Friday, May 24, 2024

Live Updates: Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 45

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:

UK PM offers armoured vehicles, anti-ship missiles

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, on a visit to Kyiv, has vowed UK armoured vehicles and anti-ship missiles for Ukraine as he acclaimed its military for “the greatest feat of arms of the 21st century”.

“It is because of President [Volodymyr] Zelensky’s resolute leadership and the invincible heroism and courage of the Ukrainian people that [President Vladimir] Putin’s monstrous aims are being thwarted,” he stated after meeting Zelensky, according to a Downing Street statement.

Johnson noted that the discovery of civilian bodies in Ukrainian towns have “permanently polluted” Putin’s reputation.

“What Putin has done in places like Bucha and Irpin is war crimes that have permanently polluted his reputation and the reputation of his government,” Johnson stated, standing next to Zelensky, referring to towns in the Kyiv region where bodies have been discovered.

Zelensky calls for more pressure on Russia after meeting Johnson in Kyiv

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is calling for “even more pressure” on Russia with assistance to Ukrainians in “defense, as well as sanctions.”

Zelensky made the comments during a joint news conference with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson following their meeting in Kyiv after the latter traveled to Kyiv on a surprise visit.

Other countries should follow the example of the United Kingdom, Zelensky said, adding it is time “to impose a full embargo on Russia’s energy sector, to increase the provision of weapons to Ukraine.”

“We need to further strengthen our anti-war coalition. We hope that London will play a key role in this process,” he stated.

Zelensky added the two leaders also talked about rebuilding of Ukraine.

“Together, we will be rebuilding our country and our cities,” he continued.

At least 176 children have died, more than 324 injured due to Russian aggression: Ukrainian Parliament

At least 176 children have died and more than 324 have been injured as a result of Russian aggression, the Ukrainian Parliament, Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, said in a tweet on Saturday.

“These figures are not final, as work is underway to establish them in places of active attacks, in the temporarily occupied and liberated territories,” the Parliament added.

Global pledging event raises 10.1 billion euros for Ukraine

A global pledging event for Ukrainian refugees called Stand Up for Ukraine has raised 10.1 billion euros ($11bn).

“The ‘Stand Up For Ukraine’ campaign has raised 9.1 billion euros for people fleeing bombs, inside and outside Ukraine, with an additional billion pledged by EBRD (the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development),” European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen stated.

The event convened by the EU and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sought to raise money for internally displaced people in Ukraine and refugees from the war-ravaged country, organisers announced.

EU top diplomat calls for military resolution of Ukrainian conflict

EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell said on Saturday that the Ukrainian conflict will end on the battlefield and pledged additional 500 million euro ($543 million) from the European Peace Facility (EPF) to Kiev.

“This war will be won on the battlefield. Additional €500 million from the #EPF are underway. Weapon deliveries will be tailored to Ukrainian needs,” Borrell said on Twitter.

He suggested that the EU also increases sanctions pressure on Russia, in particular in the energy sector.

“On Monday, I am convening an EU Foreign Affairs Council to discuss next steps,” Borrell added.

On Friday, Borrell and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen met with President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kiev in order to assess the situation and exchange views with the Ukrainian leadership. The delegation also visited the town of Bucha, where the Kiev regime had staged a provocation against the Russian military.

Top Russian diplomat in US urges west to stop funneling weapons to Ukraine

According to Antonov, the objective of the Russian military operation in Ukraine is to demilitarise it to make sure that it poses no threat to Russia.

European Commission pledges one billion euros to support Ukraine

The European Commission will pledge one billion euros ($1.09bn) to support Ukraine and countries receiving refugees fleeing the war following Russia’s invasion, according to the president of the EU’s executive, Ursula von der Leyen.

“Six hundred million of those [$652m] will go to Ukraine, to the Ukrainian authorities and partially to the United Nations,” von der Leyen said at a fundraising event for Ukraine in Warsaw, Poland.

“And 400 million euros [$435m] will go to the front-line states that are doing such an outstanding job and helping the refugees that are coming,” she added.

Captured Russian sailors freed in Ukraine: Moscow

Fourteen Russian sailors seized by Ukrainians on a cargo vessel in February have now been rescued, according to Tatyana Moskalkova, Russia’s top human rights official.

The crew of the cargo ship Azov Concord “has been freed and is being evacuated to safety by our troops,” Moskalkova wrote on social media on Saturday.

