Sunday, December 10, 2023

Live Updates: Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 19

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.

Report: China expressed some openness to providing military & financial aid to Russia

The US has information suggesting China has expressed some openness to providing Russia with requested military and financial assistance, a Western official and a US diplomat told CNN.

But it is not yet clear whether China intends to provide Russia with military or financial assistance as part of its war on Ukraine, US officials familiar with the intelligence tell CNN.

The consideration was detailed in a diplomatic cable relayed to allies in Europe and Asia, according to the sources.

The cable did not state definitively that assistance had been provided.

One official also stated the US warned in the cable that China would likely deny it was willing to provide assistance.

The Chinese Community Party leadership is not all in agreement regarding how to respond to Russia’s request for assistance, said one of the sources.

Two officials said that China’s desire to avoid economic consequences may limit its appetite to help Russia.

“There is real concern by some that their involvement could hurt economic relationships with the West, on which China relies,” added one of the sources.

Officials are also monitoring whether China provides some economic and diplomatic relief for Russia in other forms, like the abstention vote at the UN.

Chinese President Xi Jinping is “unsettled” by the Russian invasion of Ukraine in part because “his own intelligence doesn’t appear to have told him what was going to happen,” and because of how Vladimir Putin “has driven Americans and Europeans more closely together,” CIA Director Bill Burns told the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday.

Officials separately told CNN that Xi has been unnerved by how the war in Ukraine has reinvigorated the NATO alliance.

Chinese leadership is also concerned because of “the reputational damage that China suffers by association with the ugliness of Russia’s aggression in Ukraine” and “the economic consequences at a time when growth rates in China are lower than they’ve been in 30 years,” according to Burns.

The US is “watching very closely the extent to which” China or any other country “provides any form of support, whether that’s material support, whether that’s economic support, whether that’s financial support to Russia,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price stated.

“Any such support from anywhere in the world would be of great concern to us,” he added.

He declined to comment specifically on reports of a diplomatic cable that the US had sent to NATO allies about China’s willingness to support Russia’s war in Ukraine.

China and Russia have denied allegations that Moscow requested military assistance from Beijing.

UNHCR hails record $200 million in private sector donations for Ukraine

The United Nations refugee agency has said the private sector provided “record-breaking amounts” towards its efforts to support those displaced by the invasion of Ukraine.

“In just over two weeks, companies, foundations and philanthropists have contributed over $200 million towards UNHCR’s Ukraine emergency response,” it announced in a statement.

The agency estimates that more than 2.8 million people have been forced to flee Ukraine as refugees since February 24, while at least two million more have been displaced inside the country.

World Bank approves $200m in additional funding for Ukraine

The World Bank has announced an additional $200 million funding package for Ukraine, to bolster the country’s social services for vulnerable people, on top of the $723 million package approved last week amid the Russian invasion.

The financing is part of a $3 billion package the World Bank has prepared for Ukraine over the coming months.

David Malpass, the World Bank’s President, told a virtual event hosted by the Washington Post that the bank hoped to finalise the complete support package within six to eight weeks to help Ukraine cover its needs.

He said costs incurred in the eventual rebuilding effort – to repair infrastructure like roads and motorways – could amount “to tens of billions of dollars”.

He added: “The magnitudes are astronomical. Ukraine has been hit by the economic slowdown itself, the crops that are in the fields – difficult to harvest them. It’s a harsh and horrifying effort that’s going on almost day by day.”

“Our immediate focus right now … is how do we help the people that are under attack at the moment?” he continued.

ICJ to rule in Ukraine case against Russia on Wednesday

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has announced it will rule in the case that Ukraine has brought against Russia on Wednesday.

In a hearing boycotted by Russia on March 7, Ukraine had asked the court to order Russia to cease military activities, arguing the invasion was based on a faulty interpretation of the UN genocide treaty.

Russian troops focus efforts on Kyiv

Russian troops have refocused their efforts to seize Kyiv, firing artillery on suburbs, a local official said on Ukrainian television.

The official also added a town councillor for Brovary, east of Kyiv, had been killed in fighting there and shells fell on the towns of Irpin, Bucha and Hostomel, which have seen some of the worst conflict during Russia’s stalled attempt to take the capital.

Al Jazeera’s Imran Khan, reporting from Kyiv, said residents in the capital were in for another nervous night, after the shelling of an apartment block in the early morning hours killed at least one person.

“A lot of the residents are very worried that that [attack] may have been an opening salvo for the war for control of the capital,” Khan continued, adding, “Military analysts are suggesting it may have been a way to keep pressure on the Ukrainians even as the talks were going on.”

Erdogan says unclear whether Turkey will buy more Russian arms

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has said it was too early to comment on Turkey’s possible purchase of more Russian weapons given Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

“Under the current circumstances, it would be premature to talk about what the future shows, right now. We have to see what the conditions bring,” Erdogan said, speaking in Ankara alongside German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

NATO member Turkey was handed US sanctions in December 2020 over its purchase of Russian S-400 missile defence systems and had been criticised by Western allies over the move. Ankara has said it was forced to opt for the Russian weapons because allies did not provide arms on satisfactory terms.

EU adopts fourth package of sanctions against Russia

The European Union has adopted new sanctions against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, with diplomats saying the oligarch Roman Abramovich was among the individuals listed.

The EU presidency, currently held by France, tweeted that the ambassadors of the bloc’s 27 member nations approved a fourth package of sanctions, hitting individuals and companies “implicated in the assault on Ukraine”.

Their names were to be made public in a “quick” publication of the EU’s Official Journal legally announcing all the European Union’s decisions, it said, adding that the sanctions were worked out in concert with Western partners.

Abramovich, the billionaire owner of the Chelsea football club, was added to the list of wealthy Russians whose assets in the EU can be seized and entry into the bloc refused, diplomats told AFP.

