Chris Lange, FISM News
Ukrainian officials say Russian forces continued shelling areas around Kyiv and other cities overnight, just hours after Moscow pledged to scale back its military operations. The continued aggression has tempered optimism that ongoing talks between the two countries on Tuesday had showed some signs of progress.
Russian forces struck a government building in the Ukrainian city of Mykolaiv Tuesday, killing at least seven people and injuring more than 20 others, President Zelenskyy said. Authorities are searching for more survivors among the rubble.
Despite the apparent setback, talks between Russian and Ukrainian negotiators will resume today in Istanbul.
Kyiv’s delegation on Tuesday outlined a detailed framework for peace in which Ukraine would agree to forgo NATO membership and assume neutrality if its security can be guaranteed by a group of third-party countries including the U.S., Britain, France, Turkey, Poland, and China. Talks concluded with Russian delegates saying that they would bring the proposal to Russian President Vladimir Putin and provide a response, though they did not say when a reply can be expected. Russian Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin said that, in the interim, Moscow will “fundamentally … cut back military activity in the direction of Kyiv and Chernihiv” to “increase mutual trust and create conditions for further negotiations.”
Kyiv, Washington remain skeptical of Russia’s promises
President Zelenskyy said that, despite the apparent signs of progress Tuesday, any promises coming out of Russia should be viewed with skepticism, a caution seemingly borne out by Moscow’s latest acts of military aggression.
“Ukrainians are not naïve people,” Zelenskyy said. “Ukrainians have already learned during the 34 days of the invasion and during the past eight years of war in the Donbas that you can trust only concrete results.”
Assessments from the White House mirror Zelenskyy’s mistrust. The Pentagon said Tuesday that while Moscow has pulled some troops away from Kyiv, they are likely repositioning them elsewhere in Ukraine.
“Has there been some movement by some Russian units away from Kyiv in the last day or so? Yeah. We think so. Small numbers,” Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby said at a briefing Tuesday. “But we believe that this is a repositioning, not a real withdrawal and that we all should be prepared to watch for a major offensive against other areas of Ukraine,” he continued, adding that a real commitment from Moscow would involve a complete withdrawal of Russian forces from Ukraine.
“They have an opportunity here, an opportunity that they have missed, many, many times over the last month to end this war and to do it responsibly and to negotiate in good faith,” Kirby said. “We hope that they’ll do that. But the war could end today if Mr. Putin did the right thing and actually did withdraw all his forces from Ukraine and respect Ukrainian sovereignty.”
Kirby also said the Defense Department’s analysis of Russia’s military operations points to a three-pronged approach that includes attacks on the cities of Kyiv, Chernihiv, and Kharkiv; Russia’s splitting of forces northeast against Mariupol and northwest to Kherson, where they continue to struggle to take Mykolayiv; and continued efforts in the eastern Donbas region, where Moscow has been amassing more resources.
“Russia has failed in its objective of capturing Kyiv,” Kirby said. “It’s failed in its objective of subjugating Ukraine. But they can still inflict massive brutality on the country, including on Kyiv. We see that even today in continued airstrikes against the capital city.”
.@PentagonPresSec: No amount of Kremlin spin can mask what the world has witnessed over the past month: that the courage and military prowess of Ukraine's Armed Forces and its people are proving to be more than what Russia bargained for. pic.twitter.com/aXanOG2l9f
— Department of Defense 🇺🇸 (@DeptofDefense) March 29, 2022
Ukraine official warns of new Chernobyl threat
Meanwhile, Ukraine’s armed forces say that an ammunition storehouse Russian forces set up near the defunct Chernobyl nuclear power station is in imminent danger of causing a massive explosion that would likely result in another nuclear disaster.
Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Verschchuk said Wednesday that Russian troops must pull out of the area. She is calling on the United Nations Security Council to demilitarize the Chernobyl exclusion zone and introduce a U.N. mission to “eliminate the risk of the repeat of a nuclear catastrophe.
In another development, unconfirmed social media reports indicate Ukrainian missiles struck a Russian military base in the town of Millerovo early Wednesday, just under 10 miles from Ukraine’s border, according to a Newsweek report.
If true, it would mark the first time Ukrainian forces launched an attack on Russian soil.