Thursday, February 22, 2024

Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 64: Biden requests $33bn more in Ukraine aid

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:

At least one person killed in Kyiv: Rescue officials

At least one person has been killed and several are injured in the attack on Kyiv, including some who were trapped in the rubble after two buildings were hit, rescue officials have confirmed.

Russia fired two missiles at Kyiv and one of them struck the lower floors of a residential building, Ukrainian officials have claimed.

The explosions came soon after talks between President Volodymyr Zelensky and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres ended in the Ukrainian capital.

Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov and Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba both claimed Russia had used missiles in the attack.

Ukraine condemns Kyiv strikes as ‘heinous act of barbarism’

Ukraine has lashed out angrily after Russian strikes hit Kyiv.

“By this heinous act of barbarism Russia demonstrates once again its attitude towards Ukraine, Europe and the world,” Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba tweeted.

Russian strikes hit Kyiv as UN chief visits

Russian strikes have slammed into Kyiv as UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was visiting in the first such bombardment of Ukraine’s capital since mid-April, the president’s office announced.

“Missile strikes in the downtown of Kyiv during the official visit of Antonio Guterres,” tweeted the office of President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Mayor Vitali Klitschko has also said in an online post two explosions have rocked a central district of Kyiv after Russian forces fired on the capital.

“The enemy fired on Kyiv. There were two hits in the Shevchenkivskyi district. All services are working on the scene. Information about casualties is being clarified,” Klitschko stated.

Klitschko added authorities were gathering details about possible casualties.

The explosions came soon after talks between Zelensky and Guterres ended in the Ukrainian capital.

Ukraine accuses Russia of stealing grain during war

Ukraine has accused Russia of stealing grain in territory it has occupied, an act which it said increased the threat to global food security.

The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said in a written statement that it “strongly condemns the criminal actions of the Russian Federation in the so-called expropriation of crops from farmers in the Kherson region” of southern Ukraine.

“The looting of grain from the Kherson region, as well as the blocking of shipments from Ukrainian ports and the mining of shipping lanes, threaten the world’s food security,” it added.

“We demand that Russia stop the illegal theft of grain, unblock Ukrainian ports, restore freedom of navigation and allow the passage of merchant ships,” the statement reads.

Security Council ‘failed to do everything in its power to end war’: UN chief

The Security Council failed to go far enough in its efforts to “prevent and end” Russia’s war in Ukraine, the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has stated while visiting Kyiv.

“Let me be very clear: the Security Council failed to do everything in its power to prevent and end this war. And this is the source of great disappointment, frustration and anger,” he said at a joint news conference with President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Guterres added the United Nations was doing all it could to enable the evacuation of a steel plant where fighters and civilians are holed up in the city of Mariupol.

“At the present moment I can only tell you we are doing everything we can to make it happen. I’m not going to enter into any comment that could undermine that possibility,” he continued.

During the news conference with Guterres, Zelensky said he believes that UN secretary general’s mission would be effective in the evacuation of civilians in Mariupol.

“It’s important that Secretary has raised the issue of evacuating civilians from Mariupol,” Zelensky added, “Ukraine is ready to have immediate negotiations on the evacuation of people from the steel plant, as well as to ensure that the implementation of any agreements to be reached.”

Zelensky stated, “I trust and believe – just as many relatives of those people who are blocked in Azovstal (steel plant) do – that the Secretary-General and we will be able to have a successful result.”

Referring to the possibility of a UN and ICRC-coordinated humanitarian corridor for the hundreds of civilians believed to still be in Mariupol’s Azovstal steel plant, Guterres said: “As we speak, there are intense discussions to move forward on this proposal to make it a reality.

“Mariupol is a crisis within a crisis. Thousands of civilians need life-saving assistance. Many are elderly, in need of medical care or have limited mobility,” Guterres told reporters after talks with Zelensky.

“They need an escape route out of the apocalypse,” he stressed.

Official says UN secretary-general met with Ukrainian president & FM in Kyiv

The United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres visited with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on Thursday in Kyiv, according to the secretary-general’s deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq.

Haq added that Guterres plans to speak to journalists in Kyiv shortly.

“They have met, I don’t frankly know if at this stage whether the meeting is over, but they are expected to be going into a press encounter very soon,” Haq said while speaking at a news briefing at the UN Headquarters in New York.

António Guterres Volodymyr Zelensky
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy shake hands at a joint news conference, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, in Kyiv, Ukraine April 28, 2022.

The spokesperson noted that earlier on Thursday, the secretary-general visited the town of Borodianka and “expressed his sadness in seeing the destroyed buildings there.”

“He added that the war is an absurdity in the 21st century. The war is evil. And when one sees these situations our heart of course stays with the victims,” the spokesperson stated.

Guterres then visited the St. Andrew’s Church in Bucha. After seeing the massacre site there, the secretary-general said that it was important to have a thorough investigation and accountability, Haq told reporters.

“He expressed his support for the work of the International Criminal Court and appealed to the Russian Federation to cooperate with that court,” Haq said.

Guterres also visited the destroyed Lipki residential complex in the town of Irpin and said that innocent civilians have been living in these buildings, according to Haq.

“Wherever there is a war, he said, the highest price is paid by civilians,” the UN secretary-general’s spokesperson added.

Guterres met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Tuesday. He proposed that the Russian leader create a three-party humanitarian group between the UN, Russia, and Ukraine regarding cooperation in creating humanitarian corridors in Ukraine.

War in Ukraine can “drag on and last for months and years”: NATO chief

North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Thursday that the alliance is ready to support Ukraine against the Russian invasion in a war that can “drag on and last for months and years.”

“We will continue to put maximum pressure on [Russian] President [Vladimir] Putin to end the war by imposing sanctions, by providing economic support but also military support to Ukraine, and we need to be prepared for the long-term,” Stoltenberg stated during a NATO Youth Summit taking place in Brussels.

“It’s a very unpredictable and fragile situation in Ukraine. But there is absolutely the possibility that this war will drag on and last for months and years,” he continued.

Stoltenberg also added that NATO allies are preparing to help Kyiv advance form an “old Soviet-era equipment to more modern standard-weapons and systems,” but added that it will “require more training.”

The United States and some European countries including Netherlands and France have recently announced that they will be supplying Ukraine with howitzers, long-range weapons, to help defend itself against Russia.

Germany has announced they will supply anti-aircraft tanks to Ukraine, as it attempts to deflect criticism that the government has been slow to provide military equipment to the war-torn country.

British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss rallied for support for the United Kingdom to send warplanes and other heavy weapons in a keynote speech on Wednesday.

Ukraine claims identified over 8,000 cases of suspected war crimes

Ukrainian investigators have identified more than 8,000 cases of suspected war crimes since Russia’s invasion, prosecutor general Iryna Venediktova has told a German TV channel.

