Russia-Ukraine crisis updates | March 27, 2022

First responders work at a site of fuel storage facilities hit by cruise missiles, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, in Lviv, Ukraine in this still image taken from a video released March 27, 2022.  Photo: State Emergency Service of Ukraine via Reuters

First responders work at a site of fuel storage facilities hit by cruise missiles, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, in Lviv, Ukraine in this still image taken from a video released March 27, 2022. Photo: State Emergency Service of Ukraine via Reuters

At least five people are wounded in two barrages of strikes that damage infrastructure including a fuel storage facility in a rare attack by Russia on the western Ukrainian city of Lviv.

Russian forces also took control of a town where staff working at the Chernobyl nuclear site live and briefly detain the mayor, sparking protests, Ukrainian officials said.

Meanwhile, U.S. President Joe Biden calls his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin a “butcher” who “cannot remain in power” after meeting top Ukrainian ministers for the first time since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The conflict began escalating on February 21, 2022, after Russian President Vladimir Putin recognised separatist regions in eastern Ukraine and deployed troops in a peacekeeping role.

Here are the latest updates:

Russia may try to split country, says Ukraine intelligence chief

Ukraine’s military intelligence chief says that Russia could try to break Ukraine in two.

Kyrylo Budanov said in remarks released by the Defense Ministry on Sunday that Russian President Vladimir Putin has realized “he can’t swallow the entire country” and would likely try to split the country under “the Korean scenario.” That’s a reference to the decades-old division between North and South Korea.

Budanov said that “the occupiers will try to pull the occupied territories into a single quasi-state structure and pit it against independent Ukraine.” He pointed to Russian attempts to set up parallel government structures in occupied cities and to bar people from using the Ukrainian currency, the hryvnia.

Budanov predicted that Ukrainian resistance will grow into a “total” guerrilla warfare, derailing Russia’s attempts.

JERUSALEM 

Blinken: U.S. not seeking Russian regime change

Secretary of State Antony Blinken says the U.S. is not trying to topple Russian President Vladimir Putin, despite its harsh condemnations of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Mr. Blinken spoke a day after President Joe Biden said of Putin during a speech in Warsaw: “For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power.”

At a news conference in Jerusalem, Mr. Blinken said Mr. Biden’s point was that “Putin cannot be empowered to wage war or engage in aggression against Ukraine or anyone else.”

He said the U.S. has repeatedly said that “we do not have a strategy of regime change in Russia, or anywhere else for that matter.”

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Kyiv

Biden meets Ukraine ministers as Russia signals scaled down goals

U.S. President Joe Biden met with Ukrainian ministers Saturday, as Russia signalled it may scale down its war aims after failing to break the nation’s resistance in a month of fighting and deadly attacks on civilians.

During the meeting, Mr. Biden was seated at a long white table alongside U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin facing Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov, a White House pool report said.

The U.S. leader has been leading efforts among Western allies to press Vladimir Putin to end his invasion of Ukraine, branding the Russian president as a “war criminal” over the assaults on civilians.

Mr. Putin had sent troops into Ukraine on February 24, vowing to destroy the country’s military and topple pro-Western President Volodymyr Zelensky.

But his army has made little progress on capturing key cities, and its attacks on civilians have become more deadly.

In a surprise statement, Sergei Rudskoi, a senior Russian general, suggested the time had come for a considerably reduced “main goal” of controlling Donbas, an eastern region already partly held by Russian proxies.

The apparent scaling down of ambitions came as a Western official reported that a seventh Russian general, Lieutenant General Yakov Rezanstev, had died in Ukraine and that a colonel had been “deliberately” killed by his own demoralised men. - AFP

Kyiv

Russia signals less ambitious goals in Ukraine war

Russia has signalled it may dial back its war aims to focus on eastern Ukraine after failing to break the nation’s resistance in a month of fighting and attacks on civilians, including up to 300 feared killed in the bombing of a theatre.

The possible shift came ahead of a planned meeting by U.S. President Joe Biden with Ukrainian refugees in Poland and talks with his Polish counterpart Andrzej Duda in Warsaw before he gives a speech on the “brutal war”, the White House said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin had ordered the February invasion to destroy Ukraine’s military and topple pro-Western President Volodymyr Zelensky, bringing the country under Russia’s sway.

(L-R) Sergei Rudskoi, a senior representative of the General Staff, Defence Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov and Mikhail Mizintsev, head of the Russian National Defence Control Centre, hold a briefing on Russian military action in Ukraine, in Moscow on March 25, 2022. - The Russian army on March 25 updated its losses in Ukraine to 1,351 soldiers, while saying that it had evacuated more than 400,000 civilians and condemning Western supplies of weapons to Kyiv.

(L-R) Sergei Rudskoi, a senior representative of the General Staff, Defence Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov and Mikhail Mizintsev, head of the Russian National Defence Control Centre, hold a briefing on Russian military action in Ukraine, in Moscow on March 25, 2022. - The Russian army on March 25 updated its losses in Ukraine to 1,351 soldiers, while saying that it had evacuated more than 400,000 civilians and condemning Western supplies of weapons to Kyiv. | Photo Credit: AFP

But Sergei Rudskoi, a senior general, suggested a considerably reduced “main goal” of controlling Donbas, an eastern region already partly held by Russian proxies.

His surprise statement came as a Western official reported that a seventh Russian general, Lieutenant General Yakov Rezanstev, had died in Ukraine and that a colonel had been “deliberately” killed by his own demoralised men.

