This is confirmed by US intelligence agencies, according to White House spokesman Kate Bedingfield. It is said that Putin was unaware of the deployment of Russian conscripts in Ukraine. Nor has he been properly informed of the damage Western sanctions are doing to the Russian economy. According to Bedingfield, Putin’s advisers “are afraid to tell him the truth.”
Russia unexpectedly announced a ceasefire on Wednesday in the besieged southern port city of Mariupol. Russia’s Interfax news agency reported that the ceasefire is “for humanitarian purposes only,” specifically for the evacuation of residents, and is scheduled to take effect at 10 am local time on Thursday. Earlier Wednesday, it was announced that Putin had rejected a French request to evacuate Mariupol.
Meanwhile, Russian forces around the Ukrainian capital Kyiv are regrouping, according to Ukraine’s Defense Ministry. The Russian army would like to focus its attacks on other regions of Ukraine, in particular the so-called liberation of the Donbass region in the east of the country, which also includes the pro-Russian breakaway republics of Donetsk and Luhansk.
The day before, the Russian Defense Ministry announced a reduction in attacks on Kyiv and the northern city of Chernihiv. However, according to observers, there was no sign of a decrease in Russian attacks: Chernihiv was heavily bombarded at night (100 thousand people in the besieged city were trapped with food for a week) and there was also fighting around Kyiv.
The Russian announcement was presented on Tuesday as a goodwill gesture to the Russia-Ukrainian peace negotiations in Istanbul, Turkey. Ukraine, in turn, proposed internationally guaranteed future neutrality. But the Kremlin said on Wednesday the talks had not led to “anything promising” or “a breakthrough”.
The United Nations is investigating whether Russian bombing and airstrikes on hospitals and other civilian objects that have killed hundreds of people amount to war crimes. More than 1,100 Ukrainian civilians, including at least 100 children, were killed in the Russian invasion, according to United Nations figures. The actual number of victims may be much higher. Thousands of civilians are said to have died in the besieged city of Mariupol alone.
UN Human Rights Coordinator Michelle Bachelet is investigating reports that the Russian military is using cluster bombs (bombs divided into many smaller projectiles) in populated areas and forcibly evacuating residents of Mariupol into Russian territory. On Wednesday, Bachelet said the Ukrainian people were experiencing a “living nightmare.” Russia demanded the immediate withdrawal of its forces.
More than four million Ukrainians have fled since the start of the war, more than a month ago, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Most of the refugees fled to Poland. Many also moved to neighboring Hungary, Moldova, Romania and Slovakia. In addition, millions of Ukrainians were internally displaced.
The worst recession since 1991
The Kremlin hinted to the economic front on Wednesday that Russia may soon want to settle all of its exports in rubles, not only with oil and gas but also with grain. He will sharply stress Russia’s efforts to punish Western countries for the pain their sanctions are causing the Russian economy. It entered the worst recession since 1991.
President Putin already threatened on March 23 that “unfriendly countries” (Western countries that imposed economic sanctions on Russia due to the invasion of Ukraine) will have to pay all gas supplies in rubles from now on. For this reason, Germany, Europe’s largest economy, launched an emergency plan for gas supplies on Wednesday, including rationing if the ruble crisis leads to a shortage.
But Putin on Wednesday assured German Chancellor Olaf Scholz by phone that European companies with gas contracts would not have to pay in rubles. According to Putin, the law requiring the payment of gas supply bills in rubles will enter into force on Friday, according to Schultz employees.
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