Saturday, May 18, 2024

Live Updates: Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 43

Russia, wary of NATO’s eastward expansion, began a military campaign in Ukraine on February 24 after the Western-leaning Kiev government turned a deaf ear to Moscow’s calls for its neighbor to maintain its neutrality. In the middle of the mayhem, Moscow and Kiev are trying to hammer out a peaceful solution to the conflict. Follow the latest about the Russia-Ukraine conflict here:

Moscow: Restriction of Russia’s membership in UNHRC unlawful

Restriction of Russia’s membership in the UN Human Rights Council is unlawful, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

“The Russian side considers the resolution adopted by the UN General Assembly on April 7 in New York to suspend the membership of the Russian Federation in the UN Human Rights Council as an unlawful and politically motivated step in order to defiantly punish a sovereign UN member state that pursues an independent domestic and foreign policy,” the ministry added.

Earlier in the day, the UN General Assembly on Thursday adopted a resolution suspending Russia’s work in the UN Human Rights Council.

Chief: NATO’s next strategic concept to address future relations with Russia, China’s rise

NATO will for the first time address the impact of China’s “influence and coercive policies” on its security, as well as relations with Russia, in its next Strategic Concept, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Thursday.

“Ministers agreed that NATO’s next Strategic Concept must deliver a response on how we relate to Russia in the future. And for the first time, it must also take account of how China’s growing influence and coercive policies affect our security. The Strategic Concept will be finalized for the Madrid Summit in June,” Stoltenberg stated at a press conference following the meetings of NATO Ministers of Foreign Affairs in Brussels.

Foreign ministers of NATO member states convened in the Belgian capital on Wednesday and Thursday to discuss the situation in Ukraine.

The Strategic Concept is a fundamental document of NATO which outlines key security challenges faced by the alliance and guides its political and military development. The last Strategic Concept was approved in 2010 and has not been revisited since.

All war crimes should be investigated, Stoltenberg noted when commenting on killings of Russian prisoners of war in Ukraine.

“Every report on potential violations of national law should be thoroughly looked into and of course any violation of international law and any war crime is always unacceptable,” Stoltenberg added.

Blinken: US will not let anything stand in way of sending Ukraine arms

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has stated Washington will not let anything stand in the way of sending Ukraine the weapons it needs in its fight against Russia.

Speaking to reporters at NATO following a meeting of foreign ministers, Blinken said the United States is looking at what new weapons it can send Ukraine.

Blinken noted the United States is sustaining and building its pressure on Russia, as he warned that there are more credible reports of torture, rape and killings by Russian forces in Ukraine.

Blinken added there is a growing coalition of countries with Ukraine and against Russia.

“We’re sustaining and building up pressure on the Kremlin and its neighbors,” Blinken continued.

US Senate votes to ban import of Russian energy products

The US Senate on Thursday unanimously passed legislation suspending the import of energy products from Russia to the United States amid the ongoing special operation in Ukraine.

The Senate passed a revised version of H.R. 6968, the Suspending Energy Imports from Russia Act, in a 100-0 vote. The bill will now be sent back to the House of Representatives for final passage of the revised version.

The legislation prohibits the importation of mineral fuels, oils and distillate products, in addition to directing the US Trade Representative to consider steps to suspend Russia’s participation in the World Trade Organization.

UNGA suspends Russia from Human Rights Council

The United Nations General Assembly has voted to suspend Russia from the Human Rights Council during a meeting Thursday. The voting result: in favor 93; against 24; abstention 58.

Russia Ukraine War Human Rights Council
Ukraine’s Ambassador to the UN Sergiy Kyslytsya speaks during a meeting of the United Nations General Assembly on Thursday.

In a draft of the resolution, the UNGA announced the General Assembly would “suspend the rights of membership in the Human Rights Council of a member of the Council that commits gross and systematic violations of human rights.”

The General Assembly needed to vote in favor by two-thirds to remove Russia from the council.

Ukraine’s foreign minister has welcomed the decision by the UNGA to suspend Russia from the UN Human Rights Council over reports of violations and abuses of human rights by its troops in Ukraine.

“War criminals have no place in UN bodies aimed at protecting human rights. Grateful to all member states which supported the relevant UNGA resolution and chose the right side of history,” Dmytro Kuleba wrote on Twitter.

Russia bars Australian leaders and lawmakers from entering

Russia’s Foreign Ministry has announced it had imposed entry bans on 228 Australian government members and lawmakers, including Prime Minister Scott Morrison, in response to sanctions from Canberra.

It published a list of 228 Australian lawmakers and government members who were barred from entering Russia.

Ukraine claims about 18,900 Russian troops killed since start of war

About 18,900 Russian troops have been killed since Moscow launched its offensive, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine claims.

The military department announced that nearly Russian 700 tanks and 1,900 other armoured vehicles have been destroyed, as well as about 285 planes and helictopters.

