Russia bombs Ukrainian cities despite promise to withdraw from Kyiv
- US expects Russia to redeploy and redeploy forces inside Ukraine
- Journalists see ruins and bodies in recaptured villages
- Germany says gas supply at risk after Moscow asks for rubles
MALA ROHAN/NEAR IRPIN, Ukraine, March 30 (Reuters) – Russian forces shelled the outskirts of kyiv and a besieged city in northern Ukraine on Wednesday after promising to scale back attacks there in what the West has called it a ploy by Moscow to stem its massive attacks. losses and regroup for further offensives.
Nearly five weeks into an invasion in which Russia failed to capture any major cities, the top UN human rights official says Moscow bombed 50 hospitals as well as homes and schools across Ukraine, which could constitute war crimes. Read more
Ukrainian officials have denounced Russia for saying on Tuesday it would limit operations near the capital Kyiv and the northern city of Chernihiv “to increase mutual trust” for the peace talks.
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“That’s not true,” Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said in a video address to regional European Union officials. “All night we listened to sirens, rocket fire and we heard huge explosions east of Kyiv and north of Kyiv. There are huge battles there, people died , die again.”
Intensified shelling could be heard in kyiv on Wednesday morning from suburbs where Ukrainian forces have regained territory in recent days. Windows rattled from the relentless artillery at its periphery.
Southeast of Irpin, a kyiv suburb that has seen intense fighting for weeks, frequent shelling and explosions of munitions on the ground and in the air could be heard. Evacuated Ukrainians spoke of heavy shelling north of Irpin and shells landing in Irpin itself.
Ukraine and Western leaders had warned that Moscow’s apparent peace gesture at Tuesday’s talks in Istanbul was a cover to reorganize forces that had failed to take kyiv.
Russia said on Wednesday its forces had achieved their objectives near kyiv and Chernihiv and were regrouping to focus on the “liberation” of the breakaway eastern Donbass region. Read more
The Pentagon said Russia had begun to reposition itself under a fifth of its forces deployed around kyiv, but warned that Moscow needed to refit and resupply them for redeployment. Read more
OIL AND GAS SUPPLY DOUBTS
Western sanctions imposed on Russia as punishment for its invasion have largely isolated its economy from world trade, but Moscow remains Europe’s largest supplier of oil and gas. The new request for payment in rubles from Russia, rejected by the West, raises fears of energy shortages and increases the risk of recession in Europe.
Germany, Russia’s biggest gas customer, said on Wednesday an “early warning” of a possible emergency should Russia cut off supplies. Economy Minister Robert Habeck urged people to reduce their consumption, saying “every kilowatt hour counts”.
Russian sources told Reuters it could keep the currency of the energy contract as is, with final payment in roubles. Read more
Outlining a potential compromise, Russian President Vladimir Putin told German Chancellor Olaf Scholz that payments could be made in euros and sent to Gazprombank, which would convert the money into rubles, a German government spokesman said. Read more
Gazprombank is one of the main payment channels for Russian oil and gas.
“Scholz did not agree to this procedure in the conversation, but requested written information to better understand the procedure,” the spokesperson said.
In northern Ukraine, Chernihiv Mayor Vladyslav Astroshenko said Russian shelling of his town had intensified in the past 24 hours, with more than 100,000 people trapped inside with just enough food and medical supplies to last about a week.
“This is further confirmation that Russia is still lying,” he told CNN. He said 25 civilians were injured in a mortar attack in the city center.
Reuters could not verify the situation in Chernihiv. The Russian Defense Ministry did not respond to a request for comment.
Reuters reporters who entered the Kyiv suburb of Irpin, retaken by Ukrainian forces this week, saw Ukrainian troops patrolling an abandoned ghost town of crumbling buildings on Tuesday, with the body of an old man and a woman lying in the streets.
About a quarter of Ukrainians have been driven from their homes and the United Nations said on Wednesday that the number of people fleeing the country had exceeded 4 million. More than half of these refugees are children and the rest mainly women.
Over the past week, Ukrainian forces have recaptured towns and villages on the outskirts of kyiv, broken the siege of the eastern city of Sumy and pushed Russian forces back to the southwest.
In the village of Mala Rohan, in the eastern region of Kharkiv, two burnt-out tanks and their turrets torn off stood near damaged houses. Maksym, a Ukrainian soldier, said the Russians were being pushed back “slowly but surely”.
“Most of them have already realized that they made a huge mistake coming here. Therefore, I think they have no chance here, we are going to win.”
The Russian Defense Ministry said the humanitarian situation in Kharkiv was getting worse and accused Ukrainian forces of shooting civilians, Russian news agencies reported, without presenting evidence.
Russia says it is carrying out a “special operation” to disarm and “denazify” its neighbor. Western countries say the invasion of Moscow was unprovoked.
The Donbass region, where Russia says it is now focusing its efforts, includes the port of Mariupol, where heavy fighting was reported again on Wednesday. Read more
Mariupol, which had a pre-war population of over 400,000, was devastated within a month. The United Nations says thousands of people could have died there.
Russian forces were shelling nearly every town along the region’s frontline on Wednesday, the governor of Donetsk, which is part of Donbass, said.
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Additional reporting by Natalia Zinets, Pavel Polityuk, Gleb Garanich and Reuters bureaus Writing by Peter Graff, Philippa Fletcher and Rami Ayyub Editing by Frank Jack Daniel, Gareth Jones and Grant McCool
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