“It’s actually 8,600 cases only about war crimes, and more than 4,000 cases that are connected with war crimes,” Venediktova told the Deutsche Welle broadcaster.

Two powerful blasts heard in Russian city near Ukraine border: Witnesses

Two powerful blasts were heard in the Russian city of Belgorod, near the border with Ukraine, two witnesses have told Reuters.

Russia has in recent days reported what it says are a series of attacks by Ukrainian forces on Russian regions which border Ukraine, and has warned that such attacks raise a risk of significant escalation.

Ukraine has not directly accepted responsibility but has described the incidents as payback and “karma” for Russia.

Kiev: 35 of 49 heads of administration in Kherson region abducted

The heads of 35 of the 49 administrative units have been kidnapped in the southern Ukrainian region of Kherson since the war began, a top official in Kyiv has claimed.

Ukraine’s human rights ombudswoman, Lyudmyla Denisova, wrote on Telegram that “17 of them have been released, but many are in captivity”.

Russian troops “abduct and torture residents of temporarily occupied Ukrainian territories, they loot world cultural heritage sites,” she added.

Russia says it destroyed 6 arms and fuel depots

Russia’s defence ministry has said the military fired missiles at six arms and fuel depots in Ukraine and destroyed them.

The ministry also added that Russia had hit 76 Ukrainian military facilities.

There was no immediate reaction from Ukraine to the Russian statements, which could not be independently verified.

Some Russian forces leaving Mariupol: US Official

The US has seen indications that some Russian forces are leaving the Ukrainian city of Mariupol and moving towards the northwest even as fighting for the port city continues, a senior US defence official has said.

The official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, stated that in addition to training Ukrainian forces on the howitzers, training was continuing outside of Ukraine for a mobile radar system and the M113 armoured personnel carrier.

“I’m not going to detail what country or where this training is happening,” the official added.

Russian progress “slow & uneven” in Donbas region due to logistics problems: Senior US defense official

The US assesses that Russian forces are making “slow and uneven” and “incremental” progress in the Donbas region, in part because of Ukrainian resistance, as well as continued logistics problems, according to a senior US defense official.

“There’s a lot of still back and forth in the Donbas in terms of territory gained and or lost by frankly both sides,” said the official on a background call with reporters.

The official added Russia now has 92 battalion tactical groups in Ukraine, up from 85 last week.

However, the official also stated that continued “logistics and sustainment challenges” prevent Russian forces from making more than “several kilometers or so progress on any given day, just because they don’t want to run out too far ahead of their logistics and sustainment lines.”

Russia is making some advances to the east and south of Izium, while still facing pushback from Ukrainian forces, said the official.

In the south, the official said that the US has seen some Russian forces departing the besieged city of Mariupol and heading to the northwest towards Zaporizhzhia, despite the fact that Mariupol still has not fallen to Russia as indicated by continued Russian strikes against the city.

The official added that Russia has now launched more than 1,900 missiles against Ukraine since the beginning of the February invasion.

Russian forces are still facing “morale and cohesion problems,” according to a senior US defense official, particularly as they are using conscripts to reinforce their battalion tactical groups that they are sending back into the Donbas region.

“We have some early indications that while the conscripts start out with high morale because they’ve been feasting on Russian propaganda, it doesn’t take very long before that morale is sapped once they get put into combat and face Ukrainian resistance,” noted the official on a background call with reporters.

NATO spends $8bn in military support of Ukraine, set to provide more

NATO allies have poured at least $8 billion in military aid to Ukraine, with the outlook to continue the support, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Thursday.

“NATO allies have also stepped up their support to Ukraine and up to date NATO allies have pledged and provided at least 8 billion US dollars in military support to Ukraine. And we see the importance of further stepping up our support to Ukraine,” Stoltenberg stated at a joint press conference in Brussels with European Parliament President Roberta Metsola.

In a move intended to show unity in the European Union and NATO, Stoltenberg was invited for the first time to meet the members of the Conference of Presidents, one of the governing bodies of the European Parliament.

Biden: Russian comments about possibility of a nuclear war were “irresponsible”

US President Joe Biden said that Russian comments about the possibility of a nuclear war were “irresponsible.”

“No one should be making idle comments about the use of nuclear weapons or the possibility of the need to use them,” he stated.

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

Biden also noted it’s “not true” that the US and NATO are in a proxy war with Russia – and that Russian claims of a proxy war are “an excuse for their failure” in Ukraine.

“They’re not true,” Biden said, responding on Thursday to a reporter who asked about Lavrov’s accusation that NATO was using the Ukraine war as a proxy.

“They do concern me, because it shows the desperation that Russia is feeling about their abject failure in being able to do what they set out to do in the first instance,” he added.

“I think it’s more of a reflection not of the truth, but of their failure,” the president continued, “and so instead of saying that the Ukrainians are equipped with some capability to resist Russian forces, they got to… tell their people the United States and all of NATO is engaged in taking out Russian troops, and tanks, et cetera.”

Asked later about possible Russian aggression against NATO and its allies, he stated the US is “prepared for whatever they do.”

Biden says backing Ukraine ‘not cheap’ but US can’t ‘stand by’

US President Joe Biden has asked Congress for $33bn more for Ukraine, saying it was “not cheap” but that Washington could not stand by in the face of Russia’s “atrocities and aggression.”

Biden stressed that the US was “not attacking Russia” despite Moscow’s “disturbing rhetoric,” even as he stated that already the US has supplied Ukraine with 10 lethal anti-armour weapons systems for every tank Russia has sent into the country.

“We’re not attacking Russia. We are helping Ukraine defend itself against Russian aggression,” Biden added.

Biden has asked Congress for $33bn to support Ukraine – a dramatic escalation of US funding for the war against Russia – as well as new legal tools to siphon assets from Russian oligarchs.

The vast funding request includes over $20bn for weapons, ammunition and other military assistance, as well as $8.5bn in direct economic assistance to the government and $3bn in humanitarian and food security aid.

Joe Biden
President Joe Biden speaks about the war in Ukraine in the Roosevelt Room at the White House, Thursday, April 28, 2022, in Washington.

“We need this bill to support Ukraine in its fight for freedom,” Biden said at the White House, adding, “The cost of this fight – it’s not cheap – but caving to aggression is going to be more costly.”

Biden has noted it’s “critical” for Congress to pass a massive Ukraine aid bill and that “caving to aggression is going to be more costly”.

“Our NATO allies, our EU partners, they’re going to pay their fair share of the cost as well, but we have to do our part as well in leading the alliance,” he said, adding that the aid will go towards contributing arms, funding, ammunition and other economic support.

Biden has said that the US will not let Russia use “gas blackmail” to pressure European allies and to undermine sanctions placed on Moscow.

