Thursday, April 18, 2024

Live Updates: Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 8

Russian forces are pressing ahead with their military operation in Ukraine to counter what they call a “threat” to their national security from the pro-West Ukrainian government. Kiev and Russia’s Western adversaries call the operations an “invasion”. The situation is fluid in Ukraine right now with both sides claiming victories on the battlefield. Iran Front Page brings you the latest developments on the ground live as they unfold in Ukraine.

US sanctions target Russian elites, Putin’s spokesperson

The White House has announced additional sanctions on several wealthy elites from Vladimir Putin’s inner circle, including the Russian president’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov.

The sanctions, which include visa restrictions and seizure of assets, target 19 “oligarchs” and 47 of their family members, the US administration said, adding that the measures are taken in coordination with allies.

“One of the elites is Alisher Burhanovich Usmanov, one of Russia’s wealthiest individuals and a close ally of Putin,” the White House announced in a statement.

“His property will be blocked from use in the United States and by US persons – including his superyacht, one of the world’s largest, and just seized by our ally Germany, and his private jet, one of Russia’s largest privately-owned aircraft,” it said.

It added that penalties will also target Peskov, whom the White House described as “a top purveyor of Putin’s propaganda”.

Ukraine claims Russian forces opened fire in town next to Europe’s largest nuclear power plant

Ukraine’s interior ministry adviser has claimed that Russian troops have opened fire in the town next to Europe’s largest nuclear power plant.

White House: There are no plans for Biden-Putin meeting or call

White House press secretary Jen Psaki stated that there are no plans for a meeting or call between US President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin, noting, “Now is not the moment.”

Asked if there is any situation in which Biden would sit down with Putin if Russian troops remain in Ukraine, Psaki stated, “I can’t make an assessment of that … Right now, they’re invading a sovereign country and continuing to escalate every day. We’re never going to take diplomacy ever off the table but again, now is not the moment for that.”

European Council president: No-fly zone over Ukraine is “one step too far”

European Council President Charles Michel stated that enforcing a no-fly zone over Ukraine is a NATO decision, but that it would be “one step too far” with a “real risk of escalation and a real risk of a possible third international war.”

“The EU is not at war with Russia. The reality is that Russia has launched a savage war against Ukraine. Ukraine is not a NATO member, and that’s why we must be extremely careful and cautious. We need to do everything which is possible, but taking into account that Russia has nuclear weapons, and it is very important to avoid a third international war,” he said in an interview with CNN’s Becky Anderson.

Michel added that while this was a decision for NATO to make and not the EU, it is important for NATO members to understand that it would be “one step too far.”

Ukraine: Kyiv, Moscow agree corridors to evacuate civilians

Ukraine and Russia have agreed to create humanitarian corridors to evacuate civilians in a second round of talks since Moscow invaded last week, a top Ukrainian official said.

“The second round of talks is over. Unfortunately, Ukraine does not have the results it needs yet. There are decisions only on the organisation of humanitarian corridors,” Ukrainian presidential advisor Mykhailo Podolyak added.

Delegations from Ukraine and Russia have agreed to continue negotiations, a new round may take place soon, Podolyak continued.

A third round of ceasefire talks between Russia and Ukraine is due to take place early next week, Podolyak stated as broadcast by the Belarusian state-run news agency Belta

Live Updates: Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 8

Putin says Russian operation in Ukraine going to plan

The Russian president has said Russia’s military operations in Ukraine were going according to plan and praised its soldiers as heroes.

“I want to say that the special military operation is going strictly according to schedule, according to plan,” Putin stated, opening a meeting with his security council.

“We are at war with neo-Nazis,” the Russian leader continued, adding, “I will never give up on my conviction that Russians and Ukrainians are one people.”

UN estimates over 10m people may end up fleeing their homes in Ukraine

The United Nations estimates that more than 10 million people may end up fleeing their homes in Ukraine, including four million who may cross the border into neighboring countries, according to a statement.

“Our colleagues tell us that the needs in Ukraine are growing and spreading by the hour. They warn that while the scale and scope of displacement is not yet clear, we expect that more than 10 million people may flee their homes if violence continues, including 4 million people who may cross borders to neighbouring countries,” UN Secretary General spokesperson Stephane Dujarric announced in a statement.

