Friday, February 23, 2024

Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 70: Moscow warns Europe of the costs of anti-Russia bans

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:

Biden: US is “open to additional sanctions” on Russia

After the European Union and UK announced additional sanctions on Russia, US President Joe Biden said “we are always open to additional sanctions.”

“I’ll be speaking with the members of the G7 this week about what we’re going to do or not do,” Biden told reporters at the White House while discussing the US economy.

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen proposed a raft of measures, including a ban on Russian oil, on Wednesday. Other proposals include listing individuals who committed war crimes in Bucha, Ukraine; removing Russia’s largest bank Sberbank and two other companies from the SWIFT system, a messaging service that connects financial institutions around the world; and banning three Russian state-owned broadcasters from European airwaves.

The United Kingdom’s Foreign Secretary Liz Truss on Wednesday announced further sanctions against 63 Russian citizens and entities, including against Russian media companies “behind Putin’s vicious disinformation campaign” and their employees.

Over 5.6 million refugees have fled Ukraine: UN

More than 5.6 million people have fled Ukraine since the start of the Russian invasion in late February, according to the latest United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) data.

In addition, at least 7.7 million people are internally displaced in Ukraine having been forced to flee their homes, according to the latest report by the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

A projected 8.3 million refugees are expected to flee Ukraine, the UNHCR announced last week.

90% of US howitzers pledged to Ukraine have been transferred there: Senior defense official

Nearly all of the howitzers that the US pledged to Ukraine are now “in Ukrainian hands,” according to a senior US defense official.

“I can tell you that more than 90% of the 90 howitzers that were pledged to Ukraine in the last two presidential drawdown authorities are actually in Ukrainian hands,” the official said.

Nearly 90,000 of the 144,000 pledged projectile ammunition to pair with them are now in Ukraine as well, according to the official.

But the official stated that the US is not tracking where all the artillery is going once the materiel has been given to the Ukrainians.

“Again, where they go and how they’re being used, that’s up to the Ukrainians. We don’t have a bird’s eye view of every single tube and can tell you where it is in the fight,” the official added.

Ukraine: Russia is trying to increase tempo of eastern offensive

Ukraine’s defence ministry says Russia is attempting to increase the tempo of its offensive in the east of the country.

Defence ministry spokesman Oleksandr Motuzyanyk gave few details but told a news briefing that Moscow’s forces had conducted nearly 50 air raids on Tuesday alone.

He also added Russian artillery fire and air raids were continuing periodically on the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol, where the last Ukrainian defenders of the southeastern port city are holed up.

EU considers ways to ramp up military support to Moldova

The European Union is considering ways to further boost Moldova’s military, EU Council President Charles Michel said Wednesday, following recent attacks in the country’s pro-Moscow breakaway region of Transnistria.

Speaking alongside Moldova’s president Maia Sandu in Chisinau, Michel stated “some decisions” have already been taken to enhance support in the fields of logistics and cyber defense.

The pair discussed what further military support could be provided, he noted, but would not go into detail “to avoid any escalation.”

“We don’t think that it is smart or intelligent to express provocative statements about [the] situation in Moldova or in Transnistria,” he continued, adding, “We want to prevent any incident.”

Ukraine will not agree to any deal that leads to a ‘frozen conflict’: Zelensky

President Volodymyr Zelensky has said he will not accept any deal with Moscow on ending the war that would allow Russian troops to remain in currently occupied parts of Ukraine.

Addressing the Wall Street Journal CEO Council Summit in London via videolink, the Ukrainian leader stated he “will not accept a frozen conflict”.

Zelensky warned against Ukraine being drawn into a “diplomatic quagmire”, citing earlier deals between Moscow and Kyiv concerning separatist-held parts of eastern Ukraine.

“I came to the presidency when there was Minsk-1, Minsk-2. There were documents that were violated, so I can say these were not serious. However, there were arrangements on paper. It was a frozen conflict. I am against it. We will definitely not have such a document,” he added.

Ukraine’s FM urges EU states to back Russia oil ban

Ukraine’s foreign minister has called on EU countries to back a proposed embargo on imports of Russian oil, saying Moscow is using revenues from energy exports to finance its “war machine”.

“If there is any country in Europe who will continue to oppose the embargo on Russian oil, there will be good reason to say, this country is complicit in the crimes committed by Russia in the territory of Ukraine,” Dmytro Kuleba stated in a video speech posted on Twitter.

