Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Live Updates: Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 51

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:

Russian ship Moskva was hit by 2 Ukrainian missiles: US official

The United States now believes the sunken Russian missile cruiser Moskva was hit by two Ukrainian missiles, a senior US official said.

The senior official, speaking on condition of anonymity, stated these were Neptune anti-ship missiles.

The US believes there were Russian casualties, though numbers are unclear, the official added.

US State Department: “Nothing will dissuade” Biden administration from supporting Ukraine

When asked about the impact of the diplomatic cable from Russia warning the United States not to continue arming Ukraine, US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said that “nothing will dissuade” President Joe Biden’s administration from continuing to support Ukraine.

“The Russians have said some things privately, they have said some things publicly; nothing will dissuade us from the strategy that we’ve embarked on,” Price told CNN’s Kate Bolduan.

Price stated he is “not in a position to confirm any private diplomatic correspondence.”

But he added: “If the allegation from the Kremlin is that the US and our partners around the world are providing billions of dollars worth of security assistance to our Ukrainian partners, precisely what our Ukrainian partners have requested, and that our Ukrainian partners are using that very security assistance to extraordinary effects to repel this Russian aggression, well, then we’re guilty as charged.”

The Kremlin “shouldn’t be surprised” by US support for Ukraine, given the commitments the Biden administration made to supporting Ukraine even before Russia’s invasion began, Price continued.

Zelensky warns world should be prepared for possibility Putin could use nuclear weapons

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told CNN Friday that “all of the countries of the world” should be prepared for the possibility that Russian President Vladimir Putin could use tactical nuclear weapons in his war on Ukraine.

Zelensky told CNN’s Jake Tapper in an exclusive interview from the office of the president in Kyiv on Friday that Putin could turn to either nuclear or chemical weapons because he does not value the lives of the people of Ukraine.

“Not only me — all of the world, all of the countries have to be worried because it can be not real information, but it can be truth,” Zelensky said, speaking in English.

“Chemical weapons, they should do it, they could do it, for them the life of the people, nothing. That’s why,” Zelensky continued, adding, “We should think not be afraid, not be afraid but be ready. But that is not a question for Ukraine, not only for Ukraine but for all the world, I think.”

Zelensky has remained in Ukraine throughout the course of the 50-day war with Russia, as Ukraine’s forces have resisted the Kremlin’s attempts to seize Kyiv and forced Russia to refocus its war efforts on the eastern and southern regions of the country, where Ukraine is anticipating a significant escalation in fighting in the days to come.

Nine hundred civilian bodies found in Kyiv region

More than 900 bodies of civilians were discovered in the Kyiv region following the withdrawal of Russian forces, the regional police chief has said in a briefing.

Andriy Nebytov, the head of Kyiv’s regional police force, stated the bodies were abandoned in the streets or given temporary burials. He cited police data indicating that 95 percent died from gunshot wounds.

“Consequently, we understand that under the (Russian) occupation, people were simply executed in the streets,” Nebytov added.

Russia expels 18 employees of EU mission in Moscow in tit-for-tat move

Russia has declared 18 employees of the European Union’s mission in Moscow personae non gratae, the Foreign Ministry said on Friday.

The ministry mentioned that European Union Ambassador in Russia Markus Ederer was summoned over the EU’s decision to expel 19 Russian diplomats earlier in April.

“As a response to the unfriendly actions of the European Union, 18 employees of the EU mission in Russia have been declared ‘persona non grata’ and will have to leave the territory of the Russian Federation in the near future,” the ministry added.

The European Union deplores the expulsion of diplomats from the EU diplomatic mission in Moscow, the European External Action Service said in a statement.

“The European Union deplores the unjustified, baseless decision of the Russian Federation to expel 18 members of the Delegation of the European Union to the Russian Federation. The EU diplomats in question exercise their functions in the framework of and in full respect for the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. There are no grounds for Friday’s decision by the Russian authorities beyond being a pure retaliatory step,” the statement added.

