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Fighting rages in Ukraine, US says Putin being ‘misled’

Fighting rages in Ukraine, US says Putin being ‘misled’

KYIV: Fighting raged yesterday (Mar 30) in Ukraine despite Russia’s indication that it planned to deescalate, and US intelligence claimed Kremlin leader Vladimir Putin is angry after being misled by his own military.


Thursday 31 March 2022, 07:56AM

This aerial view taken near Kyiv yesterday (Mar 30) shows a destroyed house in the village of Lukianivka. Photo: Ronald Schemidt / AFP

This aerial view taken near Kyiv yesterday (Mar 30) shows a destroyed house in the village of Lukianivka. Photo: Ronald Schemidt / AFP

Hopes that negotiations in Istanbul could open the door to relative calm in pro-Western Ukraine evaporated in a series of battles, including more Russian bombing of civilian areas and advances by Ukrainian fighters.

As the number of refugees estimated by the United Nations topped four million - close to one in 10 inhabitants - there was no sign of Russia making good on its promise during the talks Tuesday to pull back from the city of Chernigiv and capital Kyiv.

AFP reporters heard frequent explosions coming from the direction of the strategic town of Irpin to the northwest of Kyiv.

And Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in an address that “we don’t believe anyone,” vowing Ukrainians will continue to “fight for every metre of our territory.”

There was hope at least for some of the civilians caught under horrific Russian bombardments in the southern city of Mariupol after Russia’s defense ministry said it had accepted a Ukrainian plan to open temporary evacuation corridors.

The ministry said a local ceasefire would take effect at 10:00am (1pm Phuket time) today in Mariupol.

As Russia’s assault on populated areas continued, the head of the UN Human Rights Council said that “indiscriminate attacks are prohibited under international humanitarian law and may amount to war crimes.”

Putin ‘misled’?

More than a month after Russian troops poured into Ukraine, Ukrainian forces have inflicted heavy casualties and destroyed startling quantities of Russian tanks and aircraft with the help of donated US and European weaponry.

Parallel to the fighting on the ground, Moscow is reeling under unprecedented Western sanctions designed to cripple the ruble, block high-tech imports and punish the Russian elite.

US officials said yesterday that Putin is angry after being shielded from the truth.

Citing US intelligence, White House Communications Director Kate Bedingfield said “he felt misled by the Russian military.”

A US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, described “persistent tension” between Putin and military staff, with Putin now having “mistrust” in his generals.

Western pressure

At the Istanbul talks, Russian officials pledged to “radically” reduce their attacks because of progress in negotiations on “the neutrality and non-nuclear status” of Ukraine - two central concerns for Moscow.

Both sides initially said the Istanbul meeting had made progress, but the Kremlin on yesterday played down hopes of a breakthrough.

“We cannot state that there was anything too promising,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian was similarly pessimistic, saying “the war continues.”

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that Western sanctions should remain in place until “every single one” of the Russian troops has left.

Johnson spoke of British military aid “going up a gear” and the White House said that President Joe Biden discussed “additional capabilities” in an almost hour-long phone call with Zelensky.

Bedingfield said it could include “anti-ship capability” to hit Russian vessels in the Black Sea.

On a visit to China yesterday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov looked to boost support from Moscow’s most important ally.

Lavrov will also go this week to India, which has abstained from UN resolutions censuring Russia and continues to buy Russian oil, despite pressure from Washington.

Shelling and redeployments

There were signs that the Russians were shuffling units around, rather than withdrawing from key areas.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said there had been “repositioning” away from the Hostomel airport near Kyiv and also from around the Chernobyl nuclear power facility, with Russian troops crossing back into neighboring Belarus, an ally of Russia.

However, “we have seen none of them reposition to their home garrison,” he said.

There is little independent information about fighting in the east of Ukraine where Ukrainian forces face a powerful array of Russian regular and Russian-organized local militias.

Russian forces also shelled a factory in the city of Novomoskovsk as well as a fuel facility in the regional capital, Dnipro, said regional officials.

The eastern Donetsk regional governor, Pavlo Kyrylenko, wrote on Telegram that Russian forces had used phosphorous shells in the town of Maryinka.

In Mariupol, Russian forces bombed an International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) building, Ukrainian ombudswoman Lyudmyla Denisova said in a statement on social media.

Russian energy demands

Germany and Austria have raised the alarm over fears Russia could cut gas supplies to countries that refuse its demand to be paid in rubles.

But Putin yesterday told German Chancellor Olaf Scholz gas payments could continue in euros.

EU member Slovakia, meanwhile, announced it would expel 35 Russian diplomats based on information provided by intelligence services.

And in a development in the cultural world, Russian superstar soprano Anna Netrebko condemned the war and said she would return to the stage after cancelling concerts in the wake of criticism that she was close to the Kremlin.

Dazed survivors and corpses

In the town of Trostyanets, just 30 kilometres (20 miles) from the Russian border, AFP reporters saw dazed residents emerge from their homes as Ukrainian soldiers salvaged abandoned Russian vehicles.

“There was nothing left to eat in the town, no water and no electricity,” said Pavlo, who spent the past month hunkered down in his basement.

In Irpin, a gateway to Kyiv, officials said they were recovering bodies in the streets and the area was still being shelled by Russia.

Irpin’s mayor Oleksandr Markushyn said at least 200 people had been killed there since the war began.

On the eastern outskirts of second city Kharkiv, AFP correspondents witnessed a dozen corpses of Russian soldiers lying scattered in fields and houses after Ukrainian soldiers regained control of a highway.

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