US: Russia stopped ground movements toward Kyiv & moved in defensive positions
Russian forces around Ukraine’s capital of Kyiv are now in defensive positions and have stopped “any interest in terms of ground movements” towards the capital city, though air attacks and long-range strikes still continue, according to a senior US defense official.
The US estimates that Ukrainian forces are still holding where they had pushed the Russians back further east of the city, adding that there are indications that Ukrainian forces are pushing back the Russians around the northern city of Chernihiv as well.
The nearby town of Makariv is “at the very least contested” and may be in Ukrainian control, the official said.
The US cannot confirm the Russian claim to have destroyed a military fuel depot near Kyiv, the official continued.
Meanwhile, 1,250 missiles have been launched by Russia against Ukraine since the start of the invasion, according to the official.
Ukraine’s military: Russian cruise missiles strike Ukrainian Air Force command center
The Ukrainian military said in a statement Friday that Russian forces launched cruise-missile strikes on the Ukrainian Air Force command center in west-central Ukraine, causing “significant destruction” to infrastructure.
“Today, March 25, around 4:30 pm, Russian occupiers launched a missile strike on the territory of the Air Force Command of the Armed Forces of Ukraine in Vinnytsia,” according to the statement.
“A total of six cruise missiles were released by the Russians. Some of them were hit by air defense. The rest struck several structures, causing significant destruction to the infrastructure,” it continued.
The statement added the consequences of the missile strike were being examined.
Regional governor: Ukrainian forces still control Mariupol city
The governor of Ukraine’s Donetsk region has announced Ukrainian forces still control the besieged southern city of Mariupol on the Sea of Azov.
Speaking on national television, Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko stated around 65,000 people had so far fled the city in private vehicles or on foot although official efforts to organise mass evacuations under temporary ceasefires have mostly failed.
Ukraine’s top security official Oleksiy Danilov has also said Ukrainian forces still control the besieged port city of Mariupol and no one will surrender it.
“Mariupol is holding on, and no one is going to surrender Mariupol,” Danilov added.
US sees Russia focusing on eastern Ukraine
The United States assesses that Russia is prioritising eastern Ukraine’s Donbass, as opposed to Kyiv, in what could be an effort to build leverage in negotiations and cut off Ukrainian forces in the east from the rest of the country, a senior US defence official has noted.
Russia announced earlier that the first phase of its military operation was mostly complete and it would focus on completely “liberating” Ukraine’s breakaway eastern Donbass region.
The US defence official also stated Russia was looking to send reinforcements from Georgia.
Ukraine, Russia voice pessimism over talks
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said negotiations with Russia aimed at ending the conflict are “very difficult” and vowed Kyiv would not back down on its demands.
“The Ukrainian delegation has taken a strong position and does not relinquish its demands. We insist, first of all, on a ceasefire, security guarantees, and [the] territorial integrity of Ukraine,” Kuleba added.
Ukraine is apparently seeking to drag out the talks as it thinks that time is on its side, Russian presidential aide Vladimir Medinsky, who leads the Russian delegation to the talks, said on Friday.
“We see, regrettably, that our Ukrainian colleagues are seeking to drag out the talks. They are in no hurry, obviously thinking that time is on their side, and say it openly that they have many decision-making centers they have to agree these or those solutions with. This is the reality we are in,” he added.
According to Medinsky, in the course of talks, the Ukrainian side now and then takes time to think, to consult with third parties.
“Regrettably, as far as we understand – they make no secret of it, they are limited in making independent decisions. So, the current state of things inspires little optimism,” he stressed, stating he doesn’t share the Ukrainian delegation’s optimism, when it speaks about “great progress.”
“So far, there is no progress on matters of principal importance the Russian side insists on,” he noted.
Ukrainian region cuts rail links with Belarus to limit supplies to Russian troops
Ukraine’s northern Rivne region has suspended its rail links with Russia-allied Belarus to prevent supplies reaching Russian forces in Ukraine, Governor Vitaly Koval said on Friday.
“This means that Russia will no longer be able to deliver military equipment and supplies to the occupiers through the Belarusian railways,” he added.
Ukraine claims Russian troops ‘on the defensive in many areas’
Russian forces are not motivated to fight in Ukraine and are now “on the defensive in many areas”, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has stated.
Oleksiy Arestovych also claimed in a video briefing posted on Telegram that many Russian troops were refusing to join the offensive after hearing of fellow soldiers being killed in huge numbers in Ukraine.
UN: Dozens of Ukrainian officials, journalists detained, disappeared
Dozens of Ukrainian officials, journalists and activists have been detained or forcibly disappeared by invading Russian forces, the UN has warned, saying that some cases resembled “hostage-taking”.
The UN’s human rights office (OHCHR) announced it had documented the arbitrary detention and enforced disappearance of 22 local Ukrainian officials, 13 of whom had subsequently been released, since Moscow launched its attack.
At least 15 journalists and civil society activists “who vocally opposed the invasion” in several regions had also been taken, Matilda Bogner, OHCHR’s representative in Ukraine, stated.
“This does seem to be a pattern that is occurring in areas that are occupied by the Russian Federation,” she added.
“Forces of the Russian Federation are going specifically to detain, and do not inform relatives and others where they are taking people … That does in some cases appear to be a form of hostage-taking,” she continued.
Switzerland adopts more EU sanctions against Russia
Switzerland’s government says it has adopted more EU sanctions against Russia after pledging to act in step with the bloc as it moves to financially punish Moscow.
“This means that all measures contained in the EU’s fourth package of sanctions have been implemented,” the country’s cabinet announced in a statement.
However, the cabinet said it had decided not to implement the EU measure of March 1 suspending the broadcasting of Russian media outlets Sputnik and Russia Today.
“Despite the fact that these outlets are used to spread targeted propaganda and disinformation by the Russian Federation, the Federal Council is of the opinion that it is more effective to counter untrue and harmful statements with facts instead of preventing them from being broadcast,” it added.
UN says more than 1,080 civilians killed in Ukraine
The UN’s human rights office says it has confirmed at least 1,081 civilians have been killed in Ukraine since Russia started its offensive, with the real toll expected to be significantly higher.
In its latest update on casualties, OHCHR also announced that 1,707 people had been wounded amid Moscow’s onslaught.
It added that UN human rights monitors are working to verify reports of additional deaths in places of intense clashes in the regions of Sumy, Kharkiv and Donetsk, where the city of Mariupol is located.
Russia says first phase of Ukraine ‘operation’ mostly complete
Russia’s defence ministry has said the first phase of Moscow’s “military operation” in Ukraine is mostly complete and that it will focus on completely “liberating” eastern Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region.
Russian news agencies quoted the defence ministry as saying that Russian-backed separatists now controlled 93 percent of Ukraine’s Luhansk region and 54 percent of the Donetsk region – the two areas that jointly make up the Donbas.
The ministry announced it did not rule out storming Ukrainian cities that had been blockaded and that Russia would react immediately to any attempt to close the airspace over Ukraine – something Kyiv has asked NATO to do, but NATO has resisted.
It added that Moscow’s offensive would continue until Russian forces had completed the tasks that had been set by Russian President Vladimir Putin, without elaborating.
