'Heavy fighting' expected in suburbs of Ukraine's capital, Kyiv, in the 'coming days,' intel says
The United Kingdom's Ministry of Defence said Thursday that "Russian forces continue to hold positions to the east and west of Kyiv despite the withdrawal of a limited number of units" and that "heavy fighting will likely take place in the suburbs of the city in coming days."
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It's been said more than once in recent days that Russian President Putin has likely been misinformed by his security and military services about the war in Ukraine--from the initial prospects for victory to progress on the ground. To date, no one suggests this is part of a conspiracy but rather the result of advisors being afraid to tell Putin things he doesn't want to hear.
It may be that now finally, Putin has become clear-headed, seeing that a month in, Russia has not achieved its goals that were supposed to have come with lightning speed. It did not take Ukraine in a couple of days. Without regrouping or changing tack, the path ahead looks long and uncertain.
And now Putin's inner circle, which once appeared to be in lockstep about the war and the officially declared reasons for it, is split quite dramatically between those who want to cut Russia's losses and run and those who want to fight until the bitter end, to deliver Ukraine in its entirety to the Russian people. "Some think that Russia should be realistic about its goals and about its resources," Oleg Ignatov of the International Crisis Group, told Fox News.
Read more: Cracks in the Kremlin
When Russian rockets started hitting his homeland, Ukraine’s rock star Sviatoslav "Slava" Vakarchuk asked himself how he could help a country facing yet another Russian invasion in less than a decade. Soon after the first bombs exploded in multiple towns, he enlisted in the armed forces and has since visited more than a dozen war affected towns across the country.
"The most effective way for me was to use my popularity to inspire people and boost the morale of those who fight for our country. I wanted to be useful," says Vakarchuk who, for the last month, has been performing in the most unusual places - from underground bomb shelters to children’s hospitals and to empty streets of war-torn towns.
Read more: Russian invasion takes Slava Vakarchuk to his most dangerous rock tour across Ukraine
Retired Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges peeled back the curtain on Russian President Vladimir Putin and his military Thursday on "Your World."
RET. LT. GEN. HODGES: For the last four or five years I've listened to experts talk about, … "Putin is this genius, he's so smart. He can play ‘Go’ and chess simultaneously while standing on his head. He's a former KGB agent." Give me a break that he has no idea how corrupt his own ministry is, how corrupt his own government is, and that he doesn't know what's going on. So I think this is the beginning of people trying to make excuses for him, whether they're inside Russia, or maybe they were people who were a little bit too complimentary of him outside of Russia.
Read more: Putin beginning to have excuses made for him: Military expert
The Russian Ministry of Defence Thursday claimed that Russian forces used American Stinger missiles to shoot down two Ukrainian helicopters.
"In the morning of March 31, the Kiev regime attempted to evacuate the command staff of the Azov Ukrainian nationalist regiment from Mariupol using two Mi-8 helicopters," the ministry said Thursday, according to a translation provided to Fox News.
The "Azov" regiment is a unit of the Ukrainian National Guard tied to neo-Nazi sentiment and is based out of Mariupol.
The ministry said it used a "trophy American Stinger system", shoot down one Mi-8 helicopter, while a second Mi-8 was damaged by a Stinger missile and later crashed.
The International Atomic Energy Agency said that it is investigating the possibility that some Russian forces at Chernobyl were exposed to high doses of radiation.
In a social media post Thursday, the IAEA said it has not been able to confirm reports that Russian forces that took over the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine fell victim to high doses of radiation. The agency added that it is attempting to independently verify those reports.
The statement comes after Russian forces began pulling back from the plant that was the site of an infamous nuclear disaster in 1986, which Russian forces took control of shortly after invading Urkaine last month.
The State Department on Thursday warned that Russian government security officials in both Ukraine and Russia "may be singling out U.S. citizens" based on their nationality, and urged Americans who remain in either country to "depart immediately."
The warning from the agency came during a press briefing with State Department spokesman Ned Price.
"We take seriously our responsibility to inform U.S. citizens about developments that may impact their safety and security when they are traveling or residing outside of the United States," Price said. "In recent weeks, as you've heard, we have seen reports that Russian security officials have singled out and detained U.S. citizens in Ukraine and in Russia itself."
"We have also heard President Putin denigrate equality, free speech, and human rights for all," Price continued. "For these reasons, we are warning U.S. citizens that Russian government security officials in both Russia and in Ukraine may be singling out U.S. citizens based on their nationality."
Read more: State Department warns Russian security officials 'may be singling out US citizens'
Employees of the U.S. embassy in Ukraine have claimed that the Biden administration is leaving them behind by not helping them escape to safety, and while the State Department has confirmed they are providing financial help, they have not said that they are actively assisting anyone on the ground.