Ukraine working on obtaining some of seized assets of Russia

Ukraine is working on obtaining some of the seized assets of Russia, said the minister of finance, Sergei Marchenko, during an information telethon.

“I would not like to disclose details right now, but such work is under way. On sanctions, we also joined. We are working with leading investment banks. Already leading banks, in particular Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank, JPMorgan and other banks have actually stopped operations in Russia, they are withdrawing from assets, and this is quite painful for the aggressor economy,” he added.

Anton Herashchenko, official adviser and a former deputy minister at Ukraine’s ministry of internal affairs, stated the total value of the seized assets was equivalent to $415bn (£319bn).

Mayor of Ukraine’s Kharkiv says Russian forces firing at city non-stop

The mayor of Ukraine’s front line city of Kharkiv has stated the city had been under constant attack by Russian forces, who have fired at central districts causing an unspecified number of casualties.

“They’re firing at us constantly,” Mayor Ihor Terekhov told national television.

Mayor of Irpin says evacuation efforts are being hindered by Russian bombardment

The mayor of Irpin has said the city continues to suffer “heavy, heavy shelling and bombardment” that is hindering efforts to evacuate citizens.

Speaking to the BBC via a translator, Oleksandr Markushyn stated continuous Russian shelling is hitting schools, residential areas and private homes, as well as the city’s palace of culture, and is making evacuation efforts more difficult.

He added: “I was participating in the evacuation of a column of around 100 people; it was the only safe place where we could evacuate people fifty metres in front of me there was a family – two kids, a husband and wife – and they were killed by a mine.

“Unfortunately these things are happening all the time, they are shooting at peaceful civilians. We were taking people out in vehicles and buses – it’s not possible [allowed] to shoot civilians but they are doing that. This is barbaric, they are barbarous,” he continued.

Strike on Ukraine TV tower kills nine

Nine people have died and another nine have been injured after Russian forces hit a television tower outside the western Ukrainian city of Rivne, local authorities claimed.

“Nine dead, nine wounded,” the head of the regional administration, Vitaliy Koval, stated.

15-year-old boy killed by ‘shell fragments’ at school near Kharkiv

A 15-year-old boy has been killed by “shell fragments” after a school in Chuhuiv, near the city of Kharkiv, was struck by Russian artillery, Ukrainian officials have said.

Kharkiv’s Regional Prosecutor’s Office wrote in a Facebook post that “A number of private houses were also damaged” by the shelling.

The post adds that prosecutors have launched a criminal investigation into possible “violations of the law and customs of war… combined with premeditated murder”.

Ukraine FM says Iran is ‘against war’

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has stated Tehran does not support Russia’s war in Ukraine, after a call with his Iranian counterpart Hossein Amir Abdollahian.

“Iran is against the war in Ukraine, supports a peaceful solution. I asked to convey my message in Moscow: Russia must stop bombing civilians, commit to the ceasefire, and withdraw from Ukraine,” Kuleba wrote on Twitter.

Amir Abdollahian is expected to visit Moscow on Tuesday.

Russian army to continue strikes against locations of foreign mercenaries in Ukraine

The Russian army knows the locations of foreign mercenaries in Ukraine and surgical strikes will be dealt against such facilities, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov told the media on Monday.

“We know all locations of foreign mercenaries in Ukraine. More surgical strikes will continue to be delivered against them, like the one carried out on March 13 against the training centers in Starichi and at the Yavorovsky proving ground,” Konashenkov said.

“Let me warn once again that the mercenaries will see no mercy wherever they may be in Ukraine’s territory,” he continued, adding, “Some Western countries have been encouraging their citizens at the government level to participate in combat operations in the capacity of mercenaries against Russian forces in Ukraine.”

“All responsibility for the death of this category of foreign nationals in Ukraine will rest squarely upon the leaders of their respective countries,” Konashenkov warned.

He stressed that the regime in Kiev continued to use terror tactics and the most destructive weapons against civilians and civilian infrastructure.

Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov stated on Monday Moscow’s special military operation in Ukraine is proceeding in accordance with the original plan and will be completed on time and in full.

“Russia has a sufficient potential for conducting the special military operation in Ukraine. The operation is proceeding in accordance with the original plan and will be completed on time and in full,” Peskov stressed.

Russia: Missile strike against Donetsk crime against humanity

Russia’s Foreign Ministry has condemned the recent shelling of the city of Donetsk by Ukrainian forces using a Tochka-U tactical ballistic missile, describing this act as a crime against humanity.

The ministry offered condolences to relatives of those killed in this attack, and expressed confidence that “this crime against humanity will not go unpunished.”

Russia envoy: Moscow registers cases of Kiev using phosphorus & cluster bombs

Moscow has data of phosphorus-filled ammunition and cluster bombs being used by the Ukrainian armed forces, Russian Ambassador to the United Nations Vassily Nebenzia said.

“We’ve also recorded broad scale use by the Kiev regime of phosphorus-filled ammunition – this is counter to the third protocol of the UN Convention dated 1980 – and cluster bombs being used by the Ukrainian army,” Nebenzia added.

Russia expects provocations with chemical substances in Ukraine and has information on 80 tonnes of ammonia brought to a town northwest of Kharkov overnight, he continued.

“According to the information of the Ministry of Defence of Russia, Ukrainian armed formations are actively preparing for provocations with the use of chemical substances in order to accuse Russia of reportedly using chemical weapons,” Nebenzia said, adding, “On the night of March 9, Ukrainian nationalists transported to Zolochiv to the northwest of Kharkov about 80 tons of ammonia. On the March 10, the Ukrainian media started to disseminate information about how to protect yourself from a chemical attack.”

He noted Ukrainian forces control the city of Irpin where an American journalist was shot and killed at a checkpoint.

Russia says it will attack Ukrainian arms factories

The Russian defence ministry has announced it is planning to attack Ukrainian arms factories in retaliation for what it said was a Ukrainian strike on the separatist-controlled city of Donetsk, and urged workers and local residents to stay away.

