Saturday, April 20, 2024

Live Updates: Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 23

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.

Biden warns China; No ‘material support’ to Russia

President Joe Biden warned Chinese President Xi Jinping that Beijing would face consequences if it provides “material support” to Russia amid its invasion of Ukraine, the White House announced Friday.

“President Biden detailed our efforts to prevent and then respond to the invasion, including by imposing costs on Russia,” said a White House readout of the call hours after it concluded.

“He described the implications and consequences if China provides material support to Russia as it conducts brutal attacks against Ukrainian cities and civilians,” the WH added.

The White House has not detailed what those consequences would be.

Top Russian negotiator: Moscow & Kiev get closer on Ukraine’s neutral status

Moscow and Kiev have achieved certain progress in the ongoing talks, getting their positions on Ukraine’s potential status “as close as possible,” the head of the Russian delegation, Vladimir Medinsky, said Friday.

“The topic of neutral status and non-accession of Ukraine to NATO is one of the key issues of the negotiations. This is the issue on which the parties have brought their positions as close as possible,” Medinsky stated, adding, “Then details begin relating to what security guarantees Ukraine receives in addition to the already existing in case of its refusal to join the NATO bloc.”

Other questions however, namely Russian demands to “demilitarize” and “denazify” Ukraine, remain the subject of debate. The delegations are only “halfway” into finding common grounds on the former issue, Medinsky revealed, while the situation with the latter remains “rather strange,” with Kiev continuing to deny the very existence of neo-Nazis in the country.

“Ukrainian colleagues believe that there are no Nazi formations in Ukraine,” the official explained.

Ukraine’s negotiator at talks with Russia on Friday announced Kiev’s position was unchanged and it wanted peace negotiations to lead to a ceasefire, the withdrawal of Russian troops and security guarantees

US: Russian soldiers don’t appear to be “particularly motivated” about Ukraine war

Russian soldiers do not seem “to be particularly motivated,” Gen. Frank McKenzie, the Commander of US Central Command, told reporters during a briefing at the Pentagon Friday.

“They don’t appear, from where I sit at least, to be particularly motivated or particularly engaged in the campaign they’re undertaking,” McKenzie said of Russian forces fighting in Ukraine.

Putin tells Macron Russian troops are doing everything they can to save civilian lives

In another phone call with French President Emmanuel Macron, Russian President Vladimir Putin stressed that during the special operation in Ukraine, the Russian Armed Forces are doing everything they can to save the lives of civilians, the Kremlin press service announced.

It added that the presidents had continued to exchange opinions on the situation around Ukraine.

“Responding to the concerns voiced by Emmanuel Macron, the Russian president emphasized once again that during the special military operation the Russian Armed Forces are doing everything they can to save the lives of civilians, including through organizing humanitarian corridors for their safe evacuation,” it said.

The president drew Macron’s attention “to numerous war crimes committed on a daily basis by Ukrainian forces and nationalists, in particular massive missile and artillery strikes on Donbass cities,” according to the Kremlin.

Macron told Putin he is “extremely concerned” about Mariupol

French President Emmanuel Macron has told his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, that he is “extremely concerned” about the situation in Mariupol, which has been hit by constant shelling over recent days, according to the French presidential office.

The call lasted just over one hour, the Elysee added.

“The [French] President again brought up the deterioration of the situation in Ukraine, the continued strikes hitting civilians and failure to respect humanitarian law while negotiations between the Russian and Ukrainian delegation have for now not led to any progress,” according to Macron’s office.

UN: 6.5 million displaced inside Ukraine due to war

The UN migration agency estimates that nearly 6.5 million people have now been displaced inside Ukraine, on top of the 3.2 million refugees who have already fled the country.

The estimates from the International Organisation for Migration suggests Ukraine is fast on a course in just three weeks toward the levels of displacement from Syria’s devastating war – which has driven about 13 million people from their homes both in the country and abroad

Zelensky: 130 rescued, ‘hundreds’ under Mariupol theatre rubble

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has stated that 130 people had been saved after the bombing of a theatre in the port city of Mariupol under Russian siege, but “hundreds” were still trapped in the rubble.

Ukraine accused Russia of hitting the theatre on Wednesday. It had been feared that up to 1,000 people may have been taking refuge underground at the time of the blast. Russia has denied responsibility for the attack.

Western states say Russia using UN to spread propaganda

Russia is using the UN Security Council to spread disinformation and propaganda about its invasion of Ukraine, six Western members states have stated.

They made the allegation at a council meeting called at Russia’s request to discuss its allegations that Ukraine is developing biological weapons.

“Russia is once again attempting to use this council to launder its disinformation, spread its propaganda, and justify its unprovoked and brutal attack on Ukraine,” the six countries with seats on the council said in a statement read out by US ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield.

She was accompanied by representatives of France, Norway, Albania, Ireland and Britain.

Dutch & Germans to send 3 Patriot missile defence systems to Slovakia

The Dutch government has said it would send a Patriot missile defence system to Sliac, Slovakia, as part of NATO moves to strengthen air defences in Eastern Europe.

“The worsened safety situation in Europe as a result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine makes this contribution necessary,” Defense Minister Kajsa Ollongren said in a statement.

Germany is also sending two Patriot systems to Slovakia, the statement said.

Ukraine says Russian forces not made fresh advances

Ukraine’s Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Malyar has said Ukrainian troops had prevented Russian troops from making any fresh advances.