She said that the sailors were captured by the Ukrainians in the Azov Sea port of Mariupol on February 24, the day Russia launched its military campaign in Ukraine. The ship could not leave the port due to naval mines, she added.

Moskalkova stated the sailors had their cell phones and other belongings seized and had not been properly fed in captivity.

Zelensky to Johnson: ‘Welcome to Kyiv, my friend!’

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky welcomed British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to the Ukrainian capital Kyiv on Saturday, the Press Service of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine said on its official Twitter account Saturday.

Johnson “is one of the most principled opponents of the Russian invasion, a leader on sanctions pressure on Russia and defense support for Ukraine. Welcome to Kyiv, my friend!,” Zelensky is quoted as saying in the caption.

The press service also released several photos from the unannounced visit showing the two leaders holding a meeting.

Johnson also tweeted about the meeting on Saturday, saying the meeting with Zelensky in Kyiv was “a show of our unwavering support for the people of Ukraine.”

“We’re setting out a new package of financial & military aid which is a testament of our commitment to his country’s struggle against Russia’s barbaric campaign,” Johnson stated in a post that features a photo of the two leaders shaking hands.

Johnson meets Zelensky in Kyiv

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv on Saturday.

Downing Street has issued a statement on Johnson’s visit to Kyiv, declaring it to be a “show of solidarity with the Ukrainian people”.

A Number 10 spokesman said: “The Prime Minister has travelled to Ukraine to meet President Zelensky in person, in a show of solidarity with the Ukrainian people.

“They will discuss the UK’s long term support to Ukraine and the PM will set out a new package of financial and military aid,” he added.

Zelensky: EU leader asked for evidence Bucha massacre wasn’t staged

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has revealed that an EU member state’s leader called into question Kiev’s version of events surrounding the Bucha killings, asking for proof that the atrocities were not staged.

Speaking to German newspaper Bild, Zelensky described how a leading EU politician asked him for evidence proving that the Bucha massacre had not been staged. The remark came after the Bild journalist asked what the worst thing he had heard in recent days was. When the interviewer probed further, asking whether it was the head of state of an EU nation, Zelensky replied in the affirmative, though he refused to name the official.

Ukraine claims Russian troops committed atrocities against civilians in the town of Bucha northwest of Kiev before retreating last week. Russia has rejected the accusations, and claims Kiev manipulated evidence in what it calls a “provocation.”

Commenting on Berlin’s support for Kiev, the Ukrainian president lamented Germany’s apparent lack of enthusiasm for tougher sanctions against Russia.

“Some countries, and Germany is among them, are against an oil and gas embargo,” Zelensky said, adding, however, that he was content that the EU’s fifth round of sanctions “contains the coal and timber embargo.”

He also accused Berlin of being overly cautious in its support for Kiev, refusing to provide the country with weapons for some time, and stressing that Ukraine would not become a NATO member state. But, according to Zelensky, “Germany’s rhetoric has changed” over time, despite the country being “conservative and cold.”

Asked if he was prepared to sit down with Russian President
Vladimir Putin and talk, Zelensky said, “today Ukraine has no way out other than to sit down at the negotiating table.” He added that “no one else in Russia has the power to stop this war,” as Putin is the only one who “decides when this war will end.”

Moscow says EU closes borders for some cargo vehicles registered in Russia, Belarus

European Union countries sharing borders with Russia and Belarus have barred some cargo vehicles registered in the two countries from entering since Friday due to sanctions, according to the Russian customs service.

The EU on Friday formally adopted new sanctions against Russia, including bans on the import of coal, wood, chemicals and other products, while also preventing many Russian vessels and trucks from accessing the bloc.

Vehicles used as international transport that have Russian and Belarusian number plates will not be able to move goods on EU territory, the Russian customs service added.

Austria’s chancellor calls for war crimes investigation, more sanctions following Zelensky meeting

Austria’s Chancellor Karl Nehammer stated Saturday his country is military neutral, “but we understand we have to help where injustice and war crimes take place.”

Austria supports European Union sanctions against Russia and the bloc is ready to implement more sanctions, Nehammar said at a joint news conference Saturday in Kyiv with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Nehammer will visit the town of Bucha on Saturday, which he called “a place of war crimes.”

“We have to make those war crimes known to the UN and international justice must begin investigating and fight these crimes,” he added.