The defence ministry noted in a statement that Russia believed Ukraine had used cluster charges on a densely populated area of Donetsk.

Ukraine says Russians using airpower to destroy military and civilian infrastructure

In their latest update on the conflict, the Ukrainian armed forces said Russian forces have continued “conducting systematic combat operations using bomber aviation in order to destroy the military and civilian infrastructure of Ukraine.”

“The occupiers use high-powered ammunition and disordered strikes on civilians. Such actions are classified by the International Humanitarian Law as a war crime,” the armed forces added.

US: Ukrainian forces have “effectively struck” Russian logistics and sustainment capabilities

Ukrainian forces have “effectively struck Russian logistics and sustainment capabilities,” in the ongoing war in Ukraine, a senior US defense official told reporters on Monday.

The US has seen examples of Ukrainians targeting Russian sustainment and logistics capabilities in their strikes on the large Russian military convoy that is outside of Kyiv, the official said.

“The Ukrainians as I’ve said all along, they’ve been quite creative here, they’re not simply going after combat capability, tanks and armored vehicles, and shooting down aircraft, although they’re doing all that, they’re also deliberately trying to impede and prevent Russia’s ability to sustain themselves, that is true,” the official added.

“Almost all” of the Russian advances in Ukraine “remain stalled,” the official stated.

Russian forces moving on Kyiv, including the infamous convoy to the north, have not appreciably progressed over the weekend, the official continued, though the US does see Russia trying to “flow in forces behind the advance elements” moving to the north of Kyiv.

The airspace over Ukraine “remains contested,” the official said, adding, “We still maintain the airspace is contested, that the Russians have not achieved air superiority over all of Ukraine.”

Operator: Ukraine’s Chernobyl loses power again

Ukraine’s Chernobyl nuclear power station has once again lost its electricity supply, energy operator Ukrenergo has said.

The retired nuclear reactors lost power early last week but supply was restored Sunday.

Ukrenergo added the power line had been damaged again “before the power supply had been fully restored” and that one of its repair crews will be going into “occupied territory” again for more repairs.

Ukraine urges Russia’s ‘immediate’ expulsion from Council of Europe

Ukraine has demanded that Russia be immediately expelled from the Council of Europe (COE), saying it had no right to remain a member of the pan-European rights body after invading its neighbour.

“We urge you to take a decision on the immediate expulsion of Russia from the Council of Europe,” Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal told the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) in Strasbourg, eastern France, via video link.

The council’s executive body had suspended Russia from all its rights of representation a day after the invasion, but an expulsion would be unprecedented.

Ukrainian PM: World has ‘finally opened its eyes’ to Putin threat

Denys Shmyhal, the Ukrainian Prime Minister, said that Europe showed a “poor understanding” of the true threat of Vladimir Putin’s regime until Russian forces invaded Ukraine, despite displaying “numerous violations of international law and other human values”.

Speaking at an address to the parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe, Shmyhal stated the world has “finally opened its eyes” to Putin’s capabilities and intentions after Europe “chose the road of pacifying the aggressor” for many years.

He accused Russian forces of “behaving like terrorists” in Ukraine and said the Kremlin is also forcing people in Crimea to serve in the armed forces.

He was standing in for President Volodymyr Zelensky, who was supposed to give the address but could not due to “urgent, unforeseen circumstances”.

NATO to hold extraordinary meeting on Ukraine

Defence ministers from NATO member states will meet in Brussels on Wednesday for an extraordinary meeting to discuss the Russian invasion of Ukraine, according to Turkey’s defence ministry.

In a statement, Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said he would would take part in the meetings and hold bilateral talks with his counterparts.

UN allocates additional $40 million to Ukraine

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has said the UN will allocate a further $40 million from its central emergency response fund to ramp up humanitarian assistance for Ukraine.

In an address to the Security Council, the UN chief stated millions of people in Ukraine were facing hunger and dwindling water supplies.

The UN refugee agency estimates 2.8 million people have left Ukraine.

“They need help and support every step of the way,” Guterres continued.

Guterres stated that Russia’s decision to raise its alert level for its nuclear forces was a “bone-chilling development” in the war in Ukraine, and warned that the threat of nuclear conflict was back within the realm of possibility.

Russia says West trying to push it into default

Russia accused the West on Monday of seeking to push it into an “artificial default” through unprecedented sanctions over Ukraine, but vowed to meet its debt payments.

Russia is due to make an interest payment on its external debt later this week and Moscow warned it will be doing so in rubles if sanctions prevent it from using the currency of issue.

“The freezing of foreign currency accounts of the Bank of Russia and of the Russian government can be regarded as the desire of a number of foreign countries to organise an artificial default that has no real economic grounds,” Finance Minister Anton Siluanov announced in a statement.

Ratings agency Fitch last week downgraded Russia’s sovereign debt rating deeper into junk territory, warning that the decision reflects the view that a default is “imminent”.

Biden could visit Allies in Europe to discuss war in Ukraine

Senior White House officials are discussing the possibility of US President Joe Biden travelling to Europe in the coming weeks to discuss the war in Ukraine with Allies, Reuters reported.

A source told Reuters that it is not yet certain whether the trip will take place as the plans have not been finalised.

Fourth round of Ukraine-Russia talks on “technical pause” until Tuesday

Ukrainian negotiator, Mykhailo Podoliak, said in an update on Twitter that a “technical pause” has been taken in the Ukraine-Russia talks until Tuesday.

“For additional work in the working subgroups and clarification of individual definitions. Negotiations continue,” Podoliak added.

Earlier today, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky described them as “difficult talks”.

Japan PM: Response to Russia could shape new era

The Russian invasion of Ukraine may have ushered in a new era, Japan’s Prime Minister has noted.

