Ukrainian forces battled continuing Russian efforts to occupy Mariupol and claimed to have retaken a strategic suburb of Kyiv on Tuesday, mounting a defense so dogged that it is stoking fears Russia’s Vladimir Putin will escalate the war to new heights.
“Putin’s back is against the wall,” said U.S. President Joe Biden, who is heading to Europe this week to meet with allies. “And the more his back is against the wall, the greater the severity of the tactics he may employ.”
Biden reiterated accusations that Putin is considering resorting to using chemical or biological weapons, though Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the U.S. has seen no evidence to suggest that such an escalation is imminent.
The warnings came as attacks continued in and around Kyiv and Mariupol, and people escaped the battered and besieged port city. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused Russian forces of not only blocking a humanitarian convoy trying to take desperately needed aid to Mariupol but seizing what another Ukrainian official said were 15 of the bus drivers and rescue workers on the aid mission, along with their vehicles.
Zelenskyy said the Russians had agreed to the route ahead of time.