Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Live Updates: Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 17

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.

Russian Central Bank: Moscow Stock Exchange will not resume trading next week

Russia’s Central Bank announced Saturday it will not resume trading on the Moscow Stock Exchange in the equity market during the week of March 14.

The Bank of Russia also said via its website that the foreign currency market will reopen at 10 a.m. local time (2 a.m. ET) on Monday and commodity trading will also resume then.

As for stock market operations during the week of March 21, the central bank indicated that it will make an announcement at a later date.

The exchange has been closed since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, as the United States, European Union and other Western allies imposed sanctions and the Russian ruble plunged to record lows against the US dollar.

Russian military: Humanitarian situation in some Ukraine cities ‘catastrophic’

The humanitarian situation in Ukraine is deteriorating quickly and has become catastrophic in a number of cities, the Russian military announced.

“Unfortunately, the humanitarian situation in Ukraine is continuing to deteriorate rapidly, and in some cities it has reached catastrophic proportions,” the head of the Russian National Defence Control Centre, Mikhail Mizintsev, stated.

Ukrainian authorities: Seven civilians dead as Russia fired at evacuation convoy

Ukraine’s intelligence service accused Russia of firing at a convoy that was evacuating women and children from the village of Peremoha in the Kyiv region, killing seven people including one child.

“After the attack, the occupiers forced the remnants of the column to turn back to Peremoha and are not letting them out of the village,” the intelligence service announced in a statement, adding that the total number of wounded was unknown.

“Russians shot a column of women and children while trying to evacuate from the village of Peremoha in the Kyiv region along an agreed ‘green’ corridor. Seven people died, including one child,” it said.

Russian forces take out 3,593 military targets in Ukraine during special op

Spokesperson for the Russian Defense Ministry Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov estimated that 3,593 enemy assets had been destroyed since the special operation began in Ukraine more than two weeks ago.

UN says 579 civilians killed in Ukraine since Russian invasion began

The United Nations has recorded 1,581 civilian casualties — 579 who were killed and 1,002 injured — since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Among the dead are 42 children, with 54 children among the injured, according to the UN’s latest report on civilian casualties.

“Most of the civilian casualties recorded were caused by the use of explosive weapons with a wide impact area, including shelling from heavy artillery and multi-launch rocket systems, and missile and air strikes,” according to the UN report.

White House directs additional $200 million drawdown for defense services to Ukraine

In a memorandum Saturday, US President Joe Biden delegated Secretary of State Antony Blinken to direct the drawdown of $200 million in defense articles and services, including military education and training, for Ukraine.

Local governor: Volnovakha town completely destroyed

The eastern Ukrainian town of Volnovakha has been completely destroyed following the Russian invasion but fighting continues for territory there to prevent a Russian encirclement, Pavlo Kyrylenko claimed.

Moscow: Chernobyl & Zaporizhzhia nuclear plants being run by Ukrainian staff

The Ukrainian nuclear power plants at Chernobyl and Zaporizhzhia, both now under the control of Russian forces, are being run and managed by their Ukrainian staff, Russia’s atomic energy agency Rosatom claimed.

Rosatom’s statement said an external power supply was being restored to the defunct Chernobyl plant, site of the world’s worst nuclear accident in 1986, with the help of Russian specialists.

It also added activities to ensure safety at the plants were being carried out in coordination with the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Kremlin says crisis talks with Ukraine have continued by video link

Crisis talks between Moscow and Kyiv, which had been conducted in person in Belarus, have continued via a video link, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said, according to the RIA news agency.

Ukrainian FM says ready to negotiate, but not surrender

Ukraine was ready to negotiate to end the war, but would not surrender or accept any ultimatums, noted the country’s foreign affairs minister Dmytro Kuleba.

Speaking at a virtual event organized by the non-partisan, nonprofit organization Renew Democracy Initiative, Kuleba stated civilian lives would be saved if Ukraine had fighter jets and more attack planes to destroy large military columns.

Around 1,300 Ukrainian troops killed since Russian invasion

Speaking at a news briefing, the Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelensky, said around 1,300 Ukrainian troops had been killed since the start of the Russian invasion.

He also claimed that around 500-600 Russian troops surrendered to Ukrainian forces on Friday.

Zelensky stated Ukrainian and Russian negotiating teams had started discussing concrete topics rather than exchanging ultimatums, adding the west should be more involved in negotiations to end the war. The president noted he was open to discussions with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The Ukrainian president told reporters that Russia can only take Kyiv if it “razes the city to the ground”.

