Ukraine’s intelligence chief says Russia wants to split the country along a demarcation line like North and South Korea as Moscow’s initial plan for a swift takeover faces determined resistance.
After more than four weeks of conflict, Russia has failed to seize any major Ukrainian city and Moscow has signalled it would be scaling back its ambitions to focus on rebel-held areas.
Head of Ukrainian military intelligence Kyrylo Budanov vowed “total” guerilla warfare to prevent Russia carving up the country.
“In fact, it is an attempt to create North and South Korea in Ukraine,” he said, referring to the division of Korea after World War II.
“In addition, the season of a total Ukrainian guerrilla safari will soon begin. Then there will be one relevant scenario left for the Russians, how to survive.”
As Russia’s “military operation” appears to stall, Ukraine has launched a series of counterattacks and reclaimed several villages to the east of Kharkiv and northwest of Mariupol.
However the Russian-backed rebel region of Luhansk said it may hold a referendum on joining Russia, drawing a warning from officials in Kyiv that such a vote would not be legal and would trigger a stronger international response.
President Volodymyr Zelensky urged the West to give Ukraine tanks, planes and missiles as Russians were said to be increasingly targeting fuel and food depots.
Western nations have so far given Ukraine anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles as well as small arms and protective equipment, but have not offered any heavy armour or planes.
“We’ve already been waiting 31 days. Who is in charge of the Euro-Atlantic community? Is it really still Moscow, because of intimidation?” said Mr Zelensky, suggesting Western leaders were frightened of Russia.
France urges US restraint
US officials are attempting to soften President Joe Biden’s comments that Russian leader Vladimir Putin “cannot remain in power”.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Washington had no strategy of regime change in Moscow and Mr Biden had simply meant Mr Putin could not be “empowered to wage war” against Ukraine or anyone else.
Mr Blinken’s comments come after officials in France and the United Kingdom have distanced themselves from Mr Biden’s unscripted remarks from a public address in Poland at the weekend.
“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,” said Mr Blinken during a visit to Jerusalem.
French President Emmanuel Macron, who has spoken several times to the Russian president in peace-making efforts, was due to speak again with Mr Putin on Sunday or Monday.
“We should be factual and… do everything so that the situation doesn’t get out of control,” Mr Macron said on France-3 television when asked about Mr Biden’s remark.
“I wouldn’t use those terms because I continue to speak to President Putin, because what we want to do collectively is that we want to stop the war Russia launched in Ukraine, without waging war and without an escalation,” Mr Macron said.
He stressed that the US remained an important ally, saying, “We share many common values but those who live next to Russia are the Europeans”.
Chernihiv ‘completely devastated’
Extensive destruction has left the population of Chernihiv without water, heating or electricity as Russian troops continue to surround the northern Ukrainian city.
The city’s infrastructure had been destroyed by “active fighting” but efforts are under way to repair the damage, administration chief Viacheslav Chaus wrote on Telegram.
Russian troops have surrounded the northern city for some time.
A key road from the city, located near the Russian and Belarusian borders, leads to Kyiv.
Mayor Vladyslav Atroshenko said the city was “completely devastated” by Russian troops.
He said more than 200 civilians had been killed in recent weeks and that more than half of the city’s original 285,000 residents had left.
The figures could not be independently verified.
France’s foreign minister said there would be “collective guilt” if nothing was done to help civilians in Mariupol which has been besieged by Russian forces.
“Mariupol is a striking example of a military siege, and military sieges are horrible wars because civil populations are massacred, annihilated. The suffering is terrible,” Jean-Yves Le Drian told the Doha Forum international conference on Sunday.
“This is why there needs to be at least one moment when the civilian population can breathe,” he said, adding that this was what the French President Emmanuel Macron was working to secure.
Ukraine and Russia agreed two “humanitarian corridors” to relocate civilians from frontline areas on Sunday, including allowing people to leave by private car from Mariupol, Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said.