Friday, March 1, 2024

Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 75: Putin says Russia repelled aggression with Ukraine military operation

Russia, wary of NATO’s eastward expansion, began a military campaign in Ukraine on February 24 after the Western-leaning Kiev government turned a deaf ear to Moscow’s calls for its neighbor to maintain its neutrality. In the middle of the mayhem, Moscow and Kiev are trying to hammer out a peaceful solution to the conflict. Follow the latest about the Russia-Ukraine conflict here:

US sees “anecdotal reports” of Russian troops in Ukraine not obeying orders: Senior defense official

The US sees “anecdotal reports” of Russian troops and “mid-grade officers at various levels, even up to the battalion level” refusing to obey orders to move forward in the new Donbas offensive in Ukraine, according to a senior US defense official.

The official stated these officers “have either refused to obey orders or are not obeying them with the same measure of alacrity that you would expect an officer to obey.”

Russian forces have struggled with widespread morale problems since the beginning of the invasion, according to this official, which is just one of numerous problems that has plagued the Russian military during this war.

Russian forces are also still facing logistics issues that are slowing their progress, according to the official.

Russian storming of Azovstal plant continues with tanks & artillery: Ukrainian defense official

Russian forces continue with a “storm offensive” on the Azovstal plant in Mariupol on Monday, using tanks and artillery, Ukrainian Defense Ministry spokesperson Oleksandr Motuzyanyk told reporters in a daily briefing.

“We cannot exclude renewed bombings, Tu22M3 long range bombers,” he added.

According to the ministry, Russia’s presence in the Black Sea has now swelled to seven vessels armed with Kaliber-type cruise missiles, “collectively carrying up to 50 missiles.”

Meanwhile, the situation in breakaway region of Transnistria remains tense, according to Motuzyanyk, with “local units and brigades of the so called ‘operational forces’ from the Russian Federation stationed there remaining on high alert.”

Germany prepares crisis plan for abrupt end to Russian gas

German officials are quietly preparing for any sudden halt in Russian gas supplies with an emergency package that could include taking control of critical firms, three people familiar with the matter told Reuters.

The preparations being led by the Ministry for Economic Affairs show the heightened state of alert about supplies of the gas that powers Europe’s biggest economy and is critical for the production of steel, plastics and cars.

Russian gas accounted for 55 per cent of Germany’s imports last year and Berlin has come under pressure to unwind a business relationship that critics says is helping to fund Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Germany has announced it wants to wean itself off Russian supplies but expects to be largely reliant on Moscow for gas until the middle of 2024.

It remains unclear whether an abrupt halt would happen and the officials said Germany wanted to avert an escalation, such as by backing a European gas embargo, having already supported sanctions against Moscow on coal and oil.

Asked for comment on the measures, Germany’s economy ministry pointed to statements by its head, Vice-Chancellor Robert Habeck, that the country had made “intense efforts” in recent weeks to reduce its use of Russian energy.

European Council president forced to take shelter from missile strike during Ukraine visit: EU official

During a meeting with the Ukrainian prime minister on Monday, European Council President Charles Michel and other participants “needed to interrupt the meeting to take shelter as missiles struck again the region of Odesa,” a European Union official told CNN.

In a readout of Michel’s visit, the official, who was not in Ukraine, said that President Michel and Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal were joined by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky via video link from Kyiv, and their discussions “focused on how best the EU can continue to support Ukraine in meeting the humanitarian, economic and military challenges they currently face.”

Speaking in Odesa, Michel stated he wanted to confirm to Zelensky and “to all the people in Ukraine, that our support will be maximum,” and that the EU “will provide as much as we can” in terms of military equipment.

He also noted that EU was coordinating with the international community to “mobilize financial support, expertise, in order for you to be able to address the humanitarian challenges, to be also able to run the country, and you need liquidity and to start the rebuilding of the country.”

Michel added, “We know, that you and the people of Ukraine who are fighting for your homeland, for the future of your children, for your freedoms, but you are also fighting for our common European principles, values and democracy and democratic rights.”

“And that’s why it’s our moral duty to support you as much as we can,” he continued.

In a video statement, Zelensky thanked the European Council president for his support and for giving Ukraine “the possibility to be equal in the family of the European Union.”

“And in this difficult moment — of the bombardment, and the war — your courageous position and being present, in Odesa, in person is not just welcome, but raises lots of gratitude,” the Ukrainian leader stated.

Earlier on Monday, Serhiy Bratchuk, the spokesperson for the Odesa region military administration, announced that Russian forces had fired four Onyx cruise missiles at the region.