Zelensky has suggested Russian forces would face a fight to the death if they sought to enter the capital.

“If they decide to carpet bomb (Kyiv), and simply erase the history of this region, the history of the Kyivan Rus, the history of Europe, and destroy all of us, then they will enter Kyiv. If that’s their goal, let them come in, but they will have to live on this land by themselves,” he stressed.

Zelensky stated his country is more united than ever as it faces the Russian invasion.

“This war, a difficult war, has truly united our nation. You are asking me how’s the situation on the front line … there’s a front line everywhere,” Zelensky said.

“A few small towns just don’t exist anymore. And this is a tragedy. They are just gone. And people are also gone. They are gone forever. So we are all on the front line. The people who died there, they died among us,” he added.

Local official: Moscow plans ‘pseudo’ independence referendum in Kherson port

Russian occupying forces are planning to stage a “pseudo” referendum in the southern Ukrainian port city of Kherson to create a breakaway region, said the deputy head of the local council.

“The creation of the (republic) will turn our region into a hopeless hole without life or a future,” Sergey Khlan added.

Zelensky: Most Ukrainian businesses not operating since Russian invasion

Most Ukrainian businesses have stopped operating since Russia launched its invasion, President Volodymyr Zelensky stated.

Zelensky’s economic adviser previously estimated that the Russian invasion had already caused more than $100 billion of damage.

UN: Reports of looting and fighting among civilians in Mariupol

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs announced that people trapped in the besieged southern city of Mariupol were desperate, adding “there are reports of looting and violent confrontations among civilians over what little basic supplies remain in the city”.

Russia claims ownership of Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant

Russian officials have arrived to Ukraine’s largest nuclear power plant, demanding to take control of the facility, according to a statement from Energoatom, Ukraine’s state-operated nuclear energy company.

Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Station has been occupied by Russian forces for more than a week now, with Energoatom previously claiming its employees have been forced to work at “gunpoint.”

Energoatom said 11 people from Rosatom, the Russian state atomic energy company, arrived to the plant on Friday and that a representative of the group said the plant now belonged to Rosatom.

Macron & Scholz call for immediate ceasefire in Ukraine during call with Putin

French President Emmanuel Macron has called on Russia to declare an immediate ceasefire in Ukraine during a phone call with President President Putin. The phone call lasted 75-minutes and also involved German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

Putin did not show a willingness to end a war with Ukraine during the call with Macron and Scholz, French presidency official said, Reuters reports.

The French and German leaders reiterated their call for an immediate ceasefire in Ukraine as a condition for full negotiations, the official added.

The Kremlin announced Putin used the call to brief the two leaders on negotiations between Russia and Ukraine and responded to their concerns about the humanitarian situation in Ukraine.

Putin slammed what he said was the “flagrant violation” of international humanitarian law by Ukraine’s forces during a phone call with Macron and Scholz, the Kremlin said, adding, “Vladimir Putin urged Emmanuel Macron and Olaf Scholz to influence the Kyiv authorities so that such criminal actions would be stopped.”

A German government spokesperson stated, “The conversation is part of ongoing international efforts to end the war in Ukraine.”

Zelensky: NATO is not demonstrating bravery in Ukraine

The Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelensky, has said that any negotiations with Russia will have to begin with a ceasefire as he accused the west of insufficient involvement in peace talks.

He stated that Russian and Ukrainian negotiating teams have started talking about concrete topics as opposed to exchanging ultimatums. Zelensky also added that some small Ukrainian towns have ceased to exist as a result of the war.

The president noted he does not see bravery from NATO on Ukraine and doesn’t see common consensus to accept the country to join the alliance.

Russia: US platforms ‘directly responsible for encouraging Ukrainian nationalism’

US online platforms are “directly responsible for encouraging nationalism in Ukraine”, the Russian Foreign Ministry has said.

Maria Zakharova, the press secretary for the Foreign Affairs Ministry, responded to Nick Clegg’s statement that Meta’s new policy of allowing threats of violence against Russian military and leadership figures will only apply in Ukraine itself.

She stated, “For many years, nationalism has been cultivated on the territory of Ukraine and encouraged by the West. We are all witnessing the result of such a policy today.

“It’s time to draw conclusions and use all resources, primarily informational ones, to stop incitement to hatred. The US digital platforms are directly responsible for encouraging nationalism in Ukraine,” she added.

Russian forces capture outskirts of Mariupol

Ukraine’s military says Russian forces have captured the eastern outskirts of the besieged city of Mariupol.

