Thursday, April 18, 2024

Live Updates: Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 50

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:

CIA director warns Russian threat of tactical nuclear weapons should not be taken “lightly”

The United States does not “take lightly” the possibility that Russia could seek to use a tactical nuclear weapon in Ukraine as Moscow continues to face difficulties on the battlefield, CIA Director Bill Burns said Thursday.

“Given the potential desperation of President [Vladimir] Putin and the Russian leadership, given the setbacks that they’ve faced so far militarily, none of us can take lightly the threat posed by a potential resort to tactical nuclear weapons or low yield nuclear weapons,” he stated in public remarks at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

The CIA “watch[es] for that very intently,” Burns noted. But he emphasized that the US has yet to see any signs that Russia is preparing to take such a step.

“While we’ve seen some rhetorical posturing on the part of the Kremlin about moving to higher nuclear alert levels, so far we haven’t seen a lot of practical evidence of the kind of deployments or military dispositions that would reinforce that concern—but we watch for that very intently,” Burns added.

Still, in the same remarks, Burns warned that Putin has become increasingly isolated and his “risk appetite has grown as his grip on Russia has tightened.”

“His circle of advisors has narrowed and in that small circle it has never been career-enhancing to question his judgment or his stubborn, almost mystical belief that his destiny is to restore Russia’s sphere of influence,” Burns continued.

Biden says he’s deciding on whether to send a senior administration official to Ukraine

US President Joe Biden said Thursday he was still working with his team to determine whether he should dispatch a senior member of his administration to Ukraine, a potentially dramatic show of support for the nation as it comes under attack from Russia.

“We’re making that decision now,” Biden stated when asked whether he would send a senior official to Ukraine.

Asked who he would send, Biden turned back to a reporter and noted, “You ready to go?”

The White House echoed Biden’s comments, saying “we’re still in discussions, deciding this.”

US officials have held preliminary discussions about sending a high-ranking member of the administration to Ukraine, according to a source familiar with the talks.

While Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris are unlikely to visit Kyiv themselves anytime soon, officials have discussed sending Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin or Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Russian troops that left northern Ukraine are now appearing in Donbas ahead of expected military push

The first Russian troops that had left northern Ukraine have begun appearing in the northern Donbas region of eastern Ukraine in preparation for what is expected to be a major push by thousands of Russian forces, a senior US defense official said Thursday.

“They already have a significant amount of forces in the region,” the official told reporters.

“We would assess that inside Ukraine itself, there’s 65 total operational BTGs. And they are, of the 65, they’re really in that east and south parts of Ukraine. There really isn’t any operation BTGs outside southern and eastern Ukraine … They will try to insert additional BTGs over coming days. We just haven’t seen that really pan out of late,” the official added.

These are some of the units that had left northern Ukraine and the areas north of Kyiv in recent weeks to go back to Russia and Belarus for resupply and reinforcement before going to Donbas, the official noted.

Ukraine rejects Russian claim of attacks on border region

Ukraine has rejected claims by Moscow that Ukrainian forces carried out attacks along the border between the countries, including an air raid that Russia said left seven people wounded.

Russia’s investigative committee announced the incident involved two combat helicopters “equipped with heavy offensive weapons” that had “illegally” entered Russian airspace.

ICC will keep asking Russia to engage with Ukraine war crimes probe

International Criminal Court prosecutor Karim Khan has said he would keep trying to get Russia to engage with his war crimes investigation in Ukraine.

Speaking at a briefing in Kyiv after visiting a town in the region where Ukraine says atrocities were committed against civilians under recent Russian occupation, Khan stated: “I’ll keep trying to approach, for the third time, the Russian Federation.”

Russia has dismissed allegations its troops committed war crimes in Ukraine since the February 24 invasion as fake news.

US assesses Russian warship still battling fire, but cannot confirm cause: Defense official

The United States assesses that the Russian cruiser Moskva is still battling a fire onboard but still cannot confirm what caused the damage, according to a senior US defense official.

The official also said that the ship is moving east, and the US assumes it will be heading to the port of Sevastopol for repairs.

The US has seen that other Russian ships in the northern Black Sea near the Moskva have all subsequently moved further south, according to the official.

Ukraine claimed to have hit Moskva with a missile, while Russia said the cause of the fire is still “being established” and that there is no “open fire” on the ship.

“We cannot confirm what caused the damage to the cruiser Moskva. We do believe that she has experienced significant damage. Our assessment is that she still appears to be battling a fire onboard. But we do not know the extent of the damage. We don’t know anything about casualties to her crew. And we cannot definitely say at this point what caused that damage,” the US official stated.