Moscow updates troop death toll, claims 1,351 killed
Russia’s army has updated its troop death toll, saying 1,351 soldiers have been killed and 3,825 others wounded since the start of its offensive in Ukraine.
The new toll, announced at a Moscow briefing delivered by senior military officials, came several weeks after Moscow gave its first assessment of losses in the conflict on March 2.
At the time, Russia put the number of its forces killed at 498.
Kyiv says more than 16,000 Russian troops have been killed, while NATO officials have told Al Jazeera they believe the death toll on the Russian side amounts to between 7,000-15,000 personnel.
“We are going on the counterattack”: Ukrainian government adviser says about fighting in Kyiv region
A Ukrainian government adviser struck an upbeat note describing recent offensives in the region around Kyiv.
“We are going on the counterattack. We are moving forward,” Vadym Denysenko, an adviser to the interior minister, told Ukrainian television.
US assesses Russia running low on air-launched cruise missiles & experiencing high rates of failure
The US has assessed that Russian forces are running low on air-launched cruise missiles, and there are indications they are trying to preserve that inventory as part of their declining stocks of precision guided munitions, according to a US defense official.
Air-launched cruise missiles are the “lowest” part of the inventory, the official added.
In addition, these missiles are showing high failure rates at launch, the official said. The US currently assesses Russian failure rates of precision guided munitions, especially cruise missiles failure rates, range from “20 percent to as high as 60 percent,” the official stated, depending on the type of weapon and mission.
The US has tracked this information in part by observing the number of Russian missions that appear to involve unguided, or “dumb,” bombs. Satellites and other airborne intelligence platforms can monitor the failure of some missile launches by gathering intelligence on infrared and radar signatures of the aircraft and the missiles.
Ukraine claims another Russian general killed
Ukraine claims its forces have killed another high-ranking Russian military official, the latest in a string of Vladimir Putin’s military top brass to die in the war.
In a video statement, presidential advisor Oleksiy Arestovych stated Ukraine forces had “killed commander of the 49th Russian Southern District Army, General Yakov Ryazantsev, in a strike on Chornobayivka near Kherson”.
Several residents of Kherson, the first Ukrainian city to fall to Russian forces after they attacked Ukraine in the south, have recently told AFP they have heard heavy fighting from Chernobayevka every night.
Ukraine’s leader Volodymyr Zelensky stated several days ago that Chernobayevka will “go down in the history of warfare”.
Arestovych noted last week that the commander of the Russian Eighth Army, Russian General Andrei Mordvichev, had been killed, also at the Chornobayivka airfield near Kherson.
The presidency claimed he was the fifth top-ranking officer to be killed since the invasion began on February 24.
WH: US can still take “additional measures to tighten the screws on sanctions” against Russia
The US government believes they still “retain the capacity” to impose further non-military costs on Russia, like additional sanctions, over the Kremlin’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters on Air Force One on Friday.
“We believe that we still retain the capacity to impose additional costs on Russia that are not strictly military costs,” Sullivan said.
“We believe that, of course, there are additional measures to tighten the screws on sanctions and we’ll be constantly reviewing those,” he stated.
“We do think the sanctions will increasingly have the effect of pressuring and constraining the Russian economy, the Russian war machine in ways that will shape their thinking as they go forward. And that will undermine their capacity to play an aggressive role in the world, as they have done over the course of the past many years,” he added.
Sullivan also stressed the importance of enforcing the already announced sanctions.
“This point about enforcement though, I think is really central because in the period ahead, Russia’s main focus from an economic perspective is going to be to figure out how they can get around over or under the sanctions that have been imposed. And blocking off those pathways is going to be vital to producing the kinds of cost imposition effects and vital to shaping the thinking in the Kremlin,” Sullivan said.
When asked about concerns over sanctions backfiring and causing the Russian population to solidify behind Russian President Vladimir Putin, Sullivan acknowledged that it’s a narrative the Russian government will try to push, but the US believes the Russian people will be able to “connect the dots.”
“At the end of the day, the Russian people are going to ask the more fundamental question of why this happened and how this happened and we believe that at the end of the day they will be able to connect the dots,” Sullivan added.
When asked about whether the US is prepared to use secondary sanctions, Sullivan did not rule it out and stated that the US is ready to designate any person or company “undertaking systematic efforts to weaken or evade them and those tools are at this point well understood by companies and countries around the world.”
“We’re prepared to use them if it becomes necessary to do so,” Sullivan noted.
Russia: Ukraine’s air force, air defences almost completely destroyed, navy has ceased to exist
Ukraine’s air and air defence forces have been almost completely destroyed, and the country’s navy has effectively ceased to exist, Russian General Staff Main Operational Directorate chief Sergei Rudskoy has stated.
The campaign to demilitarize Ukraine is taking place by the delivery of precision strikes against military infrastructure facilities, areas of deployment of formations of troops, as well as airfields, command posts, arsenals and depots containing weapons and equipment, plus battles between Ukrainian and Russian forces, Rudskoy said in a briefing Friday.
“At present, the Ukrainian Air Force and the system of air defences have been almost completely destroyed. The country’s naval forces have ceased to exist,” the officer added.
Rudskoy reported that Russia has suffered 1,351 military personnel killed and 3,825 injured since the operation in Ukraine began on 24 February.
Ukraine’s armed forces have suffered losses amounting to 30,000 people, including 14,000 killed and 16,000 injured, according to the Main Operations Directorate chief. These losses have affected all 24 groupings of the ground units that existed before the operation began, Rudskoy continued.
Putin says West trying to ‘cancel’ Russian culture
Russian President Vladimir Putin has accused the West of trying to cancel Russian culture, including the works of great composers such as Pyotr Tchaikovsky.
“Today they are trying to cancel a whole thousand-year culture, our people,” Putin stated in a televised meeting with cultural figures, referring to the pulling of events involving Russian masters in some Western countries in recent weeks.
Moscow dismisses talk of gold reserves trapped abroad
The Russian central bank on Friday dismissed media speculation that gold reserves have been taken out of the country and are being held abroad. Western media began reporting the rumor after the US and EU authorities hinted of possible sanctions targeting Russian gold.
“All the gold from our gold and foreign exchange reserves is in the vaults of the Bank of Russia on the territory of our country,” the regulator stated on its website.
The central bank explained that gold and foreign exchange reserves are a tool with which the regulator can protect the country’s economy from external threats. In particular, they can become a source of funds to cover the cost of foreign exchange debt, stabilize the foreign exchange market and help pay for critical imports.
Earlier this month, the US and its allies froze roughly half of Russia’s reserves, worth $300 billion, as part of sanctions over Moscow’s military operation in Ukraine. However, the remainder of the country’s reserves, which includes physical gold, is secure, according to the Bank of Russia.
Kremlin: Putin instructed energy giant Gazprom to switch to ruble payments
Russian President Vladimir Putin has instructed Russian state energy giant Gazprom to switch to ruble payments, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Friday.
Asked in a conference call with reporters whether Russia would continue to supply gas to the EU if the European countries refuse to pay in rubles, Peskov stated, “Gazprom has been instructed by the Russian president to accept payment in rubles.”