Speaking on national television, Malyar added Russian forces had food and fuel supply issues and communications problems.

The Armed Forces of Ukraine have also issued an upbeat assessment of their defense of Kyiv, saying Russia’s two main routes for attacking the capital city have been blocked.

In the face of a campaign to apparently encircle the capital ahead of a possible attempt to take it, Russian forces on both sides of the Dnipro river — which divides the city north to south — have been stopped, according to Oleksandr Hruzevych, deputy chief of staff.

“As of today, the enemy has been stopped at a distance of almost 70 kilometers (about 43 miles) from the city’s right bank, which makes it impossible to carry out fire, except for rocket fire. On the left bank, the advance has [also] been stopped. The enemy is cynically shooting at our infrastructure facilities. [But] the main ways of attack are blocked,” he said Friday.

Russian forces had abandoned offensive actions around Brovary to the northeast of Kyiv, and Boryspil to the southeast, Hruzevych added. After creating two lines of defense to protect the capital, Hruzevych noted Ukraine’s army was now “working on strengthening a third, distant line of defense.”

Xi tells Biden: “Conflict not in anyone’s interest”

Conflict and confrontation is not in anyone’s interest, Chinese President Xi Jinping said to US President Joe Biden on a video call Friday morning, according to Chinese state media.

“State-to-state relations cannot go to the stage of military confrontation. Conflict and confrontation are not in the interests of anyone. Peace and security are the most cherished treasures of the international community,” CCTV quoted Xi as saying on the call.

China and the US have a responsibility to ensure peace, Xi told Biden.

“As permanent members of the UN Security Council and the world’s two largest economies, we must not only lead the development of China-US relations down the correct path, but also shoulder our international responsibilities and make efforts for world peace and tranquillity,” Xi is reported to have said on the video call.

“The world is neither peaceful nor tranquil,” Xi acknowledged, adding, “The Ukraine crisis is something we don’t want to see.”

Lavrov warns Russia will target any weapons shipments entering Ukraine

Any weapons shipments entering Ukraine will be a “legitimate” target for Russia, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Friday.

“We have made it very clear that any cargo that will enter the territory of Ukraine, which we will consider … [carrying] weapons, will become a legitimate target,” he added.

Moscow to retaliate to diplomatic expulsions

Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia announced on Friday that they had decided to expel a number of Russian diplomats from their respective missions in the four EU countries. Russia announced the move would not go unanswered.

Commenting on the expulsions, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova called them “unjustified” and stated a “corresponding response” was coming. Moscow usually reacts to expulsions of its diplomats by sending home an equal number of diplomatic staff representing the relevant nation.

Putin: Main goal of Russian operation in Ukraine is to set Donbass free from genocide

Setting free the people of Donbass from the “genocide” being waged against them is the main goal of the Russian special operation in Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin stated on Friday.

“[The Donbass residents], who did not agree with the [2014] coup [in Kiev], were immediately hit with punitive military operations. A blockade was immediately put in place against these people. They were subjected to systematic shelling, air strikes. This is what is called ‘genocide’,” he continued.

UN: At least 816 civilians killed in Ukraine since conflict began

The UN rights office (OHCHR) said on Friday that at least 816 civilians had been killed and 1,333 wounded in Ukraine through to March 17.

Most of the casualties were from explosive weapons such as shelling from heavy artillery and multiple-launch rocket systems, and missile and air strikes, OHCHR added.

The real toll is thought to be considerably higher since OHCHR, which has a large monitoring team in the country, has not yet been able to verify casualty reports from badly-hit cities like Mariupol.

NATO chief says 100k US troops now in Europe

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has announced that there are now 100,000 US troops in Europe as NATO ramps up its presence on the bloc’s eastern flank amid Russia’s ongoing special military operation in Ukraine.

Stoltenberg argued that the number of American servicemen in Europe has increased by several thousand over the past few weeks and that they remain on “heightened alert”.

He described the deployment as NATO’s “immediate response sending a clear message to Moscow that an attack on one ally will trigger a response from the whole alliance”.

Baltic nations expel ten Russian diplomats

Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania have expelled a total of ten Russian diplomats, the foreign ministries of the three Baltic countries have said.

Lithuania expelled four diplomats while Latvia and Estonia each expelled three.

The diplomats were expelled in a coordinated move “in connection with activities that are contrary to their diplomatic status and taking into account ongoing Russian aggression in Ukraine,” Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics tweeted.

EU leaders are in possession of “very reliable evidence” that China is considering military assistance to Russia, a senior EU official told POLITICO, threatening potential trade measures if weapons’ deliveries go ahead.

It follows a similar warning from US officials earlier this week that the Russian government had asked China for military equipment and other support.

“EU leaders have very reliable evidence that China is considering providing military aid to Russia. All the leaders are very aware of what’s going on,” the senior EU official stated on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to speak publicly about confidential information.

He did not say what kind of assistance Moscow had requested.

“We are concerned about the fact that China is flirting with the Russians,” he added.

The EU will “impose trade barriers against China” should Beijing proceed with Russia’s request, he noted, as “this is the only language Beijing understands.”

Ukraine president says he expects progress on EU membership bid within months

President Volodymyr Zelensky has said he spoke with the head of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen and Ukraine expects progress to be made on its application to join the EU in the coming months.

