Monday, June 24, 2024

Live Updates: Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 10

Russian forces are pressing ahead with their military operation in Ukraine to counter what they call a “threat” to their national security from the pro-West Ukrainian government. Kiev and Russia’s Western adversaries call the operations an “invasion”. The situation is fluid in Ukraine right now with both sides claiming victories on the battlefield. Iran Front Page brings you the latest developments on the ground live as they unfold in Ukraine.

US aircraft carrier is in northern Aegean Sea to ensure flight operations if tensions escalate in region

The American aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman has been in the northern Aegean Sea this week in part to ensure it can conduct flight operations from there if tensions escalate in the region due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, according to a US official familiar with the carrier’s current task.

The official did not disclose the exact location of the ship, but noted it is not routine to operate in the Aegean’s northernmost waters. The area is relatively confined for carrier operations due to the number of small islands and heavy commercial maritime traffic.

“In the event of further escalation”, the Navy could be told to project more fighter jet air patrols into the Black Sea, the official said.

“If Russia sought to run the Turkish strait and Turkey asked for NATO support”, then the carrier aircraft could be used for combat air patrols over the Black Sea and Strait of Dardanelles, the official added.

The Truman’s fighter jets are currently flying over Romania as part of the NATO mission to demonstrate presence and resolve against Russian aggression.

The carrier is accompanied by the cruiser USS San Jacinto in the North Aegean. Five other US warships and a Norwegian surface combatant are further south in the Aegean.

This development comes as the Pentagon is also acknowledging it may have to reconsider and increase the long-term US military presence in Europe in the wake of Russia’s aggression.

Ukraine: Russian forces advancing towards third nuclear facility

Ukraine’s president says Russian forces have now seized two Ukrainian nuclear power plants and are advancing toward a third, he told US senators during a call.

Volodymyr Zelenskyy added the third plant currently under threat is the Yuzhnoukrainsk nuclear power plant, located 120 kilometers (75 miles) north of Mykolaiv.

Moscow: Up to 50 western planes with military hardware landed in Ukraine ahead of Russian op

Up to 50 cargo planes carrying military hardware from the US, UK, Canada, Poland, and Lithuania landed in Ukraine prior to the start of the Russian military operation there, Russia’s Foreign Ministry has revealed.

Some 2,000 tonnes of modern weapons, ammunition, and protective gear were supplied to Ukraine in the first month and a half of 2022, the ministry added.

The Russian Foreign Ministry’s spokeswoman said that Moscow has once again called on the EU and NATO to stop the “mindless pumping” of modern weaponry to the Kiev regime. She noted that it creates great risks for civilian aviation and other transport systems in Europe and beyond.

“The organisers of these deliveries must realise the growing threat of these high-precision weapons falling into the hands of terrorist elements and bandit formations not only in Ukraine, but also in Europe as a whole. The flow of these weapons into illegal markets and into the hands of terrorist networks is only a matter of time. MANPADS pose a huge danger to civil aviation, and ATGMs to railway transport and infrastructure”, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova stressed.

EU chief: China must mediate Ukraine-Russia war

China should mediate future peace talks between Russia and Ukraine as Western powers cannot fulfil the role, the European Union’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell has stated.

Beijing has so far abstained from condemning Moscow’s assault on its pro-Western neighbour as an “invasion” as it seeks to maintain close ties with Russia.

But Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Tuesday noted China “deeply regrets that conflict has broken out between Ukraine and Russia, and is paying extreme attention to the harm suffered by civilians”, state broadcaster CCTV reported.

Ukraine confirms to IAEA 2 reactors at Zaporozhye Nuclear Power Plant operational

“Ukraine’s nuclear regulator told the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) today it had been able to maintain communications with staff at the Zaporizhhzhya Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) where two out of six reactors were now operating, a day after Russian forces took control of the site in the country’s south-east,” the statement read.

“In regular updates to the IAEA, the Ukrainian regulatory authority and the plant management also confirmed that the technical safety systems were intact and radiation levels remained normal at Ukraine’s largest nuclear power plant,” the statement added.

IMF warns war in Ukraine will have ‘severe impact’ on global economy 

The International Monetary Fund has warned that the war in Ukraine is already driving energy and grain prices higher, and has sent a wave of more than one million refugees to neighboring countries.

The organisation said it expects to bring Ukraine’s request for $1.4 billion in emergency financing to its board for approval as early next week, and was in talks about funding options with authorities in neighboring Moldova.

“While the situation remains highly fluid and the outlook is subject to extraordinary uncertainty, the economic consequences are already very serious,” the IMF announced, adding, “The ongoing war and associated sanctions will also have a severe impact on the global economy.”

Interfax: Russian forces have taken several towns and villages

Russian forces are carrying out a wide-ranging offensive in Ukraine and have taken several towns and villages, Interfax news agency quoted the Defense Ministry as saying.

Russia: Offensive in Ukraine resumes after ceasefire

The Russian Ministry of Defense announced that offensive operations in Ukraine would resume from 18:00 Moscow time “due to the unwillingness of the Ukrainian side to influence the nationalists or extend the ceasefire”.

“Not a single civilian was able to leave Mariupol and Volnovakha along the humanitarian corridors. The nationalist battalions took advantage of the ceasefire to strengthen their positions,” the statement said.

At the request of the Ukrainian side, a ceasefire was called in the area around the cities of Mariupol and Volnovakha, with a complete halt in hostilities imposed to ensure the evacuation of the civilian population.

“Not a single civilian could get out along the designated humanitarian corridors. The population of these cities is held by Ukrainian nationalists as a ‘human shield’,” the Russian Defense Ministry added.

Zelensky calls for establishment of no-fly zone and harsher Russian sanctions in call with US lawmakers

Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky called on the United States for assistance in establishing a no-fly zone over Ukraine during a Zoom call with US lawmakers, according to a person familiar with the session.

