Russian forces regroup after setbacks on the outskirts of Kyiv

US President Joe Biden attends the Democratic National Committee (DNC) winter meeting in Washington
U.S. President Joe Biden delivers a speech before the Democratic National Committee (DNC) winter meeting in Washington, U.S. March 10, 2022. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

March 11, 2022

By Pavel Polityuk and Natalia Zinets

LVIV, Ukraine (Reuters) – President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Friday Ukraine had reached a “strategic turning point” in the conflict with Russia, but Russian forces were bombing cities across the country and appeared to be regrouping for a possible attack on the capital Kyiv .

The governor of the Kharkiv region on the Russian border said a psychiatric hospital was hit and the mayor of the city of Kharkiv said about 50 schools there were destroyed.

In the besieged southern city of Mariupol, the city council said at least 1,582 civilians were killed as a result of Russian shelling and a 12-day blockade that left hundreds of thousands without food, water, heat or electricity.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said the Black Sea port was now completely surrounded, and Ukrainian officials accused Russia of deliberately preventing civilians from disembarking and humanitarian convoys from boarding.

A new attempt to evacuate civilians along a humanitarian corridor appeared to have failed.

“The situation is critical,” said Vadym Denysenko, adviser to Ukraine’s Interior Ministry.

Western countries, meanwhile, took further steps to try to force Russian President Vladimir Putin to end his attack on Ukraine.

US President Joe Biden said the G7 industrialized nations would strip Russia of its “most favored nation” trade status. He also announced a US ban on Russian seafood, alcohol and diamonds.

European Union leaders meeting in France said they are ready to impose tougher economic sanctions on Russia and could give Ukraine more money for weapons. But they rejected Ukraine’s application to join the bloc.

In a meeting with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, Putin said there were “certain positive changes” in the talks with Kyiv, but did not elaborate.


With the Russian attack entering its third week, Zelenskyy, who has rallied his people with a series of speeches, said Ukraine has “already reached a strategic turning point.”

“It is impossible to say how many days we have (before us) to liberate Ukrainian land. But we can say we will,” he said. “We are already moving towards our goal, our victory.”

Russia’s main assault force has been stalled on roads north of Kyiv after Western analysts missed an initial plan for a lightning strike.

But images released by the private US satellite company Maxar showed armored units maneuvering into and through towns near an airport on the northwestern outskirts of Kyiv, the scene of fighting since Russia landed paratroopers there in the early hours of the war.

Other elements had repositioned near the Lubyanka settlement to the north, with howitzer artillery in firing positions, Maxar said.

Britain’s Defense Ministry said Russia appeared to be preparing for new offensive activities in the coming days, which would likely include operations against Kyiv.

However, Russian ground forces were still making limited progress, hampered by logistical problems and Ukrainian resistance, their intelligence update said.

Ukraine’s General Staff said Russian forces were regrouping after heavy casualties. Ukrainian troops pushed some back into “awkward positions” near the Belarusian border behind the main Russian column, sources said.

“Our opponent was stopped in practically every direction by airstrikes, rocket fire and ground attacks,” Presidential Advisor Oleksiy Arestovych said at a press conference.

He said Ukrainian fighters carried out counterattacks near Kyiv and in Kharkiv.

Kyiv mayor and former heavyweight boxing champion Vitali Klitschko told Reuters that out of a pre-war population of 3.5 million, nearly 2 million people remain in the city.

He said the capital had enough vital supplies to last a couple of weeks and supply lines both inward and outward remained open for the time being.


Ukrainian authorities said a psychiatric hospital was hit near the eastern town of Izyum. Emergency services said no one was injured as patients were already taking shelter in the basement.

Kharkiv governor Oleh Synegubov called the attack a war crime. Reuters could not verify the report and there was no comment from Moscow.

Moscow denies that it targeted civilians in a so-called “special operation” to disarm and “denazify” Ukraine.

At least one person was killed in three airstrikes near a kindergarten in downtown Dnipro on Friday, state emergency services said.

The mayor of Lutsk said four people were killed and six wounded in an attack on an airfield — a rare attack on a target deep in western Ukraine, far from the battlefields to the north, east and south.

In Kharkiv, hundreds of people hid in subway stations deep under the streets. Mayor Ihor Terekhov said the city was constantly bombed and about 50 schools were destroyed.

Nastya, a young girl lying on a makeshift bed on the floor of a train carriage, said she had been there for more than a week, was unable to move much and had contracted a virus.

“I’m scared for my home, my friends’ houses, very scared for the whole country and of course scared for myself.”

Moscow said its Separatist allies to the south-east had captured the town of Volnovakha north of Mariupol.

But Mathieu Boulegue, an expert at London think tank Chatham House, said Moscow may not have enough troops to meet its goals.

“You cannot attack a country with a one-to-one ratio (of troops). No one did, which means either something was wrong or they had very wrong assumptions when they went into this war,” he told Reuters.


Away from the battlefields, EU leaders at the Palace of Versailles near Paris agreed to spend more on defense and reduce dependence on Russian energy supplies by 2027. However, they failed to reach an agreement on how far to extend their sanctions against Russia.

They also rejected Ukraine’s call for quick admission to the EU for fear of angering Moscow and admitting a country that does not meet the bloc’s criteria.

Since the invasion, Western countries have been quick to isolate Russia from the global financial system.

Regarding further sanctions, French President Emmanuel Macron said: “Nothing is off the table, nothing is taboo, we will do whatever we think is necessary to stop Russia.”

(Report by Reuters offices, letters by Peter Graff and Angus MacSwan, editing by Tomasz Janowski and) Russian forces regroup after setbacks on the outskirts of Kyiv

Bobby Allyn

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