Ukraine believes Belarus troops receive order to cross border

The Ukrainian military has announced it believes Belarusian troops have received the order to cross the Ukrainian border.

Ukraine has announced Russia is using Belarusian territory for missile attacks on Ukrainian cities and Minsk allowed Russian troops to enter Ukrainian territory.

Russia: Western arms deliveries will lead to more losses for Ukraine

Arms deliveries from other countries will lead to even greater losses for Ukraine, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova wrote on her Telegram channel.

The diplomat cited a statement by Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky, who said that his country was receiving more and more weapons from its partners every day.

“This will lead to even more losses for Ukraine. This will lead to the spread of the very same weapons to the European countries, including those that are now supplying them,” Zakharova stressed.

US continues to provide intelligence & Information to Ukraine

The United States continues to provide Ukraine with intelligence and other information pertinent to the ongoing conflict with Russia, a senior US Defense Department official said.

“What I can tell you is we continue to provide intelligence and information to the Ukrainians, and that’s ongoing, and we share with them what we believe can be helpful to them, that’s continuing,” the official added.

The United States continues to be concerned about Volodymyr Zelensky’s safety, the official stated.

“Obviously we remain concerned about his safety, of course, we do, and we are in touch with him,” the official told reporters.

Zelensky warns if Ukraine falls, Baltic states ‘next’

Ukraine’s president has called on Western powers to deliver more military aid to his country, warning that Russia’s military will not stop at Ukraine’s borders if Moscow seizes full control of its neighbour.

“If you do not have the power to close the skies, then give me planes!” Volodymyr  Zelensky stated at a news conference, referring to refusals from Kyiv’s Western allies to enforce a no-fly zone over Ukraine.

“If we [Ukraine] are no more then, God forbid, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia will be next,” he added.

The term “no-fly zone” refers to an area of airspace in which it has been determined that certain aircraft are not permitted to fly. In a conflict setting, the measure is primarily used to prevent aerial attacks from taking place.

Ukraine’s emergency service says 22 killed in Chernihiv air raids

Ukraine’s emergency service says at least 22 people have been killed in Russian air raids on Ukraine’s northern Chernihiv region.

The service said in a post on Twitter that rescue work was ongoing. It did not specify where the alleged attack took place.

Earlier the regional governor said at least nine people had been killed by an air raid on two schools and private houses.

US claims Russians have shown “willingness to hit civilian infrastructure on purpose”

Russian forces have shown a “willingness to hit civilian infrastructure on purpose”, a senior US defense official claimed. Previously, the official said the US was seeing Russians hit civilian infrastructure in Ukraine, but it was unclear if it was purposeful or not.

The official added the US can see Russians hitting civilian infrastructure on purpose in their targeting of structures like “media towers and media facilities”. They are also “hitting residential areas”, and, in places like Kyiv and Kharkiv, “hitting government infrastructure”.

“One of the things that we certainly have seen them do in places like Kyiv and Kharkiv is hitting government infrastructure with increasing bombardment, as we’ve watched over the last couple of days, as they’ve gotten somewhat geographically closer to some of these population centers, the bombardments have increased,” the official stated.

“It’s clear they’re trying to weaken the governing structures that are resident in these population centers,” the official continued.

US: 90% of Russia’s pre-staged forces now in Ukraine & bombardment of cities increased

Russia has moved 90% of its “pre-staged combat power” into Ukraine, according to a senior US defense official, with increasingly heavy bombardment against the cities of Kyiv, Cherniv, Kharkiv and Mariupol.

The official said that while Russian forces are “largely stalled” in northern Ukraine, “that doesn’t mean that they aren’t making any progress.”

Russian forces are now “just outside” Kharkiv, though they remain stalled to the north and northeast of Cherniv, according to the official.

The official also added that the US cannot independently verify that the city of Kherson has fallen under Russian control.

Mariupol is still under Ukrainian control, according to the official, but Russian forces are advancing on the city from the north and from the coastline with the apparent intention of isolating it.

The official said that there have been no “appreciable” moves by Russia, naval or otherwise, on the city of Odessa.

While the US assessed that Russia had moved 90% of its combat power that had been prepositioned outside of Ukraine into the country, Russia is not “running out of juice” and still has “the vast, vast majority of their total combat power” available, the official added.