Putin sparks more health rumours as coughing president covers up with blanket

President Vladimir Putin has sparked yet further rumours of his ill-health after being pictured coughing and huddled under a blanket at Russia’s Victory Day parade.

The Russian president had the thick green cover draped over his legs as he sat among Second World War veterans and senior dignitaries to watch a military procession in Moscow’s Red Sqaure to celebrate the Soviet Union’s defeat of Nazi Germany’s.

Ukraine loses $170m every day without port access: PM

Ukraine loses $170m every day it is cut off from access to the sea and the national export capacity had been more than halved, Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal has said.

“Ninety million tonnes of agricultural produce, which Ukraine planned to export to countries in Asia, Africa, and Europe, have been blocked,” Shmyhal stated in the southern port city of Odesa, speaking alongside European Council President Charles Michel.

Shmyhal added some produce had been exported on road or rail, but some other reserves remained in areas under shelling, or had been captured by Russia.

UN’s top rights body to hold special session on Ukraine

The UN Human Rights Council has announced it will convene a special session on Thursday to address alleged Russian human rights violations in Ukraine.

More than 50 countries on Monday backed a request from Kyiv and demanded an extraordinary meeting of the UN’s top rights body to examine “the deteriorating human rights situation in Ukraine stemming from the Russian aggression”.

Thursday’s meeting will convene at 10am local time (08:00 GMT) in Geneva. It comes after Russia withdrew from the council last month in the wake of the UN General Assembly voting to suspend Moscow from the body and from sitting in judgement of other nations’ human rights records.

EU official warns ‘silos full’ of food stuck in Odesa

The president of the European Council has lamented that “silos full” of food ready for export is blocked in Ukraine’s Black Sea port of Odesa.

Charles Michel’s remarks came as he visited the southwestern city, which has been the target of Russian missile attacks over recent days, in a surprise trip on Monday.

“I saw silos full of grain, wheat and corn ready for export,” Michel tweeted.

“This badly needed food is stranded because of the Russian war and blockade of Black Sea ports. Causing dramatic consequences for vulnerable countries. We need a global response,” he added.

Ukraine is a global grain exporter, and UN officials have warned that failure for those products to ship will hurt food security in importing countries, especially poorer ones in Africa and elsewhere.

Russian diplomats’ behavior at UN has “absolutely” changed since war began: US ambassador to UN

The US ambassador to the United Nations told CNN the behavior of the Russian diplomats she works with in New York has “absolutely” changed since Russia began its war in Ukraine.

“From day one, the 24th of February, when we were sitting in an emergency meeting of Security Council and the Russians were president of the Security Council, we saw their demeanor change significantly in the council,” Linda Thomas-Greenfield said in Brussels Monday.

Thomas-Greenfield told CNN that the Russian diplomats at the United Nations “certainly” are “reading off of prepared remarks.”

“We know and expect when they will respond to things we say but I suspect that everything is very much laid out for them and scripted,” she added.

The Russian diplomats at the UN seem “uncomfortable,” noting she sees that reflected in “the way they carry themselves, the demeanor,” Thomas-Greenfield said, adding that she sees her Russian counterpart appear at the UN Security Council less frequently than before the war — now he often sends his deputy or his experts in his place.

She also stated that she believes the Russian diplomats at the UN “were taken by surprise by the attack” on Feb. 24 that launched Russia’s war in Ukraine.

“I think they knew about the attack when we knew about the attack in the (Security) Council,” the US ambassador noted, referring to the emergency meeting that was taking place at UN headquarters at the same time.

Macron urges Europe against repeating WWI-era mistakes

Europe must learn from its past mistakes and make sure no side is humiliated when Russia and Ukraine negotiate for peace, French President Emmanuel Macron said after describing Putin’s Victory Day speech as “intimidation” and “warlike”.

Speaking to reporters in the European Parliament, Macron stated that while Europe was now helping Ukraine, there would come a point at which there would be peace and added that at that point neither side should be humiliated or excluded as had happened to Germany in 1918 at the end of World War One.

“We must have this standard because we know that the coming weeks and months will be very difficult,” Macron said, adding that the 27-nation European Union would continue to impose new sanctions on Russia.

It will take decades for Ukraine to be accepted into the European Union, Macron noted.

In a speech to the EU’s parliament in Strasbourg, he instead suggested Ukraine could join a “parallel European community” while it awaits a decision.

