Air raid sirens have been heard across most cities in Ukraine, with President Volodymyr Zelensky saying his country has “reached a strategic turning point” in the war with Russian forces appearing to regroup for a possible assault on Kiev.
Sirens started in the capital city, the western city of Lviv in Odessa, and Kharkiv, Cherkasy, as well as in the Sumy region in northeast of the country early Saturday, reports said.
Speaking in a video posted online, Zelensky urged Ukrainians to be patient, insisting the country will prevail despite reports of Russian forces striking near airports in the western part of Ukraine for the first time.
Zelensky implored those who have stayed to “hold on,” adding, “Be sure to fight. Be sure to give your all strength.”
On Friday, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov announced that Lutsk and Ivano-Frankivsk airfields had been “put out of action” in missile attacks.
Russia says it will halt the military operation instantly if Kiev meets Moscow’s list of conditions, including that Ukraine never attempts to join NATO.
‘Bennett wants us to surrender’: Senior Kiev official
A Ukrainian government official said Friday that Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has urged Zelensky to accept his Russian counterpart’s demands.
The official sharply criticized Bennett’s efforts at mediating the crisis, saying the prime minister was “using the mediation as an excuse to justify the fact that Israel is avoiding transferring military aid to Ukraine or joining the sanctions slapped on Russia”.
The senior official, who spoke to the Walla and Haaretz news sites on condition of anonymity, said Bennett was serving as a mailbox between Ukraine and Russia.
“We do not need a mailbox. We have enough of these,” the official continued. “President Zelensky’s office does not believe this is the way to mediate. If Bennett wants to be neutral and mediate, we would like to see him appoint someone who will deal with the matter day and night to try and reach a compromise.”
Last week, Bennett and Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed the Ukraine crisis in Moscow, followed by a phone call with Zelensky. In his last phone call with Zelensky, Bennett sought to persuade the Ukrainian president to accept Putin’s offer, the official said, according to the Walla and Haaretz reports.
On February 24, Putin announced a “special military operation” in Ukraine after weeks of shelling of the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics (DPR and LPR) by Ukrainian forces.
Russia on Monday set conditions to stop the military strikes, saying Kiev needed to “recognize that Crimea is Russian territory,” and Donetsk and Lugansk are “independent states. And that’s it. It will stop in a moment.”
Source: Agencies (edited by Al-Manar English Website)