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U.S. and Ukrainian officials were dubious of Russia’s claims that it will "drastically" reduce military operations around the Ukrainian capital, with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy saying Tuesday that “positive” signals from ongoing negotiations do not “drown out the ruptures of Russian shells."
In the United States, President Joe Biden said that he won’t “read anything” to the claims “until I see what their actions are.” Biden said the U.S. has no plans to withdraw sanctions or military aid to Ukraine.
Pentagon press secretary John Kirby was also skeptical, describing the Russian military movements as a “repositioning” and saying that only a small number of troops had moved. “We are not prepared to call this a retreat or even a withdrawal,” Kirby told reporters, warning that the shift may foreshadow a “major” offensive elsewhere in the country.
Earlier, Russia's deputy defense minister said Moscow would scale back its military presence near Kyiv as Russian and Ukrainian delegations met in Istanbul for a round of peace talks.
UK: Some Russian forces have been forced to return to reorganize
Some Russian forces that have suffered heavy losses in Ukraine have been forced to return to their own country or Belarus, but setbacks on the ground mean more mass artillery and missile strikes, the United Kingdom's defense ministry said Wednesday.
The U.K. in an intelligence update said that Russia's claimed focus on eastern Ukraine is an acknowledgment that its forces are struggling.
"Russia will likely continue to compensate for its reduced ground maneuver capability through mass artillery and missile strikes," the U.K. defense ministry said.
The United Nations human rights office has said that most of the civilian casualties it has recorded in Ukraine have been from explosive weapons that affect large areas, like heavy artillery, rockets, missiles and airstrikes.
The U.N. has recorded 1,179 civilians killed, including 104 children, since Russia attacked on Feb. 24. It says the real number of civilian casualties is higher than what has been able to be reported and corroborated so far.
Video shows damage in Ukrainian city of Irpin, said to be liberated
Video from the city of Irpin on Tuesday showed the devastation in the western Kyiv suburb a day after Ukraine's president and others said the city was back under their control.
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Monday that Ukrainian forces had freed Irpin from Russian control, more than a month after Russia attacked and invaded Ukraine in an assault that has been widely condemned as an unprovoked and unjustified attack.
Ukrainian and U.S. officials were dubious Tuesday of Russia's claims that it would "drastically" reduce military operations around Kyiv.
Defense Department press secretary John Kirby said Tuesday it is clear that Russia considered Kyiv an objective. "We ought not be fooling, and nobody should be fooling ourselves, by the Kremlin's now-recent claim that it will now just suddenly reduce military attacks near Kyiv," Kirby said.
Kirby said only small numbers of units have been seen moving away from the Kyiv over the last day. "But we believe this is a repositioning, not a real withdrawal — and that we all should be prepared to watch for a major offensive against other areas of Ukraine," he said. "It does not mean that the threat to Kyiv is over."
Satellite images show apparent devastation, hunger in Mariupol
Satellite images published Tuesday by a U.S. defense contractor appeared to show widespread destruction in residential areas of Mariupol, Ukraine, and the grim reality faced by thousands of hungry civilians who remained there.
The images, from Colorado-based Maxar Technologies, captured what appeared to be a once-leafy neighborhood that had largely been leveled by Russian artillery shelling and airstrikes.
The images also showed what the company said was a grocery store in the western part of the city. Outside, a line of what Maxar said was hundreds of people could be seen snaking through a parking lot.
Ukrainian officials have said for days that food and water supplies for the tens of thousands of residents who stayed behind in the strategically important city have dwindled amid relentless Russian bombardment. The officials have accused Russian forces of blocking supplies and shelling and capturing those trying to flee. NBC News has not been able to independently confirm the accounts.
Russian officials have said the country’s armed forces don’t target civilians. A Kremlin readout said that In a phone call Tuesday between Russian President Vladimir Putin and French President Emmanuel Macron — who has tried to broker an evacuation from the city — Putin discussed his military’s efforts to “provide urgent humanitarian assistance” and to “ensure the safe evacuation of civilians.”
“It was stressed that in order to resolve the grave humanitarian situation in this city, Ukrainian nationalist militants must stop resisting and lay down their arms,” the readout said.
Ukraine lawmakers push for more help during visit to U.S. Congress
WASHINGTON — Members of the Ukrainian parliament visiting the U.S. Congress are urging their American allies to send more military supplies — air support, tanks and other equipment — to push the Russians out of their country.
