- Zelensky: Heavy blows to Russian forces
- Russia indicates military focus on eastern Ukraine
- Officials estimate 300 dead in the Mariupol theater bombing
MARIPOL/Lviv, Ukraine (Reuters) – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky sought further talks with Russia as Moscow signaled it had scaled back its ambitions to focus on territory claimed by Russian-backed separatists in the east after attacks stopped elsewhere.
In an announcement on Friday that appeared to indicate limited targets, the Russian Defense Ministry said the first phase of its operation was mostly complete and that it would now focus on the Donbass region bordering Russia, which includes pro-Moscow separatist enclaves. Read more
“The combat potential of the Ukrainian Armed Forces has been significantly reduced, which makes it possible to focus our main efforts on achieving the main goal, which is the liberation of Donbass,” said Sergei Rudskoy, Chief of the Russian General Staff. Operations Directorate.
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Dissident Russian-backed forces have been battling Ukrainian forces in Donbass and the neighboring Luhansk region since 2014. They declared independence with Moscow’s blessing – but not recognized by the West – shortly before the invasion on February 24.
Military analysts said reframing Russia’s goals could make it easier for President Vladimir Putin to declare a face-saving victory. Read more
Moscow has said the goals of what it calls its “special operation” include disarmament and “discrediting” its neighbour. Western officials say the invasion is unjustified and illegal and aims to topple Zelensky’s pro-NATO government.
Weeks of intermittent peace talks have failed to make tangible progress. In a video speech on Friday evening, Zelensky said that the resistance of his forces had dealt Russia “strong blows.”
“Our defenders lead the Russian leadership to a simple and logical idea: we must speak, speak purposefully, urgently and fairly,” Zelensky said.
In what officials described as a keynote address in Poland, US President Joe Biden on Saturday will deliver “notes on the united efforts of the free world to support the people of Ukraine, hold Russia accountable for its brutal war, and defend a future rooted in democratic principles,” the White House said in a statement. more
The United Nations has confirmed 1,081 civilians have been killed and 1,707 wounded in Ukraine since the invasion, but says the true number is likely higher.
Ukraine’s Prosecutor General’s Office said on Saturday that about 136 children have been killed so far during the invasion. Read more
The Russian Defense Ministry said 1,351 Russian soldiers were killed and 3,825 wounded, Interfax news agency reported. Ukraine says 15,000 Russian soldiers have been killed. Reuters could not independently verify these allegations.
Despite the massacre, Russian forces have failed to capture and hold any major city in the month since the invasion of Ukraine. Instead, they bombed cities, destroyed urban areas, and displaced a quarter of Ukraine’s 44 million people.
More than 3.7 million of them have fled abroad, half of them to neighboring Poland in the west, where Biden on Friday met soldiers from the US Army’s 82nd Airborne Division that supports NATO’s eastern flank. Read more
“Hundreds of thousands of people are being cut off from help by Russian forces and trapped in places like Mariupol,” Biden said. “It’s more like something out of a science fiction movie.”
Footage from the southeastern port, home to 400,000 before the war, showed wrecked buildings, burnt-out cars and shocked survivors venturing outside for water and supplies. Residents buried the victims in temporary cemeteries as the snow melted.
Local officials, citing witness accounts, said they estimated 300 people were killed in a theater bombing in Mariupol on March 16.
The city council had not previously reported the death toll and said it was not possible to give an exact figure after the accident. Russia denied bombing the theater or targeting civilians. Read more
Counterattacks around Kyiv
Battle lines near Kyiv have been frozen for weeks with two main Russian armored columns stuck to the northwest and east of the capital. A British intelligence report described the Ukrainian counterattack that pushed the Russians back in the east.
“Ukrainian counter-attacks and Russian forces retreating from extended supply lines allowed Ukraine to reoccupy towns and defensive positions as far as 35 km east of Kyiv,” the report said.
Volodymyr Borisenko, mayor of Borispol, an eastern suburb where Kyiv’s main airport is located, said 20,000 civilians had evacuated the area, responding to a call to evacuate the area so that Ukrainian forces could counterattack.
On the other main front outside Kyiv, northwest of the capital, Ukrainian forces are trying to encircle the Russian forces in the suburbs of Irpin, Bucha and Hostomil, which have been reduced to rubble by heavy fighting.
The cities of Chernihiv, Kharkiv and Sumy, north and east of Kyiv, were also subjected to devastating bombardment. The Chernihiv governor said that Russian forces had effectively surrounded.
Britain said it would fund 2 million pounds ($2.6 million) of food supplies to areas cordoned off by Russian forces, at the request of the Ukrainian government. Read more
Russia is conducting military exercises on islands claimed by Tokyo thousands of miles from Ukraine, Japanese media said on Saturday, days after Moscow suspended 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 Gleb Garanish in Kyiv, Natalia Zenets and Maria Starkova in Lviv and Reuters offices around the world; Written by Lincoln Fest. Editing by William Mallard
Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.