KYIV: Ukrainian forces recovered a major Kyiv neighborhood and fiercely held to control of the besieged city of Mariupol on Tuesday, as negotiators prepared to meet their Russian colleagues in Istanbul for face-to-face negotiations (Mar 29).
Interior Minister Denys Monastyrsky claimed troops “liberated” the suburban hamlet of Irpin, freeing a crucial entryway to the capital’s north-west from Russian control.
AFP correspondents observed intense shelling in the region and spoke with fleeing locals who recounted horrible sights of bombs dropping from the sky and individuals being slain in cold blood while attempting to flee.
“We witnessed those automobiles that attempted to escape on their own; they were destroyed by tanks, with people inside,” Roman Molchanov, 55, recounted, his voice shaking with sorrow.
His sister went on to say that the “Russian orcs” “shot dead folks sitting in their automobiles.”
The loss of Irpin was considered as a serious blow for Russian forces, who are still struggling to regroup following a disastrous first effort to encircle the capital.
More than a month has passed since Russian President Vladimir Putin’s forces moved into Ukraine, trying to damage or destabilize the democratic government in Kiev.
The war has already killed an estimated 20,000 people and displaced more than 10 million.
The prospects of a peaceful finish to the conflict – or of either side’s immediate victory – are dim.
Ukrainian and Russian negotiators will restart peace talks on Tuesday, amid shocking claims that participants were poisoned during a previous round of discussions.
The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month that Russian businessman Roman Abramovich and Ukrainian negotiators were targeted, citing individuals familiar with the subject.
Abramovich, a rich businessman subject to Western sanctions, and the negotiators reportedly had symptoms such as red eyes and peeling skin, but recovered later.
Ukraine batted down the claims, and Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba indicated that the Istanbul discussions will focus on relieving the humanitarian situation, and sounded a note of doubt about the chances for success.
“Things will go forward if we notice that the tone has shifted and they are ready for a real, substantial dialogue and balanced agreements,” he added.
“If it is a rehash of their propaganda,” he said, “then discussions will fail once more.”
Putin has called for the “demilitarization and denazification of Ukraine,” as well as the imposition of neutrality and the acknowledgment of the Donbas and Crimea as no longer part of Ukraine.