EU embargo on Russian oil and gas will take ‘months’

The EU is working on broadening sanctions on Russia to include oil and gas embargoes but such measures would take “several months”, European officials told AFP on Friday.

The bloc last week announced a ban on Russian coal in a first step against Russian energy exports – together, Moscow’s main hard currency earner.

But the coal sanction only kicks in from mid-August, and would hit around eight billion euros ($8.7 billion) in Russia’s sales abroad, annually.

Russian oil and gas sales to the EU account for a far higher amount of revenue: between a quarter of a billion to a billion euros per day, per different estimates.

Public and political opinion in the EU is swinging towards a total energy ban as Moscow’s war in Ukraine grinds on and yields discoveries of atrocities.

Five million people have left Ukraine: UN

More than five million people have escaped Ukraine since the war in began, according to the United Nations.

The UN Refugee Agency said 4,796,245 million Ukrainians had left the country since February 24.

Moreover, the UN’s International Organization for Migration (IOM) claims some 215,000 third-country nationals have also fled to neighbouring nations.

Ukraine says street battles ongoing in Mariupol

Ukraine’s defence ministry spokesman Oleksandr Motuzyanyk said on Friday that street battles were ongoing in the besieged port city of Mariupol, which Russian forces had not managed to completely capture.

Motuzyanyk added active fighting was taking place around Mariupol’s Illich Steel and Iron Works, as well as in the port area.

Motuzyanyk stated that for, the first time since the start of its invasion, Russia used long-range bombers to attack the besieged port city of Mariupol.

Motuzyanyk noted Russia was concentrating its efforts on seizing the cities of Rubizhne, Popasna and Mariupol.

Ukraine claims Russia has lost approximately 20,000 troops

Russian soldiers ‘digging up buried bodies in Mariupol’

Ukrainians in the besieged city of Mariupol have accused Russian troops of digging up “people killed by them” and preventing new burials.

“A watchman has been assigned to each courtyard and is not allowing Mariupol residents to lay to rest dead relatives or friends,” the city’s council said in a statement on the Telegram messaging app.

“Why the exhumation is being carried out and where the bodies will be taken is unknown,”it added.

Earlier this month, Vadym Boychenko, the mayor of Mariupol, said that Russian forces had brought mobile cremation equipment to the city to dispose of the corpses of victims of the siege. He added that Russian forces were taking many bodies to a huge shopping center with storage facilities and refrigerators.

“Mobile crematoriums have arrived in the form of trucks: You open it, and there is a pipe inside and these bodies are burned,” he stated.

It comes after Russia was accused of war crimes when hundreds of dead civilians were discovered in mass graves and strewn across the streets in liberated towns around Kyiv following the Russian withdrawal in recent weeks.

Ukrainian military intelligence names top Russian commander and alleges “war crimes” in Mariupol

Ukrainian military intelligence issued a statement naming the Russian general leading operations in Ukraine and alleging “war crimes” in the siege of the port city of Mariupol.

Army Gen. Alexander Dvornikov, the commander of Russia’s Southern Military District, was recently named as Russia’s overall commander of the military campaign in Ukraine, according to a US official and a European official.

In its statement, the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine said Dvornikov was appointed commander of the Russian troops in Ukraine on April 8.

The Ukrainian statement added that “his subordinate units of the armed forces and troops of the National Guard of Russia are involved in war crimes against the civilian population of Mariupol,” the port city that has been devastated by weeks of Russian bombardment.

Military analysts say the naming of a commander to lead Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war signals an intent to remedy initial Russian battlefield setbacks and a lack of coordination among forces. Russian and Ukrainian troops continue to battle for control of Mariupol.

The alleged atrocities carried out by Russian forces following their retreat from several towns near Kyiv in recent weeks have drawn international outrage.

Ukraine denies attack on Russian soil

The Ukrainian security service SBU has denied firing on Russian territory, calling Moscow’s accusations false.

“The incident was planned by Russia as a provocation,” the intelligence service said in a Facebook post.

