According to a senior government official in Washington, the US intelligence agencies decided this. It is said that Putin was unaware of the deployment of Russian conscripts in Ukraine. Nor has he been properly informed of the damage Western sanctions are doing to the Russian economy. According to the source, Putin’s advisers “are afraid to tell him the truth.”
Meanwhile, Russian forces regrouped around the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv on Wednesday, according to the Ukrainian Defense Ministry. The Russian army would like to focus its attacks on other regions, in particular on the so-called liberation of the Donbass region in the east of the country, which also includes the separatist “people’s republics”, Donetsk and Luhansk.
The day before, the Russian Defense Ministry announced that it would reduce attacks on Kyiv and the northern city of Chernihiv. However, according to observers, there was no indication of a decrease in Russian attacks: Chernihiv was heavily bombarded at night (in the besieged city 100,000 people were trapped, with food for a week) and there was also fighting around Kyiv.
The Russian announcement was presented on Tuesday as a goodwill gesture to the Russia-Ukrainian peace negotiations in Istanbul, Turkey. Ukraine, in turn, proposed internationally guaranteed future neutrality. But the Kremlin said on Wednesday the talks had not led to “anything promising” or “a breakthrough”.
War Crimes Investigation
The United Nations is investigating whether Russian bombing and airstrikes on hospitals and other civilian objects that have killed hundreds of people amount to war crimes. More than 1,100 Ukrainian civilians, including at least 100 children, were killed in the Russian invasion, according to United Nations figures. The actual number may be much higher. Thousands of civilians are said to have died in the besieged southern port city of Mariupol alone.
UN Human Rights Coordinator Michelle Bachelet is investigating reports that the Russian military is using cluster bombs (bombs divided into many smaller projectiles) in populated areas and forcibly evacuating residents of Mariupol into Russian territory. On Wednesday, Bachelet said the Ukrainian people were experiencing a “living nightmare.” Russia demanded the immediate withdrawal of its forces.
More than 4 million Ukrainian citizens, half of them children, have fled since the start of the war, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Most of the refugees fled to Poland. Many also moved to neighboring Hungary, Moldova, Romania and Slovakia. In addition, millions of Ukrainians were internally displaced.
The Kremlin hinted to the economic front on Wednesday that Russia may soon want to settle all of its exports in rubles, not only with oil and gas but also with grain. He will sharply stress Russia’s efforts to punish Western countries for the pain their sanctions are causing the Russian economy. It entered the worst recession since 1991.
President Putin already on March 23 threatened that “unfriendly countries” (Western countries that imposed economic sanctions on Russia due to the invasion of Ukraine) from now on will have to pay all gas supplies in rubles. For this reason, Germany, Europe’s largest economy, launched an emergency plan for gas supplies on Wednesday, including rationing if the ruble crisis leads to a shortage.
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