“We will not let Russia intimidate or blackmail their way out of these sanctions. We will not allow them to use their oil and gas to avoid consequences for their aggression,” the presidnt added.

Kherson may become part of Crimea: Mayor

Russia may make the occupied southern Ukrainian region of Khersonska part of annexed Crimea, the mayor has stated.

Ukrainian officials claimed that Moscow planned to hold a referendum to declare Khersonska’s “independence” from Ukraine. But the fugitive mayor of the region’s capital said that Moscow may “adjust” it to the Black Sea peninsula it borders instead.

“What I see is that there will be no referendum. I think that they plan to, first of all, adjust the region to” Crimea, Ihor Kolyvaev told the publication.

Bulgaria confident it can replace Russian gas supply

Bulgaria can replace its entire Russian gas supply from other sources and will not face a gas shortage in the coming winter, Deputy Prime Minister Assen Vassilev has said.

Russia’s Gazprom cut Bulgaria and Poland off from its gas on Wednesday for refusing to pay in roubles. Bulgaria consumes about 3 billion cubic metres of gas per year, of which over 90 percent coming from Russia.

“We can replace the entire Russian gas supply with gas supply from the southern gas corridor, plus LNG deliveries in Greece and Turkey, and that plan is being executed right now,” Vassilev, who is also finance minister, told reporters in Brussels.

“There will be no supply problem, even in the winter,” Vassilev added.

Over 1,000 civilian bodies recovered in Kyiv region since Russia’s invasion started: Police chief

The bodies of 1,150 civilians have been recovered in Ukraine’s Kyiv region since Russia’s invasion started, Kyiv regional police chief Andriy Nebyton said.

“As a result of the clearing operation and the work of detective groups in Kyiv Region, we have found and examined 1,150 bodies of civilian citizens who were killed and handed them over to medical forensics,” Nebyton said in a video posted on his YouTube channel.

Nebyton emphasized that “these were civilians, not military, who had no involvement with Territorial Defense or other military entities.”

The majority of casualties are from the Bucha region and Bucha leads in the number of bodies they have found, Nebyton continued, adding that “50-70% died of firearm wounds, shot with automatic rifles.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has blamed Russia for the killings and called on Moscow to stop committing “war crimes.” The Kremlin has denied any involvement in the mass killings while reiterating baseless claims that the images of civilian bodies on the streets of Bucha are fake.

During a visit to the towns of Bucha and Borodianka, International Criminal Court (ICC) Chief Prosecutor Karim Khan said there were “reasonable grounds to believe that crimes within the jurisdiction of the ICC are being committed.”

Ukraine’s General Prosecutor Iryna Venediktova stated a number of Russian soldiers allegedly involved in human rights abuses in Bucha have been identified. In a Facebook post, Venediktova added 10 soldiers had been identified as being “involved in torture of peaceful civilians” during their occupation of the town.

Radiation in safe range where Chornobyl soil was dug up: IAEA

Radiation levels in a part of Chornobyl’s exclusion zone where Ukraine has said Russian troops dug trenches in the highly contaminated soil are elevated but still well within the safe range, the UN nuclear watchdog’s chief has said.

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Rafael Grossi travelled to Chornobyl this week with IAEA staff to bring equipment and check radiation levels at the site which includes radioactive waste facilities near the now-defunct power plant that in 1986 suffered the world’s worst nuclear disaster.

Rafael Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
Rafael Grossi, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) informs the press about the situation of nuclear power plants in Ukraine, shortly after his return from Chernobyl, during a special press conference at the IAEA headquarters in Vienna, Austria on April 28, 2022.

“There was an increase [in radiation levels] but this increase is still significantly below the authorised levels for workers in an environment with this type of radiation,” Grossi told a news conference.

Dutch military police to help Ukraine investigate war crimes

The Dutch government is likely to send a forensic team from the national military police to Ukraine to help investigate possible war crimes, Dutch press agency ANP has reported.

The team would leave for Ukraine at short notice to help the International Criminal Court (ICC) gather evidence at sites where war crimes may have been committed, ANP cited sources close to the matter.

The government will make a final decision on the mission on Friday, the sources added.

Dozens of bombs hit hospital in Mariupol

Dozens of heavy Russian bombs have destroyed a hospital inside Azovstal, a steel plant in the southern Ukrainian city of Mariupol where hundreds of servicemen and civiilians have been holed up, a Ukrainian serviceman has said.

Russian heavy bombers and fighter jets bombed the plant last night, hitting the hospital, Oleksandr Vershinin of the Azov battalion that defends Mariupol said in a voice message posted on YouTube by the Mariupol public television.

“There are dead, there are wounded. Again,” he added without specifying the casualties.

Last week, President Vladimir Putin declared Mariupol “liberated” from Ukrainian forces – and ordered his forces to isolate the plant “so that a fly can’t get through”.

Biden to ask Congress for new powers to seize Russian assets

US President Joe Biden will officially ask Congress later on Thursday to grant him the authority to seize the assets of wealthy individuals believed to have links to the Kremlin and use them to help Ukraine, the White House has revealed in a statement.

Biden is expected to propose a “comprehensive legislative package that will enhance the United States Government’s authority to hold the Russian government and Russian oligarchs accountable for President Vladimir Putin’s war against Ukraine.”

The measures would result in the “forfeiture of property linked to Russian kleptocracy,” allowing the US government to “use the proceeds to support Ukraine.”

Under the proposal, authorities would be able to impound property in the US “owned by sanctioned Russian oligarchs and that has a connection to specified unlawful conduct.”

Moreover, Biden wants to make it a crime “for any person to knowingly or intentionally possess proceeds directly obtained from corrupt dealings with the Russian government.”

The statement released by the White House, however, does not specify what criteria would be used to determine which dealings could be classified as “corrupt.”

To be “forfeited” under Biden’s proposal is also property “that Russian oligarchs use to facilitate the evasion of sanctions” – something that US law currently does not allow for. In addition, the US president is expected to ask lawmakers to add sanctions evasion to the definition of “racketeering activity.”

Prominent in Biden’s speech will also be US cooperation with “international partners to recover assets linked to foreign corruption.”

The White House statement noted that back in March the US Departments of the Treasury and Justice launched a Russian Elites, Proxies, and Oligarchs Task Force to “coordinate the freezing and seizing of Russian assets around the world.”

NATO says ready to support Ukraine in a war against Russia that could last years

NATO is ready to support Ukraine for years in the war against Russia, including helping Kyiv to advance from old Soviet-era weapons to modern Western military equipment, the alliance’s Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Thursday.

“We need to be prepared for the long term… There is absolutely the possibility that this war will drag on and last for months and years,” Stoltenberg told a youth summit in Brussels, adding that NATO allies were preparing to help Ukraine to move on to NATO-standard weapons.

