Ukraine claims some combat successes as Russia focuses on other front

KYIV, Ukraine – The Ukrainians reported on Monday that they repelled invading Russian forces during heavy fighting around kyiv and in no...


KYIV, Ukraine – The Ukrainians reported on Monday that they repelled invading Russian forces during heavy fighting around kyiv and in northeastern Ukraine, as the Russians moved to encircle and cut off Ukrainian forces in the east, showing a diplomatic resolve to war. further than ever.

Ukrainian counterattacks around kyiv have reportedly taken more ground, with the mayor of Irpin, a fiercely contested suburb on the capital’s northwestern outskirts, saying most Russian troops had withdrawn, although fighting continue in some districts. If Ukrainian soldiers can keep control of Irpin, it would be strategically important to keep their grip on kyiv.

“Our Irpin is freed from the evil of Moscow,” Mayor Oleksandr Markushin of Irpin said on Telegram on Monday. But deputy police chief Oleksandr Bogai offered a more skeptical account in a phone interview, noting that the fighting continued even as most Russian troops appeared to have withdrawn and the Russians continued to shell. the city.

Diplomacy between the warring countries has continued, with Russian and Ukrainian delegations arriving in Istanbul for another round of talks due to begin on Tuesday.

While Volodymyr Zelensky, the President of Ukraine, has said he is open to discussing Ukraine’s future neutrality, if he can obtain security guarantees for his country and only after a national referendum, he has refused to concede any territories to Russia or self-declared republics in the southeastern region known as Donbass, as demanded by Russian President Vladimir V. Putin.

In Washington, President Biden on Monday stood by comments he made on Saturday about Mr. Putin, “for the love of God, this man can’t stay in power.” Speaking to reporters, Mr Biden said the remark, apparently improvised in a speech he gave in Warsaw, was an expression of his personal outrage, not a statement of US policy that the leader Russian should be overthrown.

On the battlefield, in addition to gains around kyiv, the Ukrainians also reported significant progress in the Sumy region, northwest of Kharkiv, near the border with Russia. Dmytro Zhyvytsky, head of the regional military administration, said the Ukrainians had taken over the towns of Trostyanets and Boromlya. A Pentagon official confirmed the takeover of Trostyanets.

The Russian military is trying to cut off the main Ukrainian forces east of the Dnipro river, where the bulk of the army is fighting Russian troops and Russian-backed separatists in the Donbass, which Moscow has recognized as Donetsk and Luhansk independent. republics. The Russian objective is to prevent Ukrainian troops from coming to the aid of kyiv, and Russian military officials said over the weekend that their war effort was now concentrated in the east of the country.

Despite these comments, Russian forces continued to fight for control of key towns east and northwest of Kyiv.

Russian forces seized a southern corridor between Crimea, which they captured from Ukraine in 2014, and Donbass, interrupted only by the besieged port city of Mariupol, which they devastated with artillery, rockets and airstrikes, and seem determined to capture.

“Russian forces appear to be concentrating their efforts in an attempt to encircle Ukrainian forces directly facing the breakaway regions in the east of the country, advancing from the direction of Kharkiv in the north and Mariupol in the south,” the UK Ministry of Defense said. . in a report.

A spokesman for Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boichenko said on Monday that nearly 5,000 people, including around 210 children, had been killed there. These figures could not be confirmed. The mayor’s office also said 90% of the buildings were damaged and 40% destroyed, and that there were still some 170,000 people left in the city – again, numbers that cannot be confirmed.

“The situation in the city remains difficult,” Boichenko, who is no longer in the city, told national television on Monday. “People are beyond the humanitarian disaster line. We must completely evacuate Mariupol.

During weeks of talks between Ukrainian and Russian representatives, there were no clear diplomatic steps to end the war. Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said on Monday that while the decision to continue speaking in person was important, “we can’t talk about progress yet and we won’t.”

In an interview Sunday with independent Russian media — an interview censored in Russia itself — Mr. Zelensky reaffirmed his willingness to accede to at least some Russian demands.

“Guarantees of security and neutrality, non-nuclear status of our state – we are ready to go,” he said.

But we don’t know what neutrality would mean. Mr. Putin insists that Ukraine never join NATO, a request that Mr. Zelensky seems to have accepted, but also that it demilitarize, a term which has not been defined. And it remains unclear whether Mr. Putin would also agree to Ukraine joining the European Union.

