Thursday, February 22, 2024

Live Updates: Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 55

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:

WH: World leaders discussed security assistance and sanctions

US President Joe Biden and fellow world leaders “reiterated” their commitment to providing Ukraine with security, economic and humanitarian assistance on a secure video call Tuesday, the White House said.

On the call, which included the leaders of several European countries along with Canada and Japan, the leaders “affirmed their solidarity” with the Ukrainian people and condemned humanitarian suffering in the country.

They also discussed their “respective diplomatic engagements” and efforts to “impose severe economic costs to hold Russia accountable.”

The leaders agreed to continue their discussions going forward.

The participants on the call included Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, European Council President Charles Michel, French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Polish President Andrzej Duda, Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Italy says Western leaders agreed to step up pressure on Moscow

Western leaders agreed on the need to put more pressure on Russia and to increase Moscow’s international isolation, according to an Italian government statement.

The leaders – including Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, US President Joe Biden and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson – shared “deep concern” for the prolonged hostilities in Ukraine and said a swift ceasefire was needed.

“There was broad consensus on the need to step up pressure on the Kremlin, including by adopting further sanctions, and to increase Moscow’s international isolation,” Rome’s statement said after a video call among the leaders.

It added that they reiterated a commitment to diversify energy supplies in order to decrease dependence on Russia.

Russians plan to “level everything to the ground” at steel factory, per alleged communications intercept

The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) on Tuesday released a purported communications intercept of a Russian ground unit commander, who said Russian aircraft were planning to “level everything to the ground” around Azovstal, the steel factory that is a redoubt of Ukrainian defenders in the besieged port city of Mariupol.

The audio recording released Tuesday purports to feature the voice of the leader of a Russian platoon four kilometers (or about 2.5 miles) from Azovstal.

The man’s voice says, “We are expecting ‘surprises’ from Russia here.”

“What kind of surprises?” a woman’s voice replies.

“Three-ton ones, from the sky,” the man replies, adding that his command “said to level everything to the ground.”

The SBU has previously released audio from intercepted radio traffic revealing Russian soldiers discussing killing and raping civilians, bolstering allegations of war crimes by Russian troops.

Germany’s foreign intelligence service has also intercepted radio communications where Russian soldiers talked about shooting soldiers and civilians in Ukraine. Military observers have also noted a tendency of Russian troops to use unsecured communications in Ukraine.

Ukrainian officials and military commanders have described the situation around the Azovstal plant to be extremely difficult, with hundreds of civilians also sheltering in the basements of the steel factory with dwindling supplies and defenders under constant attack.

“Everybody left,” the voice on the audio recording said, adding, “Everyone who wanted to, all left. All that’s left are the patriots and the very smart ones.”

Describing the impending aerial bombardment of Azovstal, the man adds, “A lieutenant colonel came and said, ‘You will feel the effect of it yourself.'”

The man in the audio recording also mentions another Ukrainian town in Luhansk region, Lysychansk, saying it “is being wiped out from the face of the earth. For the third day in a row.”

Kyiv’s deputy mayor asks for 200,000 gas masks to protect Ukrainians from possible chemical weapons attack

The Ukrainian Freedom Fund (UFF), a non-profit that has a footprint in Ukraine and is working to procure defense materials for Ukrainian troops, received a letter from Kyiv’s deputy mayor requesting 200,000 respirators — also known as gas masks — to shield Ukrainians from any potential chemical weapons attacks.

“Due to the large-scale invasion of Russian troops into the territory of Ukraine, there is a threat of chemical damage to the population of Ukraine and the citizens of Kyiv in particular,” Kyiv’s Deputy Mayor Volodymyr Bondarenko wrote to UFF in a letter reviewed by CNN.

“On behalf of the Mayor of Kyiv Vitali Klitschko, citizens of Kyiv municipality and Ukrainian society, we ask for humanitarian assistance, mainly in the form of personal protective equipment (respirators, according to technical requirements in the attachment), for Kyiv humanitarian aid center,” he added.

This request shows how urgently the Ukrainians believe they need this equipment. As part of the new security assistance announced last week by US President Joe Biden’s administration has given some protective equipment to Ukraine to shield them from possible chemical weapons attacks and more will follow, a US State Department spokesperson announced on Tuesday. The department would not detail the amount of this material provided so far.

Last week there were unconfirmed reports of the use of chemical weapons in Mariupol. US officials have also warned that they have had credible information that Russian forces may use a variety of riot control agents, like tear gas mixed with chemical agents, as part of their Mariupol assault.

The risk of Russia carrying out a chemical weapons attack in Ukraine still stands, but the likelihood has not gone up or down in recent days, a US intelligence official said.

Yet because the risk remains, Ukrainians want to be prepared which has driven this urgent effort. The demand is much higher than it has ever been, making procurement challenging.

“Gas masks are hard to come by right now,” explained a US military veteran who is living in Ukraine and working for the UFF.

The organization is working on procuring those gas masks now and has already provided thousands of bullet proof vests, helmets, vehicles and field first aid kits (IFAKS) to Ukraine’s Territorial Defense forces, and is continuing its efforts.

Scholz: Putin bears responsibility for ‘war crimes’ in Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin is responsible for war crimes in Ukraine that have already left thousands of civilians dead, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has stated.

“Russia’s invasion of Ukraine remains a blatant breach of international law. The killing of thousands of civilians as we have seen is a war crime for which the Russian president bears responsibility,” Scholz told reporters following talks with Western leaders on the conflict.

Johnson: Britain to send more artillery weapons to Ukraine

Britain will give more artillery weapons to Ukraine as the conflict with Russia moves into a new phase, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said.

“This will become an artillery conflict, they need support with more artillery, that is what we will be giving them… in addition to many other forms of support,” Johnson told lawmakers.

UN chief calls for four-day truce in Ukraine

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has denounced Russia’s new offensive and called for a four-day truce to coincide with the onset of Orthodox Holy Week.

“Instead of a celebration of new life, this Easter coincides with a Russian offensive in eastern Ukraine,” Guterres told reporters at the UN’s headquarters in New York.

“The intense concentration of forces and firepower makes this battle inevitably more violent, bloody and destructive,” he added, before calling for a “humanitarian pause” in fighting from Holy Thursday until Sunday, the date of Orthodox Easter, which is celebrated by most Ukrainians and Russians.

