By RFE RL
(RFE/RL) — Russia has continued shelling and launching missile strikes in Ukraine’s northern city of Chernihiv despite pledging it would reduce military activity around the area as Ukraine’s military dismissed the Russian promises and braced for further heavy fighting in the east.
In an overnight video address, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Ukraine was seeing a build-up of Russian forces in the southeast as they prepare for new strikes, while Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said 45 buses were headed to the besieged port city of Mariupol on March 31 in an attempt to evacuate civilians trapped by weeks of heavy fighting.
Britain’s Ministry of Defense said on March 31 that Russian troops continue to hold positions to the east and west of Kyiv despite the withdrawal of a limited number of units and “heavy fighting will likely take place in the suburbs of the city in coming days.”
Separately, a British intelligence chief said that demoralized Russian soldiers in Ukraine were refusing to carry out orders and sabotaging their own equipment and had accidentally shot down their own aircraft.
Jeremy Fleming, who heads the GCHQ electronic spy agency, made the remarks at a speech in the Australian capital, Canberra.
He added that Russian President Vladimir Putin had apparently “massively misjudged” the invasion.
“It’s clear he misjudged the resistance of the Ukrainian people. He underestimated the strength of the coalition his actions would galvanize. He underplayed the economic consequences of the sanctions regime, and he overestimated the abilities of his military to secure a rapid victory,” Fleming said.
Meanwhile, White House communications director Kate Bedingfield told reporters that Putin has been misled by advisers.
“We believe that Putin is being misinformed by his advisers about how badly the Russian military is performing and how the Russian economy is being crippled by sanctions because his senior advisers are too afraid to tell him the truth,” Bedingfield said during a press briefing.
In separate video addresses on March 31, Zelenskiy told Australian and Dutch lawmakers that fresh and stronger sanctions against Russia were needed to step up the pressure on Moscow over its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. He urged Dutch lawmakers in particular to “stop all trade with Russia.”