After all, Mr. Putin has reacted forcefully in the past to Ukraine’s rapprochement with Europe. He pressured Ukraine’s last Kremlin-aligned president, Viktor Yanukovych, to back out of a promised trade deal with the European Union. After that sparked protests that ousted Mr Yanukovych in 2014, Mr Putin invaded Crimea and spurred separatist warfare in Donbass.

On Sunday, Mr. Zelensky again called for direct negotiations with Mr. Putin, but Russian Foreign Minister Sergei V. Lavrov repeated on Monday that such talks would have to wait for more progress in the peace talks – and presumably more progress in The Russian War.

Reports emerged on Monday that Ukrainian peace negotiators and a Russian billionaire trying to mediate may have been poisoned earlier this month, although the circumstances are very murky and those involved have all recovered. .

The possible poisoning report, first reported by The Wall Street Journal, was a worrying sign for the prospects of diplomacy. The Journal and investigative group Bellingcat reported that at least two Ukrainian peace negotiators and Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich, who tried to act as a middleman, developed unusual symptoms at the same time in early March after to be encountered in kyiv – red eyes, constant and painful tearing and peeling of the skin of the face and hands.

The description of the symptoms was confirmed to The Times by someone close to Mr Abramovich.

Asked about the reports, members of the Ukrainian negotiating team did not respond directly. “There is a lot of speculation, various conspiracy theories,” said one, Mykhailo Podolyak. Another, Rustem Umerov, referred to “unverified information”.

According to the Journal, the disgusted people blamed hardliners in Moscow who they said wanted to sabotage the talks to end the war. Reuters later reported that an unnamed US official “with knowledge” of the case said the illness may have been caused by “an environmental factor”, not poisoning.

In Russia, the censorship of Zelensky’s interview was just another indication of the suppression of information – the government has essentially made it a crime to criticize the war – or even to call it a war. On Monday, Novaya Gazeta, the Russian newspaper that helped define fearless journalism in the post-Soviet era and whose editor, Dmitry A. Muratov, shared the Nobel Peace Prize last year, said suspended publication in print and online at least until the end of the war. , leaving Russia without a major media criticizing the Kremlin.

President Biden has made no secret of his own contempt for Mr. Putin and this war. Mr Peskov said on Monday that Mr Biden’s comments in Warsaw about Mr Putin not staying in power “are of course concerning”. He added that “we will continue to follow the statements of the American president very carefully, we document them scrupulously and we will continue to do so.”

Emmanuel Macron, the president of France, who is seeking re-election next month, warned against escalating words or actions on Sunday, in an implied criticism of Mr Biden. Mr. Macron, who had several conversations with Mr. Putin, said he hoped to achieve “first a ceasefire and then the total withdrawal of troops through diplomatic channels”. He added: “If we want to do this, we cannot escalate either in words or actions.”

Mr Zelensky has always demanded more action from NATO and Western countries – to establish a no-fly zone over Ukraine, to provide fighter jets, to speed up the flow of advanced weapons, including armed drones, surface-to-air missiles and anti-tank weaponry, not to mention thousands of rounds. Washington and its allies ruled out a no-fly zone; they have not refused to supply planes, but so far they have not delivered any.

In one interview with the Economist in Kyiv, Mr. Zelensky said he was committed to victory and asked for more help.

“We believe in winning,” he said. “It is impossible to believe in anything else.” But to achieve this, he said, Ukraine needs tanks, armored personnel vehicles and military aircraft, and it needs them now.

The West can just promise to help in the coming weeks, he said. “It does not allow us to unblock the cities occupied by Russia, to bring food to the inhabitants there, to take the military initiative into our own hands.” And Russia continues to move forward, he said. “The Russians have thousands of military vehicles, and they come and go.”

Andrew E. Kramer reported from kyiv and Steven Erlanger from Brussels. The report was provided by Carlotta Gall and Maria Varenikova from Kyiv, Valerie Hopkins from Lviv, Ukraine, Anton Troyanovsky and Ivan Nechepurenko from Istanbul, Michael D. Shear of Washington, and Tariq Panja, Kaly Soto and Cora Engelbrecht from London.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Ukraine claims some combat successes as Russia focuses on other front
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