Saturday, April 13, 2024

Live Updates: Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 56

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:

US Treasury Secretary & other finance ministers walked out of G20 meeting with Russia

Finance ministers from multiple nations walked out of a closed-door G20 session in Washington, DC, on Wednesday when the Russian delegate began his prepared remarks, a person familiar with the session said.

US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen participated in the walkout, as did European and other Western officials who were participating in the meeting, the source added.

Ahead of the meeting, US officials had stated Yellen would not participate in certain sessions of the gathering that included Russia.

Ukrainian officials also spoke at the session as invited guests, and also walked out during Russia’s presentation. Yellen and other officials attended the session during those remarks, but departed when Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov began speaking virtually.

A separate official noted finance ministers had discussed plans to boycott Russia’s participation ahead of time.

Germany will phase out Russian oil imports “by the end of the year”: FM

Germany will phase out Russian oil imports “by the end of the year,” German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said Wednesday.

“Germany will completely phase out Russian energy imports,” Baerbock stated.

Oil imports “will be halved by the summer” and phased out entirely and “at 0 by the end of the year,” she added.

Speaking at a news conference in Riga with Baltic Foreign Ministers, Baerbock reiterated that coal imports would be phased out by the end of the summer.

Gas imports would be phased out over a longer timeframe, she continued.

A spokesperson for Germany’s Economy Ministry told CNN that Germany wants to achieve independence from Russian energy imports division by division and step by step, projecting independence from Russian oil by the end of the year.

Earlier this month, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz had stated he believed Germany would be able to end imports this year but added it would take the country longer to wean itself off Russian gas.

Ukraine’s membership in EU a ‘priority’: Zelensky

European Union membership is a “priority” for Ukraine, Voldymyr Zelenskyy has said during a joint press conference with visiting EU chief Charles Michel.

“Regarding our future membership in the EU, it is a priority for our state, for the strength of our people, those who are ready to defend our land against Russian invaders even without arms,” Zelensky stated.

Michel noted President Vladimir Putin will not succeed in dividing the EU in its response to the war in Ukraine.

“The Kremlin’s goal is to destroy the sovereignty of Ukraine, it’s also to divide the European Union, and he will not succeed,” Michel stated at the press conference with Zelensky.

“In recent weeks we have demonstrated even in difficult circumstances that the 27 member states, we were systematically able to take decisions all together by unanimity,” he added.

UN chief requests meetings with Putin and Zelensky

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres has asked to meet with the presidents of Russia and Ukraine in their respective capitals, a UN spokesman has said.

As the war in Ukraine rages, Guterres made the request in letters that were sent Tuesday to Vladimir Putin and Volodymyr Zelensky, spokesman Stephane Dujarric stated.

Zelensky says he has not seen document Kremlin says it sent Kyiv

President Volodymyr Zelensky says he had not seen or heard about a document that the Kremlin said it had sent to Ukraine in connection with peace talks.

Earlier Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov stated Moscow was waiting for a response after it had handed a document to the Ukrainian side.

Beijing tells Washington not to use Ukraine conflict to ‘smear or pressure’ China

China’s defence minister has told his United States counterpart that Washington should not “use the Ukraine issue to smear, frame, threaten or pressure China”, following criticism of its perceived backing of Russia’s invasion.

Wei Fenghe spoke by phone with US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin on Wednesday, according to a statement by China’s defence ministry.

China has not publically condemned Moscow’s offensive and has refrained from hitting Russia with any sanctions over its actions. The US has warned Beijing’s unwillingness to roll out any such measures could affect its relations with other economies.

Sherman tells NATO of US concerns about China’s support for Russian aggression

Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman spoke of US concerns about China’s support for Russia’s aggression “including through its amplification of Russian disinformation about NATO and Russia’s war in Ukraine” in a meeting with NATO permanent representatives, State Department Spokesperson Ned Price has stated.

Russia says talks hinge on Kyiv’s readiness to take into account Moscow’s demands

Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov has told his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu in a phone call that the outcome of talks with Ukraine completely depended on Kyiv’s readiness to take into account Russia’s demands.

Russian foreign ministry also announced Lavrov and Cavusoglu discussed the situation in Mariupol and possible measures aimed at providing safety to civilians, including from foreign countries.

US starts training of some Ukrainian troops on howitzer artillery

The US military has started training a small number of Ukrainian troops on using howitzer artillery, a senior US defense official has said, adding the training was being conducted outside of Ukraine and would take about a week.

“It’s a smallish number of Ukrainians, a little bit more than 50,” the official stated, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Ukraine has not received whole aircraft from allies, only parts: Pentagon

The US Defense Department has announced that Ukraine has received parts for their aircraft from allies but not complete warplanes, correcting its earlier statement that built-up aircraft had been delivered.

