©Reuters. A view shows residential buildings destroyed during the Russian invasion of Ukraine in the town of Irpin outside of Kyiv, Ukraine April 29, 2022. Image taken with a drone. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko
By Natalia Zinets
Kyiv (Reuters) – Ukraine and Russia exchanged allegations of shaky talks to end a war now in its third month as Russia bombed areas in the east of the country and US lawmakers promised a massive new arms package for Kyiv.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in a remark released early Saturday the lifting of Western sanctions on Russia is part of peace talks, which he says are “difficult” but are continuing daily via video link.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told Polish journalists the chances were “high” that the talks, which have not been held in person for a month, would end over Russia’s “playbook on killing people,” Interfax news agency said.
Ukraine has accused Russian troops of atrocities in areas near the capital, Kyiv, which they have occupied. Moscow denies the claims.
After failing to take the capital in the nine-week attack that reduced cities to rubble, killed thousands and forced 5 million Ukrainians to flee abroad, Moscow is now focusing on the east and south.
Russian forces captured the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson and largely occupied the southeastern port city of Mariupol, where the United Nations is making efforts to evacuate civilians and militants holed up at a large steel mill.
Lavrov told China’s official Xinhua News Agency that 1.02 million people have been evacuated from Ukraine to Russia since the invasion began on Feb. 24. Ukraine says thousands were taken to Russia against their will.
Reuters has not been able to independently verify either side’s claims.
Lavrov said the evacuees included 120,000 foreigners and people from Russia-backed breakaway regions of Ukraine — the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics, which Russia recognized as independent just before President Vladimir Putin announced the invasion.
“CLOSUS HALL LOSSES”
Moscow is calling the war a “special military operation” to disarm and “denazify” Ukraine, protect the Russian-speaking population from persecution, and prevent the United States from using the country to threaten Russia.
Ukraine dismisses Putin’s claims of persecution and says it is fighting an unprovoked land grab in a bid to fully seize Donetsk and Luhansk, which make up the Donbass region.
Britain and the United States have expressed their support for Ukraine in the peace talks but say it is vital to continue arming Kyiv. On Thursday, President Joe Biden asked Congress for $33 billion in new aid, including more than $20 billion for weapons.
Funding was supported by the bipartisan Congress. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she hopes to pass the package “as soon as possible”.
Ukraine admits it has lost control of some eastern towns and villages but says Moscow’s gains have come at a heavy price for a force already worn down by its defeat near the capital.
“We have heavy casualties, but Russian casualties are much, much greater,” said Ukraine’s presidential aide Oleksiy Arestovych, without elaborating. “They have colossal casualties.”
Russia has bombarded the entire Donetsk front line with rockets, artillery, mortar shells and planes to prevent Ukrainian troops from regrouping, Ukrainian officials said.
Ukrainian military said Russia is preparing for offensives in Lyman oblasts in Donetsk and Sievierodonetsk and Popasna in Luhansk. In the south, it said, Russia would “continue to regroup, increase the effectiveness of fire and improve its position.”
Russia’s Defense Ministry said its forces had attacked Ukrainian arms caches, train strongholds, artillery positions and drones. Russia said a diesel submarine in the Black Sea had attacked military targets with Kalibr cruise missiles, the first report of such attacks from a submarine.
“IT CANNOT BE WRITING”
Russia said its long-range, high-precision missiles destroyed production facilities at a missile factory in Kyiv.
Ukraine says Thursday’s attack hit an apartment building, injuring civilians and killing a producer of US-backed Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
The body of producer Vira Hyrych was found in the rubble of the building, the broadcaster said.
Western officials said Russia has suffered fewer casualties after narrowing the scope of its invasion, but the numbers are still “quite high”.
On Saturday, the British Ministry of Defense said: “There are still shortcomings in Russian tactical coordination.” Russia had been forced to merge and redeploy exhausted and disparate units from failed forays into north-eastern Ukraine, a daily bulletin said.
The bloodiest fighting and the worst humanitarian catastrophe took place in Mariupol, which was turned into a wasteland by two months of Russian bombardment and siege. Ukraine says 100,000 civilians remain in the city.
In parts of Mariupol now held by Russian troops, emergency services are recovering bodies from the streets. Those who remained among the devastated ruins remembered their fear.
“We were hungry, the child was crying when the Grad grenades (multiple rocket launchers) hit near the house,” a crying Viktoria Nikolayeva, 54, who survived the fight with her family in a basement, told Reuters.
“We thought this is it, the end.”
A Ukrainian fighter expressed optimism about rescuing the injured and other soldiers at the facility, despite previous evacuation efforts having failed.
“I really believe that all the defenders of Mariupol – the troops that stayed here, the wounded and the living – that we will be able to save the lives of these heroes,” said Captain Sviatoslav Palamar.
https://www.investing.com/news/world-news/ukraine-spars-with-russia-over-talks-says-moscow-not-succeeding-in-east-2814482 Ukraine at odds with Russia over talks, Moscow says unsuccessful in the east By Reuters