Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Live Updates: Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 44

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:

Ukraine officials: Russian troops completed withdrawal from Sumy region

On Friday, the General Staff of Ukraine said stated that Russian forces have completed their withdrawal from Ukraine’s northern Sumy region, while continuing a buildup of forces in the country’s east.

“The Russian occupiers completely withdrew their troops from the Sumy region to the Russian Federation,” a General Staff statement on Facebook read.

Russia’s military announced previously it was withdrawing from northern Ukraine and around Kyiv to concentrate efforts in the eastern Donbas region.

The General Staff statement also noted that Russian troops continued a buildup in the southern Zaporizhzhia and eastern Donetsk regions, and continued an offensive in the direction of Popasna and Severodonetsk, in the eastern Luhansk region.

164 bodies have been found in Bucha: Ukrainian prosecutor general

Ukrainian Prosecutor General Iryna Venedyktovae revealed on Friday that 164 bodies have been found in the Kyiv suburb of Bucha, where a massacre of civilians was uncovered following the withdrawal of Russian troops.

“As of yesterday (April 7), 164 dead have been found in Bucha,” she said in televised remarks.

“Plus today 21 that we exhumated from the mass grave before heavy rain started,” she added.

Venedyktova warned that more bodies were likely to be found in destroyed buildings in the town.

Biden accuses Russia of ‘horrific atrocity’ at Ukraine rail station

US President Joe Biden has accused Russia of being behind a rocket attack on a train station in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kramatorsk, deeming the incident a “horrific atrocity.”

At least 50 people were killed in the strike at the station, where those seeking to flee eastern Ukraine were awaiting evacuation.

“The attack on a Ukrainian train station is yet another horrific atrocity committed by Russia, striking civilians who were trying to evacuate and reach safety,” Biden wrote on Twitter.

Moscow: Kiev won’t escape responsibility for Kramatorsk attack

Kiev will not be able to evade responsibility for the Tochka-U tactical missile attack on Kramatorsk, the Russian Foreign Ministry said on Friday.

“We are confident that the Kiev authorities will not be able to evade responsibility,” the ministry announced.

“There is evidence of the guilt of the Armed Forces of Ukraine — it is they who are armed and use the Tochka-U missiles, the fragments of which were found at the site of the tragedy,” it added.

“Such inhuman actions of the Kiev regime confirm the validity of the tasks of the special military operation to demilitarise and denazify Ukraine,” the ministry stressed.

In connection with the strike of Ukrainian troops on Kramatorsk, Moscow calls for a halt in the supply of weapons to Kiev.

“We call on the international community to give an impartial assessment of the crimes of Ukrainian formations, to stop supplying them with weapons and to encourage Kiev to abandon unacceptable methods of warfare,” the ministry said.

Russia revokes registration of Amnesty, Human Rights Watch

The Russian Ministry of Justice has said in a statement that it revoked the registration of 15 foreign organisations, including those of Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

The Russian branches of the organisations, which also included the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, “were excluded due to the discovery of violations of the current legislation of the Russian Federation,” the statement added.

Attack on Ukraine train station ‘crime against humanity’: France

The attack on the Kramatorsk rail station can be classified as a crime against humanity, France has stated.

“They hit a station where there are refugees, civilians and so this can be seen as a crime against humanity,” Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told France 5 television, calling for experts to head to the scene in Kramatorsk to gather evidence so the perpetrators can be held to account.

Putin’s approval rating soars: Poll

The proportion of Russians who trust President Vladimir Putin has risen to 81.6 per cent from 67.2 per cent before he ordered troops into Ukraine on February 24, according to a survey by a state-run pollster.

The conflict has displaced more than 10 million Ukrainians from their homes, killed or injured thousands, turned cities into rubble and led to sweeping Western sanctions that will push down Russian living standards.

Putin has crushed dissent since the invasion, shutting down media outlets who criticise his “special military operation”, restricting the internet and making mention of war or sanctions a serious criminal offence.

VTsIOM said 78.9 per cent of respondents in its latest survey said they approved of Putin’s actions, compared to 64.3 per cent in the last poll before the war. The proportion who disapproved of his actions fell to 12.9 per cent from 24.4 per cent.

It is similar to a survey published on March 30 by the independent Levada Center, in which 83 per cent of Russians approved, up from 71 per cent in February.

40 bodies in Bucha mass grave being inspected for war crimes

Kyiv regional police chief Andriy Niebitov said there were 40 bodies in the Bucha mass grave being inspected for war crimes, including two members of Ukraine’s military forces.

He added bodies in Kyiv commuter town bore gunshot wounds, backing claims they were explicitly targeted by soldiers rather than collateral damage from air strikes and artillery fire.

“I can define these events as a war crime,” he continued, noting, “International law defines killing of civilians during any kind of military conflict as a war crime.”

“These bodies will be extracted for the court investigation, they will be delivered to undergo forensic medical examination and an autopsy,” he stated.

The town of Bucha has become the growing focus of allegations of war criminality against troops ordered to invade Ukraine by Russian president Vladimir Putin on 24 February.

France is ready “to go further” and ban Russian oil: Finance minister

France is ready “to go further” and ban Russian oil, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire told CNN on Friday.