Guterres said the UN was submitting detailed plans to all parties in the conflict and was ready to send humanitarian aid convoys to Mariupol, Kherson, Donetsk and Luhansk.

Four dead, more wounded in Russian shelling of Kharkiv: Officials

Four people were killed and 14 wounded by Russian rockets in Ukraine’s eastern city of Kharkiv, regional prosecutors have said.

“More than 10 residential buildings were damaged, as well as garages and a supermarket,” the regional prosecutor’s office wrote on Facebook.

Earlier on Tuesday, officials stated at least three people had been killed and 16 wounded in the shelling of the Nemyshlianskyi district of Kharkiv.

UN asks for $66m to protect Ukrainian women, children amid rape accusations

UNFPA, the United Nation’s sexual and reproductive health agency, released a statement Tuesday asking for $66 million to help protect Ukrainian women and children as millions flee from Ukraine and Russian soldiers have been accused of rape.

The agency stated more than 12 million people, mostly women and children, have fled Ukraine while those in the country have been raped and deprived of items needed for women’s hygiene.

“Women and girls affected by the war in Ukraine face ongoing threats to their health and safety, and their needs must be prioritized,” Dr. Natalia Kanem, executive director of UNFPA, said.

“Women do not stop getting pregnant or giving birth during conflict, and their access to lifesaving health services is literally under attack in Ukraine. With health and social service facilities being bombed and shelled, and reports of rape and other forms of gender-based violence rising, UNFPA is focused on meeting the distinct needs of women and girls,” she added.

US working to get weapons to Ukraine at “unprecedented” speed: Defense official

The US is working “around the clock” to get weapons to Ukraine at “unprecedented” speed, a senior defense official said.

Since the beginning of the invasion, the Joe Biden administration has authorized $2.3 billion in shipments of weapons and equipment to Ukraine drawn from US inventories, as well as another $300 million as part of the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, which purchases weapons from manufacturers.

“This is certainly the largest recent supply to a partner country in a conflict,” the official stated, adding, “What is unprecedented here is the amount of successive drawdowns that we are moving at this speed.”

The process of authorizing the shipment of equipment from US military inventories to other countries, which has taken weeks or months in the past, can now take as little as 48-72 hours, the official continued.

Ukrainian Ambassador to Tehran: Abandoning nukes a mistake

Ukraine’s Ambassador to Tehran has said his country has always sought to join NATO but the Western military alliance did not accept Kiev’s push for accession to the organization.

Sergey Bordiliak added that many intellectuals and politicians in Ukraine have arrived at the conclusion that the country’s decision to abandon its nuclear arsenal was a big mistake.

The Ukrainian ambassador stated the Russian invasion was a personal decision by the country’s President Vladimir Putin and has nothing to do with neo-Nazism.

Pentagon, Lockheed Martin reportedly discuss boosting production of arms for Ukraine

The Pentagon and US defense giant Lockheed Martin are discussing increasing production of weapons destined for Ukraine as Russia continues its special military operation, The Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday.

The world’s largest defense contractor must boost its output in order to meet the growing number of requests from foreign governments for additional production, the report said.

Earlier in the day, Lockheed Martin reported high quarterly profits but at the same time left its year sales guidance unchanged at $66 billion. Chief Financial Officer Jay Malave believes additional production for Ukraine will not have an immediate impact on the company’s financial results, according to the report.

Lockheed Martin is a producer of F-35 combat aircraft, Black Hawk helicopters, and an array of munitions and missile defense systems, which Germany and others now plan to buy, though the company’s executives said new contracts would take years to fulfill, the report added.

Last week, Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks led another round of discussions with the heads of major US defense contractors, including Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Raytheon, about their potential support for Ukraine during Russia’s special operation in the country. The discussion was focused primarily on the acceleration and expansion of weapons production for Ukraine.

Canada imposes sanctions on 14 key Russian figures, including central bank chief

Canada has imposed sanctions on 14 individuals with close ties to the Russian government, including central bank governor Elvira Nabiullina, several business tycoons and the daughters of President Vladimir Putin, Global Affairs said in a statement on Tuesday.

“These new measures impose restrictions on 14 close associates of the Russian regime, including Russian oligarchs and their family members. This includes President Putin’s two adult daughters,” Global Affairs added.

Nearly five million Ukrainians flee war

Nearly five million Ukrainians have fled the war since Russia’s invasion, the United Nations said, as they warned the situation may worsen.

UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, announced 4,980,589 Ukrainians had left since Russia invaded on February 24 – a figure up 46,174 on Monday’s total.

The UN’s International Organization for Migration (IOM) added nearly 215,000 third-country nationals – largely students and migrant workers – have also escaped to neighbouring countries, meaning around 5.2 million people in all have fled Ukraine since the war began.

Officials call it the fastest-growing refugee crisis in Europe since World War II.

“The key is that the borders remain open, people can access safety and when they get to the neighbouring countries they have access to assistance,” UNHCR spokeswoman Shabia Mantoo told reporters in Geneva.

UK have shown ‘pure support’ for Ukraine

The UK’s backing of Ukraine is an example of “pure support”, the Ukrainian deputy minister for veterans affairs has said at the Invictus Games.

Inna Drahanchuk stated the war is a “genocide of our nation” and there is no philosophy to the Russian onslaught.

Drahanchuk, head of the governmental delegation for the Ukraine team at The Hague, said coming to the event was a “very difficult” decision for the team to make.

She added: “They didn’t want to leave their friends, the Ukrainian soldiers, because most of our team members are in the battlefields in the east of Ukraine and other territories which were occupied by Russians, and they didn’t want to leave their positions.”

But she noted it was decided that it could be “one more battlefield for them just to bring this truth here”.

Johnson: Ukraine still in ‘perilous’ position

The Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman said Boris Johnson told a meeting of his Cabinet that the situation in Ukraine remains “perilous” with President Vladimir Putin “angered by defeats but determined to claim some sort of victory, regardless of the human cost”.

The spokesman stated: “He [Mr Johnson] said this meant it was more vital than ever to increase global support.”

“He said he would be taking part in a call with President Biden and other world leaders on what additional support could be provided including on further toughening of sanctions,” the spokesperson added.

A senior national security official told the Cabinet that Russia is now fully focusing its efforts on the Donbas region and the “next phase of the war was likely to be an attritional conflict which could last for several months”.

