War in Ukraine: Zelenskyy again pleads with the West to supply planes and tanks

Published March 27, 2022 at 9:04 AM EDT
Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky remotely addresses the Doha Forum in Qatar's capital on March 26, 2022.
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Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky remotely addresses the Doha Forum in Qatar's capital on March 26, 2022.

President Biden returned to Washington, D.C., on Sunday after a three-day trip to Europe to rally NATO allies. In some of his most forceful language since the Russian invasion began a little more than a month ago, Biden said of Russian President Vladimir Putin: "For God's sake, this man cannot remain in power."

Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is once again pleading with the Westto supply his forces with tanks and planes to aid them in their defense against the Russian invasion. “Our partners must step up their aid to Ukraine,” he said.

Follow the latest developments.

Kharkiv

Residents of Ukraine's 2nd-largest city describe life under Russian attack

Posted March 27, 2022 at 2:27 PM EDT
A destroyed car is seen near a damaged apartment building at a front line discrict of Kharkiv on March 27, 2022
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A destroyed car is seen near a damaged apartment building at a front line discrict of Kharkiv on March 27, 2022

Kharkiv is Ukraine’s second largest city and has been one of the hardest-hit by Russian troops since the start of the war. Kharkiv is situated less than 30 miles from the Russian border.

Nearly half of the city’s 1.4 million residents have fled, and those who remain have crowded into subway stations and bunkers for protection from constant Russian bombardment.

Among those who decided to stay in Kharkiv is journalist Kseniya Kovaleva. In a conversation withWeekend Edition Sunday, Kovaleva said that in the first week of the war, she hid from the shelling in her car in an underground parking lot. But then that quickly changed.

“You never know where the bomb will land so there is no guarantee and you feel sick and tired both mental and physically from staying under the ground the whole time,” says Kovaleva.

The bombing has become so incessant, she says, it has become just another aspect of life.

“Sometimes it is a bit calmer. Sometimes it’s a bit worse. But bombs are falling on the city all the time, every day and every night. And that’s what I hear constantly. So now, sometimes, it seems for me like it is just rain, or something like that, because I really got used to the sound.”

Another resident who spoke with NPR is Oleksandr Honcharov.

When asked what people in Kharkiv need most, Honcharov responded that residents need food and "special equipment" for the soldiers protecting the city. He also asked for a no-fly zone to be placed in order to prevent the Russian military from performing airstrikes on the city.

Honcharov says it's still possible for residents to leave the city if they wish, but many, like himself, have decided to stay.

“This is my country. This is my city. I stay here because now, here, I help our people. I help our military,” he said. “In this war all of us should do something. If everybody do something small all of us make something big.”

Holocaust memorial damaged

Russian troops damaged a Holocaust memorial, the Ukrainian government says

Posted March 27, 2022 at 1:19 PM EDT

A Holocaust memorial site near the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv has reportedly been damaged by Russian forces.

This is the second time since the start of the Russian invasion last month that the country's forces have damaged a Holocaust memorial.

Drobitsky Yar, a ravine that lies on the outskirts of the eastern Ukrainian city, is the site where approximately 15,000 Jewish men, women and children were killed by the Nazis between December 1941 and January 1942. Victims were periodically marched out to the ravine and either shot or were forced to die of exposure in one of at least 13 mass graves uncovered by forensic experts decades later.

Ukraine's Ministry of Defense posted a photo on Twitter of damage to a giant menorah at the Drobitsky Yar site. "The Nazis have returned. Exactly 80 years later," the defense ministry said in the tweet.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has regularly justified Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as an attempt to “denazify” the country. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is Jewish, and lost relatives in the Holocaust.

The battle in the east

Russian-backed leader of breakaway republic of Luhansk says he's planning annexation vote

Posted March 27, 2022 at 12:10 PM EDT

In Eastern Ukraine, the Russian-backed leader of the breakaway republic of Luhansk has told Russia’s Tass News agency that he’s planning an annexation referendum with Russia — a move that Ukrainian officials see as unconstitutional.

The head of the so-called Luhansk People’s Republic, Leonid Pasichnyk, says he expects local residents to vote to join Russia in an annexation vote that he says will happen very soon.

Luhansk is one oftwo breakaway Ukrainian regions that Russia has supported militarily since 2014. That same year, Russia annexed Crimea in a hasty referendum that Ukraine and international observers considered illegitimate.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has expressed willingness to give the regions local autonomy, but only after a national referendum and the withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine.

Ukraine’s military says Russia’s offensive will focus more heavily on the east and south, defending the breakaway republics, in the coming weeks.

Attacks in Lviv

Russian airstrikes hit the city of Lviv near the Polish border

Posted March 27, 2022 at 11:52 AM EDT

Officials in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv say that Russian airstrikes hit the city Saturday in two separate attacks, damaging a fuel storage facility and a factory for military equipment. Both facilities are located in densely populated areas. Five people were reportedly wounded.

