A military leader who calls himself Vladimir Putin’s “foot soldier” has openly threatened another country for supporting Ukraine.
Ramzan Kadyrov, leader of Russian Chechnya, has threatened to attack Poland unless it agrees to withdraw its support from Ukraine.
Kadyrov, who calls himself Vladimir Putin’s “foot soldier”, has been accused of extrajudicial killings and has previously threatened to kill his opponents.
“Ukraine is a done deal. What interests me is Poland,” Kadyrov said in a video posted to his social media this week.
“After Ukraine, if you give us the command, in six seconds we will show what we are capable of. You better get back your weapons and your mercenaries. And beg official pardon for what you did to our ambassador. Let’s not just ignore it, keep that in mind.”
In the early days of the invasion, the former separatist rebel gave a speech urging Volodymyr Zelensky to apologize to the Russian tyrant.
Kadyrov fought the Russians in the First Chechen War, only to switch sides and join Moscow in the second conflict in 1999.
Human rights groups say he personally oversees the torture of political opponents in secret dungeons and commands death squads known as “kadyrovites”.
Kadyrov’s security forces are also directly or indirectly linked to a series of assassinations of political rivals, human rights activists or troubled journalists.
His message came as Russia pressed its deadly offensive to capture key points in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region, with more shelling of residential areas and pro-Moscow forces claiming to capture a key city en route to Kyiv-held territory. .
At least nine people were killed in the bombing of Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, raising fears that Russia has not lost interest in the central northeast even after Ukraine regained control after fierce battles.
And about 10 people were also killed in Russian attacks on a military installation in the Ukrainian city of Dnipro, well away from the offensive frontline, the regional head of the national guard said.
Three months after Russia launched its invasion on February 24, leaving thousands dead on both sides and displacing millions of Ukrainian civilians, Moscow is focusing on eastern Ukraine after failing in its initial ambition to capture Kyiv.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky reiterated accusations that Moscow was carrying out a “genocide” in Donbas, saying its bombing could leave the entire region “uninhabited”. Russian forces were closing in on several cities in the region, including strategically located Severodonetsk and Lysychansk, which lie on the crucial route to Ukraine’s eastern administrative center at Kramatorsk.
“Russia is pushing Severodonetsk’s pocket, although Ukraine retains control of several defended sectors, denying Russia full control of the Donbas,” the British Defense Ministry said in its latest briefing.
Pro-Russian separatists said they had captured the town of Lyman, which lies between Severodonetsk and Kramatorsk and is on the road leading to major cities still under Kyiv’s control.
Lugansk regional governor Sergiy Gaiday said in a video on Telegram that at least five civilians had been killed in his region – part of Donbass – in the last 24 hours alone.
Four were killed in Severodonetsk and one in Komyshovakha, 50 kilometers from Severodonetsk, he said, accusing Russia of “incessantly attacking residential areas”. “People are willing to risk everything to get food and water,” said Oleksandr Kozyr, head of the main relief distribution center in Lysychansk, on the outskirts of Severodonetsk.
“They are so psychologically depressed that they are no longer afraid. All that matters is finding food,” he said.
Oleg Sinegubov, the regional governor of Kharkiv, north of Donbas, said nine civilians were killed in the Russian bombing on Thursday.
A five-month-old child and her father were among the dead, while her mother was critically injured, he said on social media.
An AFP reporter in the city said the residential neighborhood of Pavlove Pole, in the north, was hit, with clouds of smoke rising from the area.
The reporter saw several injured people near a closed shopping mall, while an elderly man with arm and leg injuries was taken away by doctors.
Kharkiv Mayor Igor Terekhov said the northeastern city’s metro system, which came back online this week after being used primarily as a shelter since the Russian invasion, will continue to function while still providing a safe space for residents.
“We are not going to stop the subway, but we are going to allocate special sectors where you can stay and protect yourself from bombings,” Terekhov said.
Observers believe that Russia’s gains from more than three months of war have been far more paltry than President Vladimir Putin had expected, although Moscow has gained control of a handful of cities in southern Ukraine, such as Kherson and Mariupol.
The Kremlin is now seeking to increase its control over the parts of Ukraine it occupies, including accelerated citizenship for residents of areas under Russian control.
Russian authorities in Mariupol, which was taken this month after a devastating siege that left thousands dead and reduced the city to rubble, canceled school holidays to prepare students to switch to a Russian curriculum, according to Kyiv.
There has been speculation that Russia could try to annex areas of eastern and southern Ukraine it now controls, possibly in alleged referendums during Russian regional elections held across the country in September.
– with AFP