“We hold the ship moving to the east. Our assumption is that she’ll be heading to Sevastopol for repairs. But that’s really all we can say. The only other maritime activity worth noting is that we did note that other Black Sea ships that were operating in the vicinity of her or in the northern Black Sea have all moved further south, in the wake of the damage that the Moskva experienced. So they’ve all, all of the northern Black Sea ships have now moved out, away from the northern areas where they were operating in,” the official added.

UN: Nearly 2,000 civilians killed in Ukraine since invasion began, but actual figures “considerably higher”

As of April 12, the civilian death toll in Ukraine since the Russian invasion began on Feb. 24 stood at 1,932, the UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR) said Thursday.

It warned that “the actual figures are considerably higher.”

As the “receipt of information from some locations where intense hostilities have been going on has been delayed, and many reports are still pending corroboration,” it added.

The OHCHR also added that at least 2,589 civilians have been injured since the start of the invasion.

“Escalating and sustained hostilities in the eastern & southern regions of Ukraine continue to drive rising humanitarian needs,” the UN said Thursday.

Biden administration expands intel sharing with Ukraine on Donbas and Crimea: Officials

US President Joe Biden’s administration is expanding its intelligence sharing with Ukraine to allow more information on Russian activities in eastern Ukraine and Crimea to be shared, as the US believes that Russia is shifting its strategy to concentrate on the south and the east, according to US officials and another source familiar with the matter.

New guidelines, put in place over the past several weeks, have loosened rules for intelligence sharing, specifically in regions that were under Russian control prior to the 2022 invasion.

“With the shift in Russia’s military efforts in southern and eastern Ukraine, we modified our guidelines to provide operators added clarity to enable intelligence sharing with Ukraine to defend themselves in what is sure to be a dynamic battle space,” a US intelligence official told CNN.

The official added that the US “has been sharing and will continue to share intelligence with the Ukrainians to support their ability to defend themselves against Russian aggression originating from anywhere in Ukraine.”

The intelligence official stated that the US is “intensely sharing timely intelligence” with the Ukrainians, including in areas held by Russia prior to the 2022 invasion.

Putin: West’s attempts to push out Russian energy companies will impact global economy

US national security adviser: Fighting in Ukraine is likely to be “protracted”

When asked about US President Joe Biden’s comments that he believes Russian President Vladimir Putin is committing genocide against Ukrainians, national security adviser Jake Sullivan said that the President had “assessed that the Russians and Putin seem to be hell-bent on erasing the very idea of Ukrainian identity, of its independent identity.

“And when you combine that with the mass killings, from the President’s perspective, that’s genocide,” he stated.

Sullivan noted, however, that as the President said, there is a process the State Department must go through to make a formal determination of whether Russia’s actions meet the legal standard for genocide under the Genocide Convention.

“That’s something that will take quite a bit of time, but the President was quite deliberate in his own personal views of that,” he added.

The fighting in Ukraine is also likely to be “protracted,” and will go on “for months or even longer,” Sullivan continued.

But Sullivan said that “it is not a foregone conclusion” that the US will lift sanctions on Russia if it reaches a diplomatic agreement with Ukraine.

“A lot of that depends on what the shape and scope of that diplomatic agreement is and a lot of it depends on what the Ukrainians [consult] with us and the Europeans come to agree to,” Sullivan told an audience at the Economic Club of Washington, DC.

“You know, we’re not going to do a deal over the head of the Ukrainians where we get a bunch of sanctions relief to Russia. But if some measure of sanctions relief were built into some credible diplomatic solution, led by the Ukrainians, that’s something that we would happily assess,” he added.

Sullivan said that although the US is not “actively participating” in the talks, Ukrainian officials regularly communicate with the US about the status of negotiations. And while he would not discuss whether the US had any “red lines” for intervention in Ukraine, he stated the US has made clear to Russia that there will be severe consequences if weapons of mass destruction, such as chemical or biological weapons, are used there.

Asked about the administration’s strategy of declassifying intelligence about Russia’s intentions in Ukraine, Sullivan described it as “a careful, very thoughtful, very systematic and very prudent process that is managed at senior levels across the director of national intelligence, the CIA, the NSA” and other agencies.

Asked about whether the President had any plans to go to Ukraine when he was in Poland last month, Sullivan noted that Biden “would love the opportunity to go to Ukraine to show solidarity with the Ukrainians” and that the possibility was discussed before Biden’s trip to Warsaw.

The discussions included what kind of footprint it would require to ensure the President’s safety, Sullivan continued. But it was “not under any serious planning,” he added, and he declined to comment further on reports that a senior US official might visit Kyiv in the near future.

Pentagon: “There was an explosion” on the Russian warship but US can’t assess at this point if missile hit it

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby told CNN that “there was an explosion” on the Russian cruiser Moskva, but added the United States cannot assess at this point if the ship was hit by a missile.

