Russian bombardment of Ukrainian cities dims hopes of quick breakthrough

Lvov, Ukraine

Hopes for a quick breakthrough in war-torn Ukraine faded on Wednesday as Russian forces continued to shell the cities of kyiv and Chernihiv, a day after Moscow announced it would “dramatically reduce” its military assault there.

Ukrainian officials said there was no reduction in hostilities overnight and the mayor of Chernihov told CNN of a “colossal attack” on his city on Wednesday, despite apparent progress in talks between the Ukrainian and Russian negotiators in Istanbul, Turkey, the day before.

Footage has emerged showing the extent of the destruction in the besieged southeast port city of Mariupol, where entire city blocks appear to have been obliterated during weeks of bombardment.

“There was an aerial alarm all over the country overnight. In fact, there were no zones without sirens. In the morning they were repeated,” Vadym Denysenko, adviser to the Ukrainian interior minister, said on Wednesday.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Wednesday that there was no breakthrough after negotiations in Istanbul, but that Russia welcomes Ukraine’s written demands.

A Ukrainian presidential adviser said the day before that enough progress had been made in the talks to allow Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to meet.

Despite these promising words, the situation in the capital, kyiv, and its surroundings remained tense on Wednesday. Military strikes continued Tuesday evening around kyiv and rocket fire was reported overnight.

“In kyiv, several rockets were fired over the capital,” Denysenko said. Fighting was also reported near the northwestern suburb of Irpin overnight, he said.

“So it is not necessary to say so far that the Russians are reducing the intensity of hostilities in the directions of kyiv and Chernihiv,” he said. “We can say that, yes, indeed, some units and equipment are moving into the territory of Belarus. But that feels more like spinning and licking wounds than a true cessation of hostilities.

In a video message late Wednesday, Zelensky said the “presumed withdrawal” of Russian troops from kyiv and Chernihiv is not a retreat but the result of Ukrainian military work.

He added that Russian troops were concentrating in the Donbass region for further attacks, saying the Ukrainians were “ready for this”.

On Tuesday, US officials also expressed skepticism about Russia’s claims. Pentagon press secretary John Kirby warned that the movement of Russian troops near kyiv was likely “a repositioning, not a real withdrawal” and that the threat against kyiv was not over.

A soldier comforts 82-year-old Larysa Kolesnyk after she was evacuated from Irpin, on the outskirts of kyiv, on March 30, 2022.

The scale of the devastation in Irpin was revealed in a new video taken Tuesday by a Ukrainian NGO and provided to CNN.

Filmed after Ukrainian forces pushed Russian troops out of the city earlier this week, the video shows the wooded suburb reduced to wasteland, with debris strewn, trees splintered and buildings destroyed all around.

The gunfire and shelling may have ceased for the time being in Irpin, but there are few signs of life. At least five bodies are seen in the video; it is not known how and when they died.

You can’t hear much in the video, apart from the sound of the wind blowing through the few trees that remain standing, the clanking of metal sheets and the dull sound of a distant military strike.

First on CNN: a graphic video shows massive destruction in Irpin

The city of Chernihiv in northern Ukraine, located halfway between kyiv and the Russian border, has come under intense bombardment in recent weeks. There are few signs that the Russian assault on the city is over.

Viacheslav Chaus, head of the Chernihiv regional administration, said the city came under fire from Russian airstrikes as shelling continued throughout the night.

Russian bombardment of Ukrainian cities dims hopes of quick breakthrough

And in an interview with CNN’s John Berman, the city’s mayor, Vladyslav Atroshenko, denounced Russia’s claim that it planned to “significantly reduce” its military assault on Chernihiv and Kyiv, saying it was ” further confirmation that Russia is still lying.”

According to Atroshenko, Russian attacks on Chernihiv have actually increased since Tuesday’s statement.

“They say reduce the intensity, they actually increased the intensity of the strikes,” he said. “Today we have a colossal attack on the center of Chernihiv. Twenty-five people were injured and are currently hospitalized. They are all civilians. So whenever Russia says something, it must be carefully checked .

In an interview posted on Telegram on Wednesday, Chaus also said the situation in the region had not changed despite Russian claims.

Russian troops carried out strikes on the town of Nizhyn, he said, destroying “civilian infrastructure” as well as “libraries, shopping malls and many residential buildings”, while in Chernihiv he did not there is “no electricity, no water, no heating and no gas.”

Communications are interrupted without “the possibility of restoring them”, which makes it difficult to reach isolated villages, added Chaus. “There are villages where Russian tanks are stationed. We know that there are our people there and that the situation is the worst there, because we cannot go there and bring neither medicine nor food.

Ukrainian troops are prepared and retaliating against Russian troops in the Chernihiv region, he added.

The city market is damaged by night shelling in Chernihiv on March 30, 2022.

Meanwhile, new satellite images from Maxar Technologies show entire city blocks in central Mariupol have been obliterated – a level of destruction not previously evident in the beleaguered Ukrainian city.

With communications inside and outside Mariupol non-existent, the footage is the first visual update in recent days that doesn’t come from Russian propaganda.

A satellite photo shows entire city blocks destroyed in central Mariupol.

The images confirm what NASA sensory satellite data had captured: Dozens of explosions took place in and around Mariupol.

The area just east of the bombed-out drama theater – where authorities believe around 300 people died in a Russian attack – lies in ruins. In a satellite image, roofs are missing or have been significantly damaged on almost all buildings.

A service member of pro-Russian troops walks near a destroyed apartment building in the besieged port city of Mariupol on March 28, 2022.

In eastern Mariupol, another residential area suffered similar destruction. Every house surrounding two separate apartment complexes is destroyed.

Another large apartment complex in southeast Mariupol, near the Azovstal steel plant, was destroyed. CNN previously confirmed that Russian troops and Chechen fighters were active near this apartment complex.

Another image from Maxar confirms an allegation by the Ukrainian Azov Battalion – a unit that started out as an ultra-nationalist militia but has since integrated into the Ukrainian Armed Forces – that the Red Cross warehouse in Mariupol was hit by military strikes.

Satellite images also show survivors of the carnage.

Outside the Metro supermarket in western Mariupol, hundreds of people are gathered in queues, waiting to enter the building. Its roof has holes from military strikes.

Hundreds of people line up outside the Metro supermarket in western Mariupol.

Just northeast of the town, Russian military positions can be seen, including vehicles parked right next to houses. Towed artillery positions are seen just northeast of these vehicles.

The mayor of Mariupol estimated that up to 160,000 people remained in the city on Monday.


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