Complicating Moscow’s challenges, invasion troops were facing a counteroffensive in Kherson, the only major Ukrainian city under Russian control.

Visiting Rzeszow, about 80 kilometres (50 miles) from Ukraine, Mr. Biden praised Ukraine’s “incredible” resistance, comparing the conflict to a bigger version of communist China’s 1989 crushing of protests in Tiananmen Square.

Mr. Biden told soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division that the struggle in eastern Europe represents a historic “inflection point”. “Are democracies going to prevail... or are autocracies going to prevail? And that’s really what’s at stake,” Mr. Biden said.

The U.S. leader was briefed on the humanitarian situation, with more than 3.7 million refugees fleeing Ukraine, most of them into Poland.

Earlier, he ended a trip to Brussels for meetings with Western allies by announcing new measures to help the European Union shed dependence on imported Russian energy.

The plan is part of a sea change in the West, which for years has shrunk from direct confrontation with the Kremlin, but now seeks to make Putin a pariah. - AFP

Russia

Russian forces move toward separatist regions

The Russian military appears to be trying to encircle Ukrainian forces fighting in the separatist regions in the eastern part of the country, Britain’s Ministry of Defense says.

Russian forces are advancing southward from the area around Kharkiv and north from Mariupol, the ministry said in an intelligence briefing released Sunday morning.

Battlefields in northern Ukraine remain “largely static,” with Ukrainian counterattacks hampering Russian efforts to reorganize their forces, the ministry said.- AP

Ukraine

Ukraine says two evacuation corridors agreed for Sunday, including from Mariupol

Ukraine and Russia have agreed two ‘humanitarian corridors’ to evacuate civilians from frontline areas on Sunday, including allowing people to leave by private car from the southern city of Mariupol, Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said.- Reuters

Ukraine

Zelensky: Russia sowing a deep hatred among Ukrainians

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy angrily warned Moscow that it is sowing a deep hatred for Russia among his people, as constant artillery barrages and aerial bombings are reducing cities to rubble, killing civilians and driving others into shelters, leaving them to scrounge for food and water to survive.

“You are doing everything so that our people themselves leave the Russian language, because the Russian language will now be associated only with you, with your explosions and murders, your crimes,” Zelenskyy said in an impassioned video address late Saturday.- AP

Kharkiv, Ukraine

Kharkiv nuclear facility again hit by shelling

Ukraine’s nuclear watchdog says that a nuclear research facility in Kharkiv again has come under shelling by Russia and the fighting makes it impossible to assess the damage.

The State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate said that the neutron source experimental facility in the Kharkiv Institute of Physics and Technology came under fire Saturday.

Ukrainian authorities have previously reported that Russian shelling damaged buildings at the Kharkiv facility, but there has been no release of radiation.- AP

Ukraine

Russia occupies Chernobyl staff town, Kyiv says

Russian forces took control of a town where staff working at the Chernobyl nuclear site live and briefly detained the mayor, sparking protests, Ukrainian officials said Saturday.

“I have been released. Everything is fine, as far as it is possible under occupation,” Yuri Fomichev, mayor of Slavutych, told AFP by phone, after officials in the Ukraine capital Kyiv announced earlier he had been detained.

Earlier, the military administration of the Kyiv region, which covers Slavutych, announced that Russian troops had entered the town and occupied the municipal hospital.

They also said that the mayor had been detained.- AFP

Ukraine

Kyiv says US has ‘no objections’ to Poland supplying war planes

Ukraine said Saturday that the United States does not object to the transfer of war planes to Kyiv to help it fend off the Russian invasion, after the Pentagon previously rejected an offer from Poland.

Officials in Washington “have no objections to the transfer of aircrafts. As far as we can conclude, the ball is now on the Polish side. We will look further into this matter in our conversations with Polish colleagues”, Ukraine Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said in written comments to AFP

Ukraine

Ukraine says 5,208 people were evacuated from cities on Saturday

A total of 5,208 people were evacuated from Ukrainian cities through humanitarian corridors on Saturday, a senior official said, fewer than the 7,331 who managed to escape the previous day.

Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy head of the president’s office, said in an online post that 4,331 people had left the besieged city of Mariupol.- Reuters

Lviv, Ukraine

Man detained at site of Lviv rocket attacks

The governor of the Lviv region says a man was detained on suspicion of espionage at the site of one of the two rocket attacks that rattled the city on Saturday.

Maksym Kozytskyy said police found the man had recorded a rocket flying toward the target and striking it. Police also found on his telephone photos of checkpoints in the region, which Mr. Kozytskyy said had been sent to two Russian telephone numbers.

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Lviv, Ukraine

Rocket attacks hit Ukraine's Lviv as Biden visits Poland

Russian rockets struck the western Ukrainian city of Lviv on Saturday while President Joe Biden visited neighboring Poland, a reminder that Moscow is willing to strike anywhere in Ukraine despite its claim to be focusing its offensive on the country’s east.

The back-to-back airstrikes shook the city that has become a haven for an estimated 2,00,000 people who have had to flee their hometowns. Lviv had been largely spared since the invasion began, although missiles struck an aircraft repair facility near the main airport a week ago.

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U.S.A.

Biden on Putin: 'This man cannot remain in power'

U.S. President Joe Biden said Saturday that Vladimir Putin “cannot remain in power,” dramatically escalating the rhetoric against the Russian leader after his brutal invasion of Ukraine.

Even as Mr. Biden's words rocketed around the world, the White House attempted to clarify soon after Mr. Biden finished speaking in Poland that he was not calling for a new government in Russia.

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