By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
KYIV/BUDAPEST (Worthy News) – Pope Francis appealed for peace Wednesday as the suffering continued in war-torn Ukraine, where the Russian military urged Ukrainian forces to surrender in the east. “Let our remembrance, affection, prayers, and help always go out to these people who are suffering so much and who are carrying out a true martyrdom,” Francis told pilgrims in the Vatican’s St. Peter’s Square.
He spoke while the Western NATO military alliance appeared prepared to send more heavy weapons to Ukraine to halt the Russian army’s advantage. But with Russia now controlling about 70 percent of Ukraine’s bombed-out eastern city of Severodonetsk, residents are desperate. Russia pledged Wednesday to evacuate hundreds of civilians trapped in a chemical plant alongside Ukrainian soldiers.
Moscow said the civilians would be transported to the nearby separatist region of Luhansk, but it wasn’t clear when and if a complete evacuation would occur.
Russia also urged Ukrainian troops to surrender as its military aims for victory in the entire Donbas region, Ukraine’s industrial heartland.
However, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky appealed to his forces not to surrender. “We have losses, unfortunately, and they are painful. But we need to hang in there. This is our state. Hanging in there in Donbas is crucial. The more they lose there, the less strength they will have to continue their aggression. Donbas is the key to deciding who will dominate in the coming weeks,” he said.
Zelensky urged Western allies to provide more advanced weapons to Ukraine. As a result, the secretary-general of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, made clear that the alliance would deliver more heavy weapons to Ukraine “because they absolutely depend on that to be able to stand up against the brutal Russian invasion.”
Stoltenberg noted that “NATO allies have supported Ukraine for many years. Since 2014 NATO allies have trained and equipped tens of thousands of Ukrainian soldiers, officers, who are now actually on the frontline fighting the brutal invasion of [Russian] President [Vladimir] Putin, and they make a huge difference.”
But, he stressed, “We need to be prepared for the haul. There is no way we can predict when and how this war will end. But we need to be prepared for a long time to provide support.”
Stoltenberg spoke after meeting leaders of seven European NATO allies in The Hague, the Netherlands.
But questions remained about whether these weapons would arrive in time to push back the Russian military from Donbas.
However, Ukrainian serviceman Mykola tried to stay optimistic, saying: “Russia made a big mistake by attacking Ukraine. We are a strong nation. We will prevail; victory is ours.”
Yet, for now, that appeared wishful thinking in a war that killed tens of thousands and displaced millions of people.
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