Zelensky thanked him for the support Ukraine has received so far and reiterated his call for more sanctions on Russia.

Zelensky: Ukraine ‘still ready’ for talks with Russia

Ukraine is “still ready” to continue negotiations with Moscow, which have stalled since the discovery of atrocities in Bucha and other areas near Kyiv, according to the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

“Ukraine has always said it is ready for negotiations and looking for any way to stop this war,” Zelenskyy said in a news conference with the Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer, who visited Bucha.

“Sadly, in parallel we see the preparations for important battles, some people say decisive ones, in the east,” he stated, referring to an anticipated Russian offensive.

Ukraine is ready for a tough battle with Russian forces amassing in the east of the country, Zelensky stated, a day after a missile attack in the east that officials said killed more than 50 civilians trying to evacuate.

“Yes, (Russian) forces are gathering in the east (of Ukraine),” Zelensky noted.

“This will be a hard battle, we believe in this fight and our victory. We are ready to simultaneously fight and look for diplomatic ways to put an end to this war,” he added.

UN: Refugee numbers top 4.4 million

More than 4.4 million Ukrainian refugees have fled their country since Russia invaded on February 24, according to figures from the UN refugee agency.

The UNHCR announced there were 4,441,663 Ukrainian refugees as of Saturday.

Russia stages war games in Kaliningrad enclave: Interfax

Russia staged war games in Kaliningrad – an enclave on the Baltic Sea sandwiched between Poland and Lithuania – Interfax news agency cited the Baltic Fleet Command as saying, days after a senior official warned European countries against any potential action against Kaliningrad.

“Up to 1,000 military personnel… and more than 60 military equipment units were involved in the control checks,” Interfax news quoted the Russian Baltic Fleet Command’s press service as saying.

It did not give a reason for the exercises or say when they had been planned.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko warned European countries on Wednesday against any potential action against the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad, adding that “this would be playing with fire.”

Scholz: Civilian deaths in Bucha were war crimes

The perpetrators of civilian killings in the Ukrainian town of Bucha were guilty of war crimes and must be held accountable, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said.

“This is something we cannot forget,” Scholz stated, referring to the deaths of civilians in the town to the northwest of Kyiv.

“We cannot overlook that this is a crime. These are war crimes we will not accept… those who did this must be held accountable,” he added.

Since Russian troops pulled back from Bucha last week, Ukrainian officials say hundreds of civilians have been found dead. Bucha’s deputy mayor claimed more than 360 civilians were killed and around 260-280 were buried in a mass grave by other residents.

EU: Russia’s actions appear to be war crimes

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen says Russian forces appear to have committed war crimes by targeting civilians in Ukraine, adding that lawyers must investigate the alleged incidents.

“My instinct says: If this is not a war crime, what is a war crime, but I am a medical doctor by training and lawyers have to investigate carefully,” von der Leyen told reporters on board a train leaving Ukraine.

“I saw the photos, (Ukrainian prime minister) Denys Shmyhal showed me: Killing people as they are walking by. We could also see with our own eyes, that the destruction in the city is targeted into the civilian lives. Residential buildings are no military target”, she added, referring to Bucha.

The Kremlin announced on Tuesday that allegations that Russian forces had executed civilians in Bucha were a “monstrous forgery” aimed at denigrating the Russian army.

Moscow claims Kiev plans to film another staged video of mass civilian deaths

The Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) plans to film a staged video showing the killing of Russian troops allegedly arriving in the city of Irpen “to kill the witnesses of Russia’s war crimes,” Russian Defense Ministry Spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov said on Saturday.

“SBU officers plan to bring the bodies of locals killed in Ukrainian shelling from the morgue of a hospital located on Polevaya Street to the basement of a building on the eastern outskirts of Irpen. The SBU then plans to carry out a staged activity in the Pushcha-Voditsa forest, which would involve firing and “the killing” of a “Russian reconnaissance group” that allegedly arrived in Irpen “to kill the witnesses of Russia’s war crimes,” he pointed out.

According to Konashenkov, the bodies of Russian prisoners of war killed by Ukrainian nationalists earlier will be presented as “incontrovertible evidence.”

“The goal of this cynical staged activity is to spread videos through Western media outlets,” the general added.

Russia’s defence ministry has also announced Russian forces have destroyed an ammunition depot at the Myrhorod Air Base in central Ukraine, Interfax news agency reported.

