Ukrainian forces are preparing for new Russian attacks in the southeast region where Moscow’s guns are now trained after its assault on the capital Kyiv was repelled, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Thursday, March 31.
Five weeks into an invasion that has blasted cities into wastelands and created more than 4 million refugees, US and European officials said Russian president Vladimir Putin was misled by his generals about the dire performance of Russia’s military.
Tough resistance by Ukrainian forces has prevented Russia from capturing any major city, including the capital Kyiv, which it assaulted with armored columns from the northwest and east.
Moscow says it is now focusing on “liberating” the Donbas region – two southeastern provinces partly controlled by separatists Russia has backed since 2014.
In an early morning video address, Zelenskiy said Russian troop movements away from Kyiv and the northern city of Chernihiv were not a withdrawal but rather “the consequence of our defenders’ work.”
Ukraine was seeing “a build-up of Russian forces for new strikes on the Donbas and we are preparing for that,” he said.
That includes Mariupol, once a city of 400,000 people, where most buildings have been damaged or destroyed in four weeks of constant Russian bombardment and siege. A convoy of Ukrainian buses set out for the port city on Thursday to try to reach trapped civilians, Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said.
The United Nations believes thousands of people have died there, many buried in unmarked graves.
The past week has seen a Ukrainian counter-offensive, recapturing destroyed suburbs of Kyiv and strategic towns and villages in the northeast and southwest. Russia declared on Monday, March 28, that it was scaling back its offensive near the capital and the city of Chernihiv in the north, in what it called a trust-building gesture for peace talks. — Reuters