Macron added that this would allow non-EU members to join Europe’s security architecture in other ways.

Kyiv calls for UN rights session, cites Mariupol ‘mass casualties’

Kyiv has called for the UN Human Rights Council to hold a special session on Ukraine, citing the need for the body to review the “continuously deteriorating” situation there including reports of mass casualties in Mariupol, the Reuters news agency reports, citing a letter it has seen.

“The current situation requires the urgent attention of the Council in view of the recent reports of war crimes and large-scale violations in the town of Bucha and other liberated areas of the country and ongoing reports of mass casualties in the city of Mariupol,” Yevheniia Filipenko, Ukraine’s ambassador to the UN, wrote in a letter to the Council’s President dated May 9 and seen by Reuters.

The document was signed by 55 other countries.

Ukrainian president calls for moves to unblock ports

President Volodymyr Zelensky has called for immediate moves to open Ukrainian ports blockaded by Russia to allow wheat exports and prevent a global food crisis.

“It is important to prevent a food crisis in the world caused by Russia’s aggressive actions,” he said in a Telegram post after speaking to European Council President Charles Michel, who was visiting Ukraine’s southwestern port city of Odesa.

“Immediate measures must be taken to unblock Ukrainian ports for wheat exports,” Zelensky added.

Ukrainians are fighting back after Russian units cross river in Luhansk region: Defense official

The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense says that Russian forces are trying to develop their offensive in the Luhansk region with “continuous attempts to cross Siverski-Donetsk river near Belahorivka.”

Col. Oleksandr Motuzyanyk, the spokesperson for the Defense Ministry, stated the Russians had built three pontoon crossings across the river and were supporting ground troops with artillery and aircraft.

He added the Russians were aiming to cut off Lysychansk, a town on the frontlines some ten miles from one of the pontoon bridges identified on satellite imagery.

If successful, the Russian advance might be able to cut Ukrainian supply lines to the defenders of Lysychansk and Severodonetsk.

“Our troops are clearing the territory of Belohorivka, where the occupiers crossed the river by pontoon crossing,” Serhiy Hayday, the head of the Luhansk military administration, stated.

“After the clean-up of Belohorivka, evacuation will resume,” he added, saying rescuers would be able to clear the rubble of the school building that was hit on Saturday by a bomb dropped by a Russian aircraft, killing dozens of people taking refuge in the school.

It’s unclear whether the Ukrainians retain control of Belohorivka.

Hayday noted that in Popasna —to the south — “our defenders keep the defense in new fortified positions, there are no breakthroughs. Soon the situation must change in our favor.”

EU sanctions discussions still ongoing due to Hungarian opposition

Discussions on the proposed sixth round of European Union sanctions are ongoing as Hungary threatened it won’t vote for the package “until there is a solution to Hungary’s energy security,” EU spokesperson Daniel Ferrie said Monday.

Hungary “will not vote for another Brussels sanctions package until there is a solution to Hungary’s energy security,” Hungarian government spokesperson Zoltan Kovacs stated Sunday, quoting prime Minister Péter Szijjártó, and adding, “we Hungarians are interested in peace as soon as possible.”

Also on Sunday, Bulgaria’s Deputy Prime Minister Assen Vassilev said in an interview on Bulgaria’s National Television (BNT) that Bulgaria will not support the European Union’s new set of sanctions against Russia if his country doesn’t get a derogation from the proposed ban on buying Russian oil, like other countries have requested.

Vassilev noted there is an agreement on most points of the sanctions draft, except when it comes sanctions on Russian oil. He added several countries, including Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic, still have issues with the proposed latest sanctions on Russian oil.

Ukraine claims Russian forces are ‘storming’ Azovstal plant

Ukraine’s defence ministry says Russian forces backed by tanks and artillery are conducting “storming operations” on the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol where the city’s last defenders are holed up.

Defence Ministry spokesman Oleksandr Motuzyanyk gave no further details but stated, without providing evidence, that there could be future attacks by Russian bombers.

Russia has previously denied assertions by Ukrainian officials that it has tried to storm the sprawling, Soviet-era steelworks on the Sea of Azov where civilians have also been sheltering.

Russian negotiator says talks with Ukraine continue

Moscow’s chief negotiator in talks with Kyiv over ending the war says that discussions have not stopped and are continuing remotely, according to Russia’s Interfax news agency.

Vladimir Medinsky stated Russia required “more specifics … in order to meet in person”, Interfax reported.

The two sides have not held face-to-face peace talks since March 29, though they have met by video link.

