A top Ukrainian official accused Russia of trying to split Ukraine into two countries, drawing a comparison to North and South Korea.
Kyrylo Budanov, the head of Ukrainian military intelligence, said Sunday that Russia was making “an attempt to create North and South Korea in Ukraine,” Reuters reported.
“The occupiers will try to pull the occupied territories into a single quasi-state structure and pit it against independent Ukraine,” Budanov said in a statement released by the Defense Ministry.
But he said Ukrainian guerrilla warfare would prevent that from happening.
Russia has said its invasion is focused on recognizing the independence of Ukraine’s Donbas region, which has been partially controlled by Russia-backed separatists since 2014. The Russian Defense Ministry said last week Moscow had accomplished that goal, and would be moving to secure the “liberation” of Donetsk and Luhansk, two areas within Donbas.
Budanov’s comments came a day after President Joe Biden’s final remarks during a speech Saturday in Poland, where he said of Putin: “For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power.”
The White House has since clarified that the U.S. is not attempting to have Putin removed from office.
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►German Chancellor Olaf Scholz backed up the U.S. position that it’s not seeking to depose Russian President Vladimir Putin. Asked on ARD television whether that’s really the objective, Scholz replied: “This is not the aim of NATO, and also not that of the American president.”
►A rocket attack hit an oil base in the far northwestern region of Volyn on Sunday night, said regional governor Yuriy Pohulyaiko. He did not give details on casualties or the specific location. Volyn’s capital is Lutsk, about 75 miles north of Lviv.
►Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy signed a law Sunday that bans reporting on troop and equipment movements that haven’t been announced or approved by the military. Journalists of any nation who violate the law could face three to eight years in prison.
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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is accusing Russia of treating its dead soldiers worse than animals, and said attempts by his country to exchange prisoners of war have been met with a lack of interest by its adversary.
A news release from the president’s office cites his new interview with Russian media, in which Zelenskyy said he’s willing to conduct the prisoner exchange even while hostilities continue.
“It is not necessary to act according to some generally accepted canons: like, let’s wait until the end of the war, or let’s capture more … I do not understand that,” Zelenskyy said.
The president also said an offer to hand the bodies of Russian soldiers to their relatives elicited a callous response he believes speaks poorly of how President Vladimir Putin’s government treats its own people.
“They first refused, then offered us some bags,” Zelenskyy said. “You know, even when a dog or a cat dies, people don’t do so. These are garbage bags. I don’t understand what people think, what the parents of these children think.”
Russian media outlets have been banned from publishing the interview by the country’s communications regulator and Internet censor, known as Roskomnadzor, the Washington Post reported.
Hours after President Joe Biden said Russian President Vladimir Putin “cannot remain in power,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken made clear the United States does not plan to pursue regime change in Russia.
“I think the president, the White House, made the point last night that, quite simply, President Putin cannot be empowered to wage war or engage in aggression against Ukraine or anyone else,” Blinken said Sunday during a press conference in Jerusalem.
“As you know, and as you have heard us say repeatedly, we do not have a strategy of regime change in Russia, or anywhere else, for that matter,” he said.
As he walked out of church Sunday evening after returning stateside from Poland, Biden was asked if he was calling for regime change in Russia. His one-word answer, according to a pool report: “No.”
In a sweeping and forceful speech concluding a four-day trip to Europe, Biden on Saturday cast the war in Ukraine as part of an ongoing battle for freedom and ended with a blunt call for Putin to be stopped.
“For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power,” Biden said during a visit to Warsaw, Poland, in his strongest comments to date about his desire to see Putin gone.
Shortly after the speech, a White House official speaking on the condition of anonymity said Biden was not calling for Putin to be removed from office.
“The president’s point was that Putin cannot be allowed to exercise power over his neighbors or the region,” the official said. “He was not discussing Putin’s power in Russia, or regime change.”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov responded, “It’s not up to the president of the U.S. and not up to the Americans to decide who will remain in power in Russia.”
“Only Russians, who vote for their president, can decide that,” Peskov said.
French President Emmanuel Macron on Sunday distanced himself from President Joe Biden’s comments calling Russian President Vladimir Putin a “butcher” and someone who “cannot remain in power,” adding that he is trying to avoid an escalation from Russia.
In an interview with French TV station France 3, Macron said he would not use that kind of language and noted his task is to achieve “a cease-fire and then the total withdrawal of (Russian) troops by diplomatic means.
“If we want to do that, we can’t escalate either in words or actions,” Macron said, according to a translation from France 24. Macron and Putin have remained in contact since Russia invaded Ukraine last month.