“Had substantial conversation with EC President,” Zelenskyy wrote on Twitter, adding, “EC opinion on Ukraine application for EU membership will be prepared within few months. Ukraine Government and EC are instructed. Moving to our strategic goal together.”

The deputy chief of staff of Zelenskyy has also said Ukraine will not abandon its bid to join the EU to reach a compromise with Russia as part of an agreement to end the war.

“I will be categorical, this is absolutely unacceptable. It is our choice, the application for EU membership has been submitted and now it is being put into practice,” deputy chief of staff Andrii Sybiha added.

Speaking on national television, Sybiha stated negotiations with Russia were ongoing but difficult.

Kiev mayor says one killed, 19 injured in attack

One person was killed and 19 wounded in an attack on a residential neighbourhood in the Ukrainian capital Kiev, Mayor Vitali Klitschko has stated.

Among the wounded in Podil district were four children, he noted in a video posted on Telegram.

He accused Russian troops of shelling residential buildings, kindergartens and a school.

Russia’s request to suspend World Cup playoff rejected

The Court of Arbitration for Sport on Friday refused to suspend FIFA’s ban on Russia taking part in the playoffs for the 2022 World Cup finals that was imposed over the invasion of Ukraine.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) is still to rule on the legal basis of the ban, but a decision is not expected for several weeks at least.

“The challenged decision remains in force and all Russian teams and clubs continue to be suspended from participation in FIFA competitions. The CAS arbitration proceedings continue,” the court announced in a statement.

The Football Union of Russia had appealed against the suspension, hoping to gain permission to allow Russia to face Poland in a World Cup playoff that was due to have been played on March 24.

UN refugee agency says fewer Ukrainians fleeing

A UN refugee agency official said on Friday that daily crossings by people fleeing violence in Ukraine have slowed in recent days, noting warmer weather might be a factor.

“We have seen a slowdown, a general slowdown,” stated Matthew Saltmarsh via videolink from Poland, adding that warmer weather might be a factor.

However, he warned that any escalation of violence in the Western Ukrainian city of Lviv might cause crossings to rise again.

At least 3.25 million refugees have fled Ukraine since the Russian invasion, the United Nations announced Friday.

Kyiv claims 222 killed in capital since start of war, including 60 civilians

Kyiv city authorities have claimed 222 people had been killed in the capital since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began, including 60 civilians and four children.

A further 889 people have been wounded, including 241 civilians, the Kyiv city administration announced in a statement.

Russian finance ministry says it has met coupon payment obligations in full

Russia’s Finance Ministry on Friday announced it had fully met its obligations on paying coupons on dollar-denominated Eurobonds due in 2023 and 2043, and said payment agent Citibank had received the funds.

Russia was due to pay $117 million in coupon payments in what was seen as a test of its willingness and ability to repay international debt after being hit with sanctions over events in Ukraine.

Kremlin: Chance of Putin-Zelensky’s meeting depends on settlement deal

A possible meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart Vladimir Zelensky in order to sign an agreement on the current situation’s settlement will depend on the modality of the document, which is yet to be agreed upon, Presidential Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Friday.

India defends purchases of Russian oil

Indian government officials on Friday defended the continued buying of Russian oil, saying European countries were still purchasing hydrocarbons from Moscow and that high crude prices left New Delhi with little choice.

Indian oil refiners have in recent days reportedly purchased several million barrels of discounted Russian oil even as the West seeks to isolate Moscow economically over its invasion of Ukraine.

But an Indian government official stated on Friday that the world’s third-biggest consumer of crude relied on imports for almost 85 percent of its needs, with Russia supplying a “marginal” less than one percent of this.

“Geopolitical developments have posed significant challenges to our energy security. For obvious reasons, we have had to stop sourcing from Iran and Venezuela. Alternative sources have often come at a higher cost,” the official noted on condition of anonymity.

European Parliament bans diplomats, officials from Russia from entering its buildings

Russian and Belarusian diplomats and government staff are banned from entering the premises of the European Parliament starting Friday, European Parliament President Roberta Metsola stated.

Ukraine says 130 people have been rescued so far from bombed Mariupol theatre

Ukrainian human rights ombudswoman Lyudmyla Denisova has said 130 people have been rescued so far from the rubble of a theatre hit by an air strike on Wednesday in the besieged eastern city of Mariupol.

In a televised address, Denisova added rescue work was ongoing at the site, where many people were sheltering underground before the building was hit, according to the Ukrainian authorities.

Russia demands Google stop spreading threats against Russians on YouTube

Russia’s communications regulator Roskomnadzor says it has demanded that Alphabet Inc’s Google stop spreading what it labelled as threats against Russian citizens on its YouTube video-sharing platform.

Roskomnadzor added adverts on the platform were threatening the life and health of Russian citizens and that their dissemination was evidence of the US tech giant’s anti-Russian position.

Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Kremlin says UK decision to revoke RT’s broadcast licence is ‘madness’

The Kremlin has described the UK’s decision to revoke the broadcast licence of Russian state-backed television channel RT as “madness”.

The UK’s media regulator, Ofcom, announced in a statement that RT received funding from the Russian state and was not satisfied that RT could be a responsible broadcaster, revoking its licence with immediate effect.

Bulgaria expels 10 Russian diplomats

Bulgaria has decided to expel 10 Russian diplomats after they were accused of allegedly carrying out “activities incompatible with their diplomatic status”, Russia’s TASS news agency has cited the Russian ambassador to the country as saying.

“We take this as an extremely unfriendly act and reserve the right to retaliate,” Ambassador Eleonora Mitrofanova told TASS.

Kremlin says Biden’s remarks about Putin amount to “personal insults”

US President Joe Biden’s remarks about his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin amount to personal insults, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Friday.

“Moscow hears and sees what is already daily statements made by President Biden, which are already, in fact, personal insults of Putin,” Peskov told reporters on a regularly held conference call.

Speaking at the annual Friends of Ireland Luncheon on St. Patrick’s Day in Capitol Hill on Thursday, Biden said Putin was “a murderous dictator, a pure thug,” who is waging an immoral war against the people of Ukraine.”

Peskov added that he didn’t want to react harshly to these statements in view of Biden’s “irritability, fatigue and forgetfulness” and so as “not to cause more aggressiveness.”

“Taking into account President Biden’s irritability, fatigue and forgetfulness, which lead to such aggressive statements, we will not give sharp assessments of his words, so as not to cause more aggressiveness,” he continued.

Biden’s comments Thursday came a day after he first called Putin a war criminal — a significant escalation in his rhetoric condemning the Russian leader’s actions against Ukraine.

Peskov told reporters on Thursday Biden’s comments were “absolutely unacceptable and inexcusable.”

World Food Programme says supply chains ‘falling apart’ in Ukraine

A World Food Programme (WFP) official announced on Friday that food supply chains in Ukraine were collapsing, with a portion of infrastructure destroyed and many grocery stores and warehouses now empty.

Jakob Kern, WFP Emergency Coordinator for the Ukraine crisis, also expressed concern about the situation in “encircled cities” such as Mariupol, stating that supplies were running out and that its convoys had not yet been able to enter the city.

Putin tells Scholz Kyiv stalling peace talks with Moscow

Russian President Vladimir Putin told German Chancellor Olaf Scholz during a phone call on Friday that Kyiv was attempting to stall peace talks with Russia but that Moscow was still keen to continue negotiations.

“It was noted that the Kyiv regime is attempting in every possible way to delay the negotiation process, putting forward more and more unrealistic proposals,” the Kremlin said in a readout of the call.

“Nonetheless the Russian side is ready to continue searching for a solution in line with its well-known principled approaches,” it added.

Scholz called for a ceasefire in Ukraine during the phone call with Putin, a German government spokesperson said.

In their nearly hour-long conversation, Scholz also stressed that the humanitarian situation needed to be improved and progress needed to be made in finding a diplomatic solution as soon as possible, added the spokesperson.

Putin has also complained of Ukrainian attacks in eastern Ukraine during the phone call with Scholz, the Kremlin has said in a statement.

According to Moscow, Ukrainian missile launches targeted residential areas in the cities of Donetsk and Makeyvka, and resulted  in a “significant number of human casualties”.

“These war crimes have been ignored by the West,” the statement added.

FM: Russia’s illusions about West are over

Moscow has lost all illusions about relying on the West and Moscow will never accept a view of the world dominated by a United States that wants to act like a global sheriff, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has said.

He expressed hope that the current “abnormal” situation between Russia and Ukraine will be resolved, but warned that the West is going to prevent this from happening.

Elaborating on the influence that Western countries have on Ukraine, Lavrov pointed at the allegations of biological weapons being created in the Eastern European country under US supervision.

The West will continue to impose sanctions on Russia but Moscow is used to it, Lavrov stated.

“The sanctions drive is going to continue and they are threatening the fifth wave. Maybe there will be another wave but we are used to it,” he noted.

“As President [Vladimir] Putin recalled, we are now champions in the number of sanctions introduced against the Russian Federation, more than 5,000 individual acts, almost twice as many as was introduced against Iran and North Korea. But sanctions always made us stronger,” Lavrov pointed out.

The foreign minister noted that there is no such thing as independent western media, adding that “we are not closing the door to the west – they are closing the door”.

He also claimed that the Kremlin’s goal is to remove any threat to Russia on Ukrainian soil.

Russia suspects Pentagon-funded bioresearch laboratories in foreign nations, including those in Ukraine, may pose a threat because of the secrecy surrounding their work, Lavrov told RT. Washington apparently didn’t want to risk exposing its own people to the pathogenic threat, he suggested.

“The Americans some years ago decided that it was too dangerous to do [such research] on their own soil. So, they moved all these threatening and dangerous activities to other countries,” Lavrov claimed.

Lavrov stated that, in his assessment, there were more than 300 biolabs worldwide involved in research for the Pentagon. He noted Russia does not rule out the possibility that Ukraine could be the Pentagon’s largest bio-laboratory project.

Macron: Russia’s offensive in Ukraine is ‘electroshock’ to NATO

Russia’s ongoing military offensive in Ukraine has delivered an “electroshock” to NATO, France’s President Emmanuel Macron said. The remark came in response to a journalist’s question regarding the president’s 2019 characterization of the military alliance as “brain dead,” and whether the French head of state was still of that opinion.

Macron added that he stood by his initial ‘diagnosis,’ taking “full responsibility” for his words; however, according to the French president, Russia’s military campaign against Ukraine has been a wake-up call for NATO.

Macron pointed out that the “war launched by President [Vladimir] Putin” at the alliance’s doorstep created an “unusual threat which gives a strategic clarification to NATO.”

He also stated that the military alliance in its current form would not cut it, standing by his earlier calls for reform.

Pope calls Ukraine war a ‘perverse abuse of power’ for partisan interests

Pope Francis has called the war in Ukraine a “perverse abuse of power” waged for partisan interests which has condemned defenceless people to brutal violence.

Since the war began, the pope has not used the word “Russia” in his condemnations but has used phrases such as “unacceptable armed aggression” to get his point across.

His latest condemnation came in a message to a Catholic Church conference in Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia.

Ukraine FM says he discussed further Russian sanctions with EU’s Borrell

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has said he has spoken with the EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell about a further package of sanctions against Russia.

“We discussed the preparation of the 5th EU sanctions package on Russia. Pressure will keep mounting as long as it is needed to stop Russian barbarism.  We also discussed protection and help for Ukrainians who fled from Russian bombs to the EU,” he wrote on Twitter.

UK: Kharkiv, Chernihiv & Mykolaiv remain encircled

The Ukrainian cities of Kharkiv, Chernihiv and Mykolaiv remain encircled, the UK’s Ministry of Defence has said.

In an intelligence update posted on Twitter, the MoD announced that Russian forces have made minimal progress this week.

It added: “The UN now states that the number of refugees fleeing the conflict in Ukraine has already surpassed 3.2 million. This number will continue to rise as a result of ongoing Russian aggression.”

China maintains independent stance on Ukraine crisis as US threatens backlash for supporting Russia

Beijing adheres to an independent position on the Ukrainian crisis, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said on Friday, commenting on Washington’s threats to take action in event of China’s support for Russia.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Thursday that US President Joe Biden will make clear to his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, during their phone call scheduled for Friday that Beijing will face consequences for supporting the Russian operation in Ukraine.

“Regarding the Ukrainian issue, China has always made independent judgments based on the merits of the case in an objective and fair manner,” Zhao told reporters.

Some people in the US continue to spread false information, slander, and pressure China, which is extremely irresponsible behaviour that does not help resolve the crisis, the diplomat added.

Ukraine: Russia lost 14,200 servicemen

Ukraine’s Defense Ministry has announced that Russia lost some 14,200 servicemen since the invasion began on February 24, including about 200 in the past 24 hours.

It also added that Ukrainian forces destroyed 450 Russian tanks, 1,448 armored vehicles, 93 planes, 112 helicopters and 12 drones.

Russia’s Defense Ministry reported the death toll only once, on March 2, saying that 498 servicemen had been killed in Ukraine.

The New York Times reported on Wednesday that Russia lost some 7,000 soldiers in Ukraine.

There is no way to verify the claims of both sides.

Russian Defense Ministry Spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov stated on Friday a total of 183 Ukraine’s unmanned aerial vehicles, 1,406 tanks and other armored combat vehicles, 138 multiple rocket launchers, 535 field artillery pieces and mortars and 1,197 military motor vehicles have been destroyed since the start of Moscow’s special military operation.

Ukraine claims at least 3 killed in shelling of eastern cities

Ukraine’s state emergency service reported a multi-storey teaching building has been shelled in the eastern city of Kharkiv, killing one person, wounding 11 and trapping one person in the rubble.

Shells also hit the eastern city of Kramatorsk, killing two people and wounding six, Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko stated in an online post.

Russia: Fighting in Mariupol city centre

Russian troops and their separatist allies have been fighting in the centre of Mariupol, a strategic port city in the southeast of Ukraine, the Russian Defence Ministry has said.

“In Mariupol, units of the Donetsk People’s Republic, with the support of the Russian armed forces, are squeezing the encirclement and fighting against nationalists in the city centre,” the ministry added.

Russia’s Defence Ministry has claimed that separatists in eastern Ukraine with help from Russia’s armed forces were “tightening the noose” around Mariupol.

France says sanctions starting to have impact on Russia

French government spokesman Gabriel Attal has said sanctions imposed by Western countries on Russia were starting to have a “real impact”.

“We hope these sanctions will force [Russian President] Vladimir Putin to change his plans,” Attal told BFM TV.

Earlier this week, European Union member states agreed on a fourth package of sanctions against Russia.

New Zealand releases list of sanctioned Russian individuals, entities

“On 18 March 2022, the Government released the first tranche of targets covered by new sanctions developed under the Russia Sanctions Act 2022 following Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.

This first tranche prioritises political and military individuals and entities, and extends existing sanctions on Russian President Vladimir Putin and 12 members of his Security Council to include asset freezes and prohibitions on their vessels and aircraft entering New Zealand,” it added.

One killed, 4 wounded after parts of missile fall in northern Kyiv

One person has been killed and four wounded after parts of a Russian missile fell on a residential building in the northern part of the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, emergencies services have said.

The services added in a statement that 12 people were rescued and 98 were evacuated from the five-storey building.

Several European politicians nominate Zelensky for Nobel Peace Prize

A group of current and former European politicians addressed the Norwegian Nobel Committee with a request to nominate Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelenskyy for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2022, and for this reason extend the nomination procedure until 31 March.

“We therefore humbly call upon you, the Committee, to consider: Extending and thereby re-opening the nomination procedure for the Nobel Peace Prize until March 31, 2022 to allow for a Nobel Peace Prize nomination for President Zelensky and the people of Ukraine,” the statement read.