While fixed-wing aircraft have been offered by an unidentified country to bolster Kyiv’s fight against Russia, “they have not received whole aircraft from another nation,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said.

80% of Luhansk territory is under Russian control: Regional military governor

Serhii Haidai, the head of the Luhansk Regional Military Administration, said 80% of his region’s territory is under Russian control. If Ukraine doesn’t resist, the official stated, “Russia is certainly not going to stop here and will push further on.”

Speaking to CNN’s Becky Anderson from an undisclosed location, Haidai concurred with the Russian characterization that the second phase of the war has begun, but cautioned that it is not yet a “complete and total invasion.”

“Certainly they (Russians) are spreading out a lot,” he continued, adding, “We’ve established our defenses in a lot of towns. They’re trying to encircle our troops, a lot of nasty business is going on there…but they haven’t had any successes so far. We are doing well to destroy their equipment.”

Haidai noted: “We have a very serious situation here. The whole of Luhansk territory is being shelled. There is no safe town… We understand that the Russian government is going to push ahead and going to destroy everything in its path. So what we are doing is trying to evacuate everyone as much as possible.”

The official has been appealing to remaining civilians to leave the eastern region of Ukraine as fighting intensifies. He said out of the 350,000 people that lived in the Ukrainian territory of Luhansk before the war, around 70,000 remain today.

Haidai added that shelling has been happening “without any respite” in the area, which has destroyed the electricity grid and all water supplies. For the 70,000 people that remain, most of them are living in bunkers, cellars and shelters.

“This is the second month we’ve had all these people living underground essentially,” he said.

“We are trying to supply them with some kind of aid, trying to get sanitation and water to them and make sure that they don’t starve to death…there’s hardly any stable supply of gas so the situation is pretty desperate,” he added.

Biden admin weighs reopening US Embassy in Kyiv

The Joe Biden administration is resisting growing calls from US lawmakers, former diplomats and others to reopen the US Embassy in Kyiv, a move advocates say would send a signal of Western strength and unity to Russia as its war on Ukraine nears the two-month mark.

Multiple US diplomats privately say they want an American return to the Ukrainian capital, an area from which Russian forces have withdrawn.

More than a dozen European countries, including Slovenia, Italy and Spain, as well as the European Union, already have reopened their Kyiv missions or intend to do so. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has praised the governments that have returned, saying they are sending “a clear signal to the aggressor.”

So far, the decision has been to hold off, a US official familiar with the debate said.

“It seems every agency has its share of skeptics,” the official stated, speaking on condition of anonymity to describe sensitive conversations.

“Half the [White House] and half of State want to do it. Other halves oppose and say too soon,” the official added.

US assesses there have been no major territorial gains so far for Russia in new offense

Early in Russia’s expanded offensive in the Donbas, the US assesses there have been no major territorial gains for Russia so far since the start of the new push, according to two senior US officials with direct knowledge of the assessment.

The US has observed some new attacks by Russian forces, which appear to be probing attacks to test Ukrainian defenses, one of the officials stated. However, the frontlines remain static with no major territory changing hands as of yet.

To help prepare Ukrainian forces for the battles to come, a new $800 million weapons package will be focused on artillery, specifically 155mm howitzers and ammunition, according to a senior US official and a congressional source with knowledge of the draft plan.

The US has asked “many” NATO allies to help contribute artillery to this new planned weapons shipment, a senior US official told CNN.

US defense secretary being regularly briefed on any potential Russian nuclear moves: Officials

The United States’ military is keeping a constant watch on Russia’s nuclear arsenal as the war in Ukraine continues.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is being briefed two or three times a week by the top US general who oversees US nuclear weapons and defenses, according to multiple defense officials.

The US has not seen any indication Russia has made any moves to prepare nuclear weapons for use during the war, but two sources familiar with recent intelligence assessments told CNN that US officials are more concerned about the threat of Russia using them than at any time since the Cold War.

The sources stressed, however, that it is still unlikely Russian President Vladimir Putin would use any kind of nuclear weapon and one of the sources put the chances of use at around 1%.

Adm. Charles Richard, head of the US Strategic Command, is providing Austin and other top Pentagon leaders with a highly classified operation and intelligence update on the status of Russia’s arsenal and any moves that might cause concern, according to the defense officials.

It includes input from the intelligence community which closely monitors statements from Putin and other senior Russian leaders. The officials emphasized that if there are any sudden developments in between scheduled meetings, Austin and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley would be quickly briefed before updating the White House.