– Rebecca Morin
The United States’ top NATO representative clarified President Joe Biden’s comments in which he said Russian President Vladimir Putin “cannot remain in power,” saying the full administration believes “we cannot empower Putin right now to wage war in Ukraine or pursue these acts of aggression.”
Julianne Smith, United States ambassador to NATO, said Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union that Biden met with Ukrainian refugees ahead of his speech Saturday and his ad-libbed line was a “human reaction to the stories that he had heard that day.”
– Rebecca Morin
Mariupol, which has been pummeled by Russian attacks, is now 85% destroyed, Ukraine’s deputy prime minister, Olga Stefanishyna, said Sunday: “It simply does not exist anymore.”
“In Mariupol, the situation is extremely complicated, although we managed to take out of there more than 150,000 people, but too many of them still remain there,” she said on ABC News’ “This Week.” “They don’t have access to water, to any food supplies, to anything.”
She also said Russia has “forcefully displaced” some of Mariupol’s people to Russia, echoing a claim made last week by the city council.
Former CIA Director Gen. David Petraeus called the city “a bit of a Ukrainian Alamo.” Mariupol is likely to fall to the Russians despite a vigorous defense, he said.
“It’s fighting to the last defender and pinning down multiple Russian battalions … very heroically. But ultimately it looks as if it’s going to have to collapse. It’s going to be taken,” he told “This Week.”
– Katie Wadington
Ukrainian Ambassador Oksana Markarova indicated Sunday that Russian President Vladimir Putin should not lead the country if he is convicted of war crimes.
Ukraine submitted all the applications to open investigations against Russia in international courts for war crimes, Markarova said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
“Every Russian that is responsible for it will have to end up in jail for these war crimes.(Putin) has nothing to do to lead a state if Russia would like to be a democratic or even a civilized state,” she said.
“I think it will be difficult to run the state from The Hague,” Markarova said, referring to the Dutch city where those accused of war crimes are tried.
Speaking on NBC News’ “Meet the Press,” Markarova called on Western allies to give Ukraine more military support.
“We are not asking for American soldiers, but we need all the support … all the weapons including the anti-air, including the airplanes, everything, to stop this brutal destruction,” she said. “We will not surrender.”
– Rebecca Morin and Katie Wadington
The Biden administration decided over two weeks ago that a deal to send MiG-29 fighter jets from Poland to Ukraine – with the U.S. then replacing those with F-16s – was not possible, yet the issue remains a talking point.
Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, told “Meet the Press” on Sunday that it should be revisited since the U.S. sends other military equipment to Ukraine. “We should also send the MiG 29s, to raise that issue again,” Portman said, noting Secretary of State Antony Blinken gave a “green light” to the deal before the administration changed its mind. “And the Ukrainians insist that they need it, they want it, it would be helpful. I think we need to trust them on that.”
On “Fox News Sunday,” Florida Republican Sen. Rick Scott echoed the same sentiment. Julianne Smith, United States Ambassador to NATO, said the administration was working with NATO allies to meet Ukraine’s defense needs but said the delivery of Polish fighter jets was not possible.
“Poland came forward with the idea of offering the Soviet air jets, we looked at that, we had some questions about it and at the end the United State believed that in this case the delivery of those jets was untenable,” Smith said.
Smith said there were questions about delivering the jets from Poland to Ukraine and concerns surrounding the Ukrainian pilots who could be flying the jets.
– Ana Faguy and Katie Wadington
Finland will discontinue train service into Russia on Monday, severing rail links into EU countries.
Since Moscow invaded Ukraine, Finnish train operator VR has operated a route between Helsinki, Finland, and St. Petersburg, Russia, to “provide a safe passage to the Finnish citizens.”
“During these weeks, the people who have wanted to depart from Russia have had adequate time to leave. Now, due to the sanctions, we will discontinue the service for now”, Topi Simola, SVP for Passenger Services at VR Group. said late last week.
– Katie Wadington
A spokesperson for the Kremlin on Saturday said President Joe Biden’s statement that Vladimir Putin “cannot remain in power” was “extremely negative” for U.S. relations with Russia.
“Only Russians, who vote for their president, can decide that,” Dmitry Peskov told The Associated Press. “And of course, it is unbecoming for the president of the U.S. to make such statements.”
The White House walked back Biden’s initial statements in Poland, saying the president was not endorsing regime change, but meant that “Putin cannot be allowed to exercise power over his neighbors or the region.”
Peskov said that with his statements, Biden was “narrowing the window of opportunity for our bilateral relations under the current administration.”