Russia said its warship “remains afloat” after a fire detonated ammunition on board, while Ukrainian officials said the Moskva was hit by Ukrainian Neptune anti-ship missiles and has sunk.

“We’re not quite exactly sure what happened here. We do assess that there was an explosion — at least one explosion on this cruiser — a fairly major one at that, that has caused extensive damage to the ship,” Kirby added.

Kirby stated the damaged Russian warship is afloat and “making her own way across the Black Sea.”

“We assess that the ship is able to make its own way, and it is doing that; it’s heading more towards now we think the east. We think it’s probably going to be putting in at Sevastopol for repairs, but we don’t know what exactly caused that,” Kirby added.

Kirby noted the ship had been operating with a few other Russian vessels about 60 miles (about 96 kilometers) south of Odesa.

“The explosion was sizable enough that we picked up indications that other naval vessels around her tried to come to her assistance, and so eventually that wasn’t apparently needed. So she is making her own way across the Black Sea and we’ll continue to try and monitor this as best we can,” he added.

Meanwhile, US President Joe Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan said on Thursday that the battleship was badly damaged on Wednesday as a result of either “incompetence” or a successful attack by the Ukrainians.

“We’ve been in touch with the Ukrainians overnight who said they struck the ship with anti-ship missiles,” Sullivan told an audience at the Economic Club of Washington, DC.

“We don’t have the capacity at this point to independently verify that, but certainly the way that this unfolded is a big blow to Russia,” he continued.

“This is their flagship, the ‘Moscow,’ and they’ve now been forced to admit that it’s been badly damaged,” Sullivan said, adding, “And they’ve had to kind of choose between two stories. One story is that it was just incompetence, and the other is that they came under attack. And neither is a particularly good outcome for them.”

Sullivan noted that when the president went to NATO a few weeks ago, he indicated to allies that the US was looking to facilitate the supply of coastal defense and anti-ship capabilities to the Ukrainians “and that is being actively worked.”

Russia and Ukraine exchanged more prisoners of war: Ukraine’s deputy prime minster

Russia and Ukraine have conducted a fourth prisoner swap, Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said Thursday.

“Another, fourth, prisoner exchange took place today at the orders of [Ukrainian] President [Volodymyr] Zelensky,” she wrote on Telegram.

“Five officers and 17 rank and file soldiers were freed, as well as eight civilians including one woman. Thirty of our citizens in total are going home today,” she added.

Details of how many Russian prisoners were freed in the exchange were not immediately available, with Russia yet to confirm the swap.

Village in Russia’s Belgorod region hit by Ukrainian shelling: Governor

A village in Russia’s Belgorod region has come under fire from Ukraine, the region’s governor has claimed.

“The village of Spodaryushino has been subjected to fire from Ukraine,” Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said in a post on the Telegram messaging service.

He added no one had been injured and that the village and one other settlement had been evacuated.

Ukraine’s defence ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment on allgeations of cross-border shelling.

Moscow claims 2 Ukrainian combat helicopters invaded Russian airspace, struck residential buildings

The Russian Investigative Committee (IC) has opened a criminal case over an airstrike conducted by two Ukrainian combat helicopters on Russian territory in the Bryansk region.

The helicopters violated Russian airspace and carried out at least six strikes on residential buildings in the village of Klimovo, the RIC said.

The strikes left at least six houses damaged and seven people injured, including a two-year-old child, the committee added. The helicopters managed to infiltrate Russian airspace by flying at a low altitude.

The RIC announced that the Ukrainian military conspired to affect decision-makers in Russia to force them to prematurely end the special military operation that is being carried out by the country’s military in Ukraine.

Kremlin says condition for potential Putin-Zelensky summit is an agreement document

The condition for a possible meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is an agreement document ready for the two leaders to sign, the Kremlin announced Thursday.

“In principle, President [Putin] never refused such a meeting [with President Zelensky], but certain conditions must be prepared for it, namely, the text of the [agreement] document [to sign],” Peskov told reporters on a regular conference call.

“For the time being, there are no updates to report here,” Peskov added.

Since the start of Russia’s invasion, Zelensky has repeatedly called for talks with the Russian president, but there have been no talks at the highest level so far.

Moscow: Supporting Kiev is culmination of West’s Russophobic course

The unconditional support of the Ukrainian authorities by Washington and Brussels has become the culmination of the West’s Russophobic course, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stated on Thursday.

“The culmination of this Russophobic course has been Washington and Brussels’ unconditional support for the radical nationalist Kiev regime, the nurturing of ultra-radicals in Ukraine, and the creation of an ‘anti-Russia’ out of Ukraine,” he said.

According to him, the West, led by the United States, now seeks to restore and consolidate its dominance in international affairs, “in order to continue to solve its narrow personal interest at the expense of the national interests” of other countries.

