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Moscow explains Ukraine operation slowdown

The slowdown of Russia’s military operation in Ukraine is intentional with a view to evacuating the population and avoiding casualties among civilians, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said on Tuesday.

Russia’s Armed Forces are creating humanitarian corridors and announcing ceasefires to ensure the safe evacuation of residents from encircled settlements, he said, despite this approach stalling the progress of the country’s forces.

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“Of course, this slows down the pace of the offensive, but it is being done deliberately to avoid civilian casualties,” he explained at a meeting of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) Council of Defense Ministers.

Unlike the Armed Forces of Ukraine, Shoigu said, Russian troops are not carrying out strikes on civilian infrastructure where there may be people nearby. Instead, identified firing positions and Ukrainian military facilities are being hit with “high-precision weapons,” he added.

The defense minister also noted that Western countries, fearing the defeat of Kiev’s forces, are expediting shipments of lethal aid to Ukraine and are sending military advisers and personnel from private military companies, adding that the number of foreign mercenaries in the country has already exceeded 6,000.

However, despite punitive sanctions on Moscow and the extensive help provided to Kiev by the West, Shoigu maintained that Russia will continue its special operation until all its objectives are achieved.

He again insisted that the current situation in Ukraine was the result of the West refusing to take into account Russia’s proposals to resolve key issues regarding its national security concerns, which included the cessation of NATO’s expansion to the east and the non-deployment of strike weapons near Russia’s borders.

“Everything was done exactly the other way around. The United States set a course for the complete dismantling of the existing international security architecture, accompanying it with the global deployment of an anti-missile defense system and the development of medium-range and shorter-range missile systems,” he said, adding that NATO was right on Russia’s doorstep and had significantly increased its combat potential.

Shoigu also noted that the US-led bloc had intensified its efforts to get Ukraine to join the alliance and deployed coalition military infrastructure on its territory and turned the country hostile against Moscow.

Russia attacked its neighboring state in late February, following Ukraine’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements, first signed in 2014, and Moscow’s eventual recognition of the Donbass republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. The German- and French-brokered protocol was designed to give the breakaway regions special status within the Ukrainian state.

The Kremlin has since demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked and has denied claims it was planning to retake the two republics by force.

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