It is the 31st day of the Russian invasion. Vladimir Putin’s army announced on Friday that it would limit its offensive on eastern Ukraine, as kyiv forces launched a counter-offensive on the city of Kherson. Europe 1 takes stock of the evolution of the situation.
The Russian army announced on Friday that it would limit its offensive on eastern Ukraine, while forces from kyiv launched a counter-offensive on the city of Kherson. At the same time, US President Joe Biden visited US servicemen based in Poland, the second leg after Brussels of a trip to Europe intended to cement the union of Westerners against Russia, both on the diplomatic front than economic. On the 31st day of the Russian invasion in Ukraine, Europe 1 takes stock.
The Russian command, through Deputy Chief of Staff Sergei Rudskoy, announced that “the combat capabilities of the Ukrainian forces have been significantly reduced, which allows (…) to concentrate the bulk of the efforts on the main objective: the liberation of Donbass”. Pro-Russian separatists have created two “republics” recognized by Moscow in this industrial region in the eastern part of Ukrainian territory.
And this shortly after the Vice-President of the Russian Security Council, Dmitry Medvedev, using the rhetoric dear to Vladimir Putin, had stressed that the current military operation must “continue until it achieves its objective of demilitarize and denazify Ukraine”.
Joe Biden calls Vladimir Putin a ‘butcher’
US President Joe Biden on Saturday called his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin a “butcher” during a meeting with Ukrainian refugees in Warsaw. Asked about “what he thought of Vladimir Putin, given what he inflicts on these people”, the American president replied with one sentence: “He is a butcher”, while the meeting was transmitted in live by several TV channels from the National Stadium in Warsaw. “For the love of God, this man must not stay in power.”
“I’m not sure” that the intentions of the Russians have changed, added Joe Biden after visiting Ukrainian refugees hosted in the Polish capital. Joe Biden didn’t mince words: “This war is already a strategic failure for Russia,” he said.
New curfew in Kyiv
A new curfew will again be introduced in kyiv from Saturday evening to Monday morning, the mayor of the Ukrainian capital, Vitali Klitschko, announced on Saturday. “The military command has decided to strengthen the curfew. It will last from 8 p.m. Saturday to 7 a.m. Monday, March 28,” the mayor said on Telegram.
Transfers of Polish combat aircraft
The United States assured kyiv that it had “no objection” to the transfer of Polish fighter jets to Ukraine, the Ukrainian Foreign Minister said on Saturday in a written message sent to the AFP. “The United States assured us that they had no objection to the transfer of the planes,” wrote Dmytro Kouleba, who met in the morning with American President Joe Biden, who is visiting Poland. “The ball is now in Poland’s court,” he added.
Significant Russian losses in Donbass (kyiv)
Around Donetsk and Luhansk, the two big cities of Donbass, the staff of the Ukrainian army claims “to have inflicted significant losses on the Russian invaders”, in its last bulletin, published on Saturday at dawn. It reports three planes shot down, eight tanks destroyed and some 170 soldiers killed on the Russian side.
The forces of kyiv claim to continue their counter-offensive on Kherson, in the south of the country, the only large city to have been entirely conquered by the forces of Moscow, while around kyiv, fighting continues to “repel the enemy offensive “.
For its part, the Russian command surprised by announcing on Friday “to concentrate the bulk of the efforts on the main objective: the liberation of Donbass”, contrasting with the will displayed by Moscow so far to “demilitarize and denazify Ukraine” in his outfit.
Doha Forum: Moscow pushes for arms race (Zelensky)
Russia is fueling a dangerous arms race by promoting its nuclear arsenal, Volodymyr Zelensky denounced on Saturday during a video intervention at the Doha Forum, organized by Qatar.
The Ukrainian president also called on Qatar, a major exporter of liquefied natural gas, to increase its production to counter Russian threats to use the energy “to blackmail the whole world”.
First meeting between Biden and senior Ukrainian officials
On the second day of his visit to Poland, US President Joe Biden will attend a meeting in Warsaw on Saturday morning between Secretaries of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and their Ukrainian counterparts, the White House announced.
This is the first meeting of the chief executive of the United States with senior Ukrainian officials since the beginning of the Russian aggression on February 24. President Biden will also visit a reception center for Ukrainian refugees and is due to deliver a speech at the royal castle in Warsaw at the end of the afternoon.
The Russian Minister of Defense reappears on the screens
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu made his first public appearance in two weeks, according to images released on Saturday, after an absence that had raised questions that the Kremlin had tried to sweep away.
The Defense Ministry released a video on Saturday showing Sergei Shoigu chairing a meeting on Russia’s arms budget. The images are undated, but the minister refers to a meeting with the finance minister which Russian agencies say took place on Friday, March 25.
Russians demonstrate in Prague
Several thousand demonstrators, mainly Russians, gathered in Prague on Saturday to denounce the military offensive ordered by President Vladimir Putin in Ukraine and demand an end to the war. Some 5,000 people, according to the organizers, crossed the historic center of Prague chanting: “Russia without Putin”, “Freedom for Russia, peace for Ukraine”, or “Putin is not Russia”.
“The Czech Republic is home to 40,000 Russians and until now these Russians were unknown to the Czechs,” protest organizer Anton Litvin told AFP. “We want to show that the Russians who live here are against Putin, against the war, that they support Ukraine.” This artist and activist has lived in Prague for ten years.
“The Russians here are not Putinists, they are Europeans,” said the activist, holding a blue and white flag like those waved by the demonstrators. The white blue red Russian tricolor has been reinvented for the occasion, he explained.