- The UK says some Russian units have left Ukraine to regroup
- Reporters see ruins and corpses in the restored villages
- Ukraine says Russia is regrouping for attack in the east
- “Ukrainians are not naive,” says Zelensky.
- Berlin warns of threat to gas supplies after Moscow asks for rubles
MALLA RUAN / NEAR IRBIN, Ukraine, March 30 (Reuters) – Russian forces bombed the outskirts of Kyiv and a besieged city in northern Ukraine on Wednesday, a day after pledging to scale back operations there in what the West described as a ploy to regroup forces. By the invaders suffered heavy losses.
Nearly five weeks after the invasion in which Russia failed to capture any major city, a United Nations human rights official said Moscow had bombed 50 hospitals, homes and schools across Ukraine in what may amount to war crimes. Read more
Ukrainian officials called on Russia to say on Tuesday it would scale back operations near Kyiv and the northern city of Chernihiv to “increase mutual trust” in peace talks.
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“This is not true,” Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said in a video address to EU regional officials. “All night long we listened to sirens and missile attacks and heard huge explosions east of Kyiv and north of Kyiv. There are huge battles there, people died, and they are still dying.”
Intense shelling was heard in Kyiv on Wednesday morning from the outskirts of which Ukrainian forces had recaptured in recent days. The capital itself was not bombarded, but windows of relentless artillery were flying on its edges.
Southeast of Irbin, a suburb of Kyiv that has seen fierce fighting for weeks, the frequent bangs of shelling and munitions are heard on the ground and in the air. The Ukrainian evacuees spoke of heavy shelling north of Irbin and shelling of Irbin itself. Emergency workers pulled the bodies out of the rubble.
The leaders of Ukraine and the West warned that Moscow’s apparent gesture for peace at Tuesday’s talks in Istanbul was a cover for a realignment of forces that failed to seize Kyiv.
Russia’s Defense Ministry said on Wednesday its forces had achieved their objectives near Kyiv and Chernihiv and were regrouping to focus on “liberating” the breakaway eastern Donbass region. Read more
Ukraine’s Defense Ministry spokesman, Oleksandr Motozyanek, said that the Ukrainian armed forces had detected some movements of Russian forces away from the Kyiv and Chernihiv regions, but did not consider this a mass withdrawal of Moscow.
“It is preparing to resume offensive operations,” he said.
Russia always lies
The mayor of Chernihiv, Vladislav Astrochenko, said the Russian bombing of that city has intensified in the past 24 hours, with more than 100,000 people trapped inside and with enough food and medical supplies to last about another week.
“This is yet another confirmation that Russia always lies,” he told CNN, adding that 25 civilians were wounded in a “mortar attack” in the city center.
Reuters was unable to verify the situation in Chernihiv. The Russian Defense Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Ukrainian forces retook Irbin this week. Reuters journalists who entered on Tuesday saw Ukrainian forces patrolling a deserted town with destroyed buildings and the body of an old man and woman lying in the streets.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky made it clear that he did not take anything Moscow was saying at face value.
“The Ukrainians are not naive,” he said in a speech overnight. “The only thing they can trust is a tangible result.”
Both sides said Zelensky and US President Joe Biden on Wednesday discussed more aid to Ukraine and more sanctions against Russia.
About a quarter of Ukrainians have been driven from their homes, and the United Nations said on Wednesday the number of those fleeing the country had risen to more than four million. More than half of these refugees are children and the rest are mostly women.
Over the past week, Ukrainian forces have recaptured towns and villages on the outskirts of Kyiv, breaking the siege of the eastern city of Sumy and driving out Russian forces in the southwest.
In the village of Mala Rohan in the eastern Kharkiv region, two burning tanks with torn towers stood near damaged houses. Maxim, a Ukrainian soldier, said the Russians were being pushed back “slowly but surely”.
“Most of them already understood that they made a huge mistake when they came here. So, I think they have no chance here, and we will win.”
Russia says it is carrying out a “special operation” to disarm and “discredit” its neighbor. Western countries say the invasion of Moscow was never justified.
The Donbass region, where Russia says it will now focus its efforts, includes Mariupol, where heavy fighting was reported again on Wednesday. Read more The port city, which had a pre-war population of more than 400,000 people, was devastated a month after a Russian siege and the United Nations says thousands of people may have died there.
The governor of Donetsk, which is part of Donbass, said that Russian forces bombed almost all cities along the front line in the region on Wednesday.
Britain’s MoD said Moscow’s pledge to focus on the Donbass was likely “a tacit acknowledgment that it is struggling to maintain more than one important axis of progress”.
Western sanctions have largely isolated Russia from global trade, but Moscow remains Europe’s largest supplier of oil and gas, and its new demand for payment in rubles, rejected by the West, has raised fears of energy shortages in Europe. Russian sources told Reuters they may keep the contract currency as is with the final payment in rubles. Read more
Two sources told Reuters that the European Union may impose new sanctions on Russia ready next week, as the scale of the measures depends on Moscow’s position. Read more
Germany, Russia’s largest gas customer, declared an “early warning” on Wednesday of a potential emergency if Russia cut supplies. Read more
Economy Minister Robert Habeck urged consumers and businesses to cut consumption, saying that “every kilowatt-hour counts”.
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Additional reporting by Natalia Zinets, Pavel Pollyuk, Gleb Garanish and Reuters Desk.
Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
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