Russia hits Kyiv outskirts, Chernihiv despite pledge to pull back

The intensified bombardment comes a day after Moscow said it would scale down military operations ‘to increase mutual trust’.

A photo of firefighters extinguishing the fire of a house.
Firefighters try to extinguish a fire after a Russian attack in Chernihiv [File: State Emergency Service of Ukraine/Anadolu Agency]

Russian forces have bombarded the outskirts of Kyiv and the besieged northern city of Chernihiv, a day after promising to scale down military operations in the cities during a new round of negotiations on the war in Ukraine.

The renewed aggression follows Russia and Ukraine’s first face-to-face peace talks in nearly three weeks at a palace in Istanbul, in which Russia’s defence ministry said it would curtail operations in that area “to increase mutual trust”.

Intensified bombardment could be heard in Kyiv on Wednesday morning from the direction of front-line suburbs where Ukrainian forces have regained territory in recent days. The capital itself was not hit, but windows rattled from the relentless artillery on its outskirts.

Oleksandr Pavliuk, the head of the Kyiv region military administration, said there had been 30 Russian raids in residential areas and civilian infrastructure in the Bucha, Brovary and Vyshhorod regions around the capital.

Chernihiv’s Mayor Vladyslav Astroshenko said Russian bombardment of the city had intensified over the past 24 hours, with more than 100,000 people trapped inside with just enough food and medical supplies to last about another week.

“This is yet another confirmation that Russia always lies,” he told CNN. “They actually have increased the intensity of strikes,” with “a colossal mortar attack in the centre of Chernihiv” on Wednesday wounding 25 civilians.

Olexander Lomako, the secretary of Chernihiv city council, said a library and a shopping mall were among the places hit with artillery and heavy weapons.

Russian forces also attacked industrial facilities in western Ukraine in three strikes overnight, a regional governor said.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in an overnight address that he took nothing Moscow said at face value.

“Ukrainians are not naive people,” he said. “Ukrainians have already learned during these 34 days of invasion, and over the past eight years of the war in Donbas, that the only thing they can trust is a concrete result.”

Some observers dismissed Moscow’s offer to scale back military activity as a ploy to regroup after having suffered heavy losses.

Presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych said Moscow was shifting some forces from northern Ukraine to the east, trying to encircle the main Ukrainian force there. Some Russians would stay behind near Kyiv to tie Ukrainian forces down.

Ukrainian defence ministry spokesman Oleksandr Motuzyanyk said however that Russia’s main efforts were concentrated on surrounding Ukrainian forces in eastern Ukraine while still trying to take the southern port city of Mariupol and the towns of Popasna and Rubizhne.

The Kremlin said there had been no breakthrough in the latest round of talks with Ukraine.

Kyiv presented a peace proposal under which it would accept neutral status with international guarantees to protect it from future attack. The proposal calls for a ceasefire and would postpone discussion of Russia’s territorial demands.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies