Thursday, April 18, 2024

Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 63: EU says paying Russia in rubles breach of sanctions

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:

Microsoft discloses onslaught of Russian cyberattacks on Ukraine

Russian government hackers carried out multiple cyber operations against Ukraine that appeared to support Moscow’s military attacks and online propaganda campaigns, according to Microsoft.

The reported intrusions – some of which have not been previously disclosed – suggest that hacking has played a bigger role in the conflict than what has been publicly known.

The digital onslaught, which Microsoft said began one year prior to Russia’s February 24 invasion, may have laid the groundwork for different military missions in the war-torn territory, researchers found. Between February 23 and April 8, Microsoft added, it observed a total of 37 Russian destructive cyberattacks inside Ukraine.

UN says Guterres to meet with Zelensky on Thursday

The United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres will meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday, UN spokesperson Farhan Haq stated in a briefing on Wednesday.

Guterres traveled Wednesday morning from Poland to Ukraine and recently arrived in Kyiv, where he will meet Zelenskyy and Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on Thursday, Haq added.

“We expect him to speak to the press as well,” said Haq about Guterres during Thursday’s meeting.

Haq said Thursday’s meeting will “be a joint one” but did not specify who will be joining Guterres in the meeting with Zelenskyy and Kuleba. Haq also did not mention what time of day the meeting will take place.

The secretary-general was received by Polish President Andrzej Duda on Tuesday evening in Poland and briefed him on his meetings in Moscow and Ankara, Haq added.

“The Secretary-General expressed his deep appreciation and gratitude to the President for the generosity of the Polish people for the manner in which they opened their homes and their hearts to almost two million Ukrainian refugees,” Haq continued.

US reportedly lifts restrictions on intel sharing with Ukraine amid action in east, south

The United States lifted restrictions on intelligence sharing with Ukraine amid increased military action in the country’s southern and eastern areas, Bloomberg reported on Wednesday, citing a person familiar with the matter.

US intelligence chief Avril Haines informed Congress of the lifted restrictions earlier this month following a classified letter from congressman Mike Turner to the Joe Biden administration urging the action, the report said.

The increased intelligence sharing is intended to aid Ukraine in its attempts to retake territory in the southern and eastern portions of the country, towards which Russian military officials said their ongoing special operation will be focused, according to the report.

Estonia is “waiting” for Sweden and Finland to join NATO: DM

Estonia would gladly welcome the entry of Sweden and Finland into NATO to strengthen its eastern flank, the Baltic state’s defense minister said Wednesday amid reports its neighbors were planning to join the security alliance.

“I am waiting that they join NATO; it makes Europe, their security more strong,” Kalle Laanet told CNN’s Eleni Giokos.

“Estonia welcomes Sweden and Finland to our group, our allies to NATO. It will strengthen our, let’s say, eastern part of NATO,” he added, speaking from Poland on a visit to see Estonian troops stationed there.

Laanet called for more NATO troops and military equipment to be sent to Baltic states, in the face of a security order which has “totally changed” following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

War in Ukraine sparks biggest commodity shock in half a century: World Bank

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has contributed to a historic shock to commodity markets that will keep global prices high through the end of 2024, according to the World Bank.

The spike in energy prices over the past two years is the biggest since the 1973 oil crisis, while the jump in food prices is the most since 2008, the World Bank said in its commodity markets outlook report.

“Overall, this amounts to the largest commodity shock we’ve experienced since the 1970s,” stated Indermit Gill, the World Bank’s vice president for equitable growth, finance and institutions.

Russia is a leading exporter of oil, natural gas and coal, while Ukraine is a major source of wheat and corn. The situation has been exacerbated by soaring fertilizer costs and price spikes for key metals.

After nearly doubling last year, energy prices are expected to jump more than 50% this year before easing in 2023 and 2024, the World Bank said. Food prices will soar by 22.9% this year, highlighted by a 40% rise in wheat prices, according to the report.

“These developments have started to raise the specter of stagflation,” the World Bank warned, adding, “Policymakers should take every opportunity to increase economic growth at home and avoid actions that will bring harm to the global economy.”

Prices are expected to stay at “historically high levels” through the end of 2024, the World Bank announced.

The fear is that high prices for necessities will hit low-income families the hardest.

“The resulting increase in food and energy prices is taking a significant human and economic toll – and it will likely stall progress in reducing poverty,” Ayhan Kose, director of the World Bank’s Prospects Group, noted in the report.

Ukraine claims Russian forces dispersed rally in occupied Kherson

Russian forces have used tear gas and stun grenades to disperse a pro-Ukraine rally in the occupied city of Kherson, Ukraine’s prosecutor general says.

“During a peaceful pro-Ukrainian rally on Freedom Square in the city of Kherson, servicemen of the Russian armed forces used tear gas and stun grenades against the civilian population,” the prosecutor general’s office announced in a statement.

It added it was investigating the incident, and that at least four people were wounded. Russia did not immediately comment on the incident.

The developments came after local authorities stated Russia had on Tuesday appointed its own mayor in Kherson, which was the first big urban centre to be seized by Moscow’s forces after it launched its invasion in late February.

German FM says EU open for Ukraine ascension, should avoid empty promises

The European Union is open for Ukraine, but the bloc should avoid making promises it cannot fulfill, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said on Wednesday.

“European Commission President [Ursula von der Leyen] has already given Kiev a questionnaire [to open accession negotiations], we all in the room know that this is an unprecedented situation. But we have to refrain from promising things that we will not be able to fulfill,” Baerbock told German lawmakers, pointing out that the EU foundation treaty stipulates the conditions for accession, including the accession to the common internal market.

The foreign minister also said that “the European home is, of course, open for Ukraine.”

“As for these three countries [Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova], we should discuss in detail with each other what possibilities are open, including at the intermediate stages,” the minister added.

Kremlin: Difficult to talk about security after Borrell’s statement about battlefield

It is difficult to talk about the security architecture in Europe after EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said that the war in Ukraine will be “won on the battlefield,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Wednesday.

Borrell has stated that the European Union and Russia should renew relations and agree on security guarantees to peacefully coexist.

“At the moment, we are seeing statements from the head of EU diplomacy that everything needs to be decided on the battlefield. Of course, amid these statements, it is very, very difficult to talk about a new security architecture in Europe. Of course, we would first like to hear constructive rhetoric, which nevertheless invites everyone to the political and diplomatic methods of building our common future,” Peskov told reporters.