The politicians also called on the committee “to re-open and reconsider the 2022 nomination procedure for the Nobel Peace Prize”, according to the statement.

This year’s Nobel Prize announcements will take place from 3-10 October. As many as 251 individuals and 92 organisations applied for the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize.

Missiles destroy aircraft repair plant in Lviv

Several missiles have hit an aircraft repair plant in Lviv, destroying its building, Mayor Andriy Sadovy has said.

The plant had been stopped and there were no casualties from the strike, he added.

Ukraine’s military has announced the aircraft repair plant in Lviv was struck by cruise missiles launched from the direction of the Black Sea.

The type of the missile was likely Kh-555, the military reported, which are launched from heavy strategic bombers.

Similar missiles struck the Yavoriv military base in western Ukraine on Sunday.

Russia sets up no-fly zone over Donbas

Russia has established a no-fly zone over Ukraine’s Donbas region, according to a separatist official from the Donetsk People’s Republic, the Interfax news agency has reported.

Kyiv district of Podil hit in Russian attack

Rescuers and medical teams are working in the Podil area of Kyiv after an attack on the residential district in the north of the capital on Friday morning, the city council announced.

There was no word on any casualties or damage to buildings.

Russian gas transit via Ukraine at maximum contractual volumes

The Ukrainian gas transmission system operator has seen Russian gas transit via Ukraine at maximum contractual volumes after two days of lower volumes, RIA news agency has reported.

Russian missiles hit area near airport in Lviv

Russian missiles have struck an area near the airport of Lviv, its mayor Andriy Sadovy has said, though he added that the airport itself had not been attacked.

Authorities are assessing the situation and will issue updates, he continued.

Ukraine military rules out Russian ground offensive on Kyiv in ‘near future’

Ukraine’s military says a Russian ground offensive on the Ukrainian capital in the “near future” is “improbable”, citing a lack of experienced commanders as well as heavy casualties and low morale among Russian forces.

It also added Russia is trying to replenish their losses with mercenaries from Syria and have already recruited 1,000 volunteers.

Japan imposes new sanctions on Russia, targeting FM spokeswoman, Rosoboronexport

Japan is imposing new sanctions on Russian individuals and companies over the situation around Ukraine, the Japanese Foreign Ministry announced on Friday.

According to a statement from the ministry, the sanctions affect 15 individuals and nine companies. The new listing includes Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova and eight deputy defense ministers: Alexey Krivoruchko, Timur Ivanov, Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, Dmitry Bulgakov, Yury Sadovenko, Nikolay Pankov, Ruslan Tsalikov and Gennady Zhidko.

Personal sanctions will also affect the Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation Director Dmitry Shugayev, the head of the main department of the General Staff of the Russian armed forces Igor Kostyukov, Rosoboronexport Director General Alexander Mikheyev, the former wife of Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin, Marina Sechina, Senator Suleiman Kerimov and businessman Andrey Skoch.

The companies in Japan’s new listing include Rosneft Aero, Rosoboronexport, Vysokotochye Kompleksy (High Precision Systems), Kurgan Machine Building Plant, Russian Helicopters, United Aircraft Corporation, United Shipbuilding Corporation, Uralvagonzavod and Gorky Zelenodolsk Plant. Thus, Japan subjected to sanctions, which among other things freeze assets in Japan and ban transactions, a total of 76 individuals and 12 companies of Russia.

Huge fire at Kharkiv market; rescue worker reported dead

Russian shelling has caused a fire at Kharkiv’s Barabashovo market, among the largest in Eastern Europe, according to Ukraine’s public broadcaster, Suspilne.

Within five hours, the fire “engulfed almost the entire area” and spread to private homes nearby, it said.

“As emergency workers were extinguishing the fire, Russian troops struck the market again with missiles: one rescuer was killed and another was hospitalized with multiple injuries,” it added.

Rescue effort at Mariupol theatre hampered by ‘continuous shelling’

Mariupol city council says rescuers are continuing to clear rubble at the drama theatre and searching for survivors despite “continuous shelling”.

It added information about the victims “is still being clarified”.

More than a day after the air raid, there are no reports of deaths, and it is not clear how many people have emerged from the rubble.

Authorities in besieged Mariupol say Russian forces are dropping 50-100 bombs on the city every day, causing “enormous destruction”.

The Mariupol council announced the situation in the city is “critical” and that preliminary estimates show that about 80 percent of the city’s residential buildings have been destroyed.


Ukraine urges FATF to blacklist Russia

Dmytro Kuleba, the Ukrainian Foreign Minister, has called on member states of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), a global financial crimes watchdog, to exclude Russia from the consortium.

Kuleba noted the member states must also designate Russia on “FATF’s blacklist without delay”.

NATO understands Zelensky’s ‘frustration, desperation’

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg stated he understands the “frustration and desperation” of Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky and promised to continue arms shipment to Ukraine.

“I fully understand the frustration and the desperation that President Zelensky and the Ukrainian people feel, because they are in an extremely difficult situation,” Stoltenberg said during the joint press conference with German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock.

“They see civilian casualties and destruction every day,” he added.

“This is why NATO allies have stepped up their support, also delivering advanced weapon systems, air and missile defense and anti-tank weapons, fuel and ammunition,” Stoltenberg stated, underscoring that the alliance intends to continue these shipments.