Kyiv says Russian offensive aimed at grabbing land and crushing Ukraine’s armed forces

The aim of Russia’s new military offensive in east Ukraine is to grab land, establish an overground link between territories in the east and Crimea and crush Ukraine’s armed forces, Ukraine’s defence ministry announced.

Spokesman Oleksandr Motuznyak said Russian forces were attacking along the entire frontline in eastern Ukraine, pressing their siege of Mariupol in the south and trying to encircle cities in the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.

“The goal is to defeat the Ukrainian forces, to establish control over the territory of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions and establish a land corridor to Crimea,” he added.

US: Russian invasion to blame for worsening global food insecurity

Russia’s war in Ukraine has worsened the “already dire” food insecurity situation facing the world, with price and supply shocks adding to global inflationary pressures, US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said.

Even before the war, over 800 million people – or 10 per cent of the global population – were suffering from chronic food insecurity, Yellen stated, citing early estimates showing that higher food prices alone could push at least 10 million more people worldwide into poverty.

Yellen told the panel that countries should avoid export restrictions that could further increase prices, while acting to support vulnerable populations and smallholder farmers.

“I want to be clear: Russia’s actions are responsible for this,” Yellen continued, adding that the US was working urgently with partners and allies to “help mitigate the effects of Russia’s reckless war on the world’s most vulnerable.”

German official: G20 to blame Russia for global growth hit

A meeting of G20 finance chiefs this week will be used to send a clear message that Russia is fully responsible for the global economic fallout from its war in Ukraine.

Russian officials will attend the summit, but the country won’t be able to dictate the format or agenda, a German official told Bloomberg.

The official added that the gathering should be used to send a clear message to Russia.

This week’s meeting will be the first G20 summit since the war began and will be closely watched for signs of how major economies are responding to Vladimir Putin’s aggression.

UN to debate Security Council permanent member veto power

The United Nations is set to debate a proposal that calls for the five permanent members of the body’s Security Council – the United States, United Kingdom, France, China and Russia – to be required to justify any invocation of their veto powers.

The potential reform has been floated for years but has gained new traction following Russia’s invasion.

Official: Mariupol is under heavy bombardment, but Ukrainian forces continue to defend city

Pavlo Kyrylenko, the head of the Donetsk region military administration, said Russian forces are “changing tactic,” but the besieged city of Mariupol continues to be in Ukrainian control.

After capturing the town of Kreminna in the Luhansk region, Russian forces are looking to advance toward Kramatorsk and Sloviansk in the northern part of the Donetsk region, Kyrylenko stated.

There have been constant shelling and missile strikes toward the towns Marinka and Avdiivka and an offensive to the south toward Mariupol to “close the circle.”

He added Ukrainian forces continue to defend Mariupol under heavy bombardment and there is tank fighting on some streets, but “the Ukrainian flag is flying over the city.”

“The enemy is changing tactic,” he continued, stating, “The reason for that is it has suffered losses, losses in terms of heavy artillery, in terms of its weapons and also personnel. These losses are felt by the Russian Federation itself. It is an undeniable fact. Therefore, they are forced to be more economical in terms of how they use their force, and they have to focus on certain areas in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions where they are trying to gain some strategic advantage.”

“However, we are going to frustrate their attack … It is difficult to do that, but we intend to do so. For that, we need help from our Western partners that has already been announced and that has already been requested by Ukraine. We are just asking that this help arrives more quickly and in greater volumes because we will stress again that defending Ukraine today means defending the whole civilized world,” he noted.

While fighting has been going on in the region for years between Ukrainians and pro-Russian separatists, he claimed that pro-Russian sentiments have “been reduced” recently due to aggressive Russian military tactics.

IMF slashes global economic growth forecast due to war in Ukraine

The International Monetary Fund has slashed its expectations for global economic growth over the next two years because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, comparing the ripple effects from the conflict to an “earthquake.”

“The economic effects of the war are spreading far and wide,” the organization announced in its latest outlook, published Tuesday.

The IMF now expects the world economy to expand by 3.6% in both 2022 and 2023, a sharp deceleration from growth of 6.1% in 2021. The new forecasts reflect downgrades of 0.8 and 0.2 percentage points, respectively, from its January forecast.

The outlook assumes that the war remains confined to Ukraine, that further sanctions on Russia don’t target its huge energy sector and the effects of the pandemic continue to fade.

IMF says the conflict will hit Ukraine and Russia the hardest. The IMF expects Ukraine’s economy to shrink 35% this year, while the West’s efforts to punish Russia are poised to cause its economy to contract by 8.5%. But because the war has caused a spike in the price of energy and other commodities, worsening supply chain problems and feeding expectations for more persistent inflation, its effects will be felt almost everywhere.

“The war will severely set back the global recovery, slowing growth and increasing inflation even further,” the IMF added in its report, emphasizing that the world economy had not fully recovered from the coronavirus pandemic when Russia invaded Ukraine in late February.

In Europe, which relies heavily on Russia to meet its energy needs, growth is now expected to slow to 2.8% in 2022, a downgrade of 1.1 percentage points versus January.

The United States is comparatively insulated. Yet weakness among its trading partners, as well as the Federal Reserve’s plans to quickly pull back pandemic-era support for the economy and raise interest rates, are weighing on the outlook. The IMF projects US growth of 3.7% in 2022 and 2.3% in 2023, down 0.3 percentage points since its last forecast.

While the report observes that “global economic prospects have worsened significantly” since the start of the year, it does not predict a recession, which the IMF typically calls when growth falls to 2.5% or lower.

But the IMF also notes uncertainty “well beyond the normal range” surrounding its projections because of the unprecedented nature of the shock. And the risks of an even greater slowdown, combined with persistently high inflation, are rising.

Talks ‘complicated’ by Mariupol siege: Ukrainian official

Russia’s siege of Mariupol has “complicated” talks between Moscow and Kyiv over ending the war, a Ukrainian negotiator has said.

Mykhailo Podolyak told the Reuters news agency that he believed Russia was banking on strengthening its negotiating positions with its new offensive in Donbas ahead of further discussions between the two sides.

He added that it was unclear when direct talks might resume.

Netherlands will send “heavier material” to Ukraine: PM

The Netherlands will send “heavier material” to Ukraine, “including armored vehicles,” Prime Minister Mark Rutte stated on Tuesday.