UN: Over 5.3mn people have fled Ukraine since Russia invasion

More than 5.3 million Ukrainians have fled their country since Russia invaded two months ago, the United Nations said Wednesday.

In total, 5,317,219 people have fled Ukraine as refugees since February 24, according to the latest data from the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, an increase of 52,452 in the latest 24 hour period.

While the outflow has slowed significantly since March, UNHCR has projected that three million more Ukrainians could become refugees by the end of the year.

The exodus has been described as Europe’s fastest-growing refugee crisis since World War II, but some have said even this is an understatement.

Russia expels eight Japanese diplomats

Moscow announced it is expelling eight Japanese diplomats in a tit-for-tat response to expulsions by Tokyo.

Announcing the move, Russia’s foreign ministry accused Japan of pursuing an “openly hostile anti-Russian course” and said the country’s envoys must depart by May 10.

It accused Tokyo of “taking steps that were unprecedented in modern Russian-Japanese relations” and “abandoning friendly, constructive relations with Russia”.

Earlier this month Japan expelled eight Russian diplomats and announced it will end imports of Russian coal.

Putin warns Russia will respond swiftly to any ‘interference’ in Ukraine

President Vladimir Putin has warned that any countries attempting to “interfere” in Ukraine will be faced with a swift response from Moscow.

Addressing lawmakers in St Petersburg, Putin said all decisions on how the Kremlin would react in the event of a threat to Russia’s “strategic security” have already been taken.

“If anyone would want to interfere with what’s happening in Ukraine now, from the outside, they have to know Russia’s response will be swift and fast,” he added.

“We have all sorts of tools that the West cannot obtain, and we will not boast of our weapons but we will use them if need be and I want everyone to know that,” he continued.

Putin stated Russia’s rouble, banking system, transport sector and economy as a whole have withstood sanctions imposed against Moscow and promised a response to attempts to isolate Russia.

Ukrainian official says Russia ready to use Transnistria for military push

Ukraine’s deputy defence minister has accused Russia of being ready to use Transnistria as a bridgehead to move troops onto Ukrainian territory or the remainder of Moldova.

Hanna Malyar’s comments came after local authorities in the Moscow-backed breakaway region reported a string of alleged attacks in recent days.

Russia says it is closely following events in Transdniestria. The Russian foreign ministry was this week quoted by the country’s RIA Novosti news agency as saying that it wants to avoid a scenario in which Moscow would have to intervene there.

EU: Companies would break sanctions with ruble payments

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen warned companies that bending to Moscow’s demands to pay for gas in rubles would be a breach of sanctions.

“We have round about 97% of all contracts that explicitly stipulate payments in euros or dollars, so it’s very clear. The request from the Russian side to pay in rubles is a unilateral decision and not according to the contracts,” she said.

“Companies with such contracts should not accede to the Russian demands. This would be a breach of the Russian sanctions,” she added.

Poland and Bulgaria are receiving gas from their EU neighbors, she continued.

Von der Leyen had accused Russia of trying to “blackmail” the bloc with gas, after Russian energy giant Gazprom halted supplies to Poland and Bulgaria on Wednesday.

Norway says Russia is expelling three of its diplomats

Norway’s foreign ministry announced Russia is expelling three Norwegian diplomats, weeks after Oslo expelled a similar number of Russian envoys over Moscow’s invasion.

“The Russian side has no basis for accusing the Norwegian diplomats to do anything else than normal diplomatic work,” the ministry told the Reuters news agency.

No agreement yet on participation of UN, ICRC in evacuation from Azovstal: Kremlin

The question about the participation of the UN and the International Committee of the Red Cross in evacuating civilians who may be trapped in the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol will continue to be studied, Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the media.

“It is true that this issue was raised by Mr. [Antonio] Guterres (at a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin on April 26). It will continue to be studied. No concrete agreements were achieved,” Peskov said.

The Kremlin spokesman recalled that Putin had invited Guterres to see for himself the conditions in which Ukrainian prisoners of war were kept.

“Putin suggested looking into the POWs’ conditions, if this is required. This is possible. More contacts are to follow,” he added.

On Tuesday, the UN Secretary-General’s spokesperson, Stephane Dujarric, stated that Russia had agreed to the UN’s and the ICRC’s participation in evacuating civilians from Azovstal. He noted the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and Russia’s Defense Ministry would hold further consultations following Guterres’ meetings in Moscow.

European Union proposes to drop all tariffs on imports from Ukraine

Following a request from Ukraine, the European Commission proposed on Wednesday a series of temporary “trade-liberalizing measures” that would enable Ukraine “to maintain its trade position with the rest of the world and further deepen its trade relations” with the European Union.

“These temporary and exceptional measures will contribute to supporting and fostering the existing trade flows from Ukraine to the [European] Union” and “would add flexibility and certainty for Ukrainian producers,” the Commission said in its proposal.

The Commission added Russia’s invasion of Ukraine “has had a profound negative impact on Ukraine’s ability to trade with the rest of the world.”

And to mitigate the economic impact of the aggression, the Commission explained it was “appropriate and necessary” to accelerate closer economic relations between the EU and Ukraine “in order to provide a quick support to the Ukrainian authorities and the population.”

The recommendation — which would be valid for one year — would include a “temporary suspension of all outstanding tariffs” and establish a “deep and comprehensive free trade area” between Ukraine and the EU.

The Commission proposal would remove all tariffs, import duties on industrial products, fruit and vegetables as well as drop quotas on agricultural and processed agricultural products.

In this proposal the Commission hopes that these measures would “establish conditions for enhanced economic and trade relations” with the aim of “Ukraine’s gradual integration in the EU Internal Market.”

In a statement, President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen stated, “I have been in discussions with President [Volodymyr] Zelensky on ways of supporting the economy,” and that today’s proposal “will greatly facilitate the export of Ukrainian industrial and agricultural goods to the EU.”

The proposal now needs to be signed off by the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union.

No deal reached for Zelensky and Putin to meet: Ukrainian negotiator

Mykhailo Podolyak, an aide to Volodymyr Zelenskyy and a negotiator in Kyiv’s talks with Moscow, says no agreement has been reached for the Ukrainian president and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to discuss the war despite efforts by Turkey to arrange such a meeting.