Le Maire called the attack on a railway station in Kramatorsk, which left at least 50 people dead, “a massacre” and said those responsible must be “identified, prosecuted and possibly convicted for these crimes.”

France did not want to wait and a ban on oil would be a “game changer,” Le Maire stated, but added that European unity was needed to implement stricter sanctions on energy.

“As France is concerned we stand ready to go further and to decide a ban on oil and I’m deeply convinced that the next steps and the next discussions will focus on this question of the ban on Russian oil,” he continued.

Le Maire did stress that the current sanctions agreed by the EU were very effective and “the most heavy since the creation of the European union.”

UK sending more ‘high-grade’ weapons to Ukraine: Johnson

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said Britain is sending Ukraine more Starstreak anti-aircraft missiles and 800 anti-tank missiles after the “unconscionable” attack on Kramatorsk.

The “high-grade military equipment” is worth £100m ($130m), Johnson stated, with the UK anti-tank missiles seen as particularly potent against Russian forces.

The attack on the railway station at Kramatorsk “shows the depths to which Putin’s once-vaunted army has sunk”, he told reporters alongside German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

US to place Patriot missile system in Slovakia: Biden

President Joe Biden has thanked the Slovakian government for providing an S-300 air defence system to Ukraine, saying that Washington will place a US Patriot missile system in Slovakia to ensure the country’s “continued security”.

“As the Russian military repositions for the next phase of this war, I have directed my Administration to continue to spare no effort to identify and provide to the Ukrainian military the advanced weapons capabilities it needs to defend its country,” Biden stated.

Death toll from missile attack in Kramatorsk rises to 50: Governor

At least 50 people were killed, including five children, in a strike on a rail station in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kramatorsk, regional governor Pavlo Kyrylenko has stated.

In an online post updating an earlier preliminary death toll of 39, Kirilenko said the dead included victims who had died of their wounds after being taken to hospital or medical centres.

Nearly 400 people were wounded in the strike, according to Kirilenko, with many in critical condition.

Germany admits coming off of Russian gas isn’t easy

German chancellor Olaf Scholz said “we are doing all we can, and we are doing a lot” to reduce the country’s reliance on Russian energy, which accounts for around half of its natural gas imports.

He told the Downing Street press conference that “we are actively working to get independent of the necessity of importing gas from Russia”, but admits “this is not easy” because of the lack of infrastructure to support alternatives.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson noted that “this is not easy for any of us and I applaud the seismic decisions taken by Olaf’s government to move Germany away from Russian hydrocarbons. We cannot transform our respective energy systems overnight but we also know that [Vladimir] Putin’s war will not end overnight.”

Scholz said the UK and Germany have “close ties” despite Brexit, and expresses his “horror and indignation” at the “devastation” in Ukraine.

“Killing civilians is a war crime, and the Russian president bears responsibility for these war crimes,” he added.

He called upon Russia again to “finally agree to a ceasefire” and withdraw troops, stressing Germany will continue to deliver weapons to Ukraine.

He stated Germany is “not going to import coal anymore” and that “Germany is already starting to wean off its dependence, we’re diversifying our sources, we’re investing large-scale in order to establish the technical and physical infrastructure necessary to import natural gas via the northern German shores”.

“We’re also going to make sure with legal measures that there are no legal difficulties [to] implement our decisions quickly,” he said, vowing to continue sanctions.

Johnson: Putin ‘has forced Europe to begin to re-arm’

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the UK and its allies “cannot allow our energy security to be threatened by a rogue state” and that Russian President Vladimir Putin has “forced Europe to begin to re-arm, together, to guarantee our shared security”.

He added new measures will involve maximising potential of North Sea for energy, collaborating with Germany on renewables, and a further £100m worth of defensive military equipment to Ukraine’s forces.

He stated that this morning’s attack on a train station packed with thousands of civilians in the eastern city of Kramatorsk “the depths to which Putin’s once-vaunted army have sunk”, condemning the Russian “barbaric onslaught”.

“It is a war crime, indiscriminately to attack civilians, and Russia’s crimes in Ukraine will not go unnoticed or unpunished,” he continued.

Johnson added Putin cannot be trusted and questioned whether there is any use negotiating with him.

Confirming he had not spoken to Putin since the war began, the PM said, “Negotiating with Putin does not seem to me to be full of promise. I don’t feel that he can be trusted.”

“That’s not to say I don’t admire the efforts of people who try to find a way through, but my own view is that I am deeply, deeply sceptical and, I’m afraid, cynical now about his assurances,” he continued.

Russia declares 2 Bulgarian diplomats personae non gratae

Russia is expelling two Bulgarian diplomats from the country in a tit-for-tat response, the Foreign Ministry announced on Friday.

“On 8 April, Chargé d’Affaires of Bulgaria in Russia N. Trifonov was invited to the Russian Foreign Ministry, where he was presented with a note from the ministry declaring two employees of the Bulgarian embassy in Moscow persona non grata,” the ministry said in a statement, adding that Moscow’s decision is a response to the expulsion of two Russian diplomats from Sofia.

