Thursday, May 26, 2022

Live Updates: Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 21

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.

Fate of hundreds sheltering in bombed theater in Mariupol is “unknown”

Pavlo Kyrylenko, the head of Donetsk regional administration which includes Mariupol, said Russian forces are trying to “physically destroy Mariupol and the people of Mariupol, which have been a symbol of our resistance” after a theater sustained heavy damage in an apparent bombing.

Kyrylenko stated they launched an air strike on the “Drama Theater” and “the Neptune” swimming pool.

“According to preliminary data, several hundred Mariupol residents were hiding in the Drama Theater. Their fate is unknown, as the entrance to the bomb shelter is blocked by rubble,” he added.

“The Russians are already lying, [saying] that the headquarters of the Azov Regiment was there. But they themselves are well aware that there were only civilians,” he continued on Facebook.

The Azov Battalion is an ultra-nationalist militia that has since been integrated into the Ukrainian armed forces.

“Now there are pregnant women and women with children under the rubble. This is pure terrorism!” he wrote.

It is currently impossible to determine the number of casualties of these shellings and the extent of the destruction as well.


Russian forces release mayor of Melitopol

Russian forces have released the mayor of Melitopol who they detained last week, the Ukrainian President’s chief of staff confirmed.

“The mayor of Melitopol, Ivan Fedorov, has been released from Russian captivity,” Andriy Yermak said in an online post.

Ukraine had announced Fedorov was kidnapped last Friday by Russian forces.


Ukraine claims Russians holding 400 hostage at captured Mariupol hospital

Russian forces have captured a hospital in the besieged city of Mariupol and are holding some 400 civilians hostage, Ukraine’s deputy prime minister said on Wednesday.

Medical personnel are among the hostages at the hospital, which was seized by Russian troops on Tuesday, according to Iryna Vereshchuk.

She added Russian forces have been firing from the hospital, threatening civilians trying to escape from the city.

Oleksiy Arestovych, an adviser to the Ukrainian presidency, has claimed at least 2,500 civilians have been killed in Russian attacks on Mariupol.


Biden approves additional $800 million for Ukraine

President Joe Biden has said the US is providing Ukraine with additional military assistance including anti-aircraft, anti-armour weapons and drones to assist in its defence against Russia.

“What’s at stake here are the principles that the United Nations and the United States stand for: it’s about freedom, it’s about the right of people to determine their own future, it’s about making sure Ukraine will never be a victory for Putin,” Biden stated.

On Saturday his administration had authorised $200 million in military assistance to Ukraine.

“Now I’m once again using my presidential authority to activate an additional security assistance to continue to help Ukraine fend off Russia’s assault,” Biden noted, before announcing the allocation of $800 million in military aid.


UN says 726 civilian deaths recorded in Ukraine since Russian war

The United Nations said at least 726 civilians have died in fighting since Russia invaded Ukraine, including 64 children.

In its latest assessment, it added 1,174 civilians had been injured, although the tally does not include casualties from some of the areas of heaviest conflict, and UN officials have stated the true toll is likely higher.


Moscow warns there will be consequences to EU decision to provide Kiev with lethal weapons

The European Union’s decision to provide Ukraine with lethal weapons will have consequences, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko told EU diplomats on Wednesday.

Grushko held a meeting with ambassadors of Greece, Poland and France, as well as the European Union’s representative in Russia.

“The Russian side indicated the danger of EU decisions in violation of their own obligations to provide Kiev with military assistance, including lethal weapons, and of individual EU countries to allow the participation of mercenaries in hostilities in Ukraine. It was emphasized that such steps would not remain without consequences,” the Russian Defense Ministry announced in a statement.


WHO: Attacks on health systems are “becoming part of the strategy and tactics of war”

The World Health Organization slammed the unprecedented numbers of attacks on global health care systems Wednesday.

“This issue is more important than bricks and mortar. This isn’t just about the destruction of buildings,” Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of WHO’s health emergencies program, said while discussing Ukraine.

“This is about the destruction of hope. This is about taking away the very thing that gives people the reason to live. The fact that their families can be taken care of, that they can be cured if they’re sick, that they can be treated if they’re injured. This is the most basic of human rights, and it has been directly denied to people and we are then in a position where we can’t send assistance to those people, because the very act of attacking those facilities or not taking care to avoid those facilities means we can’t send the appropriate help when it’s needed,” he added.

Ryan said that attacks on health care, encompassing workers and facilities, means health systems are “becoming a target.”

“We’re only a very short part into this year, we have never seen, globally, never seen this rate of attacks on health care,” Ryan added.

“Health is becoming a target in these situations; it’s becoming part of the strategy and tactics of war. It is entirely, entirely unacceptable. It is against international humanitarian law,” he continued.

Of the 89 attacks on health systems around the world this year so far, 43 have been in Ukraine, according to WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

“More than 300 health facilities are along conflict lines or in areas that Russia now controls. And a further 600 facilities are within 10 kilometers of the conflict line,” Tedros said, adding, “WHO condemns all attacks on health care wherever they occur.”

The Ukrainian health system is “teetering on the brink,” warned Ryan.

WHO is working with its partners to get emergency medical teams on the ground in Ukraine, but officials said they are concerned the emergency medical teams will get attacked or bombed.

“How can you do that in all conscience if the very infrastructure that those people will go into support is being under direct attack?” Ryan noted.


Russia denies shooting Ukrainians in Chernihiv bread line

Russia’s defence ministry has denied reports that its forces had shot and killed 10 people waiting in line for bread in Chernihiv, saying there are no Russian troops in the area.

Defence Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov stated the report and footage of alleged victims that appeared in various Ukrainian outlets was a “hoax launched by the Ukrainian Security Service”.

“No Russian soldiers are or have been in Chernihiv. All units are outside of the Chernihiv city limits, blocking roads, and are not conducting any offensive action,” he noted, adding that the US Embassy had republished an “unverified fake”.

