KYIV (Reuters) – Russian troops have abandoned their positions on a captured Ukrainian island, a major setback to their invasion effort that is weakening their blockade of Ukrainian ports, defense officials said on Thursday.
The Black Sea news came as NATO leaders wrapped up their summit in Madrid, with US President Joe Biden announcing $800 million in new weapons to help Ukraine fight off the Russian invasion.
“We’re going to stay with Ukraine, and the whole alliance is going to stay with Ukraine, for as long as it takes to make sure it’s not defeated by Russia,” he said. .
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov compared the new diplomatic low to the return of the Cold War, telling reporters: “As far as the Iron Curtain is concerned, it is already falling. . The process has begun.”
But there may be a possible opening: Indonesian President Joko Widodo said after meeting Putin in Moscow that he had given the Russian leader a message from his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelensky.
Snake Island became a symbol of Ukrainian resistance in the early days of the war, when defenders of the rocky outcrop told a Russian warship that asked them to surrender to “fuck you”, a incident that sparked a provocative meme.
It was also a strategic target, located next to shipping lanes near the Ukrainian port of Odessa. Russia had tried to install missile and air defense batteries under drone fire.
Now, however, Ukraine has begun to receive longer-range missiles and artillery, and the Russian position on Snake Island appears to have become untenable.
“In the end, it will prove impossible for Putin to maintain a country that will not accept his rule,” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said, warning the Russian president that any eventual peace deal would be on the terms of the ‘Ukraine.
“We’ve seen what Ukraine can do to push back the Russians. We’ve seen what they’ve done around Kyiv and Kharkiv, now on Snake Island.”
The Russian Defense Ministry statement described the retreat as “a gesture of goodwill” intended to demonstrate that Moscow will not interfere with UN efforts to organize protected grain exports from Ukraine.
But Kyiv claimed it as a victory. “They always play down their defeats this way,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on Twitter.
“I thank the defenders of the Odessa region who took maximum measures to liberate a strategically important part of our territory,” Valeriy Zaluzhny, commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian army, said on Telegram.
In peacetime, Ukraine is a major agricultural exporter, but the Russian invasion damaged farmland and saw Ukrainian ports seized, razed or blockaded, threatening grain importers in Africa with starvation.
Western powers have accused Putin of using the booby-trapped crop as a weapon to increase pressure on the international community, and Russia has been accused of stealing grain.
A ship carrying 7,000 tons of grain left the occupied Ukrainian port of Berdyansk on Thursday, the regional chief appointed by the Russian occupying forces said.
Evgeny Balitsky, the head of the pro-Moscow administration, said Russian Black Sea ships are “providing security” for the voyage, adding that the port had been cleared of mines.
Separately, the Russian Defense Ministry said its forces are holding more than 6,000 Ukrainian POWs who have been captured since the February 24 invasion.
The conflict in Ukraine dominated the NATO summit in Madrid, where leaders said that Russia “is the most important and direct threat to the security of the allies and to peace and stability in the euro zone. -Atlantic”.
It came as NATO formally invited Sweden and Finland to join the alliance, and Biden announced new deployments of US troops, ships and aircraft to Europe.
Biden said the US move was exactly what Putin “didn’t want” – and Moscow, facing fierce resistance from Western-armed Ukrainian forces, reacted with predictable fury.
Putin accused the alliance of seeking to assert its “supremacy”, telling reporters in Ashgabat, the capital of Turkmenistan, that Ukraine and its people are “a means” for NATO to “defend their own interests”. .
“The leaders of the NATO countries wish (…) to assert their supremacy, their imperial ambitions,” Putin added.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz sacked Cheese fries‘s as “ridiculous” and said the Russian leader “has made imperialism the goal of his policy”.
NATO leaders funneled billions of dollars worth of weapons to Ukraine and faced a new call from Zelensky for more long-range artillery.
“Ukraine can count on us for as long as it takes,” NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg told the summit that ends on Thursday as he announced a new strategic overview focused on the Moscow threat.
The document, updated for the first time since 2010, warns the alliance “cannot rule out the possibility” of an attack on its members.
Russian missiles continued to rain down on Ukrainian cities.
In the southern city of Mykolaiv, rescuers found the bodies of seven civilians killed in the rubble of a destroyed building, emergency services said.
The town of Lysychansk in the eastern Donbass region – the current center of the Russian offensive – is also facing heavy shelling.
The United Nations humanitarian coordinator in Ukraine said on Thursday that 16 million Ukrainians needed humanitarian assistance.

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