UN secretary general visits “horrific” sites in Bucha

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres visited the war-ravaged Ukrainian town of Bucha, which was associated with war crimes by Russian troops in Ukraine on Thursday. Guterres toured residential areas in the suburb of Kyiv and nearby town of Borodyanka, that were left largely in ruins when Russian troops pulled out.

“This horrific scenario demonstrates something that is unfortunately always true — that civilians always pay the highest price. Innocent civilians were living in these buildings. They were paying the highest price for a war for which they not contributed at all,” Guterres told journalists.

“There is no way a war can be acceptable in the 21st century,” he stated.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres in Ukraine
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, center, stands on the side of a mass grave in Bucha, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, Thursday, April 28, 2022.

The UN chief is expected to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba later in the day. Ukrainian authorities have previously requested UN to guarantee safe passage for civilians in Mariupol. Some officials in Kyiv have criticized Guterres’s itinerary after the UN chief met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Tuesday.

Mariupol warns of danger of epidemics in city where thousands of corpses remain

Local authorities in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol have warned that it’s vulnerable to epidemics given the appalling sanitary conditions in much of the city and the fact that maybe thousands of bodies remain uncollected.

An estimated 100,000 people still live in the city, despite weeks of heavy fighting, and the absence of a centralized water supply.

On Thursday, the city council said there was a risk of cholera, dysentery and Escherichia coli — a bacterial infection that can cause severe stomach pain, bloody diarrhea and kidney failure.

The council added there were intolerable living conditions that would worsen as temperatures warmed.

“Already the air temperature has reached 20 degrees. So powerful and deadly epidemics could soon break out in the city — due to the lack of centralized water supply and sanitation, the decomposition of thousands of corpses under the rubble, and a catastrophic shortage of drinking water and food,” it announced.

Mariupol mayor Vadym Boychenko stated: “The occupiers cannot provide the existing population with food, water and medicine. Or [are] just not interested in it. They block all evacuation attempts. And without that, people will die. After all, now in the ruined Mariupol medieval living conditions. Immediate and complete evacuation is needed.”

Scholz says Germany must prepare for possible Russian gas export stop

Germany is preparing for the eventuality Russia stops gas exports given it can only speculate about what the Kremlin will decide to do, Chancellor Olaf Scholz has stated during a trip to Tokyo.

“One has to prepare for it and, as I said, we started that before the war broke out and we know what we have to do,” he said at a joint news conference with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.

US accuses Russia of planning to shut down Ukrainian democracy

The United States has accused Russia of planning to short-circuit Ukrainian democracy by forcing the government from power and dismantling local authorities.

“We have information that Russia’s planning for its further invasion of Ukraine includes a forced capitulation of Ukraine’s democratically elected government, including dissolving all local municipal governments in Ukraine,” US Ambassador Michael Carpenter noted in an address to the Vienna-based Organization for Security and Cooperating in Europe (OSCE).

“New governance structures were to be set up in ‘liberated’ territories under Russian control,” he added in the speech posted online.

Carpenter also referred to Russia’s invasion in a Tweet as a “wholly barbaric enterprise.”

Russian envoy calls Canadian parliament’s statement primitive Russophobia

The statement of Canada’s House of Commons (lower parliament house) labelling Russia’s actions in Ukraine as geocide can be interpreted as a gesture of primitive Russophobia, Russian Ambassador to Canada Oleg Stepanov told TASS.

“It is mere labelling. It is an absolutely hollow and politically void gesture based on primitive Russophobia,” he said, adding that the Canadian lawmakers should study the legal definition of the term ‘genocide.’

“It is inadmissible and cynical to fling about, out of political motives, such terms as ‘genocide,’ which have clear legal definition and which are filled with grief and the history of well-known tragedies,” he stressed.

According to the Russian diplomat, this statement will “have no influence on the situation in Ukraine.” Apart from that, it tells adversely “on the reputation of the House of Commons,” he continued.

Earlier on Wednesday, Canada’s House of Commons unilaterally supported the initiative advanced by Heather McPherson, a member of parliament with the opposition New Democratic Party, to consider Russia’s actions in Ukraine as genocide of the Ukrainian people. According to CTV, Prime Minister Justine Trudeau, who is a parliament member and the leader of the Liberal Party, attended a House of Commons meeting on Wednesday. However, it is not known whether he was present during the voting on this matter. This parliamentary initiative doesn’t mean however that Canada officially recognizes Russia’s actions in Ukraine as genocide.

This word concerning Russia’s operation in Ukraine was earlier pronounced by US President Joe Biden. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov stated commenting on it that the Kremlin categorically objects against such pronouncements.

Russia has not received Ukraine’s answer to draft treaty proposals yet: Foreign Ministry

Russia has not yet received any replies from Ukraine to the draft treaty proposals handed to Kiev earlier, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told a news briefing on Thursday.

“As of this morning, at the moment of preparations for this news briefing, the Russian side had no answers,” Zakharova said in reply to a corresponding question.

Kiev has not officially withdrawn from the negotiation process with Moscow and Russia is waiting for proposals from Ukraine, she added.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov earlier described as “disheartening” Ukraine’s and President Volodymyr Zelensky’s attitude to the negotiations. For instance, after a whole week Kiev refused to confirm it had received Russia’s written proposals for a treaty. Lavrov said that if the Ukrainian side continued with its current policy, the negotiations were unlikely to achieve a result.

Russia not allowing evacuation from Mariupol steel works: Local official

Russia is not allowing wounded Ukrainian fighters to be evacuated from the Azovstal steel works where they are holed up in the southern city of Mariupol, the local governor has claimed.

Pavlo Kyrylenko, the Donetsk region’s governor, stated Russia was also not allowing humanitarian corridors to be established to evacuate civilians in the region. But he added only 370,000 residents remain in Ukrainian-controlled parts of the Donetsk region compared with 1.67 million before Russia’s invasion.

German parliament approves petition to deliver heavy arms to Ukraine

Germany’s Bundestag lower house of parliament on Thursday overwhelmingly approved a petition on support for Ukraine backing the delivery of weapons including heavy arms to the country to help it fend off Russian attacks.

“Alongside the broad economic isolation and decoupling of Russia from international markets, the most important and effective means to stop the Russian invasion is to intensify and speed up the delivery of effective weapons and complex systems including heavy arms,” the petition read.

The petition was backed by both the three parties in the ruling coalition as well as the opposition conservatives, passing with 586 votes in favor, 100 against and seven abstentions, according to Bundestag Vice President Wolfgang Kubicki.

Two European energy firms confirm talks with Gazprom over paying for Russian gas

Two of Europe’s leading energy companies have confirmed they are in talks with Gazprom about how to pay for Russian gas, while complying with EU sanctions and Russia’s new rules demanding that all gas be paid for in rubles.