“The most important part of this aggressive line is the West’s longstanding policy of comprehensive, systemic containment of our country. On all fronts, as they say,” he added.

Lavrov stated the West has initiated total hybrid war on Russia, using the Ukraine crisis as a pretext.

“The collective West has declared actually total hybrid war against us under the pretext of the Ukraine crisis. It encompasses very diverse areas, including the information space,” Russia’s top diplomat noted.

As Lavrov pointed out, the West has appropriated “the title of the torch of democracy” and is “flagrantly” violating its international commitments of ensuring the freedom of expression and equal access to information, including information coming into a particular country from abroad.

China condemns distortion of its position on Ukrainian crisis

China supports dialogue and consultations on the Ukrainian issue, opposes double standards in international affairs, and does not tolerate pressure, threats, distortion of its position and baseless accusations, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said at a briefing on Thursday.

“We strongly oppose any distortion and smear of the Chinese position. China has always played a constructive role on the Ukrainian issue, we support justice and strive for peace,” the diplomat stressed.

US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said on Wednesday that the global attitude towards China, including the prospects for further economic integration, depends on its reaction to calls to influence Russia in the light of the Ukrainian conflict.

According to Zhao, China has always taken the position that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries should be respected and protected, and also finds it necessary to equally ensure the sovereignty and security of Ukraine, and take into account Russia’s security concerns.

He also added that Beijing opposes baseless accusations against China, as well as any pressure or threats.

Netherlands instructs firms not to pay for Russian gas in rubles

The Dutch government has instructed energy companies in the Netherlands not to pay for Russian gas in rubles in accordance with European Union sanctions, spokesperson for the economics ministry Pieter ten Bruggencate told CNN Thursday.

The Dutch government had previously made clear that payments in rubles would violate sanctions but reiterated its instructions to firms after ongoing Russian calls for payment in rubles, ten Bruggencate added.

Last month, Russian President Vladimir Putin said the country would seek payment in rubles for natural gas sold to “unfriendly” countries, and British and Dutch wholesale gas prices jumped after the announcement.

MoD: Fire on Russian missile cruiser Moskva contained

A fire on board the Russian missile cruiser Moskva has been contained and the risk of further detonations ammunition on board has been averted, the Russian Defence Ministry stated.

The ship maintains its buoyancy and attempts are being made to tug it to a port for repairs, the ministry added.

The cause of the initial fire, which prompted a detonation of ammunition on board that severely damaged the ship, is still being investigated, the defence ministry noted. It further elaborated that the main missile ammunition stock was not affected by the incident. The ship’s crew, in turn, has been safely evacuated to nearby ships of the Russian Black Sea fleet, the ministry announced.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov separately stated that President Vladimir Putin receives all updates regarding the course of the special military operation in Ukraine, including about the fire on board the missile cruiser Moskva.

Ukraine claims 19,900 Russian troops killed in war

At least 19,900 Russian soldiers have so far been killed in Ukraine, the Ukrainian military claimed on Thursday.

Ukrainian forces have destroyed 160 Russian aircraft, 144 helicopters, 134 unmanned aerial vehicles, 753 tanks, 1,968 armored vehicles and 366 artillery systems, according to the Ukrainian General Staff’s latest update.

The Russians have also lost 122 multiple rocket launcher systems, 1,437 vehicles, 76 fuel tanks, 64 anti-aircraft systems and seven boats, it added.

Russian troops destroy 131 aircraft, 2,179 tanks in Ukraine operation

Russian forces have eliminated 131 aircraft, 448 unmanned aerial vehicles, 2,179 tanks and other armored vehicles and 248 multiple rocket launchers since the beginning of their special military operation in Ukraine, Russian Defense Ministry Spokesman Major-General Igor Konashenkov said on Thursday.

“Overall, the following targets have been destroyed since the beginning of the special military operation: 131 aircraft, 104 helicopters, 245 surface-to-air missile systems, 448 unmanned aerial vehicles, 2,179 tanks and other combat armored vehicles, 248 multiple launch rocket systems, 944 field artillery guns and mortars and 2,088 special military motor vehicles,” the spokesman added.

Mariupol mayor denies Russian reports port has been taken

The mayor of the heavily embattled city of Mariupol, Vadym Boichenko, has told German broadcaster ARD that “Mariupol was, is, and will continue to be a Ukrainian city.”

Boichenko called the Russian reports that the port of the city had been taken and that more than 1,000 Ukrainian fighters had surrendered “fake news”.

The city, on the banks of the Sea of Azov, has been under siege by Russian troops and pro-Russian separatists for weeks.

197 children killed in Russia’s war on Ukraine: Officials

Some 197 children have died and 351 have been injured during the war in Ukraine, the country’s prosecutor general said Thursday, citing figures from juvenile prosecutors.