His remarks came after Ankara announced on Tuesday that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had told Putin in a phone call that maintaining the “positive momentum” achieved in talks between Ukraine and Russia earlier this month in Istanbul would benefit all sides.

UK PM calls Russia sanctions on British lawmakers a ‘badge of honour’

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has told the country’s lawmakers who have been sanctioned by Russia to consider the measures as a “badge of honour”.

“We will keep up our robust and principled support for the Ukrainian people and their right to protect their lives, their families and themselves,” Johnson told the United Kingdom’s Parliament.

His remarks came after Russia’s foreign ministry announced Moscow had imposed personal restrictions on 287 MPs and banned them from entering the country.

UN tourism body chief says Russia quitting the organisation

The head of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) has announced that Russia decided to quit the international agency just as its member states were preparing to vote on its suspension over its invasion.

Zurab Pololikashvili, the secretary general of the Madrid-based UNWTO, had earlier stated he hoped members would vote to suspend Russia from the body.

The move follows a vote by the UN General Assembly earlier this month to suspend Russia from the UN Human Rights Council – an inter-governmental body within the assembly – over reports of “gross and systematic violations and abuses of human rights” in Ukraine.

US used labs in Ukraine to work on new bioweapons: Russia

The United States has created a chain of bio-laboratories around the world, including Ukraine, where research into new biological weapons was carried out, the Russian Security Council’s secretary, Nikolay Patrushev, told a conference on security issues in southern Russia.

He said evidence to that effect had been obtained in the process of Russia’s special operation in Ukraine.

Patrushev added the North Atlantic Treaty Organization sent its military advisers and instructors to Ukraine with the purpose to push Kiev to use force to resolve the situation in Donbass and start an armed conflict with Russia.

He stated since 2014 Ukraine has been under full US control and “was intensively utilized by the armed forces of NATO countries and inundated by state-of-the-art weapons.”

“NATO countries sent their military advisers and instructors with the single goal to prepare the Kiev regime for a forceful solution of the issue with the Donetsk and Lugansk people’s republics and to provoke an armed confrontation with Russia,” he continued.

He said that Moscow had been doing everything possible for eight years to resolve the situation in the Donbass with regard to the millions of people living there by using peaceful, political means.

“However, the Ukrainian authorities weren’t going to conduct any dialogue with their citizens, declared them “terrorists”, and then publicly announced that they would not comply with the Minsk agreements,” the Security Council secretary added.

Turkey hopes Putin and Zelensky will meet ‘in coming days’: DM

Turkey hopes that a meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky will take place in the next few days, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said on Wednesday following consultations on the West’s military assistance to Kiev held at Ramstein Air Base in Germany.

“We hope that despite some difficulties, the two leaders will be able to meet in the coming days thanks to the proposals of our president [Recep Tayyip Erdogan],” the Turkish defense ministry quoted him as saying.

According to Akar, “Turkey continues to contribute, to do everything necessary, including playing a mediating role, so that the humanitarian situation in Ukraine does not deteriorate and a cease-fire is reached as soon as possible.”

Ankara regularly expresses its desire to host a meeting between Putin and Zelensky, but Moscow has repeatedly responded to such proposals by explaining that Putin has never refused in principle to meet with Zelensky, but that a text of the document on Ukraine needs to be prepared.

Russian envoy castigates claims of China supplying arms to Moscow

Western press reports saying Russia has been receiving armaments from China are groundless, Russian Ambassador to China Andrey Denisov said on Wednesday.

“I think [the reports] are absolutely [groundless]. To be honest, I have no idea where they could have come from. Perhaps, they wanted [the report] to resonate as much as possible, so they cooked up a spine-tingling story,” Denisov stated in a live broadcast by the Rossiya-24 television channel, commenting on the claims of Chinese arms supplies to Russia.

The diplomat emphasized that even US defense officials who “wouldn’t be caught having any excessive love for truthful information” had been forced to “renounce the obvious fake news.”

Earlier, White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan acknowledged China was not supplying arms to Russia. He admitted that the two countries have been maintaining economic contracts, yet, in Washington’s view, those are not aimed at undermining the anti-Russian sanctions. Before that, media reports emerged alleging that Russia had requested military aid from China.

Kremlin rejects accusations of blackmail in stopping gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria

The Kremlin has rejected accusations of blackmail in its move to halt gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria, after they refused to pay in rubles.

“This is not blackmail,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on a regular conference call.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen had accused Russia of using gas to “blackmail” the bloc, after Gazprom said it halted supplies to the two countries on Wednesday.

“The need for the conditions that were documented in President [Putin’s] decree, meaning the new payment method, was caused by unprecedented unfriendly steps in the economy and financial sector undertaken against us by unfriendly countries,” Peskov stated.

According to Peskov, Russia was forced to switch to payment in rubles for gas supply to Europe due to the new restrictions.

“We had a significant amount of our reserves blocked, or ‘stolen’, putting it simply. All this required a transition to a new payment system,” Peskov went on to say.

Peskov added that all the new conditions “were brought to the attention of buyers in advance.”

Russia sanctions hundreds of British lawmakers

Russia has sanctioned 287 members of the British Parliament, including Downing Street Chief of Staff Steve Barclay and speaker of the House of Commons Lindsay Hoyle, its Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced on Wednesday.

The retaliatory move bans the politicians from entering Russia and comes in response to the UK sanctioning 386 Russian lawmakers on March 11, it says.

Both Conservative and Labour party lawmakers are among those sanctioned by Moscow.

“These persons, who are no longer allowed to enter the Russian Federation, took the most active part in the establishment of anti-Russian sanctions instruments in London, and contribute to the groundless whipping up of Russophobic hysteria in the UK,” the Russian Foreign Ministry’s statement reads.

“The hostile rhetoric and far-fetched accusations coming from the mouths of British parliamentarians not only condone the hostile course of London, aimed at demonizing our country and its international isolation, but are also used by opponents of mutually respectful dialogue with Russia to undermine the foundation of bilateral cooperation,” it added.

British Environment Secretary George Eustice, Brexit minister Jacob Rees-Mogg, and Conservative lawmakers Jeremy Hunt and Steve Baker are among the most prominent British political figures to feature in Russia’s list.

Polish leader accuses Russia of “direct attack” by halting gas supplies

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki on Wednesday accused Russia of a “direct attack” on his country by halting gas supplies.

