LVIV: Ukraine was at a turning point in the war with Russian forces appearing to be regrouping for a possible assault on Kyiv, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said, as the United States imposed new sanctions on senior Kremlin officials and Russian oligarchs.
With the Russian assault in its third week, Zelenskiy, who has rallied his people with a series of addresses from the capital Kyiv, said Ukraine had “already reached a strategic turning point”.
“It is impossible to say how many days we still have (ahead of us) to free Ukrainian land. But we can say we will do it,” he said. “We are already moving towards our goal, our victory.”
The United States on Friday imposed sanctions on Russian billionaire Viktor Vekselberg, three family members of President Vladimir Putin’s spokesperson and lawmakers in the latest punishment for Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion.
“Treasury continues to hold Russian officials to account for enabling Putin’s unjustified and unprovoked war,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said.
Russian forces kept up their bombardment of cities across the country on Friday in the biggest assault on a European country since World War Two. Satellite images showed them firing artillery as they advanced on Kyiv.
The fighting has created more than two million refugees, and thousands of Ukrainians are trapped in besieged cities.
As hundreds sheltered in Kharkiv metro stations, Nastya, a young girl lying on a makeshift bed on the floor of a train carriage, said she had been there for over a week, unable to move around much and ill with a virus.
“I’m scared for my home, for the homes of my friends, very scared for the whole country, and scared for myself of course,” she said.
Putin calls the invasion a “special operation” to disarm Ukraine and unseat leaders it calls neo-Nazis. Ukraine and Western allies call this a baseless pretext for a war of choice that has raised fears of wider conflict in Europe.
The governor of the Kharkiv region on the Russian border said a psychiatric hospital had been hit, and the mayor of the city of Kharkiv said about 50 schools there had been destroyed.
In the besieged southern city of Mariupol, the city council said at least 1,582 civilians had been killed by Russian shelling and a 12-day blockade that has left hundreds of thousands trapped with no food, water, heat or power.
Moscow denies targeting civilians.
Russia’s defence ministry said the Black Sea port was surrounded, while Ukrainian officials accused Russia of deliberately preventing civilians from getting out and humanitarian convoys from getting in.