Earlier this month, embassy workers sent a letter to the State Department, reported by Foreign Policy magazine, in which they claimed there had been a "change in tone and open denial of prior promises" regarding financial and safety assistance.
We are exploring all legal options to support our team at this difficult time," a State Department spokesperson said in a statement to Fox News, noting that the administration has "already taken some important steps."
Read more: State Department won't acknowledge security aid for Ukraine embassy staff, families
Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby took aim at those who have questioned American goals amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine, arguing that the U.S. wants the Ukrainians to win the war.
Kirby said the U.S. would not have sent billions in military aid and provided Ukraine with training if leaders were not hoping Ukraine would win the war, an apparent response to speculation that the Biden administration fears a Russian failure in the conflict because of how Russian President Vladimir Putin would respond.
He added the U.S. goal is for Ukraine to have “every inch of their territory respected" by Russia and any other neighbor.
Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby didn't rule out the idea that Russia could send more conscripts to fight in Ukraine.
"They’ve claimed that they’re not going to be sent into Ukraine to fight… we’ll see," Kirby said when asked about the 134,000 conscripts Russia is reportedly looking to bring into its armed forces.
Kirby pointed out that the Russians have previously denied that conscripts were fighting in Ukraine, only for later reports to reveal that wasn't true.
"A significant amount of their forces were conscripts," Kirby said, noting that some were lied to and told they were going on a training exercise when Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine.
Kirby concluded by warning not to take anything from Russia at “face value.”
Kyiv continues to be pummeled by Russian airstrikes despite claims from Moscow that it would divert troops from the capital city amid peace talks with Ukraine, a senior U.S. defense official said Thursday.
Russian defense officials said this week they would move troops away from the capital city of Kyiv and the northern city of Chernihiv to "increase mutual trust" in its peace talks with Ukraine.
But the U.S. and Ukraine have voiced extreme skepticism about Russia’s true intentions.
Read more: Kyiv still being 'pounded' by Russian strikes despite 'nice rhetoric': senior US defense official
President Biden, when asked by a reporter Thursday about whether Vladimir Putin is being misled by his inner circle, said "he seems to be self isolated and there's some indication that he has fired or put under house arrest some of his advisors.
"But I don't want to put too much stock in at this time because we don't have that much hard evidence," Biden added.
U.S. President Joe Biden announced Thursday that the U.S. is releasing one million barrels of oil per day from its reserves over the next six months to combat rising and heightened gas prices during the war in Ukraine.
“I know how much it hurts,” Biden said. “Your family budget to fill a tank – none of it should hinge on whether a dictator declares war.”
In a message to oil companies, Biden said “this is not the time to sit on record profits, it’s time to step up for the good of your country, for the good of the world to invest in immediate production that we need to respond to Vladimir Putin to provide some relief to your customers not investors and executives.”
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Fox News foreign correspondent Trey Yingst shared his firsthand account of the humanitarian horrors unfolding in Ukraine Thursday after returning to the U.S. from the front lines of the Russian invasion.
Yingst joined "America's Newsroom" to describe what he witnessed on the ground as millions of Ukrainians flee Vladimir Putin's incursion.
"We don't understand the decisions people have to make each and every day when they decide to flee their homes," Yingst told co-hosts Dana Perino and Bill Hemmer. "That decision is so difficult for people."
Yingst recounted an interview with one Ukrainian woman near Kyiv on the impact the war had on her life.
"She looked at me, and she said, 'It's like your life is broken forever,' and there's no hope, and I think that really underscores what's happening to the Ukrainian population," he said.
For more on this story: Trey Yingst reflects on Ukraine war zone reporting: You watch lives 'completely fall apart'
United Kingdom Military Chief Tony Radakin and Defence Secretary Ben Wallace tore into Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday, describing him as a self-imploding authoritarian at the helm of an army that has proved itself to be an embarrassment on the world stage.
“In many ways Putin has already lost. Far from being the far-sighted manipulator of events that he would have us believe, Putin has damaged himself through a series of catastrophic misjudgments,” Radakin said.
“Like all authoritarians he allowed himself to be misled as to his own strength including the effectiveness of the Russian armed forces,” Radakin continued, adding that “his actions to date have done more to galvanize and divide and showed Ukraine to have the one thing that Russia conspicuously lacks -- which is real friends.”
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, speaking to Sky News, said “President Putin is not the force he used to be” and is instead “now a man in a cage that he built himself.
“He is isolated, he has international sanctions from all over the world against him. Russia is a lesser country rather than a greater country as a result of him knowingly and deliberately breaking international law by invading,” Wallace said. “His army is exhausted, he has suffered significant losses and the reputation of this great army of Russia has been trashed.
“And he has now got to live with the consequences not only of what he is doing to Ukraine, but what he has done to his own army,” Wallace added.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy urged European leaders not to let Russia’s deadly war become a matter of "routine" and pleaded for additional security assistance to Kyiv.