Zelensky asked US senators for greater sanctions on Russia, including on energy, and for more military assistance directed to Ukrainian forces.

He thanked the US for the support it has delivered so far, but his overall message was that his country needs more help as it strains against Russia’s invasion.

Another senator on the call stated that Zelensky advocated for banning Russian oil imports, suspending all commercial transactions — like Visa and Mastercard — and implored the lawmakers to help Ukraine get more planes that Ukrainian pilots are trained in and can fly. He added they would do the fighting and flying, but he needs the aircraft.

At the end of the call, dozens of lawmakers unmuted themselves to thank Zelensky and voice their support, with some saying “Slava Ukraini”, according to someone who was on the call who said the Ukrainian president was clearly moved by the gesture.

Russian forces take over psychiatric hospital in central Ukraine

Russian forces have taken control of a psychiatric hospital in the town of Borodyanka in Ukraine’s Kyiv region, with 670 people inside, the regional governor Oleksiy Kuleba told local media.

“Today we do not understand how to evacuate these people, how to help them,” Kuleba said, adding, “They are running out of water and medicines. These are people with certain special needs, they need constant help … many of them have been bedridden for years.”

UK accuses Russia of using Mariupol ceasefire plan to reset forces 

Britain announced that Russia’s proposed ceasefire in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol was probably an attempt to deflect international condemnation while giving itself a chance to reset its forces for a renewed offensive.

“By accusing Ukraine of breaking the agreement, Russia is likely seeking to shift responsibility for current and future civilian casualties in the city,” the British defence ministry said in an intelligence update.

Russia said earlier it had opened humanitarian corridors near the besieged cities of Mariupol and Volnovakha. Russia’s defence ministry accused Ukrainian “nationalists” of preventing civilians from leaving, RIA news agency reported. But Mariupol’s city council said Russia was not observing the ceasefire.

Ukrainian authorities accuse Russians of opening fire on civilian protest

“People tried to stop the Russians, but they opened fire on the unarmed people. There are three wounded, they are in hospital,” according to Sergiy Haidai, the head of the Luhansk regional administration.

Putin: Consequences of Russia-NATO’s possible conflict are ‘obvious for everyone’

Consequences of a possible conflict between Russia and NATO are obvious for all involved parties, Russian President Vladimir Putin said commenting on a possible membership of Ukraine with NATO.

“Talks about Ukraine’s joining NATO became more active recently. Do you realize what it could have led to? Or can still lead to today?” Putin added.

Up to 14,000 civilians in the Donetsk and Lugansk republics have been killed since 2014, Putin claimed.

Russia immediately responded to Kiev’s request to provide a humanitarian corridor for local civilians to leave Mariupol, but neo-Nazis are not letting anyone out, he noted.

Third round of Russian-Ukrainian talks may be held March 7

A third round of Russian-Ukrainian negotiations may be held on March 7, the online resource Ukrayinskaya Pravda said with reference to a source in Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky’s entourage.

Russia: 4 Ukrainian Su-27 jets, Bayraktar drone downed west of Kiev

Four Ukrainian Su-27 fighter jets, one Mil Mi-8 helicopter, and a Turkish-made Bayraktar TB-2 drone were shot down in the area around Zhytomir on Saturday, the Russian Defence Ministry has claimed.

A significant part of the Ukrainian Air Force was destroyed during the first days of Russia’s special operation, which was launched on 24 February by President Vladimir Putin. 69 jets were destroyed on the ground in airstrikes on military airfields, the defence ministry said. Another 21 jets were shot down in the air, the ministry added.

Apart from that, the Russian military has shot down 59 Ukrainian drones, destroyed 748 tanks and other armoured vehicles, 76 multiple launch rocket systems, and 274 units of artillery since the start of the operation, Konashenkov revealed.

Russian military has destroyed at least 2,100 Ukrainian military installations, Moscow has claimed.

Russian soldiers take control of Ukrainian military base near Kherson

The Russian Armed forces took control of a Ukrainian military base near Kherson, the Russian Defenсe Ministry said.

“Russian military took control of a military base of the Ukrainian Armed Forces near the village of Radensk in the region of Kherson. The Ukrainian military was leaving positions in a hurry, leaving behind the base with equipment, weapons and ammunition,” the ministry added.

Israel’s PM meets Putin in Moscow

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow to discuss the Ukraine crisis, his spokesperson stated.

Israel has offered to mediate in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, though officials have previously played down expectations of a breakthrough.

Cyber watchdog: Websites in Ukraine under ‘nonstop’ attack

Ukrainian websites have been under nonstop attack from Russian hackers since the Kremlin launched an invasion of the country last month, Kyiv’s cyber watchdog agency revealed.

Ukraine’s State Service of Special Communications and Information Protection announced that “Russian hackers keep on attacking Ukrainian information resources nonstop”.

New round of Russia-Ukraine talks to take place in coming days

The third round of Russian-Ukrainian negotiations will take place in the coming couple of days, an adviser to the Ukrainian presidential office, Mykhailo Podolyak, said, as quoted by Ukrainian news outlet Strana.

“In the next day or two. We are evaluating, among other things, how humanitarian corridors are being launched to make adjustments during the talks, if necessary,” Podolyak added.

Russia regards US senator’s remark to ‘take Putin out’ as call for terrorist act

Russian Foreign Ministry has summoned US Ambassador John Sullivan to present him with a note of protest over statements made by US Republican Senator Lindsey Graham in which he called for the assassination of President Vladimir Putin.

“John Sullivan was notified that such a statement is qualified by the Russian Criminal Code as an attempt on the life of a statesman and entails grave consequences, including prosecution,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

The ministry stressed that unless Moscow sees a US government response to Graham’s statements, the already difficult bilateral relation will suffer even more.

Graham earlier posted a shocking call on his Twitter page wondering if there is “a Brutus” or “more successful Colonel Stauffenberg” in Russia, referring to the killer of Julius Caesar and a German Army officer who unsuccessfully tried to kill Adolf Hitler in 1944. Graham suggested that the person who manages “to take this guy out” would be doing Russia and the world “a great service”.

