- For weeks Russian troops have been at the gates of Kyiv
- Biden to assess the refugee response in Poland
- China’s Sinopec stops discussing investments
BUSHA/Lviv, Ukraine (Reuters) – Moscow signaled on Friday it had scaled back its ambitions in Ukraine to focus on territory claimed by Russia-backed separatists as Ukrainian forces launched an offensive to retake towns on the outskirts of the capital. Kyiv.
In the first major sign that Western sanctions on Moscow are affecting investment from China, sources said the state-run Sinopec Group, Asia’s largest refiner, has halted talks over a petrochemical investment and a Russian gas marketing project. Read more
In the month that has passed since their invasion of Ukraine began, Russian forces have failed to capture any major city. Their attack was met with stiff resistance from the forces of President Volodymyr Zelensky and stopped at the gates of Kyiv.
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Instead, the Russians have been bombing and cordoning off cities, dumping waste into residential areas and driving about a quarter of Ukraine’s 44 million people from their homes.
More than 3.7 million of them have fled abroad, half of them to Poland, which US President Joe Biden visited on Friday.
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.
The report stated that “Ukrainian counter-attacks, and the retreat of Russian forces from extended supply lines, allowed Ukraine to reoccupy towns and defensive positions as far as 35 km east of Kyiv.” Britain provided arms and military training to Ukraine.
In an announcement that appeared to indicate limited goals, the Russian Defense Ministry said the first phase of its operation was mostly completed and that it would now focus on “liberating” the breakaway eastern Donbass region. 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.
A senior diplomatic source in Moscow described the announcement as a possible prelude to lowering prices.
“Their war objectives are much broader than in Donbass, and their force has been left divided with poorly coordinated attacks on multiple fronts by unprepared forces,” the source said. Read more
The United Nations said it had confirmed 1,081 civilians killed and 1,707 wounded in Ukraine since the invasion, adding that the true number was likely higher.
The Russian Defense Ministry said 1,351 Russian soldiers had killed 3,825 wounded, Interfax news agency reported. Ukraine says 15,000 Russian soldiers have been killed.
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. He said Ukrainian forces retook a nearby village the day before and would have gone ahead but stopped to avoid endangering civilians.
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.
At Bosha, 25 kilometers (15 miles) northwest of Kyiv, a small group of Ukrainian forces armed with anti-tank missiles were digging trenches. Andrey told Reuters he was enlisted as soon as the invasion began.
“I asked my wife to hold the children and hide in the basement, and I went to the recruiting center and joined my unit immediately,” he said.
Moscow describes its actions in Ukraine as a “special military operation” to disarm and “discredit” Ukraine. Ukraine and the West say Putin launched an unjustified war of aggression.
Unable to capture the cities, Russia bombarded them with artillery and air raids.
The worst hit was the eastern port of Mariupol, a city of 400,000 people. It is the largest Ukrainian-controlled city in the area that Russia is demanding to cede to the separatists.
It is believed that tens of thousands of people remain trapped and have little access to food, electricity or heating, while the city around them has been reduced to ruins.
Mariupol city council first gave an estimate of those killed in the March 16 bombing of the main theater, saying witnesses now said 300 people were killed among the hundreds of hundreds who took shelter in the basement. Russia denies the blame.
The United Nations said it was investigating reports of mass graves inside Mariupol, including one with at least 200 bodies.
The cities of Chernihiv, Kharkiv and Sumy in the east were also subjected to devastating bombardment. The Chernihiv governor said that Russian forces had effectively surrounded.
In Kharkiv, officials said six people were killed in the bombing of an aid distribution site. A video clip showed an explosion hitting a parking lot, where dozens of people were queuing. Reuters was able to confirm that it was filmed outside a supermarket in Kharkiv.
Western sanctions have isolated Russia from global trade to a degree never seen before in such a large economy. Russia has warned that billing in rubles for natural gas exports to a heavily dependent Europe could be just days away, leaving buyers wondering how to get their hands on the currency. Read more
China is the biggest power that has not condemned the Russian invasion and has repeatedly expressed its opposition to the sanctions.
The Reuters report, which said that Sinopec had suspended discussions on investments potentially worth $500 million, was the first concrete indication that the sanctions were interfering with trade between Moscow and Beijing.
Beijing insisted it would maintain trade links. But behind the scenes, Chinese companies are pressing to move with caution.
“Companies will strictly follow Beijing’s foreign policy in this crisis,” an executive of a Chinese state oil company said. “There is absolutely no scope for companies to take any initiatives regarding new investments.”
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Reporting from Reuters in Mariupol, Natalia Zenets in Lviv and Reuters offices around the world.
Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
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