The comment came a day after Russia claimed Ukrainian forces had shelled a village in the western Russian border region of Bryansk, wounding seven civilians including a small child. Moscow added the Ukrainian troops had attacked the area with helicopters.

Moscow: EU won’t be able to fully replace Russian oil & gas in next 5-10 years

The EU won’t be able to fully replace Russian oil and gas in the next five or ten years, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak said, adding that this opinion is shared by key participants of the global energy sector.

The official emphasised that the decision of foreign energy companies to stop cooperation with Russia is usually not voluntary, and Moscow hopes that in the long run, rationality will prevail.

According to Novak, Europe hardly has an adequate alternative to Russian energy resources, and the future of European industry and Europeans themselves depends on the rationality of the EU.

Several buyers of Russian gas have agreed to switch to payments in roubles, Novak claimed.

Russia blocks The Moscow Times website

Russia’s communications watchdog has blocked access to the website of The Moscow Times, an English language newspaper that has covered Russia for three decades since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Kremlin has no doubt all tasks of special operation in Ukraine will be fulfilled

There is no doubt that all tasks of Russia’s special operation in Ukraine will be fulfilled, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Friday.

“The main thing is to release [territories] from these nationalist units. The operation continues, and the future tasks are well known. They must be fulfilled and will be fulfilled. There should not be any doubt,” Peskov told reporters.

In areas where nationalist units do not take civilians hostage, do not target social facilities, houses, peaceful life is established there, the official stated.

“And in those places where nationalist units are doing what I have already said, there is a fierce struggle and all is subject to destruction there,” he added.

At least 2 killed in strikes on southern Ukrainian city of Mykolaiv: Regional official

At least two people were killed in multiple attacks on the southern Ukrainian city of Mykolaiv, a regional military official told CNN.

Dmytro Pletenchuk, the Mykolaiv military administration press officer, stated an unspecified number of people were also injured in the shelling.

7 Ukrainian civilians killed after evacuation buses fired on: Prosecutor

Seven people were killed when Russian forces allegedly opened fire Thursday on two evacuation buses, according to preliminary information, said the Kharkiv Regional Prosecutor’s Office.

Another 27 people were wounded as the buses travelled near the village of Borova, close to the contested city of Izium, the office added.

“A pre-trial investigation has been launched into violations of the laws and customs of war combined with premeditated murder,” the office announced.

Report: Moscow sent US warning note over arms shipment to Ukraine

Moscow has sent a note to Washington warning that NATO arms supplies to Kiev are exacerbating the Ukrainian conflict and can lead to unpredictable consequences, the Washington Post reported on Friday.

“We call on the United States and its allies to stop the irresponsible militarization of Ukraine, which implies unpredictable consequences for regional and international security,” the note, originally in Russian and seen by the newspaper, read.

The State Department has not yet commented on the revelation.

Western officials say no short-term end in sight to Russian invasion of Ukraine

Secretary of State Antony Blinken told European allies that the United States believes the Russian war in Ukraine could last through the end of 2022, two European officials told CNN, as US and European officials have increasingly assessed that there is no short-term end in sight to the conflict.

Many of the officials who spoke with CNN stressed that it is hard to predict exactly how long the war could go on, but several officials said that there are no indications that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ultimate goals have changed, and it is unlikely he will pursue diplomatic negotiations unless faced with military defeat.

The thinking that this could be a long-term conflict represents a marked shift from the early days of the war, when Russia was expected to quickly take the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv, and underscores Moscow’s failures on the battlefield.

National security adviser Jake Sullivan noted Thursday that the fighting will go on “for months or even longer,” while two other European officials stated they believe fighting in eastern Ukraine could last for four to six months and then result in a stalemate.

Blinken, a senior State Department official said, “has discussed with his counterparts our concern that the conflict could be protracted, but all of his engagements have revolved around how best to bring it to a halt as quickly as possible.”

US officials cast the additional military support to Ukraine this week as a continuation, but do say that part of what has prompted the doubling down — and additional support — is the Ukrainians’ battlefield efforts.