He also underlined that NATO has been actively assisting in development of the Ukrainian army since 2014, that the alliance has “trained tens of thousands of Ukrainian troops which are now on the front line.”

Earlier in Berlin, Stoltenberg reiterated that NATO has no intention to take part in the conflict in Ukraine, emphasizing that NATO has an obligation to protect its own territory.

Border officials say over 320k Ukrainian citizens returned home to fight

More than 320,000 citizens have returned home to help Ukraine fight since Russia began its invasion, according to the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine. Most of them are men.

“Our boys don’t give up, so we need to help, we need to fight for our country. Ukraine must be free, like all people,” the State Border Guard Service announced.

Zelensky warns mercenaries joining Russian forces: “worst decision of your life”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky warned those trying to join Russian forces in Ukraine it would be “the worst decision of your life,” in a video message.

“Long life is better than the money you are offered for a short one,” Zelensky said.

He claimed Ukraine has information the Russian military is recruiting mercenaries from other countries, but said this will not help them.

Ukrainian forces are still holding all key areas of the country, he added.

New Russian conscripts have been taken as prisoners, Zelensky said — but added, “We do not need 13 or any number of thousands of dead Russian soldiers.”

Addressing Russian people, he stated, “We didn’t want this war. We only want peace. And we want you to love your children more than you fear your authorities.”

Ukrainian ambassador to the UN confronts Russian counterpart about women & children killed in attacks

Ukrainian Ambassador to the UN Sergiy Kyslytsya directly addressed his Russian counterpart during the UN Security Council on Thursday about the women, children and elderly killed by Russians in Ukraine.

“Ambassador, do the eyes of Ukrainian children, women, and elderly killed by the Russians flash before you?” Kyslytsya asked.

He continued, “If they do, we may consider how to sponsor a decision to help you deal with perpetration-inducted traumatic stress. But now, have some decency and stop the egregious manipulation of the Security Council. It is obscene.”

Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia did not respond to the comments during Thursday’s Security Council meeting, but told reporters after the meeting that he does not “engage in personal exchanges” with Kyslytsya.

“But when he asked about the eyes of children killed, I would also like to ask him whether he had any remorse when he thought about the children of Donetsk that were killed by Ukrainian forces,” Nebenzia said.

Kyslytsya also spoke to reporters after the meeting, adding there has not been any improvement in the situation in Ukraine.

“No, there is no improvement. The actions of the Russian Federation continue to be very brazen and the atrocities are taking place every day, unfortunately,” Kyslytsya noted.

UK: “Faltering” Russian troops face logistical challenges like food shortages

The Russian military continues to face logistical problems in its “faltering invasion of Ukraine,” Britain’s Ministry of Defence announced in a statement.

In its latest intelligence update, the ministry said Russian forces were being prevented from resupplying “forward troops with even basic essentials such as food and fuel,” due to their inability to control Ukrainian airspace and challenges on the ground.

Russian forces have been reluctant to maneuver across the country, the ministry added, but did not provide additional details on its knowledge of Russia’s strategic moves.

“Reluctance to maneuver cross-country, lack of control of the air and limited bridging capabilities are preventing Russia from effectively resupplying their forward troops with basic essentials such as food and fuel,” the ministry said.

“Incessant Ukrainian counterattacks are forcing Russia to divert large numbers of troops to their own supply Iines. This is severely limiting Russia’s offensive potential,” it added.

Australia imposes new sanctions on Russian banks & oligarchs

Australia on Friday announced new sanctions against 11 Russian banks and government entities, according to a statement from Foreign Minister Marise Payne.

Payne stated Australia will continue to work with its partners to coordinate sanctions and to “constrain funds for President (Vladimir) Putin’s unlawful war.”

“Today’s listing includes the Russian National Wealth Fund and the Russian Ministry of Finance. With our recent inclusion of the Central Bank of Russia, Australia has now targeted all Russian Government entities responsible for issuing and managing Russia’s sovereign debt,” she added.

“The majority of Russia’s banking assets are now covered by our sanctions along with all of the entities that handle Russia’s sovereign debt,” she continued.

WHO says it has 43 verified attacks on healthcare in Ukraine

The World Health Organization has verified 43 attacks on healthcare in Ukraine that have killed 12 people and injured dozens more, including health workers, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told the United Nations Security Council.

“In any conflict, attacks on healthcare are a violation of international humanitarian law,” Tedros told the 15-member council, without specifying who was to blame for the attacks.

White House cites ‘high concern’ China may provide Russia with weapons

The White House has announced it had “high concern” that China could provide Russia with military equipment to aid its invasion of Ukraine, and President Joe Biden would be candid and direct in an upcoming phone call with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

White House spokesperson Jen Psaki said China’s failure to denounce Russia’s actions “speaks volumes”.

Biden and Xi will discuss Russia’s invasion of Ukraine Friday, according to a White House statement released Thursday.

Biden will warn Xi on Friday that he will face “costs” if China rescues Russia from intense Western sanctions aimed at punishing Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

The phone call — the first known discussion between the two leaders since November — comes after recent assertions from US officials, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken, that Russia has asked China for military support in Ukraine. Beijing and Moscow have both denied the claims.

Blinken said China bears “responsibility” to use its influence with Russian President Vladimir Putin to stop the war in Ukraine.

