TROSTYANETS/LVIV: Ukrainian forces are preparing for further Russian attacks in the southeast, where Moscow’s guns are now being trained after its assault on the capital kyiv was repelled, President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Thursday.
Five weeks after the start of an invasion that turned cities into wastelands and created more than 4 million refugees, US and European officials say Russian President Vladimir Putin was misled by his generals about performances disasters of the Russian army.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said it was delivering an aid convoy to reach the beleaguered Black Sea port of Mariupol, where tens of thousands of people have been trapped for weeks under indiscriminate shelling. food, water or heating.
In an early morning video address, Zelensky said Russian troop movements away from kyiv and the northern city of Chernihiv were “the consequence of the work of our defenders”.
But Ukraine was seeing “a buildup of Russian forces for further strikes on Donbass and we are preparing for that”, he said, referring to the southeastern region that Russia is asking Ukraine to give in to the separatists, where Mariupol is the main port.
The fierce resistance of Ukrainian forces has so far prevented Russia from capturing a major city, including kyiv, which it attacked with armored columns from the northwest and east.
Moscow says it is reducing its offensives near the capital and the north and is now focusing on the “liberation” of Donbass.
Mariupol, once a city of 400,000 people, was destroyed by four weeks of relentless bombardment and siege. The United Nations believes that thousands of people died there.
Previous attempts to bring aid to besieged parts of the city failed and civilians were only able to escape if they had cars. Ukraine said 45 buses were on their way on Thursday and the ICRC said it would evacuate civilians from Friday if warring parties agree on safe passage.
“It is extremely important that this operation takes place. The lives of tens of thousands of people in Mariupol depend on it,” ICRC spokesman Ewan Watson said in Geneva.
In a part of Mariupol now held by Russia, people emerged from cellars to appear, ghostly, among the ruins. A man named Pavel placed a bowl and spoon in tribute on a makeshift grave in a patch of grass, marked with a plain wooden cross.
“Our friend. March 16. Driving. A bullet hit him in the throat. He was dead in five minutes,” he said.
Putin misled, US says
The past week has seen a Ukrainian counter-offensive, retaking the destroyed suburbs of Kyiv and strategic towns and villages in the northeast and southwest.
Moscow calls its decision to withdraw near the capital a gesture of goodwill for the peace talks. Kyiv and its allies say it’s an excuse to try to regroup from its losses.
Evidence of Ukraine’s successful counterattack could be seen in Trostyanets, now in Ukrainian hands after being recaptured this week. The eastern Ukrainian city controls a road leading to Sumy, a major city that had been besieged.
Burnt Russian tanks and abandoned ammunition littered the rubble of the city. Stunned civilians and a few Ukrainian soldiers roamed the muddy streets.
“We spent 30 days in the basement, with young children. The children tremble, even motionless. They ask, “When will we go to kindergarten?” When will we go to school? They don’t understand what happened,” said a woman named Larisa.
Vadym Shashkov, 60, gestured next to a destroyed hospital where he had helped rescue survivors of Russian bombings.
“There were women who had given birth to their children, there were babies here, including twins. We got people out of the hospital. Thank God we have them all.
Russia says it has launched a “special military operation” to disarm and “denazify” its neighbor, and that the mission will plan.
Western countries say the invasion was an unprovoked war of aggression, that Russia’s real goal was to quickly overthrow the government in kyiv, and that its failure was a strategic disaster, leading to economic ruin and isolation diplomatic.
U.S. officials declassified intelligence they said showed a rift between Putin and top advisers who failed to warn him about his military’s poor performance or the economic impact of Western sanctions.
“We have information that Putin felt misled by the Russian military, which has led to ongoing tensions between Putin and his military leadership,” Kate Bedingfield, director of communications for the Russian Federation, told reporters on Wednesday. White House. Putin was misinformed about the campaign “because his top advisers are too afraid to tell him the truth”, she said.
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 United States plans to release up to 180 million barrels of oil over several months from its strategic petroleum reserves (SPR) to depress prices, two US sources said. Oil prices fell more than $5 a barrel on Thursday on the news.
Russia has asked Europe to pay for its gas in rubles by Friday, raising fears of energy shortages. Germany has warned of a possible emergency if Russia cuts supplies.
A German government spokesman said Putin told Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Wednesday that payments could still be made in euros to Gazprombank, a bank affiliated with Russia’s gas export monopoly, which would convert the money into rubles.
However, the Russian business newspaper Kommersant said that Gazprom was considering cutting off supplies: “Gazprom … is indeed working on an option to completely cut off gas supplies to ‘hostile countries’ and is assessing the consequences of such measures. “. wrote.