The US Embassy in Kyiv did not provide evidence for the attack in a statement posted on its official Twitter site and its Facebook page.


MoD: Russian military has evidence Ukraine preparing provocation involving poisonous substances

The Russian Defence Ministry says it has information that Ukraine’s security service is planning a provocation involving the use of poisonous substances, and that Kiev has received support in these efforts from members of the UN Security Council.

“We have it on good authority that, with the support of Western countries, the Security Service of Ukraine is preparing a provocation using poisonous substances against civilians. The purpose of this action is to accuse Russia of using chemical weapons against the people of Ukraine,” MoD spokesman Igor Konashenkov said in a briefing Wednesday.


Report: Ukraine, Russia make progress on 15-point peace plan

Ukraine and Russia have made significant progress on a tentative 15-point peace plan, the Financial Times has reported, quoting three people involved in the talks.

The peace plan includes a ceasefire and the withdrawal of Russian troops if Kyiv declares neutrality and accepts limits on its armed forces.

The proposed deal, which negotiators discussed in full for the first time on Monday, would see Kyiv renouncing its ambitions to join NATO and pledging not to host foreign military bases or weaponry in exchange for protection from allies such as the US, UK and Turkey.

Unresolved issues include the nature of western guarantees for Ukrainian security and the status of Ukrainian territories seized by Russia in 2014.


ICC chief prosecutor: Reasonable grounds to believe war crimes committed in Russia-Ukraine conflict

In an exclusive interview in Lviv, the chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Court (ICC) has told CNN’s Anderson Cooper that he has come to Ukraine because he has reasonable grounds to believe that war crimes have been committed in the conflict between Russia and its southern neighbor.

“The law is clear on this. It is a crime to intentionally target civilians. It is a crime to intentionally target civilian objects. Now, of course, there has to be further investigation. Were those civilian objects being used to launch attacks that make them a legitimate target? But even then, there is no license to use cluster bombs or use disproportionate attacks in concentrated civilian areas. There’s a duty of distinction,” Karim Khan said.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, there have been numerous incidents of residential buildings being hit by Russian rockets and artillery fire.

In his CNN interview, Khan also noted that indictments could be served on anyone regardless of military rank or civilian role.

“There’s no immunity for any official position … [If] you’re a foot soldier in a civilian area in urban warfare, you don’t have a license to rape or attack children or terrorize. And if you’re a field commander or if you’re a battlefield commander doing aerial strikes, or targeting decisions or you’re a civilian superior, under the Rome statute, there is responsibility,” Khan added.


Russian bombing hits theatre in Mariupol sheltering residents

Russian forces have bombed a theatre where civilians were sheltering in the besieged port of Mariupol, the city’s council said today.

It added that the number of casualties was not yet known.


Three killed after shelling causes fire in Kharkiv

Three people were killed and five wounded after shelling caused a fire at a market in the eastern city of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s State Emergencies Service said.

The fire was later extinguished, it added.


Official: Direct dialogue between Ukraine, Russia leaders needed to end war

Mikhail Podolyak, head of Ukraine’s presidential office and top negotiator, has listed Kyiv’s demands in the ongoing talks with Russia.

“Our position at the negotiations is quite specific – legally verified security guarantees; ceasefire; withdrawal of Russian troops. This is possible only with a direct dialogue between the heads of Ukraine and the Russian Federation,” Podolyak stated in an interview.


Blinken: US “looking very hard” at whether Russia is targeting journalists in Ukraine

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Washington is “looking very hard” at whether Russia is intentionally targeting journalists in Ukraine.

At least three journalists have been killed covering the war in Ukraine in the past several days — Pierre Zakrzewski, Oleksandra Kuvshynova and Brent Renaud – and at least two have been severely injured.

“We are looking very hard at the targeting that the Russian forces are doing, including whether they are deliberately, intentionally targeting civilians, journalists or anyone else,” he stated in an interview with NPR that aired Wednedsday.

“This is something we’re looking hard at, we’re documenting. Others are looking at this. The deliberate targeting of civilians, journalists and others would constitute a war crime,” he added.

Blinken noted that the world is “seeing journalists in the crossfire, people doing their jobs to bring the truth to the world.”

“We’ve seen a Fox team that has had two of its members killed, one injured — someone I know very well,” Blinken said, adding, “This is Ben Hall. He’s someone who travels with me when I travel around the world. Someone I have great, great affection for, who’s a tremendous reporter who asks me a lot of tough questions every place we go.”

“I’m very much hoping and praying that he’ll be back on the job as soon as possible. But meanwhile, two of his colleagues lost their lives. And another very prominent filmmaker lost his life just the other day,” Blinken continued.


Chief: NATO allies united in decision not to establish no-fly zone over Ukraine

NATO nations are united in backing the alliance’s position that it will not establish a no-fly zone in Ukraine despite Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s repeated calls for one, the organization’s chief said.

There will be “no deployment of air or ground capabilities in Ukraine and that is the united position of our allies,” NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg stated Wednesday at a news conference in Brussels.

Ministers discussed the issue at a meeting of foreign ministers on Tuesday, the secretary general noted, adding that the alliance is adamant not to escalate the war with Russia.

“We see destruction, we see human suffering in Ukraine but this can become even worse if NATO took actions that actually turned this into full-fledged war between NATO and Russia,” he continued.

US President Joe Biden is set to travel to Europe next week to participate in a NATO summit on March 24 and will also join a European Council meeting, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday.


US planning to significantly expand sanctions on Russian individuals in coming days

The Joe Biden administration is continuing to develop sanctions targeting top Russian officials and those in President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle, with plans to ramp up the number of targets in the coming days and weeks, according to multiple US officials.

The process has been ongoing and has taken into account specific suggestions of targets provided by top Ukrainian officials, including President Volodymyr Zelensky, the officials said. In a call with Biden last week, Zelensky laid out a more specific range of targets for individual sanctions, one of the officials said. The administration is currently working to address those requested targets.