Russia’s last official death toll, announced on March 25, put the number of its casualties at 1,351.

Top US general warns Ukraine war will be “long slog”

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Mark Milley said he expects Russia’s war with Ukraine to “be a long slog” as Ukraine fights to maintain its territorial integrity with no signs on the horizon that the Kremlin will stop its aggression.

“I would say that ‘what does winning look like?’ I think winning is Ukraine remains a free and independent nation that it’s been since 1991 with their territorial integrity intact. That’s going to be very difficult. That’s going to be a long slog,” Milley told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday.

Ukraine has successfully defeated Russia’s initial onslaught on Kyiv, Milley stated, but he noted there’s a battle ahead in the southeastern part of the country as Russia has refocused its war efforts there.

“They’ve managed to defeat the Russian onslaught on to Kyiv, but there is a significant battle yet ahead down in the southeast, down around the Donbas-Donetsk region where the Russians intend to get mass forces and continue their assault,” Milley added.

“So I think it’s an open question right now, how this ends. Ideally, [President Vladimir] Putin decides to ceasefire, stop his aggression, and as some sort of diplomatic intervention. But right now that doesn’t look like it’s on the horizon, the immediate horizon,” he continued.

Ukraine has received about 25,000 anti-aircraft weapons systems from the United States and its allies, helping Kyiv prevent Russia from establishing air superiority that would have aided Moscow’s ground invasion, Milley said.

He added the United States and its allies had also supplied Ukraine with 60,000 anti-tank systems.

“The Ukrainians … are very, very thankful, extraordinarily thankful,” Milley told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

US defense secretary says arms arriving in Ukraine “within days of authorization”

US security assistance is flowing into Ukraine “faster than most people would have ever believed conceivable,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said on Thursday, adding that at times, it is arriving in Ukraine within days of receiving authorization.

“From the time authorization is provided, four or five days later, we see real capability begin to show up,” Austin stated during a hearing on the Defense Department budget request before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Austin’s comments came in response to questioning from lawmakers on the Senate Armed Services Committee. GOP Sen. Roger Wicker pressed Austin on why all of $3 billion in congressional authorization for US arms to Ukraine has yet to be provided.

“We’ve only used $900 million of this — less than a third of the amount authorized. Why hasn’t the administration provided the full $3 billion?” he noted.

Austin told Wicker that the US has provided Ukraine with “those capabilities that are relevant and effective in this fight.”

“You’ve seen us provide a tremendous amount of anti-armor, anti-aircraft capability and also communications capabilities, as well as UAVs. And we’re also looking to help them in a number of other ways,” he continued.

US Commerce Department bars American exports to 3 Russian airlines

The US Commerce Department on Thursday moved to block three Russian airlines from receiving exported parts from the US in the department’s first move to punish alleged violations of export controls since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The move — which applies to Russian flagship carrier Aeroflot, along with airlines Azur Air and Utair — is an effort to cut off the airlines from the global economy.

It follows US sanctions announced Wednesday against two of Russia’s biggest banks and the adult children of Russian President Vladimir Putin, as US President Joe Biden accused Russia of war crimes in Ukraine.

The Commerce Department’s so-called Temporary Denial Orders, which are valid for six months and can be renewed, effectively bar the use of US parts to service the planes, as well as maintenance contracts for planes that are subject to US export regulations.

As result of the orders, the Russian airlines would over time “largely be unable to continue flying either internationally or domestically,” stated Matthew Axelrod, assistant secretary of Commerce for export enforcement.

“[I]t’s obviously difficult to keep flying if you can’t service your planes,” Axelrod said Thursday at a press briefing, adding that the three Russian airlines would commit “imminent” violations of export controls by flying “US origin aircraft” into Russia without authorization for continuing to fly those aircraft within Russia without authorization.

Russia’s effort to prop up ruble will “deplete” its war resources: US treasury official

Russia’s efforts to prop up the ruble will eventually “deplete” its resources to fight the war in Ukraine, US Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo told CNN.

“We’ve worked with our European allies and partners to level a set of devastating sanctions against the Russian economy and what they’ve done because of our sanctions is they’ve taken the money that they’re earning from selling things abroad and they’re forcing those exporters to take that money and to bring it back to Russia and to buy Rubles,” Adeyemo said.

“Every time they take a dollar or a euro and bring it back to Russia and they force their companies to buy rubles, it’s depleting their resources they will have to fight the war,” he added.

Adeyemo wouldn’t directly answer whether Europe should stop buying gas from Russia, saying that Europe has a “commitment to removing themselves from Russian energy and that’s what they started to do” citing the ban of Russian coal Wednesday. The treasury is now focused on making sure they stop sanctions evasion and going after the “Russian war machines,” including its aerospace and military industries, Adeyemo added.

“The key thing for us is to make sure that we do this in a way that hurts the Russian economy more than it hurts our economy,” he continued.