Biden says he will discuss additional Russia sanctions with G7

US President Joe Biden says he will speak with other leaders from the Group of Seven (G7) advanced economies this week about potential additional sanctions against Russia.

“We’re always open to additional sanctions,” Biden told reporters.

“I’ll be speaking with the members of the G7 this week about what we’re going to do or not do,” he added.

Netherlands weighing whether to boost weapons support for Ukraine

Prime Minister Mark Rutte says the Netherlands is currently assessing whether to supply more heavy weapons to Ukraine.

Kyiv has called for additional military supplies as it faces down Russia’s refocused offensive in the eastern Donbas region.

“The Netherlands will continue to support Ukraine’s fight to defend democracy and sovereignty, in the short and long term,” Rutte wrote on Twitter following talks by phone with President Volodymyr Zelensky.

UK bans services exports to Russia, sanctions Russian media outlets

The United Kingdom has banned all service sector exports to Russia and imposed new sanctions on 63 individuals and organisations, including several media outlets, in its latest wave of measures against Moscow.

“Doing business with Putin’s regime is morally bankrupt and helps fund a war machine that is causing untold suffering across Ukraine,” Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said in a statement.

“Cutting Russia’s access to British services will put more pressure on the Kremlin and ultimately help ensure Putin fails in Ukraine,” she added.

The UK has now sanctioned more than 1,600 individuals and entities since Russia launched its invasion in late February.

Mariupol mayor claims heavy fighting under way at Azovstal steel plant

The mayor of Mariupol claimed heavy fighting is under way at the city’s Azovstal steelworks, where Ukrainian troops have staged their final stand against Russia’s siege of the southeastern port city.

Vadym Boichenko stated on national television that contact had been lost with the Ukrainian fighters still in the sprawling, Soviet-era plant and that more than 30 children were among the dozens of civilians awaiting evacuation from the site.

Bulgaria to seek exemption from any EU embargo on Russian oil

Bulgaria’s deputy prime minister has said his country will seek to take advantage of any potential exemptions to a proposed EU embargo on Russian oil if the measure comes into effect.

“Bulgaria, technologically, can do without Russian oil crude, but that would push up fuel prices significantly,” Assen Vassilev told financial newspaper Capital.

“So, if the European Commission considers exemptions, we would like to take advantage of such exemptions,” he added.

Slovakia seeking three-year exemption to EU’s Russian oil embargo

Slovakia’s economy minister says his country wants a three-year transition period for it to phase in the EU’s proposed oil embargo on Russia.

Richard Sulik said Slovakia, which is highly reliant on Russian crude supplies, supported the bloc’s push but was still seeking an exemption to give it time to secure alternative supplies.

Hungary says EU’s Russian oil ban plan lacks security guarantee

Hungary announced European Union proposals to enact sanctions on Russian oil do not provide any guarantees for its energy security.

On Wednesday, after the EU’s chief called for a ban on Russian oil imports by the end of 2022, Hungarian government spokesman Zoltan Kovacs stated his country sees no plans on how a transition could be managed.

“We do not see any plans or guarantees on how a transition could be managed based on the current proposals, and how Hungary’s energy security would be guaranteed,” Kovacs told Reuters and AFP news agencies.

Asked if this meant Hungary outrightly rejected the EU’s proposal, the Hungarian government press office did not immediately answer.

In a document seen by AFP, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s proposal suggested that Hungary and Slovakia, both highly dependent on Russian oil, be given more time to meet the EU demands to enact the ban.

Also on Wednesday, 27 EU state ambassadors will meet to discuss von der Leyen’s plan, and a unanimous agreement has to be reached before it goes into effect.

Hungary and Slovakia have previously announced they will not support the sanctions against Russian energy that the EU is preparing over the war in Ukraine, insisting that they are too reliant on those supplies and there are no immediate alternatives.

Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban – who has cultivated close ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin in recent years – stated the central European country is far too dependent on Russian gas and oil.

Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto reiterated on Tuesday that “currently it is physically impossible to operate Hungary or the Hungarian economy without Russian oil”.

According to Hungarian government spokesman Kovacs, 65 percent of Hungary’s oil and 85 percent of its gas supplies come from Russia.

Moldova ready for ‘pessimistic’ scenarios: President

Moldova sees no imminent threat of unrest spilling over from the war in Ukraine despite “provocations” by pro-Russian separatists in recent days, but has been making contingency plans for “pessimistic” scenarios, President Maia Sandu stated.

