Russia intensified its offensive against eastern Ukraine on Friday, using artillery, rocket-propelled grenades and aircraft to strike the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, destroying residential buildings and killing a number of civilians, according to Ukrainian civilian and military officials.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy described conditions in the Donbas region, which includes Luhansk and Donetsk, as “hell” and said the region had been “completely destroyed” by Russia’s invasion. He accused Russian forces of trying to kill as many Ukrainians and do as much damage as possible.
Donbas is now the focus of Russian President Vladimir Putin after his troops failed to capture the capital Kyiv during the early days of the war.
Meanwhile, in the southern port city of Mariupol, the site of the bloodiest siege of the war, the last wounded soldiers from Ukrainian units who have been kept evacuated from their bastion, the Azovstal steelworks, said their commander.
The evacuation of the last fighter jets, their number unclear, follows the handover of almost 2,000 Ukrainian soldiers in recent days, according to the Russian Defense Minister.
The commander of the Ukrainian Azov Regiment, the key to helping defend the facility, said efforts to remove the dead from the battlefield were also ongoing. Russia has begun withdrawing troops from the site.
New support for G7
The finance ministers of the group of seven (G7) nations have pledged $ 19.8 billion to support Ukraine’s finances during Russia’s invasion, a statement from the group said on Friday.
The G7, an organization of leaders from some of the world’s largest economies – Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States – said the funds would be used to help Ukraine “close its funding gap and continue to secure basic services. to the Ukrainian people. “
“While addressing Ukraine’s humanitarian and other material needs, we recognize in particular Ukraine’s urgent short-term financing needs,” the statement said, adding that the proposed $ 19.8 billion fund is “in addition to the latest announcements of additional military and humanitarian aid. “
On Thursday, the US Senate approved a new $ 40 billion aid package to Ukraine as it fights Russia’s invasion. The House of Representatives voted in favor of the package last week.
US President Joe Biden is expected to sign the measure immediately.
President Zelenskyy called the aid package “a manifestation of strong leadership and a necessary contribution to our common defense of freedom.”
In another development, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the Biden administration approves another $ 100 million in military aid to Ukraine. The aid package includes another 18 howitzers and 18 vehicles to move them, and three more anti-artillery radars, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said.
Russia has said it will shut down natural gas to Finland on Saturday. The move comes after Finland and Sweden applied for membership in the NATO alliance, driven by security concerns in the wake of Russia’s Ukraine invasion.
The Kremlin said it was strengthening its forces on Russia’s western border and said that Finland’s and Sweden’s move to join NATO was part of an increase in military threats.