Moscow: Washington withdraws from cybersecurity dialogue

The United States has unilaterally closed communication channels with Russia regarding cybersecurity, Russian Security Council Deputy Secretary Oleg Khramov has said.

The two nations previously exchanged lists of critical internet infrastructure under the auspices of the Russian Security Council and the US National Security Council, after Moscow sent Washington proposals aimed at taking joint measures to protect both countries’ critical infrastructure from cyberattacks.

“The White House has now notified us that it is unilaterally withdrawing from the negotiation process and closing the communication channel,” Khramov added.

Russia and the US previously agreed that it was “critically important” for the two countries to work together and “combine our efforts to fight cybercrime instead of barking at one another like dogs,” Russian President Vladimir Putin stated after his summit with US President Joe Biden last summer.

Khramov claims that US Cyber Command is being actively pumped up with taxpayer dollars and intends to launch a preemptive cyberattack against Russia.

Washington previously accused Moscow of planning cyberattacks against the US out of “revenge” for the West’s sanctions; however, Khramov noted Russia’s doctrine prevents it from carrying out these attacks, and that it is in fact the US that has forward “cyberbases” in countries such as Germany and the Baltic states, where he said there are hundreds of professional hackers working for the US.

Khramov also quoted a statement from the chief of the US Central Security Service, who stated that the US must “defend forward” and take the cyberspace war to the adversary, as is the case with traditional warfare, adding that “Persistent engagement of our adversaries in cyberspace cannot be successful if our actions are limited to DOD networks.”

US Senate votes to remove ‘most-favoured’ trade status for Russia, Belarus

Ukrainian ambassador urges UNGA to suspend Russia from rights council

Ukraine’s ambassador to the UN has called on the General Assembly to back the resolution calling for Russia’s removal from the world body’s Human Rights Council.

“In a couple of minutes, you will have a chance to prove that you are not an indifferent bystander,” Sergiy Kyslytsya said.

“All you need to do is to press the yes button … to save the Human Rights Council and many lives around the world and in Ukraine,” he added.

“On the other hand, pressing no means pulling the trigger and means a red on the screen as red as the blood of the innocent lives lost,” he continued.

Russian envoy accuses West of trying to ‘destroy existing human rights architecture’

Russia’s deputy ambassador to the UN has urged the General Assembly to reject the United States-initiated resolution on removing Moscow from the world body’s Human Rights Council.

“We … call on all those present here to really consider your decision and to vote against the attempt by Western countries and their allies to destroy the existing human rights architecture,” Gennady Kuzmin stated at the meeting at the UN’s headquarters in New York.

Ukraine dismisses Russian criticism of draft peace deal as ‘propaganda’

Ukrainian negotiator Mykhailo Podolyak has dismissed suggestions from Russia’s foreign minister that Kyiv presented Russia with a draft peace deal that deviated from proposals both sides had previously agreed on.

Podolyak told the Reuters news agency in a written statement that Sergey Lavrov was not directly involved in negotiations and his statements were “of purely propagandistic significance”.

He also accused Moscow of wanting to divert attention away from Russia’s alleged atrocities in the town of Bucha.

NATO agrees to strengthen its support for Ukraine

NATO members have agreed to strengthen their support for Ukraine and are providing a wide range of weapon systems to the country, Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has said.

Stoltenberg told reporters following a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Brussels that the alliance would boost cyber security assistance to Kyiv and provide equipment to Ukraine to help protect the country against potential chemical and biological threats.

EU Parliament votes on total Russian energy ban

The European Parliament passed a resolution on Thursday demanding “an immediate full embargo on Russian imports of oil, coal, nuclear fuel and gas.”

The bloc’s legislature also demanded Russia be completely cut off from the SWIFT banking network and booted from international organizations.

The resolution passed by 513 votes to 22 and 19 abstentions. The total embargo on Russian energy that it demands goes well beyond the EU’s existing plan to reduce its reliance on Russian gas by two thirds before the end of the year, and to phase out Russian fossil fuels before 2030.

Ukraine says battle for Donbas will be reminiscent of World War II

Ukraine’s foreign minister has warned that the anticipated battle for control of the country’s eastern Donbas region will be reminiscent of World War II.

Dmytro Kuleba told reporters at NATO’s headquarters in Brussels that the fight would see large operations manoeuvres involving thousands of tanks, planes and armoured vehicles.

He also reiterated his call for the alliance’s member states to supply Kyiv with weapons.

“Either you help us now – and I’m speaking about days, not weeks – or your help will come too late, and many people will die,” Kuleba added.

Kuleba stated he was “very specific” in his requests to NATO on Thursday, and said he was “cautiously optimistic about the outcomes of our discussions.”

G7 says it is ‘time to suspend’ Russia from UN Human Rights Council

The G7 group of industrialised nations has said it “is time” for Russia to be suspended from the UN’s Human Rights Council because of its “heinous acts and atrocities” in Ukraine.

