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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Moscow Accuses Ukraine of Attack on Russian Oil Depot

By Jeff Seldin April 01, 2022

Ukrainian forces appear to be gaining momentum in efforts to push back Russian forces as the war in Ukraine rages into its sixth week.

Ukrainian and Western officials said Friday that the Ukrainian military made key gains around the capital of Kyiv.

"Our troops are chasing them both to the northwest and northeast, pushing the enemy away from Kyiv," said Oleksiy Arestovych, a political adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

British military intelligence backed up some of the Ukrainian claims.

Ukrainian forces "continued to make successful but limited counterattacks to the east and northeast of Kyiv," British Defense Attaché Air Vice-Marshal Mick Smeath said in a statement.

"Ukrainian forces have retaken the villages of Sloboda and Lukashivka to the south of Chernihiv and located along one of the main supply routes between the city and Kyiv," Smeath added, noting both Kyiv and Chernihiv continue to come under repeated air and missile strikes from Russia.

Russian officials Friday also said Ukraine has gone on the offensive, blaming Ukrainian forces for a cross-border helicopter attack on an oil depot in the Russian city of Belgorod, about 35 kilometers from the border.

Cross-border strike

Russia's regional governor said the Ukrainian strike caused several fires and wounded two people.

Ukrainian officials did not immediately confirm Ukraine's involvement in the strike.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov warned the strike could have a detrimental impact on peace talks scheduled to resume between the two sides.

"Certainly, this is not something that can be perceived as creating comfortable conditions for the continuation of the talks," he said.

The latest effort by Ukraine's military to push back Russian forces on multiple fronts comes as U.S. and other Western defense and intelligence officials warn Moscow is repositioning its forces in preparation for what the Kremlin has said will be a renewed focus on the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine.

Russian repositioning

Ukrainian authorities estimate Russia overnight withdrew 700 units of equipment from the Kyiv region, moving them back into Belarus.

Gen. Oleksandr Gruzevych, deputy chief of staff of Ukraine's armed forces, said the number of Russian forces on the move was "pretty significant." But U.S. defense officials have said it is likely only a matter of time before the Russian units are refitted and resupplied and sent back into the war zone.

Additionally, officials have warned Russia is transferring more missile units to Belarus — a possible prelude to an intensification of ballistic missiles attacks on targets across Ukraine. And they note there has been little to no let-up in air and missile strikes on key cities like Kyiv and Chernihiv.

Humanitarian concerns

In southern Ukraine, efforts to evacuate civilians from the besieged city of Mariupol fell part Friday despite an apparent agreement to facilitate their escape from heavy fighting that has raged for days.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said Friday its buses were not allowed to reach the city.

Ukrainian regional Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko accused Russia of breaking its promises to allow for a humanitarian corridor.

"Humanitarian deliveries, despite all the agreements and promises of the Russian side, are not being carried out," he said during a televised address.

Reports from the region indicate a group of about 600 civilians did manage to leave the city by foot. Convoys delivering the aid and the evacuation buses were previously stopped Thursday by Russian forces.

Ukraine traitors

Ukraine's president said in his nightly address Thursday that he has stripped two top generals of their rank.

Zelenskyy called the generals "antiheroes." One of the generals had been the chief of internal security at the country's main intelligence agency, while the other had been the intelligence agency's chief in the Kherson region.

The Ukrainian leader said he did "not have time to deal with all the traitors, but gradually they will all be punished.

International pressure

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan spoke by phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday, according to Erdogan's office, urging Moscow and Kyiv to "act with common sense."

Erdogan's office said the Turkish leader pushed for Putin to maintain a dialogue with Ukraine's leader.

China also said Friday it would push for peace.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang told European Union leaders during a virtual summit that Beijing would encourage a peaceful settlement in "its own way."

Western officials have voiced concern that Beijing might aid Russia by providing its military with weapons and other assistance, though they admit there have been no signs of such help so far.

"We called on China to help end the war in Ukraine. China cannot turn a blind eye to Russia's violation of international law," European Council President Charles Michel told reporters during a news conference following the summit.

Jamie Dettmer contributed to this report from Vinnytsia, Ukraine. Anna Chernikova also contributed. Some information came from the Associated Press and Reuters.

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