The military said the capture of Mariupol and Severodonetsk in the east were a priority for Russian forces.

Mariupol has been under siege for over a week, with no electricity, gas or water. Repeated efforts to evacuate people from the city of 430,000 have fallen apart as humanitarian convoys come under shelling.

England’s Premier League disqualifies Abramovich as a director of Chelsea

England’s Premier League on Saturday disqualified the Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich as a director of Chelsea Football Club, a decision that is largely symbolic but may help restart the process of selling the soccer team.

Efforts to sell the team were suspended when Britain’s government this week imposed sanctions on Russian oligarchs including Abramovich, the team’s owner, and froze his assets.

Ukraine accuses Russia of targeting city mayors

Kyiv Mayor Vitaly Klitschko has accused Russia of “terrorism” for targeting elected officials in Ukraine, and insisted Moscow’s forces would be “kicked out of every inch of our land”.

The comments come after a senior Ukrainian official shared a video that he said shows armed men carrying Ivan Fedorov, the mayor of the city of Melitopol, across a square.

“Occupiers left the city without its elected leader to paralyze Melitopol’s life support and thus demoralize and conquer local residents,” Klitschko stated, adding, “This is an act of terrorism.”


Ukraine claims another Russian general killed

A Ukrainian official says that another Russian general has been killed in fighting.

Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to the interior ministry, claimed Russian Major-General Andrei Kolesnikov was killed in action during fighting over Mariupol. He would be the third Russian general to die in the war, according to Ukrainian officials.

Kolesnikov’s death was not confirmed by the Russian military, which has kept a tight lid on information about its losses.

Zelensky: Russian army has suffered largest losses in decades

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky stated Russian forces have suffered their largest losses in decades, and claimed that 31 Russian battalion tactical groups have been left incapable of combat.

Russia is sending new forces to Ukraine after suffering what Zelensky described as Moscow’s biggest losses in decades.

Zelensky urged Russia to uphold an agreed ceasefire to allow evacuations to proceed from the besieged port city of Mariupol, after blaming Moscow for the failure of previous attempts.

Russian attacks continue in areas where Ukraine is trying to evacuate people and bring aid through “humanitarian corridors”, an official has claimed.

He also demanded the release of the mayor of Melitopol who was reportedly kidnapped by Russian forces Friday.

Belarus denies plans to join Russian invasion but is ‘rotating’ troops at border

Belarus’s chief of general staff Viktor Gulevich said that the country has no plans to join the Russian invasion of Ukraine, but is sending five battalion tactical groups (BTGs) to its border on rotation to replenish forces already stationed there.

A top Ukrainian security official earlier warned Belarus not to send troops to Ukraine, saying Ukraine was showing restraint towards Belarus despite the country being used as a launchpad for Russian planes.

“I want to underline that the transfer of troops is in no way connected with (any) preparation, and especially not with the participation of Belarusian soldiers in the special military operation on the territory of Ukraine,” Gulevich added.

Chernihiv governor says city under heavy attack

Ukraine’s northern city of Chernihiv is still facing heavy Russian shelling, the region’s governor Viacheslav Chaus said.

In a video address, Chaus stated Russian troops were targeting civilian infrastructure “where there is no and has never been any military.”

“The peaceful population is dying and there are many injured,” he added.

Footage from a local TV station showed large-scale destruction to several buildings and a stadium in the city.

Macron & Scholz are holding phone talks With Putin, Kremlin Confirms

French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz are holding a phone conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov announced.

Zelensky appeals to Russian mothers: ‘Do not give your son to death or captivity’

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has issued a direct appeal to Russian mothers, asking them to “check where your son is” and not to “give your son to death or captivity” after Russia revealed that there were conscripts amongst the forces conducting the Ukraine invasion.

Speaking from the presidential office in Kyiv, Zelensky broke into Russian as he asked mothers of young Russian men: “do not send your children to war in a foreign land. Do not believe that they will be sent just somewhere for combat areas, or just somewhere in non-combat conditions.”

He further pleaded in his most recent video address: “Check where your son is, and if you have even the slightest suspicion, any doubt that your son may be sent to war against Ukraine, act immediately. Do not give your son to death or captivity”.

Zelensky said that he was creating a new department to oversee what he said were thousands of Russian prisoners of war who had either surrendered or been captured since the invasion.

He added that they were receiving treatment “required by international conventions.”

More evacuation corridors from Ukrainian cities to open Saturday

At least 13 evacuation corridors from different Ukrainian cities, including the besieged eastern city of Mariupol, will be open on Saturday for civilians, according to Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk.