“Haunting images of civilian deaths, victims of torture, and apparent executions, as well as reports of sexual violence and destruction of civilian infrastructure show the true face of Russia’s brutal war of aggression against Ukraine and its people,” the group’s foreign ministers announced in a joint statement.

The G7 comprises Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States. The group’s statement came ahead of a scheduled UN General Assembly vote later on Thursday over whether to suspend Russia from the world body’s Human Rights Council.

Russia says Ukraine fired missiles at ammunition depot near Belgorod: Report

Russia’s Investigative Committee has reportedly accused the Ukrainian army of firing at least three missiles at an ammunition depot near the southern city of Belgorod during an attack on the site last week.

The TASS news agency quoted the committee as saying that eight Russian citizens had been wounded by the alleged attack, which it said had also destroyed a warehouse.

Moscow accuses Kiev of backpedaling in peace talks

Kiev’s new written proposals on how to resolve the ongoing armed conflict with Moscow deviate from what it submitted to Russia during the previous round of talks in Turkey, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Thursday.

Ukraine apparently wants to stall for time and continue the hostilities, he stated, adding that Washington may have a hand in this shift.

The new proposal, which Lavrov said was sent by Ukraine on Wednesday, fails to mention that the security guarantees Kiev wants to obtain from leading world powers do not cover Crimea, he noted.

Instead of the explicit exclusion of Crimea from the proposed security arrangement, the new document has “vague wording about an effective control,” Lavrov continued.

Kiev wants to discuss the issue during a future bilateral meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelensky, he added.

The Russian foreign minister stressed that the status of Crimea was not up for discussion in any way.

Another deviation comes in the part that describes Ukraine’s commitment to restrict joint exercises with foreign powers on its territory. The previous version said such drills would only be possible if all nations guaranteeing Ukraine’s security agree to them, including Russia. The new version says a “majority of guarantors” must give their permission and does not mention Russia, Lavrov said.

The deviations from Kiev’s previous draft, which was delivered during talks in Istanbul, Turkey last week, exposed Kiev’s “true intentions” of stalling and undermining the peace process, Lavrov added.

The foreign minister stated the changes exemplify Ukraine’s inability to stick to agreements and serves as evidence “that the Kiev regime is controlled by Washington and its allies, who push President Zelensky to continue hostilities.”

Lavrov noted Russia will continue its efforts to negotiate peace with the Ukrainian government despite what he called a provocative move by Kiev.

Zelensky urges West to roll out ban on Russian oil

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has called on countries in the West to “bring Russia to justice” by banning imports of Russian oil and blocking its banks from the international finance system.

“Once and for all, we can teach Russia and any other potential aggressors that those who choose war always lose… those who blackmail Europe with economic and energy crisis always lose,” Zelenskyy said in an address to Greek lawmakers.

“Let us be honest, since the very beginning Russia’s actions were directed not only against Ukraine but also Europe,” he added.

Russian forces are trying to wipe Mariupol “off the face of the Earth”: Ukrainian military commander

Russian military forces are trying to wipe the besieged southern city of Mariupol “off the face of the Earth,” a Ukrainian military commander currently in Mariupol told CNN.

“It is a humanitarian catastrophe. The military that were involved in active hostilities here are completely surrounded. There are supply problems with water, food, medication and general supply. It’s a very difficult situation,” said Serhiy Volyna, deputy commander of the Marine Battalion in Mariupol, who has been fighting in the region since 2014.

“We have been encircled in Mariupol for more than 40 days. The enemy outnumbers us and in terms of weaponry, their artillery, they have sea-based artillery, tanks, armored vehicles and of course mortars. It is difficult for us,” Volyna added.

“It’s just air bombardment… They are just wiping the city off the face of the Earth and wherever any reinforcements they are also using their tanks to crush that,” he continued.

Ukrainian security service compiling list of alleged war crime perpetrators

Ukraine’s state security service (SBU) says it is compiling a list of Russian troops suspected of carrying out alleged war crimes in the Kyiv region, including in the town of Bucha.

“The SBU will identify anyone involved in atrocities in Bucha and other cities in [the] Kyiv region,” the service announced in a statement.

It added that it had interviewed almost 2,000 witnesses to date and identified 33 people suspected of collaborating with Russia.

Dnipro residents urged to leave as fighting intensifies in the east

The mayor of Dnipro, in central-eastern Ukraine, has urged women, children and the elderly to leave the city ahead of an anticipated intensified offensive from Moscow in the Donbas region.

“The situation in the Donbas is gradually heating up, and we understand that April will be rather intense,” Borys Filatov said in an online video address.

“All those who have the ability … should leave,” Filatov added.

His remarks echoed an earlier plea by authorities in Ukraine’s Luhansk region, which is east of Dnipro, for civilians to flee while they still could.