Moscow says Russia to respond to UK sanctions proportionally

Russia was left with no choice but to respond to the sanctions imposed by the United Kingdom with equally hard countersanctions, the Russian Foreign Ministry announced.

“The sanction hysteria, in which London plays one of the leading roles – if not the main role – leaves us with no choice but to take proportionate tough measures in response,” spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in a statement released on the ministry’s website.

“They will undoubtedly result in the undermining of UK interests in Russia. Although, London itself has done enough to that end in recent days,” she added.

Russia will not forget how the United Kingdom cooperated with the nationalist authorities in Kiev and supplied weapons used against the Russian armed forces, the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

“Such frankness is worth a lot, and we will not forget it. Just as we will not forget the cooperation of the British with the Kiev regime and ultranationalist forces in Ukraine, the ongoing supplies of British weapons these days, which are used against the civilian population of Donbass and the Russian military,” Zakharova stated.

“In fact, London has completely subordinated its foreign policy to the tasks of inflicting as much damage as possible to our national interests,” she added.

UN: 351 civilians confirmed killed in Ukraine

At least 351 civilians are confirmed to have been killed in Ukraine, a United Nations monitoring mission said.

Many of the civilian casualties were due to explosive weapons with a wide impact area, including shelling from heavy artillery and multi-launch rocket systems, and from missile and air strikes, monitors from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) revealed.

“OHCHR believes that the real figures are considerably higher, especially in Government-controlled territory and especially in recent days, as the receipt of information from some locations where intensive hostilities have been going on was delayed and many reports were still pending corroboration,” it added.

Mayor: Kherson has no more armed resistance against Russia forces

Kherson’s Mayor Ihor Kolykhaiev told CNN “we don’t have more weapons to resist” Russian forces that surrounded the city.

“The people of Kherson are unarmed. We don’t have more weapons to resist, to put up an armed resistance,” he stated.

“We don’t have the army in the city. The army has been defeated. The Ukrainian army had to retreat, so there are no arms. They’ve retreated towards Nikolaev,” he continued.

Kolykhaiev said the Russian troops will remain in control of Kherson unless and “until the Ukrainian army can advance on Kherson”, adding of Russian forces, that “they’re quite settled here.”

“Russian troops are everywhere,” he continued.

Doctors Without Borders: Ukrainians in Mariupol in “desperate need”

Staff members of Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) have reported “dire conditions” in Mariupol.

In a statement issued Saturday, one staff member of MSF gave the following account:

“The situation is the same as in recent days. This night the shelling was harder and closer. We collected snow and rain water yesterday to have some utility water. We tried to get free water today but the queue was huge. We also wanted to get ‘social’ bread but it is not clear the schedule and the places of distribution. According to people, multiple grocery stores were destroyed by missiles and the remaining things were taken by people in desperate need. Still no power, water, heating and mobile connection. No one heard about any evacuation yet. Pharmacies are out of medicine.”

MSF announced in the statement that people are now effectively trapped in Mariupol, where the war arrived so suddenly that many could not even flee.

MSF Director of Operations Christine Jamet called for safe routes to allow civilians to flee from Mariupol, including MSF staff and their families.

ICRC: Evacuations from Mariupol & Volnovakha won’t start on Saturday

The International Committee of the Red Cross said it understood that evacuations of civilians from Mariupol and Volnovakha in Ukraine would not start on Saturday because of the conflict following Russia’s invasion.

“We remain in dialogue with the parties about the safe passage of civilians from different cities affected by the conflict,” the ICRC announced in a statement.

“The scenes in Mariupol and in other cities today are heart-breaking. Any initiative from the parties that gives civilians a respite from the violence and allows them to voluntarily leave for safer areas is welcome,” it added.

The Ukrainian government previously announced the plan was to evacuate around 200,000 people from Mariupol and 15,000 from Volnovakha and the ICRC is the ceasefire’s guarantor.

US official: Russia’s indiscriminate bombing of Ukraine will increase

A senior US official told ABC News they have no doubt Russia’s indiscriminate bombing of Ukraine will increase in the coming days.

When asked how long they think Ukraine can hold out, the official stated Ukrainian forces as a “whole” are degrading but are strong and growing as individuals or “partisans”.

At least 500 “fighters” from elsewhere crossed into Ukraine on Friday to join the fight against Russia, according to the official.

Blinken speaks with Wang

US Secretary of State Blinken spoke with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi about “Moscow’s premeditated, unprovoked, and unjustified war against Ukraine”, a State Department spokesperson said in a statement.

“The Secretary noted the world is watching to see which nations stand up for the basic principles of freedom, self-determination and sovereignty,” read the statement.

“He underscored that the world is acting in unison to repudiate and respond to the Russian aggression, ensuring that Moscow will pay a high price,” it added.

Putin: Anti-Russia sanctions akin to declaration of war

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that the decision to start the special operation in Ukraine was not an easy one, but stressed that Moscow tried to resolve the Donbass conflict peacefully.

He added that Kiev should have allowed the people of Donbass to speak Russian freely and live according to their own wishes, but instead Ukrainian authorities organised a blockade of the region.

The president further noted that Russia has detected the emergence of fighters from the Middle East in Ukraine, who try to use “Jihadi-cars” rigged with explosives to attack the Russian military. So far, these attacks have been unsuccessful, he added. The president stressed that so far, the operation has gone as planned.

The president went on to comment on the West’s response to the special operation, which they call an “invasion”, saying that the countries’ decision to implement anti-Russia sanctions was “akin to a declaration of war”.

“A lot of what is happening, from what we are now seeing and what we are facing, is certainly a way to fight against Russia”, Putin added.