Israel, Ukraine deny report Bennett recommended yielding to Russian demands

A top Ukrainian adviser and an Israeli official on Saturday pushed back against a media report suggesting Israel tried to nudge Ukraine into caving to Russian demands during talks.

Israel has been engaged in diplomatic efforts to try to end the war in Ukraine. Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has held talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin and spoke by phone with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

A report carried by Israel’s Walla news, the Jerusalem Post and US news site Axios had suggested, citing an unidentified Ukrainian official, that Bennett had urged Ukraine to give in to Russia.

Israel, “just as other conditional intermediary countries, does NOT offer Ukraine to agree to any demands of the Russian Federation,” Ukrainian adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said on Twitter.

“This is impossible for military & political reasons. On the contrary, Israel urges Russia to assess the events more adequately,” he added.

Moscow: West fosters Kiev’s sabotage of nuclear facilities

The Western states are posing a threat to the citizens of Russia, Ukraine and all of Europe by supporting Ukrainian sabotage of nuclear facilities, Spokeswoman for Russian Foreign Ministry Maria Zakharova told TASS.

“Carrying out attacks against their own nuclear facilities is already becoming a hallmark of the Ukrainian leadership. Kiev, as well as the American masters of Vladimir Zelensky and the US vassals in NATO are the ones to blame for this. Without such support, these provocations would be pointless,” the diplomat said.

“The Western political adventurers, who encourage Zelensky’s actions, endanger the lives of not only the citizens of Ukraine and Russia but of all of Europe,” she added.

France criticises UK for Ukrainian refugee response

The French President Emmanuel Macron criticised the British government for failing to live up to its “grand statements” on helping Ukrainian refugees.

Speaking at an EU summit in Versailles, Macron criticised Britain’s visa policy and said it makes the process harder for Ukrainian citizens fleeing the war.

He added, “Despite all the grand statements… the British government continued to apply current rules that meant they did not welcome Ukrainian refugees who wanted to reach British soil saying they have to travel hundreds of kilometres in order to apply for a visa.”

“I would hope that the Ukrainian men and women who have lived through horror and crossed Europe to reach their families on UK territory will be better treated,” Macron continued.

In response to Macron’s reported remarks, the Home Office pointed to previous comments from Home Secretary Priti Patel, which stated: “We are now making the process quicker and simpler by removing the need to physically visit visa application centres for many of those who are making the perilous journey across Europe.”

Russian Foreign Ministry: If necessary, Moscow ready for harsh confrontation with EU in energy sector

Russia is ready for a harsh confrontation with the European Union in the energy sector, if the need arises, Director of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s European Cooperation Department Nikolai Kobrinets said.

“Russia remains a reliable supplier, a world-class guarantor of energy security. We value this reputation, but are ready for a harsh confrontation in the energy sector, if the need arises. I believe, the European Union would not definitely profit from it, because we have a greater safety margin and stronger nerves,” Kobrinets told Interfax in an interview.

According to the European Commission, Russia’s share makes up about 45% of gas exported to the EU, 25% oil and 45% of coal, “therefore Brussels is bound to understand the vulnerable position it is in,” the high-ranking Russian diplomat added.

Judging by statements of EU representatives, Europe intends to become independent from Russia’s energy sources “at any cost,” and “ordinary European taxpayers, not senior European bureaucrats, will have to pay this cost,” he said.

The EU’s plans to forgo Russian energy sources include creating projects in hydrogen generation and developing alternative energy sources, which will take time and investments, Kobrinets stated.

“Those plans are not very rational from a strictly economic point of view. Global energy markets are experiencing turbulence, if not panicking. It is unknown how high the prices would get. But it is already clear that the EU member states will have to pay thrice as much, or even more, for gas, oil and electricity. That’s their choice,” he added.

Moscow: Negotiations with NATO impossible after it provided Ukraine with weapons

The Russian Foreign Ministry said it will not negotiate with NATO, after the military alliance provided Ukraine with weapons, Interfax reports.

The ministry added, “Currently the countries of the alliance (and more broadly – the European Union), not giving a damn about international law and their own codes of conduct, are supplying airborne weapons for the Ukrainian armed forces. Weapons destined to kill Russian servicemen.”

“There can be no kind of dialogue with NATO in these conditions. In the past few years the relationship between NATO and Russia through the fault of the alliance has fallen to zero,” it continued.

Russian diplomat: Moscow response to west’s sanctions ready

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ryabkov stated that right now the US is waging economic war against Russia.