Russian high-precision air-based weapons destroyed large ammunition depot of Ukrainian troops in Dnepropetrovsk region, Konashenkov said, adding, “During the night, high-precision air-based missiles destroyed a large ammunition depot of the Ukrainian armed forces near Novomoskovsk settlement in Dnepropetrovsk region.”

The Russian Armed Forces have destroyed 425 unmanned aerial vehicles, 228 multiple rocket launchers and 2,031 tanks and other armored vehicles since the start of a special military operation in Ukraine, Konashenkov stated.

“Since the start of the special military operation, 127 planes, 98 helicopters, 425 unmanned aerial vehicles, 2,031 tanks and other armored combat vehicles, 228 multiple rocket launchers, 880 field artillery pieces and mortars, as well as 1,932 military motor vehicles have been destroyed,” he specified.

Heavy shelling of Kharkiv continuing: Regional military governor

Oleh Syniehubov, the head of the Kharkiv region military administration, stated on Saturday that Russian forces have continued shelling of the regional capital of Kharkiv.

“During the past day, the occupiers inflicted about 50 blows from artillery, mortars, tanks and MLRS (multiple rocket launchers),” he said in a statement on Telegram.

“The infrastructure of (the districts of) Saltivka, Kholodna Hora, Oleksiyivka, XTZ (Kharkiv tractor plant district) was affected,” he added.

Russia complains to Turkey about Ukraine’s use of Turkish drones

Russia has complained to Turkish officials about the Ukrainian military using drones manufactured in Turkey.

Speaking at a media briefing, a Turkish official said Ankara had told Moscow that Turkish drone-maker Baykar Technologies is a private company and Ukraine’s purchase of the devices had been completed before the war.

Ukrainian officials have been touting Baykar’s Bayraktar TB2 drones as one of the most effective weapons in their arsenal.

Last week, CNN gained rare access to the Baykar production facility in Turkey for an exclusive interview with its chief technology officer, Selcuk Bayraktar.

Bayraktar, who is also the son-in-law of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, stated the drone was “doing what it was designed to do and upgraded to do.”

Finland and Sweden could soon join NATO

Finland and Sweden could soon join NATO, moves that would likely infuriate Moscow and that officials say would further underscore Russia’s strategic error in invading Ukraine.

NATO officials told CNN that discussions about Sweden and Finland joining the bloc have gotten extremely serious since Russia’s invasion.

US senior State Department officials said the matter came up at this week’s NATO foreign ministerial, which was attended by the foreign ministers from Stockholm and Helsinki.

Officials added the discussions underline the extent to which Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion has only served to reinvigorate and unify the NATO alliance — the exact opposite of Putin’s stated goals before the war began.

MOD: West turns blind eye to cruel treatment of Russian prisoners in Ukraine

Western countries, the UN and other international organizations turn a blind eye to the harsh treatment of Russian prisoners by Ukrainian nationalists, demonstrating indifference to the humanitarian issues raised by Moscow, Director of the Russian National Defense Management Center, Col. Gen. Mikhail Mizintsev stated.

Moscow has repeatedly announced that Ukrainian nationalists brutally beat Russian artillerymen and intelligence officers.

“Countries of the so-called ‘civilized West’, the United Nations, the OSCE [Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe], the International Committee of the Red Cross and other international human rights organizations have so far not reacted to the statements of the Russian side about horrendous torture and atrocities against Russian prisoners of war, showing complete indifference to the humanitarian issues raised by Russia,” Mizintsev added.

Russia replaced war commander: Western official

A Western official has confirmed Russia has reorganised the command of its operations in Ukraine, with the new general having had extensive experience in battle operations in Syria.

Speaking to the BBC’s Gordon Corera on condition of anonymity, the source said the commander of Russia’s southern military district, Gen Alexander Dvornikov, now leads the invasion.

“That particular commander has a lot of experience of operations of Russian operations in Syria. So we would expect the overall command and control to improve,” the source added.

The new instatement was done in an attempt to improve coordination between various units, as Russian groups had previously been organised and commanded separately, the official said.

Russia has so far struggled to achieve its war aims 44 days into the invasion, failing to capture major cities such as Kyiv before eventually turning its sights to the Donbas region in the east.