A second senior State Department official stated that “we have done a lot and so we do have faith and we always had faith in our Ukrainian partners. But as the fight doubles down, so does our commitment to give them weapons and equipment that they can use,” adding that the Ukrainians have used certain weapons systems “to great effect.”

More than 1,500 explosive devises neutralised: SES

About 1,564 explosive devises, including two aerial bombs, were found and neutralised by pyrotechnic units in the past 24 hours, Ukraine’s emergency service (SES) has said in on Telegram.

Most of the work was done in the regions of Kharkiv, Mykolayiv and Kyiv, it added.

Heavy Russian shelling along Donetsk front line: Ukrainian officials

Heavy shelling has taken place along much of the front line in the Donetsk region, Ukrainian officials announced Friday.

Pavlo Kyrylenko, head of the Donetsk regional military administration, stated that “almost all settlements of the Donetsk region along the front line are under attack.”

Kyrylenko highlighted the plight of the town of Maryinka, where he said 11 civilians had been killed since the beginning of the Russian invasion. The town had been extensively damaged, with nearly 100 homes destroyed, 13 high-rise buildings and three schools hit, he added.

“Despite constant shelling, civilians are being evacuated from the community on a daily basis. As of today, at least 350 people have been moved from Maryinka,” Kyrylenko continued.

Earlier Friday, the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said the focus of Russian forces in the east had been on capturing the settlements of Popasna and Rubizhne, but they had not succeeded. Russian forces earlier this week were said to have taken parts of Popasna.

“In the territory of Donetsk and Luhansk regions, eight enemy attacks were repulsed during the last 24 hours, four tanks, six armored personnel carriers, four infantry fighting vehicles, and one enemy artillery system were destroyed,” the General Staff added.

Russian preparations continue to build in eastern Ukraine for an offensive operation, the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said Thursday.

Russia set to expand use of ruble

Russia wants to expand the use of the ruble for energy exports, the Kremlin has said, adding that it was too early to talk about details.

“The president has set a methodical and step-by-step approach to expanding the use of national currencies”, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters on a conference call.

His comment came a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin stated that the role of national currencies in export deals should rise, amid Russia’s stated desire to switch to roubles in payments for its gas supplies, mainly to Europe.

Russia warns of ‘consequences’ if Finland, Sweden join NATO

Finland and Sweden “should understand the consequences” of joining NATO, Russia’s Foreign Ministry has warned.

“The choice is up to the authorities of Sweden and Finland. But they should understand the consequences of such a step for our bilateral relations and for the architecture of European security as a whole,” Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova stated.

Italy rejects ruble payment for Russian gas

Russia’s demand for ruble payments for natural gas cannot be fulfilled, according to Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio, who says doing so would breach EU sanctions.

“We cannot pay in rubles; Russia introduced a double billing scheme from euro to rubles, this is impossible as it would mean bypassing sanctions against the [Russian] Central Bank,” Di Maio said in an interview with Italy’s Radio 24.

According to him, Russia has imposed an embargo against itself “from a technical point of view.”

Di Maio also noted the Italian government is currently working on new channels for supplies of natural gas, adding that Prime Minister Mario Draghi had already visited Algeria, and was planning to negotiate on extra supplies with Angola and Congo in the near future.

“I am convinced that Italy should not tolerate any form of blackmail. We need to diversify the supplies, we haven’t done it yet, but we have to,” he stated.

In March, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that the “hostile countries” which imposed sanctions on Moscow must now pay for Russian natural gas in rubles only.

Five killed in Ukraine’s east

Ukraine says that Russian strikes have killed five people in the east of the country after President Zelensky said Moscow’s forces were aiming to “destroy” the region.

Two people were killed and two more wounded in the eastern Lugansk region while another three were killed and seven wounded in the neighbouring Donetsk region, the Kyiv presidency says.