Monitoring any possible nuclear activity has always been a high priority for the Pentagon but the urgency of efforts increased shortly after Russia launched its invasion in February when Putin put the country’s deterrence forces, including Moscow’s nuclear weapons, onto the highest state of alert.

On Tuesday, Russia Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov pushed back on a warning from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in a CNN interview last week that Russia could be prepared to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine, stressing that Russia historically has been against the use of such weapons.

Mariupol mayor calls on residents to evacuate

The mayor of Mariupol on Wednesday called on residents of the besieged city to evacuate along a corridor announced earlier in the day by Ukraine’s deputy prime minister.

Evacuation would begin at 2 p.m. local time (7 a.m. ET) at a designated central meeting point, Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boichenko said in a statement released by the city council. Additional boarding locations would be available near the Azovstal steel factory — a bastion of Ukrainian military defense — and a shopping mall.

The evacuation column, he added, would proceed west from Mariupol toward the Russian-held city of Berdiansk and then onward through the Ukrainian-held city of Zaporizhzhia via Tokmak.

“Dear people of Mariupol, during these long and incredibly difficult days you survived in inhumane conditions,” he continued, stating, “You were in an information vacuum without access to any information. You may have heard different things. But I want you to know the main thing — they are waiting for you in Zaporizhzhia. It’s safe there.”

Boichenko noted 200,000 Mariupol residents had been able to leave the city and were now safe. The city had a prewar population of over 400,000, and Ukrainian authorities have accused Russia of forcing thousands of other residents into separatist-held and Russian territory. He urged citizens with relatives in Mariupol to spread the word about evacuation points.

More than five million people have fled Ukraine: UN

The UN’s refugee agency (UNHCR) announced that more than five million people have fled Ukraine since Russia launched its invasion on February 24.

More than half of those who have left, about 2.8 million, fled to Poland.

An estimated seven million people have also been displaced within Ukraine amid Moscow’s offensive.

Kyiv says Ukrainian forces stopped Russian advance towards Slovyansk

Ukrainian troops have held up an attempted advance by Russian forces from Ukraine’s northeastern town of Izyum towards the nearby city of Slovyansk, an adviser to Volodymyr Zelensky said.

“They have focused their forces there, that is where they are trying to advance, but so far they are not succeeding,” Oleksiy Arestovych stated in a video address.

Arestovych also added that Ukrainian forces in Mariupol have been holding out, despite persistent Russian attacks on the Azovstal steel plant.

FM: Germany has no weapons that can be quickly delivered to Ukraine

Germany currently does not have any armaments that it can supply to Ukraine on a short notice, German Minister for Foreign Affairs Annalena Baerbock said at a joint press conference with her Latvian counterpart Edgars Rinkevics in Riga on Wednesday.

“In the short-term perspective, we don’t have anything that we can deliver really fast and without delay,” she stated.

Due to this, according to her, Berlin agreed to support those partners who are ready to supply to Kiev Soviet-made weapons that Ukrainian troops would be familiar with. The German top diplomat confirmed that the reserves of Germany’s armed forces with regards to the deliveries of heavy weapons to Kiev are exhausted.

Earlier, she noted that Kiev needs heavy weapons and now is not the time to come up with excuses on this issue.

Germany will provide training and maintenance to the Ukrainian military, Baerbock said Wednesday.

Baerbock added that while “other partners are now providing artillery,” Germany would “help with training and maintenance.”

Report: G7 leaders discuss alternatives to Ukraine’s NATO membership

The leaders of G7 countries held a videocall with European Union and NATO officials to discuss alternatives to NATO membership for Ukraine, including a model excluding the alliance’s principle of collective defense, Politico reported on Wednesday, citing a French presidential adviser.

“Our country is ready to give security guarantees,” the official was quoted as saying.

“These are security guarantees which, in a way, are similar to those which exist in the European Union Treaty, but which are basically different from the NATO model,” the official added.

According to the French official, Ukraine’s security guarantees will not be related to NATO’s Article 5 principle, under which an attack on one member of the alliance will be treated as an attack on all.

Russia not ruling out blocking assets of foreign embassies

“The assets of our embassies are blocked, problems happen in different countries,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Yevgeny Ivanov told reporters

“Accordingly, if our embassies do not open assets and pay their bills, including utility costs, then, accordingly, appropriate measures will be taken here as well,” Ivanov stated.

Putin: Donbass tragedy forced Russia to start special military operation in Ukraine

President Vladimir Putin has stated that the tragedy taking place in Donbass “forced” Russia to start the special military operation in Ukraine. The president lamented that the residents of Donbass have been suffering from the bombings for the past eight years.