The official stated Russian tactics had seen them held back by smaller numbers of Ukrainian units acting more intelligently and with surprise – despite Russia being thought to have a “substantial” force of slightly fewer than 100 operational battalion tactical groups,

“Unless Russia is able to change its tactics, it’s very difficult to see how they succeed in even these limited objectives that they’ve reset themselves,” the official continued.

The official added political imperatives might take precedence over military priorities, with Russia pushing forward to get some kind of success ahead of 9 May, when the country marks victory in World War Two.

Actions of west in Ukraine could lead to ‘military confrontation’ between US & Russia: Envoy

Actions of the West in Ukraine are dangerous and could lead to ‘military confrontation’ between Washington and Moscow, Russia’s ambassador to the United States, Anatoly Antonov, has warned.

“Western states are directly involved in the current events as they continue to pump Ukraine with weapons and ammunitions, thereby inciting further bloodshed,” Antonov stated in an interview for Newsweek.

Kiev’s ethnic cleansing, along with its bid to join the US-led NATO military alliance, had been among the driving factors that prompted Russia to start its special operation to demilitarise and de-Nazify Ukraine, said Moscow’s envoy to Washington.

“The special operation in Ukraine is the result of the unwillingness of the Kiev regime to stop the genocide of Russians by fulfilling its obligations under the international commitments. The desire of the NATO member states to use the territory of a neighboring state to establish a foothold in the struggle against Russia is also obvious,” added Antonov.

Amid a scramble by the Joe Biden administration, NATO allies to shore up the Kiev regime’s defences by vowing to send more military assistance to Ukraine, such aid only worsened the conflict, warned Antonov, and could potentially lead to a direct conflict between the US and Russia.

Russia continues to hit Ukrainian non-combatants: UK intelligence

Russia continues to hit Ukrainian non-combatants, such as the civilians killed in Friday’s rocket strike on Kramatorsk railway station in eastern Ukraine, according to British military intelligence.

“Russian operations continue to focus on the Donbas region, Mariupol and Mykolaiv, supported by continued cruise missile launches into Ukraine by Russian naval forces,” the Ministry of Defence says, adding that Russia’s ambitions to establish a land corridor between Crimea and the Donbas continue to be thwarted by Ukrainian resistance.

Biden signs sanctions bills targeting Russian oil and trade with Russia and Belarus

President Joe Biden has signed two bills levying further sanctions on Russia and Belarus, the White House announced.

The sanctions mark the administration’s latest move to punish the two countries for Russia’s ongoing deadly invasion of Ukraine — and the first time the sanctions in response to the war have come from Capitol Hill.

One bill suspends normal trade relations with Russia and Belarus, punishing the countries by paving the way for higher tariffs on imports from them. The other prohibits energy imports from Russia, including oil, coal and natural gas.

Russia aiming to achieve victory over Ukraine by May 9: European officials

The Russians are feeling “self-imposed pressure” to achieve some sort of victory by May 9, according to two European officials.

May 9 is the day Russia celebrates Victory Day over Germany in World War 2.

Traditionally Russia marks the holiday with a military victory parade through Red Square and a speech from President Vladimir Putin. With one month to go until the holiday, the officials say Russia is regrouping and shifting its forces to southeastern Ukraine — a far more limited goal than seizing large swaths of the country — with the aim of achieving some sort of regional victory.

“Consolidating and trying to at least have something to talk about is clearly in their interest,” one official said.

The official noted that the time pressure could lead Russian forces to make mistakes, compounded by the logistical issues and the morale problems they already face.

The second European official stated that a political timeline for the war could lead to a “military disaster as a consequence.”

But it could also lead Russian forces to commit more atrocities, added the first official.

“The stench of these war crimes is going to hang over these Russian armed forces for many years,” the official noted.

Ukrainian mayor says 132 civilians killed by Russian forces in Makariv

Russian forces killed 132 civilians in Makariv, in the Kyiv region, the town’s mayor said on Friday as Ukrainian officials continue to assess the extent of destruction around the capital and north of the country.

Local officials collected the bodies and said they had been shot by Russian forces, Mayor Vadym Tokar told Ukraine’s Parliament TV.

Nearly all of Makariv’s infrastructure has been destroyed, he continued, adding that apartment complexes and other buildings were bombed and a hospital destroyed.

“More than a month now we are without electricity, water, gas, without telephone lines. We don’t even have essential goods at home,” Tokar said.