“Within a week, or rather, within the remaining four days, Gazprom should… develop an understandable system of how this can be done technically and logistically,” Peskov added.
Putin stated Wednesday Russia will seek payments for gas in rubles from countries it considers “unfriendly.”
The Russian president’s order does not apply to independent gas producer Novatek, Peskov noted, as it is a private company.
Ukrainian officials claims elderly couple shot dead by Russian forces in Sumy
Ukraine’s Prosecutor General’s Office claimed two elderly Ukrainians have been killed by Russian forces in their own home in the country’s northeastern Sumy region.
“According to the investigation, on March 24, 2022, servicemen of the armed forces of the Russian Federation shot two residents in their own yard in Veliky Sambir village,” the Interfax-Ukraine news agency quoted the office as saying in a Telegram post.
Ukraine says Chernobyl workers’ town ‘isolated’ by Russian forces
Ukrainian authorities say the town of Slavutych, which services the defunct Chernobyl nuclear plant, is now “completely isolated” with Russian forces just beyond its limits.
The Kyiv region administration announced in a statement that Moscow’s troops were stationed within 1.5km (one mile) of the town
The Chernobyl plant was seized by Russian forces on February 24, the first day of Russia’s invasion.
Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych has announced Ukrainian troops have repulsed a first attack by Russian forces on the town of Slavutych.
Erdoğan: Ukraine & Russia reached “an understanding” on certain topics of negotiation
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Friday that Ukraine and Russia seem to have reached ‘an understanding’ on four out of six topics of disagreement discussed during negotiations.
Speaking to reporters on his way back from a NATO summit in Brussels, Erdoğan also stated he will speak with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky on Friday and with Russian President Vladimir Putin over the weekend “or [during the] first days of the next week.”
“There are six topics of negotiation between Russia and Ukraine, there seems to be an understanding between them about four topics,” Erdoğan added.
“At first, Ukraine was hung up on this issue, but later on, Zelensky began to express that he could withdraw from NATO membership. Another issue is the acceptance of Russian as an official language. Zelensky also admitted this. Russian is a language spoken almost everywhere in Ukraine. There is no problem at this point either,” Erdoğan continued.
Erdoğan also stated Zelensky’s comments about the need for a referendum on compromises with Russia was “smart leadership.”
Zelensky said Monday any constitutional changes that relate to security guarantees in the country would need to be decided through a referendum and not by him alone.
About his upcoming call with Putin, Erdoğan noted “we should discuss and evaluate” NATO meetings.
“We have to look for a way to smooth this business by saying ‘make an honorable exit to this,'” Erdoğan continued.
“On the other hand, we [Turkey] certainly consider the use of weapons of mass destruction as a crime against humanity,” he added.
The Turkish authorities will not be able to join the sanctions against Russia, as they cannot let their citizens freeze without Russian gas, Erdoğan stated.
The matter of S-400 deliveries to Ukraine is closed, since the missile systems are Ankara’s property and ensure the country’s security, he added.
UNICEF: Half of all Ukrainian kids have been displaced since Russian invasion began
One in every two Ukrainian children has been displaced since Russia began its invasion on February 24, according to a statement from the UN Children’s Fund.
UNICEF’s statement added that 4.3 million children have been displaced, which represents more than half of Ukraine’s estimated 7.5 million child population.
This figure includes over 1.8 million children who have crossed into neighboring countries as refugees, and 2.5 million children who are also internally displaced in Ukraine, the statement said.
The statement added that 78 children have been killed and 105 children have been injured in Ukraine since the invasion began over a month ago, according to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).
However, these figures represent those that the UN has managed to confirm, and the true toll is expected to be higher, the statement said.
“It’s mind-boggling,” UNICEF spokesperson James Elder told CNN earlier this week, adding, “Since the start of the war a month ago, out of every boy and girl in the country, one out of two now has had to flee their homes.”
It’s a situation we’ve not seen before, not in living memory, and it’s almost impossible to deal with,” Elder said.
Elder said UNICEF is trying to get blankets, water purification tablets, generators, medical supplies and obstetric kits for mothers giving birth into the country.
“Unless the war stops, unless the indiscriminate attacks stop, we’re going to see more children wrenched from their homes and the bombardments,” he added.
Ukraine says Russian forces have ‘partially’ created a land corridor to Crimea
Ukraine’s Defence Ministry says Russian forces have partially managed to create a land corridor to the Crimea Peninsula from territory in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region.
“The enemy was partially successful in creating a land corridor between the temporarily occupied Autonomous Republic of Crimea and part of Donetsk region,” the ministry added.
UK PM adds to pressure on China to condemn Russia
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has spoken to China’s President Xi Jinping about the invasion of Ukraine, Downing Street has said.
The call between the two leaders on Friday morning lasted around 50 minutes, a spokesman for the Prime Minister stated.
The spokesman added: “Obviously, the Prime Minister has been talking with a lot of world leaders and quite regularly throughout the course of what has happened in Ukraine.
“This is part of the Prime Minister’s wider engagement with world leaders so he can set out our position on where we think the current situation is,” he continued.
It is understood the PM set out the UK’s position on Ukraine and that pressure should be placed on Russian president Vladimir Putin to withdraw troops.
Shelling of Chernobyl nuclear plant staff sparks UN alarm
Chernobyl nuclear plant staff are under shelling bombardment from Russian troops, sparking fears that increased volatility in the area could trigger another disaster.
The UN’s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), expressed “concern” about the development, saying Russian forces were shelling Ukrainian checkpoints in the city of Slavutych, the home of many people working at the abandoned Chernobyl plant, “putting them at risk”.
Its director-general Rafael Grossi stated the incident came “just a few days after technical staff at the Chernobyl (plant) were finally able to rotate and go to their homes in Slavutych and rest after working for nearly four weeks without a change of shift”, and warned of forest fires nearby.
Russian forces took control of the plant, the site of the worst nuclear disaster in history in 1986, on February 24. About 100 Ukrainian technicians then continued to run the daily operations at the radioactive site for nearly four weeks without being rotated.
Ukraine’s government also announced on Wednesday that Russian forces had looted and destroyed a laboratory near the plant which was used to monitor radioactive waste.
Russia: US seeks to divert attention from bio labs by claiming chemical weapons threat
The US seeks to divert attention from their biological laboratories in Ukraine by speaking about the alleged threat of use of chemical weapons by Russia, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Friday.
“It is obvious that the Americans are trying to what is called to divert attention. They talk about some ephemeral threat of Russia’s use of chemical weapons. This is nothing but an attempt to divert attention from the ongoing scandal,” the spokesman added.
Peskov underscored that such strategy is unlikely to succeed.
“It is unlikely that they will succeed in doing so. Very many people in the world are concerned about what the Americans were doing, what we still don’t know about and what could have happened because of these researches and what can potentially happen in the future,” he underlined.
UN: Growing evidence of Mariupol mass graves
The head of the UN’s human rights team in Ukraine stated that monitors have received increasing information on mass graves in Mariupol, including one that appeared to hold 200 bodies.