In a tweet, Rutte said that he and the Dutch Defense Minister Kajsa Ollongren had expressed their support to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in a phone conversation, “as Russia begins a renewed offensive.”

“Together with allies, we are looking at the delivery of additional heavier equipment,” Rutte added.

Zelensky also tweeted after the phone call, saying that he had informed Rutte “about the aggravation of the situation in Donbas” and was “grateful” for the support.

“When peace is restored we’ll build Ukraine-Netherlands relations of a new quality together in the EU!” Zelensky noted.

Russia expels Dutch and Belgian diplomats in tit-for-tat moves

Russia says it is expelling 36 diplomats from the Netherlands and Belgium in a tit-for-tat response to measures taken against Moscow’s foreign envoys.

The Russian foreign ministry said it had declared 21 diplomats from Belgium and 15 from the Netherlands “persona non grata” and given them two weeks to leave the country.

Moscow also summoned Luxembourg’s envoy, warning him that the Kremlin may decide to take reciprocal measures for the small European state’s own expulsion of Russia’s ambassador.

In total, European countries have kicked out more than 300 Russian embassy staff since Moscow sent its troops into Ukraine in late February.

Five civilians killed by Russian shelling in Kharkiv: Regional governor

Five civilians in Ukraine’s northeastern city of Kharkiv have been killed by Russian shelling, according to a local official.

Regional governor Oleg Synyehubov said a further 17 civilians were wounded amid a Russian rocket barrage on the city’s centre and its outskirts. It was not immediately clear when the alleged shelling took place.

Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, has faced persistent Russian attacks since Moscow began its invasion.

Bank of Russia embarks on legal battle to fight for its frozen reserves

The Bank of Russia will challenge the block placed on its gold and foreign exchange reserves and is working on lawsuits, Governor of the Bank of Russia Elvira Nabiullina said on Tuesday.

“This freezing of gold and foreign exchange reserves was unprecedented, so we are going to work on legal claims, and we are getting ready to put them forward. This block on the gold and foreign exchange reserves of such a large country is unprecedented on a global scale,” she noted, emphasizing that the regulator will fight the West’s infringement against Russia’s assets.

Nabiullina stated that due to the freezing of part of the reserves, additional currency regulations had to be introduced.

“We have introduced these currency regulations. I know that many enterprises also complained a lot in terms of foreign economic activity, when it was difficult to pay. But it was a forced measure. If we had these gold and foreign exchange reserves in possession, and had this part not been frozen, there would have been no need for such draconian measures on the movement of capital,” she explained.

Denmark to increase gas production in North Sea to reduce Russian dependency: PM

Denmark will increase its natural gas production in the North Sea “for a limited time period,” to reduce its dependency on Russian energy, Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said Tuesday.

Denmark is ultimately aiming to phase out its use natural gases to become independent of Russian supplies, Frederiksen added.

“We are convinced it’s better to produce gas in the North Sea than buying it from Vladimir Putin,” she stated.

Despite the “temporary increase,” Frederiksen assured that Denmark remained committed to plans to end its North Sea oil and gas production by 2050.

“Non-stop bombardment of civilian districts” in Kharkiv: Mayor

Kharkiv mayor Igor Terekhov has told CNN that there has been “non-stop bombardment of civilian districts” in the city since Sunday.

Before then, Terekhov said Russian shelling and bombardments had been focused on the outskirts of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second biggest city located in the east of the country near the Russian border.

Kharkiv has been targeted by Russian strikes since the invasion of Ukraine was launched nearly two months ago.

“In the last few days, [Russian shelling] has been in the center and it’s targeting peaceful civilians,” Terekhov told CNN “New Day” Tuesday.

“The enemy is targeting civilians, many people are wounded and some unfortunately dead. In the past day and a half, we’ve had 15 people killed and more than 50 wounded. Those 15 killed was just in one attack,” Terekhov added.

Terekhov also stated that Ukraine would fight for every bit of land and would not agree to territorial concessions while Russian attacks continue.

Ukrainian officials claim Russian forces are bombing Mariupol’s Azovstal factory

Ukrainian officials said Tuesday that Russian forces had begun bombing and shelling the Azovstal factory in the besieged city of Mariupol, where Ukrainian forces and civilians remain encircled.

Petro Andriushchenko, an adviser to the mayor of Mariupol, said in a statement that Russian forces “are not only striking Azovstal with bombs but also with artillery and tanks, continuing their chaotic attacks on the residential area of the Left Bank (Livoberezhnyi) district along the line from the Meotidy Boulevard.”

Andriushchenko is not in Mariupol but maintains a network of contacts in the city.

The Russian military gave Ukrainians defending Azovstal until 12 p.m. Moscow time Tuesday (5 a.m. ET) to surrender — a deadline that has now passed.

Liudmyla Denisova, the Ukrainian parliament’s human-rights ombudsman, stated that about 1,000 civilians, including children, remain in the basement of the plant, a figure consistent with estimates provided by Ukrainian units defending the plant.

Denisova claimed that Russian forces had ordered residents to wear white armbands — similar to those worn as friend-or-foe identifiers by Russian and separatist forces — when moving around Mariupol, making them harder to distinguish from combatants.

Mariupol has been under relentless bombardment for weeks, with more than 90% of the city’s infrastructure damaged or destroyed, according to Ukrainian estimates.

Iran’s Embassy in Kiev reopens

Iran’s Ambassador to Ukraine Manouchehr Moradi has announced the Iranian Embassy is Kiev resumed its activity on April 7, 2022.

Moradi added that the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran did not ceased working even during the Ukraine war or after relocation to Moldova.

Russian forces seize Kreminna in eastern Ukraine

Russian forces have taken control of the city of Kreminna in Ukraine’s eastern Luhansk region, its governor confirmed.

Serhiy Haidai told a news briefing that Ukrainian troops had withdrawn from the city.

Moscow’s capture of Kreminna appears to mark its first major seizure of territory since launching its new offensive in Donbas.

France supports banning imports of Russian oil: Economy Minister

France supports extending sanctions to ban imports of Russian oi, French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire said Tuesday.

“When you see what is going on in the Donbas, it is more necessary than ever to stop importing Russian oil,” Le Maire told radio station Europe 1.