Makariv, he noted, has been hit by a “medical catastrophe,” with all doctors having been evacuated.

He also warned that people in the town need to be careful as mines are scattered in the fields.

“Our deforested areas are heavily littered with mines, and so we will work first on demining these areas before we can begin the full-fledged restoration of our infrastructure,” he said.

The town has been receiving aid and citizens are going out into the streets and doing what they can to clear the rubble, the mayor said. Before the invasion, about 15,000 people lived in Makariv, but now fewer than 1,000 remain.

Tokar added residents are gradually returning and the town is slowly recovering. According to preliminary estimates, about 45% of Makariv has been destroyed, Tokar continued.

There are “international war crimes being committed” in Ukraine: European Parliament president

European Parliament President Roberta Metsola told CNN that the missile strike on a train station in Kramatorsk and other attacks on civilians in Ukraine are “international war crimes being committed against sovereign people who are simply fighting for democracy and for their country.”

Speaking to CNN’s Julia Chatterley on Friday, Metsola said Europe is not delivering equipment, financial assistance, or logistical assistance fast enough, “and it is up to us today, in these hours, to stand up to be counted and to not turn our backs.”

She also added that Europe is funding this war “whether directly, or indirectly” and must take responsibility for not acting earlier to stop the war.

“Why have we sheltered Putin, his family, the oligarchs, and all the people who support him in our Europe by selling them our passports, our citizenship? By allowing them to hide their money in our countries. And we need to make sure this does not happen again,” she continued.

When asked about Ukraine’s candidacy to join the European Union, Metsola stated “for the parliament, it’s clear. The place for Ukraine is in Europe.”

Medvedev says sanctions ‘act of international aggression’

Dmitry Medvedev, a former Russian president and prime minister, and now deputy chairman of the security council, has condemned ever-tougher Western sanctions as an “act of international aggression”.

In a lengthy post on his Telegram channel, Medvedev condemned the sanctions as “illegal” and said they amounted to “a declaration of economic war”.

Zelensky says everybody involved in Kramatorsk attack will be held accountable

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said everyone behind the Russian attack on the Kramatorsk train station will be held accountable.

“This is another war crime of Russia, for which everyone involved will be held accountable,” he said in his nightly address on Friday, adding that Russian state propaganda tried to blame Ukrainian armed forces for the attack.

“We expect a firm, global response to this war crime,” he continued.

“Like the massacres in Bucha, as well as many other Russian war crimes, the missile strike on Kramatorsk must be one of the charges at the tribunal, which is bound to happen,” he stated.

The Ukrainian President added “all the efforts of the world” will be directed to establish minute-by-minute “who did what, who gave orders, where did the rocket come from, who was carrying it, who gave the order and how the strike was coordinated.”

“Responsibility is inevitable,” he stressed.

Some Russian forces depleted: US official

A senior US defence official says the Pentagon has determined that some of the Russian combat units that retreated from the Kyiv area in recent days are so heavily damaged and depleted that their combat utility is in question.

The official described these units as “for all intents and purposes eradicated”, with only a small number of functioning troops and weapons remaining.

The official, who spoke to The Associated Press news agency on condition of anonymity, added that the US believes Russia has lost 15 to 20 percent of the combat power it had assembled along Ukraine’s borders before launching its invasion.

Death toll from Kramatorsk station rises to 52: Official

The death toll from Russia’s missile attack on Kramatorsk railway station in eastern Ukraine was raised to 52 people, up from 50, Regional Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said in a message on Telegram, adding that at least five children were among those killed.

EU publishes sanctions against Putin’s two daughters

The EU has blacklisted President Vladimir Putin’s two adult daughters and more than 200 other people as part of its latest sanctions package, according to an official list published late on Friday.

Those on the list, which additionally included 18 companies, face asset seizures and travel bans in the 27-nation European bloc.

The United States and the United Kingdom had already sanctioned Putin’s two daughters: Maria Vorontsova and Katerina Tikhonova, born in 1985 and 1986, respectively.

US believes Russia used short-range ballistic missile in Kramatorsk attack: Official

The US believes Russia used a short-range ballistic missile to hit the Kramatorsk railway station in east Ukraine, a senior US defence official has said.

The official was cited by the Reuters news agency as saying the Pentagon believes Russian forces used an SS-21 Scarab missile, but that the motivation for the attack was not clear.