EU stops weapons sales to Russia

Following the calls from Poland and the Baltic states, the European Union has quietly deleted a sanctions exemption that had allowed EU weapons manufacturers to do business with Russia, Reuters reported citing anonymous officials.

Brussels blocked the export of arms and ammunition to Russia in July 2014, citing the “annexation” of Crimea. However, a clause in the embargo allowed sales under contracts signed before August 2014.

French and German weapons makers took advantage of the “loophole,” as Reuters described it, to earn millions. Citing data from the EU Commission, the agency said EU member countries had sold Moscow 39 million euros ($42.3 million) worth of weapons and ammunition in 2021, up from 25 million euros in 2020, which Reuters said was on par with previous years.

It wasn’t until last week that the EU governments agreed to eliminate the exemption, after “fresh criticism” from countries like Poland and Lithuania, according to “diplomats who attended the meeting” but remain anonymous.

The exemption does not appear in documents published on April 8, detailing the “fifth package” of EU sanctions against Moscow – but the EU did not mention the deletion in its public statement about the new embargo.

One carve-out remains, according to a spokesman for the Lithuanian mission to the EU. Member countries can still send Russian-made weapons to Russia for repairs, before they are returned to the bloc.

Russia, Ukraine agree on prisoners’ swap

Russia and Ukraine have agreed to a prisoners’ swap in the southern region of Kherson, the Ukrainian defence ministry has said.

“After tense negotiations, we managed to reach agreements on a prisoner exchange near the village of Posad-Pokrovskoye, where four Russian military personnel were exchanged for our five,” the ministry added.

The move comes a day after Kyiv announced an other swap involving 30 people, according to the deputy prime minister, marking the fourth exchange since the war began.

Russia pledges more strikes on Kyiv

Moscow has warned it will intensify attacks on Kyiv in response to strikes on Russian soil, after accusing Ukraine of targeting Russian border towns.

“The number and scale of missile strikes against targets in Kyiv will increase in response to any terrorist attacks or sabotage committed by the Kyiv nationalist regime on Russian territory,” the Russia’s Defence Ministry said in a statement.

The ministry also added it hit a “military” factory outside Kyiv late Thursday using Kalibr sea-based long-range missiles.

A Russian strike in northeastern Ukraine killed “up to 30 Polish mercenaries”, Moscow’s defence ministry has claimed.

The hit took place the village of Izyumskoe, near Ukraine’s second-largest city of Kharkiv.

Russian forces have eliminated 132 aircraft, 105 helicopters, 456 unmanned aerial vehicles, 2,213 tanks and other armored vehicles and 249 multiple rocket launchers since the beginning of their special military operation in Ukraine, Russian Defense Ministry Spokesman Major-General Igor Konashenkov said on Friday.

“Overall, the following targets have been destroyed since the beginning of the special military operation: 132 aircraft, 105 helicopters, 245 surface-to-air missile systems, 456 unmanned aerial vehicles, 2,213 tanks and other combat armored vehicles, 249 multiple launch rocket systems, 966 field artillery guns and mortars and 2,110 special military motor vehicles,” the spokesman added.

‘Powerful’ explosions rock Kyiv

Powerful explosions were heard in Kyiv early Friday and air raid sirens blared across Ukraine as residents braced for new Russian attacks after Moscow’s lead warship in the Black Sea, the Moskva, sank following a fire.

The explosions appeared to be among the most significant in Ukraine’s capital region since Russian troops pulled back from the area earlier this month in preparation for battles in the south and east, the Reuters news agency reports.

Ukraine claimed responsibility for sinking the Moskva, saying it was struck by one of its missiles. Russia announced the damage was “a result of detonation of ammunition caused by fire”.

Most civilians who died in Bucha have bullet holes: Mayor

Almost 85 per cent of the bodies recovered in the city of Bucha have bullet holes, which indicates deliberate premeditated murder, Bucha Mayor Anatoliy Fedoruk has said in televised comments.

Fedurok says these bodies were taken not just from mass graves but also individual burials in vegetable gardens, parks and squares.