Bodies of children aged four and 10 were found along with the burnt body of a 17-year-old boy in Hostomel and Bucha, in the Kyiv region, according to the statement.

The statement added that a father and his minor son were killed in the Chernobyl zone near the village Dytiatky in the Kyiv region when Russian servicemen fired at a car stopped at a roadside.

Seven children died as a result of a Russian strike on the Kramatorsk train station, according to the statement.

Ankara joining sanctions against Russia is unrealistic: Turkish FM

The possibility of Ankara joining anti-Russia sanctions is “unrealistic,” Turkey’s Foreign Minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, stated on Thursday.

“We keep an eye on the UN sanctions, we comply with them. But in terms of joining the sanctions imposed by individual states, I think, they themselves understand that in light of Turkey’s position as a mediator it is not realistic,” Mevlüt Cavusoglu said in an interview with Turkey’s NTV channel.

The Turkish minister noted that the country’s Western partners often ask about the reasons for this position.

“We are often asked if we are going to close the sky. You know, Turkey holds the position of an intermediary, aimed at stabilising the situation,” the top diplomat added.

Russian rouble falls with capital control measures in focus

The Russian rouble weakened on Thursday, driven by expectations that Russia may relax its temporary capital control measures further, while stocks fell as the country continued what it calls “a special military operation” in Ukraine.

The Russian central bank is considering easing requirements for mandatory foreign currency revenue sales by export-focused companies, business daily Vedomosti reported, citing a central bank official.

Currently, Russian exporters are obliged to sell 80 per cent of their forex revenues in the first three days after receiving it under a rule established by President Vladimir Putin in late-February to limit rouble’s volatility amid western sanctions.

At 07:40 GMT, the rouble fell 2 per cent to 81.50, heading away from its strongest level since Nov. 11 of 71 it hit last week.

Russia opens criminal cases into alleged torture of its soldiers by Ukraine

Russia’s Investigative Committee said on Thursday it was opening criminal cases into Ukrainian servicemen’s alleged torture of their Russian counterparts as Moscow continues its military campaign in Ukraine.

The committee, which probes major crimes, announced some Russian soldiers had been captured by Ukrainian forces in the Zaporizhzhia and Mykolaiv regions and held illegally by Ukraine’s security service.

“Russians were subjected to physical violence and torture in order to force them to give false explanations about the actual conditions of their illegal detention on the premises of the Security Service of Ukraine, as well as on (Russia’s) special military operation,” it added.

Ukraine has stated it checks all information regarding the treatment of prisoners of war and will investigate any violations and take appropriate legal action.

Russia warns NATO over Sweden and Finland membership

Russia has warned NATO that, if Sweden and Finland join the military alliance, it will have to bolster its defences and there could be no more talk of a “nuclear free” Baltic.

“There can be no more talk of any nuclear–free status for the Baltic – the balance must be restored,” Dmitry Medvedev, deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council, said.

“Until today, Russia has not taken such measures and was not going to,” he added.

Ukraine investigating almost 6,500 alleged war crimes

The prosecutor’s office has said it is investigating almost 6,500 alleged war crimes committed by Russian troops in Ukraine.

A total of 6,492 cases have been reported and 197 children have been confirmed to have been killed, the office added.

Report: EU warns member states over Russia gas payments

The European Commission told member states that it perceives a new scheme, which Russia wants foreign buyers to use to pay for natural gas, as violating the EU’s anti-Russian sanctions, Bloomberg reported on Thursday citing an anonymous source.

Moscow wants all the money to go through one bank and be converted into rubles.

Russia wants every foreign buyer of its fuel operating in “unfriendly nations” to open two accounts in Russia’s Gazprombank, one in euro and one in rubles. The payments for gas would go to the euro account, after which the bank would exchange them into rubles. The state-owned gas company Gazprom will consider the payment complete once the rubles arrive.

Moscow and many European nations disagreed on whether the scheme breaches the terms of the standing gas contracts. The Commission, the EU’s executive body, presented its preliminary legal assessment of the proposal to national governments of the bloc, Bloomberg reported. The analysis reportedly said the Russian proposal substantially deviated from the terms of the contracts and had other flaws.

“Crucially, the mechanism would be in breach of restrictive measures the EU adopted in response to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine and has applied to the Russian government, its central bank and their proxies,” the outlet said.

“The process may also have an impact on other bans on various money-market instruments that could be issued by Gazprombank,” the report added.

Russia stated it wants to implement the new payment arrangement because it no longer trusts the euro. The mistrust came after Western nations seized Russia’s euro-denominated national reserves controlled by Western financial institutions in retaliation for its attack on Ukraine. Moscow called it as an act of robbery.