“Whether the world can respond resolutely to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and protect the core of the international order is a litmus test to foresee the era that follows the post-Cold War period.” Fumio Kishida stated.

Japan has frozen the assets of major Russian banks, President Vladimir Putin and other leaders, and blocked certain Russian banks’ access to international payments system SWIFT.

UN: At least 636 civilians killed in Ukraine

The UN human rights office (OHCHR) has confirmed the deaths of at least 636 civilians in Ukraine through to March 13, including 46 children.

The actual toll is likely much higher, it announced, since there have been delays receiving and corroborating reports from places with intense hostilities such as Kharkiv and Mariupol.

OHCHR has some 50 staff members involved with human rights monitoring in the country.

Ukraine says over 100 hospitals damaged

More than 100 hospitals in Ukraine have been damaged since the invasion began, the health minister has said.

Seven have been destroyed completely and “can’t be restored” and 97 more have been damaged by shelling and bombardment, Viktor Lyashko wrote on Facebook.

Lyashko added the healthcare system was operational and almost 2,000 foreign medical doctors and nurses had volunteered to work in Ukraine.

Polish PM: Rebuild Ukraine with frozen Russian assets

Poland said frozen assets belonging to the Russian state and oligarchs should be confiscated and used to create a fund to rebuild Ukraine.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki called on the international community to give Ukrainians “a hope of reconstruction, the hope of a future” through a “large fund based on Russian assets”.

“Freeze the Russian state’s assets completely, confiscate them. Freeze the assets of Russian oligarchs, big and small, businessmen and politicians,” he stated following a meeting with his Lithuanian and Ukrainian counterparts.

“Let them aid the reconstruction of the state that is heroically defending its independence and sovereignty. Having attacked a country, the brutal aggressor must pay the highest price we can impose in a democracy and in the framework of the peaceful coexistence of nations,” he continued.

Downing Street: UK will continue providing Ukraine with defensive weapons

Russian missile strikes on a Ukrainian base near the Polish border are deeply concerning but will not deter Britain from continuing to provide Ukraine with defensive weapons, a No 10 spokesman said.

“These strikes are deeply concerning,” Boris Johnson’s spokesman stated.

Asked whether they would deter Britain from sending further weapons, he noted: “No. We will absolutely carry on providing this defensive, lethal capability to the Ukrainian government. It is vital we do so, we know it has been helpful, we know it has been successfully deployed.”

German Finance Minister: Pressure on Putin ‘must be increased to maximum’

The pressure on Vladimir Putin must be increased to the maximum to end the war in Ukraine as soon as possible, German Finance Minister Christian Lindner said, adding that economic sanctions would hit Germany too.

“The pressure on Vladimir Putin must be increased to the maximum in order to end this war as quickly as possible. We therefore welcome the continued work on sanctions,” Lindner told reporters in Berlin.

To help cushion the impact of higher energy prices, Lindner said he wanted to introduce a fuel rebate for car drivers, adding: “The state must not leave citizens and the economy alone to face higher prices.”

Zelensky pressed Biden for more sanctions against Russia

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky pressed US President Joe Biden during their latest call for more sanctions to further squeeze Russia, according to CNN.

According to multiple sources familiar with the call, Zelensky specifically asked Biden for further efforts to cut Russia off from international trade and to continue targeting the Russian elite, as the US has continued to add more oligarchs and their families to its sanctions list.

Zelensky also mentioned closing off Russia’s access to international waterways during the call.

Zelensky and Biden spoke for 49 minutes on Friday.

During the wide-ranging call, Biden detailed the latest actions he was about to announce, including a move to revoke Russia’s favored trade status with the US.

Zelensky thanked Biden for the measures, but also urged him to continue ratcheting up the economic pressure on the Kremlin.

People beginning to escape from Mariupol through evacuation corridor

An adviser to the mayor’s office in the city of Mariupol says that civilians are at last able to get out of the city through an evacuation corridor — and head towards the city of Zaporizhzhia, which is under Ukrainian control.

The official, Petro Andriushchenko, said that as of 1 p.m. local time (7 a.m. ET) “we have confirmation of the ceasefire regime” on an evacuation corridor for “private transport along the route: Mariupol – Melekine – Portovske – Mangush – Berdiansk – Zaporizhzhia.”

Berdiansk is under Russian control.

“As of now, more than 50 private cars have already passed Berdiansk and are moving towards Zaporizhzhia,” the official added.

Andruishchenko cautioned: “As of now, there are no difficulties in passing checkpoints” but “we cannot officially guarantee security on this corridor. But this is the only corridor that has official approval and that actually works today.”

Mariupol has a population of some 400,000. It’s not known how many people left ahead of the Russian invasion and encirclement of the city.

The city has suffered extensive devastation and Ukrainian authorities say more than 2,500 people have been killed.

UN: 2.8 million refugees have fled Ukraine since war broke out

In less than three weeks since the start of Russia’s invasion, more than 2.8 million people have fled Ukraine, according to the United Nations refugee agency.

Most of them have flowed into five neighboring countries.

2 killed & 10 injured in shelling of Mykolaiv village

At least two people were killed and 10 others were injured during shelling on Monday in Snihurivka, located on the outskirts of Mykolaiv, according to the town’s community group post on Facebook.

Three civilians and seven military personnel were wounded and being treated in a hospital, the Snihurivka United Territorial Community added.

The strategic maritime city of Mykolaiv has been witnessing a fierce battle against Russian aggression for days as they fight for control of the city.

Both bridges leading into Mykolaiv were raised Monday morning, closing the main routes in and out of city as Russian presence is currently active in the north and southeast regions, essentially encircling it.

The bridge leading west to Odessa has now come down.

Qatar hopes peaceful solutions to Ukraine’s crisis found soon

Doha expects that peaceful solutions to the crisis in Ukraine will be found in the near future, and intends to make every effort to find a peaceful solution to the current situation, Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani said on Monday at the talks with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov.