Speaking in Poland’s lower house of parliament, the Sejm, Morawiecki sought to reassure lawmakers about increased supply through other pipelines, and that come the fall, “Poland will not need Russian gas.”

This is a direct attack on Poland … but we were preparing ourselves up to that point,” he told the Sejm according to his official Twitter account.

He announced that Poland’s Świnoujście terminal is operational and will expand its production from six billion cubic meters of LNG (liquified natural gas) to between seven and eight billion cubic meters.

Morawiecki also noted a new gas pipeline under construction in Norway called the Baltic Gas Pipeline will be completed in three months time, which he said will pump 10 billion cubic meters of LNG into Poland.

A new cross-border pipeline under construction with Slovakia will pump more than five billion cubic meters of LNG once completed, he added.

Poland also has interconnectors with Germany and the Czech Republic, and “in a few days, we are opening an interconnector with Lithuania,” he said. He added this was all on top of between 20 and 21 billion cubic meters of domestic LNG production.

“We will not bow to this blackmail. I want to assure my fellow citizens that [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s actions will not affect the situation in Poland. Russia not only carried out a brutal, murderous attack on Ukraine but also attacked energy and food security,” he said.

“Ukraine is on the front line. We, all European countries, must be aware that this is a fight for peace, a fight for sovereignty, a fight for security, and we must not bow,” he added.

Russia will have “a case to answer” for alleged war crimes in Bucha: ICC chief prosecutor

There will be “a case to answer in due course” on Russia’s alleged war crimes in the Ukrainian town of Bucha, the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) Karim Khan told CNN.

“We will get to the truth because there’s no place to hide in the courtroom. Whatever the narratives and counter-narratives, the evidence should properly be tested … and there will be — I think — a case to answer in due course,” Khan told CNN’s Anderson Cooper during a wide-ranging interview, when asked how the ICC might build a case in Ukraine.
Khan made the comments while reviewing images shared with CNN by Ukrainian prosecutors, as they investigate alleged Russian war crimes.

Located on the outskirts of Kyiv, Bucha was occupied by Russian forces for roughly three weeks in March. The photos — which were taken from March 5-7 — show the bodies of civilians littered in the streets of several locations around the town.

The Kremlin has denied any involvement in the mass killings of civilians in Ukraine, while reiterating baseless claims that images of bodies on the streets of Bucha are “fake.”

Khan addressed Russia’s disinformation directly.

“Those bodies that are in those bags on the screen are not fake. I’ve seen them. I stood beside them. The issue is how did they die, who is responsible and in what circumstances?” Khan said, adding that the world was watching to see how “effective the rule of law” would be regarding Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

We need to go forward in a way that’s much more effective perhaps than in the past,” Khan explained, hinting at jurisdictional issues faced by the ICC.

On Monday, the ICC joined an EU investigation into possible war crimes committed in Ukraine during Russia’s invasion, marking the court’s first joint investigation in its twenty-year history.

“The Office of the Prosecutor of the ICC in The Hague will become a participant in the joint investigation team (JIT) on alleged core international crimes committed in Ukraine,” the EU’s judicial cooperation agency announced in a statement.

During a visit to the towns of Bucha and Borodianka in mid-April, Khan noted there were “reasonable grounds to believe that crimes within the jurisdiction of the ICC” were being committed there.

But Khan also warned that it would be “challenging” to guarantee justice would be served in Ukraine, given Russia’s decision to withdraw its signature from the ICC statute, which gives the court jurisdiction to prosecute individuals for genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and the crime of aggression.

Russia also doesn’t extradite its citizens to other countries.

Evidence of mass graves in the towns of Bucha and Borodianka has continued to emerge since early April, following the withdrawal of Russian forces from the Kyiv region.

UK to urge allies to send warplanes to Ukraine

British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss will urge Western allies to supply Ukraine with warplanes and other heavy weapons, according to a news release from the UK’s Foreign Office.

In a keynote foreign policy speech that she is expected to deliver at London’s Madison House on Thursday, Truss will argue the need to “double down” on supporting Ukraine’s military.

“We cannot be complacent — the fate of Ukraine remains in the balance,” Truss will say, according to the release.

“And let’s be clear — if Putin succeeds there will be untold further misery across Europe and terrible consequences across the globe. We would never feel safe again. So we must be prepared for the long haul and double down on our support for Ukraine.”
“Heavy weapons, tanks, aeroplanes — digging deep into our inventories, ramping up production. We need to do all of this,” she is expected to say.

The global security architecture “that was designed to guarantee peace and prosperity has failed Ukraine” and a “new approach” is needed, Truss will say.

It comes as NATO countries ramp up their military support for Ukraine. In a major policy U-turn on Tuesday, Germany announced it will supply Ukraine with anti-aircraft tanks. Canada and the UK also announced they would supply more heavy weapons on Tuesday.

Moldovan breakaway region reports shots fired from Ukraine

Transnistria’s interior ministry says that shots were fired from Ukrainian territory overnight towards a village in the Russia-backed breakaway region that houses a large ammunition depot.

The ministry also added that it had detected drones that it alleged were launched from Ukraine.

While internationally recognised as part of Moldova, Transnistria has been under the control of separatist authorities since 1992, following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Russia has an estimated 1,500 soldiers in the region, which Kyiv fears could be used as a launchpad for new attacks on Ukraine.

Russia claims it destroyed ‘large batch’ of Western-supplied arms

Russia’s defence ministry announced its forces had destroyed a large quantity of Western-supplied weapons in Ukraine with long-range missiles.

“On the territory of the Zaporizhzhia aluminium plant, high-precision long-range sea-based Kalibr missiles destroyed hangars with a large batch of foreign weapons and ammunition supplied by the United States and European countries for Ukrainian troops,” the ministry said in a briefing.

Russian forces have destroyed 607 Ukrainian unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), 2,596 tanks and other combat vehicles and 296 multiple rocket launchers since the start of their special military operation in Ukraine, Russian Defense Ministry Spokesman Major-General Igor Konashenkov noted on Wednesday.

“Overall, the following targets have been destroyed since the start of the special military operation: 141 aircraft, 110 helicopters, 607 unmanned aerial vehicles, 273 surface-to-air missile systems, 2,596 tanks and other combat armored vehicles, 296 multiple launch rocket systems, 1,134 field artillery guns and mortars and 2,413 special military motor vehicles,” the spokesman continued.

