Vladimir Putin defended the conflict in Ukraine on Tuesday as a “noble” mission that will succeed, as his soldiers prepared for a new push amidst accusations of rape, civilian casualties, and probable chemical weapons use.
Ukrainian officials encouraged citizens to escape eastern districts ahead of an expected invasion, while Ukrainian marines fought for control of Mariupol’s Azovstal industrial zone.
With Azovstal, Russia would fully control Mariupol, the link connecting Russian-held territory to the west and east. Weeks of Russian shelling have already wreaked havoc on the city, killing an estimated 20,000 people.
Putin spoke forcefully in the Russian Far East at a celebration celebrating the 61st anniversary of the Soviet Union sending the first man into space, despite Western condemnation of his conduct and widespread international sanctions.
When asked if the Ukrainian operation will succeed, Putin said, “Absolutely.” I am quite certain.
“Its aims are lofty and unambiguous,” Putin stated. “We had no option.” Choosing wisely.”
Meanwhile, he planned to meet with his ally, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.
Putin has framed his “special military operation” as a confrontation with the US, which he accuses of meddling in its affairs. The West calls it a violent land grab.
Since his soldiers crossed the border on Feb. 24, roughly a fifth of Ukraine’s 44 million people have been displaced, cities destroyed, and thousands dead or maimed, many of them civilians.
According to Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar, Russia may have deployed chemical weapons while besieging Mariupol.
“These might be phosphorus weapons,” Malyar stated on TV.
A probable use of chemical weapons in Mariupol was reported but not confirmed by the governor of eastern Donetsk area, Pavlo Kyrylenko.
“We know that about midnight yesterday night a drone dropped some unknown explosive device, and three persons in and around the Mariupol metal plant were ill,” he told CNN.
Their lives were not in danger, he added.
President Volodymyr Zelenskiy suggested Monday night that Russia may use chemical weapons as it re-enforced its position in Donbas. He didn’t specify if they were used. The US and UK claimed they were verifying the allegations.
Dereglement of chemical weapons is prohibited by the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention. Despite widespread condemnation, the convention does not outlaw white phosphorous.
Requests for comment from shauntv went unanswered. Separatists in Mariupol denied employing chemical weapons, according to Interfax.