He also said the work of retrieving bodies from the second mass grave found in the city, near the Church of the Holy Apostle Andrew, will likely be completed on Friday.

Trapped Mariupol citizens being ‘starved to death’: World Food Program director

The head of the UN World Food Program has said people are being “starved to death” in the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol and predicted the country’s humanitarian crisis is likely to worsen as Russia intensifies its assault in the coming weeks.

“It’s not just going to be the next few days – but the next few weeks and few months … it’s getting worse and worse, concentrated in certain areas, and the front lines are going to be moving,” David Beasley stated in an interview with The Associated Press news agency.

Approximately 100,000 civilians remain trapped in the besieged city of Mariupol, in desperate need of food, water and heating.

Beasley noted the lack of access to the city for aid workers and called the situation “devastating”.

Russia’s invasion ‘absurd’ and ‘suicidal’: Zelensky

In an address to the nation on the 50th day of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelensky has asked why the world is still debating the severity of necessary sanctions when “Russian troops are already repeating on our land what Europe saw only during World War 2”.

He asked why Russian troops are destroying towns and villages in Donbas, the area Russia wanted to “destroy in the first place … as if they want only stones to be left. And no people to be left at all.”

Zelensky stressed these were not rhetorical questions.

“This is a question of how absurd this invasion of the Russian Federation is. How suicidal it is for everything that Russia allegedly ‘protects’. For Russian culture … even for the Russian language. Russia is burning all this with its weapons,” he added.

Ukraine’s grain production could be affected for years

Reduced production of crop seeds in Ukraine could affect the country’s grain production for several years, a French seed industry group announced.

Ukraine, one of the world’s largest grain exporters, is widely expected to see its harvest shrink this year as Russia’s invasion disrupts farming.

The expected decline would also include farms that grow crops to provide seeds for the following year, potentially leaving Ukrainian farmers short of seeds for 2023 planting, stated Claude Tabel, president of French seed makers association UFS.

Sinking of warship delivers ‘big blow’ to Russia: Pentagon

The sinking of the warship Moskva is a “big blow” to Russia’s naval strength in the Black Sea, the Pentagon has said.

“This is a big blow to the Black Sea fleet, this is … a key part of their efforts to execute some sort of naval dominance in the Black Sea,” Pentagon Spokesperson John Kirby told CNN.

“This is going to have an effect on their capabilities,” he added.

US readies to crack down on Russian sanctions evasion

The United States is preparing new efforts to crack down on sanctions evasion by Russia, Joe Biden’s national security adviser has said.

“Where our focus will be over the course of the coming days is on evasion,” Jake Sullivan stated in an interview at the Economic Club of Washington.

“I think we’ll have some announcements in the next week or two that identify targets that are trying to facilitate that evasion both inside Russia and beyond,” he added, without giving details on the coming plans.

‘Horror story’: WFP director says on visit to Bucha

David Beasley, executive director for the UN World Food Programme, has tweeted a video from the wreckage of what he stated was an orphanage that previously housed 40 children in the Ukrainian city of Bucha, near Kyiv.

“What happened to this community is a horror story,” he wrote.

Ukraine army saved cities in Donetsk from Russian capture

Russian forces over the past day concentrated their main efforts on capturing the cities Popasna and Rubizhne in the Donesk region, but “unsuccessfully”, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine have said in a Facebook post.

The post added in Donetsk and Luhansk, Ukraine repulsed eight attacks from Russia and destroyed four Russian tanks, six armoured personnel carriers, four infantry fighting vehicles, and one enemy artillery system.

Report: EU readying Russian oil embargo

The European Union is readying a total embargo on Russian oil imports, the New York Times reported. Given that Russia is the bloc’s largest oil supplier and such a decision would have a political and economic fallout.

That’s why EU officials are waiting until after the upcoming French election to announce the decision, the newspaper reported.

The proposed embargo will be put up for negotiation after the final round of French elections on April 24, officials told the daily, acknowledging that the resulting surge in fuel prices would likely harm incumbent French President Emmanuel Macron and boost his right-wing challenger, Marine Le Pen, who is currently polling within five percentage points of Macron.

