British intelligence says Ukraine has recaptured Sloboda and Lukashivka villages

Russian President Vladimir Putin has threatened to suspend gas supply agreements to Europe if the countries do not pay the rubles, as many European countries have refused on March 31 because Russia has continued shelling around Kyiv despite pledges to curtail operations in the north.

Putin’s ultimatum on gas supplies will take effect on April 1, the same day as the new talks aimed at ending the war.

European governments have rejected Putin’s demand, but said they would study Putin’s mechanism for allowing consumers to send foreign currency to a designated account in Russia’s Gazprombank, which would return rubles for gas purchases.

“They must open ruble accounts in Russian banks. Payments for gas delivered from tomorrow will be made from these accounts,” Putin said on March 31.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (file photo)

“If such payments are not made (in rubles), we will treat it as a default from the buyer, along with all subsequent consequences … existing contracts will be terminated.”

Many European governments say Putin’s demand for ruble payments is a violation of agreements.

German Chancellor Olaf Schల్lz said gas contracts often stipulate payment in euros and sometimes in dollars. He said in a phone call to Putin on March 30 that he had made it clear that “it will remain the same”.

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As the gas payment issue led to a showdown in Europe, US President Joe Biden launched the largest release from U.S. oil storage to provide some relief to Americans when filling their tanks.

“This is a moment of evolution and danger to the world,” Biden said when announcing at the White House that the country was releasing 1 million barrels of oil a day from its strategic petroleum reserve.

Oil prices fell after Biden’s announcement that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was aimed at combating rising gas prices.

On March 31, Britain’s Defense Ministry said that despite the withdrawal of a limited number of units, Russian forces were maintaining positions east and west of Kyiv and that “heavy fighting is likely in the suburbs in the coming days.”

Separately, a British intelligence chief said depressed Russian soldiers in Ukraine were refusing to carry out orders and destroying their own equipment and accidentally firing their own aircraft.

Jeremy Fleming, who heads the GCHQ electronic spy agency, made the remarks in a speech in the Australian capital, Canberra.

He described Putin’s attack as “massive misrepresentation”.

“It is clear that he misjudged the resistance of the Ukrainian people. He underestimated the strength of the coalition strengthening his actions. He underestimated the economic consequences of the sanctions regime and underestimated his military’s capabilities to achieve rapid success,” Fleming said.

According to Ukrainian negotiator David Arakhamiya, the peace talks resumed on April 1 were resumed via videoconference. But there is little confidence that they will lead to a ceasefire, especially after the Russian invasion, which proposes to retreat.

Russia announced on March 28 plans to significantly reduce operations around Kyiv and the northern city of Chernihiv to boost confidence between the two sides in the negotiating table.

But there were also Western leaders and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zhelensky Suggestions The Kremlin vowed to buy time only when it regrouped and re-supplied its forces.

“We know what they are planning and what they are doing,” Zhelensky said in a speech to the nation on March 31. Is important. “

He told the Ukrainians that there was still courage for the coming wars.

“We still have to go through a very difficult path to get everything we want,” he said.

WATCH: Ukrainian forces have recaptured the town of Trostianets in eastern Ukraine, just 40 kilometers from the Russian border.

“Ukraine is looking at mobilizing Russian forces for new attacks on the Donbass, and we are preparing for it,” Zhelensky said earlier.

He also praised the Ukrainian defenders who resisted the airstrikes and pushed back the armed poles. Ukrainian forces recaptured strategic towns and villages in the capital’s suburbs as well as in the northeast and southwest.

On March 31, Ukrainian counterattacks and some Russian withdrawals took place around the Brewery suburb east of Kyiv, regional governor Oleksandr Palviuk said.

Russian forces attacked Makariv, west of Kyiv, and the suburbs of Irpin, and battles were fought around Hostomel, Pavliuk said. Chernihiv was also attacked and Russian artillery barrages were also reported in and around the northeastern part of Ukraine. Kharkiv city.

Watch: Ukrainian forces liberate Kukhari village outside Kyiv. But Russian forces continued to bomb the village with artillery and planes.

The war was particularly intense in Mariupol, where tens of thousands were stranded for weeks with food, water and other supplies.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) sent a relief convoy on March 31 with medical supplies and other assistance, and Ukraine sent 45 buses in hopes of evacuating 100,000 people still in the city.

The Russian Defense Ministry said the humanitarian corridor would open from 10 a.m. on April 1 to allow citizens out of the city.

On March 31, Zhelensky told the Australian Parliament that fresh and strong sanctions against Russia were needed to increase pressure on Moscow to launch a provocative attack on Ukraine.

Zhelensky warned in his video address that if Russia did not take responsibility, other states with “similar aspirations” would follow suit and threaten the rest of the world.

The Ukrainian president has said that if Russia had been punished for capturing Crimea in 2014 and supporting separatists in eastern Ukraine, then the attack would not have happened.

“If the world had punished Russia in 2014, this invasion of Ukraine in 2022 would not have happened,” he said. “So unpunished evil comes back.”

Australian deputies applauded Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zhelensky's address to the country's parliament on March 31 via video link.

Australian deputies applauded Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zhelensky’s address to the country’s parliament on March 31 via video link.

Zelenskiy accused Russia of “nuclear blackmail” and said more needed to be done to hold Moscow accountable.

The Australian government has announced another $ 25 million in military aid to Ukraine.

“The Australian people stand by Ukraine in your fight for survival,” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison told Zhelensky. “Yes, you have our prayers, but you also have our weapons.”

Australia has already supplied defense equipment and humanitarian aid to Ukraine, as well as a ban on exports of alumina and aluminum ores, including bauxite, to Russia.

Additional Support Australia has so far increased its total military assistance to Ukraine to $ 116 million.

Australia has imposed a total of 476 sanctions on 443 people, including businessmen close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, and 33 companies, including most of Russia’s banking sector and all institutions responsible for the country’s sovereign debt.

Current time, with reporting by RFE / RL’s Ukrainian Service, RFE / RL’s Russian Service, AP, AFP and Reuters

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