“My visit to Moscow is taking place at a very difficult time for the entire world. Surely, during today’s talks I expect to discuss the events that are taking place in Ukraine. We hope that peaceful solutions to this conflict will be found in the near future,” Al Thani stated.

“Qatar intends to make every possible effort to find diplomatic solutions and find a peaceful solution to the events taking place in Ukraine as soon as possible,” he added.

According to Al Thani, Qatar also expects to discuss “other issues concerning the region.”

Lavrov said Russia and Qatar will maintain contact on the situation in Ukraine.

“I believe that we both found the conversation useful and agreed to maintain contact on the issue. I would like to reiterate that we appreciate Qatar’s willingness to contribute to efforts to achieve the desired results,” Lavrov pointed out.

“We also appreciate the fact that Qatar seeks to make the most of its opportunities to facilitate agreements on the issues on the agenda based on the interests of common European security, including Ukraine’s security and Russia’s security and the need to make sure that no threats come from Ukraine to Russia,” Lavrov noted.

He stressed that there should be no threats to those seeking to protect the Russian language, Russian culture and traditions, including religious ones, “as well as to those who wish to live in the country without having to face any kind of discrimination, particularly discrimination stemming from neo-Nazi sentiment.”

Top Putin ally says Ukraine war has been slower than expected 

One of Vladimir Putin’s closest allies stated Russia’s military operation in Ukraine had not gone as quickly as the Kremlin had wanted, the strongest public acknowledgement yet from Moscow that things were not going to plan.

National Guard chief Viktor Zolotov, speaking at a church service led by Orthodox Patriarch Kirill on Sunday, blamed the slower than expected progress on what he said were far-right Ukrainian forces hiding behind civilians, an accusation repeatedly made by officials in Russia.

His comments appeared at odds with an assessment made on Friday by Russia’s Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu who told Putin that “everything is going according to plan”.

“I would like to say that yes, not everything is going as fast as we would like,” Zolotov, once in charge of Putin’s personal security, noted in comments posted on the National Guard’s website.

“But we are going towards our goal step by step and victory will be for us, and this icon will protect the Russian army and accelerate our victory,” he added.

Russia doesn’t rule out taking ‘full control’ of major Ukrainian cities

The Kremlin announced that it may still opt to take control of large cities in Ukraine, as Moscow’s military advances towards several major urban hubs.

“President Vladimir Putin gave orders to hold back on any immediate assault on large cities because the civilian losses would be large,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters, adding however that, “the defence ministry does not rule out the possibility of putting large cities under its full control”.

Kremlin: Russia has not asked China for military aid

The Kremlin says Russia has not asked China for military assistance and has sufficient military clout to fulfil all of its aims in Ukraine in time and in full.

The comments by Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov come after US officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, claimed Russia had asked China for military equipment.

Chernobyl power line damaged by Russian forces

A high-voltage power line to Ukraine’s Chernobyl nuclear plant was damaged by Russian forces not long after electricity supplies were restored to the facility, grid operator Ukrenergo announced in a statement.

It did not say if all external power supply to the plant had been lost as a result of the damage, but demanded access to the area to carry out repairs.

Russian forces occupied the plant soon after launching their invasion of Ukraine.

Ukraine calls for boycotts of firms that stay open in Russia 

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba stated sanctions pressure should be increased on Russia and called for a global boycott of international companies that have kept their operations open in Russia.

In a briefing, Kuleba also called for international ports to bar passage to Russian ships and cargo.

Strike hits facility for people with intellectual & developmental disabilities near Kyiv

A Russian strike has hit a residential facility housing people with with intellectual and developmental disabilities and mental health conditions near Kyiv, according to a statement from the Kyiv Region Council.

The council said two strikes hit the Pushcha-Vodicʹkomu care home on Sunday, one destroying the boiler room and hitting the mortuary.

The residential building was also damaged in the attack, the council announced, adding that at the time of the strikes, staff and the resident of the facilities had been evacuated to a safe place.

Ukraine nationalist leader sends warning to Chechen leader

Andriy Biletsky, leader of Azov, a group of mostly ultra-nationalist war veterans in Ukraine, says if Chechen leader Ramza Kadyrov is in Kyiv region “it will be possible to shoot him dead.”

Kadyrov, the leader of Russia’s Chechnya region and ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has claimed that he travelled to Ukraine to meet Chechen troops fighting alongside Russian forces.

“This will be an unforgettable welcome for you, Don,” Biletsky said in a tweet, referring to Kadyrov’s nickname that mimics the title of Italian mafia leaders.

Spokesperson: Kremlin has nothing to say when operation in Ukraine may end

The Kremlin has nothing to say at this point when the special military operation in Ukraine to protect Donbass may end, Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the media on Monday.

“Nothing can be said for now,” he replied, when asked if the Kremlin might disclose when the special operation would be completed.

Peskov kept quiet, when asked if President Vladimir Putin was satisfied with progress in the special operation.

Missile strike in Donetsk causes multiple casualties

Images and video uploaded from the city of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine Monday morning show multiple casualties from what appears to have been a missile strike on the city.

Donetsk is held by Russian-backed separatist forces and is the capital of the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR).

Ukraine denied launching the attack.

“It is unmistakably a Russian rocket or another munition, there’s not even any point talking about it,” Ukrainian military spokesman Leonid Matyukhin told a televised briefing.

EU warns NATO’s entry into conflict over Ukraine could trigger World War III

NATO’s entry into the conflict over Ukraine could spark the World War III, European Council President Charles Michel said in an interview with the Spanish newspaper El Pais on Monday.

“We are doing our utmost not to exacerbate the conflict. Russia is a nuclear power, and we are well aware that if this conflict turns into a [conflict] of NATO against Russia, then we will get World War III,” Michel said.

“I am in constant contact with [Ukraine’s President] Vladimir Zelensky,” Michel specified.

