The east of Ukraine is coming under heavy pressure from massive attacks and Chancellor Scholz has to comment on Germany’s position in Davos. The developments at a glance.
In eastern Ukraine, massive Russian artillery and airstrikes are increasingly threatening the Ukrainian defenders.
The shelling of the city of Sievjerodonetsk continued throughout Wednesday, according to the Ukrainian General Staff. 95 percent of the Luhansk administrative region in the Donbass has been occupied by Russian troops, said Governor Serhiy Hajday. The situation is “extremely bad”.
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy therefore called on the international community to stand more clearly on his country’s side. In a video speech, he was also disappointed by the deliberations at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. “No matter what the Russian state does, there is someone who says: Let’s take his interests into account,” said Zelenskyy. “And this despite thousands of Russian missiles hitting Ukraine. Despite tens of thousands of Ukrainians killed. Despite Bucha and Mariupol».
The meeting in Davos continues on Thursday. Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) and Kiev Mayor Vitali Klitschko are expected to appear.
Ukrainians in the east under pressure
Sieverodonetsk and neighboring Lysychansk are the last major cities still held by Ukrainian troops in the Luhansk Oblast. Russia wants to completely conquer the area in order to add it to the so-called Luhansk People’s Republic. Moscow had recognized this as an independent state a few days before the attack on Ukraine – just like the People’s Republic of Donetsk.
The Ukrainian General Staff also reported attacks on Berestove, Lypove and Nyrkove. These are behind the Ukrainian defenders on the strategically important road to Bakhmut. It was said that the attacks had been repelled. But the information could not be verified. Foreign observers fear several Ukrainian brigades could be encircled in Sieverodonetsk.
“In some directions, the Russian groups undoubtedly have tactical successes, that’s no secret in principle,” said Oleksandr Motusianyk, spokesman for the Defense Ministry, in Kyiv. But it is not correct to speak of a withdrawal. The Ukrainian army is trying to maneuver to improve its position and attack again.
As an example of the emergency situation in the East, Governor Hajday cited the burial of at least 150 people in a mass grave in Lysychansk. The police had to help out as undertakers. Both victims of the Russian shelling and people who died of natural causes were buried in the grave. A video showed bodies in white bags – each labeled with their name – being thrown into a pit. After the war, the dead should be properly buried, the governor promised.
Questions for Scholz in Davos: How does Berlin help Ukraine?
Zelenskyy was connected via video to a round of talks in Davos on Wednesday and said Ukraine would not give up any territory. “Ukraine will fight until it has all its territory back.”
Chancellor Scholz’s appearance in Davos should be about the German attitude to the war in Ukraine. Germany has been criticized by its allies in NATO and the EU, but also by Ukraine, for not doing enough to counter the Russian attack.
Berlin has hesitated, especially when it came to the delivery of heavy weapons. However, according to information from the German Press Agency, there are informal agreements among the NATO states not to hand over certain weapon systems to Ukraine. Alliance circles confirmed that the risk of a direct military confrontation between NATO states and Russia should be kept as low as possible.
It is feared, for example, that Russia could interpret the delivery of Western battle tanks and combat aircraft as entering the war and then take military retaliatory measures. Ukraine has not yet received such weapons. Ultimately, however, the decision for or against the delivery of certain weapon systems does not lie with NATO, but each state decides for itself.
The FDP defense politician Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann saw Scholz as having a duty to ensure clarity in the German line. “It must not be that at the end of the war the world sees Germany as a complete brakeman and looser just because we are unable to organize and communicate,” she told the dpa. Germany had organized humanitarian aid and delivered high-value military material and weapons.
That brings the day
The Mayor of Kiev and ex-boxing world champion Vitali Klitschko is also expected at the World Economic Forum on Thursday, who will report on the situation in the Ukrainian capital. Another date draws attention to the peaceful resistance against ruler Alexander Lukashenko in Belarus: In Aachen, the Charlemagne Prize is awarded to Belarusian civil rights activists, including opposition leader Svetlana Tichanovskaya.
In Moscow, the Supreme Court of Russia is deliberating on the Prosecutor General’s Office’s request to declare the Ukrainian regiment “Azov” a terrorist organization. The unit has connections to the far-right scene in Ukraine, and Russian propaganda uses it as an example of the influence of neo-Nazis in the neighboring country. “Azov” has been incorporated into the Ukrainian National Guard for years. But the regiment provided many Mariupol defenders, and the Russian judiciary wants to try these prisoners for alleged atrocities.