“We continue to call on all nations, especially those with direct influence with Russia, to use whatever leverage they have to compel Moscow to end this war of choice. We believe China in particular has a responsibility to use its influence with President Putin and to defend the international rules and principles that it professes to support,” Blinken stated.

“Instead, it appears that China is moving in the opposite direction by refusing to condemn this aggression while seeking to portray itself as a neutral arbiter. And we’re concerned that they’re considering directly assisting Russia with military equipment to use in Ukraine. President Biden will be speaking to President Xi tomorrow and will make clear that China will bear responsibility for any actions it takes to support Russia’s aggression and we will not hesitate to impose costs,” he added.

Mayor of Velykoburlutska in northeastern Ukraine “captured” by Russian forces

Viktor Tereshchenko, mayor of Velykoburlutska in Ukraine’s northeastern region of Kharkiv, has been captured by Russian forces, Oleh Syniehubov, Kharkiv Regional State Administration head, confirmed.

“We have news today that [the Russians] captured the head of the Velykoburlutska community, Viktor Nikolaevich Tereshchenko. Such people need to have security. Victor Nikolaevich was kidnapped simply from his workplace and taken to the local police station. They are holding him and will not release him,” Syniehubov said.

The locals condemn the act, he added, and said he is working to free the village leader as soon as possible.

“Soon our occupied territories will be ours again,” he added.

While Russian forces have not taken Kharkiv, they “continue their terror against the civilian population, in particular against the heads of territorial communities of Kharkiv region today,” Syniehubov stated.

US: Russian forces “continue to want to conduct a siege of Kyiv”

Russian forces “continue to want to conduct a siege of Kyiv,” a senior US defense official told reporters, based on troop movements and the types of weapons Russian forces are moving from the rear “to join their advancing elements.”

While Russian forces have not moved closer to Kyiv’s city center over the last 24 hours, the US has observed that Russian forces are moving some forces “from the rear to join their advancing elements,” and “some of those forces, some of those capabilities are artillery, long-range artillery,” the official said.

Because of that, “it appears” that Russian forces “continue to want to conduct a siege of Kyiv,” the official added, “cause that’s what you want to use artillery for.”

“They clearly are trying, particularly around Kyiv to improve their ability to hit the city from afar with munitions,” the official continued.

Russian military has documentary evidence US funded bioexperiments in Ukraine

The Russian army has obtained documentary evidence confirming the Pentagon was involved in financing military biological projects in Ukraine, the chief of Russia’s radiation, chemical and biological protection force, Igor Kirillov, has said.

“We believe that components of biological weapons were being created in Ukraine,” Kirillov added. He demonstrated a document dated March 6, 2015 confirming “the Pentagon’s direct involvement in financing military biological experiments in Ukraine.”

He stressed that it was standard practice to fund US sanitary and epidemiological wellbeing projects in third countries, including those in Africa and Asia, through national health service agencies.

Ukrainian biolabs continue to destroy biological materials and documentation on the research of dangerous viruses, Kirillov noted.

“Information continues to be received about attempts to destroy biomaterials and documentation in laboratories in Ukraine. We know that during the liquidation in the laboratory of veterinary medicine in the settlement of Khlebodarskoye, working employees, citizens of Ukraine, were not even allowed into the building,” he continued.

Ukrainian Defense Ministry laboratories in Kiev, Odessa, Lvov and Kharkov received $32 million funding from the US, Kirillov had claimed.

China calls US, NATO initiators of Ukraine crisis

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian on Thursday refuted US State Secretary Antony Blinken’s accusations that China’s unwillingness to condemn Russia’s “special military operation” is inconsistent with China’s position on the UN Charter.

China always stands for respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries and abiding by the purposes and principles of the UN Charter, Zhao noted during a regular press conference.

Blinken’s China-smearing remarks fully revealed the US side’s Cold War mentality and bloc confrontation thinking, Zhao said, adding that such remarks will not help solve the problem.

On the Ukraine issue, China has always adopted an objective and fair attitude and made judgments independently based on the merits of the matter itself, the spokesperson reiterated, adding that China believes the security concerns of all countries must be taken seriously and supports all efforts that are conducive to the peaceful settlement of the crisis.

As a responsible, major country, China will continue to play a constructive role in maintaining world peace and stability, Zhao said.

He stated the US government’s decision on NATO’s eastward expansion is directly related to the current Ukraine crisis and stressed that the key to solving the crisis lies in the hands of the US and NATO.

As the initiators of the crisis, the US and NATO should reflect on their role in the crisis, effectively assume responsibility, and take practical action to de-escalate the situation and solve the issue, Zhao continued.

He also called on the US to work together with the majority of the developing countries in the world, stand on the side of peace and justice and promote the early de-escalation of the situation in Ukraine.

NATO begins major war games near Russia

NATO has deployed 30,000 troops, 50 vessels, and 200 aircraft from 27 member-states in Norway to conduct the long-planned military exercise ‘Cold Response’.

Russian invasion spurs European demand for US drones, missiles

European governments have approached the US government and defense contractors with a shopping list of arms including drones, missiles and missile defenses as the Russian invasion of Ukraine drives renewed demand for US weaponry.

US House votes to suspend normal trade relations with Russia

The US House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly on Thursday to halt normal trade relations with Russia and Belarus over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. The Suspending Normal Trade Relations with Russia and Belarus Act was approved in the chamber 424-8.

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