German firm Uniper said: “We consider a payment conversion compliant with sanctions law and the Russian decree to be possible. Uniper will continue to pay in euros. Uniper is in talks with its contractual partner about the concrete payment modalities and is also in close coordination with the German government.”

And Austrian firm OMV said: “We have analyzed the Gazprom request about payment methods in light of the EU-sanctions and are now working on a sanctions-compliant solution.”

This comes after Russia announced it has cut off natural gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria, dramatically escalating its response to Western sanctions imposed on Moscow over the war in Ukraine.

Russian state energy giant Gazprom stated in a statement Wednesday that it had fully halted supplies to Polish gas company PGNiG and Bulgaria’s Bulgargaz after they refused to meet a demand by Moscow to pay in rubles, rather than euros or dollars.

Uniper, which is one of Europe’s leading gas companies, added: “For our company and for Germany as a whole, it is not possible to do without Russian gas in the short term; this would have dramatic consequences for our economy.”

Under the new Russian payment scheme, energy importers have had to open two bank accounts with Gazprombank — a foreign currency account and a ruble account. Buyers are required to deposit foreign currency (dollars or euros) with Russia’s Gazprombank, which then converts it into rubles for onward payment to Moscow.

A European Commission document release last week advised that it “appears possible” to comply with the new Russian rules without getting into conflict with EU law.

Brussels says EU states agree they are not willing to pay for Russian gas in roubles

EU countries all agree that they will not pay Russia directly in roubles for their imports of gas, noting that the deadline for next payments was expected to be May 20, senior European Union officials has said.

“What we do know, and there is consensus on this from all member states, is that none is willing to pay” in roubles, the official told a news briefing, adding that the EU Commission did not have an overview of how many buyers have opened accounts for gas payments with Gazprombank.

Weapons deliveries to Ukraine threaten European security: Kremlin

The Kremlin has warned Western arms deliveries to Ukraine are dangerous for European security.

“The tendency to pump weapons, including heavy weapons into Ukraine — these are the actions that threaten the security of the continent, provoke instability,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

Russia accuses OSCE of handing information to Western intelligence

Russia has accused the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), which has a monitoring mission in eastern Ukraine, of handing information on the location of Russian and pro-Russian forces to Western and Ukrainian intelligence.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova made the allegation during a briefing with reporters but did not provide evidence for it. She stated investigators from the self-proclaimed breakaway Donetsk People’s Republic, which is backed by Russia, would provide additional proof.

World recognises Ukraine’s right to defend itself: Presidential aide

A Ukrainian presidential aide has said the world recognises that his country has the right to defend itself by carrying out attacks on Russian military bases and warehouses.

“Russia has attacked and [is] killing civilians. Ukraine will defend itself in any way, including strikes on the warehouses and bases of the killers. The world recognises this right,” presidential aide Mykhailo Podolyak wrote on Twitter.

Poland says countries paying for Russian gas in roubles should be penalised

The European Union should penalise countries that use roubles to pay for Russian gas, Poland’s climate minister has said, following Moscow’s decision to cut off supplies to Poland and Bulgaria over their refusal to do so.

The main EU member states resisting tougher gas sanctions on Russia are Austria, Germany and Hungary.

“We are counting on there being consequences for these countries and that as a result they will cease paying in roubles,” Anna Moskwa told private broadcaster Polsat News.

EU member states appear split on how they can keep paying for gas without breaching European sanctions imposed over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Poland, one of the EU’s staunchest proponents of punitive sanctions against Moscow, says the bloc should ban purchases of Russian gas altogether.

Moscow says calling on Ukraine to attack targets in Russia to lead to harsh response

Western countries are openly calling on Ukraine to attack Russian territory using the weapons they supply to Kiev, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said at a briefing on Thursday.

Further calls on Ukraine to strike targets in Russia will lead to a “harsh response” by Moscow, Zakharova stated.

“I would like Kiev and Western capitals to take seriously the statements of the Ministry of Defense of our country that further provocation of Ukraine to strike Russian targets will necessarily lead to a harsh response from Russia … We do not recommend further testing our patience,” she added.

NATO head expects Finland & Sweden accession process to “go quickly” if they apply to join

Should Finland and Sweden decide to apply to NATO, the accession process would “go quickly” and interim measures would be put in place until they become formal members of the alliance, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Thursday.

“We are in dialogue with Finland and Sweden, and it’s their decision. But if they decide to apply, Finland and Sweden will be warmly welcomed, and I expect the process to go quickly,” he told the press.

“This is fundamentally about the right of every nation in Europe to decide its own future. So when Russia tries in a way to threaten, to intimidate Finland and Sweden from not applying it just demonstrates how Russia is not respecting the basic right of every nation to choose its own path,” Stoltenberg added.

“The reality is that Finland and Sweden are already very close to NATO and we work together, we operate together, we exercise together. And as soon as we take the decision to invite them, that will send a strong political message, that the security of Finland and Sweden matters for all NATO allies,” he continued.

Ukraine says Russia aiming to encircle forces in Dontesk

Russian forces have intensified their efforts to encircle Ukrainians in the southeastern Donetsk region, the General Staff of the Armed Forces has announced.

They are also focusing their assault in the eastern Kharkiv region trying to move towards the villages of Sulihivka and Velyka Komyshuvakha that lies close to the Russian border, it said on Facebook.

Russian shelling of the regional capital, Kharkiv, also intensified, it added.

Russia says it destroyed two ammo depots overnight

Russia’s defence ministry has said its missilesstruck four Ukrainian military targets overnight, destroying two missile and ammunition depots near the settlements of Barvinkove and Ivanivka in the east of the country.

The Russian forces have eliminated 614 Ukrainian unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), 2,623 tanks and other armored vehicles and 299 multiple rocket launchers since the start of their special military operation in Ukraine, Russian Defense Ministry Spokesman Major-General Igor Konashenkov stated on Thursday.

“Overall, the following targets have been eliminated since the start of the special military operation: 142 aircraft, 111 helicopters, 614 unmanned aerial vehicles, 276 surface-to-air missile systems, 2,623 tanks and other combat armored vehicles, 299 multiple launch rocket systems, 1,146 field artillery guns and mortars and 2,431 special military motor vehicles,” the spokesman added.

Ukraine claims 22,800 Russian troops killed in war

Russia’s losses in Ukraine amount to 22,800 servicemen, including 400 in the past 24 hours, Ukraine’s General Staff of Armed Forces has said.

Moscow also lost 970 tanks, 2,389 armoured vehicles, 187 planes and 155 helicopters since the invasion began on February 24, it added.

In late March, Moscow announced that 1,351 troops were killed and around 4,000 were wounded. Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov admitted in early April that Russia has suffered “significant losses.”

