The bombings – and the escalating Russian attacks in other parts of the country – dampen optimism about any progress in the talks aimed at ending the punitive war.
The announcement by the Russian military on Tuesday that it would move closer to the capital and Chernihiv to “boost mutual trust” was met with deep suspicion by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and the West.
Shortly afterwards, Ukrainian officials reported that Russian bombings had hit homes, shops, libraries and other political venues in and around Chernihiv and on the outskirts of Kiev. Russian troops have also stepped up their attacks around the eastern city of Izyum and the eastern Donetsk region, following the redeployment of some units from other areas, the Ukrainian side said.
Olexander Lomako, secretary of the Chernihiv city council, said the Russian announcement turned out to be “a complete lie”.
“At night they did not decrease, but conversely they increased the intensity of military action,” Lomako said.
Five weeks after the invasion that left thousands dead on both sides, the number of Ukrainians who fled the country exceeded 4 million, half of whom are children, according to the United Nations.
“I do not know if we can still believe the Russians,” said Nikolai Nazarov, a Ukrainian refugee as he pushed his father in a wheelchair across a border with Poland. “I believe that there will be more escalation in eastern Ukraine. That is why we can not return to Kharkov.”
Meanwhile, the economic implications of the war and Western sanctions against Moscow have widened. Germany, Europe’s industrial power, has issued a warning about its gas supplies amid concerns that Russia could cut off supplies unless paid in rubles. Poland has announced measures to end all Russian oil imports by the end of 2022.
In a round of talks in Istanbul on Tuesday, the blurred outlines of a possible peace deal appeared to emerge when the Ukrainian delegation offered a framework on which the country would declare neutral – abandoning its bid to join NATO here. Moscow for a long time – in exchange for security guarantees from a group of other nations.
Vladimir Medinsky, head of the Russian delegation, said Ukraine’s readiness to consider a neutral regime would respond to a key Russian request.
Medinsky said in a televised comment that the proposals signaled Ukraine’s readiness to reach an agreement “for the first time in years”, adding that if Ukraine made its offer, “the threat of a NATO bridge over Ukrainian territory would be eliminated.” ».
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peshkov also praised the move, adding: “We can not say that there was any hope or any significant progress.”
After the Kremlin announced that it would reduce some of its military operations, Zelensky reacted by saying that when dealing with the Russians, “you can only trust concrete results.”
“We judge the Russian military machine by its actions, not just by its words,” British Vice President Dominique Raab also told Sky News. “Obviously there is some skepticism that he will regroup to attack again instead of dealing seriously with diplomacy.”
He added: “Of course, the door to diplomacy will always be ajar, but I do not think you can trust what comes out of Putin’s war machine.”
The skepticism seemed justified on Wednesday.
Oleksandr Pavliuk, head of the military administration in the Kiev region, said the Russian shells targeted residential areas and civilian infrastructure in the Bucha, Brovary and Vyshhorod areas around the capital.
Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Lt. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said the army also targeted fuel depots in two cities in central Ukraine with long-range cruise missiles. Russian forces also hit a Ukrainian special forces headquarters in the southern Mykolaiv region, he said, and two ammunition depots in the Donetsk region.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said that in the past 24 hours, the United States has seen some Russian troops withdrawing north from Kyiv to Belarus, but did not see it as a withdrawal, just a Moscow effort to refuel the troops.
Top Russian military officials have said in recent days that their main goal now is to “liberate” Donbass, the predominantly Russian-speaking industrial hub in the east where Moscow-backed separatists have been fighting Ukrainian forces since 2014. And Western officials They say Moscow is reinforcing troops in Donbas.
Some analysts have suggested that the apparent de-escalation of the Kremlin’s war targets and the commitment to de-escalation may be merely an attempt to give a positive turn to reality: Moscow’s ground troops have been frustrated – and suffered heavy losses – in capital and other cities.
Meanwhile, a rocket destroyed part of a rebel-held apartment building in the city of Donetsk early Wednesday, killing two people. The separatists blamed the Ukrainian forces for the attack.
“I was just sitting on the couch and – bam! – the window glass burst, the windows came off. I did not even understand what happened,” said resident Anna Gorda.
The United Nations is examining allegations that some residents of the besieged southern city of Mariupol have been forcibly evacuated to areas controlled by Russian forces or to Russia itself, said Michelle Bachelet, the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
The UN Food and Drug Administration also said it was providing emergency assistance to 1 million people in Ukraine. He said the food included 330,000 freshly baked bread loaves for families in the heavily bombed eastern city of Kharkiv.
“Children are suffering, and so is our city and everything,” said Tetiana Parminska, a 28-year-old from the Chernihiv region who is now in a refugee center in Poland, as the man played songs on a piano decorated with a peace emblem. . “We no longer have power.”
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