As the Ukrainian legislators spoke Tuesday at a Capitol Hill news conference, one of their cellphones blared with the sound of an air raid siren going off in the country back home.
The Ukrainians spoke at a roundtable with members of the Congressional Ukraine Caucus, a longstanding group from the U.S. House focused Ukrainian issues.
U.S. troops training Ukrainian troops to use equipment in Poland
U.S. officials are trying to clarify what Biden meant when he said Monday that American troops are training Ukrainian troops.
White House officials denied there was formal training going on but confirmed that U.S. troops in Poland are having regular "interactions" with Ukrainian troops there to teach them how to use U.S. and foreign military equipment.
The equipment is transiting through Poland to to Ukrainian government and the training involves mostly basic military assistance, such as communications equipment, as opposed to larger systems, officials said.
U.S. troops are also helping their Ukrainian counterparts learn how to use even larger equipment, which is what Biden was referencing in his remarks, according to the officials.
At a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing Tuesday, Gen. Tod Wolters, Commander of U.S. European Command and Supreme Allied Commander of Europe, said there are "liaisons that are there that are being given advice," which echoed what Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said in a news conference.
Zelenskyy in video message warns: 'We should not lose vigilance'
While Russian military leaders said Tuesday they would scale back their operations near the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy responded in an address to his people that now is not the time to let down their guard.
"We should not lose vigilance," Zelenskyy said in a video on Telegram. "The situation has not become easier. The scope of challenges did not shrink."
Russia's apparent decision to shift its focus away from Kyiv, which was met with skepticism from the West, comes amid another round of talks that have signaled progress is being made that might end the deadly conflict.
Still, even though a "negotiation process" with Russia continues, Zelenskyy warned that "the enemy is still on our territory" and that while "the signals we hear from the negotiating platform can be called positive ... these signals do not drown out the ruptures of Russian shells."
25 senators demand expedited delivery of lethal aid to Ukraine
In a letter to White House national security advisor Jake Sullivan, a bipartisan group of 25 senators led by Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, and Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., urged the Biden administration to rush lethal aid to Ukraine amid Russia’s ongoing war.
“America’s commitments to Ukraine and to our NATO allies demand we expedite the delivery of weapons and capabilities to our allies and partners; Ukraine can win this fight if we help them win this fight,” they wrote.
The senators, including members of a recent bipartisan congressional delegation to Poland and Germany, requested information that included a list of lethal and nonlethal aid provided to Ukraine along with its delivery status in addition to an inventory and assessment of equipment that could be provided to Ukraine from various sources.
“The U.S. mission in Ukraine must go beyond ensuring the country merely has the means to defend itself against Russia aggression," they wrote. "The strategy must deliver Ukraine necessary weapons to defend itself, counter the Russia forces’ advance, and give the Ukrainian people a chance to win this war.”
Pentagon calls Russia's Kyiv claims a 'repositioning,' not a 'retreat'
A small number of Russian troops have moved, mostly northward, away from Kyiv, Defense Department spokesperson John Kirby said, but he reiterated that the U.S. views it as a "repositioning."
“We are not prepared to call this a retreat or even a withdrawal,” Kirby said at a news conference.
He said the small number of troops the Pentagon has seen moving are “not a significant chunk of the multiple battalion tactical groups Russia has around Kyiv" and warned that the threat to the Ukrainian capital was far from over.
Pentagon officials believe the movement is “likely more a repositioning to be used elsewhere in Ukraine," Kirby said, warning that Russia could launch a "major offensive against other areas of Ukraine."
Biden says 'we'll see' regarding claims Russia will scale down operations near Kviv
Biden was skeptical when asked about Russian claims that it will scale down operations near Kviv.
"We'll see. I don't read anything into it until I see what their actions are," Biden said in a news conference with Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. "We'll see if they follow through on what they're suggesting."
Biden added that he had a meeting with NATO allies, and there seemed to be a consensus to wait and see.
"But in the meantime, we're going to continue to keep strong sanctions. We're going to continue to provide the Ukrainian military with their capacity to defend themselves, and we're going to keep a close eye on what's going on," he said.
Atomic energy chief in Ukraine to ensure nuclear plant safety
The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency is in Ukraine for talks with government officials to "ensure the safety and security of the country’s nuclear facilities and help avert the risk of an accident that could endanger people and the environment."
At the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, which was taken by Russian forces on Feb. 24, technical staff members who had worked for nearly four weeks were rotated out last week and replaced with other nearby staff.