Kramatorsk and Kostiantynivka likely to face ‘indiscriminate attacks’: UK

The British Ministry of Defense has announced the Ukrainian towns of Kramatorsk and Kostiantynivka were likely targets of “indiscriminate attacks”, as Russian forces prepare to stage a new offensive in the east of the country.

“Urban centres have faced repeated indiscriminate attacks from Russia throughout the conflict,” the ministry said in its latest intelligence update, adding that the two towns were likely to face “similar levels of violence.”

Ukraine’s defence of the port city of Mariupol is “currently tying down significant numbers of Russian troops and equipment,” it wrote on Twitter, and an offensive in the east will “require significant force levels.”

Report: US stocks of Javelin anti-tank missiles are running low

The United States has sent so many of its Javelin anti-tank missiles to Ukraine that its stocks are running low for possible use by its own forces, according a study by the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Replenishing the US stockpile with new weapons will take years, according to the report from Mark Cancian, a senior adviser with the International Security Program at CSIS.

Ukrainian forces have used it to devastating effect against Russian tanks, negating what was, before the war, thought to be an overwhelming Russian advantage.

It could also be very useful to US forces in any unforeseen conflict, but Cancian said the Pentagon needs to keep an eye on the drawdown in its stocks.

“Military planners are likely getting nervous,” he wrote.

“The United States maintains stocks for a variety of possible global conflicts that may occur against North Korea, Iran, or Russia itself. At some point, those stocks will get low enough that military planners will question whether the war plans can be executed. The United States is likely approaching that point,” he added.

Cancian estimates there may be 20,000 to 25,000 Javelins remaining in the stockpiles and the 7,000 systems sent to Ukraine “represent about one-third of the US total inventory.”

“It will take about three or four years to replace the missiles that have been delivered so far. If the United States delivers more missiles to Ukraine, this time to replace extends,” Cancian stated.

A senior US defense official noted Wednesday the massive shipments of weapons to Ukraine, including thousands of Javelin anti-armor missiles and Stinger anti-aircraft missiles, have not affected the readiness of US forces.

European Space Agency stops cooperation with Russian lunar missions

The European Space Agency has ended cooperation with Russia on three missions to the Moon due to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, following a previous decision to do the same for a Mars mission.

“As with ExoMars, the Russian aggression against Ukraine and the resulting sanctions put in place represent a fundamental change of circumstances and make it impossible for ESA to implement the planned lunar cooperation,” the ESA said in a statement.

The ESA added it would “discontinue cooperative activities” on Luna-25, 26 and 27, a series of Russian lunar missions on which the European agency had aimed to test new equipment and technology.

IT firm Infosys moves out of Russia

Global IT firm Infosys is moving business out of Russia “to an alternate location” amid the ongoing conflict with Ukraine, the Times of India reports.

This comes after other IT companies such as Oracle Corp also announced they were suspending all operations in Russia.

Experts say Russia’s loss of naval flagship is a devastating blow

One of the Russian Navy’s most important warships is either floating abandoned or at the bottom of the Black Sea, a massive blow to a military struggling against Ukrainian resistance 50 days into President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of his neighbor.

Russian sailors have evacuated the guided-missile cruiser Moskva, the flagship of its Black Sea fleet, after a fire that detonated ammunition aboard, Russian state media reported Wednesday.

State media outlets TASS and RIA, citing the Russian Defense Ministry, reported the Moskva had been seriously damaged in the incident and that the cause of the fire was being investigated. The Russian reports gave no information on possible casualties.

But hours earlier, a Ukrainian official claimed the Russian warship had been hit by cruise missiles fired from Ukraine.

Analysts noted that a fire on board such a ship can lead to a catastrophic explosion that could sink it.

Whatever the reason for the fire, the analysts say it strikes hard at the heart of the Russian navy as well as national pride, comparable to the US Navy losing a battleship during World War II or an aircraft carrier today.

Just 39% approve of Biden’s handling of Russia-Ukraine war

Few Americans believe that President Joe Biden has done a good job with his handling of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

According to a new Quinnipiac poll, 39 percent of those surveyed said approve of Biden’s handling of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, while 48 percent believe differently.

US likely to determine Russia allegedly committed genocide in Ukraine

Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland said the United States is likely to determine in its own investigation that Russia allegedly committed genocide in Ukraine.

“I am going to predict that what President [Joe] Biden called it is what we will ultimately likely find when we are able to gather all of this evidence,” Nuland stated in an interview with CNN on Wednesday.

Nuland accused Russian forces of intentionally seeking to destroy Ukraine and its civilian population.

Biden has previously spoken emotionally about the policy of the Russian authorities more than once. On Tuesday, he used the word “genocide” to refer to the situation in Ukraine and its impact on the world.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov responded by saying Russia considers such allegations attempts to distort the situation on the ground, which is unacceptable.