Zelensky, in virtual remarks to Congress, went further today when he requested the US impose sanctions on all Russian politicians who continue to support the government.

While some Zelensky requests, including the implementation of a no-fly zone, remain off the table for Biden, the sanctions are viewed by the administration as a tool they can readily deploy.

Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the US has slapped sanctions on dozens of top Russian officials and oligarchs, as well as their family members.

Biden also signed off on targeting Putin directly with individual sanctions, in coordination with the EU and UK.


US national security adviser tells Russian security Council secretary Washington will continue to impose costs, support defence of Ukraine

US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan has told Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolay Patrushev that the United States will continue to impose costs on Russia and support the defence of Ukraine, National Security Council (NSC) spokesperson Emily Horne said on Wednesday.

“Mr. Sullivan clearly laid out the United States’ commitment to continue imposing costs on Russia, to support the defense of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and to reinforce NATO’s eastern flank, in continued full coordination with our Allies and partners,” Horne announced in a statement.

Sullivan also told Patrushev that if “Russia is serious about diplomacy then Moscow should stop attacking Ukrainian cities and towns,” the statement added.

Moreover, Sullivan warned Patrushev about the consequences and implications of any possible Russian decision to use chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine, according to the statement.


ICJ says Russia should suspend military operations in Ukraine immediately

The International Court of Justice on Wednesday ruled that Russia should suspend its military operations in Ukraine immediately.

“By thirteen votes to two, The Russian Federation shall immediately suspend the military operations that it commenced on 24 February 2022 in the territory of Ukraine;” the ICJ said in its order, adding that “Both parties shall refrain from any action which might aggravate or extend the dispute before the Court or make it more difficult to resolve.”


Putin: Pro-Nazi regime in Kiev could get nuclear weapons in foreseeable future to target Russia

Ukraine’s apparent desire to create a nuclear weapon constitutes a severe threat to Russia, President Vladimir Putin said at a briefing devoted to the economy on Wednesday.

“Statements were made by Kiev authorities about their intention to create nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them. This was a real threat. Already in the foreseeable future, with foreign technical assistance, the pro-Nazi regime in Kiev could get its hands on weapons of mass destruction. And the targets of such weapons would of course be Russia,” Putin added.

The Russian president reiterated that the troops deployed in Ukraine were not there to “occupy” Ukraine.

Putin characterized Western countries’ reaction to Russia’s military operation in Ukraine as a war by “economic, political and informational means,” and stressed sanctions targetting the country have affected not only ordinary Russians, but the entire global economy.

Putin has stressed Russia will achieve its goals in Ukraine and will not surrender to what he described as a Western attempt to achieve global dominance.


WHO suspends evaluation of Russian coronavirus vaccine Sputnik V

The World Health Organization has temporarily suspended evaluation of the Russian coronavirus vaccine Sputnik V due to technical difficulties caused by sanctions restrictions, a new date for a visit to Russia will be determined as soon as possible, WHO Assistant Director General Mariangela Simao said at a briefing on Wednesday.


Council of Europe expels Russia from human rights body

The Council of Europe has expelled Russia from the continent’s foremost human rights body in an unprecedented move over its invasion of Ukraine.

The 47-nation committee of ministers said in statement that “the Russian Federation ceases to be a member of the Council of Europe as from today, after 26 years of membership.”

Early in the week, the group’s parliamentary assembly already initiated the process of expulsion and unanimously backed that Russia would be kicked out.

Russia has announced it was pulling out of the council, which means it will no longer be a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights and its citizens will no longer be able to file applications to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).


Ukraine President to US Congress: “Right now, destiny of our country is being decided”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky opened his address to US Congress by lauding the bravery of the Ukrainian people and saying the “destiny” of his country is being decided right now amid the Russia invasion.

Zelensky renewed his call for a no-fly zone over Ukraine in his virtual address to the United States Congress, but offered alternatives in case this request could not be fulfilled.

“To create a no-fly zone over Ukraine, to save people, is this too much to ask? Humanitarian, no-fly zone — Something that Russia would not be able to [use to] terrorize our free cities. If this is too much to ask, we offer an alternative. You know what kind of defense systems we need, as 300 and similar other systems. You know how much depends on the battlefield, on the ability to use aircraft. Powerful, strong aviation to protect our people, our freedom, our land,” he told the US lawmakers.

He urged that aircrafts that the US already has need to be in the Ukrainian skies, defending Ukraine as Russia’s invasion of the country continues.

“Aircraft that can help Ukraine, help Europe, and, you know that they exist, and you have them. But they are on Earth, not in the Ukrainian sky. They do not defend our people,” he added.

Volodymyr Zelensky

Zelensky called on the United States to “do more” during what is “the darkest time” for his country.

“In the darkest time for our country, for the whole Europe, I call on you to do more. New packages of sanctions are needed, constantly, every week until the Russian military machine stops. Restrictions are needed for everyone on whom this unjust regime is based,” he said.

Zelensky said the US should sanction all Russian politicians “who remain in their offices and do not cut ties with those who are against Ukraine.”

“All American companies must leave Russia from their market, leave their market immediately, because it is flooded with our blood. Ladies and gentlemen, members of Congress, please take the lead, if you have companies in your districts who finance the Russian military machine leaving business in Russia, you should put pressure. I’m asking to make sure that the Russians do not receive a single penny that they use to destroy people in Ukraine,” he added.

He also stated there needs to be “new institutions, new alliances” to stop the war.

“We propose to create an association … a union of responsible countries that have the strength and consciousness to stop conflicts immediately, provide all the necessary assistance in 24 hours, if necessary, even weapons, if necessary, sanctions, humanitarian support, political support, finances, everything you need to keep the peace and quickly save the world, to save lives,” he noted.