EU gives Ukraine an “important step” to full membership of the bloc

The European Union on Friday gave Ukraine an “important step” towards membership of the bloc, with Commission President Ursula von der Leyen ceremoniously handing Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky a questionnaire to complete as part of the long-winded membership process.

“Ukraine belongs to the European family. We’ve heard your requests loud and clear. And today, we’re here to give you a first positive answer,” von der Leyen said speaking to reporters in Kyiv alongside Zelensky and the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Josep Borrell.

“In this envelope, dear Volodymyr, there is an important step towards EU membership. The questionnaire that is in here is the basis for our discussion in the coming weeks. It is where your path towards Europe and the European Union begins,” she added.

Von der Leyen stated she hopes to be able to work closely with Zelesnky to complete the questionnaire within weeks.

Thanking her as he received the document, Zelesnky joked: “We’ll be ready with answers, Ursula, in one week”.

The questionnaire is one of the many steps Ukraine would need to complete to reach full EU membership.

Zelensky tells EU chiefs latest sanctions against Russia are “not enough”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Friday told European Union chiefs that the bloc’s latest package of sanctions against Russia is still “not enough.”

“I would like to thank all the world, the EU, Ursula von der Leyen personally, for the 5th sanctions package, but I think it is not enough,” he said, speaking in Kyiv alongside European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and High Representative of Foreign Policy and Security Josep Borrell.

“Because they [Russia] have taken a lot away from us, the territories, the people,” he stated.

While Ukraine can “bring the territories back,” they cannot “bring those people back to life,” he said. “Please keep helping us with the sanctions,” he added.

The EU’s fifth round of sanctions was adopted this week and includes a ban on Russian coal imports and blocks Russian access to EU ports. Borrell, the EU’s top diplomat, vowed an EU delegation will return to Kyiv and acknowledged Ukraine needs more arms. He noted he hoped to be able to pledge a further 500 million euros ($543 million) in military assistance “within the next couple of days,” on top of the 1 billion euros ($1.09 billion) already allocated.

Pentagon says missile strike on Ukraine train station just a “piece of Russian brutality”

The Pentagon finds “unconvincing” claims from Russia that its forces were not involved in the strike on a train station in Ukraine earlier today that resulted in multiple civilian deaths and injuries, spokesperson John Kirby said during a briefing with reporters.

“Our assessment is that this was a Russian strike and that they used a short range ballistic missile to conduct it,” Kirby stated.

”It is again of a piece of Russian brutality in the prosecution of this war and their carelessness for trying to avoid civilian harm,” he added.

At least 50 people were killed and almost 100 injured in a Russian missile strike on a train station used as an evacuation hub in the eastern city of Kramatorsk, Ukrainian officials say.

US State Department: Railway strike another example of Russia’s war “sowing senseless death and destruction”

The US State Department condemned the Russian strike on a railway station in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kramatorsk.

“I want to express our deep condolences to the families of those killed or injured and to the people of Ukraine who continue to suffer terribly from the Russian government’s unprovoked unjustified and brutal war,” State Department principal deputy spokesperson Jalina Porter said Friday.

“We are horrified by this latest atrocity but we can no longer be surprised by the Kremlin’s repugnant disregard for human lives,” she stated.

“This is just yet another example of the Russian government’s unjustified brutal war sowing senseless death and destruction in Ukraine and unravelling the fabric of normal life on schools, on homes, on hospitals and on workplaces. Civilians are killed when they stay in their homes and they are killed when they try to leave,” she continued.

Porter added such actions “demonstrate why Russia does not belong on the UN Human Rights Council and they also reinforce the US’s assessment that members of Russian forces are committing war crimes in Ukraine.”

US to support investigations of train station attack: White House

The White House has announced the Joe Biden administration will support investigations of the attack on the Kramatorsk train station in Ukraine that authorities said was packed with women, children and elderly refugees.

Several US agencies had previously pledged to assist in gathering evidence of war crimes in Ukraine.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki has stated the attack on Kramatorsk was “yet another horrific atrocity committed by Russia,” and the administration would support efforts to hold Russia accountable.

“Well, what we’ve seen over the course of the last six weeks or more than that has been what the president himself has characterised as war crimes, which is the intentional targeting of civilians,” Psaki said during a regular news conference.

“This is yet another horrific atrocity committed by Russia, striking civilians who are trying to evacuate and reach safety,” she added.

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