He stressed that the West would have eventually found a pretext for new anti-Russian sanctions even without Moscow launching a special operation in Ukraine.

Ryabkov added that Moscow has already prepared lists of personal counter sanctions against western countries and that they will be revealed soon.

He separately lambasted a decision by western countries to close their airspace to Russian aircraft as “illegal”.

The diplomat further cautioned the West against “mindlessly pumping weapons” into Ukraine. He stressed that it is a dangerous move and that convoys carrying these weapons will be legitimate targets for the Russian military.

United States President Joe Biden talking about the danger of a Third World War is an attempt to play on the nerves, Russia is not escalating the situation, Ryabkov noted.

The current relations between Russia and the United States can hardly be described as trustful, Ryabkov said, adding, “What trust are we talking about if we see our relations move from bad to worse, courtesy of the successive U.S. administrations.”

The US sanctions on Russia were unprecedented and constituted “an unparalleled attempt at dealing a major blow to various sectors of the Russian economy,” he said.

“What can we talk about now, what trust? We are thrown back in our relations far behind, the blame for this lies entirely with the American side and its successive administrations,” Ryabkov added.

Mosque sheltering 80 civilians shelled in Mariupol

A mosque in the southeastern Ukrainian port city of Mariupol, where 80 civilians were taking shelter, has been shelled by Russian forces, Ukraine’s foreign ministry said.

“The mosque of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent and his wife Roxolana (Hurrem Sultan) in Mariupol was shelled by Russian invaders. More than 80 adults and children are hiding there from the shelling, including citizens of Turkey,” the ministry added.

Russian rockets destroy Ukrainian airbase in Kyiv region

Russian rocket attacks have destroyed a Ukrainian airbase near the town of Vasylkiv in the Kyiv region. The rocket attacks also hit an ammunition depot, Vasylkiv Mayor Natalia Balasynovych announced.

In Chernihiv, some 100 kilometers north of Kyiv, the hotel Ukraine — a landmark in the city — was hit overnight.

“I am here now. There is no hotel anymore,” Vyacheslav Chaus, head of Chernihiv region administration, said Saturday, adding, The enemy continues to launch air and missile strikes on the city of Chernihiv. Civilians are dying, many people are being injured. The enemy shells civilian infrastructure, where there is no military.”

Conflict raged northwest of Kyiv on Saturday and other cities were encircled and under heavy shelling, while Ukrainian officials stated fighting and threats of Russian air attacks were endangering attempted evacuations.

Russia-Ukraine conflict could trigger global food shortage

Following a dramatic global food shortage due to the Covid pandemic, disruption to agricultural production in Russia and Ukraine due to the ongoing military conflict could seriously exacerbate global food insecurity, said Qu Dongyu, director-general of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

In a statement on Friday, the FAO chief stated Russia and Ukraine play a substantial role in the global food production and supply.

“Russia is the world’s largest exporter of wheat, and Ukraine is the fifth-largest. Together, they provide 19% of the world’s barley supply, 14% of wheat, and 4% of maize, making up more than one-third of global cereal exports,” he continued.

Qu added that the two nations are also lead suppliers of rapeseed and account for 52% of the world’s sunflower oil export market. Global fertilizer supply is also highly concentrated, with Russia the lead producer.

US explores sending Ukraine more advanced weapons

The Joe Biden administration, under pressure to expand the arsenal of weapons that Ukraine has in its conflict with Russia, is working with European allies to expedite more sophisticated air-defense systems and other armaments into the war zone, US officials announced.

Discussions were ongoing ahead of Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s planned trip next week to meet with NATO allies in Brussels and Slovakia, which along with Poland and Romania has indicated a willingness to transfer military aid to its embattled neighbor. Slovakia also possesses the S-300 surface-to-air missile system, which is used to shoot down enemy aircraft and is familiar to the Ukrainians.

The administration is facing backlash over its decision earlier this week to scuttle Poland’s proposal that would have sent a number of its MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine via a transfer “free of charge” to the United States. Washington, citing concerns that Russia would view the move as a provocation from Washington, said the offer from Warsaw was not “tenable.”

Ukraine has sought the S-300 surface-to-air missile system, said a senior European official familiar with the situation. There are ongoing talks about that possibility, the official added, but questions remain about whether there are any that can be spared.

On Friday, a bipartisan group of lawmakers in the United States sent a letter to President Biden asking him to transfer manned and unmanned aircraft to Ukraine, saying that “despite heroic and skilled resistance,” the Russians had achieved air superiority over the Ukrainians. That went farther than US defense officials, who have noted the Russians have a significantly larger air force but had been unable to control the skies over Ukraine.

