Ukraine has continued to endure an onslaught from Russia as the countries reach their second month of conflict.
A fierce and determined showing from the Ukrainian military beat back Russian forces at the beginning of Putin’s “military operation” into the former Soviet state.
Since then, Russia has retreated from the capital city of Kyiv and redoubled efforts in the eastern Donbas region.
Ukraine’s city of Mariupol in particular has been pummeled with Russian fire, and satellite images reveal mass graves in the area have been expanded.
The United States and allied partners are rushing to ship weapons to the Ukrainian military to fight back against Russia’s siege in the east.
Here are five things you need to know about the war this week:
Russian official says territorial ambitions extend beyond Ukraine into Moldova
Rustam Minnekayev, deputy commander of Russia’s Central Military District, said that Russia has expansionary ambitions beyond Ukraine on Friday.
Minnekayev said Russia is looking to take full control of eastern and southern Ukraine to make a path from Crimea to Transnistria, a breakaway part of Moldova occupied by Russia.
“They are not going to stop. The command of the Russian central military district announced the next victim of the russian aggression,” Ukraine’s Defense Ministry tweeted in response. “After gaining control over the southern Ukraine, russia plans to invade Moldova, where they say russian speakers are being ‘oppressed.’”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov declined to comment on the matter.
Moldova is not part of the NATO alliance, therefore, the alliance is not obligated to defend it under Article 5 of the agreement should a Russian invasion occur.
However, it is unclear at this point what punitive steps — if any — will be taken by the West should Russian forces cross into Moldova.
Officials say city of Mariupol will fall
Multiple officials commented this week that Mariupol is likely to fall into the hands of Russian forces soon.
Serhiy Volyna, commander of Ukraine’s 36th Separate Marine Brigade, said in a video message Wednesday Mariupol “may have only a few days or hours left.”
“The enemy units are dozens of times larger than ours, they have dominance in the air, in artillery, in ground troops, in equipment and in tanks,” he added.
Ramzan Kadyrov, the head of Russia’s republic of Chechnya, said Thursday Russian forces are expected to soon take control of Mariupol almost two months after the war began.
A European official also warned of the demise of Mariupol and the potential civilian casualties that could follow as the result of the loss.
“The Russians will continue to use artillery and bombings, and at the same time they will push civilians out of the city. So at the end of the day, we do expect a complete destruction of the city and many civilian casualties in Mariupol,” the official said.
Mariupol would be the first major city Russia captured during the fighting, an area that Ukrainians allege Russians have committed war crimes.
New mass graves discovered near Mariupol
Two new mass graves were discovered close to Mariupol this week by Maxar Technologies.
The first satellite footage was released Thursday showing a mass gravesite in Manhush, Ukraine, more than 10 miles from Mariupol.
The gravesite has four linear rows, each 85 meters long, containing more than 200 graves.
More images were released Friday by the space technology company showing another mass gravesite in Vynohradne, Ukraine.
Maxar said they found “several long trenches that are/will likely become new grave sites.” The site includes several trenches that are 40 meters long.
Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boichenko, who has left the city, said a full evacuation needs to happen for civilians that are still in the Mariupol after the mass grave sites were found.
“We need only one thing: the full evacuation of the population. About 100,000 people remain in Mariupol,” he said.
Churchless Orthodox Easter
Orthodox Christians in Ukraine will most likely not be celebrating Easter in churches on Sunday amid the fighting.
Metropolitan Epiphany, the leader of Ukraine’s Orthodox church, said services should not be held in parts of the country that was under siege.
United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said the fighting should stop for Orthodox Easter as a both a majority of Ukrainians and Russians are Orthodox Christian.
“Easter is a season for renewal, resurrection and hope,” Guterres said on Tuesday. “But this year, Holy Week is being observed under the cloud of a war that represents the total negation of the Easter message.”
“Today I am calling for a four-day Holy Week humanitarian pause beginning on Holy Thursday and running through Easter Sunday, April 24, to allow for the opening of a series of humanitarian corridors,” he added.
Metropolitan Epifaniy said they don’t believe Russia will abide by a humanitarian pause and fears forces would target church services with shelling.
“It is hard to believe this will really happen, because the enemy is trying to completely destroy us,” Metropolitan Epiphany said.
U.S. sends more aid to Ukraine
The Biden administration announced on Thursday it would be sending another $800 million to Ukraine to help aid their efforts to defeat Russian forces.
The military aid package consists of more tactical drones, dozens of howitzers, 144,000 rounds of howitzer ammunition and heavy artillery.
Overall, the U.S. has provided $4 billion in aid to Ukraine since last August, the Department of Defense said.
On top of the aid, a senior U.S. Defense official said U.S. and European troops have been training Ukrainian forces on how to use howitzers.
“Every American taxpayer, every member of our armed forces can be proud of the fact that our country’s generosity and the skill and service of our military helped arm and repel Russia’s aggression in Ukraine,” President Biden said.
Biden also announced Russian-affiliated ships will not be allowed at U.S. ports.