KYIV: 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.
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.
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.
Zelenskyy at Doha Forum
Ukraine’s president made a surprise video appearance on Saturday at Qatar’s Doha Forum, calling on the energy-rich nation and others to boost their production to counteract the loss of Russian energy supplies.
Volodymyr Zelenskyy called on the United Nations and world powers to come to his aid, as he has in a series of other addresses given around the world since the start of the war Feb 24. He compared Russia’s destruction of the port city of Mariupol to the Syrian and Russian destruction wrought on the city of Aleppo in the Syrian war. Zelenskyy called on countries to increase their exports of energy something particularly important as Qatar is a world leader in the export of natural gas. Western sanctions have deeply cut into Russian exports, which are crucial for European nations.
Also on hand was Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan, the top diplomat for the world’s biggest oil exporter. Saudi Arabia so far has said it would stick with an OPEC+ production schedule the cartel struck with Russia and other producers.
The kingdom also said it wouldn’t be responsible for higher prices as it deals with attacks from Yemen’s Houthi rebels amid its yearslong war in the Arab world’s poorest country.
Zelenskyy criticised Russia for what he described as threatening the world with its nuclear weapons, raising the possibility of tactical nuclear weapons being used on the battlefield.
Russia occupies Chernobyl staff town
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 on Saturday.
“I have been released. Everything is fine, as far as it is possible under occupation,” Yuri Fomichev, mayor of Slavutych, said, after officials in the Ukraine capital Kyiv announced earlier he had been detained.
Earlier, Kyiv announced that Russian troops had entered Slavutych and occupied the municipal hospital.
Residents took to the streets, carrying a large blue and yellow Ukrainian flag and heading towards the hospital, the administration said, adding that Russian forces fired into the air and threw stun grenades into the crowd.
Published in Dawn, March 27th, 2022