Ukrainian forces are pushing back Russian forces so successfully that the invaders have been forced to regroup, refit and refocus, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Sunday.
“Russia has changed its behavior in this war,” Sullivan said on CBS News’ Face The Nation. “They have retreated. They have pulled back from substantial territory in northern and northeastern Ukraine. Chiefly the reason they made those adjustments is because they were beaten by the Ukrainians.”
Sullivan said the Ukrainian military has been using equipment that the United States and its allies have been sending the besieged country. Last week, he said Slovakia was able to send an S-300 air defense system because the U.S. was willing to provide a Patriot battery to replace the system Slovakia was giving away.
Sullivan praised President Joe Biden’s leadership in taking on Russia, noting that Moscow is now admitting to military losses and economic damages from the sanctions. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov last week acknowledged that Russia had experienced “significant losses.”
LATEST VISUAL EXPLANATIONS: Mapping and tracking Russia’s invasion of Ukraine
► Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy thanked European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for a global fundraising event that raised more than 10 billion euros for Ukrainians who have had to flee their homes.
► At least 176 children have been killed and 324 injured since the Russian invasion into Ukraine began, Ukraine’s prosecutor general’s office said.
►Ukraine’s deputy prime minister, Iryna Vereshchuk, said 4,532 Ukrainians were evacuated by humanitarian corridors on Saturday. Russian forces, howewever, would not allow people on buses from Berdyansk, Tokmak and Energodar to leave despite a previously agreed-upon route, Vereshchuk said.
► In his nightly address to the nation, Zelenskyy thanked the European leaders for their support and again asked for a total embargo on Russian oil and gas. An oil embargo on Russia as a first step from “the entire civilized world” would “be an argument for them to seek peace, to stop the senseless violence.”
► Italy and Austria both announced Saturday they plan to reopen their respective embassies in Kyiv. The moves come one day after the European Union returned its ambassador to Kyiv.
Retired four-star general and former CIA director David Petraeus said Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union that onlookers should expect “more of what we have seen” now that Russian President Vladimir Putin has turned over military operations in Ukraine to Gen. Aleksandr V. Dvornikov.
Dvornikov led military forces in Syria, where the Russian military was known for “depopulating” areas, Petraeus said. He said the missile strike on a train station in Kramatorsk that killed dozens was the first major operation under Dvornikov’s leadership. Petraeus said the war is now focused in the Donbas region in the east and parts of the south. He said if the Russian military can take over land outside of the separatist states in the Donbas region and grab some land north of Crimea, Putin can spin the success as a win.
Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko and his brother Wladimir Klitschiko appeared Sunday on ABC This Week and said the country needed weapons to continue fighting the Russians, even as the war with the nuclear power is changing.
“Weapons support is very, very important for us in this critical time — and we see who are the real friends of Ukraine,” Vitali said.
Wladimir said: “We cannot defend our country with our fists.”
Wladimir said Russia pulling out of Kyiv did not end the war, but changed where it is being fought. He said fighting continues in the south and the east. “We are expecting Russian military forces being back and targeting the capital of Ukraine.”
Wladimir said the second thing the country needs is for the western world to continue to isolate Russia economically. “Every cent and every trade that you do with Russia … they’re using for weapons to kill us,” Wladimir said.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki told Fox News Sunday that a move at the top of the Russian military operation in Ukraine is a sign of more “brutality” to come.
“The reports were seeing of a change in military leadership and putting a general in charge who was responsible for the brutality and the atrocities we saw in Syria shows that there’s going to be a continuation of what we’ve already seen on the ground in Ukraine, and that’s what we are expecting,” Psaki said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has named Army Gen. Alexander Dvornikov, commander of Russia’s Southern Military District, to oversee the war, media outlets have reported. He has been described as the “Butcher of Syria,” having led brutal campaigns in that country. The Kremlin’s acknowledgement last week of casualties in the war was unexpected, Psaki added.