Le Maire went on to say that it was oil, not gas, that has been “the first source of currency for Putin’s regime for several years,” and therefore “stopping Russian oil imports means hurting the financing of the war in Ukraine for those who are in power in Russia.”

France was attempting to persuade European partners to stop imports of Russian oil, Le Maire added, alleging that some countries were “hesitant” to do so.

“The reason that we are not there yet isn’t because France does not wish it,” Le Maire continued, adding, “It is because there are still certain European partners who are hesitant.”

Earlier this month, European leaders agreed to go after Russia’s vast energy sector for the first time by banning all forms of Russian coal from the European Union. The European Commission predicted the move would affect about 8 billion euros ($8.7 billion) worth of Russian exports per year.

Ukrainian officials: 205 children have been killed, 367 wounded

At least 367 Ukrainian children have been wounded in Ukraine since the beginning of Russia’s invasion, Ukraine’s Prosecutor General’s Office says.

The office announced in its latest daily update that the number of children killed was unchanged from Monday, with the death toll standing at 205.

Russian forces have also damaged 1,141 educational buildings, 99 of which were completely destroyed, it added.

Russian army systematically liberates Donetsk, Lugansk republics

The Russian army is systematically implementing the plan for the liberation of the Donetsk and Lugansk republics, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said at the Defense Ministry’s board meeting on Tuesday.

“In the course of the special military operation the Russian army is coping with its tasks the supreme commander-in-chief identified. The plan for the liberation of the Donetsk and Lugansk people’s republics is being implemented systematically and measures are being taken to restore life to normal,” he added.

Shoigu stressed that the Russian military personnel involved in the operation displayed courage and heroism in performing their duty. He pointed out that Russia provided reliable guarantees of its citizens’ safety and that the events of the past few months demonstrated clearly the importance of further efforts to enhance the potential of the armed forces.

Russia’s DM has accused the United States and other Western countries of doing everything possible to drag out Russia’s war in Ukraine.

“The increasing volume of foreign arms supplies clearly demonstrates their intentions to provoke the Kyiv regime to fight to the last Ukrainian standing,” he noted.

New Zealand announces additional sanctions on Russian financial institutions

New Zealand has imposed new sanctions against more than a dozen Russian financial entities, including the country’s central bank, Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta announced in a statement Tuesday.

The sanctions target 18 financial organizations that allegedly finance Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and which make up about 80% of Russia’s total banking assets, Mahuta said in a statement released by the New Zealand government.

“These sanctions are designed to impose an economic and political cost,” Mahuta continued, adding, “With this latest round of sanctions, New Zealand is joining countries around the world who have imposed heavy penalties on President Putin and the system financing his illegal invasion.”

The 18 newly-sanctioned organizations are: Alfa-Bank, Bank Rossiya, Bank Otkritie, Black Sea Bank for Development and Reconstruction, Central Bank of the Russian Federation, Credit Bank of Moscow, Gazprombank, GenBank, Industrial Savings Bank, Novikombank, Russia Agricultural Bank, Russian National Commercial Bank, Russian Direct Investment Fund, Sberbank, Sovcombank, SMP Bank, Vnesheconombank, VTB.

Over the past month, New Zealand has issued a raft of sanctions against Russian entities and individuals, including against Russian President Vladimir Putin, members of his security council, politicians, oligarchs and military leaders.

Lavrov: Russia is not seeking regime change in Ukraine

Russian Foreign minister Sergei Lavrov stated on Tuesday that Moscow has no plans to press for regime change in Kiev.

“We are not going to change the regime in Ukraine,” Lavrov said in his interview with broadcaster India Today.

“We have been saying it repeatedly, we want Ukrainians to decide for themselves how they want to live,” he added.

The diplomat stressed that Russia had no other choice but to start the operation, as Ukrainian forces had intensified attacks in Donbass, prompting mass evacuations of civilians from the region and forcing the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics to ask Moscow for help.

Lavrov noted that a new phase of the operation has begun, but once again stated that the Russian forces are targeting only Ukrainian military infrastructure.

Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky was used by the West against Russia to ignore the implementation of the Minsk Agreements, Lavrov stated. Russia’s special military operation in Ukraine stems from the West’s desire to dominate the world, the FM stressed.

The diplomat has also rejected claims that Moscow could resort to the use of tactical nuclear weapons in Ukraine.

Lavrov reiterated the notion that “there could be no winners in a nuclear war,” and assured that Russia would only rely on conventional weapons in Ukraine.

Moscow: Ukraine preparing new provocation in Odessa region to accuse Russia of ‘war crimes’

The Russian Ministry of Defence (MoD) has claimed that Kiev is preparing a new provocation in the Odessa region to accuse Moscow of “war crimes”.

Mikhail Mizintsev, the head of the Russian MoD’s national defence control center, told reporters on Tuesday that “according to reliable, available information, the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) is preparing another monstrous provocation to accuse the military personnel of Russia of so-called war crimes involving the mass destruction of civilians in the Odessa region”.

He added that “to this end, in the near future, they plan to change the uniforms of one of the SBU units for Russian military personnel uniforms and stage a demonstrative execution of local residents”.

Mizintsev noted that photo and video ‘evidence’ of these false flag atrocities would then be published by Ukrainian and Western news agencies “for the immediate cynical promotion of fakes”.

Russia raids include missile attacks on Donbas

Russia’s defence ministry announced its forces carried out dozens of air raids in eastern Ukraine overnight, including missile attacks that hit 13 positions in parts of Donbas.

The ministry added other air raids had hit “60 military assets of Ukraine”, including in towns close to the eastern frontline.

Russian troops have eliminated 140 Ukrainian combat aircraft, 487 unmanned aerial vehicles and 2,353 tanks and other armored vehicles since the beginning of their special military operation in Ukraine, Russian Defense Ministry Spokesman Major-General Igor Konashenkov said on Tuesday.

“Overall, the following targets have been destroyed since the beginning of the special military operation: 140 aircraft, 487 unmanned aerial vehicles, 252 surface-to-air missile systems, 2,353 tanks and other combat armored vehicles, 256 multiple launch rocket systems, 1,014 field artillery guns and mortars and 2,208 special military motor vehicles,” the spokesman added.

Greece seizes Russian-flagged tanker with 19 crew members on board due to EU sanctions

The Greek authorities have seized the Russian-flagged Pegas tanker with 19 Russian sailors on board near the island of Karystos in Evia, the Athens-Macedonian News Agency reported on Tuesday.