In a powerful closing to his virtual address to the US Congress, Zelensky switched from Ukrainian to English and said that being the leader of the world and the leader of peace means fighting for the life of people of the world and for their “right to die when your time comes.”

“Today, it is not enough to be the leader of the nation … Being the leader of the world means to be the leader of peace. Peace in your country doesn’t depend anymore only on you and your people. It depends on those next to you, on those who are strong. Strong doesn’t mean weak. Strong is brave and ready to fight for the life of his citizens and citizens of the world. For human rights, for freedom, for the right to live decently and to die when your time comes, and not when it’s wanted by someone else, by your neighbor,” he continued.

Ukrainians are defending Ukraine and the values of Europe and the world, he noted.

Volodymyr Zelensky

Zelensky received another standing ovation as he finished his remarks to bipartisan members of the US House and Senate.

He also delivered similar addresses to the UK and Canadian parliaments.


Shelling of bread line in Ukrainian city of Chernihiv kills at least 10 people

A shell or rocket hit a group of people queuing for bread in the northern Ukrainian city of Chernihiv on Wednesday morning, according to CNN.

A local reporter on the scene claimed at least 10 people had been killed.


US weighing supply of cutting-edge guided missiles to Ukraine

The Joe Biden administration is mulling supplying Ukraine with cutting-edge US-made guided missiles which could target Russian tanks and artillery positions from miles away, NBC News reported, citing two congressional officials.

In particular, the US is considering whether to provide Ukraine with explosives-laden “loitering missiles,” which are called Switchblades. The issue will be discussed by President Biden on Wednesday.

According to the officials, there are two types of the Switchblade – 300 and 600 – which can be sent to Ukraine. The weaponry is developed by AeroVironment, which is based in the suburbs of Washington, D.C.

If they are sent to Ukraine, it could lead to the most significant use of the weapon in combat to date, according to NBC.


Fearing conscription, anti-war Russians flock to Uzbekistan

Thousands of Russian citizens over the past few weeks have decided to leave their homeland because of the war against Ukraine and the rumor of a planned martial law in the country.

About 25,000 Russian citizens moved to Georgia, while many others fled to Armenia, Turkey or Nordic states such as Finland.


Zelensky: Surrender suggestions are a “childish provocation”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has dismissed suggestions he is ready to surrender as a “childish provocation,” after a fake banner appeared on a Ukrainian newscast saying the president was calling on his people to lay down their weapons.

“I can only ask the Russian military to give up arms and return home,” Zelensky said in a video statement, adding, “we are home already, we are defending our land, our children. We are not going to give up any arms until our victory.”

According to Ukrainian government officials, the fake banner appeared on the Ukraine 24 news channel after a Russian hack.


US defence secretary: ‘We remain united in our support of Ukraine’

NATO allies will continue to send defensive weapons to Ukraine and are unanimous in supporting Kyiv, US defence secretary Lloyd Austin said on Wednesday as he arrived for a meeting with his counterparts in the alliance.

“We remain united in our support of Ukraine,” he told reporters, adding, “We condemn Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified invasion … We support their (the Ukrainians’) ability to defend themselves and will continue to support them.”

Austin noted that NATO’s pledge to defend all allies was “ironclad”.

Ukraine is not a member of the military alliance and its President Volodymyr Zelensky accepted on Tuesday that his country would not become a member.


US: Additional air defense systems are being sent to Ukraine

As Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky prepares to ask Congress for further military aid to his country, the US and its NATO allies are already sending several surface-to-air missiles systems to Ukraine to aid in its defense.

According to a senior US official, these additional systems include the Soviet-era SA-8, SA-10, SA-12 and SA-14 mobile air defense systems.

These systems have a lower altitude range than the S-300 system, which Ukraine has requested. However, they have a range higher than the Stinger shoulder-fired missiles previously supplied to Ukraine, giving them the capability to hit cruise missiles.

The systems have been sourced from NATO partner nations and are “on the way,” according to this senior US official. It is not clear at this time how these systems will be backfilled to the providing country.


Japan to revoke Russia’s “most favored nation” status over Ukraine invasion

Japan will revoke Russia’s “most favored nation” (MFN) trade status in response to its invasion of Ukraine, the country’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said in a news conference on Wednesday.

As a member of the World Trade Organization, Russia is treated as a MFN, which gives it equal access to all the WTO members’ markets and guarantees equal tariffs.

During the news conference, Kishida called the Russian invasion of Ukraine a “historic atrocity” and said that Japan would continue to work closely with G7 nations to strengthen financial sanctions against Russia.

Kishida added Tokyo would further expand the scope of asset freezes against Russian oligarchs close to the Putin administration, prevent Russia from using digital currencies to avert sanctions and ban imports of specific products from the country.

Tokyo will also work with G7 nations to prevent Moscow from tapping loans from the International Monetary Fund, Kishida stated.


Russian rocket hits TV tower in central Ukrainian city

A TV tower in the central Ukrainian city of Vinnytsia has been hit by Russian rocket fire, knocking out the city’s broadcasting facilities, according to a statement from Ukraine’s state communications service.

There are no reports of any casualties.

It is the latest in a series of communications towers to be hit by Russian forces, including structures in Kyiv, Kharkiv, Vynarivka and most recently in the northwestern city of Rivne.


IEA warns oil industry faces “what could turn into the biggest supply crisis in decades”

The International Energy Agency (IEA) is warning that potential large-scale disruptions to Russian oil production is “threatening to create a global oil supply shock.”

This comes in light of tough sanctions imposed on Russia following its invasion of Ukraine and as buyers increasingly avoid Russian oil purchases.

“We estimate that from April, 3 mb/d (million barrels per day) of Russian oil output could be shut in as sanctions take hold and buyers shun exports,” the IEA said in its oil market report.

