Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 65: Putin and Zelensky to attend G20 summit

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:

Lavrov: Russia not threatening anyone with nuclear war

Russia is not threatening anyone with nuclear war, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told Al Arabiya in an interview on Friday.

According to him, it is the West, along with Ukraine, which flirts with the rhetoric of “nuclear war”.

“We never play with concepts this dangerous. Never. We must all be committed to the statements of the “nuclear five” – a nuclear war can never be triggered,” Lavrov stressed.

Lavrov went on to say that Moscow does not consider itself at war with NATO, since it “would be a step that would increase the risks of what we just discussed [nuclear war].”

“Unfortunately, there is a feeling that NATO believes that it is at war with Russia. NATO, the US, European leaders, many of which, in particular in the UK, the US, Poland, France, Germany and, of course, the head of European diplomacy [Josep] Borrell directly say that [Russian President Vladimir] Putin must lose, Russia must be defeated,” the minister explained.

Lavrov also highlighted that Russia does not use foreign mercenaries, including those from Syria, in Ukraine.

“I can assure you that the Syrians have their own concerns,” the minister added.

The foreign minister also touched upon the issue of the activities of US biological laboratories in Ukraine, saying that Moscow believes they must be investigated. He underlined that Russia wants “clarity, and will insist on getting answers.”

He also delved into how the Western sanctions, imposed following the start of the Russian military operation in Ukraine, have impacted the food chains, effectively becoming one of the causes of global food crisis.

Kyiv tells citizens to cut vehicle use to save fuel for military

Authorities in Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, have urged people not to use their cars to save fuel for the military.

“Kyivites, if you have returned to the capital, please use public transport if possible. Those in safe places [outside Kyiv], please wait before coming back,” said Mykola Povoroznyk, deputy head of Kyiv City State Administration, adding that authorities are keeping the needs of the Ukrainian military and defenders in mind.

Povoroznyk stated there are no problems with public transport network in the city, which was constantly expanding to provide transportation for residents returning to the capital.

The authorities in the capital have urged citizens not to return yet because of the continuing danger of missile attacks. At one point about one-third of Kyiv’s population was thought to have left.

UN will redouble its efforts to save lives in Ukraine: Chief

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres wrote in a tweet Friday that the UN will not give up and would redouble its efforts to save lives and reduce human suffering in Ukraine.

His tweet came after his visit to Ukraine and meeting with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday. He also visited to Moscow on Tuesday to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin.

During a news conference in Kyiv with Zelensky, Guterres urged for evacuation corridors to be open in Mariupol, saying, “Today the people of Mariupol are in desperate need of such an approach. Mariupol is a crisis within a crisis,” and added “Thousands of civilians need life-saving assistance. Many are elderly need medical care or have limited mobility, they need an escape route out of the apocalypse.”

Russian forces “appear to be advancing” toward Ukraine’s Slovyansk and Baranivka: US official

Russian forces “appear to be advancing” toward Slovyansk and Baranivka, a senior US defense official said Friday, adding that they are making “some incremental, uneven, slow advances to the southeast and southwest of Izium,” in Ukraine.

Russian forces “continue to use… long-range fires,” the official noted.

“What we see them doing is using artillery and some airstrikes in advance of their ground movements, and so their ground movements are fairly plotting, because a, the artillery and airstrikes that they are launching against Ukrainian positions are not having the effect that they want them to have — the Ukrainians are still able to resist. And b, they are still a little wary of getting out ahead of their supply lines,” the official continued.

The US believes Russia is attempting to disrupt the Ukrainian military’s ability to “replenish their own stores and to reinforce themselves,” according to the senior US defense official.

The official gave the example of attempted Russian attacks on electrical power facilities, which could hinder Ukrainian trains.

The US also believes that while recent strikes reportedly hit residential areas, they were intended for military production facilities, the official added.

Russian strikes in Odesa are possibly meant to pin down Ukrainian forces there and prevent them from reinforcing defenders in the Donbas region, according to the official.

The official also said that now 1,950 missiles have been launched by Russia against Ukraine since the invasion began in February, and that most of the ordnance being dropped against Mariupol is “dumb” ordnance that is not precision-guided, which suggests Russian forces are still having difficulty replenishing their precision-guided munitions.

