(CN) — U.S. President Joe Biden on Friday said the United States will begin shipping large amounts of liquefied natural gas to European nations vowing to wean themselves off cheap Russian gas, the main source of income underpinning Russian President Vladimir Putin’s regime.
Later Friday, Biden went to Poland where he met with American troops deployed in Poland close to the Ukrainian border and he spoke with war refugees. In the tense weeks before the invasion, Biden sent more than 5,500 additional American troops into NATO’s eastern flank as a message to Putin. Biden has promised to defend all of NATO’s 30 members, but he’s balking at giving NATO an active role in the Ukraine war to avoid sparking a war with Russia.
As he met with American troops near the Rzeszow airport and spoke with refugees, Biden was only 50 miles away from Ukraine and the most dangerous war in Europe since World War II.
In Ukraine on Friday, the fighting remained intense in many parts of the country and there were more reports of civilian deaths. Street fighting continued in the devastated city of Mariupol, a key southeastern port on the Sea of Azov where fighting has raged for weeks. Russian forces say they have occupied about 70% of the city and that they’re closing in on Ukrainian forces there, many of them affiliated with the ultranationalist Azov Regiment.
Ceasefire negotiations between Ukraine and Russia continue, but both sides say they are far from reaching a deal.
“The negotiation process is very difficult,” said Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba. “The Ukrainian delegation has taken a strong position and does not relinquish its demands. We insist, first of all, on a ceasefire, security guarantees, and territorial integrity of Ukraine.”
Russia is demanding Kyiv cede territories now occupied by Russian forces, something Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is unwilling to do. Instead, Zelenskyy continues to urge his compatriots to fight because they are winning the war.
“With each day of our defense, we are bringing the peace we need so much closer,” Zelenskyy said in a nighttime message after spending Thursday making speeches to Western leaders in Brussels. “We are bringing victory closer because in this war it is simply impossible for us not to win…. If Russia had known what it would face that, I’m sure it would have definitely been afraid to come here.”
Zelenskyy has become an international hero and for many the model of a wartime leader with his determined video speeches to parliaments and leaders around the world. His former life as an actor and comedian prepared him well for his current role. He even starred in a popular television show as a schoolteacher who becomes Ukraine’s president after a tirade against his country’s corruption goes viral.
“If, as it is often said, Vietnam was the first war to be fought on television, Russia’s war against Ukraine is the first major war to be fought on social media,” military analysts Graham Allison and Amos Yadlin wrote Thursday in a piece for National Interest. “As Winston Churchill did in the darkest days of Britain’s defiance of the Nazi Blitz, Zelenskyy is courageously rallying his citizens and soldiers to fight the invaders. He is also showing the world what leadership looks like – persuading nations around the globe to provide both material and moral support. Taking a page from Churchill’s defiance of Adolf Hitler’s onslaught, Zelenskyy intends to hang on for as long as possible – hoping against hope for a miracle on the battlefield or that somehow the United States will come to save his country.”