“OPEC+ [the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries] is, for now, sticking to its agreement to increase supply by modest monthly amounts. Only Saudi Arabia and the UAE hold substantial spare capacity that could immediately help to offset a Russian shortfall,” it added.

OPEC has been facing calls to ramp up production amid soaring energy prices. In its last meeting, the organization agreed to stick to their current plan of gradually increasing output by just 400,000 barrels per day (bpd) per month. It meets again on March 31.

“Surging commodity prices and international sanctions levied against Russia following its invasion of Ukraine are expected to appreciably depress global economic growth,” the IEA continued, which cut its 2022 global oil demand outlook by 1.3 million barrels per day.

It warned that the industry is faced “with what could turn into the biggest supply crisis in decades.”

The implications of a potential loss of Russian oil exports to global markets cannot be understated,” the IEA added.

“Russia is the world’s largest oil exporter, shipping 8 mb/d of crude and refined oil products to customers across the globe,” it noted.


Ukraine claims Russia lost 13,800 servicemen, 430 tanks

Ukraine’s Defence Ministry has claimed that Russia lost “approximately 13,800 servicemen since the invasion began on February 24”.

It also said that Ukrainian forces destroyed 430 Russian tanks, 1375 armored vehicles, 84 planes, 108 helicopters and 11 drones.

It added the figures were approximate and their verification was “complicated” by the high intensity of the fighting.

Russia’s Defence Ministry has reported the country’s death toll only on March 2, claiming that 498 servicemen had been killed in Ukraine.


Ukraine security guarantees ‘on negotiating table’

Mykhailo Podolyak, a Ukrainian negotiator in the talks with Russia, says a “model” of legally binding security guarantees that will offer his country protection from a group of allies in the event of a future attack is “on the negotiating table”.

“Model of security guarantees is on the negotiating table. What does this mean? A rigid agreement with a number of guarantor states undertaking clear legal obligations to actively prevent attacks,” negotiator Mykhailo Podolyak wrote on Twitter.


Kremlin: Ukrainian situation may be improved based on Moscow-Kiev agreements

Ukrainian situation can be improved based on mutual agreements between Moscow and Kiev, Russian Presidential Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Wednesday.

The US Department of State announced earlier, that the United States was ready for talks with Russia if it would help to ease tensions in the situation regarding Ukraine.

“The situation regarding Ukraine can be improved by means of agreements, reached at the talks between the Russian and Ukrainian delegations,” Peskov added.

Presidential aide Vladimir Medinsky, has said the current negotiations with Kiev are hard and slow-going, but Russia is sincere in its wish to achieve peace as soon as possible, Russia’s chief delegate.

“The talks are hard and slow-going. Of course, we would like them to proceed much faster. It is Russia’s sincere wish. We want to achieve peace as soon as possible,” Medinsky stated.

“The negotiators’ main task is to search through the tremendous amount of complex issues to pick those on which agreement is possible, to rely on them, to include these points of agreement in the agenda and to gradually move forward step by step towards the end result that will suit our peoples – the conclusion of peace,” he added.

Medinsky remarked that he would prefer not to focus on the problems emerging in the process of negotiations.

“Really, the striving of our state and the task set by the president is to achieve peace on Ukrainian soil, to see a peaceful, neutral and friendly state, which will not be NATO’s stronghold or a citadel of forces that wish to cause harm to our country,” he concluded.

He noted Kiev is proposing that Ukraine become a Swedish or Austrian version of a demilitarized state that has its own armed forces.

“The preservation and development of Ukraine’s neutral status, a demilitarization of Ukraine, a whole range of issues related to the size of the Ukrainian armed forces are being discussed,” he said, adding, “Ukraine is proposing the Austrian, Swedish versions of a neutral demilitarized state, which is a state that has an army and a navy.”

“All these issues are being discussed at the level of the leadership of the Russian and Ukrainian defense ministries,” Medinsky went on to say.

The negotiator said Ukraine holds neutrality at the moment. Neutrality is enshrined in Ukraine’s Declaration of Sovereignty and was the condition under which Ukraine seceded from the Soviet Union, he added.

“Certainly, the key issue for us is the status of Crimea and Donbass and some humanitarian issues including de-Nazification, the rights of Russian-speaking people and the status of the Russian language and so on,” Medinsky continued.


Hundreds of residents killed in Kharkiv since invasion began

Emergency services in Ukraine’s eastern Kharkiv region said on Wednesday that at least 500 residents of the city of Kharkiv have been killed since Russia invaded on February 24.

It comes after Russian forces launched more than 60 strikes overnight Monday into Tuesday on Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, according to regional administration chief, Oleh Sinehubov. The strikes hit the city’s historical center, including the main marketplace.

He stated the bodies of dozens of civilians were pulled from destroyed apartment buildings.

On Tuesday evening, Ukrainian forces repelled Russian troops who tried to storm Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, from their positions in Piatykhatky, a suburb 15 kilometers (9 miles) to the north, the regional administration chief, Oleh Sinehubov, noted.

He added the Kharkiv’s defenders were able “to push the enemy back beyond its previous position,” in what he described as a “shameful defeat” for Russia.


Ukrainian official sees no big change at front-line hotspots

Ukraine’s armed forces are conducting small-scale counter attacks on several fronts and Russian troops have not been able to gain ground because of a lack of resources, according to Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych.

“The situation … in the main hotspots has not changed, and has no chance of changing as Russia has used up its resources,” he told a video briefing.

Arestovych stated Russia continued to fire missiles at Ukrainian targets, with approximately two-thirds of rockets hitting civilian buildings and infrastructure.

Russia has denied targeting civilians.


Russian shelling kills one in Kharkiv

Russian shelling has killed one man in Kharkiv, damaged two apartment buildings, according to the Emergencies Ministry.

However, the shelling has subsided significantly last night, a Kharkiv resident said.

“The night was relatively calm, we even could get some sleep,” a mother of two who has been holed up in her apartment in central Kharkiv, told Al Jazeera.