Sandu’s remarks came after fears have grown in the past week that Moldova could be drawn into the war in Ukraine, with which it shares a border, after pro-Russian separatists in the country’s breakaway region of Transnistria reported a number of attacks and explosions there, which they blamed on Kyiv.

Sandu and her pro-Western government have blamed the incidents on “pro-war” separatist factions. She has also denounced comments by a Russian general that one of Moscow’s war aims was to seize Ukrainian territory to link up with the separatists in Transnistria.

Russia: Black Sea submarine fired cruise missiles at targets in Ukraine

A Russian submarine in the Black Sea has fired two Kalibr cruise missiles at targets in Ukraine, Russia’s defence ministry announced on Wednesday.

Russia first reported using submarine strikes as part of its self-declared “special military operation” in Ukraine late last month.

Kremlin slams publications about plans to announce mobilization on May 9 as nonsense

Publications about plans to announce general mobilization in Russia on Victory Day should not be trusted, it is nonsense and not true, Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists.

“No, you shouldn’t,” he stated in reply to a question about whether one should listen to such reports, “It’s not true, it’s nonsense.”

Responding to a question about whether there is any possibility of a declaration of war against Ukraine on May 9, Peskov stressed: “None.”

“This is nonsense,” he repeated.

Moscow claims Israeli ‘mercenaries’ fighting in Ukraine

A spokeswoman for Russia’s foreign ministry on Wednesday claimed Israeli mercenaries were fighting alongside the far-right Azov Regiment in Ukraine, further fueling tensions with Israel after Russia suggested Adolf Hitler had “Jewish blood.”

“Israeli mercenaries are practically shoulder to shoulder with Azov militants in Ukraine,” Maria Zakharova told pro-Kremlin Sputnik radio in an interview.

By suggesting that Israelis are fighting alongside Azov – viewed by Russia as “fascists” and “Nazis” – Moscow is compounding tensions that started after Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Sunday that Hitler had “Jewish blood.”

His remarks sparked outrage in Israel, which called the statement “unforgivable and outrageous” and a “terrible historical error.”

Russia’s foreign ministry on Tuesday accused Israel of backing “the neo-Nazi regime in Kyiv.”

Kremlin: Cost of sanctions against Russia will increase for European citizens every day

Kremlin: There is no progress in Russia-Ukraine negotiations

There is no progress in the negotiation process between Russia and Ukraine, with Moscow recording messages about Kiev’s desire to withdraw from the talks, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Wednesday.

“It is still hardly possible to state any dynamics on the negotiation track, rather the opposite … And the inconsistency of the Ukrainian side has also been repeatedly stated by us at various levels. They change their position every day, but such statements are more and more often heard from Kiev. Yes, we record it too,” Peskov told reporters, commenting on Kiev’s plans to withdraw from the talks.

The spokesman added that this inconsistency “does not inspire confidence that this negotiation process can somehow end productively.”

‘Agreement with Russia won’t stop NATO’s military buildup in eastern Europe’

The 1997 NATO-Russia Founding Act won’t stop the alliance from expanding its military presence in Eastern Europe, stated NATO Military Committee Chair Admiral Rob Bauer, according to the Financial Times.

“The NATO-Russia act is still there. But nothing that we have to do is going to be hampered by its content,” Bauer said, as cited by the newspaper.

“For now, the general opinion on the political level is that we do not kill [the agreement], but nothing in it will stop us doing what we have to do,” he added.

According to the daily, Bauer noted that he “attempted to set up calls with his opposite number – Valery Gerasimov, Russia’s chief of the general staff – before and after the invasion began, only to be rebuffed.”

Any NATO vehicle coming to Ukraine with weapons is considered to be legitimate target: Russian DM

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said that any NATO vehicle coming to Ukraine with weapons or equipment for Ukrainian forces will be considered a legitimate target to be destroyed.

“The United States and its NATO allies continue to pump weapons to Ukraine. I can confirm that any transport from the North Atlantic alliance that arrives in the country with weapons or materiel for the Ukrainian armed forces will be considered by us as a legitimate target for destruction,” Shoigu stated on Wednesday.

According to him, during the course of the special operation, the Russian servicemen have “shown courage and bravery, honourably fulfilling their military duty, and ensuring the safety of the civil population of Donbass.”

UN: millions of tons of grain are blocked at Ukraine’s ports

Millions of tons of grain are stuck in Ukraine as the ongoing conflict with Russia prevents safe transit from the country’s ports, a UN official warned.

