Ukraine morning briefing: Five developments as Russians forced to retreat from key northern areas
Our Foreign Staff – April 4, 2022
Good morning. Russian troops are preparing for a big attack in the Luhansk region of eastern Ukraine, officials warned on Monday night, urging a mass evacuation.
However, in the North the Ukrainians are pushing back their adversaries.
1. MoD: Ukraine gains back ground
Ukrainian forces have retaken key northern terrain, forcing Russian troops to retreat from areas around the city of Chernihiv and north of Kyiv, the UK’s Ministry of Defence said on Tuesday.
Low-level fighting is likely to continue in some of the recaptured areas, it warned, but will reduce this week as the remainder of the Russian forces withdraw.
Many Russian units withdrawing from northern Ukraine are likely to require significant re-equipping and refurbishment before being available to redeploy for operations in eastern Ukraine, such as an expected attack on the Luhansk region.
2. Zelensky to address UN today
Volodymyr Zelensky will address the UN Security Council for the first time at a meeting on Tuesday that is certain to focus on what appears to be deliberate killings in the town of Bucha on the outskirts of the capital Kyiv.
The discovery after the withdrawal of Russian troops has sparked global outrage and vehement denials from the Russian government.
According to Ukraine’s prosecutor-general Iryna Venediktova, the bodies of 410 civilians have been removed from Kyiv-area towns that were recently retaken from Russian forces.
Mr Zelensky said his government was “doing everything possible to identify all the Russian military involved in these crimes as soon as possible”.
He added: “The time will come when every Russian will learn the whole truth about who of their fellow citizens killed, who gave orders, who turned a blind eye to the murders. We will establish all of this – and make it known to the world.”
3. Kick Russia off UN council, says Ukraine
There should be no place for Russia on the UN Human Rights Council, Ukraine’s foreign minister said on Monday night.
“Spoke with UN Secretary General @AntonioGuterres on the current security situation and the Bucha massacre,” Dmytro Kuleba tweeted.
“Stressed that Ukraine will use all available UN mechanisms to collect evidence and hold Russian war criminals to account. No place for Russia on the UN Human Rights Council.”
Liz Truss on Monday urged France and Germany to agree to tough new sanctions against Moscow.
4. Russia vows to expel Western diplomats
Russia will respond proportionately to the expulsion of its diplomats from a number of Western countries, its ex-president Dmitry Medvedev said late on Monday.
“Everyone knows the answer: it will be symmetrical and destructive for bilateral relations,” Mr Medvedev said in a posting on his Telegram channel. “Who have they punished? First of all, themselves.”
On Monday, France said it would expel 35 Russian diplomats over Moscow’s actions in Ukraine and Germany declared a “significant number” of Russian diplomats as undesirable.
“If this continues, it will be fitting, as I wrote back on 26th February – to slam shut the door on Western embassies,” Mr Medvedev said. “It will be cheaper for everyone. And then we will end up just looking at each other in no other way than through gunsights.”
5. Russia nears default as US stops bond payments
Russia’s latest sovereign bond coupon payments have been stopped, a spokesman for the US Treasury said, putting it closer to a historic default.
The latest payments have not received authorisation by the US Treasury to be processed by correspondent bank JPMorgan, Reuters reported.
The payments were due on bonds due in 2022 and 2042. The correspondent bank processes the coupon payments from Russia, sending them to the payment agent to distribute to overseas bondholders.
A US Treasury spokesman said: “Today is the deadline for Russia to make another debt payment. Beginning today, the US Treasury will not permit any dollar debt payments to be made from Russian government accounts at US financial institutions. Russia must choose between draining remaining valuable dollar reserves or new revenue coming in, or default.”