Ukraine says Russian forces fighting on many fronts despite Moscow promise

Destroyed Russian military equipment in one of the villages near Chernihiv, Ukraine, on March 28, 2022. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

KYIV (REUTERS. AFP) - Ukrainian officials reported shelling around the capital Kyiv and the northern region of Chernihiv on Wednesday (March 30), despite a promise by Moscow to scale down military operations there.

The Kremlin on Wednesday played down hopes of a breakthrough following peace talks between Russian and Ukrainian delegates in Istanbul a day earlier.

“We cannot state that there was anything too promising or any breakthroughs,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters. “There is a lot of work to be done.”

He said that Moscow considered it “positive” that Kyiv had started outlining its demands in writing.

“We carefully avoid making statements on the matters” that are discussed at the talks because “we believe that negotiations should take place in silence”, he added.

Following talks in Istanbul on Tuesday that Moscow’s main negotiator described as “meaningful”, Russia said it would be significantly reducing its military activity near Ukraine’s capital Kyiv and the city of Chernigiv. 

Russian forces were also shelling nearly all cities along the front line separating Ukrainian government-controlled territory from areas held by Russian-backed separatists in the eastern Donetsk region, the regional governor said, and heavy fighting was reported in the southern port city of Mariupol.

Mr Oleksiy Arestovych, an adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky, said Russia was transferring forces from northern Ukraine to eastern areas to try to encircle Ukrainian troops there.

He said Russia would keep some troops near Kyiv to try to prevent Ukrainian forces reinforcing the eastern front.

"Although the Russians are withdrawing some troops from (around) Kyiv, they will still leave certain forces here (near Kyiv) to keep our troops here," Arestovych said in televised comments.

Kyiv's deputy mayor Mykola Povoroznyk told national television the capital itself had not been shelled overnight.

"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 said.

The Chernihiv region's governor Viacheslav Chaus said he saw no let-up in Russian attacks.

"Do we believe in it (the promise to reduce military activities)? Of course not," Mr Chaus wrote on the Telegram messaging app.

"The 'decreased activity' in the Chernihiv region was demonstrated by the enemy carrying out strikes on (the city of) Nizhyn, including air strikes, and all night long they hit (the city of) Chernihiv."

The governor of the Khmelnitskyi region in western Ukraine said Russian forces had hit industrial facilities in the region in three strikes overnight.

Governor Serhiy Hamaliy gave no details of the targets or the damage, but said fires had been "localised" and checks were being made to determine whether there were any casualties.

Mr Arestovych said street fighting in Mariupol was heavy and half the city had been taken by Russian forces.

Remote video URL

Mr Vitaliy Kim, governor of the Mykolaiv region in southern Ukraine, said fighting also continued around occupied Kherson on the Black Sea and in the region as a whole.

"We are not relaxing, we are working on strengthening our defence capability," he said.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.