Putin said despite it, no martial law or a state of emergency will be introduced in Russia. He added that martial law can only be introduced in the event of an extraordinary external threat, none of which has materialised so far. The president revealed, however, that Russian deterrence forces were put on high alert after the UK foreign secretary said that NATO was “involved” in the Ukraine conflict.

The president stressed that the implementation of a no-fly zone above Ukraine by any country will be viewed by Russia as participation in the conflict.

Earlier, the US and other NATO countries repeatedly rejected requests by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to introduce such a zone, citing that it would likely provoke a war between the bloc and Russia.

Ukrainian officials say Russian plane shot down on outskirts of northern Ukrainian city of Chernihiv

Ukraine’s State Emergency Service (SES) says that a Russian plane was shot down at the edge of the northern Ukrainian city of Chernihiv, which has seen intense fighting for almost a week.

The plane crashed into a residential area, the SES announced, adding that it was unknown if there were casualties. The crash caused fires in four private homes.

Local people were being evacuated after three 500-kilogram bombs were found, according to the SES.

Authorities claimed 17 people were killed in the Chernihiv region over the 24 hours to 8 a.m. Saturday as a result of shelling. Another person died due to fire.

According to the Chernihiv Regional State Administration, “during the day on March 4 and on the night of March 5, Russian aircraft systematically bombed Chernihiv, mostly residential areas.”

Ukrainian government alleges Russian shelling violates agreement on two evacuation corridors

A Ukrainian minister has accused Russian forces of shelling the city of Volnovakha in the eastern Donetsk region, where an evacuation corridor was due to allow civilians to escape fighting on Saturday.

“At 11:45 the Russian Federation began shelling the city of Volnovakha with heavy weapons,” said Iryna Vereshchuk, Minister of Reintegration of Temporarily Occupied Territories, in a video posted on Facebook.

“As you know, we had a preliminary agreement that from 9:00 we will create two humanitarian corridors — Volnovakha and Mariupol,” Vereshchuk added.

“Russia violated agreements even with the mediation of the Red Cross, [and] failed to fulfill its commitments and shelled the city of Volnovakha,” she continued.

Vereshchuk said that fighting was also preventing the second corridor from the besieged city of Mariupol from operating.

“There is fighting taking place in the direction of Mariupol-Zaporizhzhia, near Pology-Orikhove, which prevents the movement of the column from Mariupol to Zaporozhzhia,” she added.

“We call on the Russian side to end the shelling, return the ceasefire and allow columns of the humanitarian corridor to form so that children, women and the elderly can leave the settlements,” she stated.

“We also appeal to the Russian Federation to provide the opportunity to send humanitarian aid from the city of Dnipro and the city of Zaporizhzhia, especially those ones consisting of medicines and food,” she noted.

UNHCR head: Number of Ukrainian refugees could grow to 1.5 million this weekend

The situation in Ukraine remains dire and the number of refugees fleeing the Russian invasion could potentially rise to 1.5 million by the end of the weekend from a current 1.3 million, the head of the UN refugee agency said.

“This is the fastest moving refugee crisis we have seen in Europe since the end of World War Two,” UNHCR head Filippo Grandi told Reuters in a telephone interview.

Grandi also added most refugees at the moment were linking up with friends, family and other connections already living in Europe, but warned future waves would be more complex.

Live Updates: Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 10

Mariupol city authorities: Negotiations under way to ensure evacuation

Negotiations are under way with Russia on how to “ensure a safe humanitarian corridor”, Mariupol city authorities have said on Telegram.

The evacuation of people from Mariupol has been postponed because Russian forces are not abiding by Saturday’s ceasefire agreement, they continued, adding, “We ask all residents of Mariupol to return to their places of refuge.”

Member of Ukraine’s first delegation at talks with Russia killed by security service

A Verkhovna Rada lawmaker claims that a member of Ukraine’s first delegation in talks with Russia, Denis Kireev, was killed by the Security Service of Ukraine during arrest on suspicion of treason.

There’s been no official confirmation yet, but Ukrainian media outlets have published a graphic photo allegedly showing the slain negotiator.

Lavrov not optimistic about talks

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said the angry statements of Volodymyr Zelenskyy were not inspiring optimism about the fate of talks to end hostilities in Ukraine.

Zelensky is trying to provoke a conflict between Russia and NATO, Lavrov stated.

According to Lavrov, if Zelensky is upset about NATO’s refusal to meddle in the conflict, it means the Ukrainian president is hoping the alliance will be the one to resolve it.

Lavrov also added that Russia was checking information that Ukrainian authorities may not be allowing civilians to be evacuated from the city of Mariupol via humanitarian corridors agreed earlier.

Kuleba: Meeting with Lavrov in Turkey possible if talks can be substantive

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba said he will agree to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Turkey if he concludes during a talk with his Turkish counterpart that it may produce results.

Earlier this week, Ankara expressed its readiness to facilitate talks between Russia and Ukraine on its soil so that the parties could reach a ceasefire agreement.

“Today, I will have a conversation with my Turkish counterpart, and we will discuss it. There is a negotiating track, delegations have been formed on both the Russian and Ukrainian sides, and they are meeting on the territory of Belarus. If I see that the talks with Sergey Lavrov can be substantive and would fit into the general framework of the negotiation process, then of course I will not refuse [to meet with him],” Kuleba stated in a televised statement.

Russia claims nationalists not letting civilians, foreigners leave Mariupol & Volnovakha

Ukrainian neo-Nazi rebels continue holding about 5,000 foreign citizens hostage and using them as human shields, Russian Defence Ministry has claimed.

Mariupol evacuation on hold

Mariupol officials say they are delaying the evacuation of civilians, accusing Russian troops of breaking the ceasefire.

“Due to the fact that the Russian side does not adhere to the ceasefire and has continued shelling both of Mariupol itself and its environs and for security reasons, the evacuation of the civilian population has been postponed,” city officials announced in a statement on social media.

There was no immediate comment by the Russian army.