Meanwhile, the US has also trained two groups of Ukrainian trainers so far on US artillery outside of Ukraine, according to the official, with the first group being “a little it more than 50” and the second group being “around 50.”

The US has also trained a group of about 15 Ukrainians on the US radar systems that are being provided to Ukraine, with more groups of a yet to be determined number to be trained in the future, the official said.

US training for Ukrainians will “go on for as long as it needs to go on,” the official added.

The US is helping transport some Ukrainians already outside of Ukraine for training and returning them to locations outside of Ukraine so they can reenter Ukraine, according to the official, who stressed that all US transportation of Ukrainian trainers “starts and ends outside of Ukraine.”

NATO scrambled fighter jets multiple times this week to intercept Russian aircraft near alliance airspace

NATO fighter jets stationed in both the Baltic and Black Sea regions scrambled “multiple times over the past four days” to track and intercept Russian aircraft near alliance airspace, according to a statement posted by NATO’s Allied Air Command.

NATO radars tracked a number of unidentified aircraft over the Baltic and Black Sea since Tuesday. NATO noted that Russian aircraft often “do not transmit a transponder code indicating their position and altitude, do not file a flight plan, or do not communicate.”

In the Baltic region, fighter jets from Poland, Denmark, France and Spain were used at various times to intercept and identify approaching aircraft. In the Black Sea region, aircraft from Romania and the UK were used to investigate tracks of unknown aircraft approaching allied airspace, the statement added. There is no indication that US aircraft participated in the interceptions.

NATO announced that the Russian aircraft never entered the alliance’s airspace, and the “interceptions were conducted in a safe and routine manner.”

Putin, Zelensky to be present at G20 summit

Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo says Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Russia’s Vladimir Putin have agreed to attend the G20 summit to be held in Bali in November.

Widodo, the current chair of the G20 group, made the remarks in a televised statement on Friday in which he stated that he had telephone conversations this week with Zelensky and Putin. He noted he urged both leaders of Ukraine and Russia to end the war through negotiations.

“I reiterated the importance of ending the war immediately,” he continued, adding, “I also emphasised that peaceful efforts should continue and Indonesia is ready to contribute to these peaceful efforts.”

NATO troops to take part in military exercises across Europe

Tens of thousands of troops from NATO and other European nations will take part in a series of military exercises across Europe in the coming weeks as western countries seek to deter Russian aggression.

“The scale of the deployment, coupled with the professionalism, training and agility of the British Army, will deter aggression at a scale not seen in Europe this century,” Lt. General Ralph Wooddisse stated.

The exercises will take place in Finland, Poland, North Macedonia and along the Estonian-Latvian border. The deployments will begin this week in Finland.

600 injured in recent bombing of Azovstal steel plant: Mariupol mayor

The mayor of Mariupol said that more than 600 people were injured in Russian bombing that struck the makeshift hospital facility within the besieged Azovstal steel complex.

“You already know that they dropped bombs on the hospital, aerial bombs destroyed the hospital, and that is a sign of a war crime, because the number of wounded before that was 170, and now it is over 600,” the mayor, Vadym Boichenko, stated on Ukrainian television.

The Azovstal plant was heavily bombed on Wednesday night, according to multiple accounts.

Boichenko also claimed that the Russians had set up four “filtration” centers in the city where those who want to be evacuated are screened.

“If someone leaves the city and he is, in one way or another, connected with the civil service, with the municipal service, they get the sad news that they go to prison. Such people are being held and tortured there,” he claimed.

He added some families who wanted to leave for Ukrainian territory were being forced to go to Russian-controlled areas.

Ukraine regains Ruska Lozova: Intelligence

Ukrainian forces have regained control of the village of Ruska Lozova in the Kharkiv region, the Ukrainian defence ministry’s intelligence unit has claimed.

This is the village from which Russian forces used to shell Kharkiv, it said, adding that it is strategically positioned on the highway linking Ukraine’s second biggest city to the Russian city of Belgorod.

Czechs, Poles to restart talks on gas interconnector

The Czech Republic and Poland have agreed to restart previously abandoned talks on building the Stork II gas pipeline to connect the two countries, Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala has said after meeting his Polish counterpart on Warsaw.