Russia attacking Azostval steel plant: Aide to Mariupol’s mayor

Russian forces are attacking the Azostval steel plant where Ukrainian fighters and some civilians are holed up in the southern city of Mariupol, an aide to the city’s mayor has claimed.

Petro Andryushchenko stated no agreements had been reached on trying to evacuate civilians from Mariupol today.

Ukrainian presidential aide portrays blasts in Russia as payback

A Ukrainian presidential aide described explosions heard in three Russian provinces bordering Ukraine on Wednesday as “karma” and payback for the war in Ukraine.

Presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak, in comments on the Telegram messaging app, did not acknowledge Ukraine as being responsible for the incidents.

“The reasons for the destruction of the military infrastructure in (Russian) border areas can be quite varied,” he wrote, adding that “sooner or later the debts will have to be repaid” when one country decides to attack another country.

European gas prices soar after supply disruption

Natural gas prices in Europe skyrocketed on Wednesday after Poland and Bulgaria were hit by a supply freeze from Russia in response to the countries’ refusal to pay for deliveries in rubles.

Russian state energy giant and major gas exporter Gazprom announced earlier on Wednesday it had completely halted gas flows to Bulgaria and Poland after the two countries failed to pay for April supplies in the Russian currency. According to Gazprom, the suspension will remain in force until payment is received in rubles.

Austria will pay in rubles for Russian gas

Austria has accepted the new ruble gas payment mechanism, introduced by Russia earlier this month, and will abide by it, Chancellor Karl Nehammer announced on Wednesday.

“We, that is, [state energy company] OMV, accepted the terms of payment, as did the German government. They [the terms] were found to be in line with the terms of the sanctions. For us, this was important,” Nehammer said at a press conference.

He added, however, that Austria still supports Ukraine-related anti-Russia sanctions.

“Before the fake news of Russian propaganda steps in,” he stressed, “of course, OMV continues to pay for gas supplies from Russia in euros. Austria adheres to the point of view and supports the jointly adopted EU sanctions.”

EU chief accuses Russia of trying to “blackmail” the bloc with gas

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen accused Russia of trying to “blackmail” the bloc with gas, after Russian energy giant Gazprom halted supplies to Poland and Bulgaria on Wednesday.

“Gazprom’s announcement is another attempt by Russia to blackmail us with gas. We are prepared for this scenario. We are mapping out our coordinated EU response,” von der Leyen wrote on Twitter.

“Europeans can trust that we stand united and in solidarity with the Member States impacted,” she added.

In a separate statement, von der Leyen said a meeting between the EU’s gas coordination group was underway to map out a response.

Gazprom halted gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria after both countries refused to pay in rubles. Russia had warned “unfriendly” countries last month that they would need to pay for gas in the Russian currency starting April 1, or risk being cut off.

The payment spat threatens gas supplies that have continued to flow, even as Russian troops shelled major cities in Ukraine and the West imposed crippling sanctions on Russia’s economy.

The EU is planning to slash the consumption of Russian natural gas this year as it prepares for a complete break with its single biggest energy supplier. But Europe would struggle to survive for long without Russian gas, and finding alternative sources presents a huge logistical challenge.

Bulgarian PM accuses Russia of blackmail over gas supplies

Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov says Russia’s warning it was shutting off gas supplies to Bulgaria over demands to change the payment scheme is a grave breach of a current contract and amounts to blackmail.

Petkov stated Bulgaria was currently reviewing all of its contracts with Gazprom, including for transit of Russian gas to Serbia and Hungary, because “one-sided blackmail was not acceptable”.

Petkov added he talked to the European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who assured him the 27-member bloc would have a common response.

Russian energy giant Gazprom announced it had halted gas supplies to Bulgaria and Poland for failing to pay in roubles.

Bulgaria’s energy minister says the country has paid for Russian gas deliveries for April and halting gas supplies would be a breach of its current contract with Gazprom, Reuters reports.

Alexander Nikolov told journalists Bulgaria would observe the European Commission’s stance urging countries not to pay in roubles for Russian gas as demanded by the Russian president.

“Because all trade and legal obligations are being observed, it is clear that at the moment the natural gas is being used more as a political and economic weapon in the current war,” Nikolov added.

Russia’s gas cuts add to ‘economic pariah’ status: UK

Russia’s decision to cut off gas supply to Poland will add to its status as an economic and political pariah, Britain’s deputy minister has said.

“It (halting gas supply) will have a … very damaging effect on Russia as well because it is becoming further and further, more and more, not just a political pariah, but an economic pariah,” Dominic Raab told Sky News.

Russian parliament speaker: Cut off gas to other ‘unfriendly’ countries

Russia’s top lawmaker says gas giant Gazprom has made the right decision in fully suspending supplies to Bulgaria and Poland, adding that Moscow should do the same with other “unfriendly” countries.

“The same should be done with regard to other countries that are unfriendly to us,” Vyacheslav Volodin, the speaker of Russia’s lower house of parliament, the Duma, wrote on his Telegram channel.

‘Ukraine is strengthening’ after US, allies promise more heavy weaponry: Ukrainian presidential aide

Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak stated he welcomes promises by the United States and its allies to send more heavy weaponry to Ukraine following talks at a German air base.

“One of Russia’s odd demands at the start of the war was the ‘full demilitarization’ of Ukraine. After yesterday’s epochal meeting of 40 defense ministers, I have bad news for Russia. Capacity, speed, simplified logistics, an expanded range of weapons – Ukraine is strengthening,” he wrote on Twitter.

Ukraine, Donbass refugees fleeing to Russia top 1mn

Over a million people have fled Ukraine and the Donbass republics to Russia, a law enforcement source told TASS.

“More than a million people have fled Ukraine, the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Lugansk People’s Republic to Russia since the Donbass escalation, including over 182,000 children,” the source said.

Ukraine acknowledges losing towns in the east as Russia steps up offensive

The Ukrainian armed forces have acknowledged the loss of several towns and villages in eastern regions as Russia steps up its ground offensive.

Heavy fighting is ongoing on three fronts, with Russian forces being reinforced and resupplied from bases inside Russia, according to a spokesperson for the Ukrainian military on Wednesday.

Despite the loss of territory, Ukrainian authorities claimed nine enemy attacks were repulsed in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions alone, with Russian equipment destroyed — including nine tanks and 11 artillery systems.