"They are getting used to the news about the new bombing of our peaceful cities. About new missile strikes. They are getting used to the updated lists of those killed," Zelenskyy said in an address to the Dutch parliament.
"For many…the war in Ukraine is becoming routine," he added.
Zelenskyy issued a series of virtual addresses to the Netherlands, Belgium and Australia Thursday in an appeal for more aid.
While he thanked each nation for the assistance they have already provided, the Ukrainian leader scolded some of Belgium’s recent Moscow imports.
For more on this story: Zelenskyy warns Europe not to let war become 'routine', urges leaders to pick a city to help rebuild
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday said foreign buyers of its gas will now have to use special accounts with Russian banks to complete their purchases.
The decree Putin signed and published by state news agency RIA Novosti says a designated bank will open two accounts for each buyer, one in foreign currency and one in rubles. The buyers will pay in foreign currency and authorize the bank to sell that currency for rubles, which are placed in the second account, where the gas is formally purchased.
Russia getting paid for gas in their currency would at best help marginally in getting around financial sanctions, propping up the ruble’s value or protecting the Russian economy, Eswar Prasad, professor of trade policy at Cornell University and a former official at the International Monetary Fund, told the Associated Press.
The Center for Eastern Studies in Warsaw has suggested that by moving the flow of foreign currency from gas supplier Gazprom to the largely state-controlled banking system, the Kremlin will gain added control over foreign currency that has become scarcer since Western countries froze much of Russia’s reserves abroad.
"I signed the decree establishing Rules on natural gas trade with so-called 'not friendly' countries," Putin said Thursday. "We offer the partners from these countries a transparent approach -- in order to purchase Russian natural gas they have to open ruble accounts in Russian banks."
"When dollar and Euro assets are frozen, it doesn’t make sense to use these currencies," Putin also said. "In reality, what’s happening, what already happened -- we have supplied energy resources, namely gas to some European countries, they got it, paid for it in Euros and then froze these same payments."
Fox News' Thomas Ferraro and the Associated Press contributed to this report.
The United Kingdom announced Thursday that it has sanctioned 14 individuals and organizations involved with Russian state media and a Russian military commander believed to have orchestrated attacks on Mariupol.
The sanctions target the owners and executives of the RT and Sputnik media organizations, as well as Russian state TV anchor Sergey Brilev.
"Putin’s war on Ukraine is based on a torrent of lies. Britain has helped lead the world in exposing Kremlin disinformation, and this latest batch of sanctions hits the shameless propagandists who push out Putin’s fake news and narratives," Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said in a statement.
Russian Col.-Gen. Mikhail Mizintsev -- who has earned the nickname "Butcher of Mariupol" -- also has been sanctioned by the U.K. Thursday.
"Mizintsev is known for using reprehensible tactics, including shelling civilian centers in both Aleppo [Syria] in 2015-16 and now in Mariupol – where atrocities are being perpetuated against Ukrainian people," the U.K. says.
Ukrainian officials on Thursday said Kyiv needs more weapons as its war with Russia ensues for a fifth week, arguing it has shouldered the burden as the defender of "the values of a democratic world."
American troops have been training Ukrainian forces to effectively use weaponry like Javelins, stingers, and grenade launchers, and the U.S. has pledged more than $2.5 billion in security assistance and humanitarian aid.
But Ukraine continues to push the U.S. and NATO for more as security officials warn Russia is re-evaluating its strategy in the war-torn nation.
"We do not have enough weapons. And we need it to continue our struggle," Head of the President's Office Andriy Yermak said in an interview with Christiane Amanpour. "The whole world can see that Ukrainians are a nation that will never stop fighting because we are fighting for our land. We are fighting for our country. We are fighting for the whole democratic world."
For more on this story: Ukraine says it needs more weapons soon, argues it's paying 'a very high price' as defender of democracy
The International Committee of the Red Cross said Thursday that it is gearing up to evacuate Ukrainians from the besieged city of Mariupol, vowing that "the lives of tens of thousands of people in Mariupol depend on it."
"Our teams are traveling right now with pre-positioned relief items and medical supplies to be ready to facilitate the safe passage of civilians out of Mariupol," it said in a tweet.
"For logistics and security reasons, we’ll be ready to lead the safe passage operation tomorrow, Friday, provided all the parties agree to the exact terms, including the route, the start time, and the duration," it added.
Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk says Ukraine is sending 45 buses to Mariupol to evacuate people, the Associated Press reported.
Asami Tarajima, a writer at 'Kyiv Independent,' argues Ukrainian people don't have faith in the ongoing peace negotiations with Russia.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has recalled Ukraine’s ambassadors to Georgia and Morocco after suggesting they hadn’t done enough to persuade those countries to help them against Russia.