Mariupol official claims Russia continuing to bomb exit routes despite ceasefire

Kremlin forces are not fully observing the temporary ceasefire agreed between Russia and Ukraine to allow humanitarian corridors out of Mariupol, Ukrainian officials have claimed.

“The Russians are continuing to bomb us and use artillery… It is crazy,” Serhiy Orlov, deputy mayor of Mariupol, told the BBC.

“There is no ceasefire in Mariupol and there is no ceasefire all along the route. Our civilians are ready to escape but they cannot escape under shelling,” Orlov added.

Earlier, the city council of Mariupol city said Russian forces were not observing the ceasefire along the whole length of a planned route for the evacuation of civilians.

“We are negotiating with the Russian side to confirm the ceasefire along the entire evacuation route,” it announced in a statement.

The temporary ceasefire, established in order to facilitate humanitarian corridors out of Mariupol and Volnovakha, was reported by Russian media on Saturday morning.

Ukraine again criticizes NATO’s no-fly zone refusal as Russian forces seize nuclear plants

Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov has again criticized NATO for refusing to declare a no-fly zone over Ukraine.

“The arguments about murders, targeted bombing and rocket attacks on residential buildings, hospitals, maternity hospitals and kindergartens, and the destruction of one of the European nations are not sufficient in 21st century. Fine,” Reznikov said.

Reznikov added that both Chernobyl, the site of one of the world’s worst nuclear accidents, and Ukraine’s largest nuclear plant at Zaporizhzhia are under Russian control. Russian forces attacked Zaporizhzhia earlier, damaging one of its reactors.

“All of those, who are now blocking the closure of the sky over Ukraine, should recall April 1986,” he stated, referring to the Chernobyl disaster.

He added that targeting the Zaporizhzhia plant was no accident.

“These are purposeful actions. Russia has committed an act of nuclear terrorism. We were miraculously lucky, as the fire was liquidated. But tomorrow may not be so lucky,” he said.

Ukraine’s defense chief: Russian forces “are bombing critical infrastructure” 

Ukraine’s Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov stated that Russian forces have “advanced in some directions” but that Ukrainian defenders are “countering and ousting the occupiers”.

“Obviously, the enemy has advanced in some directions, however, it controls only small areas. Our defenders are severely countering and ousting the occupiers,” he said in a statement, adding that because of the “slow-down of the offensive pace and resistance of the Ukrainians, Russia is changing tactics.”

“As of today, the Ukrainian sky is the most vulnerable,” he said, adding, “The aggressor uses its aerial and missile potential comprehensively and actively. All types of aviation are bombing our cities, towns and civilian infrastructure, including critical infrastructure and dangerous infrastructure, among them — nuclear and hydro power plants.”

Reznikov said Russian forces were targeting residential apartment buildings, schools, kindergartens and hospitals. “The enemy is destroying churches and cathedrals. It is shelling railway stations with thousands of evacuating women and children,” he said.

“These are the tactics of frightened jackals,” he continued, adding, “I am confident that the enemy will pay for every life and for every tear.”

Reznikov said Mariupol, Volnovakha, Kharkiv, Chernihiv, Mykolayiv and Kherson are among the cities where currently the situation is “most complex”, adding, “We really hope that the humanitarian corridor will work and we will be able to evacuate civilians.”

Reznikov noted the main efforts of the Russian forces continue to be focused on the encirclement of Kyiv and suppressing resistance in cities and towns.

UK looking to target Russia’s energy sector in new sanctions

Britain will look to target Russia’s energy sector in future rounds of sanctions, a move the government has so far resisted amid warnings this could push up energy bills with oil and gas prices already at multi-year highs.

“We’ve been very coordinated on sanctions, we’ve shown huge unity. It’s having a big effect in Russia, but we now need to do more,” Liz Truss, Britain’s foreign minister, said.

“We particularly need to look at the oil and gas sector, how do we reduce our dependence across Europe on Russian gas, how do we cut off the funding to Vladimir Putin’s war machine?” she added.

Blinken says Ukraine can win war

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said that he believes Ukraine can win its war with Russia.

When asked by the BBC if he thought Ukraine could win, he noted, “Over time, absolutely.”

“I can’t tell you how long this will go on,” he added.

“I can’t tell you how long it will take. But the idea that Russia can subjugate to its will 45 million people who are ardently fighting for their future and their freedom, that does not involve Russia having its thumb on Ukraine, that tells you a lot,” he continued.

Blinken has arrived in Poland for talks with officials as hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian refugees pour into the country to escape the conflict.

Kremlin says West behaving like bandits

The Kremlin has announced the West is behaving like bandits but that Russia was far too big to be isolated as the world is much larger than just the US and Europe.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov also told reporters that if the US imposed sanctions on Russia’s energy exports then it would roil energy markets.

US, Germany, Netherlands to deploy more military in Lithuania

Germany will deploy air defence capabilities to Lithuania and the US will send a troop battalion armed with tanks, Lithuania’s defence minister has said.

The deployments, which are also due to include more troops from the Netherlands, are separate to troops coming for military exercises Lithuania is set to host in March, Arvydas Anusauskas told reporters.

The deployments and exercises will increase the total number of foreign NATO troops in Lithuania to 4,000 by end-March from 3,000 now, the minister added.

Lithuania had asked NATO to add more troops and equipment following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Zelensky: Hopefully refugees will soon be able to return to Ukraine

The president of Ukraine thanked Poland and other eastern European nations for their support of his country during the Russian offensive, including their acceptance of Ukrainian refugees into their territories.

Volodymyr Zelensky tated he hoped Ukrainian citizens would soon be able to return home.

Speaking in a televised address, he noted, “I am certain that soon we will be able to tell our people: come home. Come home from Poland, from Romania, Slovakia and all other friendly nations. Return home, since there is no more threat.”

Zelensky added foreign sponsors like the World Bank have already pledged tens of billions of dollars for an eventual Ukrainian reconstruction effort, and that more money would come.

