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Russia shows signs of reducing its military objectives in Ukraine

Rusia da señales de reducir sus objetivos militares en Ucrania

Russia announced this Friday that it will concentrate its offensive in Ukraine in the "release" from the east of the country, after a month of fighting and bombing that failed to break the resistance of this former Soviet republic.

According to reports, Russian troops were forced to withdraw to regions around kyiv and were facing a counteroffensive in Kherson (south), the only major city they managed to take since the beginning of the invasion, on February 24.

"The Ukrainians are trying to seize Kherson"said a senior US Defense Department official, who requested anonymity. "We can’t say who is in control of Kherson, but it is not as heavily under Russian control as it used to be."narrowed down

The US president, Joe Biden, praised the Ukrainian resistance from the Polish city of Rzeszow, 80 km from the border with Ukraine, and again described the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, as "war criminal".

The port city of Mariupol (south), on the Sea of ​​Azov, besieged and bombed for weeks, has become an emblem of the devastation left by the war.

The bombing last week of a theater that served as an anti-aircraft shelter could have left nearly 300 dead, according to the Mayor’s Office.

France, Turkey and Greece will launch "in the coming days" a "humanitarian operation" to try to evacuate civilians from the city, French President Emmanuel Macron announced after a European Union (EU) summit in Brussels.

Mariupol is a "city ​​of 400,000 inhabitants of which today only 150,000 remain" living "dramatic situations"he claimed.

"I have fled, but I lost my whole family, I lost my house, I am desperate"Oksana Vynokurova, a 33-year-old woman, told AFP that she managed to leave Mariupol and reach Lviv by train in the west.

Another refugee who arrived on the same train, Svetlana Kuznetsova, said that in Mariupol "there is no more water or light. We live in basements and light fires to cook".

Offensive concentrated in the east

The Ukrainian air force headquarters in Vinnitsa (centre) was hit east by a salvo of cruise missiles, causing "major damage"reported the Ukrainian Armed Forces.

In Járkov (east), the mayor denounced bombings "indiscriminate" which left at least four dead.

Despite these attacks, Russian troops have suffered significant casualties and have not made any significant advance for weeks.

The Russian Army acknowledged on Friday that 1,351 of its soldiers had been killed and 3,825 wounded since the start of the offensive and accused Western countries of committing a "error" by delivering weapons to kyiv.

In what could be a striking change of orientation, the Armed Forces announced that from now on their objective will be the "release" from the Donbas region, in eastern Ukraine, with a majority Russian language.

The Deputy Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces, Sergei Rudskoy, alleged that this order was given considering that "the main objectives of the first phase of the operation were achieved" and that "the combat capabilities of the Ukrainian forces were significantly reduced".

A part of Donbas has already been controlled since 2014 by pro-Russian separatists.

The delivery to Ukraine of shoulder-loaded anti-tank missile launchers and other Western weaponry has undoubtedly helped Ukrainian forces to hold off Russian forces and at some points to go on the counteroffensive.

Russian troops tried for several days to encircle kyiv, but these counterattacks "have allowed Ukraine to recapture villages and defensive positions up to 35 km" of the capital, detailed a report from the British Ministry of Defense.

"hateful war"

In more than a month of war, thousands of Ukrainians have died, including 121 children, and more than 4,300 houses have been destroyed, according to a latest report by Ukrainian President Volodimir Zelensky.

Ten million people fled their homes, of which more than 3.5 million went abroad, according to UN data.

Pope Francis on Friday condemned the "hateful war" against "new helpless ukrainian brothers"after denouncing the "slaughter" in a country where "rivers of tears and blood flow".

Negotiations to end the war continue without significant results.

Russia assures that they are not making progress on the main issues and considers that the kyiv government is concerned above all about "obtain security guarantees from third powers" if "failed to join NATO".

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba noted instead negotiations "very difficult" with Russia and said that his country will not give in on essential issues, such as "the territorial integrity of Ukraine".

Putin promulgated a new law that punishes with up to 15 years in prison those who spread "false information" on Russia’s actions abroad.

Reduce energy dependency

Biden warned on Thursday, after participating in a NATO summit in Brussels, that the transatlantic alliance "would answer" if Putin used chemical weapons in Ukraine.

The Kremlin had accused the United States of developing a chemical and biological weapons program in Ukraine and on Friday said that Biden’s statements are only intended "divert attention" of that matter.

In Brussels, Biden and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced the creation of a task force aimed at reducing Europe’s dependence on fossil fuel uses.

The community executive also received the mandate from the 27 countries of the bloc to make joint purchases of gas, in order to contain the rise in prices fueled by the war in Ukraine.

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