Russian forces appear to take heavy losses as troops continue advance toward Kyiv

BROVARY, UKRAINE – MARCH 10: Ukrainian servicemen load an armored personnel carrier (APC) on March 10, 2022 near Brovary, Ukraine. Yesterday, a column of Russian tanks and armored vehicles in Brovary was forced to turn back after an ambush by Ukrainian forces. Video shared online purportedly showed a destroyed tank and APC in the area. (Photo by Anastasia Vlasova/Getty Images)Anastasia Vlasova/Getty Images

Russian forces continued their advance toward Kyiv Thursday and appeared to take heavy losses, as the city’s mayor said roughly half the prewar population had now left the Ukrainian capital.

The reported Russian advance into Brovary, a satellite town on the northeastern edge of Kyiv, came shortly after talks between the Russian and Ukrainian foreign ministers – the highest-level negotiations of the 15-day-old war – ended without progress toward a ceasefire.

The move into Brovary by a column of Russian armour appeared to fail. A video posted to social media by Ukraine’s Defence Intelligence Service shows more than a dozen tanks parked on the main road to Kyiv before they are suddenly hit by a series of explosions – likely Ukrainian artillery fire. Several tanks appeared to be damaged by the blasts, and the others pull back, heading away from Kyiv. The Defence Intelligence Service said a Russian tank regiment had suffered “significant losses in personnel and equipment” and had been “forced to retreat.”

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Nonetheless, the appearance of Russian armour on the eastern edge of Kyiv highlights that the already ruthless battle for the capital is only beginning. Russian forces have for several days been fighting for control of suburbs and villages north and northwest of the city, which has also faced two weeks of airstrikes and cruise missile attacks.

On Thursday, Kyiv Mayor Vitaly Klitschko said roughly “every second resident” had left the city, which had a prewar population of three million.

“The key goal of the Russians is to capture Kyiv … to surround Kyiv, to take it in a ring, then to attack and overthrow the government. Their plans are not realized, thanks to our guys,” Mr. Klitschko said in praising the Ukrainian military, which many analysts had predicted would quickly fold if Russia invaded. “Kyiv has now become a fortress.”

  • People rush to board a train at a railway station in Odesa, Ukraine.BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images

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But many more bleak days appear to lie ahead for Kyiv and the country. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Ukrainian Foreign Affairs Minister Dmytro Kuleba met Thursday in the Turkish city of Antalya, and Mr. Kuleba told reporters afterward that he saw no sign Russia was ready to end its invasion, which has killed thousands of people and caused more than 2.3 million Ukrainians to flee the country.

“Russia is not in a position at this point to establish a ceasefire. They seek a surrender from Ukraine. This is not what they are going to get. Ukraine is strong, Ukraine is fighting,” Mr. Kuleba said after the meeting.

Security analyst Serhiy Solodky – who works for the Kyiv-based New Europe Centre but, like so many residents of the capital, has been forced to flee his home – told The Globe and Mail that the fruitless talks underlined that “Russia does not want to negotiate peace or even ceasefire. Russia wants to see the failure of Ukraine.”

Moscow, which says it was threatened by Ukraine’s desire to join NATO, has said it intends to demilitarize its smaller neighbour. The Kremlin also claims it is acting to remove “neo-Nazis” inside the government of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who is Jewish.

Mr. Kuleba said Mr. Lavrov had ignored Ukraine’s plea for an urgent humanitarian ceasefire in the southeastern port city of Mariupol, where at least 1,170 people have reportedly been killed since the start of the war. A Russian airstrike badly damaged a maternity hospital in the city Wednesday.

“I made a simple proposal to Minister Lavrov: I can call my Ukrainian ministers, authorities, President now and give you 100-per-cent assurances on security guarantees for humanitarian corridors,” he said. “I asked him: ‘Can you do the same?’ And he did not respond.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Thursday accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of ordering attacks on civilians. “Putin’s callous disregard for human life is absolutely unacceptable. It is very clear that he has made the choice to specifically target civilians now,” Mr. Trudeau told reporters in Warsaw.

Ukraine said Thursday that an aid convoy attempting to reach Mariupol had been forced to turn back because of ongoing Russian fire.

In a separate news conference in Antalya, Mr. Lavrov said the maternity hospital in Mariupol was not being used for patient care at the time of the attack – that it had been converted into a base for far-right Ukrainian fighters – but offered no proof for his contention.

Photographs taken immediately after the blast show heavily pregnant women among the 17 people wounded when the airstrike hit the hospital’s parking lot, blowing off part of the building’s outer wall. Mariupol authorities said Thursday that three people had been killed in the attack, including a child.

Mr. Lavrov accused the West of fuelling the conflict by sending weapons to Ukraine’s military. He said the war – which Russia calls a “special military operation” – would have been avoided if the West had given Russia guarantees that NATO would never accept Ukraine as a member.

Moscow has been hit with a series of harsh sanctions since Mr. Putin ordered the invasion, including the withdrawal of major companies such as Visa, Mastercard, Coca-Cola and McDonald’s from the Russian market and the closure of European and North American airspace to Russian airlines. In a televised meeting Thursday with Russian government officials, Mr. Putin acknowledged that the sanctions were causing some pain but said the country would overcome them by reorienting its economy away from the West.

“There are some questions, problems and difficulties, but in the past we have overcome them and we will overcome them now,” he said. “In the end, this will all lead to an increase in our independence, self-sufficiency and our sovereignty.”

A survey of independent Russian economists, requested by the country’s central bank, forecast Thursday that Russia would soon see 20-per-cent inflation, double its current rate. It also predicted an 8-per-cent drop in gross domestic product this year.

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