KYIV, Ukraine ( Associated Press) – Russian forces have bombed areas around Ukraine’s capital and another city overnight, regional leaders said on Wednesday, just hours after Moscow promised to scale down military operations in those places. The shooting further dampened optimism about any progress in talks aimed at ending the penal war.
Russia has not spelled out exactly what it intends to do differently, and while the promise initially raised hopes that a path to peace would emerge, Ukraine’s president and others warned that the remarks were merely a could be blunders and the Kremlin’s spokesman said he saw no breakthrough in the talks.
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Ukrainian officials say Russian shelters have hit homes, shops, libraries and other “civilian infrastructure” in the northern city of Chernihiv and on the outskirts of the capital, Kiev.
The barrage came as Britain’s Ministry of Defense warned that although heavy losses had forced some Russian units to return to Belarus and Russia, Moscow was likely to compensate for any reduction in ground maneuvers by mass artillery and missile attacks. to use. The Ukrainian army, meanwhile, said Russian troops were intensifying their attacks around the eastern city of Izyum and the eastern Donetsk region, after redeploying some units from other areas.
As the war unleashed by Moscow five weeks ago, so did the outbreak outside Ukraine’s borders. The United Nations has said the number of refugees fleeing the country has now exceeded a staggering 4 million, while European industrial power center Germany has issued a warning over its natural gas supplies amid concerns that Russia could cut off supplies unless it pays in rubles word. Poland has announced steps to end all Russian oil imports by the end of 2022.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky reacted with skepticism to Russia’s announcement amid talks on Tuesday in Istanbul that it would reduce military activity near the capital and Chernihiv.
“We can call the signals we hear in the negotiations positive,” he said in his nightly video speech to the Ukrainian people. “But those signals do not stop the explosions of Russian shells.”
That skepticism only gained ground on Wednesday morning.
“The so-called reduction in activity in the Chernihiv region has been demonstrated by the hostile attacks, including airstrikes on Nizhyn, and all night long they have been bombarding Chernihiv,” said regional governor Viacheslav Chaus. “Civil infrastructure facilities, libraries, shopping malls, many houses were destroyed in Chernihiv.”
Oleksandr Pavliuk, head of the Kyiv region’s military administration, said on Wednesday that Russian shells had targeted residential areas and civilian infrastructure in the Bucha, Brovary and Vyshhorod regions around the capital.
They were not the only attacks by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s forces.
Spokesman for the Russian Ministry of Defense, Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, said on Wednesday that the army had targeted fuel depots in two villages in central Ukraine with long-range cruise missiles launched by air. Russian forces have also hit a Ukrainian special forces headquarters in the southern Mykolaiv region, he said, and two ammunition depots in the eastern Donetsk region.
The General Staff of Ukraine’s armed forces have taken note of intensified shelling and attacks in the Donetsk region, where it says Russian forces were focused on trying to gain control of the besieged city of Mariupol and other cities.
Donetsk is in the eastern industrial heartland of Donbas, where the Russian military says it has shifted its attention. Top Russian military officials have twice in recent days said their main goal now is the “liberation” of Donbas, where Moscow-backed rebels have been fighting Ukrainian forces since 2014.
Western officials also said Moscow was now stepping up troops in the Donbas in an attempt to encircle Ukraine’s forces there. And Russia’s deadly siege in the south continues.
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Some analysts have suggested that the apparent downsizing of the Kremlin’s objectives and the promise to reduce activity around Kiev and Chernihiv may simply reflect the reality on the ground: its troops have been stranded and suffered heavy losses in their attempt to seize the capital. and other cities.
Meanwhile, a missile destroyed part of an apartment block in the rebel-held city of Donetsk early Wednesday, killing two people and wounding four. Separatists blamed Ukrainian forces for the attack.
“I just sat on the couch and – scared! “The window glass jumped, the frames came down, I did not even understand what had happened,” said one resident, Anna Gorda.
Still, there were hints of outlining a possible deal to end the war after the latest round of talks on Tuesday in Istanbul.
Kyiv’s delegation has presented a framework for a peace agreement that will guarantee the security of a neutral Ukraine by a group of other countries. Among other things, the Kremlin has repeatedly demanded that Ukraine abandon any hope of joining NATO.
Moscow has responded coolly to the offer, with Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov saying on Wednesday that it was a “positive factor” that Ukraine had submitted its written proposals, but that it had seen no breakthrough.
However, Russia’s Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin has said that in the meantime, Moscow will “fundamentally cut back … military activities in the direction of Kiev and Chernihiv” in order to “increase mutual trust and create conditions for further negotiations.”
But Zelensky warned the world and its own people not to run ahead of themselves.
“Ukrainians have already learned during the 34 days of invasion and during the last eight years of war in the Donbas that you can only trust concrete results,” he said.
Western countries have also expressed doubts about Russia’s intentions.
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“We are judging the Russian military machine by its actions, not just its words,” British Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab told Sky News on Wednesday. “There is, of course, some skepticism that it will regroup to attack again rather than get seriously involved in diplomacy.”
He added that “of course the door to diplomacy will always be left open, but I do not think you can trust what comes out of Putin’s war machine.”
A review by Britain’s Ministry of Defense said Russia’s focus on the Donbas region “is likely to be a tacit acknowledgment that it is struggling to maintain more than one significant axis of progress.”
“Russian units suffering heavy losses have been forced to return to Belarus and Russia to reorganize and re-supply,” the ministry said in a statement on Wednesday. “Such activity puts further pressure on Russia’s already tense logistics and demonstrates the difficulties Russia is facing in reorganizing its units in forward areas within Ukraine.”
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the U.S. had detected small numbers of Russian ground forces moving away from the Kyiv region, but that it appeared to be a repositioning of forces, “not an actual withdrawal.”
In response to Moscow’s promise, US President Joe Biden and his foreign minister, Antony Blinken, said they would wait to see what Russia’s actions were.
Blinken added that Russian indications of a withdrawal could be an attempt to “mislead people and divert attention.”
This would not be the first time. In the tense build-up to the invasion, the Russian military announced that some units were loading equipment onto train carriages and getting ready to return to their home bases after completing exercises. Ten days later, Russia launched its invasion.
The war it caused destroyed a nation that was once a major food exporter.
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization has said it is now providing emergency aid to 1 million people in Ukraine, including 330,000 freshly baked breads to families in the eastern city of Kharkiv.
The Rome-based World Food Program estimates that 45 percent of Ukraine’s population is worried about getting enough to eat. Millions more simply left the country.
Tetyana Parmynska, a 28-year-old from the Chernihiv region who is now at a refugee center in Poland, said she hoped for peace. Nearby, a man was playing songs on a battered black piano decorated with a white peace emblem.
“Children suffer, and our city, and everything,” Parmynska said. “We have no more power.”
Karmanau reports from Lviv, Ukraine. Associated Press journalists around the world contributed to this report.