Ukrainian official warns of possible renewed attack on Kyiv

Russia is likely to renew its attack on Kyiv if its forces succeed in taking full control of the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, the deputy chief of staff of Ukraine’s ground forces has said.

“It is likely the enemy has not given up the goal of a second attack on Kyiv – there is such a threat,” Oleksandr Gruzevich added.

Ukrainian forces appear to kill captured Russians in video: Report

A video posted online and verified by the New York Times appears to show Ukrainian troops shooting what is believed to be a captured Russian soldier outside of a village west of Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv.

Three other apparent Russian soldiers can be seen dead nearby, one with a head wound and his hands tied behind his back.

Australia prepares more deliveries of lethal aid to Ukraine

Australia is preparing to deliver more lethal aid to Ukraine following President Volodymyr Zelensky’s address to the nation’s parliament last week, its foreign ministry announced Thursday.

“Australia has delivered five C-17 loads of military support — lethal and non-lethal — to Ukraine. We’re in the process of preparing the Bushmasters that President Zelensky requested in his address to our parliament — his momentous address — last week. They will be transported as soon as possible,” Foreign Minister Marise Payne stated.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that additional military assistance would be sent to Ukraine following Zelensky’s impassioned speech to the nation’s parliament last Thursday.

The new package includes, “tactical decoys, unmanned aerial and unmanned ground systems, rations and medical supplies,” according to a statement from Morrison’s office.

In February, the Australian government committed to providing lethal and non-lethal military equipment, medical supplies, and financial assistance to support Ukraine, as well as contributing $3 million in US dollars to NATO’s Trust Fund. Since then, shipments of lethal aid — including missiles, ammunition, and armored vehicles — have made their way into the country.

Australia has provided close to $70 million in US dollars in lethal aid to Ukraine since the war began.

WHO making contingency plans for possible ‘chemical assaults’

The World Health Organization (WHO) says it is preparing for possible “chemical assaults” in Ukraine as Moscow continues to press ahead with its offensive.

“Given the uncertainties of the current situation, there are no assurances that the war will not get worse,” the Reuters news agency quoted Hans Kluge, WHO’s regional director for Europe, as saying in a statement.

“WHO is considering all scenarios and making contingencies for different situations that could afflict the people of Ukraine, from the continued treatment of mass casualties, to chemical assaults,” Kluge added, without providing further details.

Attempts to economically isolate Russia will fail: PM

Russia’s prime minister has said attempts to isolate Russia from the global economy will fail despite Western powers rolling out further sanctions on Moscow.

Mikhail Mishustin conceded the country was facing its most difficult situation in three decades due to the sweeping measures but said the situation also provided room for new business opportunities as foreign companies leaving Russia would make space for others.

Moscow will respond to new US sanctions against Russia, Putin’s relatives: Kremlin

Moscow will definitely respond to new US sanctions against Russia and President Vladimir Putin’s relatives, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Thursday.

“Russia will definitely respond, and will do it the way it considers necessary,” Peskov added.

On Wednesday, the US Treasury Department announced new sanctions against Russia. Along with Putin’s daughters and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s wife and daughter, the list includes top members of the Russian Security Council.

Kremlin: Western arms deliveries to Ukraine will hamper Moscow-Kiev talks

Russia air attacks focused on the east: Ukrainian official

Russian air attacks are now mainly focused mainly on areas in eastern Ukraine, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said.

Oleksiy Arestovych stated in a televised address that Moscow’s forces were trying to encircle Ukrainian troops in the region.

He added that Mariupol was holding out despite fierce bombardment and that he believed Russia’s efforts to seize full control of the region, swaths of which are already held by Moscow-backed separatists, would be in vain.

‘Borodyanka is worse than Bucha’: Reporter

A Ukrainian journalist who visited the town of Borodyanka, northwest of Kyiv, has alleged that the number of civilians killed there is “worse than in Bucha”.

Roman Bochkala said in a post on Facebook on Wednesday that Russian forces had destroyed all of the town’s housing amid their offensive, alleging they had “wanted everyone to die.”

“People who were hiding from the air strikes were killed. The basements of multi-story buildings became a trap,” he continued.

Bochkala added that it would take two or three days for rescue workers to retrieve the bodies from under the rubble that is strewn across the town.

His claims came after Ukraine’s prosecutor general said on Monday that the number of civilian casualties in Borodyanka may outweigh those in Bucha, where dozens of non-combatants have been found dead.

Ukraine president: West’s sanctions against Russia ‘not enough’

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has called upon the West to impose sanctions that are economically destructive enough for Russia to end its war.

In his daily video address early on Thursday, Zelensky said Western countries must reject Russian oil and completely block Russian banks from the international finance system.

“New investments in Russia are blocked, restrictions are applied against several systemic banks in Russia, personal sanctions are added, as well as other restriction,” he added.

“This package has a spectacular look. But this is not enough,” he continued.