Agency Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi's visit confirmed that eight of Ukraine's 15 operational nuclear reactors across four sites were operational, including some in Russian-controlled areas. Others were offline for maintenance.
The IAEA said a "subcritical" nuclear research facility near Kharkiv that was attacked has a "low" amount of nuclear material, too low to trigger any chain reaction.
Biden, European leaders discuss consequences for Russia
Biden spoke to top European leaders by phone Tuesday about the invasion of Ukraine and the consequences their countries will continue to impose on Russia.
"The leaders affirmed their determination to continue raising costs on Russia for its brutal attacks in Ukraine, as well as to continue supplying Ukraine with security assistance to defend itself against this unjustified and unprovoked assault," the White House said.
The White House also said that the leaders reviewed their efforts to provide humanitarian assistance to millions of Ukrainians, "both inside Ukraine and seeking refuge in other countries."
They also "underscored the need for humanitarian access to civilians in Mariupol' and "discussed the importance of supporting stable energy markets in light of current disruptions due to sanctions."
The leaders on the call included French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Blinken: 'We're focused on what Russia does'
Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken on Tuesday appeared to cast doubt on Russia's pledge to cut back on hostilities in Ukraine.
"There is what Russia says, and there is what Russia does," Blinken said during a diplomatic trip to Morocco. "We’re focused on the latter, and what Russia is doing is the continued brutalization of Ukraine and its people, and that continues as we speak."
Blinken called on Russia to "end the aggression now, stop firing, pull its forces back, and of course engage in talks."
Top U.S. commander in Europe says Russia launched 'multiple' hypersonic missiles in Ukraine
NATO's Supreme Allied Commander Gen. Tod D. Wolters said Tuesday that Russia fired "multiple" hypersonic missiles in Ukraine, with most directed at military targets.
"I think it was to demonstrate the capability and attempt to put fear in the hearts of the enemy and I don't think they were successful," Wolters said in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Wolters, who also serves as commander of U.S. European Command, did not specify the exact number of hypersonic missiles launched.
He suggested intelligence on the strikes is still pending, but said most strikes were launched "at specific military targets."
An expert recently told NBC News that the missiles are "very, very fast and designed to evade missile defenses."
Russian troops seen moving away from Ukraine's capital
As Ukrainian troops continue to claw back territory from Russia around Kyiv, Russian soldiers appear to be adjusting their activity and shifting away from the besieged country's capital.
"We're seeing some movement of troops away from Kyiv, which could be an indication of Putin having to adjust his original plan," a White House official said Tuesday. "But no one should read too much into an adjustment — should momentum build, Russia could change its plans again at any moment, or this could just be a regroup."
On Monday, a senior U.S. defense official said Russia was not making any progress, advances or effort toward Kyiv, while last week, U.S. officials said Russia's assault on the capital failed to gain traction as Ukrainian forces were able to roll back Russian troops to the east and stymie them northwest of the city.
U.N. urges investigation into videos of alleged POW abuse by Russia and Ukraine
A top U.N. official has called on both Russia and Ukraine to investigate videos that appear to show their soldiers mistreating prisoners of war during the conflict in Ukraine.
The government in Kyiv has said it is looking into a video that purports to show Ukrainians shooting Russian prisoners in the legs.
The commander of Ukraine’s army has suggested that the graphic video is a staged act of propaganda. NBC News was unable to authenticate the video.
The Kremlin — whose disinformation efforts have varied as widely a accusing the U.S. of running a network of nonexistent "biolabs" across Ukraine to denying it has launched a war at all — said it is also investigating the video.
A Ukrainian police officer sits on a sports car fitted with a heavy machine gun on the back in Mykolaiv, Tuesday.
U.K. seizes $50 million, Russian-owned superyacht Phi
The U.K. has detained a $50 million, Russian-owned superyacht in London, where it was docked in the Canary Wharf financial district.
The yacht, named Phi, was detained under the government's Russian sanctions, with Britain's National Crime Agency saying it was the first detention of a superyacht in U.K. waters.
It said officers had served a detention notice on the superyacht Tuesday morning after confirming the identity of its owner.
"Owned by a Russian businessman, Phi is the third biggest yacht built by prestigious shipbuilders Royal Huisman and includes what the builders call an 'infinite wine cellar' and patented fresh-water swimming pool," the NCA said in a press release.
