Moscow/Kyiv: Russia said on Saturday it did not plan to call up reservists as Moscow’s military intervention in Ukraine entered its 31st day, denouncing what it claimed were “false” summons to Russian men by Kyiv’s security services.
“The Russian defence ministry is not summoning and does not plan to summon any reservists to the military commissariats,” spokesman Igor Konashenkov said in a statement.
In the statement posted on messaging app Telegram, Konashenkov said that “many” Russian men had in recent days received “false” phone calls notifying them of their summons to the military commissariats.
“All such fake calls are made from Ukrainian territory,” Konashenkov said. “They absolutely do not correspond to reality and are a provocation of the Ukrainian special services.”
While Ukrainian forces have stalled the initial Russian advance and launched some successful counterattacks, there are signs that both sides are digging in for a long conflict that neither can easily win.
Additional US pledges
US President Joe Biden spoke with top Ukrainian government officials in Warsaw on Saturday during his visit to Poland to show support for the Nato alliance’s eastern flank in the face of the Russian attacks.
Biden dropped in on a meeting between meeting between Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov and Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.
The United States expressed “unwavering commitment to Ukraines sovereignty and territorial integrity,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said.
Kuleba told reporters that Ukraine had received additional security pledges from the United States on developing defence co-operation.
Biden has held three days of emergency meetings with allies in the G7, Europe and Nato, and visited with US troops in Poland on Friday. He met Polish President Andrzej Duda on Saturday.
Biden is also scheduled to visit a refugee reception centre at Warsaw’s national stadium. More than 2 million people have fled the war to Poland, out of the roughly 3.8 million who have left Ukraine all together.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy pushed for further talks with Russia as Moscow signalled it was scaling back its ambitions to focus on territory claimed by Russian-backed separatists in the east after attacks elsewhere stalled.
In an announcement on Friday appearing to indicate more limited goals, the Russian Defence Ministry said a first phase of its operation was mostly complete and it would now focus on the Donbas region bordering Russia, which has pro-Moscow separatist enclaves.
“The combat potential of the Armed Forces of Ukraine has been considerably reduced, which ... makes it possible to focus our core efforts on achieving the main goal, the liberation of Donbas,” said Sergei Rudskoi, head of the Russian General Staff’s Main Operational Directorate.
Breakaway Russian-backed forces have been fighting Ukrainian forces in Donbas and the adjoining Luhansk region since 2014.
They declared independence with Moscow’s blessing - but not recognised by the West - soon before the February 24 military intervention.
Moscow had said the goals for what it calls its “special operation” include demilitarising and “denazifying” its neighbour. Western officials say the invasion is unjustified and illegal, aimed at toppling Zelenskiy’s pro-NATO government.
Weeks of on-and-off peace talks have failed to make significant progress. In a video address late Friday, Zelenskiy said his troops’ resistance had dealt Russia “powerful blows”.
“Our defenders are leading the Russian leadership to a simple and logical idea: we must talk, talk meaningfully, urgently and fairly,” Zelenskiy said.
Counterattacks around Kyiv
Battle lines near Kyiv have been frozen for weeks with two main Russian armoured columns stuck northwest and east of the capital. A British intelligence report described a Ukrainian counteroffensive that had pushed Russians back in the east.
“Ukrainian counterattacks, and Russian forces falling back on overextended supply lines, have allowed Ukraine to reoccupy towns and defensive positions up to 35 km (22 miles) east of Kyiv,” the report said.
Volodymyr Borysenko, mayor of Boryspol, an eastern suburb where Kyiv’s main airport is located, said 20,000 civilians had evacuated the area, answering a call to clear out so Ukrainian troops could counterattack.
On the other main front outside Kyiv, to the capital’s northwest, Ukrainian forces have been trying to encircle Russian troops in the suburbs of Irpin, Bucha and Hostomel, reduced to ruins by heavy fighting.
The cities of Chernihiv, Kharkiv and Sumy north and east of Kyiv have also endured devastating bombardment. Chernihiv was effectively surrounded by Russian forces, its governor said.
Britain said it would fund 2 million pounds ($2.6 million) worth of food supplies for areas encircled by Russian forces, following a request from the Ukrainian government.
Thousands of miles from Ukraine, Russia was conducting military drills on islands claimed by Tokyo, Japanese media said on Saturday, days after Moscow halted peace talks with Japan because of its sanctions over the invasion of Ukraine.