War – Ukraine: skepticism after the Russian announcements

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Ukraine and its Western allies on Wednesday waited with skepticism for the “reduction of military activity” around Kiev and another city announced by Moscow.

A Ukrainian tank in the town of Trostianets, March 29, 2022.

AFP

“We can say that the signals we hear in the negotiations are positive, but they do not make us forget the explosions or the Russian grenades,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a video message on Tuesday.

And after about five weeks of war, thousands of victims and millions of refugees, caution was also called for in the Ukrainian General Staff. “The so-called ‘withdrawal of troops’ is likely to be a rotation of individual units aimed at deceiving the military command of Ukraine’s armed forces,” he said in a statement on Tuesday night.

The warning sirens were heard several times overnight from Tuesday to Wednesday in Kiev, but also around the city, a sign of the concern still prevailing in the Ukrainian capital following the announcements from the Russian forces.

Following talks in Istanbul, Russian Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin announced on Tuesday that Moscow would “radically reduce (its) military activity towards Kiev and Cherniguiv” in the north of the country.

But for U.S. Department of Defense spokesman John Kirby, it is only a “repositioning” and not a “real withdrawal.” “It is very likely that Russia will seek to transfer its force from the north to the (separatist) regions of Donetsk and Lugansk in the east,” the British Ministry of Defense said on its Twitter account.

This was confirmed by Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu. Russia has reached its “goal”: “the military potential of the Ukrainian armed forces has been significantly reduced, making it possible to focus attention and efforts on the main goal, the liberation of the Donbass”.

Judge on show

And for Kiev’s Western allies, above all, it will be necessary to judge on the spot. “We will see if they keep their word,” US President Joe Biden told reporters on Tuesday, shortly after meeting with French, British, German and Italian leaders. “There seems to be agreement that you need to see what they have to offer,” he added.

In London, a spokesman for Prime Minister Boris Johnson said nothing else. London will judge “Putin and his regime on the basis of his actions, not his words,” he said. Britain is holding a donors conference on Thursday to mobilize more lethal weapons to Ukraine.

Earlier, these Western leaders had warned against any “reduction” of the Russian invasion and expressed “their willingness to continue to increase the costs paid by Russia for its brutal attack on Ukraine.

In fact, the US Department of State warned US citizens on Tuesday that they were at risk of being arbitrarily arrested in Russia, urging them not to go there or to leave the country immediately.

Global stock markets were nonetheless hopeful and closed sharply higher on Tuesday following these Russian announcements, which caused oil prices to fall and the ruble to jump.

After three hours of negotiations in Istanbul, the head of the Russian delegation and representative of the Kremlin, Vladimir Medinski, reported on “significant discussions” and said that Kiev’s “clear” proposal for an agreement would be “considered very soon and presented to President Vladimir Putin .

Ukrainian negotiator David Arakhamia, for his part, explained that Kiev called for an “international agreement” signed by several guarantor countries, which “will act in a manner similar to Article 5 of NATO and even more firmly”. Article 5 of the Atlantic Alliance Treaty states that an attack on one of its members is an attack on all.

“Temporarily excluded”

David Arakhamia cited among the countries that Ukraine would like as guarantors, the United States, China, France and the United Kingdom – permanent members of the UN Security Council – but also Turkey, Germany, Poland and Israel. Kiev also demands that this agreement in no way prohibit Ukraine’s accession to the EU, and proposes that Crimea and the Donbass territories under the control of pro-Russian separatists be “temporarily excluded”.

On earth, the hoped-for calm is long awaited. A Russian attack on Tuesday morning hit the building of the regional administration in Mykolaiv, a city near Odessa, which has nevertheless experienced a respite in the bombings in recent days.

At least twelve people died and 33 others were injured, according to a new assessment given by President Zelensky during a video conference intervention in the Folketing. AFP reporters saw rescuers pulling two bodies from the rubble, and the building was cleaned to its full height.

The situation also remains very difficult around Kiev, where the population is fleeing the villages east of the capital, where the inhabitants assure that the Russian forces continue to carry out a brutal occupation there.

“The Russian soldiers came and asked if they could ‘host’ five or six people for the night,” said Valerii Koriachenko, 50, while his lower lip trembled with emotion. “They lifted the safety catch on the gun and politely asked us to go anywhere, saying they lived there now,” he said, adding that they even took “socks” from them and underwear.

Humanitarian corridors

In the south, three humanitarian corridors were set up on Tuesday, including from the besieged city of Mariupol, following a suspension of civilian evacuations on Monday, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk told Telegram.

Volodymyr Zelensky on Tuesday accused the Russians of a “crime against humanity” in Mariupol, a strategic port city on the Sea of ​​Azov, which the Russian army has been trying to conquer since late February, where about 160,000 people are still believed. to be stuck. “They even blow up shelters when they know there are civilians hiding there, women, children and old people,” he added.

Mariia Tsymmerman, 38, fled Mariupol with her family two weeks ago. “We buried our neighbors, we saw death everywhere, even my children saw it,” swears this resident.

According to Tetyana Lomakina, adviser to the Ukrainian presidency, “about 5,000 people” were buried there, but there could actually be “about 10,000 dead.”

Following a telephone exchange with French President Emmanuel Macron, Vladimir Putin made the surrender of the Ukrainian forces defending the city a condition for the evacuation of civilians from Mariupol.

Another issue of concern is the situation of nuclear power plants in Ukraine. The International Atomic Energy Agency announced that its Director-General was in Ukraine “for discussions with officials” to provide “technical assistance” to ensure the safety of these facilities.

And at the UN on Tuesday, Russia was accused by the United States before the Security Council of causing a “world food crisis”, even of putting people at risk of “hunger”, by starting a war against Ukraine, the “bread basket”. of Europe ‘. The Ukrainian General Staff said on Tuesday night from Tuesday to Wednesday that at least 90 cargo ships with food, including grain, had been blocked by Russian forces in the Black Sea.

(AFP)

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