The Czech Republic is also interested in buying capacity in Poland’s expanded or newly built LNG terminals, Fiala added.

Russia’s economy to contract by up to 10% this year: Central Bank

The Russian economy is expected to shrink by 8 to 10% in 2022, according to new estimates from the Russian Central Bank.

It said economic activity began to decline in March 2022, after Russia invaded Ukraine and sanctions were imposed. The bank added there has been a contraction in consumer and business activity, and a decline in imports and exports.

It announced businesses in Russia are now experiencing considerable difficulties in production and logistics.

In a statement, the bank said: “The external environment for the Russian economy remains challenging and significantly constrains economic activity.”

Earlier this month, the World Bank predicted that Russian GDP would contract by 11.2% in 2022 while last week, the IMF forecast a contraction of around 8.5% this year.

The Central Bank said the Russian economy will not start to recover until the end of 2023. In its statement, it added: “In 2023, the Russian economy will begin growing gradually amid a structural transformation.

“In 2023 Q4, output will be up by 4.0 to 5.5% on the same period in 2022. However, the overall GDP change in 2023 will be within the range of (-3.0)-0.0%” it continued.

The forecasts came as the Central Bank cut Russian interest rates from 17% to 14%. It said slowing consumer activity and the recovery in the ruble has eased the rate of inflation in the country slightly.

Price increases are still expected to remain high though, the bank is now forecasting inflation of 18 to 23% in 2022, slowing down to 5-7% in 2023.

Sweden to boost military on Gotland amid Russia fears

Sweden’s government said it had put aside up to 1.6 billion Swedish crowns ($163 million) to strengthen its military infrastructure on the strategically important island of Gotland in the Baltic Sea amid increased tensions with nearby Russia.

The latest tranche of money will go to expand a barracks and other infrastructure on the island of Gotland, which is seen as strategically key to control of the Baltic.

“The aim is to be able to house many more conscripts and to make operations more effective, and in that way contribute to greater capacity … on Gotland,” Financial Markets Minister Max Elger told reporters.

Situation inside besieged steel plant is “beyond a humanitarian catastrophe”

The situation inside the besieged Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol is “beyond a humanitarian catastrophe,” a Ukrainian commander inside the facility told CNN.

Maj. Serhiy Volyna, commander of Ukraine’s 36th Separate Marine Brigade, spoke to CNN on Friday from inside the steel works, explaining that there are hundreds of people inside the plant, including 60 young people, the youngest of which is four months old.

The Azovstal plant has become the last vestige of Ukrainian resistance in Mariupol, with it holding out against Russian invasion for almost two months.

The pocket of entrenched Ukrainian fighters and civilians sheltering at the plant has become a symbol of the country’s defiance.

Volyna explained that because of a recent Russian strike against the plant’s field hospital, they have been left without vital medical equipment, while also revealing that they “have very little water, very little food left.”

“The operating theatre was hit directly. And all the operating equipment, everything that is necessary to perform surgery has been destroyed so right now, we cannot treat our wounded, especially those with shrapnel wounds and with bullet wounds,” he said.

Volyna added: “We are looking after the wounded right now with whatever tools we have. We have our army medics and they’re using every skill they have to look after the wounded. And right now, we don’t have any surgical tools but we have some basics. But also, we are in dire need of medication. We have almost no medication left.”

According to a statement from the Ukrainian president’s office on Friday, an operation to evacuate civilians from the besieged Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol is planned for Friday. The statement gave no further details.

When asked about a possible evacuation plan, Volyna said he didn’t “know the details.”

“I know that the mission has arrived in Zaporizhzhia and that they are going to try and mount a rescue operation.” Volyna stated that he is in direct communication with President Volodymyr Zelensky, adding that the Ukrainian leader was briefing them “on the situation in Ukraine as a whole and around Mariupol,” as well as “keeping our spirits high.”

A Ukrainian official noted on Friday that Russian forces have closed off an area in Mariupol, potentially ahead of another attempt to storm the Azovstal steel plant.

And Volyna isn’t sure how long he and his fellow Ukrainian’s can resist Russia’s attacks for.