Moscow has accused Kyiv of stalling the talks and using reports of atrocities committed by Russian troops in Ukraine to undermine negotiations.

President Volodymyr Zelensky noted last month that there was a high risk that the discussions would end, blaming public anger with what he said were the alleged Russian atrocities.

Brussels to give ‘opinion’ on Ukraine EU membership bid in June

The president of the European Union’s executive arm says it will respond next month to Ukraine’s bid to join the bloc, a key step before the issue is taken up by member states.

“The EU Commission will aim to deliver its opinion in June,” Ursula von der Leyen tweeted.

In April, von der Leyen visited Kyiv to show solidarity with Ukraine and agreed that Brussels would consider Ukraine’s longstanding ambition to join.

Formally adopting the country as a candidate would be a decision for the 27 EU member states acting on expert advice from the bloc’s commission, which would oversee the complex and potentially lengthy accession process.

Ukraine: Over 25,600 Russian soldiers killed in war

Some 25,650 Russian soldiers have so far been killed during the war in Ukraine, the Ukrainian military said on Monday.

Ukrainian forces have destroyed 199 Russian aircraft, 158 helicopters, 377 unmanned aerial vehicles, 1,145 tanks, 2,764 armored vehicles, and 513 artillery systems, according to the Ukrainian General Staff’s latest update.

Russia has also lost 185 multiple rocket launcher systems, 1,970 vehicles and fuel tanks, 87 anti-aircraft systems, 94 cruise missiles, and 12 boats, it added.

Mariupol officials document new mass grave

Mariupol’s city council has posted a video on Telegram showing what it says is a mass grave where the bodies of “hundreds” of civilians killed by Russian forces are being buried.

Rows of hastily-dug graves and several body bags can be seen in the footage. The council said the mass grave was located near the village of Vynohradne, about 14 kilometres (8 miles) east of Mariupol, where Moscow-backed separatists staged a parade earlier on Monday.

“The occupiers celebrate Victory Day on the bones of Mariupol residents,” it added.

What does a war of attrition in Ukraine mean for Iran’s domestic policy and international ties?

A senior Iranian expert on international affairs says the Ukraine conflict has degenerated into a war of attrition.

Kourosh Ahmadi noted that economically speaking, the soaring energy prices that have been shot up by the Ukraine war have been beneficial to not only Iran but other oil and gas exporting nations and these countries are in a better position.

Missiles fired at Ukraine’s southern Odesa region

Russian forces have fired four Onyx cruise missiles at the Odesa region in southern Ukraine, according to the spokesman for the Odesa region military administration, Serhiy Bratchuk.

“The missiles arrived from the territory of the temporarily occupied Crimea,” he stated

Bratchuk provided no details of where the missiles had struck.

Ukraine’s Black Sea coast has seen a significant uptick in missile attacks by Russian forces in recent days.

Putin ‘mirroring fascism’ of Nazi Germany: UK DM

The United Kingdom’s defence secretary has accused President Vladimir Putin and Russia’s military top brass of “mirroring [the] fascism and tyranny of 77 years ago” and “repeating the errors of the last century’s totalitarian regime” in Nazi Germany.

In a speech to coincide with Russia’s Victory Day parade, Ben Wallace said the Russian generals were as complicit as their president and should face court-martial.

Wallace added that it was “very possible that Ukraine will break the Russian army.”

“… He [Putin] must come to terms with how he’s lost in the long run, and he’s absolutely lost. Russia is not what it was,” he told an audience in the National Army Museum in London.

Zelensky: “We will win”

As Russian President Vladimir Putin delivered his Victory Day speech in Moscow on Monday, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky released his own video message.

“We are fighting for our children’s freedom, and therefore we will win,” he said.

“We will never forget what our ancestors did in World War II, which killed more than eight million Ukrainians. Very soon there will be two Victory Days in Ukraine. And someone won’t have any,” he added.

“We won then. We will win now. Happy Victory over Nazism Day!” Zelensky continued.

Putin: ‘West was preparing to invade our land’

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin said the intervention in Ukraine had been necessary because the West was “preparing for the invasion of our land, including Crimea”.

Putin was speaking at the annual Victory Day parade on Moscow’s Red Square marking the anniversary of the Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany in World War II.

Putin told troops that “today you are defending what your grandfathers and great-grandfathers fought for.”

“Our duty is to do everything so that the horror of a global war does not happen again,” he added.

Putin noted the West didn’t want to hear Russia’s proposals for dialogue.