“Currently, almost 4.5 million tons of grain are stuck in Ukrainian ports and on ships and cannot be used,” Martin Frick, the Germany director of the UN World Food Programme told German news agency DPA.

“Ukraine’s food is urgently needed in the world,” Frick told the agency, adding that Ukrainian shipments were critical to help tackle a “global food crisis.”

Ukraine is a significant exporter of grains such as wheat and corn, accounting for 12% and 17% of global supply, respectively. Prices of the commodities surged in the wake of Russia’s invasion, as conflict curtails production and export of the grains, with blocked shipping routes proving a major obstacle.

One killed as Ukrainian shelling causes fire at oil depot in Donetsk: Local authorities

One person is dead after Ukrainian shelling caused a fire at an oil depot in the separatist-held Donetsk region, the Russian-backed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) Territorial Defense Headquarters claimed Wednesday.

“According to preliminary data, as a result of the shelling of the oil depot in Makiivka, one person was killed and two were injured,” the post from the DPR Defense HQ said, adding that “four large capacity tanks” containing 5,000 cubic meters of oil had been ignited.

The Ukrainian Armed forces are yet to respond to the accusation.

School year in Ukraine “nears tragic end” with child deaths & destruction of facilities: UNICEF

Hundreds of schools across Ukraine are reported to have been hit by heavy artillery, airstrikes and other explosive weapons in populated areas, “underscoring the dramatic impact the conflict is having on children’s lives and futures,” the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) announced in a statement.

“The start of the academic year in Ukraine was one of hope and promise for children following Covid-19 disruptions,” said Murat Sahin, UNICEF Representative to Ukraine.

“Instead, hundreds of children have been killed, and the school year ends amid the closure of classrooms due to war and the decimation of educational facilities,” Sahin added.

Among the schools that have been damaged or destroyed by shelling is “School 36 – the only ‘Safe School’ in Mariupol,” UNICEF said, adding two schools have been hit by attacks in the past week alone.

The “Safe Schools” program was established with Ukraine’s Ministry of Education and Science in response to attacks on kindergartens and schools in the Donbas region, “which has seen a simmering armed conflict since 2014,” UNICEF said.

UNICEF points out that for children affected by crisis, school provides not only a safe space and “a semblance of normality in the most difficult of times,” but also access to information on the risks of deadly explosive ordnance.

Educational facilities also connect them and their parents to health and psychosocial services, added the agency.

“Ensuring access to education can be the difference between a sense of hope or despair for millions of children,” Sahin said, adding, “This is crucial for their future and that of all Ukraine.”

Children and schools should be protected in line with international humanitarian law, UNICEF said, calling on the warring sides to take measures to avoid the use of explosive weapons in populated areas and the use of educational facilities for military purposes.

“Despite the horror of war, impressive work has gone into making sure children can keep learning,” Sahin stated, noting, “Ultimately, the fighting needs to stop so that classrooms can be rebuilt, and schools can be safe and fun places to learn again.”

The war in Ukraine is having “a devastating impact” on the country’s 7.5 million children, UNICEF has announced, as “children continue to be killed, wounded and deeply traumatized by the violence all around them.”

The agency has also warned that children fleeing the violence in Ukraine are at heightened risk of human trafficking and exploitation.

More than 5.4 million refugees had fled Ukraine as of May 1, around half of them children, according to the latest UNICEF data.

Millions more people have been internally displaced, UNICEF said, adding “such large-scale displacements could have lasting consequences for generations to come.”

Electricity in Lviv “completely restored” following missile strikes on three power stations: Deputy mayor

Electricity in Lviv has been “completely restored” following missile strikes last night, the city’s deputy mayor Serhiy Kiral told CNN on Wednesday.

Kiral said three cruise missiles hit three power stations in Lviv on Tuesday, leaving them “badly damaged.”

Two other missiles that reached western Ukraine and the Lviv region “were shot down” by the air defense system, Kiral added. Another one hit the Transcarpathian region.

In total, there were “18 or 19” cruise missile strikes “shot from the Caspian Sea from the Russian strategic bombers” in Ukraine’s direction, he said, “probably Tu-295 or Tu-160” aircraft.

“There were also disruptions on our pumping stations, which are supplying the city with water,” Kiral continued.

“This is interesting because, in fact, water [supply] was not stopped… and this is the result of some of the contingency plans for the resilience of the city that we had before the war,” he added.