He also criticized NATO nations for refusing to implement a no-fly zone over Ukraine, a step that would require allies to attack Russian warplanes over the country, potentially leading to a major war in Europe.

“Seventy-four percent of Americans support a no-fly zone. Seventy-four! An absolute majority! What else do you need to make a decision?,” he demanded.

The EU estimates that up to four million people may be displaced west from Ukraine due to the ongoing fighting. So far more than half of 1.2 million refugees have fled to Poland, according to UN, while others sought shelter in Hungary, Moldova, Slovakia, and Romania, among other places.

Russian Defense Ministry releases footage showing Moscow’s troops near Ukrainian capital

PM: UK will speed up sanctions against Russians

Britain will be able to move more quickly to sanction Russian businessmen over President Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine as a result of new legal measures which will be sent to parliament next week, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said.

Asked by foreign correspondents in London why Roman Abramovich, the highest-profile Russian businessman in Britain due to his ownership of Chelsea Football Club, had not been sanctioned, Johnson stated the government had to move carefully.

“None of us want to live in a country where the state can take your house off you without a very high burden of proof and due process,” he continued.

“There’s no point saying, yeah, we’re going to go after him, and then you come up against the brick wall of lawyers. So we have to get it right. We’re also trying not to just make this about one individual,” Johnson added.

Ukraine: There will be more agreements with Russia to create humanitarian corridors

There will be more agreements with Russia to create humanitarian corridors to evacuate civilians from front line areas, Ukrainian interior ministry adviser Anton Herashchenko has said in a statement reported by Reuters.

“There will definitely be more agreements like this for all other territories,” he added.

The Ukrainian government announced the plan was to evacuate around 200,000 people from Mariupol and 15,000 from Volnovakha, and the Red Cross is the ceasefire’s guarantor.

Russian forces will stop firing to allow humanitarian corridors out of the Ukrainian cities of Mariupol and Volnovakha.

US mission in Ukraine revealed

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby during an appearance on “The Story” was asked exactly what the US mission was in Ukraine and what success would look like in officials’ eyes.

“I’ll tell you very clearly what the Pentagon and the Department of Defense is focused on, and it’s really two things. One is continuing to make sure that Ukraine can defend itself, and they are defending themselves. And as we just talked about a few minutes ago, we’re helping them do that, and we’re trying to do that as fast as possible,” he said.

“Number two: Making sure that NATO can defend itself, and that’s why the president has ordered additional troops over to Europe. That’s why we repositioned troops inside Europe to elsewhere on NATO’s eastern flank. We’re making sure that we can make positive that we can defend NATO’s territory, that we’re making it clear to Mr. [Vladimir] Putin and to our allies how seriously we take our Article 5 commitments under the NATO’s treaty,”he added.

Ukraine’s military says Russian air assaults present one of hardest challenges

As the Russian military advance continues, Ukraine’s defense minister said in a statement his country’s forces and its cities were most vulnerable to air assault.

“Aircraft of all kinds is bombing cities, towns and civilian infrastructure, including critical and dangerous nuclear and hydropower plants,” the minister, Oleksii Reznikov, said added.

EU suspends Russia & Belarus from Council of Baltic Sea States

The EU has announced it had joined members of the Council of the Baltic Sea States (CBSS) in suspending Russia and Belarus from the Council’s activities.

“This decision is a part of the European Union’s and like-minded partners response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the involvement of Belarus in this unprovoked and unjustified aggression,” it said.

“The EU agrees with the other members of the CBSS (Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Poland and Sweden) that the suspension of Russia and Belarus will remain in force until it is possible to resume cooperation based on respect for fundamental principles of international law,” it added.

Mayor: ‘No other option but to… leave Mariupol safely’

Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boychenko has said “there is no other solution” but to allow residents to leave the city safely, “given that our hometown is constantly under ruthless fire from the occupiers”.

“This is not an easy decision, but, as I have always said, Mariupol is not its streets or houses. Mariupol is its population, it is you and me,” Boychenko added.

Ukraine says evacuation corridors “being prepared for opening” in Mariupol & Volnovakha

Evacuation corridors are being prepared in parts of Ukraine, said Mykhailo Podoliak, head of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s office.

“In Mariupol and Volnovakha, humanitarian evacuation corridors are being prepared for opening, columns are being formed from those who are subject to evacuation. The parties temporarily ceased fire in the area of ​​the corridors,” Podoliak stated.

Earlier on Saturday, Russia’s Ministry of Defense announced it would stop bombarding Mariupol and Volnovakha to allow for civilians to safely flee their homes, adding, “Humanitarian corridors and exit routes have been agreed with the Ukrainian side.”

Ukrainian army: Russia working to encircle Kyiv & Kharkiv

Russian troops are looking to encircle the Ukrainian capital Kyiv and the eastern city of Kharkiv, the Ukrainian armed forces have announced.

Russia’s offensive has entered its tenth day with aerial support and the use of high-precision weapons, a report from the Ukrainian forces said, according to news agency dpa.

Russia also continued its attempt to reach the administrative borders of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions as it looks to create a land corridor from Russian-annexed Crimea to the separatist regions, the report added.

UK: Overall rate of Russian air & artillery strikes ‘lower in past 24 hours than previous days’

The “overall rate of Russian air and artillery strikes observed over the past 24 hours has been lower than in previous days”, according to an intelligence briefing from the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD).

The MoD said Ukraine continues to hold Kharkiv, Chernihiv and Mariupol and there have been reports of street fighting in Sumy.

“It is highly likely that all four cities are encircled by Russian forces,” it added.

“Russian forces are probably advancing on the southern port city of Mykolaiv. There is a realistic possibility that some forces will attempt to circumvent the city to prioritise progression towards Odesa,” it continued.

