The proclaimed withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine continues to be widely rejected, as several regions reported continued airstrikes overnight and heavy fighting raged in some cities despite hopes that progress was being made to end the conflict.
More than a month after the start of its unprovoked invasion, Russia has told Ukraine that it will reduce operations near the capital, kyiv, and the northern city of Chernihiv “in order to increase mutual trust for the peace talks after the two sides met face to face in Istanbul. March 29.
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But the governor of the Chernihiv region said on March 30 that he saw no letting up in the Russian attacks overnight, while British military intelligence said the troop movements could be attributed to Russian contingents returning home or to neighboring Belarus to reorganize and resupply after suffering heavy losses on the battlefield.
“Do we believe it [Russia’s promise]? Of course not,” Governor Vyacheslav Chaus said in a video message on Telegram.
“The enemy has demonstrated its ‘diminished activity’ in the Chernihiv region by carrying out strikes against [the city of] Nizhyn, including airstrikes, and all night they struck [the city of] Chernihiv,” he added.
Russia is likely to continue to compensate for its reduced ground maneuvering capability with mass artillery and missile strikes, the UK Ministry of Defense said.
Moscow recently said it had achieved the first part of its plan in Ukraine and that its main target would now be southeastern Ukraine, where it is trying to conquer more territory to hand over to the separatists it supports. since 2014.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who is due to address the Norwegian parliament on March 30, has warned against Russia’s promises to cut some operations, saying in his daily video address on March 29 that Ukrainians “are not naive people”.
“The Ukrainians have already learned during these 34 days of invasion, and during the last eight years of the war in Donbass, that the only thing they can trust is a concrete result,” he said. he adds. he said.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and US President Joe Biden also expressed skepticism and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Washington was focused on Russia’s actions, not its words.
“What Russia is doing is the continued brutalization of Ukraine and its people, and that continues as we speak,” said Blinken, who is touring the Middle East and speaking at the of a press conference in Morocco.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said Russia was only “repositioning” its forces near kyiv, not withdrawing them.
“That doesn’t mean the threat to kyiv is over,” Kirby said. “They can still inflict massive brutality on the country, including in Kyiv.” He said Russian airstrikes on kyiv were continuing.
“We’re not prepared to call this a retreat or even a withdrawal,” he said. “We think what they probably have in mind is a repositioning to prioritize elsewhere.”
Thousands of civilians in the southern port city of Mariupol continue to be trapped under repeated shelling and airstrikes by Russian forces.
Mariupol has been one of the main focal points of the fighting since the invasion began more than a month ago. The situation in the city, which had some 400,000 inhabitants before the war, has been described as “apocalyptic”.
The head of the UN human rights mission in Ukraine told Reuters that thousands of civilians may have died in the city since the shelling began.
“We think there could be thousands of dead, civilian casualties, in Mariupol,” Matilda Bogner said. The mission did not have a precise estimate but was working to gather more information, she added.
According to UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, the total number of refugees as of noon on March 29 was 4.02 millionwith just over half of that total leaving Ukraine and entering Poland.
“Refugees from Ukraine now number 4 million, five weeks after the start of the Russian attack,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi. said in a tweet on March 30, adding that he had just arrived in Ukraine to discuss ways to increase support “for those affected and displaced by this senseless war.”
The invasion of Moscow, launched on February 24, triggered several waves of crippling economic and financial sanctions against Russia.
The Kremlin tried to retaliate with a plan to force payment for energy exports like gas and oil in roubles.
While the West balked at such a move, calling it a “breach of contract”, Germany, Russia’s biggest gas importer, said on March 30 an “early warning” of a possible emergency if the gas stopped flowing into the country.
Vyacheslav Volodin, the speaker of the Russian parliament, said on March 30 that European politicians should “stop talking, stop trying to come up with a justification for why they can’t pay in roubles”.
“If you want gasoline, find rubles,” he said.
Volodin proposed extending the ruble payment policy to the country’s other main exports, including cereals, fertilizers and metals.