Ukrainian troops are essentially fighting in three directions to prevent Russian forces from taking over all of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, which has been the Kremlin’s declared goal.

From the north, Russian units are attacking in the direction of Barkinove, a town south of Izium, and had taken the village of Zavody which has been contested for several days, the Ukrainian military said.

The Ukrainians also acknowledged that Russians had seized the outskirts of the settlement of Velyka Komyshuvakha in the same area.

From the east, Russian forces have taken control of the town of Zarichne, and have started attacking nearby Yampil.

The spokesman noted Russian offensive operations were also focused on the Severodonetsk, Popasna and Kurakhiv areas. Russian troops have also taken control of the settlement of Novotoshkivske, and are trying to advance further westward.

In the south, Russian forces are trying to consolidate a land bridge to Crimea and occupy Ukrainian coastal regions.

The southern command of the Ukrainian armed forces announced that Russian units were regrouping and conducting air reconnaissance, and are trying to push north toward the city of Kryvyi Rih and into the Zaporizhzhia region.

It also accused the Russians occupying the region of Kherson of further “filtration” of civilians in two districts.

Reported damage includes energy infrastructure in the town of Zelenodolsk and a severe fire in Dnipropetrovsk.

“The armed forces of Ukraine are showing courage and conducting successful operations,” stated the head of the Kryvyi Rih city military administration. He added that Russian prisoners had been taken.

A key bridge near Odesa has been struck again in a missile attack

The chairman of the Ukrainian railway network, Oleksandr Kamyshin, says another missile has hit a rail and road bridge linking the port city of Odesa with the far southwest portion of Ukraine.

“Today at 6:45 a.m. a second rocket attack on the same bridge across the Dniester Estuary in the Odesa region took place,” Kamyshin said. There were no injured railway workers, he added.

“The damage to the infrastructure can be determined after the air alert,” he stated.

The bridge had been struck by a Russian missile attack on Tuesday, city authorities announced — essentially cutting off the region as it’s the only link between southwest Ukraine and the rest of the country. Repair work had just started when the Wednesday strike hit.

Russia’s Belgorod region extends high “terrorist danger” threat level

The Belgorod region, which neighbors Ukraine, is extending its high “terrorist danger” security level status through May 10, according to a notice published on a local government website.

The yellow security status — which has been in place since April 10 — is the second-highest alert level, as it signifies authorities have information suggesting the real possibility of a terrorist act, according to the Russian government.

The regional government is asking citizens in the region to not attend mass gatherings and to bring their identification documents when they go out. Setting off firecrackers and fireworks is also forbidden by the order.

The extension comes as a fire broke out Wednesday at an ammunition depot in the village of Staraya Nelidovka, which is about 10 miles south of the city of Belgorod. It’s unclear how that fire began, but several military installations in the region have caught fire or exploded since the war in Ukraine began.

Russia has accused Ukraine of being responsible for some of the past fires and explosions at Russian military installations.

Gazprom completely suspends gas supplies to Bulgaria & Poland after they refuse to pay in Rubles

Russian energy giant Gazprom stated it has completely suspended gas supplies to the Bulgarian company Bulgargaz and the Polish PGNiG as neither had paid on time in roubles.

“Gazprom has completely suspended gas supplies to Bulgargaz (Bulgaria) and PGNiG (Poland) for failing to pay in rubles… in accordance with the procedure established by the decree [issued by Russian President Vladimir Putin],” the company said.

The energy giant added that it will reduce transit to third countries if Bulgaria and Poland begin to withdraw gas from the transit flow without authorization.

Blasts reported in 3 Russian regions bordering Ukraine

Blasts were heard early Wednesday in three Russian regions bordering Ukraine, local authorities and Russian state media reported.

The blast was followed by a fire at the ammunition depot in the village of Staraya Nelidovka, about 10 miles north of the Ukrainian border, regional governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said on his Telegram on Wednesday. He added that there were “no casualties among civilians.”

In the region of Kursk, residents “heard explosions” around 2:45 a.m. local time. The governor, Roman Starovoyt, stated the details surrounding the explosions are still “being clarified,” but that there were no casualties or destruction.

The Kursk explosions come just two days after two Ukrainian drones were shot down by Russian air defense crews in the region’s village of Borovskoye, according to Starovoyt.

Two loud bangs were heard by residents in the Shilovo neighborhood of the Russian city Voronezh at 4:40 a.m., according to Russian state media TASS, citing authorities.

“A civil defense and emergency response team and a team of the Russian Emergencies Ministry are currently at the site of the incident. An Investigative Committee official is about to arrive,” a district civil defense and emergency official reportedly told TASS.
Voronezh is located roughly 200 miles from the Ukrainian border and is a major military and transport hub.

Russian officials have repeatedly accused Ukraine of mounting cross-border attacks on fuel depots and military installations, claims which Ukrainian government agencies say are intended to stoke “anti-Ukrainian sentiment.”

Ukraine still controls most of its airspace: UK

Ukraine retains control of most of its airspace, while Russia has failed to effectively destroy the Ukrainian Air Force or suppress the country’s air defences, the UK defence ministry has said in its latest intelligence briefing.

It added that Russia’s air activity was focused mainly on southern and eastern Ukraine and that it had very limited air access to the north and west of the country.

The briefing also said Russia was likely using “unguided free-falling bombs” in its air strikes on Mariupol. “These weapons reduce Russia’s ability to effectively discriminate when conducting strikes, increasing the risk of civilian casualties,” the defence ministry announced.

Russia says it ‘liberated’ entire Kherson region

Russia’s defence ministry has said its forces have liberated the entire Kherson region in the south of Ukraine, Interfax news agency has reported.

It cited a senior official as saying elsewhere in the south of Ukraine, Russian troops had taken parts of the Zaporizhzhia and Mykolaiv regions, as well as part of the Kharkiv region to the east of Kyiv.

A steady flow of people have been making their way across fields and rivers dotting southern Ukraine’s countryside through the day. As night falls, the crowds swell. They travel on foot, by bicycle, or wheelbarrow.

Russia shelled Sumy region for ‘more than a day’: Governor

Russia fired mortar bombs at various settlements in the Sumy region from across the border, the region’s governor has said.

“We see that these shellings continue for more than a day from Bachevsk to Belopolye. Almost the entire border line is fired from heavy artillery and mortars,” Dmitry Zhivitsky added.