The tanker is held at an anchorage in the bay of Karystos on the decision of port authorities, according to the report. The order was given by the Authority Against Legalizing Income from Criminal Activities, in compliance with the sanctions imposed on ships owned by Russian interests by the European Union and NATO, the agency added.

The tanker, which had a mechanical breakdown, was being escorted by a tug to the Peloponnese so that its cargo could be transferred to another ship but was forced to seek shelter from rough seas on Karystos as it approached Kavo Doro.

The order for its seizure concerns the ship itself and not its cargo, the agency said citing sources.

China-Russia cooperation is resilient: Diplomat

China has told Russia it will continue to increase “strategic coordination” with it regardless of international volatility, according to a foreign ministry statement.

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng gave this assurance to Russian ambassador to China, Andrey Denisov, on Monday, the statement said.

Le cited the almost 30 percent increase in China-Russia trade in the first three months of this year as evidence of “resilience and endogenous power” of the cooperation between the two countries, according to the statement.

Russian offensive ‘will fail’: Ukrainian official

Russia’s new offensive in eastern Ukraine is proceeding “very cautiously” and Moscow will not be able to achieve its ambition of seizing the Donbas, an aide to Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said.

Oleksiy Arestovych stated in a televised address that Russian troops were trying to find “sensitive spots” in Ukraine’s defences. But he claimed that Moscow does “not have enough strength” to break through.

“Their offensive will fail – I give you a 99 percent guarantee,” Arestovych added.

Moscow: UN chief has not tried to contact Putin since start of war

Moscow says that UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has not tried to get in touch with Russian President Vladimir Putin since the start of Moscow’s offensive.

“No one has been in touch, neither through the permanent mission of Russia to the UN, nor directly with the foreign ministry,” Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman for Russia’s foreign ministry, said.

Moscow slams US for mulling addition of Russia to terrorism sponsor list

Moscow considers the recent statement by Washington that it is mulling adding Russia to the list of state sponsors of terrorism as a propaganda move, Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Tuesday.

“This is necessary in order to convince those who have not yet broken. This is needed today, now, this is an every second idea that has appeared, which is not supported by either law or facts, no one talks about facts at all, this is necessary today for Washington’s information and propaganda activities”, Zakharova told the Solovyov Live show on YouTube.

The statement lambasting the American authorities comes as a response after US States Department spokesperson Ned Price said during an interview with CNN that Washington is looking into the possibility of designating Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism.

Russia gives Ukrainian soldiers & mercenaries chance to leave Azovstal Plant in Mariupol without weapons

The Russian military is proposing to Ukrainian “militants” and foreign mercenaries who are hiding in Mariupol’s Azovstal plant to surrender on Tuesday afternoon, Col. Gen. Mikhail Mizintsev, the head of the Russian Defecse Ministry’s National Defence Control Centre, said.

“Given the catastrophic situation that has developed at the Azovstal metallurgical plant, and also guided by purely humane principles, the Russian armed forces once again offer militants of nationalist battalions and foreign mercenaries from 12.00 Moscow time [09:00 GMT] on 19 April 2022 to halt all hostilities and lay down their arms,” Mizintsev told a briefing.

According to Mizintsev, the process includes direct communication between Russian and Ukrainian sides starting from 10:00 GMT.

The Russian official added that the surrender process should last two hours and start at 11:00 GMT when the militants will start leaving the Azovstal plant without weapons.

Russian shelling prevents humanitarian corridors: Deputy PM

Continued Russian shelling means agreed humanitarian corridors to evacuate citizens out of Mariupol will not open, Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said on Telegram.

“Intense shelling continues in the Donbas. In Mariupol, the Russians refuse to provide a corridor for the exit of civilians in the direction of Berdyansk,” Vereshchuk added.

Russia focused on breaking defence lines in Donetsk, Luhansk: Ukraine

Russia continues its offensive in the east “to establish full control over the territory of Donetsk and Luhansk” regions, as well as to maintain a land corridor with the temporarily occupied Crimea,” the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine have said.

“The main efforts of the enemy are focused on breaking through the defence of Ukrainian troops in Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts, as well as establishing full control over the city of Mariupol,” the military added.

In the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, the military announced its repulsed seven enemy attacks, destroyed ten tanks, 18 armoured units and eight vehicles and one artillery system.

UN: At least 73 people killed in 136 attacks on health care facilities

There have been at least 73 people killed and 52 people injured in 136 attacks on health care facilities in Ukraine since the invasion began, Stéphane Dujarric, spokesperson for UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, said.

Dujarric stated he was citing the latest numbers from the World Health Organization, a UN agency responsible for international public health.

He added that the attacks on health care facilities in Ukraine currently account for more than 68% of all attacks on health care facilities worldwide since the beginning of the year.

Additionally, more than one out of four people in Ukraine (comprising around 12 million people) have been displaced due to the war, including around 4.9 million refugees and 7.1 million people internally displaced within Ukraine, Dujarric said.

The UN now has more than 1,300 staff on the ground in Ukraine, working in eight operational hubs across the country, the spokesperson noted. Dujarric added that Guterres continues to be “deeply concerned” about the ongoing attacks in Ukraine, resulting in civilian casualties and infrastructure damage.

US looking at possibly labeling Russia a state sponsor of terrorism

US State Department officials are looking at every tool available to them to hold Russia accountable for the war in Ukraine, including the possibility of labeling Russia a state sponsor of terrorism, according to a senior administration official.

The process could take weeks before a determination is made, the official stated.

“We’re taking a close look at the facts. We’re taking a close look at the law,” said State Department spokesperson Ned Price when asked about the possibility of designating Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism on Monday.

“Whether it is this authority, whether it’s any other authority available to us under the law, we will apply it if it’s effective and appropriate,” he added.

The definition of a state sponsor of terrorism is a country that has “repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism,” according to the State Department.

There are only four countries that are currently labeled state sponsors of terrorism by the US: North Korea, Iran, Cuba and Syria.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky asked US President Joe Biden in one of their recent phone conversations to designate Russia a state sponsor of terrorism, CNN reported last week.