“It can hardly be called commensurate with the evil that the world saw in Bucha. With the evil that continues in Mariupol, in the shelling of Kharkiv, in Russia’s attempt to launch a new global bloody offensive in Donbas,” he noted.

EU reveals when oil import ban will be discussed

Ban on Russian oil imports will be discussed at the summit of EU foreign ministers on April 11 as part of the next round of sanctions against Moscow, the EU’s top diplomat Josep Borrell stated on Thursday.

“It is not in the 5th package of sanctions, which is being discussed today, it is only coal. But it will be discussed on Monday at the Foreign Affairs Council Ministers meeting. Sooner or later – I hope sooner – it will happen,” Borrell told journalists upon his arrival at a NATO ministerial meeting on Thursday.

Speaking on Wednesday to MEPs, Borrell noted that the bloc had to urgently cut Russian energy imports. He pointed to the fact that since the launch of Moscow’s offensive on Ukraine on February 24, the EU has transferred Russia €35 billion (more than $38,1 billion) in energy payments.

“We have given Ukraine nearly €1 billion. That might seem like a lot, but a billion euro is what we pay Putin (Russian President Vladimir Putin) every day for the energy he provides us,” the head of EU diplomacy added.

Russia claims destroyed fuel storage facilities in four Ukrainian cities

The Russian defence ministry has said its missiles had destroyed four fuel storage facilities in the Ukrainian cities of Mykolayiv, Kharkiv, Zaporizhzhia and Chuhuiv overnight.

The ministry added the facilities were used by Ukraine to supply its troops near the cities of Mykolaiv and Kharkiv and in the Donbas region in the far southeast.

Russia sent tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine on Feb. 24 in what it called a special operation to degrade its southern neighbour’s military capabilities and root out people it called dangerous nationalists.

Ukrainian forces have mounted stiff resistance and the West has imposed sweeping sanctions in an effort to force Russia to withdraw its forces.

Report: Full EU ban on imports of Russian coal to be delayed until mid-August

The European Union will not impose a full ban on imports of coal from Russia until mid-August, Reuters reported on Thursday, citing an EU source.

According to the source, the decision was made due to a pressure from Germany.

UK says Russian artillery, air strikes continue along Donbas line of control

Russian “artillery and air strikes” are continuing along the Donbas line of control, the United Kingdom’s defence ministry has announced in its latest intelligence update on the war.

The ministry added the main focus of Russian forces was “progressing offensive operations in eastern Ukraine”.

EU needs several weeks to discuss ban on Russian oil supplies: French finance minister

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire suggested on Thursday that the European Union need several weeks to discuss ban on Russia’s oil supplies to reach a final agreement.

“Stopping oil supplies will be the most painful for Russia. As we, France, said on Monday, we are ready for it … Then, it is necessary to convince other countries. We cannot do it [stop oil supplies from Russia] by ourselves. It would not make any sense,” Le Maire told the France Info radio station.

The minister also proposed that “[the EU] take a few more weeks to come to a decision together to ban Russian oil supplies.”

Mayor of Bucha claims 90% of victims shot, not shelled

Nearly all of Ukrainian civilians killed in the Kyiv suburb of Bucha were deliberately shot, the town’s mayor, Anatoly Fedoruk, has claimed.

“Almost 90 percent are bullet shots, not shrapnel,” Fedoruk told the Deutsche Welle broadcaster, contrasting Russian claims that the victims were killed by shelling from the Ukrainian side.

He stated that by Wednesday night, the bodies of 320 dead civilians had been found, but the number keeps growing because many bodies have been buried or left in parks and squares of villages outside Bucha.

Russia called the photos and videos of Bucha victims “fake”, claiming they were concocted by Ukrainian forces that entered the town after weeks of Russian occupation.

Ukraine FM asks NATO for weapons

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has called on NATO members to provide Kyiv with all the weaponry it needs to fight Russia.

“My agenda is very simple. It has only three items on it. It’s weapons, weapons, and weapons,” Kuleba told journalists at NATO headquarters in Brussels.

Kuleba, who was holding talks with G7 and NATO nations, noted his country was seeking “long-term solutions” to help it win its war with Russia.

“I came here today to discuss three most important things: weapons, weapons, and weapons. Ukraine’s urgent needs, the sustainability of supplies, and long-term solutions which will help Ukraine to prevail,” Kuleba wrote in a tweet which he stated was sent from NATO headquarters in Brussels.”

New EU sanctions on Russia to be agreed soon: Borrell

A fifth round of European Union sanctions on Russia, including a ban on coal imports, could be agreed by the bloc on Thursday or on Friday, the EU’s top diplomat Josep Borrell has said.

“Maybe this afternoon, or tomorrow at the latest,” he told reporters as he arrived at a NATO meeting.