“We have got increasing information on mass graves that are there,” Matilda Bogner told journalists by video link from Ukraine, saying some of the evidence came from satellite images.
Russia regards NATO as tool of confrontation
The Kremlin won’t make forecasts about whether current changes in the world could cause NATO to collapse but a “romantic period” in the relations between Russia and NATO is over, Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Friday.
“It’s not for us to say,” he said, when asked if current geopolitical changes could prompt a collapse of NATO.
“We used to have a romantic period in the relations with NATO,” the spokesman added.
As an example, he referred to a Russia-NATO summit in Italy in 2002 where the sides signed a declaration on plans for building relations between Russia and the alliance.
“It’s water under the bridge,” Peskov said, adding, “That romantic period is over, and romanticism has been replaced with the daily grind.”
“The daily grind, the routine relations are that NATO was conceived and created as an instrument of confrontation and still performs these functions as it essentially can’t perform any other functions,” he stated, noting, “That’s how we used to regard NATO and how we are regarding NATO.”
US President Joe Biden earlier stated that Russia sought to undermine NATO’s unity. He announced these were the intentions of Russian President Vladimir Putin because it’s easier for Moscow to confront 30 separate countries than 30 countries that are united.
Biden announces new energy task force with Europe to deprive Putin of profits used to “drive his war machine”
US President Joe Biden announced a new initiative meant to deprive Russian President Vladimir Putin of European energy profits used to “drive his war machine.”
Speaking in Brussels alongside European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, Biden said Russia was using its hold on providing Europe with oil and gas to “coerce and manipulate its neighbors.”
Biden stated the United States would help Europe reduce its dependence on Russian oil and gas, and would ensure the continent had enough supplies for the next two winters.
“It’s going to take some time to adjust gas supply chains and infrastructure that was built for the last decade so we’re going to have to make sure the families in Europe can get through this winter and the next while we’re building an infrastructure for a diversified, resilient and clean energy future,” Biden added.
The panel, chaired by representatives from the White House and the European Commission, will be aimed toward finding alternative supplies of liquefied natural gas and reducing overall demand for natural gas moving forward.
Europe’s dependence on Russian gas and oil has proved a major sticking point in Western efforts to punish Moscow for its invasion of Ukraine. While the US banned Russian energy imports, Europe found it far more difficult to cut off its supplies.
“I know that eliminating Russian gas will have costs for Europe, but it’s not only the right thing to do from a moral standpoint, it’s going to put us on a much stronger strategic footing,” Biden noted.
The United States will work toward supplying Europe with at least 15 billion cubic meters of liquefied natural gas in 2022, in partnership with other nations, the White House announced.
Senior administration officials said the 15 billion cubic meters of liquefied natural gas being sent to Europe is coming from multiple sources, including the United States and nations in Asia. But officials did not have an exact breakdown on where the gas was coming from.
The announcement Friday was the culmination of a US effort over the past months to identify alternate sources of energy for Europe, particularly in Asia. Officials announced those efforts would continue through this year to hit the 15 billion cubic meter target.
One official said weaning Europe from Russian energy amounted to “replacing an unreliable supplier of LNG with a much more reliable supplier in the US.”
The group will also work toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions through reducing methane emissions and using clean energy to power operations.
“This crisis also presents an opportunity. It’s a catalyst,” Biden continued, adding, “A catalyst that will drive the investments we need to double down on our clean energy goals and accelerate progress towards our net zeroes emissions future.”
Von der Leyen has hailed the joint energy task force as a “big step” in efforts to diversify gas supplies away from Russia.
“We want as Europeans to diversify away from Russia, towards suppliers that we trust that are friends and that are reliable and therefore, the US commitment to provide the European Union with additional at least 15 billion cubic meters of LNG this year is a big step in this direction, because this will replace the LNG supply we currently receive from Russia,” von der Leyen told the press conference.
The US has also committed to ensuring stable demand and supply for an additional 50 billion cubic meters of US liquefied natural gas until 2030, which von der Leyen noted will replace one third of Russian gas supply to Europe.
This puts the bloc “right on track now,” she added, stressing the need for the EU to secure supplies “not just for next winter, but also for the years ahead.”
Furthermore, as the current gas infrastructure may be used in future for clean hydrogen, it plays a part in the “decarbonizing of our economy,” she continued.
The cooperation between the EU and US “shows the power of our democracies,” and Biden’s presence in Europe sends a “powerful message to the world,” she added.
Kremlin plays down impact of possible G20 expulsion
The Kremlin has stated that nothing terrible will happen if the US and its allies succeed in expelling Russia from the G20 group of major economies.
“The G20 format is important, but in the current circumstances, when most of the participants are in a state of economic war with us, nothing terrible will happen,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters when responding to a question about Moscow’s possible expulsion.
The US has announced it is in favour of Russia being pushed out of the group, but Peskov noted Washington’s efforts to isolate Moscow had so far only been partially effective and would ultimately fail.
Russia denies breaching international law with phosphorus bombs
Russia on Friday announced it had “never” violated international legislation after Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky accused Moscow of using phosphorus bombs in his country.
“Russia has never violated international conventions,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters, referring any further questions to the defence ministry.
Russian FM: West has declared a hybrid ‘total war’ on Moscow
“Today a real hybrid war, a ‘total war’ has been declared against us. This term, which was used by Nazi Germany, is now used by many European politicians when they explain what they want to do to the Russian Federation. And their goals are not hidden: to destroy, to break, to strangle the Russian economy, and Russia as a whole,” Lavrov stated, speaking at a diplomatic forum on Friday.
“Here, when we see this sanctions free-for-all, it is of course clear that all of these values that our Western colleagues had constantly preached to us about the freedom of expression, a market economy, the inviolability of private property and the presumption of innocence, all of these values are worthless,” Lavrov noted in a separate engagement with reporters Friday after meeting with Abkhazian President Aslan Bzhania.
The diplomat added most countries outside the collective West don’t want to “engage in a one-sided game” amid the current crisis, notwithstanding “enormous pressure” and “propaganda juggling the numbers of votes cast for provocative UN resolutions.”
Lavrov expressed confidence that most countries in the world will not join the West’s sanctions games.
“The vast majority of countries in the world are interested in developing equitable cooperation based on the key principles laid down in the UN Charter, first and foremost – the principle of the sovereign equality of states,” he stated.
The Russian diplomat also suggested that efforts by the West to “rudely trample” over these principles to try to “impose its superiority” are “doomed to failure,” as even the history of Europe has shown.
Ukraine: Russian ship destroyed in Berdyansk was “Saratov”
Ukrainian armed forces named the Russian landing ship they say they attacked and destroyed in Berdyansk as the “Saratov,” in a statement on Friday.
In earlier reporting, the ship was named as the “Orsk.”
“In the Azov operational zone, according to updated information, a large landing ship ‘Saratov’ was destroyed during the attack on the occupied Berdyansk port,” the statement added.
The statement identified the two other large landing ships — the “Caesar Kunikov” and “Novocherkassk” — that were also said to have been destroyed during the attack.
“Other losses of the enemy are being clarified,” the statement said.