The US has already rolled out severe sanctions on Russia over the Ukraine war, but adding Russia to the list would be a symbolic move that would also inflict an even greater cost on Russia’s economy. It would lead to actions such as prohibiting Russia from buying certain items that can be used commercial or militarily, and sanctions on other people and countries still engaged in certain trade with Russia.

Ukrainian official: There is not “a town, a city or a village left where it is safe now in Ukraine”

Ihor Zhovkva, chief diplomatic adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, said that there isn’t a “single place” in Ukraine that’s safe now following Russian missile strikes in Lviv Monday.

“There is not a single place, a town, a city or a village left where it is safe now in Ukraine,” Zhovkva told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.

“That’s what [the Russians] were trying to implement since the beginning of the war. Because look, they not only fight the military people. They not only fight the military infrastructure. They fight with civilian Ukrainians. I mean what a auto service shop, a car repairing shop has to do with the military infrastructure, but they bombed it today in Lviv, having killed civilian people. Not a single soldier but civilian people, killed,” he added.

He made a plea for additional military aid so that Ukraine can “win” the war.

“Please support Ukraine with more arms, and we’ll be able to win,” Zhovkva stated.

The western city of Lviv, seen as a safe haven due to its proximity to the border, came under attack on Monday. Maksym Kozytskyy, the Lviv regional military governor, said three missile strikes hit warehouses that were not being used by the military, and a fourth hit a tire-repair shop. Seven people have died, he added.

Zelensky rejects “tall tales” his forces need months of training to operate advanced weapons

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky pushed back against concerns from US and NATO officials that his military would need significant training before receiving advanced weapons from other countries, telling CNN his forces need weapons quickly – and can learn to use them just as fast.

“I’ve heard these tall tales that we would need months to train our troops to use new tanks. OK, give us a Soviet-era tank,” Zelensky said.

“We are prepared to use any type of equipment, but it needs to be delivered very quickly. And we have the ability to learn how to use new equipment. But it needs to come fast,” he added.

Explosions heard in Mykolaiv

Air raid sirens have been activated in Mykolaiv, with several reports of explosions heard.

“All under cover!” Mykolaiv Mayor Oleksandr Sienkevych wrote on Facebook about an hour ago. He posted similar alerts throughout the night.

On Monday afternoon, Sienkevych said Russian missiles had hit three homes.

“Two of them can’t be restored anymore. It’s only a miracle that none of the residents received serious damage. Most people were evacuated before this hit,” he added.

Biden to meet with ‘allies’ on Ukraine

US President Joe Biden will convene a meeting of allies to discuss the Ukraine conflict Tuesday, the White House said, after Kyiv announced Russia had launched a major new offensive in the east of the country.

An official told the AFP news agency that the meeting “is part of our regular coordination with allies and partners in support of Ukraine,” without naming who would be included on the video call.

The White House added the meeting would also cover “efforts to hold Russia accountable”.

Russia has started new offensive in east: Ukraine official

Russia appears to have started its anticipated new offensive in the east of Ukraine, Ukraine’s top security official has said.

“This morning, along almost the entire front line of Donetsk, Luhansk and Kharkiv regions, the occupiers attempted to break through our defences,” security council secretary Oleksiy Danilov said in televised comments.

“They began their attempt to start the active phase this morning,” he added.

Invasion damaged close to one-third of Ukraine’s infrastructure: Official

Russia’s invasion has damaged or destroyed up to 30 per cent of Ukraine’s infrastructure at a cost of $100bn, a Ukrainian minister has said.

Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov told Reuters the war had affected “20 to 30 per cent of all infrastructure with varying degrees of damage, with different levels of destruction”.

Kubrakov stated more than 300 bridges on national roads had been destroyed or damaged, more than 8,000km of roads had to be repaired or rebuilt and dozens of railway bridges had been blown up. He added everything could be rebuilt in two years “if everyone works quickly”.

Ukraine takes back areas around Izyum, Kharkiv region

Ukraine says its military has taken back several settlements around the strategically positioned city of Izyum in the Kharkiv region, the state news agency Ukrinform reports.

“A number of settlements have been liberated by the Ukrainian military as a result of intense hostilities,” said Ukrainian Ministry of Defence Spokesperson Oleksandr Motuzianyk.

Izyum’s strategic position as a gateway to the Donbas has seen Russian troops concentrating in the area.

“They will try to start an offensive on the east particularly from there,” Motuzianyk added.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has stated that Russia’s feared eastern offensive has begun.

Ukraine’s president has remained defiant, vowing that Ukrainian troops will fight back against Russia’s offensive in the country’s east.

“No matter how many Russian soldiers are brought here, we will fight. We will defend ourselves,” Zelensky stressed.

EU membership integral part of Ukraine’s future: Zelensky

Ukraine’s membership in the European Union is integral to the “strategic vision” for its post-war reconstruction, President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his nighttime address.

He confirmed reports that Ukraine had completed the questionnaire that is the starting point for the EU to decide on membership for Kyiv.

“Each country that joined the European Union went through the same procedure with the questionnaire. The only difference is that it took them years, and we completed it in a little more than a week,” Zelensky stated.

“We will provide the second part of the answers shortly. And we hope that Europe’s decision in response will be quick,” he added.

The Russian army will have difficulty replenishing their arsenal of missiles, helicopters, and other military equipment, amid international sanctions, Zelensky said.

“The Russian army is not slowing down the use of missiles against Ukraine, although it should have realized that it will be extremely difficult to restore its missile stockpile in the face of even existing sanctions,” Zelenksy added.

“Without imports, they can’t even do that. And when all the loopholes used to circumvent sanctions are closed, and even tougher sanctions are imposed, restoring Russia’s missile capabilities will be unrealistic,” he continued, stating, “A similar process is taking place with other Russian weapons. Producing new artillery, planes, new helicopters, and cruisers under sanctions will be a daunting task for Russia.”

UN confirms 4,890 civilian casualties in Ukraine

The UN human rights body has confirmed 4,890 civilian casualties in Ukraine since Russia’s invasion began on February 24.

The latest figures from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) show 2,072 people have been killed and 2,818 injured.

“Most of the civilian casualties recorded were caused by the use of explosive weapons with a wide impact area, including shelling from heavy artillery and multiple launch rocket systems, and missile and air strikes,” the OHCHR statement said, adding the actual casualty figures are “considerably higher”.