Dozens of OSCE states back mission to probe possible war crimes

Forty-five of the 57 Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) member states are triggering a system to set up a mission of experts looking into possible war crimes by Russia in Ukraine, the United Kingdom has said.

“They are invoking the so-called ‘OSCE Moscow Mechanism’ to set up a mission of independent experts to … establish the facts and circumstances of possible cases of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including due to deliberate and indiscriminate attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure,” the UK’s mission to the OSCE announced.

Russia and Ukraine are both members of the body

US still believes Russian military convoy outside Kyiv is “stalled”

The US still believes a large Russian military convoy headed toward Kyiv is “stalled”, a senior US defense official told reporters.

The official said the US has “no reason to doubt Ukrainian claims” that they have “contributed” to the convoy being stalled by attacking it, the official said.

“We still assess that the convoy that everybody’s been focused on is stalled. We have no reason to doubt Ukrainian claims that they have, that they have contributed to it being stalled by attacking it,” the official added.

US: Russia launched “more than 480” missiles on Ukraine since beginning of invasion

Russia has launched “more than 480” missiles of “all sizes and stripes” on Ukraine since the beginning of their invasion of Ukraine, a senior US defense official said.

“More than 230” of that 480 total are “coming from inside Ukraine,” the official continued, adding, “They have mobile systems, they’re moving them inside.”

The next biggest chunk of missiles are coming from Russia, “about 160 from Russia” and about 70 are coming from Belarus, and a very small number — less than 10 — are coming from the Black Sea, the official added.

While the airspace over Ukraine “remains contested,” the US assesses that Ukrainian “air and missile defense systems remain intact” and “remain effective,” the official said.

“They continue to be able to fly their airplanes and to employ air defense assets,” the official noted.

Russian intelligence chief says intel showed Ukraine was working on nukes, US knew about it

The head of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), Sergei Naryshkin, has stated that the SVR had obtained intelligence showing that Ukraine was working on building its own nuclear weapons. Naryshkin stressed that President Volodymyr Zelensky’s threats to abandon the Budapest Agreement were “not an empty promise”.

Ukraine FM: Kiev won’t make concessions on country’s territorial integrity in peace talks

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba said on Thursday that Kiev will not make concessions on the country’s territorial integrity in negotiations with Russia.

“It is still too early to predict what exactly will be achieved as a result of the [second round of] negotiations, taking into account the Russian position. We wish our negotiators success… We will not make concessions in matters of principle for us, such as the territorial integrity of Ukraine. This is off the table,” Kuleba added.

US UN ambassador marks “grim milestone” of 1 million refugees who fled Ukraine in Putin’s “war of choice”

The US ambassador to the United Nations said a “grim milestone” has been reached in Vladimir Putin’s “war of choice against Ukraine,” marking that over 1 million people have left the war torn country as “civilian casualties and death tolls mount.”

Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield reiterated US support for Ukraine and actions the US has taken including deploying experts to bolster the international and humanitarian response, and supporting the frontline countries of Poland, Moldova, Romania, Hungary and Slovakia.

“The world demands that Russia abide by international humanitarian law,” which prohibits the targeting of civilians and critical infrastructure, she said in a statement.

“Ultimately, it is up to Putin to stop this humanitarian catastrophe by ending this war and ceasing these unconscionable attacks against the people of Ukraine,” the statement continued.

Economy minister urges Germany must freeze assets of Russian oligarchs “immediately” 

Germany must freeze assets of Russian oligarchs immediately as part of sanctions on Moscow for its invasion of Ukraine, Economy Minister Robert Habeck urged .

‘The assets of oligarchs must be frozen immediately and I assume that the relevant agencies of the federal government will take the necessary steps,” Habeck told reporters in Berlin following talks with German business leaders.

Second round of Russia-Ukraine talks begins

A second round of negotiations between delegations from Russia and Ukraine has begun. The meeting is reportedly taking place in Brest, southwestern Belarus.

It comes after a first round of talks held at the Ukraine-Belarus border on Monday ended with no agreement except to keep talking.

Ukrainian negotiator Davyd Arakhamia said on Facebook that Kyiv plans to discuss setting up humanitarian corridors before moving on to other issues during the latest bout of discussions.

Ukrainian parliament approves asset seizure bill

Ukraine’s parliament has approved a bill to allow the seizure of assets or property in Ukraine owned by Russia or Russian citizens.