Ukrainian armed forces announced they destroyed the large Russian landing ship at the port of Berdyansk in southern Ukraine on Thursday.
The port, which had recently been occupied by Russian forces with several Russian warships in dock, was rocked by a series of heavy explosions soon after dawn.
Photos and videos showed fires raging at the dockside, with a series of secondary explosions reverberating across the city.
Several Russian ships had been unloading military equipment at Berdyansk in recent days, according to reports from the port by Russian media outlets.
China: NATO needs to reflect on itself, reject Cold War mentality
Beijing firmly opposes NATO leaders’ groundless accusations, suspicions and calls for NATO to have a good reflection on itself and reject its Cold War mentality, a spokesperson of the Chinese Mission to the EU on Friday said in response to a question concerning the NATO extraordinary summit statement mentioning China.
We must stay on high alert and say no to a “new Cold War,” which goes against the trend of history and the aspirations of people around the world, the spokesperson added.
23 years ago, NATO bombs fell on the ground of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, causing thousands of casualties including Chinese citizens, and displacing hundreds of thousands. The lessons of history must not be forgotten, the spokesperson noted.
NATO Heads of State and Government on Thursday issued a joint statement after the extraordinary Summit, in which NATO leaders called on all states, including China, to “uphold the international order including the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity,” as enshrined in the UN Charter, to abstain from supporting Russia’s war effort, and to refrain from any action that helps Russia circumvent sanctions. They are also concerned that China is engaged in amplifying Russia’s false narratives.
Since the Ukraine crisis broke out, China has been working actively to facilitate peace talks, the cessation of conflicts, as well as the avoidance of a large-scale humanitarian crisis, the spokesperson stressed.
“Time will prove that China is on the right side of history. What has NATO done? Anyone without prejudice would come to a fair conclusion,” the spokesperson said.
Concerning accusations that China is amplifying false narratives, they are made by those who fan the flames to stir up troubles. Lies shall always remain lies, and what is false cannot become true, the spokesperson added.
Mariupol authorities estimate 300 people killed in Russian strike on theater
Mariupol city council claims that based on eyewitness reports, it now believes about 300 people died in a Russian attack on a theater in the city nine days ago.
The building was being used as one of the main shelters in the besieged city of Mariupol, but was hit by a Russian airstrike on March 16. Estimates of the number of people taking shelter in the theatre ranged from between 800 to 1,300.
Information about the full extent of the attack has been slow to emerge due to the almost complete breakdown of essential services in the city, including communication networks.
Mariupol, which before the war was home to around 450,000 people, has been under near constant attack from Russian forces since early March with satellite images showing significant destruction to residential areas.
Russian Central Bank limits funds movement to unfriendly states by potentially $300bln
Russia has imposed restrictions on the movement of funds to unfriendly countries for a comparable amount in response to the freezing of part of its gold and foreign exchange reserves by Western countries, the Central Bank said on Friday.
The Russian finance ministry estimated that Western countries, as part of sanctions over Ukraine, have frozen about half — or about $300 billion — of Russia’s gold and foreign exchange reserves.
“In response to the freezing of part of Russian reserves, Russia also imposed restrictions on the movement of funds that could be transferred to unfriendly countries for a comparable amount,” the regulator added.
US and EU announce task force on reducing dependence on Russian oil & gas
US President Joe Biden and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen on Friday announced a joint task force in an effort to wean Europe from its dependence on Russian oil and gas.
The panel, chaired by representatives from the White House and the European Commission, will aim to find alternative supplies of liquified natural gas and reduce overall demand for natural gas.
The United States will work toward supplying Europe with at least 15 billion cubic meters of liquified natural gas in 2022, in partnership with other nations, the White House announced.
Europe’s dependence on Russian gas and oil has proved a major sticking point in Western efforts to punish Moscow for its invasion of Ukraine. While the US banned Russian energy imports, Europe found it far more difficult to cut off its supplies.
The group will also work toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions by paring down methane emissions and using clean energy.
Von der Leyen has stressed Brussels will not allow Moscow to override sanctions by demanding EU importers pay for Russian oil and gas in rubles.
The comment comes after Russia announced on Wednesday that payments for gas exports to certain Western countries will be switched to its domestic currency, the ruble.
“[Trading energy in rubles] would be an attempt [on the part of Russia] to circumvent the sanctions. We will not allow our sanctions to be circumvented. The time when energy could be used to blackmail us is over,” von der Leyen told Reuters.
Chernihiv cut off by Russian troops
Russian forces have fully cut off Ukraine’s besieged northern city of Chernihiv, regional governor Viacheslav Chaus has said.
“The city has been conditionally, operationally surrounded by the enemy,” Chaus stated on national television, adding that it was under fire from artillery and warplanes.
Ukraine: 59% of Russian missiles malfunctioned, downed or missed
Russia has launched some 1,200 cruise missiles since the invasion began on February 24, but 59 percent of them did not explode, were shot down or missed, Ukraine’s General Staff of the Armed Forces has claimed.
“Russia shot about 1,200 missiles, less than a half hit the target,” it said on Telegram.
“Others were either shot down by air defence forces, or hit wrong targets – mountains, forests, rivers,” it added.
“They have imprecise missiles and crooked hands,” it concluded sarcastically.
Police say four killed in shelling of Ukrainian aid centre
Russian shelling hit a clinic that was acting as a centre for humanitarian aid in the eastern city of Kharkiv, killing four people, the regional police announced in a statement on Friday.
“As a result of the morning shelling of civilian infrastructure from multiple rocket launchers, 7 civilians were injured, 4 of whom died,” said a statement on social media.
“There is no military facility nearby,” it added.
Zelensky: ‘Whole cities, villages turned to ashes’
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has provided an update on some of the horrors that have unfolded amid Russia’s relentless invasion of Ukraine.
In his speech on Friday, he said Russian missiles and tanks had already destroyed more than 230 schools and 155 kindergartens, and killed 128 children.
“Whole cities, villages. Just to ashes. Nothing remains,” he added.
Russia: Ukrainian training base for foreign mercs destroyed in Iskander missile strike
A Ukrainian training facility for foreign mercenaries has been destroyed in an Iskander missile attack, the Russian Defence Ministry claimed on Friday.
Moscow hasn’t specified yet the location of the training centre or if any mercs were killed in the strike.
In total, since the beginning of the special military operation, the Russian army destroyed 261 unmanned aerial vehicles, 204 anti-aircraft missile systems, 1,587 tanks and other armored combat vehicles, 163 multiple launch rocket systems, 636 field artillery guns and mortar, as well as 1,397 units of special military vehicles.
Additionally, the Russian armed forces destroyed a fuel base near Kiev — the largest among the remaining fuel bases of the Ukrainian forces — with Kalibr high-precision sea-based cruise missiles, Russian defense ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov noted.
Moscow accused of forcibly removing hundreds of thousands of civilians
Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians have been taken against their will into Russia as Moscow pressures Kyiv to give up.
Ukraine’s ombudswoman Lyudmyla Denisova claimed 402,000 people, including 84,000 children, had been forcibly removed from shattered Ukrainian cities.
Some civilians may be used as “hostages” in a push to make Kyiv surrender.