“We cannot tell you for sure how long we can hold on for,” he said, adding, “That all depends on the enemy movements and also on luck. We have great hopes that we will be evacuated, that the president will succeed in either evacuating or extracting us and we’ll just have to hope and see if that happens.”

Russian forces shell railway hub & supply line in eastern Ukraine

Russian troops have shelled an important railway hub and supply line for Ukrainian troops in the country’s east, according to video footage published on Thursday and Friday.

The video shows railroad trucks on fire in the town of Lyman, a few miles east of Sloviansk, in Donetsk region.

The Russians were trying “to advance from the north of the region, neighbouring Kharkiv region — in the Lyman direction, and do everything possible to get a direct route towards Sloviansk, Kramatorsk, reaching their strategic goals in the Donetsk region,” said Pavlo Kyrylenko, head of Donetsk regional military administration.

Kyrylenko insisted that “the enemy cannot break through. Lyman city is under the Ukrainian Armed Forces control.”

However, he stated the Russians were using artillery and airstrikes to wipe out settlements and prevent the Ukrainian defenders from fortifying their positions.

Excluding the city of Mariupol, nearly 1.7 million people had lived in government-controlled parts of Donetsk on the eve of the war, Kyrylenko added. Now there are about 370,000 civilians in the region.

Kremlin: US bill allowing transfer of seized assets to Ukraine is ‘flagrant’ distortion of int’l law

Moscow views the US bill allowing the transfer of the seized Russian assets to Ukraine as a “flagrant” distortion of the law, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Friday.

According to Peskov, such legislation is nothing but “expropriation of private property”.

Earlier, Washington announced it was considering the possibility of seizing the sanctioned Russian assets and transferring them to Ukraine. The Justice Department said it would support such legislation, even though the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) had earlier criticised the initiative as a potential violation of constitutional due-process protections.

On Thursday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken stated that Washington was considering the possibility of seizing the sanctioned assets of the Russian government and using them in projects to help Ukraine.

China: US aims to prolong military action in Ukraine to weaken Russia

The US’ goal is to prolong the Ukrainian conflict as much as possible in order to weaken Russia, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Zhao Lijian said at a briefing on Friday.

“While Europe and the international community are calling to end the war, the US continues to fan the flames and is ready to fight to the last Ukrainian,” the diplomat stated.

“The US continues to provide Ukraine with money and weapons. Its true goal is not to attain peace, but for the conflict to continue. As they themselves say, their goal is to weaken Russia,” he added.

“As for whether the US brings peace or war, security or chaos, I think, the world knows the answer to these questions,” the spokesman concluded.

European countries should learn a lesson from events in Ukraine and realize that real conflicting sides there are not Moscow and Kiev but Russia and the US represented by NATO, he continued.

“The EU indeed needs to reconsider the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. My colleagues and I have repeatedly stressed that from the outside it may seem like a conflict between Russia and Ukraine, however, the actual sides of the conflict are Russia and the US which is represented by NATO,” he said.

“The EU needs to think about the following: who benefits from this war the most, who serves as the theater of military operations and who loses the most from this war,” the diplomat added.

“We hope that Europe will arrive at China’s independent assessment, will begin to conduct independent policy with regards to China and together with the Chinese side will facilitate the stable and steady development of bilateral relations,” the spokesman concluded.

Norway shuts borders, ports to Russian goods, exempts fishing vessels

Norway will close its borders and ports to Russian trucks and ships, joining a string of sanctions imposed by the EU over the war in Ukraine, the Norwegian foreign ministry has said.

Russian fishing vessels, which often land their catch at ports in northern Norway, will receive exemptions from sanctions. Norway’s Arctic Svalbard archipelago, which operates under a 1920s treaty allowing expanded foreign access, will also be exempted, the ministry added.

Ukraine shells Russian border checkpoint: Governor

Ukrainian mortars damaged a border checkpoint in western Russia, regional governor Alexander Bogomaz has claimed.

The shelling in the Bryansk region’s village of Belaya Berezka damaged power and water supply networks, Bogomaz said on Telegram. There were no casualties, he added.