“We bought the diesel generators, and those diesel generators yesterday helped to continue to supply the water not only to the citizens, but also to the firefighters, which were trying to put out the fire,” stated Kiral.

The Ukrainian military said that the Russian missile attacks on Tuesday night were designed to destroy transport infrastructure.

Cruise missiles hit at least half a dozen targets across central and western Ukraine in what appears to have been an attempt to hamper the transit of military equipment and supplies.

The Ukrainian railway system reported that more than 40 trains were delayed following the attacks.

Kiral said he does not believe the attacks on infrastructure would affect supplies from the west.

“But it may affect the exports of the Ukrainian commodities, which is very critical in these times of the year because we need to take out more than 5 million tons of grain in order to be ready for the new harvest,” he added.

Russia says its forces struck railway stations used to transport weapons

Russia’s defence ministry claims it has disabled six railway stations in Ukraine used to supply Ukrainian forces in the country’s east with Western-made weapons.

The ministry said it bombed the stations’ power supplies using high-precision air and sea-based weapons, but did not specify exactly which weapons were supplied to Ukrainian forces via those sites.

It added that its forces had hit a total of 40 Ukrainian military targets, including four depots storing ammunition and artillery weapons.

Ukraine warns Belarus could yet join Russian war effort

Kyiv has not ruled out the possibility that Moscow could utilise the armed forces of its ally Belarus in Ukraine at some point, a spokesman for the country’s State Border Service says.

Speaking after the Belarusian armed forces began large-scale drills, Andriy Demchenko stated Ukraine was “ready” for any such mobilisation by its neighbour’s military.

Moscow bans Japanese PM & FM from entering Russia

Moscow has prohibited the entry of Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi to Russia due to unprecedented anti-Russian campaign launched by Tokyo, the Russian foreign ministry said on Wednesday.

“Tokyo is taking practical steps aimed at dismantling good neighbourly ties, damaging the Russian economy and the international authority of our country … Taking into account the above mentioned, as well as personal sanctions imposed by the Japanese government against Russian citizens, including the top leadership of the state, a decision was made to permanently ban the following Japanese citizens from entering Russia,” the ministry added.

Kishida and Hayashi top the list of sanctioned individuals, attached to the statement. In total, it targets 63 Japanese citizens, including Finance Minister Shunichi Suzuki, Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi and Justice Minister Yoshihisa Furukawa.

EU unveils plan to ban oil imports in new Russia sanctions

The European Union’s leader has called on the 27-nation bloc to ban oil imports from Russia in a sixth package of sanctions against Moscow, calling on the EU’s members to phase out imports of crude oil within six months and refined products by the end of the year.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen also proposed that Sberbank, Russia’s largest bank, and two other major banks be disconnected from the SWIFT international banking payment system.

The proposals need to be unanimously approved to take effect and are likely to be the subject of fierce debate. Von der Leyen conceded that getting all 27 member countries – some landlocked and highly dependent on Russia for energy supplies – to agree on oil sanctions “will not be easy”.

More buses of evacuees leave Mariupol

A convoy of buses left Mariupol on Wednesday morning in a new attempt by Ukraine, the UN and the International Committee of the Red Cross to evacuate civilians from the southern Ukrainian city, the governor of Donetsk has said.

The buses were heading for the Ukrainian-controlled city of Zaporizhzhia, Pavlo Kyrylenko stated. He did not say whether any more civilians had been evacuated from the steelworks in Mariupol where the city’s last defenders are holding out against Russian forces.

Pentagon & American firms involved in Ukrainian military biolabs: Russia’s top investigator

The head of Russia’s Investigative Committee, Alexander Bastrykin, has told RT that his team is making progress in a criminal probe into Ukraine’s alleged Pentagon-funded bioweapons program.

“The analysis of the obtained documents allowed us to clearly identify the people involved in the military biological activities in Ukraine, including representatives of the US Department of Defense and American companies with ties to it,” Bastrykin said.

He added that the US had spent more than $224 million on biological programs in Ukraine since 2005. The investigator added that foreign aid was used to equip and upgrade around 30 research centers governed by Ukraine’s defense, health and agricultural ministries.

“The results of said research had been evacuated to Kiev-controlled territory before the start of [Russia’s] special military operation,” Bastrykin said, adding that his agency would continue to study the documents on the matter.

In March, Moscow claimed that it had found evidence that the US had been funding biological weapons research in Ukraine. Washington and Kiev denied this claim and accused Russia of waging a disinformation campaign.