Prosecutors: 135 Ukrainian children killed
The Russian invasion has killed 135 and wounded 184 children in Ukraine, the general prosecutor’s office has said.
Most of the killings took place in the Kyiv region (64), in the eastern Kharkiv region (44) and in the southeastern Donetsk region (46) that is partially controlled by pro-Russian separatists, it added.
Ukrainian officials and survivors accuse Russia of deliberately targeting civilians, apartment buildings, schools and hospitals.
Ukraine’s president has claimed that more than 2,000 children have been kidnapped since the start of Russia’s war against his country.
“We do not know the whereabouts of our children,” stated Volodymyr Zelensky, speaking at the European Council summit, which he attended virtually.
Zelensky also accused Russian forces of firing on humanitarian aid convoys and targeting women and children in evacuation corridors.
Missile attack reported on Ukraine military facility in Dnipro
Russian forces have fired two missiles at a Ukrainian military unit on the outskirts of Dnipro, the fourth-largest city in the country, according to regional emergency services.
The attacks destroyed buildings and set off two fires, it said, while the number of those killed and wounded was still being established.
Dnipro is west of the regions along the Russian border that have been controlled by Moscow-backed separatists since 2014.
Rescuers are searching for survivors among the debris after two missiles hit a Ukrainian military unit on the outskirts of the city of Dnipro, causing “serious destruction”, regional Governor Valentyn Reznychenko stated.
UK: Ukrainian forces re-occupying towns
Ukrainian forces have reoccupied towns and defensive positions up to 35 kilometres east of Kyiv, according to British intelligence.
“Ukrainian counter-attacks, and Russian Forces falling back on overextended supply lines, has allowed Ukraine to re-occupy towns and defensive positions up to 35 kilometres east of Kyiv,” UK defence intelligence said.
“Ukrainian Forces are likely to continue to attempt to push Russian Forces back along the north-western axis from Kyiv towards Hostomel Airfield,” it added.
“In the south of Ukraine Russian Forces are still attempting to circumvent Mykolaiv as they look to drive west towards Odesa with their progress being slowed by logistic issues and Ukrainian resistance,” it noted.
Russian ex-president says Western sanctions won’t sway Kremlin
Russian ex-president and deputy head of security council Dmitry Medvedev said it was “foolish” to believe that Western sanctions issued against Russian businesses could have any effect on the Moscow government.
Medvedev on Friday noted the sanctions would only bring Russian society together, rather than cause widespread discontent with authorities.
“Let us ask ourselves: can any of these major businessmen have even the tiniest quantum of influence of the position of the country’s leadership?” Medvedev continued, adding, “I openly tell you: no, no way.”
The West has not hesitated to slap an array of sanctions on Russia following its invasion of Ukraine, as the Kremlin refuses to back down.
Speaking to Sputnik and RT, Medvedev pointed out that Russia’s special military operation in Ukraine proceeds as planned and will continue until goals of demilitarisation and ‘de-Nazification are achieved.
Three dead, 13 wounded in attack on Ukraine village
At least three people have died and 13 were wounded when Russian forces fired on a village in the southern Mykolaiv region, according to the Ukrinform news website.
The Bashtansky council announced the Russian attack on Thursday also damaged the town’s school and the mayor’s office, Ukrinform reported.
Evacuation train from Kyiv comes under fire
Authorities in Ukraine say Russian forces attacked a train evacuating civilians from Kyiv to Ivano-Frankivsk in western Ukraine, shattering the windows of three cars.
There were no casualties in Thursday’s attack, said an official with Ukraine’s national railway operator.
The Ukrainian interior ministry, meanwhile, reported “heavy artillery fire on Vyshhorod”, a town outside Kyiv. The attacks damaged an apartment block, it added.
EU ready to new tough sanctions against Russia & Belarus
Leaders of the EU member-states expressed readiness to introducing new tough sanctions against Russia and Belarus, the European Council announced in its statement released on Friday.
“The European Union has so far adopted significant sanctions that are having a massive impact on Russia and Belarus, and remains ready to close loopholes and target actual and possible circumvention as well as to move quickly with further coordinated robust sanctions on Russia and Belarus,” the European Council said.
“Any attempts to circumvent sanctions or to aid Russia by other means must be stopped,” according to the statement.
The EU also agreed to set up the solidarity trust fund for Ukraine, the European Council noted.
“The European Council agrees to develop a Ukraine Solidarity Trust Fund and invites its international partners to participate, and calls for preparations to start without delay. It calls on the Commission to continue to provide technical assistance in order to help Ukraine implement necessary reforms,” it added.
Report: US assesses up to 60% failure rate for some Russian missiles
Three US officials have told the Reuters news agency that Russia is suffering failure rates as high as 60 percent for some of the precision-guided missiles it is using to attack Ukraine.
Reuters said the US officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, did not provide evidence to support the assessment and did not disclose what precisely was driving high missile failure rates.
If true, the agency added, it could help explain why Russia has failed to achieve what most could consider basic objectives since its invasion a month ago, such as neutralizing Ukraine’s air force, despite the apparent strength of its military against Ukraine’s much smaller armed forces.
Russia DM resurfaces after disappearing from view
Russian state media has shown Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu attending a meeting of top officials amid speculation about his whereabouts after he dropped out of public view weeks into Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Shoigu, who is overseeing the war in Ukraine, had not been seen in public since March 11.
But the RIA state-owned news agency on Thursday showed Shoigu on a televised split screen of top officials as Putin spoke to his Security Council by video conference.
RIA made a point of zooming in on Shoigu in the top left-hand corner of a video screen set in front of Putin. The clip did not contain audio and did not show Shoigu speaking.
Zelensky reassures Ukraine: ‘We are getting closer to peace’
Ukraine’s president has spoken of hope and determination in his nighttime address to the nation, saying Ukrainians are “getting closer to victory”.
“The country must move toward peace, move forward. With every day of our defense, we are getting closer to the peace that we need so much,” Volodymyr Zelensky said.
“We can’t stop even for a minute. For every minute determines our fate, our future, whether we will live,” he added.
Zelensky stated he had made appeals to Western leaders gathered in Brussels earlier on Thursday “all for one reason – so that Russia understands that we need to achieve peace”.
“Russia also needs to achieve peace,” he noted.
US, EU discussed further sanctions on Russia
Leaders of the EU member-states and the US discussed readiness to introduce further sanctions against Russia and prevent any attempts to circumvent earlier imposed restrictions, according to the Joint Readout by the European Council and the United States released on Friday.
“They reviewed their ongoing efforts to impose economic costs on Russia and Belarus, as well as their readiness to adopt additional measures and to stop any attempts to circumvent sanctions,” the document says.
“Leaders discussed the urgent needs caused by Russia’s aggression, committed to continuing providing humanitarian assistance, including to neighboring countries hosting refugees, and underscored the need for Russia to guarantee humanitarian access to those affected by or fleeing the violence,” the statement adds.
Leaders also discussed cooperation between the EU and the US “to reduce dependence on Russian fossil fuels, accelerate the transition to clean energy, as well as the need to respond to evolving food security needs worldwide,” according to the Readout.