Australia to impose sanctions on 67 Russians over Ukraine

Foreign Minister Marise Payne has stated that Australia was imposing sanctions on 67 Russians over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

“Today, I’m announcing 67 further sanctions of Russian elites and oligarchs, those close to (Russian President Vladimir) Putin who facilitate and support his outrageous actions,” she told reporters as she arrived at NATO.

Austria expels 4 Russian diplomats

Vienna has decided to expel four Russian diplomats, the Austrian foreign ministry announced on Thursday.

“The Federal Ministry for European and Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Austria announces its decision to revoke the diplomatic status of three staff members of the Russian Embassy in Vienna and one staff member of the Russian Consulate General in Salzburg,” the ministry said in a statement on Twitter.

The diplomats are requested to leave the country by 12 April, the ministry added.

Croatia to expel some Russian diplomats

Croatia will expel some Russian diplomats as a sign of solidarity with NATO and the EU in the wake of Russia’s special military operation in Ukraine, Croatian Foreign and European Affairs Minister Gordan Grlic-Radman said on the sidelines of the Meeting of NATO Ministers of Foreign Affairs in Brussels.

Earlier, Croatia declared a Russian embassy employee persona non grata in March 2018 as part of the West’s anti-Russian campaign on the so-called ‘Skripal case’.

NATO divided on further steps toward Russia

There are differences among the NATO member states on how to further develop relations with Russia amid the military operation in Ukraine, according to a report.

Several eastern European countries, such as Poland and the Baltic nations, seek a total break with Moscow to bring the latter to knees, The New York Times reported, citing officials.

At the same time, other countries, such as France, Germany and Turkey, believe that Russia could not be easily subdued and want to keep contacts with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Ukraine tells civilians in east to flee with Russian offensive expected

Civilians in the eastern Luhansk and Donetsk regions have been urged to evacuate ahead of an expected Russian offensive in the area.

Officials anticipate a Russian offensive in Donbas, which includes the two eastern regions, after Russian forces withdrew from areas around Ukrainian capital of Kyiv. A Russian offensive is also expected in parts of eastern Kharkiv.

Key moment for citizens of Russia: Zelensky

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has spoken directly to Russian citizens saying now is the time for them to decide whether they are for war or peace.

“Everyone in Russia who will not demand an end to this shameful war and the withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine has no future,” he said in his nightly national address.

“It is better now, demanding peace, to lose something, to somehow face the Russian repressive machine than to be equated with the Nazis for the rest of your life,” he added.

Zelenskyy has also blasted Western leaders for being too slow to agree to impose an embargo on Russian oil – at the cost of Ukrainian lives.

“Some politicians are still unable to decide how to limit the flow of petrodollars and oil euros to Russia so as not to put their own economies at risk,” Zelensky stated

“The only question is how many more Ukrainian men, how many more Ukrainian women, the Russian military will have time to kill in order for you, certain politicians – and we know who you are – to find some determination,” he continued.

Zelensky noted that Moscow was making so much money from oil exports that it did not need to take peace talks seriously and called on the “democratic world” to shun Russian crude.

Zelensky said he would call for the complete blockade of Russian banks from the international banking system.

He stated the Russian leadership is afraid of what the world has seen in Bucha and that the Russian forces will not succeed in hiding the evidence of what they did in Bucha and would be held accountable.

“There are new attempts from Russia to start a new bloody attack in Donbas,” he noted.

“We will continue to insist on some format of embargo on Russian oil exports. It is one of the foundations of the Russian aggression,” the Ukrainian president continued.

US Senate to vote on ending normal trade with Russia

The US Senate will vote on Thursday to end normal trade relations with Russia and to ban the importation of its oil. Both bills have been bogged down in the Senate.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer noted he wished the vote could have happened sooner, “but after weeks of talks with the other side, it’s important that we have found a path forward.”

The trade suspension measure paves the way for US President Joe Biden to enact higher tariffs on certain Russian imports. The bill banning Russian oil would codify restrictions Biden has already put in place through executive action.

US House passes bill to collect evidence of war crimes in Ukraine

The US House of Representatives has passed legislation calling on the federal government to detail its efforts to collect evidence of war crimes committed in the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Lawmakers backed the measure by a vote of 418-7 after gruesome reports of atrocities in towns around Kyiv, particularly Bucha.

US President Joe Biden previously stated a “war crimes trial”could be held over the civilian deaths in Bucha.

US sanctions will hurt ordinary people: Russian envoy

US sanctions in relation to Sberbank and Alfa Bank are a “direct blow to ordinary Russians”, Russia’s Ambassador to the United States, Anatoly Antonov, has stated.

The ambassador called sanctions “non-stop attacks” and said the US was trying to tarnish Russia’s reputation by making it difficult for it to make debt payments.

Putin’s daughters hiding president’s wealth: US officials

US officials have claimed that President Vladimir Putin’s two adult daughters, Katerina and Maria, are hiding his wealth.