“Russia’s advantage in this domain could soon develop into air dominance if the Ukrainians do not receive necessary military aid,” the lawmakers added.

The lawmakers called for the continued delivery of Stinger missiles, man-portable antiaircraft weapons, but also called for the United States to facilitate the transfer of S-300 systems.

Ukraine official hopes Russia will observe ceasefire to allow civilian evacuation

Several humanitarian corridors out of Ukrainian towns and villages including from the besieged southern port of Mariupol will be open so civilians can leave, Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said, adding she hoped Russia would observe a ceasefire to allow this to take place.

She noted Ukraine plans to evacuate residents of several towns and villages in the regions of Kyiv and Sumy and some other areas where there is ongoing combat.

“I hope that the day will go well, all the planned routes will be open and Russia will fulfill its obligations to guarantee the ceasefire regime,” Vereshchuk stated.

Two oil depots near Kyiv on fire after Russian attacks

One depot was hit in the town of Vasylkiv, 36 kilometres south of the capital, and another was hit in the village of Kryachky, according to the Kyiv Independent.

Vasylkiv is also home to a large airbase and has become a major Russian target.

Also, a frozen goods warehouse caught fire early Saturday morning due to shelling in Brovary district, northeast of Kyiv, according to Ukraine’s Interior Ministry.

Russian forces destroy 3,491 targets of Ukrainian military infrastructure

Russian Defence Ministry spokesman Maj. General Igor Konashenkov said that Russian troops have eliminated almost 3,500 military objects during the special op in Ukraine.

“In total, 3,491 objects belonging to Ukrainian military infrastructure were disabled during the operation. Destroyed: 123 unmanned aerial vehicles, 1,127 tanks and other armoured combat vehicles, 115 multiple launch rocket systems, 423 field artillery guns and mortars, 934 units of special military vehicles,” he added.

Russian precision strikes knocked out a military air field in Vasilkov and a Ukrainian electronic intelligence center in Brovary, Konashenkov continued.

Latest UK Defence Intelligence update on situation in Ukraine

Fighting north-west of Kyiv is continuing with the bulk of Russian ground forces now about 25 kilometres from the centre of the Ukrainian capital, according to the UK’s latest Defence Intelligence report.

“Elements of the large Russian column north of Kyiv have dispersed,” it continued, adding, “This is likely to support a Russian attempt to reduce its vulnerability to Ukrainian counter attacks, which have taken a significant toll on Russian forces.”

Elsewhere in Ukraine the cities of Kharkiv, Chernihiv, Sumy and Mariupol remained encircled and continued to suffer heavy Russian shelling, the report said.

Zelensky says Ukraine at ‘turning point’

Ukraine’s president has said that his country had “reached a strategic turning point” in the war with Russia.

“It’s impossible to say how many days we will still need to free our land, but it is possible to say that we will do it,” Volodymyr Zelensky stated via video from Kyiv.

“We are already moving towards our goal, our victory,” he added.

Russian forces squeeze Kyiv, surround Mariupol

Russian forces inched towards Kyiv on Saturday and pounded civilian areas in other Ukrainian cities as concerns grew over the besieged southern port of Mariupol, where officials said more than 1,500 people had been killed.

Russian forces have bombarded cities across the country and appeared to be regrouping for a possible assault on the capital Kyiv, Reuters reported.

Air raid sirens sounded Saturday in several cities, including the capital Kyiv, Odessa, Dnipro and Kharkiv, according to Ukrainian media.

More than two weeks after Moscow shocked the world by invading Ukraine, the United Nations and others said it may be committing war crimes in cities such as Mariupol, which for days has been under attack by Vladimir Putin’s forces.

Survivors have been trying to flee Russian bombardment in a freezing city left without water or heating and running out of food. The situation is “desperate,” a Doctors Without Borders official said.

“Hundreds of thousands of people… are for all intents and purposes besieged,” Stephen Cornish, one of those heading the medical charity’s Ukraine operation, told AFP in an interview, adding, “Sieges are a medieval practice that have been outlawed by the modern rules of war for good reason.”

The governor of the Kharkiv region, on the Russian border, stated a psychiatric hospital had been hit, and the mayor of the city of Kharkiv said about 50 schools had been destroyed there.

Ukraine claims shelling damages cancer hospital in Mykolaiv 

Ukrainian officials accused Russia damaging a cancer hospital and several residential buildings in the southern city of Mykolaiv with shelling from heavy artillery.

