Russia bombards Kyiv outskirts, regroups for offensive in east Ukraine

Russia said on Wednesday its forces had achieved their objectives near Kyiv and Chernihiv and were regrouping to focus on the “liberation” of the breakaway eastern Donbas region.

The Pentagon said that Russia had started to reposition under a fifth of its forces arrayed around Kyiv, but warned Moscow was expected to refit and resupply them for redeployment.

OIL AND GAS SUPPLY DOUBTS

Western sanctions imposed on Russia as punishment for its invasion have largely isolated its economy from world trade but Moscow is still the biggest supplier of oil and gas to Europe. Russia’s new demand for payment in roubles, rejected by the West, has raised fears of energy shortages and heightened recessionary risks in Europe.

Germany, Russia’s biggest gas customer, declared an “early warning” on Wednesday of a possible emergency if Russia were to cut off supplies. Economy Minister Robert Habeck urged people to reduce consumption, saying “every kilowatt-hour counts”.

Russian sources told Reuters it might keep the energy contract currency as is, with final payment in roubles.

Floating a potential compromise, Russian President Vladimir Putin told German Chancellor Olaf Scholz that payments could be made in euros and sent to Gazprombank, which would convert the money to roubles, a German government spokesperson said.

Gazprombank is one of the main channels for payments for Russian oil and gas.

“Scholz did not agree to this procedure in the conversation, but asked for written information to better understand the procedure,” the spokesperson said.

TRAPPED

In northern Ukraine, Chernihiv’s Mayor Vladyslav Astroshenko said Russian bombardment of his city had intensified over the past 24 hours, with more than 100,000 people trapped inside with just enough food and medical supplies to last about another week.

“This is yet another confirmation that Russia always lies,” he told CNN. He said 25 civilians had been injured in a mortar attack in the city centre.

Reuters could not verify the situation in Chernihiv. Russia’s defence ministry did not reply to a request for comment.

Reuters journalists who entered the Kyiv suburb of Irpin, recaptured by Ukrainian forces this week, on Tuesday saw Ukrainian troops patrolling an abandoned ghost town of ruined buildings, with the body of an old man and a woman lying on the streets.

Around a quarter of Ukrainians have been driven from their homes and the United Nations said on Wednesday that the number who have fled the country had risen above 4 million. More than half of those refugees are children and the rest mostly women.