Senior US diplomat Victoria Nuland said at the time that Washington was working with Ukraine to prevent research materials from falling into the hands of Russian troops.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian has urged the US to “give a full account of its biological military activities at home and abroad and subject itself to multilateral verification.”

Ukraine hasn’t abandoned NATO plan: Deputy PM

Ukraine “has not abandoned” its intention to join NATO, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration Olga Stefanishyna has said, while criticizing the US-led bloc for its “hesitation.”

In an interview with El Pais, Stefanishyna claimed NATO’s hesitation to admit Ukraine, which received an invitation from the organisation in 2008, led to the current military conflict with Moscow and brought Russian President Vladimir Putin “to where he is now.”

“Sweden and Finland will become NATO members as soon as possible. But I can tell you for sure that if these countries waited another 15 years for their membership decision, they too would be in a state of war,” the deputy PM claimed, referring to recent decisions by the Swedish and Finnish governments to reconsider their longstanding non-alignment policy amid Russian actions in Ukraine.

“We hear the constant message that [NATO] doesn’t want to anger Russia when there is war in my country, and thousands of civilians have been killed. That frustrates much of society,” Stefanishyna stated.

She added that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has “every right to be critical” of the “frustrating” messages from NATO leaders.

Moscow, which has long viewed NATO’s expansion eastwards as a direct threat to its security interests, named the possible accession of Ukraine as one of the key reasons for its decision to launch a military attack, in February.

Ukraine has consistently asked NATO nations to implement a no-fly zone over its territory or provide it with warplanes, though the requests have been denied, prompting criticism from Zelensky. Earlier, Kiev also signaled it would give up its NATO ambitions and would agree on a neutral status as favored by Russia in exchange for security guarantees, which have not been officially offered so far.

In the wide-ranging conversation, Stefanishyna revealed that Kiev would submit the second part of the questionnaire on its European Union membership application this week.

She also called on Western countries to prioritize “strategic” decisions over “tactical” ones by imposing the toughest possible sanctions on Moscow.

“Every time we hear statements from the European leaders about making the decision to pay [Russia] in rubles or not being prepared to refuse their gas, we treat it as a tactical loss,” she continued, claiming that such concessions mean these countries are not “strategically” able to call Russia “an aggressor” or to admit that “unimaginable crimes” are taking place in Ukraine.

Shelling kills two people in Luhansk: Governor

Russians shelling has killed two people and injured another two in Luhansk, the region’s governor has said.

“Two people died – a woman from Lysychansk and a man from Popasna. Two women from Lysychansk were injured,” Serhiy Haidai wrote on Telegram, adding that 45 houses and other objects were damaged.

“Four houses in Severodonetsk, 12 in Lysychansk, seven in Orekhov, six in Rubizhne, four in Gorny, four in Popasna, two in Vrubivka,” he wrote.

He also stated that the building of the Luhansk Medical Centre for Dangerous Infectious Diseases in Lysychansk, as well as one of the city’s schools, were engulfed in flames.

Russia ‘likely’ intends to take Kramatorsk and Severodonetsk: UK

Russia “highly likely intends” to proceed beyond the city of Izyum to capture the cities of Kramatorsk and Severodonetsk, the UK defence ministry has announced.

In its latest intelligence briefing, the ministry said Russia has deployed 22 battalion tactical groups near Izyum “in its attempt to advance along the northern axis of the Donbas.”

Capturing Kramatorsk and Severodonetsk “would consolidate Russian military control in north-eastern Donbas and provide a staging point for its efforts to cut-off Ukrainian forces in the region”, the ministry added.

Zelensky: ‘Russia will have to pay reparations’ for war

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelesnky stated Russia should have to pay reparations for the damage it caused to Ukraine after the war is over.

“Russia will have to pay reparations. We know it clearly,” Zelensky said at The Wall Street Journal CEO Council Summit 2022.

Since the start of the war, Zelensky says Russia has caused $600 billion in damage to the country.

The damage is from the Russian military’s shelling of cities, which have destroyed buildings and water systems, leaving some of those left in the country struggling for basic resources.

“They have destroyed everything themselves,” Zelensky told the Journal, adding how quickly the economic relationship between Russia and Ukraine changed.

Zelensky stated that after the war, Ukrainians want to rebuild the country quickly, calling for businesses to flock to the nation.