Ukraine has recaptured three villages in Mykolaiv: Official

Ukraine’s army now has full control of three settlements in the Mykolaiv region, an adviser to the head of Ukraine’s Ministry of Internal Affairs has said.

“The Armed Forces of Ukraine have returned full control over three villages west of Snihurivka: Shirokoye, Lyubino and Novopetrivka,” Anton Gerashchenko added.

Gazprom has not confirmed gas suspension to Poland

Russia’s Gazprom has not confirmed that the supply of Russian gas to Poland has already been stopped, a spokesman for the energy giant has said, according to state news agency TASS.

Sergey Kupriyanov told reporters that Gazprom stressed that “today Poland is obliged to pay for gas supplies in accordance with the new payment procedure”.

He did not comment on Bulgaria’s claims.

On March 31, President Vladimir Putin signed a decree for a new procedure for the payment of gas by “unfriendly countries”.

Now such states must transfer funds in foreign currencies to Gazprombank, which will buy roubles on exchanges and transfer them to special rouble accounts of importers. Poland is on the list of unfriendly countries, TASS reported.

Moscow: Kiev’s use of Western weapons against Russia to cause retaliation

London’s policy of instigating the regime in Kiev to use Western weapons against Russia, should such attempts occur, will entail proportionate retaliation, the Russian Defense Ministry said on Tuesday following British Deputy Defense Minister James Heappey’s statement to the effect the British government believes it would be permissible for Ukraine to attack “legitimate” military targets on Russian territory.

“We would like to stress that London’s direct instigation of the regime in Kiev to commit such actions, should these attempts materialize, will instantly entail our proportionate response. As we have warned, the Russian armed forces are ready round the clock to carry out retaliatory strikes with long-range smart weapons against decision-making centers in Kiev,” the Defense Ministry announced.

Also, the Defense Ministry warned that “the subjects of one of the Western countries, present at the Ukrainian decision-making centers in Kiev in the capacity of advisers, will not necessarily constitute a problem for Russia in making a decision to retaliate.”

Earlier, Heappey said in a BBC interview that it would be “completely legitimate” for Ukraine to attack targets inside Russa with Western weapons.

“It is completely legitimate for Ukraine to be targeting in Russia’s depth in order to disrupt the logistics,” he added.

EU to bring dependence on Russian energy to zero by 2027: European Commissioner

The European Union intends to reduce its dependence on Russian oil and gas by two-thirds by the end of 2022 and bring it to zero by the end of 2027, European Commissioner for Economy Paolo Gentiloni noted in an interview with the Messaggero newspaper when commenting on the RePower EU program announced in March.

“As the evolution of various packages of sanctions will most probably include energy, we are dealing with it. The first goal is to reduce the dependence on Russian oil and gas by two-thirds by the end of this year to bring it to zero by 2027, while the second is to develop a strategy that will not slow down the climate shift,” he said, adding that “the way towards reducing the dependence on Russian energy lies through renewable sources.”

The commissioner admitted that the European Union will have to downgrade its outlook on economic growth of 4% projected earlier.

“So far it is early to say whether this slowdown will lead to stagnation as there are certain positive moments inherited from the second half of 2021, such as a very low unemployment level and a very high level of saving activity,” he explained.

“The stagnation risk will also largely depend on the continuity of the conflict in Ukraine,” Gentiloni stated.

Nearly three-fourths of Americans support US helping supply weapons to Ukraine: Poll

Close to 75 percent of Americans back the United States assisting in supplying weapons to Ukraine, according to a new poll.

A Reuters-Ipsos poll found that 73 percent of people support the US aiding in arms shipments to the former Soviet Union nation, up from 68 percent in March, Reuters reported.

When it comes to President Joe Biden’s job regarding Ukraine, 46 percent of Americans give the president a thumbs-up. Broken down by party, the partisan divisions are stark: 24 percent of Republicans and 70 percent of Democrats approve of the job he is doing regarding Ukraine, according to the poll, the news outlet noted.

Ukraine says Russia has no right to “blackmail world” with the threat of nuclear weapons

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky spoke about Russia and nuclear weapons while criticizing recent Russian troops’ operations at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant during a joint news conference in Kyiv with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) director general Rafael Mariano Grossi.

“Today on the 36th anniversary of the disaster at Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, again the world was just a step from disaster because for the Russian troops, the plant and the entire was just another combat action zone where they didn’t care for nuclear safety,” Zelensky said.

Zelensky accused the Russian troops of operating with little regard to nuclear danger and of looting and damaging several areas of the plant, including the system control center and laboratory.

The Chernobyl nuclear power plant in northern Ukraine was occupied by Russian forces just a few weeks ago and is now back under Ukrainian control.

He warned that their carelessness signals the danger of Russia using nuclear weapons.

“Given the level of the threat, we believe Russia has no right to turn nuclear energy into weapons and blackmail the world with the use of nuclear weapons,” Zelensky added.

During the news conference, Zelensky personally thanked the staff members who stayed to maintain the plant as the Russian troops occupied. The staff was offered medals for their work.

Zelensky and Grossi discussed the current level of nuclear threat and damage to the facilities.

Grossi said he agreed that the IAEA would continue to work to restore the capacity and infrastructure that was damaged in recent weeks.

“In spite of these difficulties, it’s important to look into the future, look into peace, the moment that Ukraine will regain its peace, its tranquility, and the safety that all its citizens deserve,” Grossi added.

Grossi made a working visit to the Chernobyl nuclear power plant on International Chernobyl Disaster Remembrance Day, marking 36 years since an explosion there “spread a radioactive cloud over large parts of the Soviet Union, now the territories of Belarus, Ukraine and the Russian Federation,” as the UN describes it.

Nearly 8.4 million people in the three countries are known to have been exposed to the radiation, the UN also says.

The IAEA chief said of the visit, “We are marking the day. We are remembering what needs to be remembered. We are paying respect and honor to those who deserve it, but we are working.”

During the working visit, the IAEA delivered a first batch of equipment, including radiation-monitoring equipment, Grossi continued.

IAEA safety inspectors are working closely with their Ukrainian counterparts to monitor and compare radiation measurements at the plant and the exclusion zone and then maintain a presence “for as long as the situation requires,” Grossi added, while speaking on scene to reporters.

