Over two weeks after starting the operation to demilitarize Ukraine, Russian forces have been hesitant to enter major populated centers -especially in areas where Ukrainian ultranationalist battalions are holed up. The Russian MoD has repeatedly accused the latter of placing heavy weapons in residential areas, and using civilians as human shields.
Moscow considers recent statements by US and European officials on President Putin’s supposed “disappointment” with the state of the operation in Ukraine to be provocative, and aimed at getting Russia to storm Ukrainian cities, Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov has said.
“At the begnning of the operation, the president did in fact instruct the Ministry of Defence to refrain from an immediate storming of large settlements, including Kiev, due to the fact that armed nationalist formations are setting up firing points and placing heavy military equipment directly inside residential areas,” Peskov told reporters in a briefing on Monday.
The reality, Peskov said, is that military operations in heavily populated areas “will inevitably lead to heavy losses among the civilian population.” The Russian military operation “was planned precisely with this circumstance in mind” to avoid such losses, the spokesman added.
“At the same time, the MoD, while making sure to ensure the maximum security of the civilian population, does not exclude the possibility of taking complete control of those settlements which are practically surrounded, with the exception of zones used for humanitarian evacuation,” Peskov said.