“I’m sure after victory we will do everything quite fast, and Ukraine will be more beautiful than before,” Zelensky continued, adding businesses would “get access to our country, our 40 million-plus market.”

Zelensky said the war will not end until weapons are laid down, with Ukraine’s goal to one day take back all the land Russia has occupied, including Crimea.

The war is past the two month mark, with millions of people fleeing the country or internally displaced.

Thousands have died and others are trapped in war-torn cities as Russia refuses to agree to humanitarian corridors to allow civilians to escape.

US helping make the war a ‘strategic failure’ for Russia: Biden

Military support to Ukraine by the US and its allies is helping make the invasion a “strategic failure” for Russia, President Joe Biden has said.

Speaking at a Lockheed Martin factory in Alabama that produces anti-tank Javelin missiles, which have been a crucial asset for Ukrainian forces, Biden credited the workers at the plant for helping Ukraine resist the Russian invasion.

“A big part of the reason they [Ukrainians] have been able to keep up fighting and to make this war a strategic failure for Russia is because the United States, together with our allies and partners, have had their back,” he added.

Russians ‘trying to vent their powerlessness’: Zelensky

The Russian military “has reacted extremely nervously” to Ukraine’s success of getting more than 156 civilian evacuees from Mariupol to safety by attacking cities across the country, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has stated.

“Various Ukrainian cities have once again become targets for Russian missiles and Russian strikes. Lviv, Vinnytsia, Kyiv region, Dnipropetrovsk region, Odesa, Kharkiv region – such a scale of today’s shelling clearly does not indicate that Russia has any special military purpose,” Zelenskyy said in his nighttime address.

“Strike at Zakarpattia? What exactly can it give Russia? They are trying to vent their powerlessness. Because they can’t beat Ukraine,” he added.

Australia sanctions 110 Russian politicians and ‘puppet’ officials

Australia has moved to further sanction more than 70 Russian politicians and more than 30 “puppet” Ukrainian government officials installed in the separatist regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne stated the sanctions and travel bans on the 110 individuals are in response to the violation of Ukrainian sovereignty “through their assertion of governmental authority”.

Some of the sanctioned Russian parliamentarians voted in favour of the resolution calling for Putin to recognise the independence of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, while the majority subsequently voted in favour of ratifying treaties with the regions.

Australia has now sanctioned 812 individuals and 47 entities.

Russians readying for administrative occupation of Mariupol: Think-tank

The Russian military occupation in Mariupol is setting conditions for its administrative occupation, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) has reported.

The institute cited the Ukrainian Main Intelligence Directorate’s (GUR) report that private enterprises in Russia’s Rostov region had received orders to produce official seals and stamps for public institutions in Mariupol. These reportedly contain the inscription: “Russia, the Republic of Donbas, Mariupol, the military-civilian administration.”

“GUR’s report is consistent with Advisor to the Mayor of Mariupol Petro Andryushchenko’s statement that children in the Mangush region near Mariupol are signing their school notebooks with ‘Rostov Oblast’,” the ISW said.

But it added these reports indicate confusion on behalf of Russian forces occupying Mariupol. It is unclear as to whether the city is to be absorbed into the existing administration of the occupied so-called Donetsk People’s Republic, or to be directly attached to Russia as part of Rostov oblast.

Ukraine war worsened problems in Americas caused by pandemic: Blinken

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken says the war in Ukraine has worsened problems in the Western Hemisphere caused by the coronavirus pandemic, such as rising poverty.

Blinken told the annual Conference on the Americas luncheon on Tuesday that the effects of the war are being felt after the pandemic inflicted “massive economic harm throughout the region”.

“Now, with the Russian government’s brutal war of aggression on Ukraine, many of these preexisting problems … have been made worse, raising the price of essential commodities throughout the Americas, from fertiliser to wheat to petroleum, cutting off key export markets for many industries in the Americas, and forcing households across the region to make very wrenching choices as the cost of living skyrockets,” Blinken added.

Blinken plans to chair two United Nations meetings later this month aimed at highlighting how the war in Ukraine and other conflicts are affecting the availability of food and prices.

Russian troops pressing ahead in Donbas: Ukraine military

Russian troops are attempting to further advance into the Donbas region from the north in order to surround Ukrainian forces stationed there, according to Ukrainian sources.

Individual armoured and infantry units and paratroopers struck targets along the front line between Izium and Barvenkov, the Ukrainian General Staff announced in its situation report.