The windows and the balcony doors of her apartment have been destroyed by shelling earlier this month and patched with plastic and blankets, and the family spends nights on the bathroom floor, she added.


Beijing insists on Washington ensuring transparency of US biolabs

The Chinese authorities are demanding that Washington make sure that the activities of US military biolabs are fully transparent, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Zhao Lijian stated at a briefing on Wednesday.

“We once again insist that <…> the US should ensure full transparency of the activities related to military biological technologies,” he said in response to a TASS question as to how the Chinese Foreign Ministry viewed Washington’s attempts to dodge responsibility amid the revelation of US military biological activities in Ukraine.

According to the Chinese diplomat, the US also should stop “unilaterally opposing a monitoring mechanism operating in accordance with the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention.”

He emphasized that this was the way Washington “can help strengthen global security.”

A Russian Foreign Ministry source told TASS on Tuesday that by “warning Russia against using biological and chemical weapons in Ukraine,” the United States sought to duck responsibility for its military biological activities in the country and cover up a large-scale false flag it was plotting to stage together with Kiev.

The source specified that Russia had long been aware of the United States’ “criminal ways”.


Lavrov calls negotiations between Russia & Ukraine difficult, says there’s some hope for compromise

Negotiations between Russia and Ukraine are difficult, but there is some hope for a compromise, Russian Foreign Minister said in an interview with Russia’s RBC.

“Negotiations are not easy for obvious reasons. However, there is still some hope for a compromise,” he stressed.

Negotiators from Russia and Ukraine should be allowed to discuss issues calmly, without unnecessary escalation of the situation, the minister noted.

Lavrov stated that Ukraine cannot have weapons that pose a material threat to Russia.

“There can be no weapons in Ukraine that pose a threat to Russia. We are ready to coordinate those types of weapons that do not pose a threat to us,” Lavrov added.

The neutral status of Ukraine is now being seriously discussed at the talks, along with the requirements of Russia on security guarantees, the diplomat said.

“[Ukraine’s] neutral status is now being seriously discussed in conjunction with security guarantees, of course,” he continued.

NATO’s reaction to Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky’s calls for imposing a no-fly zone over the country poured cold water on his aspirations, he said.

“We remember how President Zelensky spoke a few weeks ago about the need for NATO to establish a no-fly zone, engage in fighting for Ukraine, recruit mercenaries and send them to the front,” he pointed out. “These statements were quite aggressive, but it seems that the reaction of the North Atlantic Alliance, where there still are some sensible people, poured cold water on his aspirations,” Lavrov added.

According to him, “the adequacy of the current situation is worth welcoming.”


UN: 90% of Ukrainian population could face poverty in protracted war

Nine out of 10 Ukrainians could face poverty and extreme economic vulnerability if the war drags on over the next year, wiping out two decades of economic gains, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) warned on Wednesday.

Achim Steiner, UNDP Administrator, said that his agency was working with the Kyiv government to avoid a worst case scenario of the economy collapsing. It aimed to provide cash transfers to families to buy food to survive and keep them from fleeing while propping up basic services.

“If the conflict is a protracted one, if it were to continue, we are going to see poverty rates escalate very significantly,” Steiner told Reuters.

“Clearly the extreme end of the scenario is an implosion of the economy as a whole. And that could ultimately lead to up to 90% of people either being below the poverty line or being at high risk of (poverty),” he added.


Prosecutor general: 103 children have been killed in war in Ukraine

The Ukrainian prosecutor general has claimed that 103 children have been killed so far in the war in Ukraine.

Russian forces have struck more than 400 educational establishments and 59 of them have been destroyed, Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova announced.


Russia calls Council of Europe NATO’s propaganda tool

The Council of Europe turned into a NATO propaganda tool a long time ago, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova stated, commenting on Russia’s withdrawal from the organization amid the military operation in Ukraine.

“This organization [Council of Europe] became just a tool of NATO propaganda and I didn’t missay now. We have repeatedly talked about this, that the structures of the [NATO] alliance and the member states of the alliance through the appropriate mechanisms of NATO formed the agenda in the Council of Europe in many ways,” Zakharova said on air of Sputnik radio.

There is absolutely nothing left from equal and effective work in the Council of Europe, Zakharova noted, adding that this organization has become a convenient platform for the implementation of NATO’s information and political campaigns.

Kiev complying with the Minsk Agreements was been part of the West’s plan, she continued.

“The implementation of the Minsk Agreements and the reintegration of Donbass into Ukraine has never been part of their plan. They planned a bloodbath, the slaughter of civilians and a genocide,” she pointed out.


UK claims Russia’s invasion is not going to plan’

The UK Foreign Secretary has said sanctions from the UK and other western nations are having a “debilitating affect on the Russian economy” but urged allies to go further.

Liz Truss told Sky News, “What we know is that Vladimir Putin’s plans are not going according to plan.”

“He is not making the progress expected, and we know the sanctions we’ve put on are working. They are having a debilitating affect on the Russian economy…. Those sanctions are really beginning to bite,” she stated.

Truss added further British sanctions should be expected, saying “we’ve got more individuals on our list” as well as companies to target, but called for allies to do more.

She noted that the European Union had sanctioned three Russian banks compared with the UK and US targeting 10 major banks, and stressed “we’d like to see them sanction even more banks”, while also arguing that more sanctions could come “collectively” from the 141 countries that voted against Russia at the UN General Assembly.


Johnson: Putin blackmailing West and holding us to ransom

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has downplayed his chances of getting Persian Gulf states to increase their oil production during his trip to the region, as he attempts to reduce reliance on Russia.

Speaking to broadcasters on his trip to Abu Dhabi, the PM stated, “It’s not just a question of looking at the Opec countries and what they can do to increase supply, though that is important, there’s also the issue of Emirati investment in UK wind farms, already huge, what more can they do.”