Under the law, the government can suggest which assets to confiscate to the Security Council, which must then give its approval for their transfer to state ownership.

Regional governor says nine killed after Russian air raid in Chernihiv

At least nine people have been killed and four others wounded after a Russian air raid hit two schools and private houses in Chernihiv, according to the region’s governor.

“Rescue work is ongoing. According to the state emergency services, there are for now nine people killed and four wounded,” Viacheslav Chaus stated on the Telegram messaging app.

Macron tells Putin he is making a ‘major mistake’

President Emmanuel Macron has warned his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin that he is making a “major mistake” in Ukraine and that his government’s actions will cost Russia dearly over the long term, according to a French official cited by the Reuters news agency.

During talks by phone allegedly initiated by Putin, Macron also told the Russian president that he was deluding himself about the government in Kyiv, the unnamed French presidential adviser said.

UN nuclear watchdog urges Russia to ‘cease actions’ at Ukraine nuclear sites 

The UN nuclear watchdog passed a resolution Thursday urging Russia to “cease all actions” at Ukraine’s nuclear facilities, including the site of the Chernobyl disaster, after it invaded the country.

The resolution at the board of the governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) also “deplores the Russian Federation’s actions in Ukraine, including forcefully seizing control of nuclear facilities and other violent actions”, according to a copy of the text sent to AFP.

A diplomatic source stated the resolution passed by a large majority, with 28 countries in favour and only Russia and China voting against.

Senegal, South Africa, Vietnam, Pakistan and India abstained, according to the source.

Ukraine has four active nuclear power plants, providing about half the country’s electricity, as well as stores of nuclear waste such as the one at Chernobyl.

Putin tells Macron goals in Ukraine will be achieved ‘in any case’ 

Russian President Vladimir Putin has reportedly told his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron that the goals of Russia’s operation in Ukraine – its demilitarisation and neutral status – will be achieved in any case.

His comments echo those from his Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, earlier today where he stated Moscow would press on with its military operation in Ukraine until “the end”.

Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs warns against protests

The Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs warned against calls for unauthorized protests against the war in Ukraine and said it has introduced “extra measures to ensure law and order,” Russian state news agency TASS reported.

The ministry warned that all attempts to carry out unsanctioned actions will be stopped, and their organizers and participants will be prosecuted.

OVD-Info, an independent monitoring group that tracks detentions in Russia, says over 7,500 people have been arrested in anti-war protests over the past week.

Authorities in Russia forbid rallying without a permit and may consider broadcasting or reporting specific information on unauthorized rallies to be considered organizing illegal protests.

Map: Russian troops advance in these regions inside Ukraine

Live Updates: Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 8

Ukrainian, Russian officials trade barbs at UN human rights council meet

Ukraine’s first deputy foreign minister has accused Russian troops of carrying out acts tantamount to war crimes in her country and called for perpetrators to be held accountable.

“Recent events clearly point to the fact that the Russian troops fighting in Ukraine carry out the most blatant violations and abuses of human rights, systematically engage in acts that clearly amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity,” Emine Dzhaparova told an urgent debate at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

“We must stand together to ensure accountability for the war criminals spilling the blood of Ukrainian children,” Dzhaparova added.

Gennady Gatilov, Russia’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva, later said Moscow saw no “added value” in the debate and denounced Ukraine’s government as a “criminal regime”.

UN rights chief warns tens of millions in ‘potentially mortal danger’

Tens of millions of people in Ukraine are in “potentially mortal danger” amid Russia’s offensive, the UN’s human rights chief has warned.

Opening an urgent debate at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, which is considering setting up a commission of inquiry into alleged human rights violations by Moscow, Michelle Bachelet called for an immediate halt to hostilities.

“My staff in Ukraine have been contacted by several groups who fear persecution if Russian troops advance, including members of the Crimean Tatar community in mainland Ukraine, as well as prominent human rights defenders and journalists,” she noted.

EU: Russia considering imposing martial law

The European Union is seeing signs on social media that Russia could introduce martial law in the country after its invasion of Ukraine, an EU official said.

The official stated the bloc was picking up speculation on social media about potential Russian plans, which it said would be “completely home-produced”.

“As is the tragic loss of young lives killed in the military conflict, with Russian mothers having to learn about the loss of their sons. So it is something we’re conscious of. And it’s something we’re worried about,” the official added.