Russia’s Black Sea Fleet warship severely damaged, crew evacuated

Ukraine launched two Neptune anti-ship cruise missiles at Russia’s missile cruiser “Moskva” in the Black Sea, causing serious damage, the head of Odesa’s regional administration said on Telegram.

Russia’s Defence Ministry has confirmed the ship was “seriously damaged” and the crew completely evacuated “as a result of detonation of ammunition caused by fire”, TASS nes agency reports. The ministry added the cause of the fire was being determined.

Moskva is the flagship of the Black Sea Fleet, reportedly leading the naval assault on Ukraine.

Trump joins Biden in calling Russia’s war on Ukraine ‘genocide’

Former President Donald Trump joined President Joe Biden in calling Russia’s war in Ukraine a “genocide” during an interview with Fox News on Wednesday night.

While Trump was slamming Biden for policies he said have led to record high inflation, he stated, “And now add to that what’s going on in Ukraine. That’s a genocide.”

The comment comes a day after Biden accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of genocide on Tuesday.

White House: US in early talks to send high-ranking official to Ukraine, decision far from finalized

US officials have internally had preliminary discussions about sending a high-ranking member of the administration to Ukraine, according to a source familiar with the talks.

While President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris are unlikely to visit Kyiv anytime soon, officials have discussed sending Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin or Secretary of State Antony Blinken. But a decision is far from finalized and the visit could ultimately not materialize.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson made a surprise visit to Kyiv in recent days. US officials stated afterward that Biden was not currently planning a trip of his own.

US to expand intelligence provision for Ukraine’s fight in east

The US plans to step up the intelligence it provides Ukraine so its forces can target Russia’s military units in Donbas and Crimea, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The report notes Russia’s pullback of troops from capital cities to focus on an offensive on Donbas and other areas in eastern Ukraine “contributed to the [Biden] administration’s decision late last week to step up intelligence sharing”.

But it adds officials have stressed the US will “refrain from providing intelligence that would enable the Ukrainians to strike targets on Russian territory”.

US to begin shipments of new Ukraine military aid ‘right away’: Pentagon

The United States intends on beginning shipments of the most recent package of military aid to Ukraine right away, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby stated on Wednesday.

“We will literally start right away,” Kirby told a press briefing when asked how soon the defense aid could start flowing to Ukraine.

The US on Wednesday announced a new defense aid package to Ukraine, which includes equipment such as transport helicopters, armored personnel carriers, Javelin missiles and Howitzer artillery systems among other gear.

Kirby added some of the weapons systems the US is sending to Ukraine, like howitzers and radars, will require additional training for Ukrainian forces not accustomed to using American military equipment.

“We’re aware of the clock and we know time is not our friend,” Kirby said when asked about the speed of deliveries.

Executives from top weapons manufacturers meet with Pentagon officials

Executives from the top United States weapons-makers have met with Pentagon officials to discuss challenges for the industry in the event of a protracted Ukraine conflict.

In a statement, Pentagon Spokesperson Eric Pahon stated the discussion “focused primarily on accelerating production and building more capacity across the industrial base for weapons and equipment that can be exported rapidly, deployed with minimal training, and prove effective in the battlefield”.

The Pentagon hosted the CEOs of the US military’s eight largest prime contractors Wednesday to figure out how to arm Ukraine faster, according to a readout of the classified meeting.

The roundtable discussion, led by Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks, focused on the Pentagon’s objectives to keep supplying Ukraine with arms while also being able to maintain the readiness of US forces and support the defense of allies.

Australia levels new sanctions on Russia, targeting 14 companies

Australia has imposed a new set of sanctions on 14 state-owned enterprises of “strategic and economic importance to Russia”, according to a statement from Defence Minister Marise Payne.

Included in the sanctions are defence-related transportation companies Kamaz and the United Shipbuilding Corporation. Sanctions also extend to Ruselectronics, “which is responsible for the production of around 80 per cent of all Russian electronics components” and Russian Railways, “one of the largest single contributors to Russia’s GDP”.

“By preventing dealings with these important sources of revenue for the Russian government, we are increasing the pressure on Russia and undercutting its ability to continue funding Vladimir Putin’s war”, the statement reads.

US yet to commit to its own genocide probe of Russia

The US has stopped short of promising to launch its own inquiry to determine whether “genocide” was committed by Russia in Ukraine but said it will support international efforts to hold Russia accountable.

US State Department Spokesperson Ned Price declined to say whether President Joe Biden’s comments reflected the overall position of the US government but noted the president “was speaking to the impression he had garnered from watching the horrific footage that we’ve all seen” from Ukraine.

“What we are doing is the most effective means of achieving that ultimate goal of accountability,” Price added.