“Unfortunately, in the Lugansk People’s Republic, a lot has changed for the worse. Because all these eight years it has been suffering from bombings, artillery strikes and hostilities. And of course, it was very, very difficult for people [living there],” the president said.

Putin promised that Russia will be acting consistently and will ensure that there will be peace in Donbass.

“History will not forget the war crimes” committed in Ukraine: European Council President

“History will not forget the war crimes” committed in Ukraine, President of the European Council Charles Michel said Wednesday.

“Like Bucha and too many other towns in Ukraine. History will not forget the war crimes that have been committed here. There can be no peace without justice,” Michel tweeted.

Russia has denied allegations of war crimes and claims its forces do not target civilians.

Earlier on Wednesday, Michel shared a picture of his arrival at a train station in the capital of Kyiv.

“In the heart of a free and democratic Europe,” he stated.

Conflict in Ukraine comparable to “darkest pages” of European history: Belgian PM

Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo has said that Russia’s aggression in Ukraine is “comparable to the darkest pages in our European history” and that it is “heart-breaking to see that something like this can still happen in Europe.”

Speaking in the Belgian town of Ghent, following a rare joint meeting of the Dutch and Belgian cabinets, De Croo added “that there can be no impunity for war crimes.”

He stated that both Belgium and the Netherlands are “going to make efforts to ensure that everything is documented,” in the hope that “prosecutions can take place for the terrible stories we hear of rapes of women, rapes of girls.”

Russia has denied allegations of war crimes and claims its forces do not target civilians.

Iryna Venediktova, Ukraine’s prosecutor general, said last week that her office was investigating 5,800 cases of alleged Russian war crimes, with “more and more” proceedings opening every day.

De Croo stated that the Belgian Government was supporting the International Criminal Court and the Commission of Inquiry set up by the UN Human Rights Council and was “looking to be able to send forensic experts” to Ukraine.

“It is the first step to ensure that the barbarians who did this will be prosecuted,” he added.

Russian forces attempting advance toward southeastern Zaporizhzhia: regional officials

Russian forces are attempting an advance toward the southeastern Ukrainian city of Zaporizhzhia, said the city’s Regional Council on Wednesday, as fighting escalates across the east of the country.

“The situation at the frontline suggests that the enemy is trying to advance in direction of Zaporizhzhia, but suffers losses and focuses its main efforts on maintaining the occupied frontiers,” the council said in a statement.

“Russian troops continue to shell the positions of our troops and conduct offensive operations in the direction of Pokrovske – Huliaipole,” the council added.

Zaporizhzhia lies north of the besieged city of Mariupol, and is set to form part of an evacuation corridor reportedly agreed on with Russia for Wednesday.

Women, children, and the elderly would be evacuated from the southeastern port city toward Manhush, onward through the Russian held-city of Berdyansk and then toward Zaporizhzhia, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk stated.

Russian forces occupy the southern part of the region, and according to the council they have established a base in the city of Melitopol, near residential areas.

Moscow: Russia braced for Ukraine’s erratic behavior at talks

Russia was ready for Ukraine’s inconsistent behavior during negotiations, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova stated on Wednesday.

“From the office of a person who calls himself the Ukrainian president and has corresponding powers there was a request to hold talks, Russia did not reject this request. Then, as always, literally and metaphorically, a circus began by the Kiev regime: one minute they are coming, the next they aren’t, one minute they are up for participating, the next they aren’t. <…> Was Moscow ready for this? Yes, of course,” she said in an interview with the Russia-24 TV channel.

The diplomat specified that over the recent years, Kiev has taken the exact same approach to other negotiations. She noted that the fate of the Minsk deal is known, it wasn’t implemented.

“This is a classic arrangement which indicates that the regime is not independent, but controlled. And secondly, the talks are being used as a distracting move,” she pointed out.

Due to this, according to the spokeswoman, Russia has already lost trust in the Ukrainian negotiators, so the situation is unfolding “on the ground.”

“Now it’s not ‘trust and verify’ anymore, it’s simply ‘verify’ because there hasn’t been any trust in these people for a long time,” she emphasized.

The United States and NATO are handling processes in Ukraine so Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky cannot be viewed as an independent politician, Zakharova noted.

“It is as impossible to talk about Volodymyr Zelensky’s independence now as it was before. His curators are standing behind him. It is first and foremost about Washington and NATO structures that have been handling the process for years one way or another, so it is counterproductive to talk about Zelensky’s statements. He says one thing today and says another thing tomorrow,” she said.

Zakharova pointed out that the Ukrainian president had no control over the situation in the country.

“Zelensky makes statements in various states. The state that he is in changes his personality. It’s obvious, the whole world sees related footage quite regularly,” the Russian diplomat added.