WH disavows Graham’s call for Putin assassination

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham is facing intense pushback from all corners of Washington after calling for the Russian people to end the Ukraine war by assassinating President Vladimir Putin.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki stated that it is “not the position of the United States government”.

Kyiv: Over 66,200 Ukrainian men returned from abroad to fight

More than 66,200 Ukrainian men have returned from abroad to fight, the country’s defence minister has claimed.

“That’s how many men returned from abroad at this moment to defend their country from the horde. These are 12 more combat and motivated brigades! Ukrainians, we are invincible,” Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov said in statement posted online.

Russia claims over 2,000 Ukrainian military facilities destroyed during operation

The Russian Armed Forces hit a total of 2,037 military infrastructure facilities during the special operation in Ukraine, Defense Ministry’s official representative, Major General Igor Konashenkov said.

“Overall, some 2,037 Ukraine’s military infrastructure facilities were hit during the operation. They included 71 command posts and communication centers of the Kiev forces; S-300, Buk and 9K33 Osa missile systems as well as 61 radar stations,” Konashenkov added.

According to the defense ministry’s official representative, some 66 aircraft were hit on the ground and 16 aircraft – in the air, while as many as 708 tanks and other armored combat vehicles, 74 multiple rocket launchers, 261 field artillery and mortars, 505 units of special military vehicles as well as 56 unmanned aerial vehicles were also destroyed.

Russia claims it obliterated Ukraine foreign weapons depot

A long-range precision strike on a military depot in the Ukrainian city of Zhytomyr has destroyed a warehouse storing West-supplied weapons, the Russian Defense Ministry claimed.

The warehouse was located on a military base in the northwest of Ukraine, the spokesman for the defense ministry, Major General Igor Konashenkov, stated. The site had been used to store the American and Anglo-Swedish Javelin and NLAW man-portable anti-tank systems shipped to Ukraine in the run-up to the ongoing crisis.

Iranian national dies in Ukraine

An Iranian national has died while leaving the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv due to cardiac arrest.

Ukraine’s air defense destroys 39 Russian planes & 40 helicopters

Since the start of the war, Ukraine’s air defense units have destroyed at least 39 Russian planes and 40 helicopters, the Armed Forces of Ukraine claimed.

Ukrainian troops are fighting fiercely for the liberation of territories seized by Russian forces, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine announced.

Russia continues broad offensive in Ukraine

Russian troops have continued a broad offensive in Ukraine, Russia’s RIA news agency quoted the Russian Defence Ministry as saying.

The foreign ministry confirmed its units have stopped firing and opened humanitarian corridors near the cities of Volnovakha and Mariupol which were encircled by Russian troops.

Russian gas flows to Europe via Ukraine continue unchanged

Russian state gas company Gazprom was shipping natural gas to Europe via Ukraine in the same volume of 109.5 million cubic metres per day as on Friday, the state-owned RIA news agency has cited Ukraine’s pipeline operator company as saying on Saturday.

Aerial footage shows explosion, fire in Bucha district near Kyiv

Russia declares ceasefire in Ukraine from 06:00 GMT to open humanitarian corridors for civilians

Moscow has declared a ceasefire in Ukraine as of 06:00 GMT in order to open humanitarian corridors for civilians.

Creating humanitarian corridors for the evacuation of civilians was agreed upon by Russian and Ukrainian officials during their second round of talks in Belarus aimed at resolving the Ukraine crisis.

Russian forces will stop firing at 10 a.m. Moscow time to allow humanitarian corridors out of the Ukrainian cities of Mariupol and Volnovakha, Reuters reported.

Ukrainian army takes control of Hostomel

Ukrainian forces took control of Hostomel, killing at least 50 Russian soldiers, the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine has confirmed.

Both Samsung & Apple, which provide half of Russia’s smartphones, halted sales there

With Samsung following Apple in suspending all shipments to Russia, two companies that together account for about half of all smartphone sales in the country have now paused distribution to Russian buyers.

Chernihiv comes under renewed bombardment

A large explosion has lit up the night sky in Chernihiv, as Russia pressed on with its assault on the strategic Ukrainian city that lies 143km (88 miles) from the capital Kyiv.

Homes were heavily damaged by airstrikes earlier in the day, when a Russian bombardment killed 47 people, according to local officials.

Mayor: Strategic Ukrainian port Mariupol ‘blockaded’

Ukraine’s strategic port city of Mariupol is under a “blockade” by the Russian army after days of “ruthless” attacks, its mayor has said, calling for the establishment of a humanitarian corridor.

“For now, we are looking for solutions to humanitarian problems and all possible ways to get Mariupol out of the blockade,” Vadim Boychenko stated in a message posted on Telegram.

Pentagon successfully tests communications line with Russia

The Pentagon has successfully tested a communications line with the Russian Defense Ministry, created to avoid incidents near Ukraine, a senior US defense official told reporters, according to CNN.

Kremlin: Russia does not seek to divide Ukraine into parts

Russia’s special military operation in Ukraine is not aimed at dividing Ukraine as Russia just seeks to ensure its own security, Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Sky News Arabia.

He pointed out that after the 2014 coup, Ukraine had fallen under the influence of Nazi ideas.

“We want to see Ukraine demilitarized, we want to see Ukraine free of Nazi ideology,” Peskov said, adding, “Also we want to see that the neutral status of Ukraine is fixed in its Constitution and we want to have guarantees that weapons being able to change the security balance in Europe cannot be deployed” to Ukraine,” he added.

The Kremlin spokesman emphasized that Russia did not seek to divide Ukraine into parts but only wanted to ensure its own national security.

Ukrainian president claims to be staying in Kiev

Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky has stated that he continues to work at his office in the country’s capital of Kiev, according to a video on Instagram, which presumably shows the presidential office.

“Reports come every other day that I have allegedly fled from Ukraine, from Kiev, from my office. I am here, and [Head of the Presidential Office] Andrey Borisovich [Yermak] is also here. No one has fled,” Zelensky stated in the video.