To aid these efforts, “the occupiers moved batteries of Tyulpan heavy mortars of 240-millimetre calibre and Smerch rocket launchers from the Belgorod region to the Izyum area,” the report added.

Russian troops were also attacking the towns of Lyman, Sievierodonetsk, Popasna, Avdiivka and Kurakhove, to press ahead with their offensive towards Lyman-Siversk and Slovyansk, the report said, adding that it remained unclear whether they had made any territorial gains.

Russian strikes kill 21 in eastern Ukraine: Governor

Russian strikes have killed 21 civilians and wounded 27 in eastern Ukraine, the governor of the Donetsk region has claimed.

“At least 10 killed and 15 wounded, the consequences of the shelling of the Avdiivka coke plant by the Russian occupiers,” Pavlo Kyrylenko said on Telegram.

Kyrylenko added five others were killed in shelling in the town of Lyman, four were killed in the town of Vugledar, and two people were killed in the villages of Velyka Novosilka and Shandrygolove.

He stated this was the highest death toll since a Russian strike on a train station in the city of Kramatorsk killed 59 people about a month ago.

Biden urges Congress to ‘quickly’ approve Ukraine funding

President Joe Biden has called on the US Congress to “quickly” approve funding for Ukraine aid that the White House had requested.

Last week, the US president asked lawmakers for $33bn in additional spending to support Ukraine, a massive sum that he says will help Ukrainians continue to fight Russia’s invasion.

“I urge Congress to pass this funding quickly to help Ukraine defend against ongoing Russian aggression,” Biden wrote on Twitter on Tuesday.

Biden has called the US military aid to Ukraine a “direct investment” to protect democracy.

“Since Russia invaded Ukraine just over two months ago, we have sent more than $3bn in security assistance to Ukraine – alone us, not counting our allies,” Biden said.

“That money is a direct investment in defending freedom and democracy itself, because if you don’t stand up to dictators, history has shown us they keep coming … their appetite for power continues to grow,” he continued.

Biden added that Ukrainian forces are “making fools of the Russian military in many instances” with the help of US military aid.

Russian missiles hit power substations in Lviv: Mayor

Russian air raids have apparently targeted the western Ukraine city of Lviv, with its mayor Andriy Sadovyi saying the attacks injured two people.

Speaking in a video message late on Tuesday, he also added the bombing had damaged three power substations and two water pump stations, affecting utilities in the city.

UN chief hopes for more ‘humanitarian pauses’ in Ukraine

The UN secretary-general says he hopes Ukraine and Russia can organise “more humanitarian pauses” such as the one that allowed the evacuation of about 100 Ukrainian civilians from the Azovstal steel plant.

“I hope the continued coordination with Kyiv and Moscow will lead to more humanitarian pauses that will allow civilians safe passage away from the fighting and aid to reach people where the needs are greatest,” Antonio Guterres said in a statement, without specifying which locations he meant.

Russia says artillery hit 400 targets in one day

The Russian military says its artillery has hit more than 400 Ukrainian targets during the past 24 hours.

Russian defence ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov stated the targets included Ukrainian artillery positions, troops strongholds and two fuel depots.

Konashenkov added Russian aircrafts hit 39 other targets, including concentrations of troops and weapons and two command posts.

He charged that a US-supplied artillery radar, four air defence radars and six ammunition depots were destroyed with precision-guided weapons.

Explosions heard in western city of Lviv

Explosions have been heard in the western Ukraine city of Lviv, which has so far been largely spared from the conflict.

At least four distinct explosions could be heard from downtown Lviv, the AP news agency reported.

Mayor Andriy Sadovyi wrote on Twitter that those in the city should take shelter.

It was not immediately clear what was targeted. Sadovyi added in a separate post that the power supply had been affected.

Shelling kills one person in Kherson region

Shelling in the Kherson region has killed one person and injured four others, the rural community of Kochubeevsky reported on Facebook.

Ukraine likely pushed Russian forces away from Kharkiv: Think-tank

The Ukrainian army conducted a “significant counteroffensive” that likely pushed Russian forces roughly 40 kilometres east of Kharkiv, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) reported.

This would “unhinge the Russian positions northeast of Kharkiv” and “set conditions for a broader operation to drive the Russians from most of their positions around the city,” the ISW said in its latest assessment of the Russian offensive campaign.

It added that the Russian army may then face a dilemma of “whether to reinforce their positions near Kharkiv to prevent such a broader Ukrainian operation or to risk losing most or all of their positions in artillery range of the city”.

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