“It’s true that he wanted more. But [EU] enlargement is a sensitive issue on which not all European countries have the same opinion,” he added.

“We should also take into account the countries with which the accession process has already begun. We must support our partners who are looking to the free world. The [EU] Association Agreements have a huge potential, which is underestimated,” the head of the European Council stressed.

Ukraine to demand ‘immediate’ ceasefire at talks

Ukraine says it would demand an immediate ceasefire and the withdrawal of Russian troops as fourth round of negotiations to end the more than two weeks of fighting started.

“Peace, an immediate ceasefire and the withdrawal of all Russians troops — and only after this can we talk about regional relations and about political differences,” Kyiv’s lead negotiator Mikhailo Podolyak stated.

Talks between Russia and Ukraine have started and communication between the two sides is hard but ongoing, Podolyak said on Twitter.

Tweeting a photo of the talks, which are being conducted via video conference, Podolyak added, “The parties actively express their specified positions. Communication is being held yet it’s hard. The reason for the discord is too different political systems.”

Ukraine: Two killed in attack on Antonov aircraft factory

Ukrainian authorities say two people have died and seven were injured after Russian forces struck an aircraft factory in Kyiv.

The news portal published pictures and videos showing a huge cloud of smoke billowing from the Antonov aircraft factory northwest of the city.

The company builds both cargo and passenger aircraft.


Ukraine claims 90 children killed during Russian invasion

Ukrainian general prosecutor’s office claimed that 90 children have been killed and more than 100 wounded since Russia invaded on February 24.

“The highest number of victims are in the Kyiv, Kharkiv, Donetsk, Chernihiv, Sumy, Kherson, Mykolayiv and Zhytomyr regions,” it announced in a statement.

Ukraine suffered over $119bln in losses because of war

Russia’s invasion has caused more than $119 billion in damage to Ukraine’s infrastructure, Denys Kudin, the first deputy economy minister, claimed in an interview on Ukrainian television.

Ukraine deputy PM: Ten humanitarian corridors agreed

Ukraine says it will try to evacuate trapped civilians through 10 “humanitarian corridors” on Monday, including from towns near the capital Kyiv and in the eastern region of Luhansk.

“We will, once again, try to unblock the movement of the humanitarian convoy carrying food and medicine to [the port city of Mariupol] from Berdiansk (in southeastern Ukraine),” Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereschuk said in a video address.

China denies it received Russian request for help in Ukraine war

China announced it was not asked by Russia for military equipment or other assistance to support its war in Ukraine.

Two US officials told CNN Sunday that Russia has asked China for military support, including drones, as well as economic assistance for its unprovoked invasion.

Speaking Monday, Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Zhao Lijian told a press conference the US was “peddling disinformation.”

“Recently, the US side has been peddled disinformation against China on the Ukraine issue with sinister intentions,” Lijian said when asked about the Russian request for help.

“China’s position on the Ukraine issue is consistent and clear, and we have been playing a constructive role in promoting peace talks. It is imperative for all parties to exercise restraint and cool down the tension, rather than adding fuel to the fire; it’s important to push for a diplomatic solution, rather than further escalating the situation,” he added.

Russian Armed Forces destroy 3,920 targets of Ukrainian military infrastructure

The Russian armed forces have disabled 3,920 facilities of the Ukrainian military infrastructure as part of the special military operation in the country, Russian defence ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said on Monday.

“In total, 3,920 facilities of Ukrainian military infrastructure were disabled since the start of the special military operation,” Konashenkov told reporters.

A total of 143 unmanned aerial vehicles, 1,267 tanks and other armoured combat vehicles, 124 multiple rocket launchers, 457 field artillery guns and mortars, 1,028 units of special military vehicles were destroyed, he noted.

Over 2,500 Mariupol residents killed in war

More than 2,500 residents of the Black Sea port city of Mariupol have been killed since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych said in a televised interview.

He added he was citing figures from the Mariupol city administration, and accused Russian forces of preventing humanitarian aid reaching the encircled city on Sunday. Moscow claims it does not target civilians.

FM: Help Ukraine force Putin into failure and you will avert a larger war

“To those abroad scared of being ‘dragged into WWIII’. Ukraine fights back successfully,” Ukraine Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba wrote on Twitter.

“We need you to help us fight. Provide us with all necessary weapons. Apply more sanctions on Russia and isolate it fully. Help Ukraine force Putin into failure and you will avert a larger war,” he added.

Instagram no longer accessible in Russia 

Instagram was inaccessible in Russia after Moscow accused its parent company Meta of allowing calls for violence against Russians, including the military, on its platforms.

The move comes after Facebook and Twitter were blocked in early March as part of sweeping efforts by Moscow to control information available to Russians about its military operation in Ukraine.

On Monday, Instagram appeared on a list of “restricted” online resources published by Russia’s media regulator Roskomnadzor.

Pregnant woman & her baby die after Russian bombing of maternity hospital

A pregnant woman and her baby have died after Russia bombed the maternity hospital where she was meant to give birth.

Images of the woman being rushed to an ambulance on a stretcher had been widely circulated as displaying the brutality of the conflict and Russian shelling of civilian areas.

Live Updates: Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 19

Ukraine: Russia preparing for several fresh attacks

The Ukrainian army says Russian troops are trying to gain a foothold in occupied positions, maintain the pace of their offensive and preparing for fresh attacks.

“The enemy is forming and moving strategic reserves to our borders,” the Ukrainian general staff said in a daily bulletin early on Monday, adding that fresh attacks were expected on Kharkiv, Sumy and the Kyiv suburb of Browari.

The Ukrainian side charged that Russian forces were destroying stationary military and civilian infrastructure in the country, in contravention of international humanitarian law.

Report: Russia threatens Western companies with arrests, seizures

Russian authorities, facing potential economic calamity as Western sanctions take hold, have threatened foreign companies hoping to withdraw from the country with arrests and asset seizures, the Wall Street Journal has reported.