Russian State Duma (the lower house of parliament) Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin claimed earlier that Zelenksy had left Ukraine for Poland.

Full US senate invited to meet Zelensky via Zoom on Saturday

The entire US Senate has been invited to meet Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky through a virtual conference call on Saturday. The virtual meeting was arranged by the Ukrainian Embassy, the reported on Friday.

UN Security Council to hold emergency meeting on Monday 

The UN Security Council will hold an emergency meeting on Monday on the humanitarian crisis triggered in Ukraine by the Russian invasion.

Russia to deploy up to 1,000 mercenaries to Ukraine

Russia is poised to deploy up to 1,000 more mercenaries to Ukraine in the coming days and weeks, as a senior Western intelligence official warned Moscow could “bombard cities into submission”, an escalation that could lead to significant civilian casualties.

The US has already seen “some indications” that Russian mercenaries may be involved in Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine “in some places”, a senior defense official claimed earlier this week, but it wasn’t clear exactly where or in what numbers.

US claims Russian forces approaching Ukraine’s second-largest nuclear facility

Russian forces are approaching Ukraine’s second-largest nuclear facility, US Envoy to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield stated.

“Russian forces are now 20 miles, and closing, from Ukraine’s second-largest nuclear facility,” she said without naming the plant.

According to Energoatom, the overseeing body of Ukraine’s nuclear power plants, Ukraine’s second-largest nuclear facility — in terms of power generation capacity — is Yuzhnoukrainsk Nuclear Power Station in the Mykolaiv Oblast, in southern Ukraine.

“President Vladimir Putin must stop this humanitarian catastrophe by ending this war and ceasing these unconscionable attacks against the people of Ukraine,” the ambassador added.

Earlier on Friday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky accused Russia of “nuclear terror” after Russian troops attacked the nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine.

Several Western news organizations suspended operations in Russia

Several Western media organizations moved to suspend their journalistic operations in Russia in the wake of a harsh new crackdown on news and free speech by President Vladimir Putin’s government.

Zelensky criticizes NATO over its rejection of a no-fly zone

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine criticized NATO over its rejection of a no-fly zone, hours after the alliance announced it would not intervene by air or land for fear of creating a conflict with Russia that could spill into other parts of Europe.

Leaders of the alliance met Friday in Brussels, after which NATO’s secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, said its members had rejected any possibility of intervening against Russian forces. Ukrainian officials had called for a no-fly zone, but NATO leaders have resisted, worried about a larger war. President Vladimir Putin of Russia, announcing the invasion last month, warned other countries against interfering.

Blinken: Russia has never been so isolated

Antony Blinken, the US secretary of state, has defended NATO’s decision not to establish a no-fly zone over Ukraine.

He said, “We have a responsibility to ensure the war does not spill over beyond Ukraine. A no-fly zone could lead to a full-fledged war in Europe. President Joe Biden has been clear we’re not going to get into a war with Russia.”

He added that “we’re seeing them [Russia] use increasingly brutal methods including going at civilians and civilian populations”, and “the terrible expectation is that the suffering we’ve already seen is likely to get worse before it gets better”.

Blinken stated the US was “evaluating the sanctions every day” and “nothing is off the table”.

He also warned that “tens of millions of Russians will suffer because of the dangerous decisions made by a tiny circle of corrupt leaders and cronies”, stressing, “Russia has never been so isolated, we have never been more united.”

Johnson: Putin trapped in a cul-de-sac and bent on destruction

Prime Minister Boris Johnson believes Vladimir Putin intends to “double down” on his invasion of Ukraine, as the Russian president envisages “no way out” but to “continue with the destruction”.

In an interview with La Repubblica, Die Welt and El Pais, the PM said European security is “equally jeopardised” by Moscow’s attack on Europe’s largest nuclear power station.

Johnson stated it appears Putin is set on continuing with the “destruction” in Ukraine.

“It feels to me as though Vladimir Putin has decided to – and it’s clear from what’s happening – that he’s decided to double down,” he added.

“He sees no way out of the cul-de-sac that he’s in, except to continue with the destruction, the pulverising of innocent populations, in innocent European cities,” he noted.

France, partners to propose measures to boost security of nuclear energy sites

French President Emmanuel Macron has said that Paris and its partners will propose in the coming hours a set of concrete measures to boost the safety and security of Ukraine’s five main nuclear energy sites, based on International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) criteria.

Macron added he had spoken with the IAEA director and supported the organisation’s efforts to monitor Ukraine’s nuclear installations.

Russia ‘restricts access’ to Twitter amid invasion of Ukraine

Russia’s media regulator Roskomnadzor has “restricted access” to social media network Twitter after blocking Facebook in the country, Russian news agencies reported.

Russia blocks access to Facebook amid war with Ukraine

The country’s communications regulator says it blocked Meta Platforms Inc’s Facebook in response to what it said were restrictions of access to Russian media on its platform, more than a week after Moscow invaded its neighbour Ukraine.

Biden says US ‘committed to helping Ukraine defend itself’

United States President Joe Biden called the Russian invasion of Ukraine an attack on “global peace and stability”.

Speaking ahead of a meeting with his Finnish counterpart, Sauli Niinisto, Biden added, “We’re committed to helping Ukraine defend itself and support the humanitarian needs of the Ukrainian people.”

Russia, Ukraine trade barbs at UN over Zaporizhzhia incident

Western and Ukrainian diplomats have accused Russia of recklessly endangering global safety after a fire broke out at a training facility near the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant – charges that Moscow dismissed as “lies”.

At a UN Security Council meeting on Friday, Kyiv’s envoy Sergiy Kyslytsya accused Moscow of “nuclear terrorism” over the incident, saying that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is an attack on “humanity”.

Moscow’s envoy to the UN, Vasily Nebenzia, however, dismissed reports that Russian troops attacked the Zaporizhzhia plant as “lies” and “disinformation”.

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