US claims Russia running out of precision munitions in Ukraine war
Russia is running out of precision guided munitions and it is more likely to rely on so-called dumb bombs and artillery, a senior Pentagon official has claimed.
Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Colin Kahl speculated that he did not believe President Vladimir Putin wanted to have an all out conflict with NATO.
Kahl stated Russia will emerge from the conflict in Ukraine weaker and more isolated.
“I think with a high degree of certainty that Russia will emerge from Ukraine weaker than it went into the conflict. Militarily weaker, economically weaker, politically and geopolitically weaker, and more isolated,” the official said.
The Pentagon official also added an upcoming Pentagon defence strategy document would declare Russia an “acute threat”.
But Russia cannot pose a long-term system challenge to the US, unlike China, he continued.
Japan expands sanctions against Russia
Japan expanded sanctions against Russia in view of the special military operation underway now in Ukraine, Japan’s Foreign Ministry announced on Friday.
Twenty-five Russians were added to the sanction list, including chief executive of the Russian development corporation Igor Shuvalov and relatives of Russian officials and businessmen. Certain restrictions apply to them, including the asset freeze.
Japan also introduced additional export sanctions by expanding the list of blacklisted companies and organizations from 49 to 130, including Russian shipbuilders, electronic and technical producers, such as the Amur Shipyard and the Russian Space Systems.
Japanese authorities also announced the ban on luxury goods export to Russia.
EU leaders slams Russia ‘war crimes’, demand end to ‘aggression’ in Ukraine
EU leaders meeting in Brussels have issued a statement demanding an end to Russia’s “war of aggression against Ukraine” and slamming its attacks on the country’s civilian population and infrastructure.
“These war crimes must stop immediately. Those responsible, and their accomplices, will be held to account in accordance with international law,” the leaders said.
They added that EU stands by Ukraine and will continue to “provide coordinated political, financial, material and humanitarian support”.
Zelensky says European sanctions on Russia were “a little late”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky thanked European Council members for putting sanctions on Russia — but said “it was a little late.”
Zelensky stated if the sanctions had been preventative, there was a chance Russia would not have gone to war.
“You blocked Nord Stream 2. We are grateful to you. And rightly so. But it was also a little late. Because if it had been in time, Russia would not have created a gas crisis. At least there was a chance,” he told the European Council.
Zelensky told member states: “The Russian military does not see what dignity is. They do not know what conscience is. They do not understand why we value our freedom so much. This is what determines how the country will live.”
He added Russia has already destroyed 230 schools, 155 kindergartens and killed 128 children in Ukraine.
“Whole cities, villages. Just to ashes. Nothing remains,” he noted, “The Russian military killed journalists. Although they saw the inscription “Press” on them. They may not have been taught to read. Only to kill.”
In his address, Zelensky thanked member states for their support but stopped short of thanking Hungary, calling on Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban to “decide already” on its treatment of Russia.
“You hesitate whether to impose sanctions or not? And you hesitate whether to let weapons through or not? And you hesitate whether to trade with Russia or not? There is no time to hesitate. It’s time to decide already,” he continued.
US economic war against Russia can completely collapse bilateral relations — MFA
The United States has declared economic war on Russia, which threatens to completely collapse bilateral relations, but the countries can still agree by observing the principles of mutual respect, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told a briefing on Thursday.
“The economic war declared on Russia threatens to completely collapse bilateral relations. This, of course, is not in our interests, because we proceed from the fact that diplomatic relations and, in principle, relations between states should serve national interests, the interests of the peoples living on the territory of our countries,” Zakharova said.
She stressed that the Russian side had for many years offered the US “a normal, open dialogue based on the principles of reciprocity and respect for Russian national interests.”
“Perhaps, there is still a chance to reach an agreement. But if they [the US] go this way, they will miss this chance once again,” the diplomat concluded.
According to her, Washington’s unacceptable behavior is caused by “impotent rage because the plan to turn Ukraine into anti-Russia” and use it as a bridgehead for delivering all types of strikes” on the territory of the Russian Federation failed,” she continued.
“This anger has practically brought Washington to a virtual point of no return in bilateral relations,” Zakharova stated. She added that the United States, along with its allies, resorted to “outright robbery” of Russia and its citizens.
“Apparently, it was not expected that Russia would withstand this blow, and problems, according to the law of communicating vessels, would begin to multiply in the United States of America itself, not to mention its satellites from the European Union singing along with them … This is the root of aggressive rhetoric and personal insults that go beyond all limits of decency, performed by the American President [Joe Biden] as well. They reflect internal turmoil, uncertainty, irritation with the fact that it did not work out, as it always worked before, and as it was planned this time,” the diplomat noted.
Zakharova drew attention to the fact that, through the fault of Washington, Russian diplomatic missions “are literally depleted by the mutual expulsions of diplomats.”
“The situation is aggravated by the destructive decision of the United States to stop issuing entry visas to Russian citizens at their embassy in Russia. It is clear that if diplomatic missions in Washington and Moscow are closed, absolutely no one will feel better. It will simply be impossible to solve problems,” the official representative of the Russian Foreign Ministry concluded.
US assesses Ukraine likely conducted a successful attack against Russian ships
The US has assessed that Ukraine likely did conduct a successful attack against Russian ships in Berdiansk, according to a defense official. It’s unclear, however, what type of weapon or weapons were used in the attack.
The assessment echoes a similar statement from the British Ministry of Defence, which said that Ukrainian forces have attacked “high-value targets” in Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine, including a landing ship and ammunition depots at Berdiansk.
Earlier Thursday, Ukraine claimed they destroyed the Orsk, a landing ship docked at the Berdiansk port on the Sea of Azov. Photo and Video from the city showed plumes of smoke pouring out of the dock area, as well as multiple explosions.
One day earlier, Russia’s state-run RT media outlet had profiled the Orsk in Berdiansk port, saying it could carry 20 tanks or 40 armored personnel carriers.
Ukraine tells US it needs 500 Javelins and 500 Stingers per day
Ukraine has updated its extensive wishlist of additional military assistance from the US government in the past several days to include hundreds more anti-aircraft and anti-tank missiles than previously requested, according to a document provided to CNN that details the items needed.
The Ukrainians have submitted similar lists in recent weeks, but a recent request provided to US lawmakers appears to reflect a growing need for American-made Stinger anti-aircraft missiles and Javelin anti-tank missiles — with Ukraine saying it urgently needs 500 of each, daily.
In both cases, Ukraine is asking for hundreds more missiles than were included in a similar list recently provided to US lawmakers, according to a source with knowledge of both requests.
The new list comes as the Ukrainians have claimed they face potential weapons shortages amid an ongoing Russian assault – prompting some pushback from US and NATO officials who stress that more military aid is already going into the country.
Less than two weeks into Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the US and other NATO members had sent about 17,000 anti-tank missiles and 2,000 anti-aircraft missiles into Ukraine.
Since then, NATO countries, including the US, have kept the pipeline of weapons and equipment flowing, even as Russia has threatened to target the shipments.
The last of a US $350 million security assistance packaged approved in late-February arrived in Ukraine within the last few days, a senior defense official noted, while the next two packages totaling $1 billion have already started to arrive.