Russian-appointed official in Kherson says return to Ukrainian control is “impossible”

A Russian-appointed official in the occupied region of Kherson says its return to Ukrainian control is “impossible” – and has ruled out a referendum to decide its future.

The Deputy Chairman of the Russian-appointed administration of the region, Kirill Stremousov, told Russian news agency RIA Novosti: “The issue of returning the Kherson region to Nazi Ukraine is excluded. This is impossible. The Kherson region will develop economically. ”

Stremousov, who is Ukrainian and has a long record on the fringes of regional politics, added: “Kyiv will no longer be able to impose its ugly Nazi policy on our land, aimed at destroying people and their identity.”

Last month, Ukrainian prosecutors opened a case against Stremousov for “assisting a foreign state in carrying out subversive activities against Ukraine.”

There had been reports that the Russians would organize some form of a referendum in Kherson on whether the southern region should become an independent republic, like the self-declared republics of Luhansk and Donetsk. But Stremousov said that would not happen.

He added the main task was to restore the region’s economy, and “no referendums are planned.”

On Tuesday, Ukrainian President Zelensky derided reported plans to hold a referendum in Kherson.

“Russia wants to stage a sham ‘referendum’ somewhere on our land? Even if they try, it will be as shameful as everything else that was ‘created’ in Moscow to support the occupation of Ukraine,” he stated.

Russians “exerting intense fire” on multiple fronts: Ukraine military

Russian forces “are exerting intense fire” as a multi-pronged offensive takes shape across three regions, according to the Ukrainian military leadership.

The General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said Thursday the Russians are focusing on trying to make a breakthrough in the Izium area of eastern Ukraine.

Izium — in the Kharkiv region — has become a staging ground for Russian forces as they try to advance through neighboring Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

“In order to strengthen the advancing group, the occupiers additionally moved airborne units to the city of Izium,” the General Staff said in its daily operational update.
One of Russia’s aims is to advance on the settlement of Lyman, which is near the industrial and transport hub of Sloviansk, it added.

“The enemy has improved its tactical position, trying to develop an offensive on the village of Lyman,” the General Staff announced, and is preparing to cross the Seversky Donets river.

UK says Ukraine can attack Russian logistics

British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has said would be legitimate for Ukrainian forces to target Russian logistics but they were unlikely to use British weapons.

Moscow has accused London of provoking Ukraine to strike targets in Russia, saying there would be an immediate “proportional response” if it continued.

“If Ukraine did choose to target logistics infrastructure for the Russian army, that would be legitimate under international law,” Wallace told BBC TV.

Wallace stated Russian President Vladimir Putin may seek to consolidate what he has got in Ukraine and dig in, like a “cancerous growth” within the country.

“You can see in his current statements he is, in almost desperation, trying to broaden this either with threats or indeed, with potential false flags or attacks,” he told Sky News on Thursday.

“I think it’s certainly the case that Putin, having failed in nearly all his objectives, may seek to consolidate what he’s got, sort of fortify and dig in as he did in 2014. Just be a sort of cancerous growth within the country in Ukraine and make it very hard for people to move them out of those fortified positions,” he added.

IAEA chief calls for access to Europe’s largest nuclear plant

Rafael Grossi, the director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), has called for access to the nuclear plant in Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia, saying the level of safety there is like a “red light blinking”.

The plant – Europe’s largest nuclear facility – is currently under Russian occupation.

Grossi told The Associated Press that IAEA needs to reestablish connections with the plant, which also requires repairs.

“And all of this is not happening,” he continued, adding, “So this is a pending issue. This is a red light blinking.”

MoD warns West Ukraine plans to spread ‘bloody fakes’ about Russian ‘atrocities’ soon

The Russian Defence Ministry has issued a warning to western countries that Ukraine is planning to stage a fake news report about the shelling of the city of Lisichansk that allegedly led to deaths of civilians, when in fact the city was accidently shelled by Ukrainian forces.

“We warn the so-called civilized West in advance that this and other similar bloody fakes, orchestrated by the Kiev authorities, about the alleged ‘Russian atrocities’ are planned to be widely spread in the media and across Internet in the near future,” the ministry said.

The ministry announced that after the 57th motorized infantry brigade of the Armed Forces of Ukraine shelled Lisichansk, the bureau of information and psychological operations of the Ukrainian forces decided to invite the Ukrainian and western media to the site in an attempt to blame Russia for the strike.

According to the defence ministry’s information, the Armed Forces of Ukraine are moving damaged military vehicles and bodies of dead Ukrainian soldiers dressed in civilian clothing to the city’s central market.

“Such actions of the Ukrainian authorities, once again, demonstrate their inhuman attitude towards the people of Ukraine and indicate the complete disregard for all norms of morality and international humanitarian law,” it added.

Moscow repeatedly rejected Kiev’s past accusations of war crimes, including the claims of mass killings of civilians in Bucha. Russia, in turn, is collecting evidence of war crimes committed by the Ukrainian military, such as unprovoked killings of captured Russian servicemen.

Third EU state balks at ‘ruble payments’ for gas

Helsinki has rejected Moscow’s ruble-based payment scheme for gas, the local media reported. Russia imposed the payment mechanism last month on countries that have placed sanctions on Russia but continue to import its gas.

“We have made the decision in the government’s economic policy committee that Finland will not agree to ruble payments. The decision was already made at the beginning of April,” Finland’s Minister for European Affairs and Ownership Steering Tytti Tuppurainen told the Helsingin Sanomat newspaper.

She added that it could be seen as blackmail and part of “Russia’s geopolitical efforts.”

Russia has denied using natural gas exports as a tool to “blackmail” Europe, a charge also leveled by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

“Russia has been and remains a reliable supplier, committed to its obligations” and the new terms for exporting the gas were “caused by unprecedented hostile steps against us,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Wednesday.

Russian fuel giant Gazprom sent a letter to their Finnish state-owned counterpart, Gasum, at the beginning of April informing them of the new terms of their deal. Gasum is conducting a legal assessment of its situation and considering a response, Helsingin Sanomat reports.

Finland is working on renouncing Russian natural gas, but “companies are responsible for their own operational business decisions,” Tuppurainen said.

She added that if the goal of divestment was to stop indirectly “funding” Russia’s military operation, then Finland should “avoid a situation where we have to pay for breaches of contract.”

In total, Russia supplies pipeline gas to 23 European countries.

Russia’s Black Sea fleets retains ability to attack Ukraine: UK

The British Ministry of Defence announced Russia’s Black Sea fleet retains the ability to strike Ukrainian and coastal targets, despite its losses of the landing ship Saratov and the cruiser Moskva.

In its latest intelligence briefing, the ministry said about 20 Russian Navy vessels, including submarines, are in the Black Sea operational zone.

