Ukraine war: Russia appears to be scaling back invasion ambitions – but UK warns bombing of cities will continue | world news
Russia appears to be scaling back its ambitions in Ukraine to focus on consolidating control of eastern regions – but the UK has warned that for now the bombing of towns is likely to continue.
The Russian Defense Ministry said it would now focus on the “liberation” of the Donbass region.
“The main objectives of the first stage of the operation have generally been achieved,” said Sergei Rudskoi, head of the Main Operational Directorate of the Russian General Staff.
“The combat potential of the Armed Forces of Ukraine has been significantly reduced, which makes it possible to focus our efforts on achieving the main goal – the liberation of Donbass.”
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Live: Zelenskyy says troops delivered mighty blows as Moscow hints he may have given up on full takeover
Moscow has claimed that Russian-backed separatists – who have been in the region for years – control 93% of Luhansk and 54% of Donetsk – the areas that make up Donbass.
Russia has previously stressed far greater ambitions, but fierce resistance from Ukrainian forces, logistical problems and reported low morale may have taken their toll.
Deborah Haynes, Security and Defense Editor
While President Putin says what Russia calls the special military operation will plan, the reality seems to be anything but.
Russian commanders must know the reality on the ground.
Military analysts say that if strengthening the breakaway Donbass region was really the ultimate goal, Moscow did not need to deploy forces across the country.
But information in this war is as much a weapon as bombs and bullets, so even if that is what is being said today, we have to wait and see what happens next on the ground.
A US official, speaking anonymously, said their information indicated that Russia had “certainly done [Donbas] a higher priority on their list,” and became more aggressive there.
However, this appears to contradict a statement by the Russian Defense Ministry that the invasion would continue until it “achieves the goals set by Vladimir Putin”.
The latest update from the UK Ministry of Defense on Saturday said the long-range assault on Ukrainian cities shows no signs of letting up – with more deaths and injuries inevitable.
“Russia continues to besiege a number of major Ukrainian cities, including Kharkiv, Chernihiv and Mariupol,” he tweeted.
“Russian forces are reluctant to engage in large-scale urban infantry operations, preferring instead to rely on the indiscriminate use of aerial bombardment and artillery in an attempt to demoralize defending forces.
“Russia is likely to continue to use its heavy firepower on urban areas as it seeks to limit its own already considerable casualties, at the cost of further civilian casualties.”
President Zelenskyy struck an optimistic note on the military front in his latest message and said “powerful blows” and “significant casualties” had been inflicted on the Russians over the past week.
It comes as the United States says Russian forces no longer have full control of Kherson, the first city to fall after the invasion began.
It’s another apparent boost for Ukraine, which also claimed to have destroyed a Russian landing ship near the coastal town of Berdyansk this week.
“300 dead in the attack on a theater”
Despite counterattacks, the death toll is mounting – and the council of the southern city of Mariupol said on Friday it believed around 300 people died in the bombing of a theater last week .
That would make it the worst loss of life in the month-long war.
‘Children’ was written in large letters outside the theater – meant to be viewed from above – in hopes of protecting the approximately 1,300 people sheltering inside, but the building has everything also been attacked.
The governor of Donetsk said Ukrainian forces still control Mariupol, despite having been under relentless attack for weeks.
Pavlo Kyrylenko said around 65,000 people had fled in private vehicles or on foot, but attempts to facilitate mass evacuations had mostly failed.
According to Ukraine’s prosecutor general’s office, at least 136 children have died since the Russian invasion a month ago.
Chernihiv “surrounded by the enemy”
The northern Ukrainian city of Chernihiv has been cut off by Russian forces, its regional governor said on Friday.
“The city was conditionally, operationally surrounded by the enemy,” Viacheslav Chaus said, adding that it was being shelled by artillery and fighter jets.
Read more: An unlikely beacon as families flee Ukraine’s most devastated city
Ukraine wants to set up a humanitarian corridor for Chernihiv on Saturday, Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said.
In the eastern city of Kharkiv, four people were killed on Friday when Russian shelling hit a clinic providing humanitarian aid, regional police said.
There is also growing evidence of mass graves in Mariupol – including one that appears to contain 200 bodies – the head of the UN human rights team in Ukraine has said.
Some of the evidence comes from satellite images, Matilda Bogner told reporters.
The number of civilians killed in the country has exceeded 1,035, she added, as the UN team investigates what appears to be indiscriminate attacks from both sides.
About 3.7 million people have fled Ukraine since the conflict began, the UN refugee agency said.
The United States, meanwhile, must supply more liquid natural gas to the European Union to help it reduce its dependence on Russian sources.
President Joe Biden has said Vladimir Putin uses the energy to “coerce and manipulate his neighbours” and takes the profits to “drive his war machine”.
Reducing Europe’s dependence on Russian energy was not only the “right thing to do from a moral point of view”, but “it will put us on a more solid strategic footing”, he said. Mr. Biden said.
The president is currently in Europe and met with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in Brussels, who hosted a summit of On Thursday, NATO and G7 leaders.
Mr Biden arrived in Poland on Friday afternoon – home to more than two million Ukrainian refugees – after warning that NATO would respond “in kind” if Russia were to use chemical weapons.
He met with US troops stationed near the border with Ukraine and will hold bilateral talks with Polish leader Andrzej Duda on Saturday.