Pentagon says way too soon to say Russia is de-escalating in Ukraine

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March 30 (UPI) — Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said Wednesday that despite Russia saying some of its forces are withdrawing from Kyiv it’s way too soon to read that as a sign of true de-escalation.

In an interview with MSNBC, Kirby also said the talks between Ukraine and Russia are productive.

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Kirby said the Pentagon has been attempting to contact Russia to communicate directly about Ukraine.

“But the Russians have not answered,” he said.

The British government tweeted a Ukraine intelligence update Wednesday.

It said that Russian units suffering heavy losses have been forced to return to Belarus and Russia to reorganize and supply.

In the meantime, the intelligence update said, Russia will likely continue to compensate for its reduced ground maneuver capability through mass artillery and missile strikes.

The British said Russia’s stated focus on an offensive in Donetsk and Luhansk is likely a tacit admission that it is struggling to sustain more than one significant axis of advance.

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Russian forces attacked cities across Ukraine overnight, appearing to escalate attacks after promising to reduce military activity during new peace talks.

Ukrainian officials said Wednesday they have seen renewed shelling in the north of Ukraine and no sign of a reduction in hostilities.

Russian forces attacked the northern city of Chernihiv, less than 100 miles away from the capital Kyiv, and city officials said residents there remain without electricity, water or gas.

Ukrainian officials said the continuation of Russian attacks wasn’t surprising.

“The night was just as we expected, that [everything Russia promised] is a lie from the beginning till the end,” Chernihiv Mayor Vladyslav Atroshenko said, according to The Guardian. “That’s why at night we had some serious shelling … and the Russians were trying to destroy all possible means of crossing Desna River toward Kyiv.”

In the western region of Khmelnytsky, a new round of strikes hit an industrial facility overnight and sparked fires.

Firefighters work to put out a fire in the western Ukrainian city of Lutsk on Tuesday after Russian missiles struck a fuel storage facility. Photo courtesy of State Emergency Service of Ukraine/UPI

Ukrainian officials said Moscow has continued to capture important infrastructure facilities in the eastern and northern portions of the country.

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“There was an air alarm throughout the country during the night,” Vadym Denysenko, an adviser to Ukraine’s interior minister, said, according to CNN. “In fact, there were no areas without sirens.

“In the morning, they were repeated. In particular, in Donbas … Kyiv region.”

Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said part of the agreements stemming from Tuesday’s peace talks included evacuation corridors to be opened on Wednesday. Vereshchuk said that included the evacuation of Mariupol residents in southern Ukraine and delivery of humanitarian aid to Berdyansk.

She also said a new route from Melitopol will be allowed, along with one for personal vehicles being used for residents traveling from Enerhodar to Zaporizhzhia.

Also Wednesday, the United Nations released new refugee figures — saying that more than 4 million Ukrainians have fled their home country since the invasion began Feb. 24.

“The right to move freely within the Schengen area means there are very few border controls within the European Union,” the United Nations refugee agency said in a statement.

“The data of arrivals in Schengen countries (Hungary, Poland, Slovakia) bordering Ukraine therefore only represents border crossings into that country, but we estimate that a large number of people have moved onwards to other countries.”

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Ukrainian service members stand beside a damaged building in a residential area after shelling in Kyiv, Ukraine, on March 18. Photo by Vladyslav Musiienko/UPI | License Photo