Moscow accuses Kyiv of undermining talks

The Kremlin has accused Ukraine of reneging on commitments it had made during talks between delegations from Moscow and Kyiv over ending the war.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters the moves were undermining the negotiations and said the current pace of the discussions left much to be desired.

He added Moscow was awaiting a response from Kyiv after Russia handed a document to the Ukrainian side.

Ukrainian negotiator Mykhailo Podolyak told the Reuters news agency on Tuesday 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.

Podolyak stated that it was unclear when direct talks might resume.

Ukraine army says Russia’s attempts to storm eastern towns unsuccessful

Russia has staged unsuccessful attempts to storm the towns of Rubizhne and Sievierodonetsk in the eastern Ukrainian region of Luhansk, the Ukrainian General Staff of the Armed Forces has announced.

“After the storming attempts by the Russian occupiers in Rubizhne and Sievierodonetsk, 130 injured soldiers of the enemy were admitted to the local hospital in Novoaidar,” the general staff said in its situation report.

In addition, the Ukrainian military leadership reported Russian attacks near the small town of Izyum in the Kharkiv region and heavy fighting around Marinka, Popasna, Torske, Zelena Dolyna and Kreminna.

The pro-Russian separatists had previously reported that they had gained control of Kreminna.

EU Council chief Charles Michel arrives in Kyiv

European Council chief Charles Michel has arrived in the Ukrainian capital for a surprise visit.

“In Kyiv today. In the heart of a free and democratic Europe,” Michel wrote on his Twitter account, accompanied by a photo taken at a train station.

Olga Stefanishyna, Ukraine’s deputy prime minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration, welcomed Michel upon arrival.

Russia extends Mariupol surrender offer

Russia’s Defense Ministry has extended the offer to surrender for the remaining Ukrainian forces holed up at the Azovstal steel plant in the Black Sea port city of Mariupol after they refused to leave through a humanitarian corridor on Tuesday.

Those present at the location may still exit the facility from 14:00 Moscow time on Wednesday without any arms or ammunition on them, officials said in a statement.

“The Russian leadership guarantees the preservation of life, complete safety and provision of qualified medical assistance to all those who lay down their arms,” it added.

The strategic city of Mariupol has seen the heaviest fighting during the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine, suffering immense destruction. It’s now almost entirely controlled by Russian forces, with Azovstal remaining the last pocket of Ukrainian resistance.

Russian diplomat calls for probe into fake news about potential use of nukes in Ukraine

Russian law enforcement should investigate misinformation being spread about the country’s potential use of nuclear arms, stated Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, commenting on an extract from Minister Sergey Lavrov’s interview on nuclear arms, that was misinterpreted by a number of channels on Telegram.

“This issue, by the way, should be explored by law enforcement. We have every possible legislation, <…> that enables law enforcement agencies to look into the story as far as the law being violated is concerned, that is Russian laws. This is fake news, <…> that concerns not just our country’s security, since nuclear arms are mentioned,” Zakharova said during a live broadcast by Sputnik radio on Wednesday.

First of all, the measures should not target the sources who spread misinformation on the extract, but rather action should be taken against the developers and customers of this news, Zakharova stressed.

“Someone has been manufacturing these materials, and there must be someone who designed the concept. I think it would be correct and timely to look into the entire chain,” the diplomat explained.

Lavrov noted earlier in an interview with India Today that Russia was not considering the use of nuclear arms in Ukraine, where conventional weapons only would be used.

Russian troops destroy 496 drones, 2,388 tanks in Ukraine operation

Russian troops have destroyed 496 Ukrainian unmanned aerial vehicles, 2,388 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 Wednesday.

“Overall, the following targets have been eliminated since the beginning of the special military operation: 140 aircraft, 496 unmanned aerial vehicles, 253 surface-to-air missile systems, 2,388 tanks and other combat armored vehicles, 256 multiple launch rocket systems, 1,029 field artillery guns and mortars and 2,232 special military motor vehicles,” the spokesman added.

Ukraine: Preliminary agreement reached for Mariupol evacuations

Ukraine announced it has agreed with Russian forces to open a safe route for civilians to evacuate Mariupol.

“We have managed to get a preliminary agreement on a humanitarian corridor for women, children and elderly persons,” Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk wrote on Telegram.

Norway donates missiles defence system to Ukraine

Norway says it has sent its Mistral air defence system and 100 missiles to Ukraine.

Bjørn Arild Gram, the Norewegian defence minister, stated the system “is an effective weapon that has been used in the Navy, and which will be of great benefit to Ukraine”.