Russia expels 45 Polish diplomats

Moscow is expelling 45 Polish diplomats, Russia’s foreign ministry said Friday, in a tit-for-tat move after Warsaw last month expelled the same number of Russian diplomats for espionage.

The ministry added it was declaring “persona non grata” 45 employees of the Polish embassy in Russia and of Polish consulates in the cities of Irkutsk, Kaliningrad and Saint Petersburg “as a response to Poland’s unfriendly actions”.

Finland to expel two Russian diplomats

Finland on Friday said it will expel two Russian diplomats over the war in Ukraine, following a wave of similar moves across Europe.

Finland shares a 1,340-kilometre (830-mile) land border with Russia, and is currently considering whether to join NATO.

“The measure is in line with those taken by other EU member states”, the prime minister’s office announced in a statement, adding, “In addition the visa extension of one Russian embassy staff member has been cancelled.”

Earlier this week EU countries expelled almost 200 Russian diplomats over two days for alleged spying or “national security reasons”, amid increasing outrage over apparent evidence of widespread killing of Ukrainian civilians by Russian troops.

208 houses, 46 schools damaged in Kyiv: official

Russian shelling damaged 208 residential buildings and 46 schools, a city official has claimed.

The shelling, which began on the day Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, also damaged 29 kindergartens and one orphanage, Mykola Povoroznik of the Kyiv state administration said in a web-posted statement.

The figures don’t include the damage and destruction in the suburbs northwest and northwest of Kyiv, including Bucha, Irpin and Borodyanka that were severely pummeled for weeks.

NATO engaged in ‘proxy war’ against Russia in Ukraine: Moscow

NATO has been engaging in a “proxy” war against Moscow in Ukraine, the Russian Foreign Ministry’s spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said.

She stressed that the alliance has been “strengthening the Kiev regime’s belief that its war crimes and cruelty towards civilians all across Ukraine will be left unpunished”.

“It is becoming more evident that, although dismissing its direct participation in the conflict, NATO is practically fighting against Russia on Ukraine’s side and by using Ukraine’s people,” she added.

The spokeswoman stated that by sending more and more weapons to Ukraine, NATO contributes to the prolongation of the conflict.

Death toll in Kramatorsk rises to 40

The death toll from the Russian missile strike on a railway station in the southeastern city of Kramatorsk has risen to 40, police have announced.

Russia has denied it launched the strike.

Zelensky says “sanction cocktail, that would be remembered just like Molotov cocktails” is needed

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told Finland’s parliament on Friday that a “sanction cocktail, that would be remembered just like Molotov cocktails” is needed to halt Russian aggression.

Zelensky asked Finland to “show even more leadership” in the European Union, saying this will be “the biggest contribution in the security of Europe.”

He said that Ukraine needs weapons “that some of the EU partners have,” as well as “powerful efficient sanctions against Russia on a permanent basis.”

“We need to think about how to protect Europe from the Russian energy weapon,” Zelensky continued, adding, “How much longer can Europe ignore the introduction of embargo against oil supplies from Russia?”

Zelensky stated about 30 people have been killed in a missile strike at a railway station in the eastern city of Kramatorsk, and claimed nearly 300 have been wounded.

He described the railway terminal as an “ordinary” and “rank-and-file,” with “people crowded waiting for the trains to be evacuated to the safe territory.”

“Why do they need this war against Ukraine? Why do they need to hit civilians with missiles? Why this cruelty that the world has witnessed in Bucha and other cities liberated by the Ukrainian army?,” Zelensky asked.

Whilst saying that those “fighting for freedom” should be supported, Zelensky added that “ordinary people understand these things and this concept more than some influential leaders. Smaller countries understand it better than some of the bigger countries.”

EU has frozen 30bn euros in Russian, Belarusian assets

The EU has so far frozen nearly 30 billion euros in assets from blacklisted Russian and Belarusian individuals and companies under sanctions imposed for Moscow’s war in Ukraine.

A total of 29.5 billion euros ($32 billion) “including assets such as boats, helicopters, real estate and artwork” have been seized and another 196 billion euros of transactions have been blocked, the European Commission has said said in a statement.

Food prices soar to record levels

Prices for food commodities like grains and vegetable oils reached their highest levels ever last month because of Russia’s war in Ukraine and the “massive supply disruptions” it is causing, the United Nations has announced.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization said its Food Price Index, which tracks monthly changes in international prices for a basket of commodities, averaged 159.3 points last month, up 12.6 percent from February.

As it is, the February index was the highest level since its inception in 1990.

EU’s import ban on Russian coal will begin in August: Source

The European Union import ban on Russian coal will take effect in August, a European source told CNN Friday.

EU member states on Thursday evening approved a fifth package of sanctions against Russia.

The package includes an import ban on all forms of Russian coal. This affects one fourth of all Russian coal exports, amounting to around 8 billion euros in loss of revenue per year for Russia, according to the European Commission.

The EU source added that the ban will not be immediate but rather a gradual phase out. There will be “a four-month wind-down period,” according to the source.

The package also includes the closing of EU ports to Russian vessels and a ban on exports of high-tech products to Moscow.

Further details about the package are expected to be released later today in the Commission’s official journal.

