The Kremlin said on Friday that what it calls Russia’s “special operation” in Ukraine could end in the “foreseeable future” since its aims were being achieved and work was being carried out by both the Russian military and Russian peace negotiators.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov also said Moscow understood that some countries that had tried to adopt a balanced position had been subjected to pressure to vote on Thursday to suspend Russia from the U.N. Human Rights Council.
Read more: Russia-Ukraine conflict and the International Law
The U.N. General Assembly on Thursday suspended Russia from the Council over reports of “gross and systematic violations and abuses of human rights” in Ukraine, prompting Moscow to announce it was quitting the body.
On Thursday, the General Assembly expressed grave concern at the human rights & humanitarian crisis in Ukraine#UNGA adopted a resolution calling for Russia to be suspended from the Human Rights Council. https://t.co/5kpgdWTsVl
— United Nations (@UN) April 7, 2022
Russia to conduct ‘powerful strikes’, Ukrainian president warns
Earlier at the start of this month, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky warned Russia is consolidating and preparing “powerful strikes” in the country’s east and south, including besieged Mariupol, where a new attempt will be made Friday to evacuate civilians from the devastated city.
Russia meanwhile threatened to turn off its gas taps to Europe if payments are not made in rubles, as US President Joe Biden ordered a record release of strategic oil reserves to ease soaring US prices.
Read more: Oil prices fall after truce in Middle East conflict
Over a month into Russia’s invasion of its neighbor, Vladimir Putin’s troops have devastated cities like Mariupol with shelling, killing at least 5,000 people in the port city alone.
In peace talks this week, Russia said it would scale back attacks on the capital Kyiv and the city of Chernigiv, but Ukrainian and Western officials have dismissed the pledge, saying Moscow’s troops were merely regrouping.
“This is part of their tactics,” said Zelensky in a late-night address.
“We know that they are moving away from the areas where we are beating them to focus on others that are very important… where it can be difficult for us,” he said.
In particular, he warned, the situation in the country’s south and east was “very difficult”.
“In Donbas and Mariupol, in the Kharkiv direction, the Russian army is accumulating the potential for attacks, powerful attacks,” he said.
Washington echoed that assessment, with a senior US defense official saying Russia’s focus on Donbas could herald a “longer, more prolonged conflict”.
Read more: Russia to conduct ‘powerful strikes’, Ukrainian president warns
Military experts believe that Moscow is ditching efforts to advance simultaneously along multiple axes in the north, east and south, after struggling to overcome stronger-than-expected Ukrainian resistance.
Instead, it wants to establish a long-sought land link between Crimea, which Moscow occupied in 2014, and the two Russian-backed Donbas statelets of Donetsk and Lugansk.
Reuters with additional input from GVS News Desk