The hospital’s head doctor, Maksim Beznosenko, said several hundred patients were in the hospital during the attack but that no one was killed. The assault damaged the building and blew out windows.

Russian forces have stepped up their attacks on Mykolaiv, located 292 miles south of Kyiv, in an attempt to encircle the city.

Ukrainian and Western officials earlier accused Russia of shelling a maternity hospital in the southern city of Mariupol on Wednesday. Three people died in that attack

Air-raid sirens heard across most of Ukraine

Air-raid sirens were heard across most Ukrainian cities urging people to seek shelters, according to local media reports.

Sirens were heard in the capital city, Kyiv, and in Lviv, Odesa, Kharkiv, Cherkasy, as well as in the Sumy region in the northeast of the country, Ukrainian media outlets reported.

Russian forces appeared to be regrouping earlier for a possible assault on Kyiv, with satellite images showing them firing artillery as they closed in on the capital.

US expects spillovers from Russia sanctions

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has said that the US economy was strong while acknowledging that inflation was a problem and there would be spillovers from sanctions against Russia.

She added that a tighter monetary policy to fight inflation could cause a recession, but she had confidence in the Federal Reserve’s ability to balance that.

Blinken, Kuleba concerned about Russian ‘disinformation campaigns’

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba shared concerns over Russia’s “disinformation campaigns” during a phone call on Friday, the State Department has announced.

The two top diplomats spoke hours after the UN Security Council convened at Moscow’s request to address Russian allegations that Kyiv was developing a biological weapons programme, claims that Washington has forcefully rejected.

Blinken and Kuleba also discussed Ukraine’s direct talks with Russia that took place in Turkey earlier this week, US State Department Spokesperson Ned Price stated.

Pentagon: US doesn’t see any specific sings Russia could use chemical weapons in Ukraine

The US sees no specific signs that Russia could use chemical weapons in Ukraine, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby stated.

“I don’t have any specific indication now to talk about, but it is something we’re concerned about,” he said in comments on Western reports that Russia could be planning to use chemical weapons during its special operation in Ukraine.

“I don’t have anything to report with respect to specific Russian chem-bio capabilities inside Ukraine,” he added.

Speaking about nuclear weapons, Kirby said Russia didn’t create any new threats to the US.

“I would just tell you that we’ve seen nothing that gives us a cause or reason to change our deterrent posture at this time,” he added.

Russia lambasts US for claiming Moscow could use chemical weapons in Ukraine

Russian Ambassador to the United States Anatoly Antonov has described the recent US remarks that Russia may use chemical weapons in Ukraine as another attempt to demonise Russia.

“Such claims are worth a penny. The US official, as always, did not bother to provide any evidence. This is another attempt to demonise our country,” the ambassador said.

“Our country, unlike the United States, eliminated all available stocks of chemical warfare agents in 2017. This fact has been documented by the OPCW. It is pointless to argue with this fact”, Antonov added.

Russia accused of using cluster munitions, incendiary weapons

Oleksandra Matviichuk, head of the Center for Civil Liberties in Kyiv, said the group has gathered evidence of Russian forces using unguided bombs, cluster munitions and incendiary weapons.

“That’s why we have so [many] casualties among civilian populations,” Matviichuk told Al Jazeera.

She added that the centre also has gathered evidence of deliberate Russian bombings of civilian infrastructure and humanitarian corridors along which civilians are seeking to leave conflict areas. Russia has denied it targets civilians.

US imposing sanctions on 12 Russian MPs, Kremlin spokesman’s wife and children

The United States imposes sanctions on 12 lawmakers of the Russian State Duma, or lower parliament house, and on Russian presidential press secretary Dmitry Peskov’s wife and adult children, US Department of State Spokesperson Ned Price told a briefing.

The US Department of Treasury has also announced Washington has added to its blacklist some ten members of the management board of Russia’s VTB Bank, which was earlier sanctioned due to the start of the Russia’s special operation in Ukraine.

The US has also sanctioned several board members at Novikombank and ABR Management, including Vice Governor of St Petersburg Vladimir Nikolaevich Knyaginin, over the Ukraine crisis, according to Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Photos show Russian military units moving closer to Kyiv

Satellite images have shown that Russian military units were continuing to deploy closer to Kyiv and actively firing artillery towards residential areas, a US private company announced.

According to Maxar Technologies, multiple homes and buildings were on fire and widespread damage, as well as impact craters, were seen throughout the town of Moschun, northwest of the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv.

