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Russia hints at reducing ambitions in Ukraine to focus on Donbass while Ukrainian counter-offensive advances near Kyiv

Moscow signaled on Friday that it would scale back its ambitions Ukraine to focus on areas claimed by Russian-backed separatists in the east as Ukrainian forces went on the offensive to retake towns outside the capital, Kyiv.

In an announcement that seemed to hint at more limited targets, the Russian Defense Ministry said a first phase of its operation is largely complete and will now focus on the eastern Donbass region, home to pro-Russian separatist enclaves. Read the full story

“The combat potential of the Armed Forces of Ukraine has been significantly reduced, which allows us to focus our core efforts on achieving the main goal – liberation of Donbass,” said Sergei Rudskoy, chief of the Russian General Staff Operational Directorate.

Restating Russia’s targets could make it easier for President Vladimir Putin to claim a face-saving victory, military analysts have said. Moscow had said one of its goals was to demilitarize Ukraine. Western officials dismiss this as a baseless pretext for a war they say is aimed at overthrowing the Ukrainian government.

Despite fierce resistance, Russian troops have not taken a major city in the month since invading Ukraine. Instead, they have bombed cities, devastated urban areas and driven a quarter of Ukraine’s 44 million people from their homes.

More than 3.7 million of them have fled abroad, half to neighboring Poland, where US President Joe Biden met soldiers from the US Army’s 82nd Airborne Division strengthening the NATO alliance’s eastern flank. Read the full story

“Hundreds of thousands of people are being cut off from aid by Russian forces and under siege in places like Mariupol,” Biden said, overlooking the besieged southeastern port.

“It’s like something out of a sci-fi movie.”

Battle lines near Kyiv have been frozen for weeks, with two main Russian tank columns stranded northwest and east of the capital. A British intelligence report described a Ukrainian counter-offensive that had pushed the Russians back east.

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“Ukrainian counterattacks and Russian forces, drawing on stretched supply lines, have enabled Ukraine to reoccupy towns and defensive positions up to 35km east of Kyiv,” the report said. Both the United States and Britain have given arms to Ukraine.

“UNPREPARED TROOPS”

The Russian Defense Ministry said 1,351 Russian soldiers were killed and 3,825 injured, the Interfax news agency reported. Ukraine says 15,000 Russian soldiers have died.

Volodymyr Borysenko, mayor of Boryspol, an eastern suburb where Kiev’s main airport is located, said 20,000 civilians had evacuated the area, following a call to clear it so Ukrainian troops could counterattack.

Ukrainian forces retook a nearby village the previous day and pushed further, but stopped to avoid endangering civilians, Borysenko said.

On the other main front outside of Kyiv, in the north-west of the capital, Ukrainian forces have tried to encircle Russian troops in the suburbs of Irpin, Bucha and Hostomel, which have been left in ruins by heavy fighting.

In Bucha, 25 km (15 miles) northwest of Kyiv, a small group of Ukrainian troops armed with anti-tank missiles dug foxholes. A Ukrainian soldier, who identified himself only as Andriy, told Reuters he committed himself as soon as the invasion began.

“I told my wife to get the kids and hide in the basement, and I went to the enlistment station and immediately joined my unit,” he said.

In the Vinnytsia area west of Kyiv, the Ukrainian Air Force said Russian cruise missiles hit several buildings when trying to hit Air Force command in the area.

The United Nations said it had confirmed 1,081 civilian deaths and 1,707 wounded in Ukraine since the Feb. 24 invasion, adding that the real number is likely higher.

Mariupol, a pre-war city of 400,000, was hardest hit by Russian bombing. Tens of thousands of people are still thought to be trapped with little access to food, electricity or heat.

Local officials, citing testimonies, said they estimated the March 16 bombing of a theater in Mariupol killed 300 people. The City Council had previously not specified a toll and clarified that it was not possible to establish an exact figure after the incident. Russia has denied bombing the theater. Read the full story

Governor of Ukraine’s Donetsk region Pavlo Kyrylenko said Ukrainian forces still control Mariupol. Some 65,000 people had fled, but efforts to organize mass evacuations under ceasefires had largely failed. Read the full story

The eastern cities of Chernihiv, Kharkiv and Sumy have also suffered devastating bombardments. Chernihiv is effectively surrounded by Russian forces, its governor said.

CULTURE WAR?

Weeks of peace talks have brought no significant progress. In a video address late Friday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said his troops’ resistance had dealt “mighty blows” to Russia.

“Our defenders are leading the Russian leadership to a simple and logical idea: we need to talk, meaningfully, urgently and fairly,” said Zelenskyy.

Western sanctions have isolated Russia from global trade. President Vladimir Putin accused the West of trying to “erase” Russian culture, including composers Pyotr Tchaikovsky and Sergei Rachmaninoff, likening it to actions by Nazi Germany in the 1930s. Read the full story

China is the largest power not to condemn the Russian invasion and has repeatedly spoken out against the sanctions.

But in the first big sign Western sanctions against Moscow are hurting investment from China, sources said state-owned Sinopec Group, Asia’s largest oil refiner, halted talks over a petrochemical investment and a venture to commercialize Russian gas. Read the full story

“Companies will strictly follow Beijing’s foreign policy in this crisis,” said an executive at a Chinese state oil company. “There is absolutely no scope for companies to take initiatives in terms of new investments.”

https://www.independent.ie/world-news/russia-hints-at-scaling-back-ambitions-in-ukraine-to-focus-on-donbass-as-ukrainian-counter-offensive-advances-near-kyiv-41489182.html Russia hints at reducing ambitions in Ukraine to focus on Donbass while Ukrainian counter-offensive advances near Kyiv

Fry Electronics Team

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