It said the ownership of the yacht had been "deliberately well hidden," with the company the ship was registered to being based in St. Kitts and Nevis and carrying Maltese flags "to hide its origins."
Ukraine pushes for international agreement for security guarantees
Ukrainian negotiators involved in peace talks with Russia in Istanbul on Tuesday said they want to see an international agreement under which other nations would act as guarantors of Ukraine's security.
David Arahamiya, a member of Ukraine's delegation, said the Ukrainian side wanted international security guarantees that would see guarantor countries act in a similar way to NATO's Article 5, which holds that an attack against one member country should be seen as an attack against all members.
He said guarantor countries could include United Nations Security Council member states, including the United States, United Kingdom, China, Russia and France, as well as other countries such as Turkey, Canada, Germany, Italy, Poland and Israel. If other countries wanted to join, they would have the opportunity, he said.
Arahamiya said there would also be a clause in the agreement stating that all guarantor countries will not only refrain from denying Ukraine's accession to the European Union, but would also assist in the effort.
He said the agreement would first have to be approved in a referendum by Ukrainians and then ratified by the Parliament of Ukraine and approved by guarantor countries.
A Ukrainian soldier stands near the wreck of a Russian tank on the front line in the Kyiv region Monday.
Russia says to 'drastically' reduce military activity near Ukraine's capital, Kyiv
Russia will "drastically" reduce military activity near the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv and in the nearby city of Chernihiv, Russian Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin said Tuesday.
Fomin announced the decision in an on-camera statement from Istanbul, where peace talks between Ukrainian and Russian delegations were underway. His comments were broadcast on Russia-24.
He said the the general staff of the Russian armed forces would report on the decision in more detail upon the return of Russia's delegation to Moscow.
At least 7 dead after Russian strike hits regional government building in Mykolaiv
At least 7 people have been killed after a Russian strike hit the regional government building in the southern Ukrainian city of Mykolaiv, the State Emergency Service of Ukraine has said.
Earlier, it had said at least three people had died. NBC News was not able to confirm a death toll.
The state emergency service said as many as 22 others were injured in the attack.
The regional governor, Vitaliy Kim, had said on Telegram on Tuesday that his personal office was also destroyed. He said most people appeared to have survived the attack.
Wounded women sit on their beds in a hospital in Zaporizhzhya, Ukraine, on Tuesday.
Security guarantees key issue in peace talks, Ukrainian presidential adviser says
Security guarantees for Ukraine will be a key issue in ongoing talks between Ukrainian and Russian delegations in Turkey on Tuesday, Zelenskyy adviser Mykhailo Podoliak has said.
Speaking on Ukrainian television during a break in the talks in Istanbul, he said security guarantees would be a primary focus.
Podoliak said efforts would also be made to negotiate a cease-fire to address the growing humanitarian issues in besieged cities.
"Unconditional security guarantees for Ukraine, ceasefire, effective decisions on humanitarian corridors and humanitarian convoys, observance by the parties of the rules and customs of war," he tweeted. "Difficult negotiations for peace in our country," he said.
ICRC calls for clear agreement for safe evacuation of residents in Mariupol, other cities
The International Committee of the Red Cross called on Ukraine and Russia on Tuesday to reach a clear agreement for the safe evacuation of civilians from the besieged southern Ukrainian city of Mariupol and other places as vital supplies run out.
Robert Mardini, ICRC director-general, told Reuters that the neutral aid agency would not participate in any forced evacuations of civilians from Ukraine and it had no first-hand information that this is happening.
"Our concern is that the very intensity of the fighting is putting civilians in harm's way, the fact that in places like Mariupol civilians are not able to leave in safe conditions, there were no concrete agreements by parties to the conflict for safe evacuation of civilians, nor has there been a green light to get humanitarian aid in," Mardini said.
Ukraine and Russia must allow the ICRC to visit captured prisoners of war, in line with the Geneva Conventions, and return the remains of people killed in the conflict, he said in an interview at ICRC headquarters in Geneva.
Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich listens during peace talks between Russian and Ukrainian delegations in Istanbul on Tuesday.
IAEA head travels to Ukraine to offer nuclear safety assistance
The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency has arrived in Ukraine to deliver technical assistance ensuring the safety and security of Ukraine’s nuclear facilities.
As part of the trip, IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi will be visiting one of Ukraine’s nuclear power plants this week, the agency said.
Grossi's visit comes after Ukraine requested assistance in ensuring safety and security at its nuclear plants in the midst of Russia's invasion.
