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Will Russia limit war aims?

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  • Post category:Europe / Politics
  • Post last modified:26/03/2022
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KYIV: Russia signaled Friday it may dial back its war aims to focus on eastern Ukraine after failing to break the nation’s resistance in a month of fighting and attacks on civilians, including up to 300 feared killed in the bombing of a theatre.

The possible shift came as President Joe Biden visited elite US troops serving with NATO just across the border in Poland and France’s Emmanuel Macron proposed an internationally backed evacuation of civilians trapped in the bombarded city of Mariupol.

Russian President Vladimir Putin had ordered the February invasion to destroy Ukraine’s military and topple pro-Western President Volodymyr Zelensky, bringing the country under Russia’s sway.

However, Sergei Rudskoi, a senior general, suggested a considerably reduced “main goal” of controlling Donbass, an eastern region already partly held by Russian proxies.

His surprise statement came as a Western official reported that a seventh Russian general, Lieutenant General Yakov Rezanstev, had died in Ukraine and that a colonel had been “deliberately” killed by his own demoralized men.

Complicating Moscow’s challenges, invasion troops were facing a counteroffensive in Kherson, the only major Ukrainian city under Russian control.

Visiting Rzeszow, about 80 kilometres (50 miles) from Ukraine, Biden praised Ukraine’s “incredible” resistance, comparing the conflict to a bigger version of communist China’s 1989 crushing of protests in Tiananmen Square.

Biden told soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division that the struggle in eastern Europe represents a historic “inflection point”.

“Are democracies going to prevail… or are autocracies going to prevail? And that’s really what’s at stake,” Biden said.

The US leader was briefed on the humanitarian situation, with more than 3.7 million refugees fleeing Ukraine, most of them into Poland.

Earlier, he ended a trip to Brussels for meetings with Western allies by announcing new measures to help the European Union shed dependence on imported Russian energy.

The plan is part of a sea change in the West, which for years has shrunk from direct confrontation with the Kremlin, but now seeks to make Putin a pariah.

France’s Macron announced a bold plan with Turkey and Greece to evacuate “all those who wish to leave Mariupol”, adding he would discuss it with Putin soon.

One Mariupol resident who already left the city, 33-year-old Oksana Vynokurova, described leaving behind a hellscape.

“I have escaped, but I have lost all my family. I have lost my house. I am desperate,” she told AFP after reaching the western city of Lviv by train.

“My mum is dead. I left my mother in the yard like a dog, because everybody’s shooting.”

Zelensky said in a video statement Friday that despite thousands of evacuations from Mariupol, “the situation in the city remains tragic”. | YouTube Channel