This is the second time today where Moscow says Ukrainian forces hit a target on Russian soil.

Putin and Zelensky invited to G20 summit in Indonesia

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky have been invited to the G20 summit, AFP reported on Friday, citing Indonesian President Joko Widodo.

Earlier in April, Zelensky stated that he held a phone conversation with Widodo who invited him to the G20 summit.

Moscow confirms ‘high-precision’ strike on Kyiv during UN visit

Russia’s defence ministry confirms it had carried out an air strike on Kyiv during a visit by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

“High-precision, long-range air-based weapons of the Russian Aerospace Forces have destroyed the production buildings of the Artyom missile and space enterprise in Kyiv,” the ministry announced in its daily briefing on the conflict in Ukraine.

One civilian has died due to Russian attacks that hit a residential building in Kyiv’s Shevchenkivskyi district, the city’s mayor Vitaliy Klitschko stated.

Russia’s defence ministry has also announced it used a diesel submarine in the Black Sea to strike Ukrainian military targets with Kalibr cruise missiles.

Russian troops have eliminated 142 Ukrainian combat aircraft, 634 unmanned aerial vehicles, 2,638 tanks and other armored vehicles and 304 multiple rocket launchers since the start of their special military operation in Ukraine, Russian Defense Ministry Spokesman Major-General Igor Konashenkov said on Friday.

“Overall, the following targets have been destroyed since the start of the special military operation: 142 aircraft, 111 helicopters, 634 unmanned aerial vehicles, 278 surface-to-air missile systems, 2,638 tanks and other combat armored vehicles, 304 multiple launch rocket systems, 1,175 field artillery guns and mortars and 2,467 special military motor vehicles,” the spokesman added.

Over 1,000 civilians exhumed in Kyiv region: Official

The bodies of 1,187 civilians have been found so far in the Kyiv region, a local police official has stated.

On Thursday alone, 28 bodies have been exhumed, Andriy Nebitov said in televised remarks. Most of the bodies – 1,080 – were found in the Bucha district northwest of Kyiv, he added.

Poland delivers Mover 200 T-72 tanks to Ukraine

Poland has delivered more than 200 T-72 tanks and several dozen infantry fighting vehicles to Ukraine, media reported on Friday.

The arms supplied are enough to form two brigades, Polskie Radio reported.

Denmark sends anti-tank mines, armoured vehicles & Mortar Shells to Ukraine

Denmark will support Ukraine with M113 armoured personnel carriers, anti-tank mines and mortar shells, according to a report.

The three weapon systems are part of the 600 million DKK ($85 million) arms donation which Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen promised Ukraine last week during her surprise visit to Kiev, Danish Radio reported.

UK to send war crimes’ experts team

Britain announced it was sending experts to help Ukraine with gathering evidence and prosecuting war crimes, with a team due to arrive in Poland in early May.

“Russia has brought barbarity to Ukraine and committed vile atrocities, including against women. British expertise will help uncover the truth and hold Putin’s regime to account for its actions,” Foreign Secretary Liz Truss stated.

Heavy shelling in eastern Ukraine, as Russians target “entire line of contact”

Heavy shelling by Russian forces is continuing along “the entire line of contact” in the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, according to the Ukrainian military.

Russians troops are also trying to inflict air strikes in certain areas, said the General Staff of the Armed Forces on Friday.

The Izium area of eastern Ukraine, located in the Kharkiv region, has become a staging ground for Russian forces as they try to advance through neighboring Donetsk and Luhansk.

No offensive operations in that area have been conducted in recent hours, said the Ukrainian military.

“The main effort was focused on reconnaissance, identification of defensive positions of the units of the Defense Forces of Ukraine and hitting them with artillery fire,” added the General Staff.

Further southeast, “in order to prevent the redeployment of our troops, the enemy is shelling the positions with artillery, mortars and multiple rocket launchers along the entire line of contact,” it announced.

The General Staff also claimed that Ukrainian troops “repelled nine enemy attacks, destroyed six tanks, one artillery system, twenty armored vehicles” in Donetsk and Luhansk on Thursday.

Ukrainian officials say Russians are “robbing” wheat stocks

The General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces claimed on Friday that Russian troops were “robbing” wheat stocks, as heavy fighting continues in the country’s eastern and southern regions.