“NATO countries did not want to hear us,” Putin said, adding that that means “they had very different plans and we could see that.”

“Russia gave a preemptive rebuff to aggression — it was a forced and sovereign decision,” he stressed.

Ukraine military warns of ‘high probability of missile strikes’

Ukraine’s military says there is a “high probability of missile strikes” on the country before Russia’s planned Victory Day parade in Moscow.

The Ukrainian military’s general staff also announced in Russian-controlled areas of Zaporizhzhia, Russian troops had begun the “seizure of personal documents from the local population without good reason”.

Ukraine added Russian troops seized the documents to force the local people to take part in Victory Day commemorations there.

Ukraine’s military also warned that Russia had located some 19 battalion tactical groups in Russia’s Belgorod region, just across the border. Those groups likely consist of some 15,200 soldiers with tanks, missile batteries and other weaponry.

Canada blacklists 40 Russian individuals

Canada included forty more Russian individuals, including businessmen and defense officials, to its sanction lists, press service of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stated.

In particular, ex-president of Lukoil Vagit Alekperov, Deputy CEO of Sberbank Olga Golodets, President of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs Alexander Shokhin and Deputy Defense Minister of Russia General-Colonel Yunus-Bek Evkurov were added to the list.

Inclusion into sanction lists means the freeze of potential assets in Canada and the ban on entering the country. Since February 24, 2022, Canada blacklisted over 1,000 individuals and legal entities of Russia, Belarus and Ukraine in connection with the situation in Ukraine.

226 Ukrainian children killed in Russian invasion: Prosecutors

At least 226 children have been killed since Russia invaded Ukraine, and another 415 have been wounded, prosecutors announced on Monday.

Most of the victims were from the Donetsk region (139), Kyiv (116) and Kharkiv (99), the General Prosecutor’s Office said on Telegram.

It added the figures were not final because of ongoing hostilities.

EU should consider using Russian foreign exchange reserves to rebuild Ukraine: Top diplomat

The European Union should consider using billions of dollars’ worth of Russian foreign exchange reserves to rebuild Ukraine after the war, the bloc’s top diplomat Josep Borrell said in an interview with the Financial Times (FT) Monday.

“I would be very much in favor because it is full of logic,” Borrell stated when asked by the FT whether frozen Russian reserves could help finance Ukraine’s reconstruction effort once the war ends.

“We have the money in our pockets, and someone has to explain to me why it is good for the Afghan money and not good for the Russian money,” he continued, referring to the United States’ decision to use $7 billion in frozen assets from Afghanistan’s central bank to provide humanitarian aid inside the country and compensate victims of terrorism after the Taliban seized power.

Western countries have frozen roughly $315 billion worth of Russia’s foreign exchange reserves in response to its invasion of Ukraine.

Since then, EU officials have been debating whether the sanctioned assets could somehow be deployed to reconstruct Ukraine when the war finally ends, however no concrete policy proposals have been tabled.

 In April, Russia’s Central Bank threatened to take legal action against the US and EU in an attempt to try and unfreeze its gold and foreign reserves. However, it is unclear when or in what jurisdiction a legal challenge could be made.

Lockheed Martin looks to nearly double Javelin missile production

US weapons maker Lockheed Martin plans to nearly double the production of Javelin missiles, the antitank weapon that has helped Ukraine fight Russia’s invasion, according to its chief executive.

James Taiclet told CBS News on Sunday that his company’s aim is to boost output to 4,000 per year from 2,100 per year currently. The increase will take as long as a couple of years, he said.

The US has rushed $3.4bn worth of weapons to Ukraine since Russia invaded on February 24, including Javelins as well as howitzers, anti-aircraft Stinger systems, ammunition and body armor.

“We can start turning up the heat now and ramping up production immediately,” Taiclet added, noting the firm is anticipating increased demand for “superior systems in large enough numbers”.

“We’re planning for the long run and not just in the Javelin,” he stated, noting he expects to see increased demand beyond the Ukraine war due to threats from Russia and China.

‘Evil always loses’: Zelensky hails G7 support for Kyiv

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky has thanked G7 nations after they pledged to deepen Russia’s economic isolation over the war in his country.

“The main thing I felt today was the world’s even greater willingness to help us,” Zelensky said.

“It is clear to the whole free world that Ukraine is the party of good in this war,” he continued, adding, “And Russia will lose, because evil always loses.”

