- Zelenskiy says he dealt ‘powerful blows’ to Russian forces
- Russia signals military concentration in eastern Ukraine
- Authorities estimate death toll in Mariupol theater bombing at 300
MARIUPOL/LVIV, Ukraine, March 26 (Reuters) – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has pushed for fresh talks with Russia as Moscow signals it is scaling back its ambitions to focus on territory claimed by Russia-backed separatists. Russia to the east after blocking attacks elsewhere.
In an announcement on Friday that seemed to indicate more limited goals, the Russian Defense Ministry said a first phase of its operation was nearing completion and would now focus on the Donbass region bordering Russia, which has enclaves pro-Moscow separatists. Read more
“The combat potential of the Ukrainian Armed Forces has been significantly reduced, which … allows us to focus our efforts on achieving the main goal, the liberation of Donbass,” said Sergei Rudskoi, head of the Russian General Staff. Operational direction.
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Russian-backed dissident forces have been fighting Ukrainian forces in the Donbass and neighboring Luhansk region since 2014. They declared independence with Moscow’s blessing – but not recognized by the West – shortly before the invasion of the February 24.
Reframing Russia’s goals could make it easier for President Vladimir Putin to claim a face-saving victory, military analysts have said. Read more
Moscow had said the goals of what it calls its “special operation” include the demilitarization and “denazification” of its neighbor. Western officials dismiss this as a baseless pretext for a war which they say is aimed at overthrowing Zelenskiy’s government.
Weeks of on-and-off peace talks have failed to deliver meaningful progress. In a video address Friday night, Zelenskiy said his troops’ resistance had dealt “powerful blows” to Russia.
“Our advocates are leading the Russian leadership to a simple and logical idea: we need to talk, talk meaningfully, urgently and fairly,” Zelenskiy said.
In what officials touted as a major speech in Poland on Saturday, US President Joe Biden “will deliver remarks on the united efforts of the free world to support the people of Ukraine, hold Russia accountable for its brutal war and defend an anchored future. in democratic principles,” the White House said in a statement. Read more
Facing fierce resistance, Russian troops have failed to capture and hold any major city in the month since the invasion of Ukraine. Instead, they bombed cities, devastated urban areas and drove a quarter of the 44 million Ukrainians from their homes.
More than 3.7 million of them have fled abroad, half to neighboring Poland to the west, where Biden met on Friday with soldiers from the US Army’s 82nd Airborne Division reinforcing the eastern flank of the NATO alliance. Read more
“Hundreds of thousands of people are cut off from aid by Russian forces and are besieged in places like Mariupol,” Biden said. “It’s like something out of a sci-fi movie.”
Footage from the southeast port, which was home to 400,000 people before the war, showed destroyed buildings, burnt-out vehicles and shell-shocked survivors venturing out in search of water and supplies. Residents buried their victims in makeshift graves as the ground thawed.
Local officials, citing witness accounts, said they estimated 300 people were killed in the bombing of a theater in Mariupol on March 16.
The city council had not previously provided a toll and said it was not possible to determine an exact figure after the incident. Russia has denied bombing the theater or targeting civilians. Read more
COUNTER-ATTACKS AROUND kyiv
The battle lines near kyiv have been frozen for weeks with two main Russian armored columns pinned down northwest and east of the capital. A British intelligence report described a Ukrainian counter-offensive that had pushed the Russians back east.
“Ukrainian counterattacks and Russian forces retreating to overstretched supply lines allowed Ukraine to reoccupy towns and defensive positions up to 35 km (22 miles) east of Kyiv” , says the report.
Volodymyr Borysenko, mayor of Boryspol, an eastern suburb where Kyiv’s main airport is located, said 20,000 civilians had evacuated the area, responding to a call to clear so Ukrainian troops could counterattack.
On the other main front outside kyiv, northwest of the capital, Ukrainian forces are trying to encircle Russian troops in the suburbs of Irpin, Bucha and Hostomel, reduced to rubble by heavy fighting.
The cities of Chernihiv, Kharkiv and Sumy to the north and east of kyiv also suffered devastating bombardments. Chernihiv was effectively surrounded by Russian forces, its governor said.
Britain said it would fund 2 million pounds ($2.6 million) of food supplies for areas surrounded by Russian forces, following a request from the Ukrainian government. Read more
The United Nations has confirmed 1,081 civilian deaths and 1,707 injuries in Ukraine since the invasion, but says the true toll is likely higher.
The Russian Defense Ministry said 1,351 Russian soldiers had been killed and 3,825 wounded, the Interfax news agency reported. Ukraine claims 15,000 Russian soldiers are dead. Reuters could not independently verify the claims.
Thousands of miles from Ukraine, Russia was conducting military exercises on islands claimed by Tokyo, Japanese media reported on Saturday, days after Moscow halted peace talks with Japan over its sanctions over the invasion of Ukraine. Read more
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Reporting by Reuters journalists in Mariupol and Bucha, Natalia Zinets and Maria Starkova in Lviv and Reuters offices around the world; Written by Lincoln Feast; Editing by William Mallard
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