Mistral is a short-range air defence missile system that can be used from vehicles, surface ships, and helicopters. Norway announced it had already planned to phase out the Mistral and move to modern equipment, so this donation will not affect its military supply.

EU plans to decide on Ukraine’s candidacy in June

The European Commission plans to make a preliminary decision at the end of June regarding Ukraine’s bid to become a candidate for membership in the bloc, Bloomberg reported, citing sources.

The European Commission plans to prepare necessary documents for a meeting of the bloc’s leaders scheduled for June 23-24, the report said. It’s expected that they will discuss giving Ukraine the status of a candidate.

An unidentified EU official told the news service that it usually takes 15 to 18 months to obtain the status. Afterward, the process of joining the bloc begins, which, as a rule, takes more than 10 years. The last state formally admitted to the European Union was Croatia, in 2013, which had been a candidate for 10 years.

On Monday, the office of Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky stated that the president had handed a completed questionnaire to the head of the EU delegation in Kiev, a step for Ukraine to become an EU candidate.

Russia still focusing on capturing Mariupol: Ukrainian Army

Fighting between Russian and Ukrainian forces continues in Kreminna in the Luhansk region, Kramatorsk in the Donetsk region, and the village of Zelena Dolyna in the Dnipropetrovsk region, according to today’s update from Ukrainian army.

Shelling also continues in Kharkiv, which is partially blocked by Russian troops, said the spokesman for the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, Alexander Štupun.

However, Russia is focusing its main efforts on capturing the city of Mariupol, and taking full control of the regions of Luhansk and Donetsk, Stupun stated. He added Ukraine’s military repelled ten attacks in the past few days in the two regions.

Unfair Ukraine is still forced to ask for weapons: Zelensky

The war in Ukraine would already be over if its army had all the weapons they needed, President Volodymyr Zelensky has said.

“If we had access to all the weapons we need, which our partners have and which are comparable to the weapons used by the Russian Federation, we would have already ended this war,” the president stated.

Zelensky added it was “unfair” his country was still forced to ask for “what its partners have been storing somewhere for years”.

“If they have the ammunition that we need here and now, it is their moral duty first of all to help protect freedom,” he continued.

Air-raid sirens, more explosions in Mykolaiv region

Air-raid sirens were activated in the Mykolaiv region in the last hour, and several citizens reported explosions.

“Again explosions in Mykolaiv. Friends, stay away from windows,” Mayor Oleksandr Sienkevych wrote on Facebook an hour ago.

The Mykolaiv region was reportedly under bombardment on Tuesday, with local officials saying Russian forces attacked a hospital in the city of Bashtanka.

“The dialysis department, the emergency department, the operating room without double-glazed windows were destroyed … there are victims,” head of the regional council Anna Zamazeeva wrote on Facebook on Tuesday.

She added there were no deaths and no children had been injured.

Marine in besieged Mariupol says ‘maybe facing our last days, if not hours’

A commander for the Ukrainian marines fighting in the last stronghold of Mariupol said his forces were “maybe facing our last days, if not hours” and appealed for extraction in a Facebook post early Wednesday.

“The enemy is outnumbering us 10 to one,” Serhiy Volyna from the 36th Separate Marine Brigade stated, sheltering at the besieged Azovstal factory.

“We appeal and plead to all world leaders to help us. We ask them to use the procedure of extraction and take us to the territory of a third-party state,” he added.

In Mariupol, the situation remains “brutal and unchanged,” President Volodymyr Zelensky said. He claimed that Russian forces are blocking corridors and evacuations from Mariupol. Zelensky added that he had signed a decree to honor Ukrainian armed forces defending Mariupol.

Officials allege chemical attack in Izyum

Ukraine’s soldiers in the region of the city of Izyum, in the eastern Kharkiv region, were attacked with a chemical substance, according to a senior Ukrainian official, news agency Ostrov has reported.

Oleksiy Arestovych, Ukraine’s presidential advisor, was discussing in an interview earlier reports from a city council official that 12 Ukrainian soldiers had developed breathing problems and redness of the eyes after a Russian attack in Izyum.

“The type cannot be determined, because there are no laboratories there that can quickly come running and check. There are no deaths either. But some chemical substance is said to have been applied. All this requires clarification,” Arestovych told former Russian lawyer and politician Mark Feygin on YouTube.

EU chief says world leaders to ‘tighten’ Russia sanctions

Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, says world leaders have agreed to “tighten [their] sanctions against Russia and step up financial and security assistance for Ukraine”.

She was speaking after a call was convened by US President Joe Biden to discuss the latest developments in Ukraine.

Biden consulted with French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, as well as von der Leyen, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, among others.