When asked by one reporter how close Chernobyl had been to another disaster while under Russian occupation, Grossi said that while the situation was “completely different” than the 1986 explosion with a then working nuclear reactor, that it still “could have developed into an accident.”

All credit for avoiding a worse fate was due to the operators, the IAEA chief added.

“I think the first credit must go to the operators. To these people here, because they carried on their work in spite of all the difficulties. In spite of the stress, in spite of the fact that they could not be working normally,” he noted.

New drone video shows Russian military vehicles & forces on Bucha street strewn with civilian bodies

Despite Russia’s repeated denials they were responsible for any carnage in Bucha, Russian military vehicles and forces were seen on a Bucha street near civilian bodies, new drone video obtained exclusively by CNN shows.

CNN has geolocated and confirmed the authenticity of the videos, which were taken by a drone on March 12 and 13. CNN is not naming the individual that took the video over concerns for their safety.

A Russian military vehicle is seen sitting at an intersection in the video from March 13. CNN has identified three objects in the video — just down the street from the military vehicle — are the same bodies that were seen in the video from April 1 and satellite images taken by Maxar Technologies on March 18.

Additional drone video from March 13 shows another Russian military vehicle traveling further up the street, in the direction of the bodies.

In the March 12 video, a number of Russian soldiers are seen around a military vehicle parked outside of a house, just down the street from the bodies. It’s unclear what they are doing at the house.

CNN asked the Russian Ministry of Defense for comment but did not immediately receive a response.

Russian officials — President Vladimir Putin’s spokesperson Dmitry Peskov and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov — have repeatedly claimed that the videos and satellite images that show bodies in Bucha are fake.

This drone video is the first piece of evidence to emerge from Bucha that shows Russian vehicles and troops operating on the street, where the bodies were found by Ukrainian forces when they retook the town on April 1.

The images that emerged from Bucha after Russian forces retreated have drawn enormous outrage from the international community.

It’s also led some leaders, including US President Joe Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron, to call for the atrocities that took place in Bucha war crimes.

Zelensky: Russia trying to destabilize region through occupation of breakaway region in Moldova

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Russia is trying to destabilize the region through military activity in Moldova’s breakaway region of Transnistria.

“This is just one of the steps of the Russian federation. This is happening to destabilize the region and threaten Moldova,” Zelensky stated when asked by a journalist during a joint press conference in Kyiv with IAEA director general Rafael Mariano Grossi on Tuesday.

“This is showing that if Moldova supports Ukraine this is what’s going to happen,” he added.

In recent days, Ukraine has accused Russian troops of firing missiles and conducting operations in Transnistria.

When asked about the number of Russian troops present in Transnistria, Zelensky said Ukrainian armed forces are “prepared and not afraid” to deal with a new front of the military invasion.

“With regard to certain Russian troops that are constantly present in the temporarily occupied territory — this has been so for many, many years. We know they’re on alert, just waiting for the order,” Zelensky added.

Russia remains focused on attempts to encircle Ukrainian forces in the east: Adviser to Zelensky

Russia remains focused on attempts to surround Ukrainian forces in the east of the country, a Ukrainian presidential advisor said Tuesday.

Oleksiy Arestovych, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, stated Russia’s main efforts in the east were around the towns of Popasna, Severodonetsk and Rubizhne, with further fighting around Sloviansk and Kramatorsk.

“Although the enemy resorted to powerful artillery and airstrikes, our troops successfully maneuver and repel attacks,” Arestovych added.

An ammunition depot in Russia’s Belgorod region is on fire: Regional governor

An ammunition depot is on fire in a rural village in Russia’s Belgorod region, said regional governor Vyacheslav Gladkov on his Telegram Wednesday.

“According to preliminary information, an ammunition depot is on fire near the village of Staraya Nelidovka. No damage has been incurred by residential buildings and houses. There were no casualties among the civilians,” Gladkov added.

Staraya Nelidovka is about 10 miles north of the Ukrainian border, and about 10 miles south of the city of Belgorod.

Russia’s Gazprom to halt shipments to Bulgaria

Russia’s Gazprom has told Bulgaria that, similar to steps taken against Poland, it will halt its shipments of gas to the country from Wednesday.

“Bulgargaz received a notification today, April 26, that natural gas supplies from Gazprom Export will be suspended starting April 27,” Bulgaria’s economy ministry said late Tuesday in a statement.

“The Bulgarian side has fully met its obligations and has made all payments required under its current contract in a timely manner, strictly and in accordance with its terms,” it added.

Johnson says he doesn’t expect Putin to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he does not expect Russian President Vladimir Putin to use tactical nuclear weapons in Ukraine.

When asked during a sit-down interview with Britain’s “Talk TV” if he fears that Putin may use tactical nuclear weapons in Ukraine if Moscow faced defeat in its ongoing invasion, Johnson stated that he does not share the same worry.

Russia Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov announced Monday that nuclear deterrence is Russia’s “principled position,” but he added that “the danger is serious, it is real, it cannot be underestimated.”

Johnson noted Putin had the “political space” to be able to back down and withdraw from Ukraine.

“[Putin] could come to a point, when you look and say to the Russian people: The military technical operation that we launched in Ukraine has been accomplished. We had to go into to accomplish certain protectors to protect the rights of certain people that’s been done,” Johnson continued.

US calls talk of nuclear escalation by Russia irresponsible

The US Department of State has criticised Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s comments about the potential of a nuclear war.

It stressed loose talk about nuclear escalation was the “height of irresponsibility”.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has also said Russia’s most recent threats of escalating its attack on Ukraine into a nuclear conflict are “unhelpful” and “irresponsible.”

“You’ve heard us say a number of times that that kind of rhetoric is very dangerous and unhelpful,” Austin told reporters.

“Nobody wants to see a nuclear war happen. It’s a war where all sides lose, and so rattling sabers and … dangerous rhetoric is clearly unhelpful and something that we won’t engage it,” he added.

Gazprom informs Poland PGNiG it will halt gas supplies: Statement

Russia’s Gazprom has informed Poland’s PGNiG that it will halt gas supplies along the Yamal pipeline at 08:00 CET (06:00 GMT) on Wednesday, PGNiG said in a statement published on Tuesday.

PGNiG added it will take steps to reinstate the flow of gas according to the Yamal contract and the halt of supplies was a breach of that contract.

It announced it has the right to pursue damages over the breach of contract.

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