Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy says he has “great expectations” for a second round of meetings scheduled for next week of partner countries supplying arms to Ukraine.
Zelensky Told reporters on May 21 that he expects positive responses to his requests for multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS) and US jets at the meetings, which are due to take place May 23 online as part of the follow-up to of a meeting of about 40 ministers from countries supporting Ukraine militarily detained last month at the US airbase in Ramstein, Germany.
Live briefing: Russia’s invasion of Ukraine
RFE/RL Live briefing gives you all the major developments on the invasion of Russia, how kyiv is fighting back, the plight of civilians and the Western reaction. For all of RFE/RL’s coverage of the war, click here.
“To be honest, we have high expectations. I would say this is a long overdue process. We are grateful for the significant military support provided by various states. We are expecting a positive outcome. [response] on the supply of MLRS,” Zelenskiy reportedly said in response to reporters’ questions following talks with Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa in Kyiv.
“I have no secrets, we appeal to all countries – from the United States to all European countries on MLRS”,
He said the MLRS “stands still” in other countries, but would be “key” to Ukraine’s ability to seize the initiative and liberate its territory.
Zelenskiy also referred to the reservations expressed by some countries that kyiv will use rocket systems to attack Russia, saying those with such concerns should consider that the war is continuing on Ukrainian territory, including in the Donbass region. .
“These are our territories, and we are going step by step to liberate them. We cannot pay the price of tens, hundreds of thousands of people. So please help us,” he said. he declares.
Costa has become the latest Western leader to visit kyiv. In addition to meeting Zelenskiy, the Portuguese leader met Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal and signed an agreement for unspecified financial support.
Kyiv also got another huge boost of US aid when US President Joe Biden signed a bill to provide nearly $40 billion in military, economic and humanitarian aid to the country.
“Rejoice in a powerful new defense aid. Today it is needed more than ever,” Zelenskiy said. Twitter.
Zelensky mentioned earlier on Ukrainian television that his country could be victorious on the battlefield – but that things could only come to a definitive end “at the negotiating table”.
He warned that there would be more fighting but that the conflict “will definitely end only through diplomacy”.
The developments in Kyiv came as Russia moved closer to taking over Ukraine’s Donbass region, claiming victory in the months-long battle for Mariupol’s Azovstal steel plant while launching a major offensive in the eastern region. from Luhansk.
The last Ukrainian forces entrenched in the Azovstal steelworks surrendered on May 20, the Russian Defense Ministry announced.
It came after a devastating siege that left Mariupol in complete ruins, with some 20,000 feared dead.
“The company’s underground facilities, where the militants were hiding, came under the full control of the Russian armed forces,” the ministry said in a statement.
He said 531 people were part of the group that surrendered most recently, bringing the total number of defenders who had surrendered in the past few days to 2,439.
There was no immediate confirmation from Ukraine, but Zelenskiy said earlier that the Azovstal defenders had only received a clear signal from the military command that they could get out and save their lives.
Zelensky said in the TV interview that the Ukrainian military had inflicted serious damage on the Russian armed forces despite the fall of Mariupol, which Russia sought to capture to complete a land corridor to the Crimean peninsula, which it annexed. in 2014.
Concern is growing over the fate of the Ukrainian defenders who resisted the steelworks for weeks and are now prisoners in Russian hands.
Denis Pushilin, the leader of a Moscow-backed separatist group in the Donetsk region, said on May 21 that the Ukrainians were sure to face a court.
“I believe that justice should be restored. There is a demand for this from ordinary people, from society and, probably, from the sensible part of the world community,” the Russian news agency said. TASS, quoting Pushilin.
He told Russian state television that some foreign nationals were among those who surrendered, but did not provide further details.
Family members of fighters who resisted in the steel mills pleaded for them to be granted rights as prisoners of war (POW) and eventually returned to Ukraine. The International Committee of the Red Cross said on May 20 that it was registering them as prisoners of war.
Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said again on May 21 that authorities “will fight for the return of every soldier” captured at the Azovstal steelworks.
Meanwhile, Russia also launched what appeared to be a major assault to seize the last Ukrainian-held territory in the Lugansk region.
“The Russian army has started very intensive destruction of the city of Severodonetsk, the intensity of shelling has doubled, they are shelling residential areas, destroying house by house,” Luhansk Governor Serhiy Hayday said on his Telegram channel.
In the early hours of May 21, air raid sirens went off across much of Ukraine, including the kyiv region and the southern port of Odessa.
Ukraine’s military staff said it repelled an offensive on Severodonetsk, in what it described as major Russian operations along a stretch of the front line.
Russia had sought control of Mariupol, a port city on the Sea of Azov, to complete a land corridor to the Crimean peninsula, which it annexed in 2014, and to release troops to join the battle for control of the Donbass region.
Zelenskiy said Russia should be made to pay for every home, school, hospital and business it destroys. He called on Ukraine’s partners to seize Russian funds and assets under their jurisdiction and use them to create a fund to compensate those who suffered.
Russia “would feel the true weight of every missile, every bomb, every shell it fired at us,” he said in his nightly video address.