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Kremlin claims it’s not seizing Ukrainian cities in order to spare civilians


A resident leaves after salvaging some belongings from an apartment complex in the Obolon district of Kyiv, Ukraine, that was struck by artillery shells on Monday, March 14, 2022.

By Ivan Nechepurenko and Mrc Santora


Confronting a determined Ukrainian resistance and heavy losses on the battlefield, the Kremlin sought Monday to portray its failure to capture most major cities in Ukraine as an act of restraint.


Responding directly to U.S. and European statements that Russian forces were making “slow progress” in large cities, the Kremlin spokesman, Dmitri Peskov, said that President Vladimir Putin had ordered Russian troops to “refrain from storming large cities including Kyiv” before the invasion.


The reason Russia had not seized large cities was that “armed clashes in urban areas would inevitably lead to big losses among civilians,” Peskov said. But he added that Russian forces could still do so because Ukrainian cities are “already practically encircled anyway.”


Russia has bombarded Ukrainian towns and cities with ferocity, increasingly targeting civilian areas. Kharkiv, a thriving metropolis only three weeks ago where tens of thousands of students attended more than a dozen universities, is a wasteland. People seeking to flee fighting on the outskirts of Kyiv have been killed by Russian shelling, and hundreds of thousands are without food or clean water in the industrial hub of Mariupol, where Russian forces have laid siege to the city from its outskirts.


U.S. officials have accused Russia of targeting civilians with cruel and indiscriminate weapons, including cluster munitions. Last week, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, told the U.N. Security Council: “We have seen videos of Russian forces moving exceptionally lethal weaponry into Ukraine, which has no place on the battlefield.”


According to the Russian narrative, the human suffering in Ukraine is the work of Ukrainian “nationalists” and “Nazis” who use civilians as “human shields.”


Peskov made his statements at the same time as Russian and Ukrainian negotiators were meeting for talks. Although both Russian and Ukrainian representatives indicated before the meeting that their positions were coming closer to one another — and President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine said again that he was willing to meet with Putin — the Kremlin seemed intent on pushing Ukraine further to the brink in order to extract more concessions.


Making no mention of Russian losses or setbacks, Peskov insisted that the war was going as intended.


“All plans set out by the Russian leadership will be realized in full, within the approved time frame,” he said.

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