Russia taking a beating, needs to regroup, British defense ministry says; no breakthrough in peace talks: Live Ukraine updates – USA TODAY

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Some Russian military units suffering heavy losses in Ukraine have been forced to return to Belarus and Russia to resupply, placing additional pressure on Russia’s already strained logistics, the British Defense Ministry said in an assessment Wednesday.

The problems demonstrate the difficulties Russia is having reorganizing its units in forward areas within Ukraine, the assessment says. Russia will likely continue to compensate for its reduced ground-force capability “through mass artillery and missile strikes,” the assessment says.

Russia this week announced plans to dial back its military activity in and around Kyiv, but Ukraine authorities say the city continues to be battered by artillery assaults.

Russian military leaders said last week that the first phase of its military operation was mostly complete and that forces would focus on “liberating” the breakaway Luhansk and Donetsk People’s Republics in the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine.

“Russia’s stated focus on an offensive in Donetsk and Luhansk is likely a tacit admission that it is struggling to sustain more than one significant axis of advance,” the assessment says.

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Latest developments

►No significant breakthrough took place in talks with Ukraine aimed at ending Russia’s invasion, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Wednesday.

►Ukraine asked Norway for long-range weapons to protect Ukraine’s battered cities.

►A meeting between President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin is possible only after a significant de-escalation in Ukraine, White House Director of Communications Kate Bedingfield said Tuesday. Biden said Monday a meeting was possible “depending on what he (Putin) wants to talk about.”

►The U.S. State Department renewed its Level 4 travel advisory to Russia and Ukraine, warning Americans may be singled out or detained by Russian officials if they travel there. 

Biden to speak with Zelenskyy Wednesday

President Joe Biden will speak with Ukrainian President Volodymy Zelenskyy on Wednesday to discuss “our continued support for Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression,” according to the White House. The call comes after negotiators for Russia and Ukraine failed to produce a breakthrough during peace talks Tuesday in Turkey.  

The Biden administration has expressed skepticism about Russia’s stated plans to scale back military presence near the Ukraine capital of Kyiv.

“We’ll see,” Biden told reporters Tuesday.

Joey Garrison  

Kremlin says no breakthroughs – and Crimea is off the table

No significant breakthrough took place in talks with Ukraine aimed at ending Russia’s invasion, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Wednesday. Negotiators for the two countries met for about three hours Tuesday in Istanbul, Turkey. Russia then said its military was scaling back operations around the capital of Kyiv – but U.S. and Ukrainian officials say missile attacks on the city continue unabated. 

Peskov said the Kremlin will not discuss issues that are “substantially on the negotiating table.” He said social media postings by representatives of Ukraine, including those not involved in the talks, do not contribute to successful negotiations.

“No one has stated that the parties have advanced. Who has stated that the parties have advanced?” Peskov said, adding that none of the officials involved in the talks had described them as positive.

Peskov also dismissed a Ukrainian proposal to negotiate the status of the Crimean Peninsula over the next 15 years. “Crimea is part of the Russian Federation,” Peskove said.

Estonia wants to rebuild Ukraine with funds for Russian energy

Estonia wants Europe to help build Ukraine – with the money Europe is set to pay Russia for its energy. The funds should be deposited in a bank to Ukraine “to make an immediate impact and make Russia pay for what has been done,” Estonian Foreign Minister Eva-Maria Liimets said Wednesday. 

But there is also concern that Russia could reject any delayed payment and sell to other nations. European Union leaders have been unable to impose sanctions on Russian energy exports, fearing that such a move could hurt member states heavily reliant on Moscow’s fossil fuel supplies.

Liimets also stressed the importance of the EU’s commitment to cut its fossil fuel supplies from Russia by two-thirds before the end of the year, saying “the price of military action for Russia must be very high.”

Estonia, with a population of about 1.5 million people, shares a border with Russia and was a part of the Soviet Union until declaring its independence 1991. Estonia became a member of NATO in 2004.

Ukraine envoy: Demilitarization of Russia ‘well underway’

The demilitarization of Russia is “well underway,” Ukraine’s U.N. Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya told the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday as the conflict in Ukraine entered its second month. Russian President Vladimir Putin has claimed his invasion sought only the “demilitarization and de-Nazification” of Ukraine. But according to Kyslytsya, Russian forces have lost over 17,000 military personnel, over 1,700 armored vehicles and almost 600 tanks in the invasion.

Russia announced Tuesday that it would scale back military operations near Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital. But Ukrainian military officials said they distrust Russia’s announced withdrawal, and American officials remained skeptical.

Inside one convoy’s frantic trek to rescue refugees in Ukraine

USA TODAY rides with Ukrainians in a convoy out of their war-ravaged homeland, crossing the border to Moldova. Some will stay there, hoping for a quick end to the war and a safe return home. Others are headed further west into the European Union, which is offering assistance and work permits to some Ukrainian refugees. Salam Aldeen, 39, drives one of the buses taking women and children to safety. Aldeen is also the founder of the international rescue nonprofit Team Humanity, which organized the convoy. Read more here.

“The ones with cars have left on their own,” Aldeen says. “That leaves the poor people.”

Trevor Hughes

Ukraine war will have global food impact not seen since WWII

Ukraine and Russia together produce 30% of the world’s wheat supply. They contribute to 20% of the global maize supply, and 75 to 80% of the sunflower seed oil.

Now, the war in Ukraine is threatening the global food supply, the U.N. food chief warned Tuesday. He said the global impact will be the most severe the world has seen since World War II, and that the invasion has created “a catastrophe on top of a catastrophe.”

Many farmers from Ukraine, sometimes referred to as “the breadbasket of the world,” have left their farms and are fighting Russian soldiers amid already high food prices. 

David Beasley, executive director of the U.N. World Food Program, told the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday that his agency had already begun cutting rations because of rising food, fuel, and shipping costs for millions of families around the world.

– Celina Tebor

Contributing: The Associated Press

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