The attack occurred on the same day President Biden spoke to a crowd in the Polish capital of Warsaw condemning Russian aggression and committing to continue to aid Ukrainians defending their country.

“With today’s blows, the aggressor sends greetings to President Biden, who is in Poland,” Lviv Mayor Andriy Sadoviy said in a televised briefing.

Lviv is located only about 40 miles from the border with Poland and has thus far escaped the heavy fighting seen in other Ukrainian cities. The relative safety previously led the U.S. and other embassies to move their personnel and operations to the city, and it has acted as a staging ground for civilian evacuations from Ukraine.

An estimated 10 million Ukrainians have left their homes for safer cities farther from the Russian border, with the United Nations saying that around 1.8 million have fled into Poland. That's roughly equal to the population of Warsaw.

The strike on Lviv comes two weeks after more than 30 Russian cruise missiles hit a military training base less than 15 miles from the Polish border, killing 35 people.

Putin's grip on power

Blinken says the U.S. has no aims to remove Putin from power

Posted March 27, 2022 at 10:32 AM EDT
Secretary of State Antony Blinken addresses the media after meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in Jerusalem, on March 27, 2022.
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Secretary of State Antony Blinken addresses the media after meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in Jerusalem, on March 27, 2022.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken sought to downplay remarks made by President Biden that Vladimir Putin "cannot remain in power," telling reporters in Jerusalem on Sunday that the U.S. has no plans to unseat the Russian leader.

“As you know, and as you’ve heard us say repeatedly, we do not have a strategy of regime change in Russia or anywhere else, for that matter. In this case, as in any case, it’s up to the people of the country in question. It’s up to the Russian people,” Blinken said.

Blinken’s remarks come one day after Biden told a crowd in Warsaw, Poland: “For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power.”

Shortly after the speech, White House officials downplayed the apparent call to remove Putin from power, saying Biden’s remark did not represent a shift in Washington’s position of avoiding direct military involvement in Ukraine and does not back regime change.

In response, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters: “That’s not for Biden to decide. The president of Russia is elected by Russians.”

“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.

The nation's top diplomat is in Israel trying to shore-up support for a revival of the Iran nuclear deal, which the Trump administration previously withdrew the U.S. from in 2018.

Humanitarian corridors

Two humanitarian corridors are opening today

Posted March 27, 2022 at 9:46 AM EDT
Ukrainian evacuees board to a train en route to Warsaw at the rail station in Przemysl, near the Polish-Ukrainian border, on March 26, 2022.
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Ukrainian evacuees board to a train en route to Warsaw at the rail station in Przemysl, near the Polish-Ukrainian border, on March 26, 2022.

As fighting and shelling in the east of Ukraine continues, additional humanitarian corridors are opening up to help people escaping violence move east.

Two humanitarian routes are opening on Sunday from hard hit areas, including the besieged city of Mariupol, according to Iryna Vershchook, the deputy prime minister.

According to the United Nations, the conflict in Ukraine has forced more than 10 million people to flee their homes.

Olha Lysencko and her family are among those fleeing the northern city of Chernihiv -- which is in ruins. The city cannot be restored, she told NPR, saying it has been decimated to rubble and puddles of blood. She, her husband and two kids have fled the city in a car caravan. They're now staying in the western city of Lviv.

Military aid for Ukraine

Zelenskyy calls on the West for tanks and planes

Posted March 27, 2022 at 9:31 AM EDT

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has stepped up his calls for the West to supply tanks and fighter jets to his country.

Speaking in an early-morning video message on Sunday, Zelenskyy criticized what he called the West’s “ping-pong” over who and how jets should be handed over.

Earlier this month, the Pentagon rejected a proposal to share Polish fighter jets with Ukraine using a U.S./NATO base in Germany over fears that doing so could draw the alliance into the conflict.

“I’ve talked to the defenders of Mariupol today. I’m in constant contact with them. Their determination, heroism and firmness are astonishing,” Zelenskyy said referring to the besieged southern port city. “If only those who have been thinking for 31 days on how to hand over dozens of jets and tanks had 1% of their courage.”

Stiff Ukrainian resistance — bolstered by weapons from the U.S. and other Western allies – has helped prevent Russia from overtaking the capital of Kyiv. The West has supplied Ukraine with Javelin and Stinger mobile weapons systems to help counter Russian tanks and fighter jets.

But Zelenskyy says that in order to defeat Russia, his forces need more than just missiles and other defensive weapons and asked for fighter jets.

“Who is in charge of the Euro-Atlantic community? Is it still Moscow, thanks to its scare tactics?” he said. “Our partners must step up their aid to Ukraine.

President Biden has pledged to send an additional $800 million in security assistance to Ukraine which will include 100 drones as well as anti-aircraft systems and shoulder-mounted anti-armor missile systems to destroy tanks.