Russian prosecutors have issued warnings to several foreign entities – via calls, letters and in-person visits – including to Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Procter & Gamble, IBM and Yum Brands, the parent company of KFC and Pizza Hut, according to the business daily, citing sources familiar with the matter.

They have threatened to arrest officials who have criticised the government or to seize assets, including intellectual property.

“The warnings have prompted at least one of the targeted companies to limit communications between its Russian business and the rest of the company, out of concern that emails or text messages among colleagues may be intercepted, some of the people (familiar with the matter) said,” according to the Wall Street Journal.

Russia: Sending UN peacekeepers to Ukraine not on agenda of UN Security Council

Sending UN peacekeepers to Ukraine is not on the agenda of the UN Security Council or other international platforms, Pyotr Ilyichev, the head of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s international organizations department, told Sputnik.

“This issue is not yet on the agenda of the UN Security Council or any other international platforms,” Ilyichev said.

Moscow sees no grounds for such a decision, given that “the situation is fully controlled by the Russian armed forces in accordance with the goals and objectives of the special military operation,” the diplomat added.

“The further course of the settlement of the situation will depend on the willingness of the Ukrainian side to seek compromises. Thus, the current state of affairs does not provide for any involvement of the peacekeeping contingent of the world organization,” he continued.

At least one killed, three wounded after shell hits Kyiv residential building

Ukrainian state TV reporting that at least one person has been killed and three others injured when a shell hit a residential building in Kyiv.

Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser at the ministry of interior, put the death toll at two, adding that three others were hospitalised.

Kyiv was hit by heavy artillery strikes on Monday morning, after days of heavy fighting in the suburbs.

Russia warns it may be forced to pay foreign currency debt in roubles

Russia’s finance ministry says it had approved a temporary procedure for repaying foreign currency debt, but warned that payments would be made in roubles if sanctions prevent banks from honouring debts in the currency of issue.

The finance ministry announced in a statement that Russia has enough funds to meet its debt obligations, but criticised Western sanctions freezing the government and central bank’s foreign currency accounts as a desire to organise an artificial default.

Zelensky: Kiev needs to agree on presidential meeting at next round of talks with Russia

Representatives of Ukrainian and Russian delegations must agree on a meeting between the presidents of two countries during their upcoming talks, Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky said on Monday.

“Representatives of our countries’ delegations negotiate daily in an on-line format,” Zelensky stated.

“Our delegation has a clear-cut task to do everything possible to organize the presidential meeting, which, I am sure, is anticipated by everyone. They must understand that it is a complicated story, as well as a tough, but extremely needed path,” he added.

“Our aim is that in the course of this fight and this difficult negotiating process Ukraine gets the necessary result, which is necessary for all of us, for peace and security, for us to have normal and effective guarantees,” the president continued.

Chechen strongman claims he has joined Russian troops outside Kyiv

As Kyiv girded for an expected Russian onslaught, Ramzan A. Kadyrov, the Chechen strongman, announced that he had arrived at the doorsteps of the Ukrainian capital, posting a video that appeared to show Chechen troops briefing him after a successful attack.

He mocked Ukrainian forces, saying they had little idea where he was. He added the video was shot in Hostomel, where Russian troops have been attacking an airport, and he warned he would join other Russian forces preparing to enter Kyiv.

WHO warns war in Ukraine could make Covid-19 pandemic worse

The World Health Organization (WHO) warned it is concerned the war in Ukraine could worsen the Covid-19 pandemic, and it is trying to do more to limit the spread of infectious diseases.

Cases in the region are down from the previous week, but there’s significant risk there will be more severe disease and death due to low vaccination rates in Ukraine, as well as among the more than 2 million who’ve fled the country to surrounding areas — regions also with low vaccination rates.

Ukraine’s FM discusses support for Kiev with Blinken, Truss

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has discussed Western support for Kiev, amid Russia’s special military operation, with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and UK Foreign Secretary Elizabeth Truss.

Australia sanctions Russian oligarchs

Australia announced fresh sanctions Monday targeting Russian oligarchs, key business people and their family members, according to the foreign ministry.

In total, 33 people were hit with sanctions, including Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich, CEO of Gazprom Alexey Miller and Dmitri Lebedev, Chairman of Rossiya, one of Russia’s largest air carriers.

Australia follows the US, UK, Canada, the European Union and New Zealand, in sanctioning key Russian individuals over the invasion of Ukraine.

Ukrainian president warns “it is only a matter of time before Russian missiles fall” on NATO territory

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky warned it is only a matter of time before Russia’s military assault on Ukraine expands to members of NATO unless the alliance installs a no-fly zone over his country.

“Last year, I made a clear warning to NATO leaders that if there were no tough preventive sanctions against Russia, it would start a war,” Zelensky said in a video address Sunday posted to his Facebook page.

He added, “We were right … now I repeat again — if you do not close our sky, it is only a matter of time before Russian missiles fall on your territory. NATO territory. On the homes of citizens of NATO countries.”

In addressing NATO countries, Zelensky cited the killing of American journalist Brent Renaud in Irpin, Ukraine, on Sunday.

“An American journalist was killed in the Kyiv region today. Brent Renaud. His colleague was wounded. It was a deliberate attack by the Russian military. They knew what they were doing. But not everyone in the West seems to know what they are doing,” he stated.

Zelensky also noted his team is continuing diplomatic negotiations with Russia to arrange a meeting between him and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“Representatives of our countries’ delegations speak in video format every day. Our delegation has a clear task — to do everything to ensure a meeting of the presidents, the meeting that I am sure people are waiting for,” he continued.

Biden spoke with Macron about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

US President Joe Biden spoke with French President Emmanuel Macron Sunday evening to discuss Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The two men “reviewed recent diplomatic engagements,” according to a White House readout of the call.