“With all due respect, if there won’t be weapons, won’t be sanctions, won’t be restrictions for Russian business, then please look for other work,” Zelenskyy said in his nighttime video address to the nation Wednesday. “I am waiting for concrete results in the coming days from the work of our representatives in Latin America, the Middle East, Southeast Asia and Africa.”
He added that “the diplomatic front is one of the key fronts” in Ukraine’s battle to win the war against Russia.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told Australia's parliament Thursday that other countries could feel emboldened to start wars against their neighbors if Russia isn't stopped in Ukraine.
"If we don't stop Russia now, if we don't hold Russia accountable, then some other countries of the world who are looking forward to a similar war against their neighbours will decide that such things are possible for them as well," Zelenskyy said, according to Reuters.
In a separate video address to the Dutch parliament, Zelenskyy urged lawmakers to halt trade with Moscow and to provide Ukraine with more weapons, the Associated Press reported.
Zelenskyy also will address Belgium's government within the hour.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a decree Thursday ordering 134,500 new conscripts into Russia's army as part of an annual spring draft, according to Reuters.
But Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said earlier this week that the new recruits would not be sent to "hot spots," it added.
Army veteran Anthony Pate shares experiences from his latest trip to Ukraine.
Talks aimed at ending the war are set to resume Friday by video, Ukrainian delegation leader David Arakhamia says.
During in-person talks in Istanbul Tuesday, Ukraine set out a detailed framework for a peace deal under which the country would remain neutral but its security would be guaranteed by a group of third countries, including the U.S., Britain, France, Turkey, China and Poland.
Meanwhile, top Turkish diplomat Mevlut Cavusoglu said Thursday that Turkey is hoping to arrange another meeting between Ukraine and Russia within the next two weeks.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
The United Kingdom's Ministry of Defence said Thursday that "despite Russian statements indicating an intended reduction of military activity around Chernihiv, significant Russian shelling and missile strikes have continued.
"Russian forces continue to hold positions to the east and west of Kyiv despite the withdrawal of a limited number of units," it added in a tweet. "Heavy fighting will likely take place in the suburbs of the city in coming days."
Ukraine's Ministry of Defense claimed that Russia has lost about 17,500 people, 6,614 tanks, 1,735 armored vehicles, 311 artillery systems, 54 anti-aircraft systems, 135 planes, 131 helicopters, 1,201 vehicles, 7 ships, and more.
Ukraine's prosecutor general claimed that 148 children have been killed and another 232 injured during the Russian invasion. She further said that 797 educational institutions had been damaged, 76 of which had been completely destroyed.
The United Nations Children's Fund said Wednesday that two million children have fled Ukraine since the Russian invasion began on Feb. 24.
“The situation inside Ukraine is spiralling,” UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell said in a statement. “As the number of children fleeing their homes continues to climb, we must remember that every single one of them needs protection, education, safety and support.”
UNICEF also estimates that more than 2.5 million children have been internally displaced inside of Ukraine. Overall, the U.N. believes more than 4 million people have fled Ukraine during the conflict.
The General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine announced that Ukrainian forces retook three settlements: Orlove, Zagradivka, and Kochubeyevka on Wednesday.
The Ukrainian forces also claimed that the Russian armed forces lost several senior military officers, including: Commander of the 1st Panzer Army Lieutenant General Serhiy Kisel, removed from office; Commander of the 6th General Army Lieutenant General Vladislav Yershov, removed from office and arrested; Chief of Staff - Deputy Commander of the 35th All-Military Army, Major General Sergei Nirkov, was seriously wounded; Chief of Staff - Deputy Commander of the 36th General Army, Major General Andrei Seritsky, was seriously wounded; Deputy Commander of the 41st All-Military Army, Lieutenant General Andriy Sukhovetsky, died; Commander of the 49th General Army Lieutenant General Yakov Ryazantsev, died; Commander of the 58th All-Military Army, Lieutenant General Mykhailo Zusk, was removed from office and arrested.
The United Nations named three human rights experts on Wednesday to investigate possible war crimes in Ukraine where Russia has been accused of indiscriminate bombardment of civilians, Reuters reported.
The independent panel, led by Erik Mose of Norway, will probe all accusations of rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law "in the context of the aggression against Ukraine by the Russian Federation," a statement said.
China is seeking closer ties with Russia, even as the U.S. and other NATO nations have called on China to apply more pressure to Moscow amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
China and Russia are "more determined" to tighten their relationship, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Wednesday, according to Reuters.
"Both sides are more determined to develop bilateral ties, and are more confident in promoting cooperation in various fields," Wang said.
"China is willing to work with Russia to take China-Russian ties to a higher level in a new era under the guidance of the consensus reached by the heads of state," he added.
Both sides have also condemned what they called illegal counter- productive sanctions against Russia, the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement.
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