Biden to announce another large military aid package for Ukraine: Sources

US President Joe Biden is expected to announce within the coming days another military aid package for Ukraine about the same size as the $800m one announced last week, multiple sources familiar with the decision told Reuters.

One US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, stated a new package was expected in the coming days that would be roughly the size of the previous package, but details were still being worked out.

Ukraine’s army gets more aircraft and parts to repair others: Pentagon

Ukraine’s partners have provided it with additional military aircraft and parts to repair others in Kyiv’s arsenal that were damaged or inoperable, the Pentagon has said.

“They have received additional aircraft and aircraft parts to help them get more aircraft in the air,” Pentagon Spokesperson John Kirby told a news briefing, adding that Washington had not provided aircraft to Kyiv.

Russia has lost 25 percent of its combat power: US official

The US estimates that the Russian military has lost about 25 percent of the combat power it sent into Ukraine at the start of the war, a senior US defence official has said.

“When people say the offensive has begun, that’s what they’re referring to, and we’re not pushing back on that notion,” a senior US defence official noted.

The official added the Russians are taking actions to improve their ability to sustain combat operations in the Donbas and to “prepare for what we believe will be larger offensives in the future”.

Russian shelling increasing in Donbas: UK military

Russian shelling and strikes on the Donbas line of control continued to increase but Ukrainian forces managed to repel numerous attempted advances, a United Kingdom military update has said.

“Russian shelling and strikes on the Donbas line of control continue to increase, with the Ukrainians repelling numerous attempted advances by Russian forces,” it added.

“Russia’s ability to progress continues to be impacted by the environmental, logistical and technical challenges that have beset them so far, combined with the resilience of the highly-motivated Ukrainian armed forces,” it noted.

Biden, allies consult on Ukraine including aid

US President Joe Biden and allied leaders discussed ongoing efforts on Ukraine on Tuesday including the need to provide economic and humanitarian aid, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki has said.

Psaki, briefing reporters, added Biden and the allies also discussed efforts to hold Russia accountable for its invasion of Ukraine.

Ukrainian and Russian UN ambassadors weigh in on ceasefire

Ukraine’s United Nations Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya has called on Russia to heed Guterres’s appeal for a four-day “pause” in fighting to allow humanitarian aid and evacuations.

But Russian deputy ambassador Dmitry Polyanskiy said he was “a bit sceptical” about the idea.

“I really don’t know what’s the point of entering in the game with Ukrainians on such issues,” Polyanskiy added, maintaining that Russia has offered to create humanitarian corridors but Ukraine did not use them or misused them.

UN refugee official calls on Security Council to ‘end senseless war’

Kelly Clements, the UN’s deputy high commissioner for refugees, has urged members of the Security Council to help put an end to Russia’s offensive.

Clements said while the UN has helped more than 2.5 million people in Ukraine so far, including some who were displaced from other parts of the country, “no pile of blankets, no sum of cash, no amount of medicine, is going to halt the death and destruction” in Ukraine.

“So while we will continue our job to deliver aid, we need this council to do its job, too,” she told the Security Council, calling on members “to put aside your differences and find a way to end this horrific and senseless war”.

Biden says he does not know if he will visit Ukraine

President Joe Biden has stated that he does not know if he will travel to Kyiv.

“The answer is, I don’t know,” Biden said when asked by reporters at an event in New Hampshire whether he would visit the Ukrainian capital.

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a CNN interview aired on Sunday that he wanted Biden to visit and expected that he would.

Russia orders 31 more European diplomats to leave

Russia has announced it was expelling 31 diplomats from three European countries in a tit-for-tat move.

The Russian foreign ministry declared 15 diplomats from the Netherlands “persona non grata” and gave them two weeks to leave. Moscow gave the same deadline to Belgian embassy staff over the country’s decision to expel 21 Russian envoys last month.

Moscow also gave four Austrian diplomats until Sunday to leave.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will continue to “take its toll” on the global economy: Biden

US President Joe Biden hit the road Tuesday, touting his domestic accomplishments in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, as he acknowledged 40-year high inflation.

He pointed to the economic disruption of the Covid-19 pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as he warned the ongoing war would continue to “take its toll” on the global economy.

“Look, we’ve made a lot of progress and we have an incredible opportunity ahead of us but we know that families are still struggling with higher prices,” he said in remarks at the Port Authority of New Hampshire.

Biden cast blame directly on Russian President Vladimir Putin as a “big reason for inflation.”

“The invasion of Ukraine has driven up gas prices and food prices all over the world. The two major breadbaskets of wheat in the world are Ukraine and Russia … What we saw in the most recent inflation data was last month about 70% of the increase in inflation was a consequence of Putin’s price hike, because of the impact on gas and energy prices,” he stated.

