Britain says Russian units forced to return home and to Belarus; 12 killed in Mykolaiv air strike

A destroyed Ukrainian government administration building following a bombing, in Mykolaiv, Ukraine, on March 29, 2022. PHOTO: REUTERS

KYIV (REUTERS, AFP) - British military intelligence said on Wednesday (March 30) that Russian units suffering heavy losses in Ukraine had been forced to return home and to neighbouring Belarus in an effort to reorganise and resupply.

"Such activity is placing further pressure on Russia's already strained logistics and demonstrates the difficulties Russia is having reorganising its units in forward areas within Ukraine," said Britain's Defence Ministry.

Russia is likely to continue to compensate for its reduced ground manoeuvre capability through mass artillery and missile strikes, the ministry added.

Russian forces hit industrial facilities in three strikes on the Khmelnytskyi region of western Ukraine overnight, regional governor Serhiy Hamaliy said on Wednesday.

He gave no details of the targets but said fires had been “localised” and checks were being made to determine whether there were any casualties.

Overnight, shelling could be heard outside Kyiv but the Ukrainian capital itself was not shelled by Russian forces, Deputy Mayor Mykola Povoroznyk said on Wednesday.

“The night passed relatively calmly, to the sounds of sirens and the sound of gunfire from battles around the city, but there was no shelling in the city itself” he told national television. 

Meanwhile, at least 12 people were killed and 33 wounded on Tuesday when a Russian missile hit a regional government building in the southern Ukrainian city of Mykolaiv, emergency officials said.

The strike hit the nine-storey building shortly before 9am local time, destroying the entire central part of the structure.

"The bodies of 12 people have been recovered from the site of the destruction and 33 people have been injured," said Ukraine's emergencies agency in a statement on Telegram.

Photographs posted by the agency showed rescue workers clearing the rubble and a female medical worker in a red suit helping an injured man lying on a stretcher, his face bloodied.

Earlier in the day, officials spoke of nine people being killed and 28 injured.

In a video address to the Danish Parliament earlier on Tuesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky condemned the attack.

"The residents of Mykolaiv posed no threat to Russia. And despite all this, like all Ukrainians, they became the targets of Russian troops," said Mr Zelensky.

After a lull in the fighting that lasted several days, the attack on Tuesday morning surprised this city, which is home to half a million people in peacetime.

Mykolaiv stands on the road to Odessa, Ukraine's largest port in the south.

The front line in the region has recently shifted south-east to Mykolaiv, which is located near Kherson, the only major Ukrainian city that Russia claims to have taken under full control since the war started over a month ago.

In Ukraine's besieged seaport Mariupol, thousands of civilians may have died, the head of the United Nations human rights mission in the country told Reuters on Tuesday. Those who remain are suffering.

The conditions for carrying out a humanitarian operation sought by France to help citizens in Mariupol are not met "at this stage", President Emmanuel Macron's office said after the French leader spoke by telephone with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.

Mr Macron outlined to Mr Putin details of the mission that France, Turkey and Greece would oversee, but the Russian leader replied that "he was going to think about it" before responding, an Elysee Palace official said.

In the meantime, "relaxing our efforts is out of the question" because the situation is "catastrophic" for Mariupol and its residents, the official said.

According to the Kremlin, however, Mr Putin told Mr Macron that Ukrainian "nationalists" in Mariupol would have to "lay down their arms" before Russian forces allow any emergency humanitarian assistance.

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