“The Bosphorus Strait remains closed to all non-Turkish warships, rendering Russia unable to replace its lost cruiser Moskva in the Black Sea,” it added.

War will continue until “Russia decides to end it”: UN Secretary-General

The war in Ukraine will continue until “Russia decides to end it,” the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres told CNN.

“The war will not end with meetings,” he told CNN’s Anderson Cooper during a wide-ranging interview.

“The war will end when the Russian Federation decides to end it and when there is – after a ceasefire – a possibility of a serious political agreement. We can have all the meetings but that is not what will end the war,” he added.

On Tuesday, Guterres traveled to Moscow for a one-on-one meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss “proposals for humanitarian assistance and the evacuation of civilians” from conflict zones, namely the besieged city of Mariupol, according to a UN readout of the discussion.

As a result, Putin agreed “in principle” to allow the UN and the International Committee for the Red Cross to assist in the evacuation of citizens from the Azovstal plant in Mariupol, the last bastion of Ukrainian defense in the city.

Asked what role the UN intended to play in the investigations of war crimes allegedly carried out by Russian forces in the town of Bucha on the outskirts of Kyiv, Guterres reiterated his calls for an “independent investigation.”

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.”

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.

In his face-to-face meeting with Putin, Guterres said his message was unchanged from the start of the conflict: The Russian invasion is a breach of the UN Charter and it must end as quickly as possible.

Guterres, who is expected to meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday, described his encounter with the Russian leader as “very useful.”

The secretary-general told CNN he expressed his concerns about the violations of international law, human rights law and the “possibility of war crimes.”

Air defence activated in Russia’s Belgorod

Russia’s TASS news agency says air defence systems have been activated in the Russian city of Belgorod.

It cited the local government saying that the systems were activated in the early hours of Thursday.

The Belgorod province borders Ukraine’s Luhansk, Sumy and Kharkiv regions, all of which have seen heavy fighting since Russia invaded Ukraine two months ago. Russia has accused Ukraine of carrying out strikes on targets in the region.

Kherson blasts knock Russian channels off air

Ukrainian and Russian media say explosions near a television tower in Kherson city temporarily knocked Russian channels off the air.

Ukrayinska Pravda, an online newspaper, reported the strikes set off a fire and caused Russian television channels to go off air.

RIA Novosti said the broadcast later resumed. It added Russian channels began broadcasting from Kherson last week.

ICC prosecutor says ‘it’s time for action’ in Ukraine

The chief prosecutor of International Criminal Court has called for action and accountability on Ukraine.

“This is not really a time for talking. It’s a time for action. International law cannot be a passive spectator,” Karim Asad Ahmed told reporters after a meeting of the UN Security Council.

“It needs to move with alacrity to protect and to insist on accountability,” he added.

Khan said he was neither in favour nor against Russia or Ukraine.

“We are in favour of the law, which is in favour of humanity, which is to protect humanity,” he said, adding, “We should feel ashamed that in 2022 we continue, in so many parts of the world, to see violence that may constitute genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.”

US energy industries on ‘war footing’: Official

US Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm has said that Russia’s war on Ukraine “screams” that the world needs to stop importing oil and gas from Russia and instead move toward other forms of energy.

At an international forum on offshore wind energy in Atlantic City, Granholm stated the US as well as its energy industries “are on a war footing,” and called for a rapid acceleration of renewable energy including offshore wind power.

“Russia is waging a war in Ukraine and the imperative to move away from Russian oil and gas, for the world to move away from Russian oil and gas screams that there is an imperative that we electrify,” noted Granholm, the former Michigan governor.

“Offshore wind is just a huge component in that,” Granholm continued.

Bulgaria is open to exploring legal ramifications against Russia for shutting off gas supplies: Official

Bulgaria’s Energy Minister Alexander Nikolov told CNN his government was open to exploring legal ramifications against Moscow after Russian energy giant Gazprom shut off gas supplies to the country.

“Bulgargaz, the state-owned entity, has executed the payment and then the money got returned from Gazprom. If we’re talking about a breach of the contract, then it is absolutely clear from a legal and legislation perspective who has breached the contract,” Nikolov told CNN’s Eleni Giokos in an interview.

When Russia demanded all gas payments be done in rubles, Nikolov said Bulgaria refused to comply and asked for clarification on the details of the mechanism, but did not receive a response from Gazprom.

“We were pretty clear that we will follow a common position regarding the European Union standpoint. We will not accept the fact that one of the parties within the contract decided to change entirely the payment mechanism, so we ended up where we are today … but still we are trying under these tough circumstances to follow all prerequisites under the existing contract,” he added.

Bulgaria has relied on Russia for about 90% of its gas imports, making Moscow’s latest move a disruption to most of the country’s energy supplies. The energy minister said Bulgaria has examined all possible solutions in terms of energy diversification, and is trying to extend its partnerships with other regions.

He pointed to some progress on a long-delayed gas link, the Interconnector Greece-Bulgaria (IGB) between Bulgaria and its neighbor Greece.

“Practically, coming from 90% to zero is of course going to be tough and of course we’ll have a price to pay, but at the end of the day, sovereignty and solidarity is much more important,” he added.

“We are on the eastern flank, the closest possible to Russia, where war is coming to a different dimension. Utility is being used not only as an energy tool but as a social distress tool and an economic weapon,” the minister continued.

Poland’s PGNiG to take legal steps on halting of Russian gas: Minister

Polish gas company PGNiG will take all legal steps it can regarding the halting of Russian gas supplies, according to the Polish climate minister.

“Certainly all legal steps will be taken by PGNiG,” Anna Moskwa told private broadcaster Polsat News, adding, “PGNiG has a lot of experience and it can win.”

Kherson region of Ukraine will transition to ruble from May 1

The Russian-occupied Kherson region of Ukraine will transition to using the ruble from May 1, according to Russian state media.

The Deputy Chairman of the Civil-Military Administration of the region, Kirill Stremousov, told the RIA-Novosti news agency that the transition period will take up to four months during which both the Russian ruble and the Ukrainian hryvnia will be in circulation. After that, there will be a full transition to the ruble.

Canada legislators vote in favour of calling Russia’s acts ‘genocide’

Canadian politicians have voted unanimously to call Russia’s attacks in Ukraine a “genocide”, with members of parliament saying there was “ample evidence of systemic and massive war crimes against humanity” being committed by Moscow.

The Canadian Parliament’s motion said war crimes by Russia include mass atrocities, systematic instances of willful killing of Ukrainian civilians, the desecration of corpses, forcible transfer of Ukrainian children, torture, physical harm, mental harm, and rape.

Pentagon says Russian nuclear threats are ‘irresponsible’

Pentagon Spokesperson John Kirby has dismissed recent comments by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who earlier this week warned of a “serious, real” risk of nuclear war.