Biden added that he was doing everything he could to drive down prices, pointing to the release of gas from the Strategic Petroleum Reserves and his coordination with US allies and partners, prompting applause.

“The fact is that we are in a situation where the war in Ukraine is going to continue to take its toll on the world economy. It’s going to take its toll on energy. It’s going to take its toll relative to food … An awful lot of people are hurting. It makes a big difference, it makes a big difference, the cost of a dozen eggs, the cost of a gallon of gasoline, it matters,” Biden noted.

“We’re going to build this economy from the bottom up and the middle out,” the President continued.

Germany will continue to provide military aid to Ukraine but through arms manufacturers: Chancellor

Germany has exhausted the weapons it can provide to Ukraine from its stocks, but will work with private military equipment makers to help Kyiv with its requirements, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Tuesday.

“We intend to pay for these deliveries,” Scholz told a news conference in Berlin.

“Weapons with substantial impact” have already been delivered to Ukraine, he continued, adding that Germany will help work with arms manufacturers to provide Kyiv anti-tank and air defense weapons.

“We are ready to make things possible (for Ukraine),” he stated.

On Friday, Scholz noted his government will boost the country’s military assistance spending in 2022 to $2.16 billion, of which a large share of which will go to Ukraine.

Scholz has been criticized by his coalition partners and the opposition for his “indecision” and “lack of leadership” in the face of the Ukrainian demands for heavy weaponries to combat the Russian aggression.

The German chancellor said he agrees with the assessment of Ukraine’s allies that “Russia may not win this war.”

He called on Moscow to “stop the bombardment of the Ukrainian cities and enable a ceasefire immediately.”

“Withdraw your soldiers from Ukraine and conduct serious negotiations with Ukraine. Stop this horrible war,” Scholz demanded.

Biden says the US will send more artillery to Ukraine

US President Joe Biden said he plans to send more artillery to Ukraine.

Upon arrival in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, Biden was asked by reporters on the tarmac if he plans to supply Ukraine with more artillery, which he answered “yes” before boarding his motorcade, according to pool reporters.

Over the weekend, CNN reported shipments from the administration’s latest $800 million security assistance package to Ukraine “have begun arriving,” including heavier-duty equipment, like 11 Mi-17 helicopters, 18 155mm Howitzer cannons and 300 more Switchblade drones.

Russia responds to expulsion of diplomats

Ambassadors of Austria, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands were summoned to the Russian Foreign Ministry on Tuesday and informed that a number of their diplomats had been declared personae non gratae. The move is Moscow’s response to their earlier decision to expel Russian representatives over the conflict in Ukraine.

All four ambassadors received protest notes regarding their government’s recent decision to expel Russian diplomats. Austria, Belgium and the Netherlands were informed of the number of their own diplomats who would have to leave Russia in response, while Luxembourg was let off with a warning.

US may announce more anti-Russian sanctions this week: White House

Washington may toughen its anti-Russian sanctions later this week, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said.

When asked whether a new round of sanctions should be expected this week, she replied: “There could be.”

“I think that we’re still <…> doing considerations and running a process for additional sanctions, but there are some under consideration, yes,” she replied, without elaborating on potential measures.

Commenting on US President Joe Biden’s earlier video conference with Western leaders, she reaffirmed US plans to impose more sanctions on Russia.

“They [the leaders] also discussed their respective diplomatic engagements and their coordinated efforts to continue to impose severe economic costs to hold Russia accountable,” she continued, adding, “They agreed to continue to closely coordinate their efforts, including working with and through the G7, EU, and NATO.”

No one will be able to isolate Russia or stifle its economy: Medvedev

Sanctions against Russia are an economic war but no one will be able to isolate the country and stifle its economy, Deputy Chairman of Russia’s Security Council Dmitry Medvedev said at a meeting of the Presidium of the Council for Science and Education on Tuesday.

As Medvedev pointed out, Russia “is now in a special situation” amid unprecedented pressure.

“Actually, these are not even sanctions and, as some foreign officials told us, this is an economic war and this is absolutely clear,” he added.

“We were preparing for that. It is clear that the situation is complex but no one will be able to stifle our economy, isolate Russia from the world, from other states,” Medvedev emphasized.

It is necessary to concentrate all capabilities and resources “not just to withstand all these trials but emerge as victors from them,” the deputy head of Russia’s Security Council said.

This also relates to the sphere of science and education because Russia possesses required intellectual potential and human capital, Medvedev added.

“In the competition of states, in the competition that exists on the planet, precisely intellectual capital is a key indicator and decides actually everything,” he stressed.

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