EU top diplomat calls for immediate ceasefire in Ukraine

The European Union is calling for an immediate ceasefire in Ukraine, the EU’s top diplomat Josep Borrell said.

“This war needs to stop now. I call for an immediate ceasefire. I call for immediate establishment of humanitarian corridors,” Borrell added.

EU will take more steps against Russia if conflict worsens

The European Union will take additional steps against Russia if the situation on the ground in Ukraine deteriorates, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said.

The bloc is also preparing in case of Russian retaliation, including diversifying the bloc’s energy supplies.

“Our aim is to cut the Kremlin’s capacity to wage war on its neighbours,” von der Leyen stated after a meeting with Romanian President Klaus Iohannis.

“We need to get independent from Russian gas, oil and coal. Our resolve to go forward in this case is stronger than ever,” she added.

Von Der Leyen reiterated the European Union’s support for Ukraine membership, stating “there is no doubt that these brave people who defend our values with their lives belong in the European family.”

Ukrainian official: Mariupol surrounded by Russia 

Ukraine’s southern port of Mariupol is surrounded by Russian troops, interior ministry adviser Anton Herashchenko stated.

“The occupiers want to turn it into besieged Leningrad,” he noted, referring to Nazi Germany’s siege of the then-Soviet city where about 1.5 million people died during two years of blockade.

The mayor of the besieged city of Mariupol, Vadym Boichenko, has also said the Russian military are creating a “humanitarian catastrophe” in the city.

“They are blocking the supply and repair of electricity, water and heat. They have also damaged the railways. They have destroyed bridges and smashed trains so that we can’t evacuate women, children and the elderly out of Mariupol,” he added.

ICC prosecutor says team has been dispatched to begin work in Ukraine investigation

An advance team from the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague has been dispatched to begin investigating possible war crimes in Ukraine, its top prosecutor has told the Reuters news agency.

The team’s departure comes hours after Prosecutor Karim Khan announced he would start collecting evidence as part of a formal investigation into the war.

“Yesterday I formulated a team and today they are moving to the region,” Khan told Reuters.

He added his office would be examining possible war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide by all parties in the conflict.

Ukraine says Putin has ‘no chance of winning’

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has called Moscow’s military onslaught a “People’s War for Ukraine”, highlighting an image of Ukrainian civilians blocking Russian troops from accessing the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station in the southeastern city of Enerhodar as evidence of the country’s resolve.

“This is a true People’s War for Ukraine. [Russian President Vladimir] Putin has no chance of winning it,” Kuleba tweeted.

Footage posted online on Wednesday appeared to show that dozens of local residents and workers at the plant, the largest of its kind in Europe, had barred access to the facility as Russian forces advanced in the region.

Moscow, Kiev to hold talks in Brest Region

The talks between the Russian and Ukrainian delegations will be held in the Brest Region in Belarus according to plan, the head of Russia’s delegation, Vladimir Medinsky, said ahead of the second round of talks with Ukraine.

NATO official: Russia shifting to more direct attacks on Ukrainian cities

Russia will take a more direct approach in its effort to capture Ukrainian cities after plans to encircle targets such as Kyiv have been frustrated, according to a NATO military official.

“We’re seeing a change in strategy from the Russian side … They’re less focused on encircling cities, more concentrated trying to go in,” the unnamed official told CNN.

“[Heavier] bombardment is a side effect of that shift,” the official said.

Russia’s slow advance and heavy losses suffered in the first few days of its invasion have forced the change, the official added, with Russian forces now hamstrung by logistical issues as they attempt to push further into Ukraine.

“It’s the whole logistical chain that is somehow not working [properly],” the NATO official continued, saying, “So what we’ve seen is really poor strategy, combined with bad preparation and dwindling morale.”

“They have no food, they lack fuel and also spare parts,” they added.

Zellensky adviser says Ukrainian forces counter-attacking

Ukrainian troops are launching counter-attacks against invading Russian forces even as they defend the country from Moscow’s offensive, a military adviser to Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said in a televised briefing.

“Help to us is increasing every minute and the strength of the enemy is decreasing every minute. We’re not only defending but also counter-attacking,” the adviser added.