Slovakia says it has given S-300 air defence system to Ukraine

Prime Minister Eduard Heger has said Slovakia has given its S-300 air defence system to Ukraine to help it defend against Russian attacks.

“I can confirm that the Slovak Republic has donated the S-300 air defence system to Ukraine, following Ukraine’s request for assistance,” Heger wrote.

Heger added the donation of the Soviet-made anti-aircraft batteries did not mean that the European Union and NATO member had joined the conflict with Russia.

700 civilian dead in Chernihiv: Mayor

At least 700 people have been killed by Russian troops in the northern Ukrainian city of Chernihiv, its mayor has claimed.

“I can give a preliminary figure – 700 people. It combines the servicemen and civilians,” Vladislav Atroshenko said during an online video briefing.

He added some 70 bodies can’t be identified, and there are some 40 missing persons. He added that if people were within 50 meters from a bomb explosion, their bodies burned completely.

Less than 95,000 people stayed in Chernihiv, whose pre-war population was 290,000, he noted.

Ukraine to nationalise Russia’s property: PM

Kyiv is getting ready to nationalise the property and other assets that belong to Russia or Russian businesses in Ukraine, the nation’s Prime Minister Denys Shmygal has said.

“We have already started the process. Undoubtedly, we will nationalise all Russia’s property to compensate for some of the damages Russia is inflicting on us,” he stated in televised remarks.

He added the assets would be nationalised “according to wartime conditions,” without trials.

Ukraine: Four children among those killed in Kramatorsk strike

The death toll from the Russian missile strike on a railway station in the southeastern city of Kramatorsk rose to 35, an intelligence official has announced.

Four of them are children, Artyom Dehtyarenko of the Ukrainian Security Service stated.

Officials said earlier that Russia “deliberately” struck the overcrowded railway station where thousands of civilians were awaiting evacuation trains.

Zelensky: Russia ‘evil’ with ‘no limits’

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has called Russia an “evil” country with “no limits” after a deadly strike on a train station in Kramatorsk.

The state railway company announced at least 30 people were killed in a Russian rocket strike and over 100 were wounded as civilians gathered to flee the city, which is located in the eastern Donbas region.

The city’s mayor has stated about 4,000 people were at the station at the time of the attack.

UK sanctions daughters of Russia’s Putin and Lavrov

The UK has announced sanctions on the daughters of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

The Foreign Office said it was targeting the “lavish lifestyles of the Kremlin’s inner circle”.

The move mirrored sanctions imposed by the US.

Ukraine claims Russia’s losses reach 19,000

About 19,000 Russian servicemen have been killed in Ukraine since the invasion started on February 24, Ukraine’s military has claimed.

Ukrainian forces destroyed some 700 tanks, 1,891 armored vehicles, 150 planes, 135 helicopters and 112 drones,  the General Staff of the Armed Forces announced.

NATO said on March 24 that Moscow lost up to 15,000 troops in Ukraine – a figure compared to the USSR’s overall death toll during the 1979-1989 Soviet-Afghan war.

Russia denies strike on Kramatorsk railway station

Russia’s Defence Ministry has denied that Russian forces were responsible for a strike on a railway station in Kramatorsk in eastern Ukraine on Friday, the RIA news agency reported.

Ukraine’s state railway company had reported more than 30 people had been killed and over 100 wounded in the strike, which occurred as civilians were trying to evacuate to safer parts of the country.

The defence ministry announced the missile was of a type used only by the Ukrainian military, and similar to one that hit the centre of the city of Donetsk on March 14, killing 17 people.

The Russian Ministry of Defence issued a statement Friday calling the missile strike on a railway station in the Ukrainian city of Kramatorsk a “provocation.”

The statement mirrored recent denials of the indiscriminate killing of civilians in the Kyiv suburb of Bucha.

EU adopts new sanctions against Russia

The European Union has formally adopted its fifth package of sanctions against Russia, including bans on the import of coal, wood, chemicals and other products.

The measures also prevent many Russian vessels and trucks from accessing the EU, further crippling trade, and will ban all transactions with four Russian banks, including VTB.

Kramatorsk mayor says thousands at station at time of attack

The city’s mayor, Oleksander Honcharenko, has stated there were about 4,000 civilians at the city’s railway station when it was hit by what Ukrainian officials say were Russian rockets.

He added many were elderly, women and children.

Two missiles struck train station in Kramatorsk: Ukraine’s rail chief

Two missiles have struck the train station in the Ukrainian city of Kramatorsk, the head of Ukraine’s national rail system, Oleksandr Kamyshin, said on his official Telegram channel Friday.

There are reports that people have been injured but it is unclear at the moment how many, Kamyshin added.

The eastern city of Kramatorsk was one of the first places to be targeted by the Russian military when the invasion of Ukraine was launched on February 24.

Regional governor Pavlo Kirilenko said in televised remarks that the attack on the town of Kramatorsk deliberately targeted the railway where hundreds gathered to leave the town that has been heavily shelled for weeks.

Kamyshin noted that more than 30 died and over 100 were wounded.

“This is a deliberate strike at passenger infrastructure of the railroad and on the residents of Kramatorsk,” he wrote.