“We must act now to help prevent the danger of a nuclear accident,” said Grossi in a Twitter post.
"Ukraine has one of Europe’s largest nuclear power programs," he said in a separate statement. "The IAEA’s presence, where needed to ensure safety and security, is of paramount importance. We are ready to provide the necessary support now."
Russian strike hits regional government building in Mykolaiv, governor says
A Russian strike hit the regional government building in the southern Ukrainian city of Mykolaiv, the regional governor, Vitaliy Kim, said on Telegram on Tuesday.
The southern port city has been under attack for weeks. The governor said the regional administration building was hit, adding that his personal office was destroyed too.
Kim said most people appeared to have survived the incident.
The State Emergency Service of Ukraine said at least 3 people had died in the attack. NBC News was not able to verify the death toll.
Kim said at least eight civilians and three military personnel were still trapped under the rubble. It was not immediately clear how many people were injured.
Firefighters tackle a blaze in Lutsk, western Ukraine, after Russian attacks struck a fuel storage facility on Tuesday.
Ukraine calls on countries to criminalize the use of Pro-Russia 'Z' symbol
Ukraine's foreign minister has called on states to criminalize the use of the "Z" symbol, which has been used as a way to publicly show support for Russia's invasion.
“’Z’ means Russian war crimes, bombed out cities, thousands of murdered Ukrainians. Public support of this barbarism must be forbidden,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said in a tweet Tuesday.
The original meaning of the “Z” symbol has remained something of a mystery since it was first spotted on Russian tanks.
In the weeks since, the letter ”Z” has become a symbol used to show support for Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Two German states have already banned the portrayal of the symbol.
Russia would only use nuclear weapons if faced with threat to existence, Kremlin says
Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov has said that Russia would only consider using nuclear weapons if there was a threat to the "existence of the state in our country."
However, he said that "any outcome" of Russia's invasion of Ukraine would not be a "reason for usage of a nuclear weapon." Peskov made the comments during an interview with PBS on Monday.
He said that Moscow has a "security concept that very clearly states that only when there is a threat for existence of the state, in our country, we can use and we will actually use nuclear weapons to eliminate the threat for the existence of our country."
Pressed to clarify more on Russia's position on the use of nuclear weapons, he said: "No one is thinking about using ... even about the idea of using a nuclear weapon."
3 humanitarian corridors set to open
Three humanitarian corridors have been agreed to open on Tuesday, Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said in a Telegram post.
The decision came a day after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a video address Monday that "the Russian army did not let us organize a single humanitarian corridor today, did not provide cease-fire."
The corridors will open at the Donetsk and Zaporizhzhia regions, allowing citizens to go from Mariupol to Zaporizhzhia using individual vehicles. Thirty buses have already left Zaporizhzhia to evacuate Mariupol residents from Berdyansk.
Civilians will also be able to travel from Melitopol to Zaporizhzhia and from the city of Enerhodar to Zaporizhzhia by private transport.
Delegations meet for peace talks in Istanbul
Russian and Ukrainian negotiators are meeting in Istanbul for the latest round of peace talks Tuesday morning.
In the below photo, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan addresses Russian and Ukrainian negotiators before their face-to-face talks in Istanbul on Tuesday.
Japan to ban export of luxury goods to Russia
Japan will ban the export of luxury goods to Russia from April 5, the country's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said in a statement on Thursday.
The ban comes as the latest effort to pressure Russia to end its invasion of Ukraine. The banned goods include luxury cars, laptop, jewelry, alcohol and tobacco.
The ban is based on a revised Foreign Exchange and Foreign Trade Law. Before the revision, Japan had banned the export of weapons, carbon fiber and semiconductors to Russia.
Russia resetting forces in parts of Ukraine, British defense ministry says
Ukrainian forces have seen "some success" conducting "localized" counter attacks north west of Kyiv as Russian forces elsewhere attempt to "reorganize and reset their forces," Britain's defense ministry has said.
In its daily intelligence update Tuesday, the British defense ministry said Russian forces had been pushed back from a number of positions north west of Kyiv. However, it said Russian forces still poses a significant threat to the capital through their strike capability.
Russian forces have maintained their offensive on the besieged port city of Mariupol, with continued heavy shelling of the city, it said. However, it noted that the center of the city remains under Ukrainian control.
It said that in other regions, Russian troops were maintaining blocking positions while attempting to reset their forces.