“President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. spoke today with President Emmanuel Macron of France to discuss Russia’s war against Ukraine. They reviewed recent diplomatic engagements and underscored their commitment to hold Russia accountable for its actions and to support the government and people of Ukraine,” the readout said.

Macron and Biden agreed to strengthen sanctions already taken against Russia in a call Sunday, the Elysee Palace announced. The two leaders reiterated their support for Ukraine and would join efforts on initiatives to end the fighting, according to a Elysee Palace statement.

Macron spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, discussing the efforts to reach a ceasefire and ongoing negotiations, according to a French source familiar with the calls.

On the call with Zelensky, Macron, “reviewed the situation with him. He expressed his full support and detailed the additional aid that the European Union decided to provide at the Versailles Summit. They exchanged views on the continuation of negotiations between Russia and Ukraine,” the source stated, adding the two leaders will continue to coordinate in the coming days.

Satellite image shows Ukrainians thwart Russian attempt toward Kyiv on pontoon bridge

The Ukrainian military has thwarted an attempt by Russian military vehicles to cross the Irpin River on a pontoon bridge near Hostomel, a new satellite image from Maxar Technologies shows.

The bridge first appeared in satellite imagery from Maxar on Thursday, March 10, and in that photo, it appears to have been destroyed. An additional photo, published on social media on March 13, also shows the pontoon bridge destroyed, in addition to nearby Russian military vehicles.

Ukrainian forces in Kyiv’s suburb of Irpin have so far repelled Russian advances toward the Ukrainian capital city. With the main bridge crossing the Irpin River having been destroyed by Ukrainians to thwart a Russian advance, the Irpin River poses a significant obstacle for the Russian military.

The pontoon bridge was located in an open field roughly five miles (eight kilometers) north of the main bridge across the Irpin River.

It’s the second known location where the Russians have built a pontoon bridge to move vehicles. Before the invasion began, Russia constructed a pontoon bridge across the Pripyat River in the greater Chernobyl exclusion zone and later moved dozens of forces across it.

UK says Russian naval forces have cut off Ukraine from international maritime trade

The UK Ministry of Defense announced Russian forces have blockaded Ukraine’s Black Sea coast, cutting the nation off from international maritime trade.

An intelligence update posted to the defense ministry’s Twitter said, “Russian naval forces have established a distant blockade of Ukraine’s Black Sea coast, effectively isolating Ukraine from international maritime trade.”

According to the World Trade Organization, trade by sea accounts for more than 80% of the world’s trade volume.

The UK MOD intelligence briefing also added Russian naval forces are “continuing to conduct missile strikes against targets throughout Ukraine” and that Moscow has conducted “one amphibious landing in the Sea of Azov and could look to conduct further such operations in the coming weeks.”

An amphibious landing is a military attack of coordinated land, sea, and air forces.

IAEA concerned about Chornobyl safety despite reparations

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has expressed concern over the safety of the Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant (NPP), despite news of the resumption of external electricity supplies following the reparation of a damaged power line.

“This is a positive development as the Chornobyl NPP has had to rely on emergency diesel generators for several days now,” IAEA Director General Grossi said.

“However, I remain gravely concerned about safety and security at Chornobyl and Ukraine’s other nuclear facilities,” he added.

The plant is working on back-up diesel generators and will be reconnected to the Ukrainian electricity grid in the morning on Monday, according to IAEA.

The UN nuclear watchdog also announced staff operating radioactive waste facilities at Chernobyl had stopped carrying out safety-related repairs due to exhaustion, since they have not been relieved since Russia seized the site last month.

Report: Russia requested military assistance from China in Ukraine

Russia has asked China for military assistance in Ukraine, including drones, a senior US official has claimed.

The requests came after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine had occurred, the official said.

White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told CNN’s Dana Bash Sunday that China providing Russia with support is a “concern.” He stressed Washington has made it clear to Beijing there will “absolutely be consequences” for “large-scale” efforts to give the Kremlin a workaround to US sanctions.

Chinese embassy spokesperson Liu Pengyu told CNN he had not heard of Moscow’s request.

Village school outside Mykolaiv demolished in Russian military strike

A school in the village of Zelenogai, about 10 miles (16 kilometers) east of Mykolaiv, has been demolished by a Russian military strike, Mykolaiv regional administrator Vitali Kim said.

Video and photos from the scene, which have been geolocated and their authenticity verified, show much of the school has been reduced to rubble. Kim confirmed that a school in the Mykolaiv region was hit and posted the video and photos online.

“Some people got under the rubble and we are evacuating them,” Kim added.

Later on Saturday evening, Kim stated that the military strike left several people either dead or in critical condition.

Humanitarian aid convoy fails to reach Mariupol

Mariupol’s city administration confirmed Sunday night that a large convoy of humanitarian aid destined for the besieged city had not arrived, and was still stuck in Berdyansk, some 50 miles to the west.

Berdyansk is held by the Russians as are the approaches to Mariupol.

Johnson speaks to Zelensky, says UK will continue to pursue options to bolster Ukraine’s self-defense

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson held a call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Sunday in which he condemned “Vladimir Putin’s barbaric actions” and said that Britain will continue to pursue options for bolstering Ukraine’s self-defense, according to the Downing Street readout.

“The Prime Minister said Putin’s barbaric actions were testing not just Ukraine but all of humanity,” according to the readout.

The readout added that Johnson and Zelensky condemned the deaths of American journalist Brent Renaud and “countless innocent Ukrainians.”

“The Prime Minister outlined the support the UK continues to deliver to Ukraine. He said the UK would continue to pursue more options for bolstering Ukraine’s self-defense, working with partners including at Tuesday’s meeting of the Joint Expeditionary Force in London,” according to Downing Street.

“The Prime Minister said the UK would continue to stand behind Ukraine in all their efforts to bring an end to this disastrous conflict,” it continued.

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