China: Ukrainian crisis caused by imbalance in European security system

An imbalance in Europe’s current security system is one of the main reasons behind the Ukrainian crisis, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said in a telephone conversation with French Secretary of State for European Affairs Clement Beaune, the Chinese Foreign Ministry announced in a statement.

“The main cause of the Ukraine issue is an imbalance in the European security system,” Wang stated, as cited by the ministry.

“There is a need to follow the principle of indivisible security and recreate a balanced and effective security mechanism in Europe. This is the only way to establish lasting peace and stability in Europe,” the Chinese top diplomat emphasized.

Wang also pointed out that all parties should facilitate peace talks between Russia and Ukraine.

“You can’t call for a ceasefire and at the same time, continue the delivery of a large amount of weapons and ammunition, escalating hostilities,” he noted.

Ukrainian conflict unlikely to end soon: Macron

The conflict in Ukraine will not end soon, French President Emmanuel Macron told the RTL radio station on Friday.

“Unfortunately, the conflict will not end soon,” he said.

“I believe that we will see a very difficult situation in Donbass in the coming days and weeks,” Macron added.

“This is why, together with Turkey, Greece and the UN, we are doing everything to organize humanitarian operations in the cities of Mariupol and Dnepr,” the French president noted.

According to him, “Russia cannot be expected to make diplomatic concessions in the coming weeks.”

“It won’t happen until mid-May,” Macron said, adding that Russia would mark Victory Day on May 9. The French president also emphasized that every day of hostilities “makes tomorrow harder.” “There will be no peace in Europe if we don’t think about tomorrow,” he stressed.

Russian forces preparing for “massive breakthrough” attempt in Donbas region: Military governor

Ukraine sees preparations nearing completion for a “massive breakthrough” attempt by Russian forces in the eastern Donbas region, the military governor of the Luhansk region said on Friday.

“We sense the final preparations for a massive breakthrough, the great battle that will be in our Luhansk and Donetsk regions. There are constant attempts to break through the line of defense in certain directions,” Serhii Haidai, the head of the Luhansk region military administration, stated in televised remarks.

Ukrainian officials have urged residents of some cities in Donbas to evacuate in anticipation of what they say may be a major offensive.

“Since the beginning of evacuation in the Luhansk region, approximately 30,000 people have been taken out, that is only our official calculations, without including those who left voluntarily, without those people who left independently,” Haidai said.

China warns against politicization of human rights issue as Russia expelled from UN body

Following demands by the United States and the Group of Seven, the United Nations suspended Russia from the UNHRC in a vote on Thursday. The resolution to strip Russia of its seat passed with 93 votes in favor, 24 against and 58 abstentions.

Japan declares 8 Russian diplomats personae non gratae

Tokyo declared eight employees of the Russian Embassy and the trade representation personae non gratae, Japanese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hikariko Ono said on Friday.

“It was decided to expel from Japan eight employees of the Russian embassy and the trade representation in Tokyo,” the official added.

Japanese Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Koichi Hagiuda has also said Tokyo will reduce coal imports from Russia step by step.

“We will reduce imports. Finally, we will strive not to import [Russian coal],” Hagiuda told reporters on Friday.

Japan will look for a replacement for Russian coal in order to reduce the negative impact on the population and industry, Hagiuda added.

Japan has imposed several sanctions against Russia due to Russia’s military operation in Ukraine. Japan’s sanctions list includes 101 names and 130 organizations from Russia.

Ukrainian negotiator: Bucha deaths affect mood at talks with Russia

Ukraine and Russia are “constantly” holding peace talks online but the mood has been affected by events including the deaths of civilians in the town of Bucha, Ukrainian negotiator Mykhailo Podolyak has said in televised comments.

Ukrainian officials accuse Russian troops of carrying out extra-judicial killings in Bucha, outside Kyiv, where mass graves and hundreds of corpses have been discovered.

Moscow denies targeting civilians in Ukraine and has said the deaths in Bucha were a “monstrous forgery” staged by the West to discredit it.

Russia claims it destroyed training centre for ‘mercenaries’ near Odesa

Russia has announced it destroyed a training centre for “foreign mercenaries” near the city of Odesa as part of its military campaign in Ukraine.

“High-precision missiles of the Bastion coastal missile system destroyed a foreign mercenary assembly and training centre near the village of Krasnosilka, northeast of Odesa,” a defence ministry spokesperson said on Friday.

“Overall, the following targets have been destroyed since the beginning of the special military operation: 97 helicopters, 421 unmanned aerial vehicles, 228 long-and medium-range surface-to-air missile systems, 2,019 tanks and other combat armored vehicles, 223 multiple rocket launchers, 874 field artillery guns and mortars and also 1,917 special military motor vehicles,” Russian Defense Ministry Spokesman Major-General Igor Konashenkov added.

3 civilians tortured, burned in Kharkiv region: prosecutors

Three villagers have been tortured, killed and burned in the eastern Ukrainian region of Kharkiv, prosecutors have claimed.

Russian troops used car tires to burn the bodies in a basement in the village of Husarivka, the regional prosecutor’s office stated.

