Russian forces shelled a school and residential buildings in eastern Ukraine on Sunday, local Luhansk officials reported, even as the officials implored residents to escape the region “before it’s too late.”
Luhansk Governor Serihy Haidai said three apartment buildings in Severodonetsk burned down and two elderly residents had to be evacuated, but there were no casualties.
Separately, Dnipro Governor Valentyn Reznichenko, in southeastern Ukraine, said Russian forces struck targets across the region, wounding one person.
Ukrainian officials and the state railway announced new evacuation routes but voiced fears that the Russian missile attack Friday on a railway station in Kramatorsk that killed 52 people might be scaring off some Ukrainians from trying to flee the region by rail.
The continuing Russian assault on eastern Ukraine was in marked contrast to the scene in Kyiv, the capital in the country’s north. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy Saturday strolled through streets that Russia recently controlled or were under near constant attacks before Moscow pulled its troops to concentrate its attacks on the eastern Donbas region.
Johnson said Britain would send 120 more armored vehicles and new anti-ship missiles to Ukraine, part of the West’s continuing military support of Ukraine, short of sending troops to fight alongside Ukrainian forces.
Zelenskyy has continued to contend that the West is not doing enough to help Ukraine, but U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan defended what it has done.
“The speed, scale and scope to equip the Ukrainian army is unprecedented,” Sullivan told CNN’s “State of the Union” show on Sunday. He said the United States “will continue to rally the world” to assist Ukraine.
Sullivan said the Kremlin miscalculated in its February 24 invasion in thinking it would “be welcomed with open arms” into Ukraine.
“But what we have learned,” Sullivan said, “is that Ukraine will never be subject to Russia.”
In a separate interview, Sullivan told ABC’s “This Week” show that Russia was, in part, forced to acknowledge “significant” troop losses this past week because it did not take over Kyiv and the rest of Ukraine as it had expected to quickly accomplish.
Even as it moved troops to eastern Ukraine, Russia left behind a trail of destruction near Kyiv, with hundreds of Ukrainian civilians killed in the suburb of Bucha and elsewhere.
Sullivan said the U.S. believes that the massacre of some civilians was carried out by individual Russian troops “frustrated” at their inability to take control of the region around Kyiv.
He said, however, that responsibility for the slaughter of Ukrainian civilians “lies at the feet” of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“There was a plan from the highest levels of the Russian government to target” Ukrainian civilians, Sullivan said. “This is something that was planned.”
He said the U.S. would continue to “squeeze the Russian economy” with sanctions, projecting that its economy will shrink by 10- to 15% this year, diminishing it sharply as a world economic power.
In Rome, Pope Francis celebrated Palm Sunday and opened Holy Week by calling for an Easter truce in Ukraine leading to a negotiated peace. He said leaders needed to “make some sacrifices for the good of the people.”
Celebrating Mass before crowds in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis called for “weapons to be laid down to begin an Easter truce, not to reload weapons and resume fighting, no! A truce to reach peace through real negotiations.”
Zelenskyy warned Saturday in his nightly address that Russian aggression is “not intended to be limited to Ukraine alone. To the destruction of our freedom and our lives alone.” The president cautioned, “The whole European project is a target for Russia.”
Ukraine has opened 5,600 war crimes cases since Russia’s invasion, top prosecutor Iryna Venediktova said Sunday, but the country will face a struggle getting Russian officials to court.
She called the missile strike on the train station in Kramatorsk, a city in the Donetsk region, “absolutely … a war crime.”
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, after seeing the devastation in Bucha, said, “If this is not a war crime, what is a war crime? But I am a medical doctor by training and lawyers have to investigate carefully.”
Russian officials have called the Bucha killings a “monstrous forgery.”
The Russian invasion has forced more than 10 million people from their homes in Ukraine or from the country and killed and maimed thousands.