WAR IN UKRAINE – A new phase of the war is beginning, and the West remains on its guard. This Thursday, March 31, Jens Stoltenberg, the Secretary General of NATO, said he expected “additional offensives” from Russia in Ukraine, assuring that the Kremlin troops were in no way withdrawing. , but rather to “reposition” itself.
According to the leader of the Atlantic Alliance, Russia “is trying to strengthen its offensive on the Donbass region” and “maintains pressure on kyiv and other cities”. For many observers, in fact, in the event of a Russian victory over the fierce Ukrainian resistance in the Donbass, Moscow would then have much more available forces to continue the offensives towards the west.
It is in this sense that the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky declared a little earlier this Thursday not to believe in the promise made by Moscow to “radically reduce” its military activity in the direction of kyiv.
An exit with which Joe Biden seems in agreement. This Thursday evening, the American president declared to remain “skeptical” in the face of Russia’s announcements on a partial withdrawal of its troops to concentrate the offensive in Ukraine on the Donbass region. “So far, there is no evidence that Vladimir Putin is withdrawing all these troops from kyiv,” he told reporters again, at the end of a statement devoted to the prices of the gasoline.
A conflict that will last
On the other hand, according to the Ukrainian Nuclear Agency, Russian forces began to withdraw from the Chernobyl nuclear site on Thursday, a place they had taken control of on the first day of the invasion of Ukraine on 24 February.
Information confirmed on the American side since a senior Pentagon official said that Moscow troops had begun their withdrawal from Chernobyl (north) and “abandoned” the Gostomel military airport, northwest of kyiv. But “we continue to think that it is a repositioning”, he nuanced, in the same vein as the leaders of NATO.
“What we continue to believe is that these forces will be re-equipped and returned to Ukraine … to continue the fight in accordance with what we believe to be their objective, which is broadly the ‘East’, including the separatist regions of Lugansk and Donetsk, in the Donbass, he added.
So many elements that lead Western officials to say that the conflict should last. “Just because the Russians are prioritizing Donbass, increasing their numbers there and putting more energy into it, doesn’t mean it will be easy for them,” the senior Pentagon official warned. recalling that since 2014 there has been a conflict in this region between the kyiv regime and pro-Russian separatists supported by Moscow. “It could portend a longer, more protracted conflict,” he added.
In Mariupol, a martyr city, the situation is also changing somewhat. After the announcement of a truce supposed to allow the Ukrainian authorities to evacuate civilians by means of 45 buses, 17 vehicles have so far actually been sent there by kyiv.
Shooting at a humanitarian convoy
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said it was ready “to lead” from this Friday 1st the evacuation operations towards the city of Zaporozhye, 220 km to the northwest, provided you have the necessary guarantees.
According to the military administration of the Donetsk region, however, the Russian army again bombarded the Donetsk region, the Donbass, just north of Mariupol, in the night, sometimes with phosphorus bombs.
In addition, one person was killed and four injured in shootings at a convoy of five buses bringing volunteers to the besieged city of Cherniguiv in northern Ukraine, a Ukrainian official said Thursday.
“Russian fighters fired on a convoy of volunteers near Cherniguiv. Five buses heading for the city to evacuate civilians were shot at,” said Lioudmyla Denissova, human rights officer at Parliament. She accused Russian troops of “not leaving the slightest possibility of evacuating civilians from besieged Cherniguiv, leaving tens of thousands of civilians without food, without water, without heating”.
Haro on Russian gas
After Mariupol in the south, Cherniguiv, which had 280,000 inhabitants before the war, is the city hardest hit by bombing since the start of the war launched by Moscow on February 24.
Without “any illusions”, Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre said on Thursday that he had asked Russian President Vladimir Putin for an end to hostilities during a telephone interview on Thursday morning. A thin glimmer of hope for a peaceful resolution, the Russian and Ukrainian foreign ministers could meet “within one or two weeks”, indicated their Turkish counterpart Mevlüt Cavusoglu.
In the background, the debates and maneuvers about sanctions continued on Thursday. While Vladimir Putin threatened to no longer supply countries that refuse to pay for Russian gas in rubles, Europe has formed a united front to demand respect for contracts (and therefore payment in euros and dollars). A way to avoid keeping the Russian currency afloat as the effects of economic sanctions begin to be felt. At the same time, several European countries are beginning to set in motion plans intended to compensate for a sudden stoppage of the supply of Russian gas.
In parallel with this dispute, London and Washington announced new sanctions. UK targets Russian ‘propaganda and state media’, including owners of RT and Sputnik, to counter Kremlin ‘lies’, while Americans go after tech sector, including biggest maker Russian semiconductor. Russia responded by barring European leaders and most MEPs from entering its territory.
See also on the HuffPost: Zelensky compares Mariupol to the ruins of Verdun in front of French elected officials
Source: Le Huffington Post by www.huffingtonpost.fr.
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