“When we look at the dependency the West in particular has built up on [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s hydrocarbons, on Putin’s oil and gas, we can see what a mistake that was because he’s been able to blackmail the West and hold western economies to ransom – we need independence,” he continued.

He said the Government would be setting out its energy strategy “next week” to include a “massive jump forward on renewables, more nuclear, using our own hydrocarbons more effectively” and sourcing fossil fuels from outside Russia.

Johnson noted there is “no way Ukraine is going to join NATO anytime soon” but stressed that the decision had to be for the country’s president to take.

“I talked to Volodymyr [Zelensky] again yesterday and of course I understand what he is saying about NATO and the reality of the position,” he added.

“And everybody has always said – and we’ve made it clear to Putin – that there is no way Ukraine is going to join NATO anytime soon,” he stressed.

“But the decision about the future of Ukraine has got to be for the Ukrainian people, and Volodymyr Zelensky is their elected leader and we will back him.” he said, adding, “And the most important thing is that Putin’s aggression, his absolutely barbaric attacks on Ukraine should stop and they should not be seen to have succeeded, and they won’t succeed.”


Twenty thousand residents left Mariupol in private cars

About 20,000 civilians have managed so far to leave the besieged port city of Mariupol in private cars, Interior Ministry adviser Vadym Denysenko has stated.

Mariupol residents have been trapped in the city by Russian shelling without heating, electricity and running water for most of the past two weeks, Ukrainian officials say. At least 200,000 are in urgent need of evacuation, according to official Ukrainian estimates earlier this week.


Ukraine claims Russia has lost up to 40% of its armed units during war

Ukraine claimed Wednesday that Russia’s armed forces have lost up to 40% of their units since launching a war against the country on Feb. 24.

The General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine announced in a statement that as of March 15, “the enemy” had lost up to 40% of the units involved in the so-called “operation” on the territory of Ukraine through their complete destruction or loss of combat capability.


Zelensky: Russia’s war against Ukraine to end in shame, poverty

Ukraine’s president said the sanctions imposed against Russia in recent weeks will leave the country with “shame and poverty” and “years of isolation.”

In his daily video address on Telegram, Volodymyr Zelensky urged Russian businesspeople and other citizens to oppose the war.

“Citizens of Russia! Any of you who have access to truthful information could already understand how this war will end for your country. Shame and poverty. Years of isolation. A very cruel, repressive system that will treat the citizens of Russia in the same inhumane way as you, invaders, treated Ukrainians. What happens next depends on your actions,” he added.

He stated Russia’s demands during negotiations are becoming “more realistic” after nearly three weeks of war and that more time is needed for the talks, which are being held by video conference.

“The meetings continue, and, I am informed, the positions during the negotiations already sound more realistic,” Zelensky noted.

He appealed for more weapons and more sanctions on Russia, and repeated his call to “close the skies over Ukraine to Russian missiles and planes”.

He claimed Russian forces on Tuesday were unable to move deeper into Ukrainian territory and continued their heavy shelling of cities.


At least 2 people injured in shelling of Kyiv residential building

A 12-story residential building near central Kyiv was hit by Russian shelling early Wednesday, setting off fires on several floors, according to a statement from Ukraine’s state emergency services.

The building in Shevchenkivskyi district is located just a few kilometers from the center of the Ukrainian capital.

Initial information indicated two people were injured in the shelling. Rescue workers evacuated 37 people from the building, the statement said.

A neighboring nine-story building was also damaged in the attack, the statement added.


IMF: Ukraine war may ‘fundamentally alter’ global economic, political order

The International Monetary Fund says Russia’s invasion will affect the entire global economy by slowing growth and jacking up inflation, and could fundamentally reshape the global economic order in the longer term.

Beyond the human suffering and historic refugee flows, the war is boosting prices for food and energy, fuelling inflation and eroding spending power, while disrupting trade, supply chains and remittances in countries neighbouring Ukraine, the IMF added.

It is also eroding business confidence and triggering uncertainty among investors that will depress asset prices, tighten financial conditions and could trigger capital outflows from emerging markets, it announced.


Ukraine claims 4th Russian general killed

Ukraine claims Russia’s Major General Oleg Mityaev, 46, has been killed during the storming of Mariupol.

Gerashchenko, of the Ukrainian interior ministry, announced Mityaev died on Tuesday and that Mityaev had commanded the 150th motorised rifle division and had fought in Syria.

There was no confirmation of the death from Russia.


Air raid sirens in major Ukraine cities

Kyiv Independent, a Ukrainian news outlet, reports air raid sirens have gone off in several major cities, including Kyiv, Odesa, Dnipro and Lviv.


Japan: Group of Seven to hold meeting over Russia

The Group of Seven industrialised nations will hold an online meeting after 12:00 GMT to discuss Russia’s actions in Ukraine, according to Japanese Finance Minister Shunichi Suzuki.

Suzuki, who made the comment in parliament, did not specify whether the meeting would be held among G7’s financial leaders or other representatives.


Biden will announce an additional $800 million in military aid to Ukraine

President Joe Biden plans to announce an additional $800 million in security assistance to Ukraine on Wednesday, according to White House officials, only hours after President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine is scheduled to deliver a virtual address to Congress.

Biden will detail the new military aid in the late morning, shortly after Zelensky delivers a list of military equipment and other aid that he believes is necessary to stave off the Russian invasion, and particularly to hold on to the capital, Kyiv. High on the list is more antiaircraft batteries, enabling them to harass — and shoot down — Russian cargo planes and fighter jets arriving around the embattled city.


Russian warships ‘fire missiles at Ukraine coast’

Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to Ukraine’s interior ministry, claims Russian warships fired missiles and artillery at the Ukrainian coast near Tuzla, to the south of Odesa, at about midnight.

“They fired a huge amount of ammunition from a great distance,” he said on Facebook, adding that Russia wanted to test Ukraine’s coastal defence system.