Hundreds of civilians have been tortured and arbitrarily shot since the invasion began on February 24, according to survivors, officials, rights groups and media reports.

Von der Leyen & Borrell head to Kyiv to meet Zelensky

European Commission President von der Leyen and the EU’s foreign policy chief Borrell are on their way to Ukraine’s capital to meet President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Von der Leyen is later set to attend a Stand Up For Ukraine event in Warsaw, Poland.

‘Evidence of Russian forces’ war crimes is at every turn’

Ukraine’s Prosecutor General said Russians had used cluster bombs and heavy multiple rocket launchers “that bring death and destruction”.

Iryna Venediktova stated rescue workers recovered 26 bodies from under two destroyed apartment buildings in Borodianka, northwest of Kyiv, accusing Moscow of attacking civilian areas.

“Only the civilian population was targeted: there is no military site here,” Venediktova continued, adding, “Evidence of the Russian forces’ war crimes is at every turn.”

“The enemy treacherously shelled residential infrastructure in the evenings, when there was a maximum amount of people home,” she said.

She accused Russian forces of engaging in “killings, torture and beatings” of civilians, as well as sexual assault.

Venediktova added Ukrainian law enforcement officers were collecting evidence from Borodianka for local and international courts.

Russian soldiers ‘forcibly’ conscripting Mariupol men

Russian soldiers have begun forcibly mobilising men in Mariupol to fight for Russia’s army, according to the Ukrainian Government.

Lyudmila Denisova, the ombudsman for Ukraine, said that “on the outskirts of Mariupol, which is temporarily controlled by Russian militants, the occupiers began forcibly mobilising men”.

“Forced mobilisation in Russian-occupied territories violates Article 51 of the Geneva Convention, which strictly prohibits the occupying power from forcing protected persons to serve in its armed or auxiliary forces,” Denisova stated.

She added that there had also been reports of forced conscription in the city of Vasylivka, in the Zaporizhia region, where men were being detained at a checkpoint.

Russian troops “fully withdrawn” from northern Ukraine: UK Ministry of Defense

Russian troops have “fully withdrawn” from northern Ukraine to Belarus and Russia, the UK’s Ministry of Defense said in its latest military intelligence assessment.

A number of the Russian troops will be transferred to eastern Ukraine to fight in the Donbas region, the MoD wrote on Twitter.

“Many of the forces will require significant replenishment before being ready to deploy further east, with any mass redeployment from the north likely to take at least a week minimum,” the ministry announced.

Russian shelling of cities in the east and south of Ukraine persists, the MoD said, and Russian forces have moved further south from the city of Izium, which remains under Russian control, it added.

Germany: Russian radio messages discussed Bucha killings

Germany claims it has intercepted radio conversations in which Russian troops discussed the killing of civilians in the Ukrainian city of Bucha.

German magazine Der Spiegel, which first reported on the intercepted communication on Thursday, said the country’s foreign intelligence service, the BND, obtained conversations among Russian soldiers.

In one intercepted message, a soldier is seemingly heard telling another that they had shot a person riding a bicycle. Images of a dead body lying next to a bicycle recently surfaced following the withdrawal of Russian forces from the Bucha area.

Zelensky says Russia will use dead Ukrainians in propaganda campaign against his country

Russian propagandists are planning to use the corpses of Mariupol victims to stage a murder scene that can be blamed on Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelenksyy has said.

“They are going to show the victims in Mariupol as if they were killed not by the Russian military, but by the Ukrainian defenders of the city. To do this, the occupiers collect corpses on the streets, take them out and can use them elsewhere in accordance with the elaborated propaganda scenarios,” he added.

Zelenskyy called it a “mirror response” to what people saw in Bucha. Russia has claimed the atrocities in Bucha, where bodies of shot civilians lined the streets, were staged by Ukrainians.

Russia acknowledges ‘significant’ troops losses in Ukraine

Russia has appeared to give the most damning assessment so far of its invasion, describing the “tragedy” of mounting troop losses and the economic hit it has suffered since the war began in late February.

“We have significant losses of troops,” Kremlin Spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told Sky News.

“It’s a huge tragedy for us,” he stated.

UN aid chief: ‘I’m not optimistic’ about Ukraine ceasefire

The United Nations’ humanitarian chief is not optimistic about securing a ceasefire to halt the fighting in Ukraine, he said following high-level talks in Moscow and Kyiv that underscored how far apart the two sides are.

“I think it’s not going to be easy because the two sides, as I know now … have very little trust in each other,” Undersecretary-General Martin Griffiths told the Associated Press agency.

“I’m not optimistic,” he added later.

US sanctions Russia’s shipbuilding and diamond mining companies

The Joe Biden administration has announced sanctions against Russia’s largest military shipbuilding and diamond mining companies, blocking their access to the US financial system.

Alrosa is the world’s largest diamond mining company and accounts for about 90% of Russia’s diamond mining capacity, according to the US Treasury Department. Diamonds are one of Russia’s top 10 non-energy exports by value.

The US State Department also said it was blacklisting the United Shipbuilding Corporation, along with its subsidiaries and board members.