Kiev asks IAEA to demand NATO close sky over Ukraine’s nuclear sites

Kiev asks the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to apply to NATO with a demand to close access to the airspace over Ukraine’s nuclear facilities, the Ukrainian energy ministry said in a statement.

“Ukraine asks the IAEA to apply to NATO with a demand to close access to the airspace over its nuclear facilities and step up actions to prevent acts of nuclear terrorism,” the ministry added.

Kremlin: Russian delegation waiting for Ukrainian negotiators, they clearly in no hurry

The Russian delegation in Belarus is still waiting for the Ukrainian negotiators, who are clearly in no hurry, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

“As you know, our delegation was already there last night. It was expecting the Ukrainian negotiators last night … it was expecting them in the morning, and, to be honest, it is still waiting. As you know, negotiations have not started. Ukrainian negotiators are clearly in no hurry. Let us hope they get there today,” Peskov told reporters.

Moscow has a reason to believe that the Ukrainian delegation is dragging out the negotiations on purpose, he added, without giving any details.

Ukraine DM: Russian invaders not an army but cowards & terrorists

Ukraine’s Defence Minister Aleksei Reznikov has branded Russian forces as “cowards and terrorists”, accusing them of killing women and children and shelling hospitals.

“Russian occupiers are frightened of shameful defeat and have started to commit crimes against humanity. They are shelling hospitals, killing women and children. This is not an army, it s common cowards and terrorists. There are many trials ahead. There will be blood, tears, agony. But now, like never before, we have every reason to have faith in ourselves. And in those near to us. We will win,” the DM stated.

UK foreign secretary calls for blanket SWIFT ban on Russian banks

The United Kingdom’s foreign secretary has called for no Russian bank to have access to the SWIFT global payments system, calling on the United States, European Union and Group of Seven (G7) group of industrialised nations to “go further” with restrictive measures.

“We worked with the US the EU and G7 to cut off funding for Putin’s war machine,” Liz Truss told a news conference during a visit to Lithuania.

“[But] We need to go further. We must strive that all Russian banks are disconnected from SWIFT, we must dare to refuse energy imports from Russia to Europe,” she added.

“We must ensure [Vladimir] Putin fails,” she stressed.

The West needs to ensure the Russian economy is crippled so that Putin it is unable to continue his invasion of Ukraine, Truss said.

“We need to … degrade the Russian economy,” she continued, adding, “We need to make sure … that the Russian economy is crippled so it is unable to continue to fund Putin and the war machine.”

UK DM: Putin deployed thermobaric weapons in Ukraine

President Vladimir Putin has deployed thermobaric weapons systems in Ukraine, British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has said.

During a visit to Estonia, he stated, “How far (Putin) will go, what weapons he will authorise to achieve his ultimate aim, is unknown but we’ve seen the use of massive amounts of artillery.”

“We’ve seen the deployment of thermobaric artillery weapon systems and we worry how broad those could go,” he added.

The defence secretary noted the impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will “ripple through Europe” for “years to come” as he called on Putin to call off the conflict.

Russia stops deliveries of rocket engines to US

Russia will stop deliveries of rocket engines to the United States, Roscosmos head Dmitry Rogozin has announced.

Russian rouble falls to new lows after ratings downgrades

The Russian rouble slid to new record lows against the dollar and euro on Thursday, after ratings agencies Fitch and Moody’s downgraded Russia’s sovereign debt to “junk” status.

EU considering Swift exclusion for Belarusian banks

The European Union is considering excluding banks in Belarus from the Swift messaging system that underpins the global financial transactions, as it has already done for seven Russian banks, an EU official has said.

“On the Swift side, we’re also looking now at the preparation of the equivalents for the Belarus financial sector, but knowing that Swift is not as strategically important in the Belarus economy as it is in the Russian side,” the official added.

FM: Russia aims to stop Ukraine from joining NATO

Russia’s foreign minister has said Moscow’s attack on Ukraine is aimed, among other things, at ensuring that its neighbour does not join the United States-led NATO transatlantic military alliance.

Sergei Lavrov told Russian state television that the country’s forces were attacking military targets but added that the term “collateral damage” has been in use since military campaigns waged by Washington and its Western allies in Iraq and Libya.

He added that Western powers were aware of Moscow’s concerns and said they would have to address them at some point, before referring to sanctions imposed on Russia over its invasion as a “tax on independence”.