Russia’s stock of precision-guided munitions heavily depleted: UK

The British Ministry of Defence is warning that Russia is running out of precision-guided munitions, meaning that Moscow increasingly will turn to inaccurate rockets and bombs that can spread destruction even wider.

In its latest intelligence update, the ministry said although Russia claimed that “Ukrainian cities would therefore be safe from bombardment,” the unguided munitions posed an increasing risk.

“As the conflict continues beyond Russian pre-war expectations, Russia’s stockpile of precision-guided munitions has likely been heavily depleted,” the report added.

“This has forced the use of readily available but aging munitions that are less reliable, less accurate and more easily intercepted,” it said.

The ministry added that Russia “will likely struggle to replace the precision weaponry it has already expended”.

President Raisi says Iran opposes NATO’s expansionist policy, Ukraine war

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi says the Islamic Republic is strongly opposed to NATO’s expansion policy as to the conflict in Ukraine.

President Raisi made the remark in a Sunday meeting with Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau in Tehran.

Japan to ban Russian oil imports ‘in principle’

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said Tokyo will ban Russian crude oil imports “in principle,” as part of a Group of Seven (G7) campaign to counter Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

He made the pledge after an online meeting of G7 leaders on Sunday.

“For a country heavily dependent on energy imports, it’s a very difficult decision. But G7 coordination is most important at a time like now,” Kishida stated, according to a statement released by the Japanese government.

Russia is Japan’s fifth-biggest supplier of crude oil and liquefied natural gas (LNG).

Canada’s PM announces new weapons for Ukraine

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced new weapons and equipment for Ukraine after an unannounced visit to Kyiv.

Trudeau, addressing a news conference after talks with President Volodymyr Zelensky, also stated Canada was imposing new sanctions on Russian individuals and entities in connection with Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

Canada, he said, was reopening its embassy in Kyiv.

Trudeau stressed Russian President Vladimir Putin “can only lose” in Ukraine following his surprise visit to the country Sunday.

In an interview with Reuters, Trudeau was asked what he would tell Putin ahead of Russia’s Victory Day, which commemorates the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II. He replied that he only sees one outcome for the Russian leader.

“He is inflicting atrocities upon civilians, and it’s all something that he is doing because he thought he could win,” the Canadian prime minister said, adding, “But he can only lose.”

“What Putin needs to understand is that the West is absolutely determined and resolved to stand against what he is doing,” Trudeau continued.

“His illegal war, his escalations, his crossing of red lines by choosing to further invade Ukraine means that we will do as a world everything we can to make sure that he loses,” he noted.

Russia has ‘forgotten’ all that mattered to WWII victors: Zelensky

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky stated Russia has forgotten everything that mattered to the victors of World War II.

Denouncing Russia’s heavy shelling in the east of the country, including a strike on a school that he says killed 60 people, Zelensky noted that while Moscow prepares to commemorate the Soviet Union’s defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II, Russian troops are attacking civilians in Ukraine.

“Russia has forgotten everything that was important to the victors of World War II,” Zelensky said in his nightly address.

“Civilians who simply hid in the school from the shelling. It was a targeted blow to the school. Another crime of the occupiers,” he added.

On Monday, Russians will mark the 77th anniversary of victory in what Russia calls the Great Patriotic War.

Thousands of soldiers will march across the Red Square in Moscow followed by tanks, armoured vehicles and missile launchers.

Zelensky claimed that about 60 people who were sheltering at a school in the eastern village of Bilohorivka were killed in a Russian bombing.

“As a result of a Russian strike on Bilohorivka in the Luhansk region, about 60 people were killed, civilians, who simply hid at the school, sheltering from shelling,” the Ukrainian leader stated in his nightly video address.

Earlier, the governor of the Luhansk region, said that about 90 people were sheltering at the school and that about 60 people were feared dead.

UK places fresh sanctions on Russia, Belarus

The UK is placing fresh sanctions on Russia and Belarus, including import tariffs on precious metals and export bans.

The import tariffs, including on platinum and palladium, will target trade worth 1.7 billion pounds ($2.10bn) while export bans worth 250 million pounds ($310m) will target Russia’s manufacturing and heavy industry, the UK’s Department for International Trade annoounced.

“This far-reaching package of sanctions will inflict further damage on the Russian war machine,” Secretary of State for International Trade Anne-Marie Trevelyan said.

The UK has slapped a range of sanctions on Russian companies and individuals since Russia invaded Ukraine with Belarusian help in February.

The UK’s new sanctions bring the total value of products subjected to full or partial import and export sanctions to more than 4 billion pounds ($4.9bn).

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