• Russian forces take town near Chernobyl in second attempt
  • Russia signals military concentration in eastern Ukraine
  • Ukrainian president warns against Russia’s energy ‘blackmail’
  • US President meets with Ukrainian ministers in Warsaw

LVIV, Ukraine, March 26 (Reuters) – Russian forces have taken control of a town where workers at the former Chernobyl nuclear power plant live, the governor of the Kyiv region said on Saturday, and fighting has erupted reported in the streets of the besieged southern port of Mariupol.

After more than four weeks of conflict, Russia has failed to seize any major Ukrainian city and Moscow signaled on Friday that it was reducing its military ambitions to focus on territory claimed by Russian-backed separatists. in the East.

Intense fighting was reported in a number of places on Saturday, suggesting there would be no quick let-up in the conflict, which has killed thousands, sent nearly 3.8 million to the abroad and driven more than half of Ukrainian children from their homes, according to the United Nations.

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Three explosions were heard near Lviv in western Ukraine, and a Reuters witness saw black smoke rising from the northeast side of the city. The cause could not be immediately verified.

US President Joe Biden, visiting NATO ally Poland, called Russian President Vladimir Putin a “butcher”. Biden said he was unsure if Russia would change its strategy in Ukraine to focus on efforts to “liberate” the separatist eastern Donbass region, despite the stalemate in some areas.

Russian troops have seized Slavutych, which is close to the border with Belarus and where workers at the nearby Chernobyl plant live, said Oleksandr Pavlyuk, the governor of the Kyiv region. Read more

He said Russian forces fired into the air and threw stun grenades to disperse residents who unfurled a large Ukrainian flag and shouted “Glory to Ukraine” in protest. Reuters could not independently verify the information.

Slavutych lies just outside the so-called exclusion zone around Chernobyl, which was the site of the world’s worst nuclear disaster in 1986. Ukrainian personnel continued to work in Chernobyl after the plant was seized by Russian forces shortly after the start on 19 February. 24 invasion.

In the beleaguered southern city of Mariupol, Mayor Vadym Boichenko said the situation remained critical, with street fighting in the center. Mariupol has been devastated by weeks of Russian fire.

In an address to Qatar’s Doha Forum, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy compared the devastation in Mariupol to the destruction inflicted on the Syrian city of Aleppo by combined Syrian and Russian forces in Syria’s civil war.

“They are destroying our ports,” Zelenskiy said, warning of dire consequences if his country – one of the world’s leading grain producers – could not export its food. “The lack of exports from Ukraine will be a blow to countries around the world.”

Speaking via video link, he also called on energy-producing countries to increase production so that Russia cannot use its oil and gas wealth to “blackmail” other nations. Read more

BIDEN IN POLAND

Biden saw Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov in the Polish capital Warsaw in his first face-to-face meeting with senior Ukrainian officials since the war began. Read more

Biden described Putin as a “butcher” after visiting a food kitchen for Ukrainian refugees.

“We are waiting for President Biden to shut down the skies over Ukraine. Ukrainian warriors can protect our country on the ground, but we cannot shut down the skies,” said Alla Dyachenko, a chemist from Kyiv who s fled to Poland with her daughter.

NATO has ruled out a no-fly zone over Ukraine, fearing it could lead to direct clashes with Russian forces and Europe-wide escalation.

Biden’s visit to Poland was his final stop on a trip to Europe that highlighted his opposition to the Russian invasion, his solidarity with Ukraine and his determination to work closely with Western allies to address the crisis.

Zelenskiy pressed on Friday night for further talks with Russia after his defense ministry said a first phase of its operation in Ukraine was nearing completion and would now focus on the Donbass region bordering Russia. , which has pro-Moscow separatist enclaves. Read more

Russian-backed forces have been fighting pro-government forces there since 2014.

Reframing Russia’s goals could make it easier for Putin to claim a face-saving victory, analysts said. Read more

Moscow has so far said its goals for what it calls its “special military operation” include the demilitarization and “denazification” of its neighbor. Ukraine and its Western allies called it a baseless pretext for an unprovoked invasion.

The United Nations has confirmed 1,081 civilian deaths and 1,707 injuries in Ukraine since the invasion, but says the true toll is likely higher. Ukraine says 136 children were killed. Read more

The Russian Defense Ministry said 1,351 Russian soldiers had been killed and 3,825 wounded, the Interfax news agency reported on Friday. Ukraine claims that 15,000 Russian soldiers have been killed. Reuters could not independently verify the claims.

DEPOSITED WASTE

Footage from Mariupol, where 400,000 people lived before the war, showed destroyed buildings, burnt-out vehicles and shell-shocked survivors venturing out in search of supplies. Residents buried their victims in makeshift graves as the ground thawed.

“It’s scary, I don’t know how we’re going to survive,” said an elderly resident, refusing to identify herself by name. “We’re lying there, hoping they won’t bomb us. Look how many corpses we’ve buried around the building.”

More than 100,000 people still need to be evacuated from Mariupol, Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said.

To the north, battle lines near the capital kyiv have been frozen for weeks with two main Russian armored columns pinned down northwest and east of the city.

The Russian Defense Ministry said its troops seized an entrenched command center on the outskirts of kyiv and captured more than 60 Ukrainian servicemen. Reuters could not immediately verify this.

A British intelligence report said Russian forces relied on indiscriminate aerial and artillery bombardment rather than risk large-scale ground operations.

“Russia is likely to continue to use its heavy firepower on urban areas as it seeks to limit its own already considerable casualties, at the cost of further civilian casualties,” the latest UK assessment reads.

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Reporting by Reuters reporters in Mariupol, Natalia Zinets and Maria Starkova in Lviv, Alessandra Prentice and Reuters offices worldwide, Writing by Lincoln Feast, Crispian Balmer and John Davison, Editing by William Mallard, Frances Kerry and Timothy Heritage

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.