In addition to five rounds of economic sanctions levied on Moscow, the EU has already announced a phased ban on Russian coal imports and a complete end to fossil fuel purchases from Russia by 2030. For the moment, a gas ban is off the table, as the bloc relies on Russia for around 40% of its natural gas.

However, the EU is still heavily dependent on Russian oil, which accounts for around a quarter of its supply. Germany is more dependent still, purchasing a third of its oil from Russia.

While Berlin has voluntarily nixed the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, and supported sanctions on Moscow over the conflict in Ukraine, its leaders have cautioned that a bloc-wide ban on Russian energy imports would crash its economy and decimate its industry.

According to the Times, EU officials will propose a phased ban to ensure Berlin’s support.

US blames Russia for food shortages in poor nations

The US ambassador to the United Nations has accused Russia  of making the precarious food situation in Yemen and elsewhere worse by invading Ukraine, calling it “just another grim example of the ripple effect Russia’s unprovoked, unjust, unconscionable war is having on the world’s most vulnerable.”

Linda Thomas-Greenfield told a UN Security Council meeting on war-torn Yemen on Thursday that the World Food Program identified the Arab world’s poorest nation as one of the countries most affected by wheat price increases and lack of imports from Ukraine.

Russia’s deputy UN ambassador, Dmitry Polyansky, noted the main factor for the instability was sanctions that seek to cut off supplies from Russia.

Members of UN’s cultural body refuse to attend meeting on heritage protection in Russia

A group of UNESCO’s National Commissions – bodies set up by member governments – have signed a letter stating they will not travel to Russia’s city of Kazan, where the 45th session of the World Heritage Committee (WHC) is to be held, deeming the session “impossible”.

The letter states no WHC session should be held in Russia while its troops are “destroying ‘outstanding universal value’ in Ukraine”.

“The credibility of UNESCO and the 1972 Convention concerning the Protection of the World’s Cultural and Natural Heritage is at stake”, the letter adds.

Recent figures released by UNESCO show that 53 of Ukraine’s cultural buildings, including historical monuments and places of worship, had been destroyed as of March 31 due to the Russian invasion.

The 45th session of the heritage committee is due to be held in Kazan June 19-30.

Signatories to the letter include Australia, Albania, Finland, Denmark, Georgia, Germany, Hungary, Latvia, New Zealand, South Korea, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

Ukraine’s prosecutor demands swift war crimes investigation

Ukraine’s chief prosecutor has said the country wanted to pursue legal action into alleged war crimes committed by Russian forces.

In a briefing alongside International Criminal Court Prosecutor Karim Khan, Iryna Venediktova stated achieving justice in Ukraine is urgent, even as the war remains ongoing.

“Ukrainians want justice now,” Venediktova added, “but we all understand that the process of criminal procedure for starting the collection of all evidence when we are still in the war actually, when we have a huge number of cases, it’s not so fast and it’s not so simple.”

Khan said that an investigation into allegations of war crimes will study all the evidence, and must be done “with some urgency”.

“We should do so with the realisation that already, for whatever reason, by whatever means people have died, buildings have been destroyed,” he added.

“I won’t accept from any NGO or even from the Ukrainian government or authorities, even from the prosecutor general, any evidence uncritically. We will review everything to make sure that we have it right and any evidence we review is reliable and is authentic,” he continued.

Russia says Black Sea flagship Moskva has sunk

Russia’s Defence Ministry has said the missile cruiser Moskva, the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea fleet, sank as it was towed back to port in stormy weather following an explosion and fire, Russian news agencies reported.

“While being towed … towards the destined port, the vessel lost its balance due to damage sustained in the hull as fire broke out after ammunition exploded. Given the choppy seas, the vessel sank,” the ministry added.

The defence ministry had announced earlier on Thursday that the Soviet-era ship had been badly damaged by the fire, which Ukraine said was a result of its missile strike.

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