Ukraine says 26 bodies found under two ruined buildings near Kyiv

Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova has said 26 bodies had been found under two ruined buildings in the Kyiv region town of Borodianka, which is been being searched by the authorities after Russian troops occupying it withdrew.

In a televised briefing, Venediktova did not say if the authorities had established the cause of death, but she accused Russian troops of carrying out air raids on the town before they seized control of it.

“Borodianka is the worst in terms of destruction and in terms of the uncertainty about [the number of] victims,” she added.

Some 5,000 civilians killed in Mariupol: Pro-Russian authorities

The “new mayor” of Mariupol, put in place by pro-Russian forces, has announced that around 5,000 civilians had died in the southeastern Ukrainian city which has been under siege for weeks by the Russian army and separatist allies.

“Around 60-70 percent of the housing stock has been destroyed or partially destroyed,” said Konstantin Ivashchenko, who was named as the town’s mayor on Wednesday by Denis Pushilin, leader of the separatists in the breakaway Donetsk region.

Shelling in Ukraine’s Kharkiv kills one person, wounds 14: Governor

At least one person was killed and 14 wounded in shelling on Ukraine’s northeastern city of Kharkiv, regional governor Oleh Synehubov claimed.

The Ukrainian military earlier announced Russian troops were bombarding the city with shells and rockets. Moscow denies targeting civilians.

Governor warns Sumy region littered with explosives

The governor of Ukraine’s Sumy region has told residents the area is free of Russian troops but still unsafe due to land mines.

“Do not drive on the roadsides and do not use forest roads. Do not approach destroyed equipment or orc sites!” Dmytro Zhyvytskyi said on Telegram.

“If you hear explosions (and there have been many in recent days) – it’s rescuers and explosives. They are neutralising the ammunition left by the Russian military on our land,” he added.

Ukrainians have commonly referred to Russian soldiers as “orcs” since the beginning of Russia’s invasion of the country.

Situation in second Ukraine town ‘more dreadful’ than Bucha: Zelensky

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said that the situation in the town of Borodyanka was “significantly more dreadful” than in nearby Bucha, where Russian forces’ suspected killings of civilians have been broadly condemned.

“The work to clear the rubble in Borodyanka has begun … It’s significantly more dreadful there. Even more victims from the Russian occupiers,” Zelensky added.

The town is about 25km (15 miles) from Bucha.

The Ukraine’s president called for nations to impose “more courageous sanctions” against Russia in order to end the war.

“If sanctions had really worked at 100 percent, then it wouldn’t have been necessary to explain their importance in such a detailed and meticulous way,” he stated, noting, “That’s why I underline once again that we need more sanctions, more courageous sanctions.”

Ukrainian villagers say Russian forces used them as ‘shields’

In the village of Obukhovychi, residents say Russian forces dug in around their houses, using them as “shields” to discourage counterattacks by Ukrainian armed forces.

“They dug the trenches to put the vehicles in and used us as a shield,” said 35-year-old Yulia Piankova.

“It’s bad that they didn’t go into the field to fight, but they came to where they knew that many people were,” she added.

More than 100 attacks on healthcare in Ukraine: WHO

The World Health Organization (WHO) says it has confirmed more than 100 attacks on healthcare facilities and other services in Ukraine since Russia’s invasion began.

“As of now, WHO has verified 103 incidents of attacks on health care, with 73 people killed and 51 injured, including health workers and patients,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus stated during a news conference.

Of the confirmed attacks, 89 had impacted health facilities and most of the rest hit transport services, including ambulances.

“We are outraged that attacks on health care are continuing,” the WHO chief continued, adding they constituted “a violation of international humanitarian law”.

Kremlin hopes operation in Ukraine ends ‘in coming days’

Moscow hopes the Russian military operation in Ukraine might end in the near future, possibly “in the coming days,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Sky News on Thursday.

Either the Russian troops will end it by reaching their military goals or Moscow and Kiev will reach an agreement through negotiations, he added.

The prospect of a peace deal would largely depend on the “consistency” of Ukraine’s position and its willingness to agree to Russia’s terms, Peskov added. He particularly said that those responsible for the crimes against civilians in the Donbass should be brought to justice.

When asked about accusations leveled by Kiev against Moscow over the alleged mass killings of civilians in the towns near Kiev, Peskov stated that such claims are nothing but a “bold fake.”

Peskov has stated that Russia had sustained “significant losses” in Ukraine.

UN rights council suspension shows Russia as ‘international pariah’: Biden

US President Joe Biden has welcomed the UN vote to suspend Russia from the UN Human Rights Council as a “meaningful” step that shows Moscow has become an “international pariah”.

“Russia has no place on the Human Rights Council,” Biden said in a statement.

“After today’s historic vote, Russia will not be able to participate in the Council’s work or spread its disinformation there as the Council’s Commission of Inquiry investigates Russia’s violations and abuses of human rights in Ukraine,” he added.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US ambassador to the United Nations, has also called Russia’s suspension from the Human Rights Council by the UN General Assembly “an important and historic moment.”