“The Russian occupiers are robbing the villagers,” said the General Staff.

“Thus, for example, over 60 tons of wheat together with the cargo trucks were stolen from the agricultural cooperative in the town of Kamianka-Dniprovska,” the General Staff added.

Russia says statements by West that Moscow threatens nuclear war are false

Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova announced statements by Western countries that Russia is threatening a nuclear war are not true.

“Western officials, in the worst traditions of disinformation, are feeding to the media, doing it in a coordinated way, a fake narrative about nuclear threats from Moscow,” she said on Telegram, adding, “Foreign ministries of NATO countries have started to convince their population that Russians are doing saber rattling.”

In fact, Russia understands the risks in that area, Zakharova continued, stating, “We can’t even start to think about a nuclear war.”

Five towns in Ukraine’s east hit overnight

Five towns in Ukraine’s southeastern Luhansk region have been shelled overnight, a defense official has said.

The bombardment damaged houses and caused fires, but there were no casualties, Serhiy Haidai added on Telegram.

In the eastern region of Donetsk, three people died, and three were wounded, on Thursday due to Russian air strikes in the Ukrainian city of New York, regional chief Pavlo Kirilenko posted on Facebook.

Russian checkpoint in bordering town hit: Local authorities

A checkpoint in the Russian village of Krupets in the Kursk region bordering Ukraine was shelled at 8am local time (5am GMT), regional governor Roman Starovoyt has said on his telegram channel.

He added that there were no casualties or damage.

UK to send 8,000 troops to Northern & Eastern Europe

The United Kingdom will send its military personnel to Eastern Europe to participate in military drills in a move to demonstrate UK military contribution to European security amid Russia’s operation in Ukraine, UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said on Friday.

“The security of Europe has never been more important. These exercises will see our troops join forces with allies and partners across NATO and the Joint Expeditionary Force in a show of solidarity and strength in one of the largest shared deployments since the Cold War,” Wallace stated, as quoted by Sky News, adding that the drills aim to “showcase the scale and significance of the British Army’s contribution to the defence of Europe”.

Troops will be deployed in countries from Finland to North Macedonia, with dozens of Challenger 2 tanks and more than 100 armored combat vehicles, the broadcaster reported.

The UK army and other NATO troops will be trained to improve the ability of working together, “deterring Russian aggression in Scandinavia and the Baltic states,” the UK defense ministry noted.

The deployment is expected to reach a peak of about 8,000 soldiers between April and June, the report added.

US private military contractor killed in Ukraine

Wily Joseph Cancel, 22, an employee of a US private military company, has been killed in Ukraine, media reported.

His mother Rebecca Cabrera told the CNN broadcaster that the company had sent him to fight alongside the Ukrainian forces and paid him for that.

Cancel flew to Poland on March 12 and soon crossed into Ukraine. According to Cabrera, he was fighting in Ukraine along with people fro different countries.

Mercenaries from various countries are arriving in Ukraine amid the ongoing Russian military operation in the country.

UK says Russia military focused on ‘Battle of Donbas’

Britain’s Ministry of Defence has given an update on the latest situation on the ground in Ukraine.

“The Battle of the Donbas remains Russia’s main strategic focus, in order to achieve its stated aim of securing control over the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts,” it said in its latest intelligence update.

Fighting has been particularly heavy around the towns of Lysychansk and Sievierodonetsk, it added.

At least 10 wounded in Kyiv: Rescuers

Twelve fire trucks have been called in to put out the blaze in Kyiv, with rescuers confirming 10 people were wounded in the attacks, raising an earlier toll of three.

The emergency services announced one strike hit a 25-storey residential block, partially destroying two floors, while witnesses also saw a low-rise building in flames, with black smoke pouring into the air and rescuers at the scene.

Zelensky: 10 Russian soldiers identified as suspects in “crimes committed” in Bucha

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said 10 Russian servicemembers have been identified as suspects in the “crimes committed against our people in Bucha”.

In his nightly address posted to social media on Thursday, Zelensky stated the investigation into crimes committed by the Russian military is underway and that the “first ten Russian servicemen from the 64th motorized rifle brigade of the Russian Ground Forces who committed crimes against our people in Bucha, Kyiv region, received the status of suspects.”