“We have reason to believe that Putin, and many of his cronies, and the oligarchs, hide their wealth, hide their assets, with family members that place their assets and their wealth in the US financial system, and also many other parts of the world,” a senior US administration official said.

“We believe that many of Putin’s assets are hidden with family members, and that’s why we’re targeting them,” the official added, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The US is imposing sanctions on the relatives of Russian officials to prevent them from concealing their assets, the White House has announced.

Washington has imposed sanctions on Putin’s two adult daughters as well as Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s wife and daughter.

“We’ve seen a pattern over time [that] President Putin and Russian oligarchs stash assets and resources in the bank accounts of their family members. And so, this was an effort to get at those assets, and that’s why these individuals were sanctioned,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters.

FBI claims it disrupted Russian hackers

US officials have stated that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) disrupted thousands of routers and firewall appliances away from Russian military hackers.

“Fortunately, we were able to disrupt this botnet before it could be used,” US Attorney General Merrick Garland said.

An unsealed and redacted affidavit described the unusual operation as a preemptive move to stop Russian hackers from mobilising the compromised devices into a “botnet” – a network of hacked computers that can bombard other servers with rogue traffic.

Pentagon says Ukraine can ‘absolutely’ win war

The Pentagon has said it assessed that Ukraine could win the war against Russia, even as US officials speak of the risk of a protracted conflict.

“Of course they can win this,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told a news briefing.

“The proof is literally in the outcomes that you’re seeing everyday … absolutely they can win,” he added.

Italy’s PM says halting Russian gas imports ‘not on table”‘

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi has said that halting gas imports from Russia is not being considered at the EU level, but if a consensus on the matter is reached Italy will willingly go along with it.

“A gas embargo is not yet on the table and I don’t know if it will ever be,” Draghi told reporters at a news conference.

He added that if gas flows from Moscow were suspended Italy still had reserves to cover its needs until late October.

Italy is heavily dependent on Russia for its gas supplies, but Draghi said if a consensus emerges at the EU level to block gas imports, “we will be perfectly happy to comply”.

Truss: “Age of engagement with Russia is over”

The “age of engagement with Russia is over,” UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said at a dinner with NATO foreign ministers in Brussels on Wednesday, according to a statement from UK Foreign Office released ahead of the dinner.

In her remarks, Truss told her NATO counterparts that the “NATO-Russia Founding Act is dead and it is time to cast off an outdated approach to handling Russia,” the foreign office said.

The Act, signed in 1997, rules that “NATO and Russia do not consider one another adversaries”, according to the original document.

“The age of engagement with Russia is over. We need a new approach to security in Europe based on resilience, defense, and deterrence”, Truss added.

She said that the UK is stepping up its weapon provision to Ukraine, adding, “The G7 and Nato is stepping up our efforts on sanctions and on weapons.”

Truss’s remarks come as NATO foreign ministers convene in Brussels to discuss Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

According to the statement sent to CNN, Truss underlined that NATO cannot allow “security vacuums” at the alliance’s Eastern borders and should “rethink” support for countries “caught in the web of Russian influence” such as Georgia, Moldova, Sweden and Finland.

The foreign secretary also urged her partners to toughen sanctions and arm Ukraine “quickly and decisively … to ensure Putin fails.”

Truss also underscored she is working with her G7 counterparts to impose more sanctions on further Russian banks, according to an op-ed published in The Telegraph on Wednesday. In the article, Truss defended increasing NATO spending and presence in Eastern Europe.

“For NATO to remain at the vanguard of global security, it must be bold. As President Eisenhower, the alliance’s first supreme commander, said: History does not long entrust the care of freedom to the weak or the timid,” the Foreign Secretary wrote.

Blinken says US supporting Ukraine to increase pressure on Russia

The United States wants to see the war in Ukraine “come to an end as quickly as possible” and is supporting Ukraine to increase pressure on Russia, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said.

“That’s exactly why we’re making sure that we’re doing everything we can to support Ukraine and to give them the assistance that they need to put pressure … on Russia,” he stated.

Blinken added he believed Ukraine can also win the war because “success” and victory is “holding on to the sovereignty and independence of their country”.

The US and its allies intend to ship 10 Javelin anti-tank missile systems for “every Russian tank,” Blinken said in an interview for NBC Wednesday.

“Between the United States and other allies and partners, for every Russian tank in Ukraine, we have provided or will soon provide 10 anti-tank systems – 10 for every single Russian tank,” Blinken added, answering a question on shipment of Javelin systems to Ukraine.

Macron says killings in Bucha were ‘very probably’ war crimes

The alleged killings in the Ukrainian town of Bucha were “very probably war crimes”, said Macron in an interview.

“It was very probably a war crime that was committed there,” said Macron.

Ukraine and many Western countries accuse Russia of having killed several hundred civilians during its occupation of the town. Russia denies this, calling it a Ukrainian “provocation”.

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