By Reuters and published by Zeebiz.com plus BBC
A VETERAN envoy of President Vladimir Putin has resigned over the Ukraine war and left Russia with no intention to return, two sources said on Wednesday (Mar. 23), the first senior official to break with the Kremlin since Putin launched his invasion a month ago.
The Kremlin confirmed that Anatoly Chubais had resigned of his own accord. He has stepped down and reportedly left the country.
Chubais was one of the principal architects of Boris Yeltsin’s economic reforms of the 1990s and was Putin’s boss in the future president`s first Kremlin job. He held senior business and political jobs under Putin, lately serving as Kremlin special envoy to international organisations.
Chubais hung up the phone when contacted by Reuters. The sources did not say where he was.
US President Joe Biden flies to Europe on Wednesday for an emergency Nato summit on Ukraine, where invading Russian troops are stalled, cities are under bombardment and the besieged port of Mariupol is in flames.
Four weeks into a war that has driven a quarter of Ukraine`s 44 million people from their homes, Russia has failed to capture a single major Ukrainian city, while Western sanctions have ostracised it from the world economy.
After failing in what Western countries say was an attempt to seize Kyiv and depose the government, Russian forces have taken heavy losses, been frozen in place for at least a week on most fronts and face supply problems and fierce resistance.
They have turned to siege tactics and bombardment of cities, causing massive destruction and many civilian deaths.
Moscow says its aim is to disarm its neighbour, and its “special military operation” is going to plan. It denies targeting civilians.
Worst hit has been Mariupol, a southern port completely surrounded by Russian forces, where hundreds of thousands of people have been sheltering since the war`s early days, under constant bombardment and with food, water and heat supplies cut.
New satellite photographs from commercial firm Maxar released overnight showed massive destruction of what was once a city of 400,000 people, with columns of smoke rising from residential apartment buildings in flames.
No journalists have been able to report from inside the Ukrainian-held parts of the city for more than a week, during which time Ukrainian officials say Russia has bombed a theatre and an art school used as bomb shelters, burying hundreds of people alive. Russia denies targeting those buildings.
Biden, due to arrive in Brussels on Wednesday evening on his first foreign trip since the war began, will meet Nato and European leaders in an emergency summit at the Western military alliance`s headquarters.
The leaders are expected to roll out additional sanctions against Russia on Thursday. Sources said the US package would include measures targeting Russian members of parliament.
Biden will also visit Poland, which has taken in most of the more than 3.6 million refugees who have fled Ukraine and has been the main route for Western supplies of weapons to Ukraine.
In a sign of Moscow`s further isolation, Poland announced it was expelling 45 Russian diplomats accused of either being undercover spies or “associated” with them. Several other eastern European countries have announced similar moves in recent days, although not on such a large scale. Russia has rejected all the accusations.
What is Nato and how has it responded to Russia’s invasion?
The military alliance has 30 members who’ve agreed to come to one another’s aid in the event of an armed attack against any one member state.
Although Nato originally offered Ukraine eventual membership back in 2008, this hasn’t happened, mainly because of Russia’s long-standing opposition to such a move.
As a result, several Nato nations have been sending weapons to Ukraine to help it defend itself against Russia.
Secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg said leaders would agree to send four new battlegroups to Slovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria and Romania, doubling the alliance’s presence in the region.
Almost all of Irpin in Ukrainian hands, says Kyiv mayor
Almost all of the town of Irpin, which has seen fierce fighting in recent weeks, is in Ukrainian hands, the mayor of Kyiv has said.
Earlier in March, thousands of residents fled Irpin, which is just 20 kilometres (12 miles) north-west of Kyiv, across the remnants of a blown-up bridge as Russian artillery and air strikes pummelled the area.
Vitali Klitschko told journalists Ukrainian forces had pushed back troops there and also in the town of Makariv, west of Kyiv.
He said Ukrainian forces had “destroyed the plan to make a circle around Kyiv”.
The former boxer also said there were attacks taking place to the north and east of the city. When asked by the BBC about explosions that appeared to be coming nearer to the city centre, he said: “They will never come to Kyiv.”
He dismissed as “propaganda” Russian claims that a shopping centre bombed on Monday earlier this week was being used as a weapons store.
As BBC have been reporting, Ukrainian troops have been counter-attacking Russian forces in some areas of the country, including the small southern town of Voznesensk, where Russian forces were pushed back and an armoured convoy destroyed, and in Kherson, close to the Crimean peninsula.
Top: Some reports say veteran Putin aide Anatoly Chubais has travelled to Turkey. Photo: Dw.com
First insert: Thousands of residents have fled Irpin across a makeshift bridge. Photo: Reuters and published by BBC
Second insert and Home Page: These US troops arrived at a military base in Bavaria earlier this month. Photos: Reuters and published by BBC