“Rarely do they acknowledge from the Russian leadership, any elements of weakness or any elements of defeat,” she said.
– Katie Wadington
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy received a show of support from European leaders over the weekend, as U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer made visits to Kyiv. The European Union announced it will be restoring its diplomatic presence in Ukraine now that Russian forces have retreated from areas around the capital.
Johnson said Britain and its partners “are going to ratchet up the economic pressure … not just freezing assets in banks and sanctioning oligarchs, but moving away from use of Russian hydrocarbons.” Johnson also pledged additional military equipment to the Ukrainian military, including 120 armored vehicles and anti-ship missile systems.
The Defense Ministry of Ukraine said Russia has lost over 19,000 troops and thousands of pieces of military equipment in 46 days of war. The ministry posted its tally to Twitter early Sunday.
Ukraine listed Russia’s human toll at about 19,300 personnel. The ministry calculated Moscow’s military equipment loss at 1,384 vehicles, 722 tanks, 1,911 armored vehicles and seven watercraft. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told British media on Thursday that Russia had experienced “significant losses of troops.” On Friday, he pointed to the official defense ministry tally of 1,351 soldiers dead.
In late March, NATO estimated that Russia may have lost as many as 15,000 troops, and up to 40,000 killed, wounded or taken prisoner.
– Katie Wadington
The number of people who have streamed out of Ukraine since war broke out on Feb. 24 has risen to over 4.5 million, the U.N. reported Sunday.
The U.N. refugee agency reported on its data site the higher number, which originates from a number of sources, but mainly border crossing points.
Nearly 2.6 million of those refugees have arrived in Poland, followed by over 686,000 in Romania. As many as 404,000 have arrived in Russia since war broke out, according to the figures. The agency notes many refugees may have moved on to other countries, beyond the neighboring country into which they initially crossed.
– Katie Wadington
In interviews released over the weekend, Volodymyr Zelenskyy simultaneously condemned Russia and its leader for atrocities against Ukrainian civilians while looking toward a peaceful resolution to the war. Zelenskyy told The Associated Press in an interview Saturday that he believes Ukrainians will accept peace despite the horrors they have witnessed.
He said no one wants to negotiate with people who tortured their nation – “as a man, as a father, I understand this very well.” But he said “we don’t want to lose opportunities, if we have them, for a diplomatic solution.”
He also told CBS’ “60 Minutes” that everyone who made a decision or carried out an order involving attacks on Ukrainian civilians must face consequences for war crimes. That includes Russian leader Vladimir Putin, he said.
Civilians remaining in Bucha lined up Saturday for food donated by the local church in the battered Kyiv suburb where Ukrainian forces and journalists reported evidence of war crimes after Russian soldiers withdrew. With other civilians fleeing in the wake of Russia’s invasion, most of the people remaining in Bucha were elderly, poor or unable to leave loved ones. Russian troops withdrew more than a week ago.
Volunteer Petro Denysyuk said he and fellow church friends started providing a wide array of basic foodstuffs and hot meals.
Ukrainian forces and journalists that went into Bucha saw bodies strewn in the streets, evidence of summary executions and the remains of people who could not have threatened soldiers. Russia has denied accusations of war crimes and accused Kyiv of staging them.
A Ukrainian soccer club on Saturday opened a series of charity games on a government-backed “Global Tour for Peace” wearing the names of heavily bombarded cities on its jerseys.
The tour by the Shakhtar Donetsk club aims to raise money for Ukraine’s military in the war against Russia, and also help Ukrainian refugees displaced by the war.
Its first game Saturday was a 1-0 loss to Greek league leader Olympiakos.
Soccer clubs around Europe have been offering to play games against Ukrainian clubs and host youth players after soccer in the country was shut down when Russia invaded in February.
Shakhtar already was displaced from its home of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine in 2014.
Playing in the Athens area on Saturday, Shakhtar players replaced their names on the back of their jerseys with those of cities bombarded by Russian forces, including Mariupol.
– The Associated Press
Contributing: The Associated Press