He stated there was no attempt to land troops but did not say if any of the shelling hit anything.


UK’s Johnson to visit Saudi Arabia, UAE

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will visit Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates on Wednesday as part of his efforts to secure additional oil and reduce dependence on Russian energy.

In a statement released by his office, Johnson called Saudi Arabia and the UAE “key international partners” in his bid to wean the West off Russian oil and gas, improve energy security and coordinate action against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.


Germany’s Scholz says sanctions ‘having a stronger impact than Russia ever imagined’

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has again ruled out NATO intervention in the Ukraine war but said the West continues to trust in the effect of sanctions imposed on Russia.

“Together with our allies in Europe and the US, we have prepared very precise sanctions,” Scholz stated at an economic summit organised by the Die Welt newspaper in Berlin.


NATO DMs will discuss sending ‘substantially more forces’ to its eastern borders

NATO defense ministers will discuss stepping up defenses along their eastern front as Russia’s attacks inch closer to the alliance’s doorstep, the organization’s secretary general Jens Stoltenberg has announced.

The ministers were set to meet on Wednesday ahead of next week’s extraordinary NATO summit, where President Joe Biden is scheduled to discuss how to respond to Russia’s invasion.


Ukraine will ask the United States to send more military equipment

Ukrainian officials plan to present the United States with a list of military equipment they need, including armed drones and mobile air-defense systems, when President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine addresses Congress on Wednesday, according to two European diplomats briefed on the request.

The new list does not take the place of Ukraine’s high-profile request for Polish MIG fighter planes, which has been held up, but Ukrainian officials have crafted a list of additional matériel the Joe Biden administration might be more willing to give, one of the diplomats noted.


UK claims Russia calling in military reinforcements from across country

Faced with “continued personnel losses” in Ukraine, the Russian military is calling up reinforcements from across the entire country, according to the latest public intelligence assessment released by the UK Ministry of Defence.

“Russia is increasingly seeking to generate additional troops to bolster and replace its personnel losses,” the UK assessment said.

“It is likely Russia is struggling to conduct offensive operations in the face of sustained Ukrainian resistance,” it added.

The UK ministry said Russia was redeploying forces from as far away as “its Eastern Military District, Pacific Fleet and Armenia” and was increasingly tapping other sources of fighters such as “private military companies, Syrians, and other mercenaries.”

“Russia will likely attempt to use these forces to hold captured territory and free up its combat power to renew stalled offensive operations,” the assessment added.


US Senate passes resolution supporting Putin war crime probe

The US Senate passed a non-binding resolution supporting a war crimes investigation into Russian President Vladimir Putin for his invasion of Ukraine.

The resolution said the Senate strongly condemns the “violence, war crimes. crimes against humanity” being carried out by Russian military forces.

The measure does not carry the force of law but encourages international investigations of Putin, his security council and military leaders.

A bipartisan group of US senators have also introduced legislation that would grant the federal government authority to seize multimillion-dollar assets of sanctioned Russians and others, in an effort to help raise funds for the defense of Ukraine.


Blasts & air raid sirens heard overnight in Kyiv

Explosions were heard overnight in Kyiv’s suburbs as air raid sirens once again blared in the Ukrainian capital.

The blasts began after nightfall following Mayor Vitali Klitschko’s imposition of an extended curfew.

The 35-hour curfew runs from 8 p.m. Tuesday to 7 a.m. Thursday local time.


At least 3 Russian military helicopters blown up in Ukrainian strike on Kherson airport

The Ukrainian military destroyed a number of Russian military helicopters at the Kherson International Airport Tuesday, new satellite images from Planet Labs show.

A large black plume of smoke is seen rising from the airport in the satellite image, with a number of helicopters on fire.


Zelensky hails European leaders’ visit to Kyiv as a “strong sign of support”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has welcomed the Prime Ministers of Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovenia to a meeting in Kyiv.

Zelensky posted a two-minute video of the meeting on his Telegram channel, stating: “Your visit to Kyiv at this difficult time for Ukraine is a strong sign of support. We really appreciate it.”

The three European leaders — who said they were representing the European Council at the Kyiv meeting — traveled to the Ukrainian capital by train.

Zelensky noted that Ukraine “truly trusts” its partners and is “100% assured” that a positive outcome will be reached following a meeting with the Polish, Czech and Slovenian prime ministers in Kyiv on Tuesday.

Speaking in Kyiv, Zelensky thanked Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša and Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala for their “wonderful support” of Ukraine when “so many other ambassadors have left Ukraine because of the full-scale Russian invasion.”

“Most important, is that we truly trust these leaders. When we are talking about the security guarantees, about our future in the European Union, or when we talk about the sanctions policy, we are 100% assured that whatever we are discussing, whatever we talk about, this will reach a positive outcome for our country,” he stressed.

He continued that with “friends like this” Ukraine “can win.”


US: Russian forces fired more than 950 missiles since the start of the invasion

According to a senior US defense official, Russian forces have now fired more than 950 missiles since the beginning of the invasion of Ukraine.

Both Russian forces and Ukrainian forces have approximately 90% of their combat power “available to them,” the official added.

The US estimates that Russian forces are “still about 15-20 kilometers to the northwest and about 20-30 kilometers to the east” of Kyiv, the official said.


Biden signs budget bill providing additional aid to Ukraine

US President Joe Biden has signed a bill providing $13.6bn in additional military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine as part of a $1.5 trillion government spending measure.

“Vladimir Putin’s aggression against Ukraine has uniting people all across America, united our two parties in Congress, and united the freedom loving world,” Biden stated.

Roughly half the $13.6bn will arm Ukraine and cover the Pentagon’s costs for sending US troops to other Eastern European nations that might see the war spill past their borders. Much of the rest will be allocated to humanitarian and economic assistance, strengthening regional allies’ defences and protecting their energy supplies and cybersecurity needs.

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