US President Joe Biden stated Thursday that “armor systems, ammunition and our weapons are flowing into Ukraine as I speak.”
The defense official added it would be “multiple flights over many days” to get the equipment to Eastern Europe before it enters Ukraine at multiple land border crossings.
Ukraine says Russia conducted 1,804 air raids
Since the war began on February 24, Russia has conducted 1,804 air raids on Ukraine, including 467 missiles, the Defence Ministry in Kyiv has announced.
Moscow claimed all of its attacks were surgical, but Ukrainian and Western officials have accused it of deliberately targeting residential buildings, schools and hospitals.
Australia imposes sanctions on Belarus president & his family for supporting Russia’s invasion
Australia has placed sanctions on Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko for supporting Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Australia’s Foreign Ministry announced in a statement Friday.
The new set of sanctions also target 22 “Russian propagandists and disinformation operatives,” including senior editors from media outlets Russia Today, the Strategic Culture Foundation, InfoRos and NewsFront, according to the statement.
Others include Lukashenko’s wife, Galina, and his son Viktor, who previously held senior national security roles in the government.
The statement said the sanctions are to “ensure that Russia and those who support its illegal, unprovoked invasion of its democratic neighbour, pay a high cost.”
Australia will “continue to impose further sanctions to inflict significant costs on those in Russia and Belarus who bear responsibility or hold levers of power,” it added.
Canada to increase defence spending, impose new sanctions on Russia
Canada will continue to increase its defence spending, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has stated, as he announced new sanctions against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.
“Canada will be increasing pressure by sanctioning 160 members of the Russian Federation Council who facilitated and enabled this unjustified invasion,” Trudeau told reporters in Brussels.
Ottawa will also impose new prohibitions on the export of certain goods and technologies to Russia, “with the aim of undermining and eroding the capabilities of the Russian military,” according to a statement.
Putin’s war to wipe out 15 years of progress for Russian economy
Russia is set to erase 15 years of economic gains by the end of 2023 after its invasion of Ukraine spurred a multitude of sanctions and prompted companies to pull out of the country, according to the Institute of International Finance.
The economy is expected to contract 15 percent in 2022, followed by a decline of 3 percent in 2023, leaving gross domestic product where it was about fifteen years ago.
Russia: US, allies relocated about 16,000 biological samples from Ukraine abroad
The US and its allies transported about 16,000 biological samples beyond Ukrainian territory within the framework of its military-biological activities, Russian Nuclear, Chemical and Biological Protection Troops head Igor Kirillov announced Thursday, adding that such scale of relocation operation suggests a search for the most dangerous biological agent for this particular region.
“The funding of the military biological operation allowed the US and its allies to transport at least 16,000 biological samples beyond the Ukrainian territory. […] Such large-scale screening of the population’s natural immunity was likely carried out in order to find biological agents that are the most dangerous for the population of a particular region,” he noted.
According to Kirillov, within the framework of the UP-8 project, blood tests were taken from 4,000 servicemen in Lvov, Kharkov, Odessa and Kiev for antibodies for hantaviruses, while 400 more tested for Congo-Crimean fever virus.
The military official noted that the relocation covered not only tissue and blood serum samples, but also dangerous pathogens and their carriers.
“For instance, over 10,000 samples were relocated to the Lugar Research Center in Georgia. Other recipients included reference laboratories in the UK, the Loeffler Institute in Germany,” he said.
“All this creates risks of transmission of sensitive genetic information abroad, as well as threat to biological security, not only for Ukraine, but for those regions where these samples were relocated to,” he continued.
Meanwhile, one of the US’ priorities was researching anthrax pathogen, characterized by high contagiousness and resilience in the environment,” Kirillov added.
Russia: NATO summit confirms desire to prolong conflict
The extraordinary summit of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) held Thursday has confirmed the alliance’s desire to contain Russia and prolong the military conflict in Ukraine, the Russian Foreign Ministry said.
“The decision announced at the summit to continue providing political and practical support to the Kiev regime confirms the alliance’s interest in continuing hostilities,” the ministry’s spokesperson Maria Zakharova announced in a statement.
NATO members have demonstrated their loyalty to Washington by vowing to follow its orders aimed at ultimately containing Russia, she stated, adding Washington once again “disciplined” its allies by pressuring sovereign countries and further erasing Europe’s strategic autonomy.
“They silently watched the United States destroy the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, stood aside when Washington withdrew from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, allowed the Americans to withdraw from the Treaty on Open Skies,” Zakharova said, stressing that NATO members have been slowly destroying the European security system.
NATO is using its “anti-Russian course” as a pretext to increase the purchase of weapons, which are being supplied by the US military industrial complex, she noted.
To cover up Washington’s “dirty practices” regarding secret research on biological and chemical weapons, NATO has launched a groundless disinformation campaign accusing Russia of possible provocations, the spokesperson added.
China: Threats from US labs in Ukraine, other countries must not be ignored
The threats coming from US biological laboratories operating in Ukraine and other countries of the world must not be ignored, Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Wu Qian said in a video statement on Thursday.
He stressed that the United States had 336 biological laboratories in 30 countries around the world.
“According to open sources, in Ukraine there were dozens of biological laboratories subordinate to the US Department of Defense, Wu added.
“The aforesaid US activities lack transparency. The latent threats to security must not be ignored,” he continued.
We demand that the US immediately stopped its libel and fabrication of rumors, stopped creating amoral and ignoble scandals out of nothing, Wu noted.
China condemns US attempts to shift responsibility for the crisis Washington artificially engineered in Ukraine, Wu Qian said, adding, “China’s actions clearly contrast the US method: to engineer an artificial crisis, to shift responsibility, and to capitalize on it.”
“However, what country is the main instigator of this crisis? Everyone knows,” he continued.
Envoy: Western UN resolution on Ukraine was needed to put labels on Russia
The Western UN General Assembly resolution on Ukraine was necessary to put labels on Russia, Russian Permanent Representative to the UN Vasiliy Nebenzya said Thursday, calling the resolution a pseudo-humanitarian paper.
“I believe, there is no point in a lengthy excursion into why Russia voted against the pseudo-humanitarian resolution, presented by Western states and Ukraine,” Nebenzya stated.
He explained that this document is pseudo-humanitarian because “its authors needed it solely in order to once again condemn Russia, put various labels on it, on us, and to carry out a kind of raise of hands of those that are ready to sign a one-sided interpretation of the situation.”
“We are grateful to anyone who mustered enough courage to take an independent look at what is going on,” the envoy noted.
China refutes NATO secretary general’s misinformation accusation
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said time will prove China stands on the right side of history and groundless accusations will collapse, refuting an allegation from NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg that “China has provided Russia with political support by spreading lies and misinformation.”
When asked about Stoltenberg’s allegation at Thursday’s press briefing, Wang stated the accusation against China itself is spreading disinformation.
With an objective and fair attitude, China has made active efforts to realize an immediate ceasefire, to avoid a humanitarian crisis and to restore peace and stability, Wang noted, adding that Ukraine should be a bridge between the East and the West, not an outpost in major power rivalry.