IAEA: Technicians repairing damaged power lines at Chernobyl

Ukraine has informed the UN’s atomic energy watchdog that technicians have started repairing damaged power lines in an effort to restore external electricity supplies to the Chernobyl nuclear power plant site.

Electricity supplies to the plant, which is currently under Russian control, were cut off entirely earlier this week, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said in a statement.

“Ukraine’s regulatory authority said work that began on the evening of 10 March had succeeded in repairing one section, but off-site electrical power was still down, indicating there was still damage in other places,” the statement added.

Biden detailed new measures to punish Russia in a 49-minute phone call with Zelensky

Prior to his address on Friday, US President Joe Biden spent 49 minutes on the phone with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, detailing the new measures he was going to announce regarding US trade with Russia, two officials familiar with the call tell CNN.

While most of Biden and Zelensky’s calls since the invasion have hovered in the 30- to 40-minute range, this was one was a bit longer as Biden highlighted how the US was moving to suspend normal trade relations with Russia in another effort to punish the Kremlin.

Zelensky tweeted that he gave Biden an “assessment of the situation on the battlefield, informed about the crimes of Russia against the civilian population” and they agreed on “further steps to support the defense of Ukraine and increase sanctions against Russia.”

Ukraine calls “abduction” of Melitopol mayor a “war crime”

The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry published a strongly-worded statement, calling the detention of the mayor of Melitopol by armed men a “war crime.”

In a statement, the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry called Ivan Fedorov’s detention an “abduction,” saying it is one of the many “gross violations of norms and principles of international law, including international humanitarian law, war crimes and crimes against humanity, as well as other human rights violations by the Russian military.”

The Foreign Ministry added that the Geneva Convention and its Additional Protocols prohibit civilian hostages like Fedorov from being taken.

“We call on the international community to respond immediately to the abduction of Ivan Fedorov and other civilians, and to increase pressure on Russia to end its barbaric war against the Ukrainian people,” the statement said.

“The fact of the abduction of the Mayor of Melitopol, along with hundreds of other facts of war crimes by Russian occupiers on the Ukrainian soil, are being carefully documented by law enforcement agencies. The perpetrators of this and other crimes will be brought to the strictest responsibility,” it added.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky has also stated the detention of the mayor of Melitopol is a “crime against democracy.”

Moscow claims Kiev government orders executions of mayors for contacts with Russia

The government in Kiev banned mayors from contacts with Russians and ordered executions of those who disagree, Colonel General Mikhail Mizintsev, head of the Russian National Center for Defense Management claimed.

Energy secretary: US has not detected any signs of radiological release in Ukraine

Radiation monitors continue to operate normally in much of the territory of Ukraine and the United States has found no indications of any radiation release in the country, US Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said in a statement.

“Thankfully, radiation monitors in much of Ukraine still function, and we have not detected any signs of radiological release”, Granholm stated, adding, “[The Department of] Energy continues to monitor the situation”.

Granholm noted the US remains concerned about Russia’s “reckless actions and violations of nuclear safety principles”.

Russia to deliver modern military equipment to Belarus

The leaders of Russia and Belarus have agreed on collaborating further in the near future, according to the state-owned Belarusian Telegraph Agency (BelTA).

According to BelTA, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko agreed on deliveries — by Russia to the Republic of Belarus — of the most modern models of military equipment in the near future.

Armed men detain Ukrainian mayor in Russian-occupied city

The mayor of Melitopol, Ivan Fedorov, was seen on video being led away by armed men from a government building in the city on Friday.

Fedorov’s detention by the armed men is the first known instance of a Ukrainian political official being detained and investigated by Russian or Russian-backed forces since the invasion began.

Ukraine claims Russian shelling prevents Mariupol evacuation

Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk has said Russian shelling prevented evacuees from leaving the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol while elsewhere Russian forces also stopped some buses of people trying to flee the Kyiv region.

Vereshchuk added some planned evacuations were successful, including 1,000 people who were evacuated from the village of Vorzel in the Kyiv region.

Russian forces have laid siege to Mariupol. Ukraine claims 1,582 civilians have died there in 12 days after the invasion.

US says sanctions will continue until Putin ends ‘aggression’

The United States and its allies will not “lose focus” or “move on” from the Ukraine crisis, the State Department has announced.

“There will be no relief from sanctions or other costs we have and will continue to impose on Russia until President Vladimir Putin reverses course and relents and his brutal aggression,” spokesperson Ned Price said.

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