As the final speaker in the UNGA afternoon session following the vote Thursday, Thomas-Greenfield said, “Countries from around the globe have voted to suspend Russia from the UN Human Rights Council for its gross and systematic violations of human rights. We have collectively sent a strong message that the suffering of victims and survivors will not be ignored.”

Thomas-Greenfield added, “Despite Russia’s attempt to spread disinformation we all saw the gruesome images from Bucha, Dymerka, Irpin and other recently liberated Ukrainian cities. Lifeless bodies lying in the streets, some apparently summarily executed, their hands tied behind their backs. Mass graves. Burnt bodies. Executions. We’ve seen credible reports of landmines and booby traps left behind by Putin’s forces to injure even more civilians after Russia failed in its objectives and withdrew.”

“I shudder to think what we will find in other towns across Ukraine, as President [Volodymyr] Zelensky ominously warned us in the Security Council, in the weeks ahead,” she continued.

EU pledges another 500 million euros in military support for Ukraine

The European Union will commit a further 500 million euros ($543 million) in military support to Ukraine, European Commission President Charles Michel announced Thursday.

The pledge takes the EU’s military aid to Ukraine to a total of 1.5 billion euros ($1.63 billion) since Russia launched its invasion on Feb. 24, he said in a tweet.

The European Peace Facility, created in 2021, is an emergency fund of 5.69 billion euros that allows the EU to quickly finance military operations and “preserve peace, prevent conflicts and strengthen international security,” according to the EU.

US has committed more than 12,000 anti-armor systems and “hundreds” of suicide drones to Ukraine

The US has committed more than 12,000 anti-armor systems, 1,400 anti-aircraft systems and “hundreds” of suicide drones to Ukraine, the Joe Biden administration announced in a statement Thursday evening.

The update comes after the US approved on Tuesday another $100 million in weaponry for Ukraine drawn from US inventories, bringing the total US assistance to Ukraine to approximately $1.7 billion since the beginning of Russia’s invasion.

That includes $300 million approved last Friday under the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, in which new weapons will be purchased from defense contractors to send to Ukraine.

The list of weapons committed to Ukraine includes the following:

  • More than 1,400 Stinger anti-aircraft systems
  • More than 5,000 Javelin anti-armor systems
  • More than 7,000 other anti-armor systems
  • Hundreds of Switchblade Tactical Unmanned Aerial Systems;
  • Over 50,000,000 rounds of ammunition
  • 45,000 sets of body armor and helmets
  • Laser-guided rocket systems
  • Puma Unmanned Aerial Systems
  • Night vision devices, thermal imagery systems, and optics
  • Commercial satellite imagery services

This does not mean all of the weapons have already arrived in Ukraine; instead, they are an update on what the US has sent in the past and has pledged to send in the future. For example, on Wednesday, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby stated that the US has sent in about 100 of the Switchblade suicide drones and is working on sending in more.

Microsoft claims it disrupted Russian hacking infrastructure aimed at Ukraine

Microsoft used a US court order to disable seven internet domains that a hacking group linked with Russian intelligence was using to try to infiltrate Ukrainian media organizations, in a likely effort to support Russia’s war, Microsoft claimed Thursday.

The hacking group, best known in the US for breaching the Democratic National Committee in the 2016 election, was likely trying to use cyber intrusions to “provide tactical support for the physical invasion and exfiltrate sensitive information,” according to Microsoft.

The hackers were “also targeting government institutions and think tanks in the United States and the European Union involved in foreign policy,” Tom Burt, a corporate vice president at Microsoft, wrote in a blog post.

Russia circulated note threatening “consequences” ahead of UN Human Rights Council vote: Sources

Russia circulated a note to member states threatening “consequences” ahead of the vote for the US-led push to suspend Russia from the United Nations Human Rights Council, according to multiple sources at the council.

The note, shared with CNN, stated, “It is worth mentioning that not only support for such an initiative, but also an equidistant position in the vote (abstention or non-participation) will be considered as an unfriendly gesture.”

The United Nations General Assembly voted to suspend Russia from the Human Rights Council during a meeting Thursday. The vote was 93 in favor of the move and 24 against the action, with 58 abstentions.

Defense secretary says US is giving intel to Ukraine for operations in Donbas

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said publicly for the first time that the US is providing intelligence to Ukrainian forces to conduct operations in the Donbas region.

Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Austin was asked whether the US was providing intelligence to help Ukraine carry out attacks against Russian forces in the occupied Donbas region or Crimea.

“We are providing them a … intelligence to conduct such operations … in the Donbas. That’s correct,” Austin stated in response to the question from Sen. Tom Cotton. Austin did not mention Crimea in his response.

He also added the US is not discouraging Ukraine from launching attacks against Russian forces in these areas.

Montenegro expels four Russian diplomats

Montenegro’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has ordered four Russian diplomats to leave the country over violations of diplomatic norms, the Podgorica-based Pobjeda newspaper reported, citing sources from the ministry.

A diplomatic note has been handed over to Russia’s ambassador to Montenegro and the diplomats have a week to leave the country, the report added.

The government of Montenegro, a small ex-Yugoslav republic of just 628,000, has joined international sanctions against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.

Montenegro already expelled one Russian diplomat in March, again citing violations of diplomatic norms.

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