Ukrainian nationalists are carrying out a “genocide” against the Russian-speaking population in the region. There is no evidence for this. Moscow named other targets of the attack, among other things: a neutral status for Ukraine, the “demilitarization” and “denazification” of the country, and the recognition of the Ukrainian Black Sea peninsula of Crimea, annexed in 2014, as Russian.
The Russian general staff wants to fulfill Putin’s duties
The “special military operation”, as Russia calls the war, will continue until the tasks set by Commander-in-Chief Putin are fully completed, Rudskoy said. “Initially we had no plans to storm (the big cities) to prevent destruction and minimize casualties among soldiers and civilians.” But this can no longer be ruled out.
Defense missiles, machine guns and ammunition from Germany
The weapons from Germany that arrived in Ukraine are 1,500 Strela anti-aircraft missiles and 100 MG3 machine guns. There are also 8 million handgun ammunition. As the German news agency has learned from Ukrainian government circles, further aid from Germany has also arrived for the Ukrainian armed forces in the war zone. These include 350,000 food packages, 50 medical transport vehicles and medical supplies.
Moscow publishes the number of soldiers killed
For the first time in three and a half weeks, the Russians have released data on their army’s casualties. The general staff announced that 1,351 Russian soldiers were killed and 3,825 soldiers were wounded. However, experts speculate that several thousand Russian soldiers died, Ukraine speaks of 16,000 Russian soldiers killed. On the Ukrainian side, 14,000 soldiers were killed and another 16,000 wounded, Moscow said. Ukraine itself last spoke of some 1,300 soldiers killed in its own ranks on 12 March. The figures are not verifiable.
Ukrainians see Russian troops retreating
Heavy fighting was also reported from Ukraine on Friday night. According to the Ukrainian general staff, some Russian units in the north-east have withdrawn behind the border. They had suffered high casualties, sometimes more than half their strength, it was said. Information from the war zone could not be independently verified. However, in recent days, US and British sources have also confirmed that Ukrainian forces have successfully launched counterattacks in the east and northwest of the capital Kiev. Western military powers are monitoring what is happening with the satellites.
Lavrov rants about NATO’s “all-out war” against Russia
In response to additional troops on NATO’s eastern flank, Russia announced it would increase its troops on the western border. Due to the war, NATO had activated its defense plans and placed 40,000 troops on the eastern flank under the direct command of the alliance. Moscow accused the West of waging war on Russia with sanctions. “Today they declared us a real hybrid war, a total war,” said Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
The US wants to supply Europe with huge quantities of liquid gas
In Brussels, US President Biden agreed with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen that Europe should become less dependent on energy supplies from Russia. The US and international partners want to supply the EU with an additional 15 billion cubic meters of liquefied natural gas (LNG) this year. In the longer term, Biden and von der Leyen have announced that the volume is expected to increase to 50 billion cubic meters per year. According to the Commission, this could replace around one third of current gas imports from Russia. At Thursday’s Brussels summit, EU heads of state and government failed to agree on a fundamental cancellation of Russian energy supplies.
Habeck: Germany can quickly reduce its dependence on Russia
According to Economy Minister Robert Habeck (Greens), Germany is making progress on the path of reducing gas, oil and coal from Russia. “Germany is rapidly reducing its energy dependence on Russia and increasing its energy supply,” says a ministry document. Habeck said that by the end of the summer and autumn, Germany could do without Russian coal. As for oil, Russian imports are expected to halve in the summer. In the case of gas, it may be possible to become independent of Russian supplies by the summer of 2024, with the exception of some actions.
A quarter of a million Ukrainian refugees in Germany
By Friday, 253,157 war refugees from Ukraine had entered Germany’s borders. This was announced by the Federal Ministry of the Interior. The actual number is likely to be higher because many Ukrainians do not need a visa and are not checked everywhere. According to the UN refugee agency, more than 3.7 million people have fled Ukraine since the start of the war.