At least 1,000 civilians hiding under Ukrainian steel plant in Mariupol: City council

No fewer than 1,000 civilians are hiding in underground shelters beneath the vast Azovstal steel plant in the southeastern Ukrainian port city of Mariupol, the city council has said.

“Mostly the [civilians] are women with children and old people,” the city council wrote on the Telegram messaging app.

The mayor of Mariupol claims at least 100,000 civilians were still trapped in the besieged city, Al Jazeera’s Charles Stratford reported from Dnipro.

“The deputy prime minister of Ukraine said that humanitarian corridors for a second day had been cancelled because of what she describes as being Russian shelling,” Stratford added.

“Also interestingly, according to the mayor of Mariupol … at least 40,000 Ukrainian civilians have been forcibly deported to the Russian side of control,” Stratford continued.

Mariupol’s mayor has also said about 40,000 civilians had been forcibly moved to Russia or Russian-controlled regions of Ukraine, the Reuters news agency reported.

“Unfortunately I have to declare that as of today they are forcibly deporting” residents, Vadym Boychenko told Ukrainian television, adding, “We have verified through the municipal register that they have already deported over 40,000 people.”

Commander of the Azov Regiment, Lieutenant Colonel Denys Prokopenko, has also noted Russian forces are firing on the Azovstal steelworks factory “willingly” in Mariupol as hundreds of people are sheltering inside.

Ukraine hit by ‘most intensive’ Russian attacks in weeks: EU official

The EU’s foreign policy chief has stated Ukraine is being hit by “the most intensive [Russian] missile attacks” in weeks, notably in the Luhansk region.

Josep Borrell noted major cities such as Kharkiv are being attacked “indiscriminately” while shelling in Lviv and other areas in western Ukraine “show that no part of the country is spared from the Kremlin’s onslaught”.

“The EU actively supports the work of the International Criminal Court and measures to ensure accountability for violations of human rights and international humanitarian law. There can be no impunity for war crimes,” Borell said in a statement released before Ukraine said Russia’s large offensive in the east had begun.

Biden has ‘no plans’ to visit Kyiv: White House

US President Joe Biden is not planning to visit Kyiv, despite Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy urging him to demonstrate US support by travelling to the capital, the White House has announced.

“There [are] no plans for the president to go. Let me just reiterate that,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters.

A string of European leaders, including British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, have made the trip to Kyiv and met with the Ukrainian president.

Top US official travelling to Brussels will discuss Ukraine with EU allies

US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman will travel to the Belgian capital this week for joint US-EU meetings on China and the Indo-Pacific region, the State Department has said.

Sherman will also meet with Washington’s NATO and European Union allies in Brussels “to discuss our continued close coordination on Putin’s war of choice against Ukraine and other global issues”, the department added in a statement.

Macron says talks with Putin stalled after atrocities discovered

French President Emmanuel Macron says dialogue with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin has stalled after mass killings were discovered in Ukraine.

“Since the massacres we have discovered in Bucha and in other towns, the war has taken a different turn, so I did not speak to him again directly since, but I don’t rule out doing so in the future,” Macron told France 5 television.

Russia has denied targeting civilians in Ukraine, but images of bodies lining the streets of Bucha and other towns near the capital Kyiv after Russian troops withdrew from the region drew global condemnation.

Russian attacks kill eight civilians in eastern region: Authorities

Air raids have killed at least eight civilians in the eastern Ukrainian regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, local authorities said.

“Several people tried to flee and the orcs [Russian forces] shot the car. Four people died instantly,” a local governor stated, adding that another person was injured.

UN proposes plan for Russia, Ukraine to discuss humanitarian issues

The United Nations’ humanitarian affairs chief has said he proposed to Russian and Ukrainian officials, during his visit to Kyiv and Moscow, an arrangement by which the two sides could meet “on a virtual or actual basis at any time to discuss humanitarian issues”.

“Maybe ceasefire monitoring, maybe safe passages … maybe humanitarian priorities,” Martin Griffiths told reporters during a press briefing.

Griffiths noted Ukraine had “agreed to most of the proposals we are making” while adding that “we have yet to get the same response” from Russia.

A ceasefire in Ukraine is not on the horizon, but may come in the coming weeks depending on how the war and ongoing negotiations continue, according to Griffiths.

‘Battle of the Donbas’ has started: Zelensky

Ukraine’s president says Russian forces have launched their assault on the eastern Donbas region.

“We can now say that Russian forces have started the battle of the Donbas, for which they have long prepared,” Volodymyr Zelensky said in his nightly video address.

Earlier, the chief of staff to Zelensky wrote on Telegram that the “second phase of the war has started” and assured Ukrainians that the country’s forces could hold off the Russians.

“Believe in our army, it is very strong,” Andriy Yermak added.

US: Russia’s recent attacks in Ukraine show a “campaign of terror”

State Department spokesperson Ned Price said that Russia’s attacks in Ukraine in recent days further illustrate that the country is “undertaking a campaign of terror” against the people of Ukraine when responding to a question about Russia’s recent strikes in Lviv, Ukraine.

“The fact is that Russia, more than just launching an invasion, more than just launching a war, has launched, is undertaking a campaign of terror, a campaign of brutality, a campaign of despicable aggression against the people of Ukraine. And so when it comes to what we’ve seen in recent hours, and in terms of the strikes against Lviv, in terms of the strikes in the outskirts of Kyiv, or what we’ve seen in towns like Mariupol, towns like Kharkiv, what we’ve witnessed in Bucha, this, these are clear indications, they are a clear testament to the campaign of brutality, the campaign of terror that the Russians are waging against the people of Ukraine,” Price stated.

Price also noted that the Pentagon said earlier in the day that Russian strikes in recent days “have targeted military instillations, military adjacent instillations.”

US considering additional sanctions on Russia

The Joe Biden administration is continuing “to review and consider additional sanctions” against Russia.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki stated existing US measures have led to a “squeeze” on the Russian economy that Biden and senior administration officials had intended.

“We are continuing to review and I expect we’ll have more in the coming days,” she told reporters.

Fifth shipment of US military aid expected to arrive in Ukraine

The White House says four planes have delivered US military assistance to Ukraine over the course of the weekend, and a fifth was due to arrive.

“Another one is supposed to arrive today, if it hasn’t already, from the $800m package” of additional American aid to Kyiv announced last week, said Jen Psaki, the White House spokeswoman.

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