Colombia ready to step up energy supplies to the west to replace Russian imports

Colombia is ready to play a central role in helping supply Western countries with energy resources after the gaps caused by sanctions on Russia, Colombian President Iván Duque told CNN.

During an interview with CNN’s Richard Quest, Duque said: “[North American and European countries] know for sure that they can no longer rely for the energy supplies from Russia. Now, can Colombia contribute to the solution? The response is yes.”

Duque listed three areas where Colombia would be ready to increase production: traditional oil and gas extraction, renewables such as clean hydrogen, and coal.

“Colombia today immediately can have an increase on coal. … We have some of the biggest resources in the world, and we don’t use it [for power production],” Duque told Quest while he announced that Colombia will increase coal supplies to Germany — which recently approved plans to phase out Russian coal imports – following direct conversations between Duque and Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

Asked about US President Joe Biden’s use of the world “genocide” to describe Russian actions in Ukraine, Duque told Quest he agreed with his US counterpart.

“What is happening in Ukraine is a genocide. And it has to stop. … This is insane,” Duque added.

US says it has additional sanctions it can impose on Russia

The United States has a wide variety of additional sanctions that it can impose on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, according to White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki.

Psaki said secondary sanctions and the targeting of additional financial firms are among a range of potential actions remaining that could be aimed at Russia.

Russia slaps sanctions on 398 members of US Congress

Russia has announced that it had introduced sanctions against 398 members of the US Congress in retaliation against Washington’s punitive measures over Ukraine and said more sanctions would follow.

The Russian foreign ministry said in a separate statement that it had introduced sanctions against 87 members of the Senate of Canada.

Top US official urges China to pressure Russia to end war

US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has called on China to pressure Russia to end its military offensive in Ukraine, saying Beijing risked losing its standing in the world if it does not help end the “heinous war”.

Yellen said she “fervently” hoped that China would make something positive out of its “special relationship” with Russia.

Ukraine war is causing a ‘three dimensional crisis’: UN Secretary-General

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has said the war on Ukraine is “supercharging” food, energy and economic crises, which will affect the world’s most vulnerable people.

“The war is supercharging a three-dimensional crisis — food, energy and finance — that is pummeling some of the world’s most vulnerable people, countries and economies,” Guterres stated in a speech.

“And all this comes at a time when developing countries are already struggling with a slate of challenges not of their making — the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change and a lack of access to adequate resources to finance the recovery in the context of persistent and growing inequalities,” he added.

Four civilians killed by Russian attacks in Kharkiv: Governor

Russian attacks on Kharkiv have killed four civilians, according to the governor of the northeastern region.

“Unfortunately, 4 civilians were killed and 10 wounded in the shelling during the day,” Governor Oleg Synegubov said on social media.

The mayor of Kharkiv has also noted Russian bombing of the Ukrainian city had increased significantly since Tuesday and reported there were casualties, including dead children.

“The enemy is bombing residential homes, residential areas. Unfortunately, there are civilian casualties – the worst thing is that children are dying,” Ihor Terekhov told Ukrainian national television.

Trudeau welcomes use of ‘genocide’ to describe Russian war effort

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said he believes it is “absolutely right” to see more people using the term “genocide” to describe Russian actions in Ukraine.

However, Trudeau stopped short of directly echoing Biden’s comments from a day earlier, when the US president for the first time accused his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin of committing “genocide”.

Zelensky calls Macron’s refusal to talk of ‘genocide’ in Ukraine ‘painful’

President Volodymyr Zelensky has denounced French leader Emmanuel Macron’s refusal to call killings in Ukraine “genocide” and his reference to Russians as a “brotherly” people.

“Such things are very painful for us, so I will definitely do my best to discuss this issue with him,” Zelenskyy stated at a press conference.

Top US official urges China to pressure Russia to end Ukraine war

US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has called on China to pressure Russia to end its military offensive in Ukraine, saying Beijing risked losing its standing in the world if it does not help end the “heinous war”.

Speaking at the Atlantic Council in Washington on Wednesday, Yellen said she “fervently” hoped that China would make something positive out of its “special relationship” with Russia.

“The world’s attitude towards China and its willingness to embrace further economic integration may well be affected by China’s reaction to our call for resolute action on Russia,” she noted.

“China cannot expect the global community to respect its appeals to the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity in the future if does not respect these principles now when it counts,” added Yellen, in a reference to China’s claim over Taiwan.

For weeks, the United States has pushed China to take a harder line against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, which has displaced millions of people and devastated Ukrainian cities and towns since it began on February 24.

Yellen also warned countries that she said were “still on the fence” amid the US-led push to isolate Russia through strict economic sanctions and other measures.

“The future of our international order, both for peaceful security and economic prosperity, is at stake,” she stated, noting, “And let’s be clear, the unified coalition … will not be indifferent to actions that undermine the sanctions we’ve put in place.”

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