Zelensky added the suspects’ surnames are known and “it is established what they did.”

“We know all the details about them and their actions. And we will find everyone. Just as we will find all the other Russian thugs who killed and tortured Ukrainians. Who tormented our people. Who destroyed houses and civilian infrastructure in Ukraine,” Zelensky said, adding that none of them will avoid responsibility.

In early April, videos and images emerged from Bucha showing bodies lying along streets and accounts of Russian atrocities emerged as its forces retreated from areas near Kyiv.

Zelensky called it “genocide” and the alleged atrocities in Bucha have drawn international outrage, with Western leaders calling for war crimes investigations and fresh sanctions on Russia. Russia’s Ministry of Defense denied responsibility and claimed “not a single local resident suffered from any violent actions” in Bucha.

Russia has made ‘minor advances’: IOW

The Institute for the Study of War claims Russia made “minor advances” in eastern Ukraine on Thursday but did not gain any new territory.

Its latest assessment says military reinforcements are being deployed through the border town of Belgorod.

“Russian and proxy forces continued to mobilize in Transnistria and set conditions for a false flag attack,” it added.

Ukraine suffers serious losses, but not as many as Russia: Aide

An aide to Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky has said the country has suffered serious losses in the war with Russia, but Moscow has lost many more soldiers.

In a video posted online, the aide, Oleksiy Arestovych, noted the military situation was difficult but controllable.

Possibility of ‘large’ economic shocks in future: US

US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has said the global pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine highlight the possibility of big economic shocks in the future, adding that downturns are “likely to continue to challenge the economy”.

“Countries will fare better if their economies are more resilient and less fragile,” she stated at the Brookings Institution.

“Improved understanding of breaks in supply chains, increases in commodity prices, bursting of asset bubbles, and labour and productivity shocks can help policymakers implement reforms that bolster our economic resilience,” she added.

UN chief, team ‘shocked’ by proximity of Russian raid on Kyiv

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and his team were “shocked” by the proximity of the Russian missile attacks which slammed into central Kyiv as they were visiting but were all “safe”, a spokesperson has stated.

“It is a war zone but it is shocking that it happened close to us,” Saviano Abreu, spokesperson for the UN’s humanitarian office told AFP, without saying how close they were to the point of impact, with one missile hitting a residential building, wounding several people.

Russia attacks on Kyiv aimed at humiliating UN: Zelensky

Russian missiles that hit a residential neighbourhood in Kyiv as the UN’s secretary-general was visiting were an attempt “to humiliate” the global body, President Volodymyr Zelensky has said.

“Today, immediately after the end of our talks in Kyiv, Russian missiles flew into the city. Five rockets. And this says a lot … about the Russian leadership’s efforts to humiliate the UN and everything that the organisation represents,” Zelensky stated, adding that it required “a correspondingly powerful reaction”.

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 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.

Russia maintains Ukrainian fighters in Mariupol must lay down weapons

Kremlin Spokesperson Dmitry Peskov has stated Russian President Vladimir Putin had been quite clear that while civilians could leave the steel plant in Mariupol, Ukrainian fighters had to lay down their arms.

“What could be the topic of negotiations in this case?” the Tass state news agency quoted Peskov as saying.

Peskov’s comment comes after local governor Pavlo Kyrylenko noted Russia was preventing wounded Ukrainian fighters from being evacuated from the plant in the besieged port city in southern Ukraine.

White House expects other countries to step up assistance to Ukraine

The White House expects other countries to step up and continue to provide a range of assistance to Ukraine, Press Secretary Jen Psaki has said.

“Other countries, we expect them to step up as well as this is going to be a sustained effort,” Psaki added.

Canada training Ukrainian troops on howitzer artillery: DM

Canada’s Defence Minister Anita Anand stated during a visit to Washington, DC, that Canadian troops were training Ukrainian forces to use howitzer artillery.

The US has been training a small number of Ukrainian service members on howitzers and some other systems outside of Ukraine.

Anand, speaking alongside US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, did not say where the Canadian training was taking place.

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