New Delhi: As the Russian invasion of Ukraine entered day 37, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that the situation in the south and the Donbas region remained extremely difficult and reiterated that Russia was building up forces near the besieged city of Mariupol.
“There will be battles ahead. We still need to go down a very difficult path to get everything we want,” he said.
“The situation in the south and in the Donbas remains extremely difficult.”
Zelensky fires top officials
In a video address on Thursday (April 1, 2022), the Ukrainian President also said that he had sacked two senior members of the national security service on the grounds they were traitors.
Zelensky also said he had fired two top officials at the national security service – the overall head of internal security as well as the head of the agency`s branch in the Kherson region.
The occasion marked the first time the Ukrainian President has announced high-profile sackings of those involved in Ukraine`s defence.
“I do not have time to deal with all the traitors, but they will gradually all be punished,” he said, adding that the two men had betrayed their oath to defend Ukraine. He did not give specific details.
Situation in Kyiv, Chernihiv
Zelensky said Ukrainian forces had pushed back the Russians from Kyiv and Chernihiv – two cities Moscow had announced would no longer be the focus of attacks as they seek to secure the separatist Donbas and Luhansk regions in the south-east.
Zelensky, who often uses colourful imagery, said the Russians were so evil and so keen on destruction that they seemed to be from another world, “monsters who burn and plunder, who attack and are bent on murder”. Moscow also denies Kyiv`s accusations that Russian forces are targeting civilians.
Russian forces leaving Chernobyl plant
Meanwhile, the Ukrainian state nuclear company said that all of the Russian forces occupying the Chernobyl nuclear power station had withdrawn from the territory of the defunct plant.
“According to the staff of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, there are now no outsiders on site,” Energoatom said in an online post. State-owned Energoatom had earlier said most troops had gone, leaving only a small number behind.
Ukraine said two convoys of Russian forces had left the Chernobyl plant and moved toward Belarus and a third convoy had left the city of Slavutych, where many of the facility`s staff live, and moved toward Belarus, the IAEA said in a statement on Thursday.
Diplomatic talks to resume
Additionally, the countries will resume their peace talks online on April 1, a senior Ukrainian official said after the latest round of negotiations had ended in Turkey.
Ukrainian negotiator David Arakhamia said in an online post that Ukraine had proposed the countries’ two leaders should meet, but Russia responded by saying more work needed to be done on a draft treaty.
Nearly 5,000 people have been killed in Mariupol, the mayor`s office estimates, and about 170,000 people remain trapped amid ruins without food, heat, power or running water. Reuters has been unable to verify the figures.
Russian forces have killed 148 children during shelling and air strikes, fired 1,370 missiles and destroyed 15 Ukrainian airports since the start of the invasion, Ukraine`s defence ministry said. Reuters could not independently verify the information.
(With agency inputs)