“The rhetoric that we keep hearing from Russian leaders – and just recently was Minister Lavrov, raising the spectre of nuclear confrontation – is irresponsible,” Kirby told reporters during a briefing.

“It’s certainly not what you would expect from a modern nuclear power, nor should anybody expect from a modern nuclear power,” he added.

UK calls Russia ‘a desperate rogue operator’

British Foreign Minister Liz Truss has described Russia as a “desperate rogue operator with no interest in international norms” as she called for more heavy weapons to be sent to Ukraine.

Delivering her annual foreign policy speech at Mansion House, the residence of London’s mayor, Truss said Russia was less rational than the Soviet Union. Although the Soviet Union inflicted “many evils” and regularly used their veto in the Security Council, “even they behaved with some kind of rationality on the world stage”, she added.

“They were able to stick to deals when they saw risks to strategic stability, as they did with the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty,” she stated.

Economic structures developed after World War II and the Cold War have “enabled rather than contained aggression”, she noted, accusing Russia of violating several arms control treaties.

She has warned China that failure to play by global “rules” would cut short its rise as a superpower.

China, which has taken a neutral public position on the war in Ukraine, has faced calls from European nations and the US to pressure Russia to end its invasion.

“They will not continue to rise if they do not play by the rules. China needs trade with the G7. We [the Group of Seven] represent around half of the global economy. And we have choices,” Truss said, adding, “We have shown with Russia the kind of choices that we’re prepared to make when international rules are violated.”

Germany was biggest buyer of Russia’s energy in first two months of Ukraine war: Study

Germany bought the most amount of Russian energy during the first two months of the Ukraine war, according to an independent research group.

The Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air calculated that Russia earned 63 billion euros ($66.5bn) from fossil fuel exports since February 24, the date Russia began its invasion of Ukraine.

Using data on ship movements, real-time tracking of gas flows through pipelines and estimates based on historical monthly trade, the researchers said Germany alone paid Russia about 9.1 billion euros for fossil fuel deliveries in the first two months of the war.

The German government said it could not comment on estimates and declined to provide any figures of its own, saying these would need to come from companies that procure the coal, oil and gas, the Associated Press has reported.

Ukraine needs 600,000 apartments for those displaced: Official

A senior aide to Ukraine’s president says the country needs almost 600,000 apartments to provide housing for people displaced by conflict.

Kyrylo Tymoshenko made the comment during a meeting of Ukraine’s local and regional authorities, where participants discussed plans for the country’s reconstruction, which one official said would now cost $90bn, according to a statement from Volodymyr Zelensky’s office.

Participants made the decision to build some of the necessary apartments from scratch, as well as purchase some ready-made from developers. Zelensky also told participants that all new housing in Ukraine must be built with comfortable bomb shelters, and old housing stock should be equipped in accordance with the needs of public safety, the statement said.

US to begin process of reopening embassy in Kyiv: Blinken

The US will begin the process of reopening its embassy in Kyiv “as quickly but also as safely as possible”, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said.

“We have diplomats going back to Ukraine this week as we speak to begin the process of looking to reopen the embassy in Kyiv,” Blinken told US legislators, according to a video shared online by the State Department.

He added the US will begin operating out of the Western Ukrainian city of Lviv before operating out of Kyiv.

Over 50 Ukrainians completed howitzer training: Pentagon

More than 50 Ukrainian forces have completed US howitzer artillery training, a Pentagon spokesperson has said.

John Kirby told reporters that another group of more than 50 Ukrainians would also “go through training in the same location outside Ukraine”.

The howitzers were included as part of two recent US military assistance packages for Ukraine, each totalling $800m.

US has credible information that Russian military executed Ukrainians who attempted to surrender: Official

The United States has credible information that a Russian military unit executed Ukrainians who were attempting to surrender near Donetsk, Ambassador-at-Large for Global Criminal Justice Beth Van Schaack said at the United Nations Wednesday.

“We now have credible information that a Russian military unit operating in the vicinity of Donetsk executed Ukrainians who were attempting to surrender, rather than take them into custody,” Van Schaak stated.

“If true, this would be a violation of a core principle of the laws of war: the prohibition against the summary execution of civilians and combatants who are hors de combat by virtue of surrender, injury, or other forms of incapacitation,” Van Schaak said.

She also added the US has “credible reports of individuals killed execution-style with their hands bound; bodies showing signs of torture; horrific accounts of sexual violence against women and girls.”

“These images and reports suggest that atrocities are not the result of rogue units or individuals; they, rather, reveal a deeply disturbing pattern of systematic abuse across all areas where Russia’s forces are engaged,” Van Schaak continued.

“Let us be clear: those who unleashed, perpetrated, and ordered these crimes must be held to account and the evidence of this criminality is mounting daily,” Van Schaak said, adding, “Our simple message to Russia’s military and political leadership, and file is this: the world is watching, and you will be held accountable.”

The United States welcomes the ICC investigation into atrocities committed in Ukraine, Van Shaak said, referencing the common goal of stakeholders to achieve justice.

“The United States is supporting a range of international investigations into atrocities in Ukraine. This includes those conducted by the International Criminal Court, the UN and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe,” she added.

FM confirms Hungary will use Russia’s energy payment scheme

The Hungarian Foreign Minister confirmed to CNN that his country will use the payment scheme put in place by Moscow to pay for its oil and gas.

Defending this decision, Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó said: “85% of our gas supply comes from Russia, and 65% of our oil supply comes from Russia. Why? Because this is being determined by infrastructure. This is not for fun, we have not chosen the situation.”

Szijjártó added there are no alternative sources or routes which makes it possible for them to stop importing Russian energy in the next few years.

Under the Russian payment scheme, energy importers have had to open two bank accounts with Gazprombank — a foreign currency account and a rubles account. The proceeds of sales are paid in foreign currency (dollars or euros) which is then converted by Gazprombank into the ruble account.

Several other countries are reportedly using the scheme. A European Commission document release last week advised that it “appears possible” to comply with the new Russian rules without getting into conflict with EU law.

Sanctions experts say the Russian payment system allows Moscow access to energy proceeds regardless of the sanctions in place on foreign currencies.

US: Russia’s ‘weaponizing’ energy has been expected

The White House has said Russia was essentially weaponizing energy supplies by cutting off Poland and Bulgaria from Russian gas supplies.

“Unfortunately this is the type of step, the type of almost weaponizing energy supplies, that was predicted,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters.

EU advises countries not to pay roubles for Russian gas

The European Commission is advising European Union countries to stick to the euro or dollar currencies in their existing gas contracts with Russia and not pay for gas in roubles, according to energy policy chief Kadri Simson.

“There is a clear guidance toward the companies to respect existing contracts and not agree payments in roubles,” Simson stated at a US-EU energy meeting.

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