Russia does not build its policy on the principle of “escalation for the sake of de-escalation”, while NATO countries and Ukraine are the ones talking about the possibility of a nuclear war, Lavrov said.

He added that at first such statements were made by NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and then repeated by President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Kharkiv authorities claim 34 civilians killed in past day during Russian attacks

Russian attacks on Ukraine’s northeastern Kharkiv region killed 34 civilians and injured 285 more in the 24 hours to Thursday morning, according to emergency services.

“The enemy continued to strike residential neighborhoods and entire settlements with its deadly bombs, shells and rocket-propelled grenades,” said Ukraine’s State Emergency Service (SES) in a statement.

Several dozen fires were caused by ammunition entering houses and administrative buildings, it added.

Czech govt. declares state of emergency anticipating a major influx of Ukrainian refugees

The Czech government has declared a state of emergency from Friday in anticipation of a major influx of Ukrainian refugees fleeing the ongoing Russian invasion.

“We are implementing it purely for technical reasons, so we can handle the influx of refugees,” Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala said.

“In no way this will affect Czech citizens,” he added.

The state of emergency is set to last 30 days, but it could be extended by the government if necessary.

China denies asking Russia not to invade until post-Olympics

A spokesman for China’s foreign ministry denied that Beijing had advance knowledge of Russia’s plans to invade Ukraine, calling a New York Times report that some Western intelligence indicated Chinese officials had told Russian officials not to invade during the Winter Games “purely false information.”

Wang Wenbin, a spokesman for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, stated such a report sought to “divert attention.” He repeated Beijing’s assertions that the United States deserves blame for the conflict because the expansion of NATO has threatened Russia’s security interests.

Shelling continues in Ukraine as Russian forces advance

Live Updates: Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 8 Live Updates: Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 8

Zelensky claims 16k foreign mercenaries going to fight for Ukraine

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has claimed that 16,000 foreign mercenaries are going to fight for Ukraine.

He argued “Ukraine is meeting the first foreign volunteers” as they are on their way to the country in order “to protect its freedom”.

Ukraine’s defence lines are holding amid Russia’s multipronged assault, the country’s president said, adding there had been no respite in Moscow’s shelling of his country since midnight.

But he pointed to Russia’s alleged shelling of civilian areas in several key cities as proof Ukraine had been successful in resisting the Kremlin’s initial plan of claiming a quick victory through a land assault.

“We have nothing to lose but our own freedom,” Zelenskyy said, adding Ukraine was receiving daily arms supplies from its international allies.

Iran says ready to help victims of Ukraine crisis

Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian has told the chairman of the International Committee of the Red Cross that Tehran is ready to help the victims of the Russia-Ukraine war.

Europe should urge Russia-Ukraine talks instead of following US: Ex-official

A former Iranian official says Europeans had better try to promote negotiations between Moscow and Kiev to end the Ukraine crisis rather than being at the United States’ beck and call politically.

Moscow: ‘West can’t pretend it wasn’t ideologist of Ukraine-Russian confrontation’

Moscow tried to prevent the current development of events around Ukraine, but the West preferred not to notice this and now forgets about its own responsibility in the matter, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said.

The diplomat called the Russian operation a forced move, after all the negotiations, compromises, clarifications, and explanations failed.

France warns worst may be to come in Ukraine

France’s Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has warned that the situation in Ukraine could further deteriorate under relentless bombardment from Russia.

“Indeed, it’s possible that the worst is ahead of us,” Le Drian said in a TV interview with France 2, adding that the conflict had entered a “logic of siege.”

UK says Kharkiv, Chernihiv & Mariupol “remain in Ukrainian hands”

The Ukrainian cities of Kharkiv, Chernihiv and Mariupol “remain in Ukrainian hands”, despite heavy shelling by Russian forces, the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced.

Oil depot hit by airstrike in northern Ukraine city

An oil depot in the city of Chernihiv, northern Ukraine, was hit by shelling during an airstrike on Thursday morning, according to the State Service of Ukraine for Emergencies.

UK claims Russian convoy ‘delayed by staunch resistance’

The miles-long Russian military convoy north of Kyiv remains more than 30km (18 miles) from the capital as a result of it having been delayed by “staunch Ukrainian resistance” and logistical issues, the United Kingdom’s defence ministry claimed.

Russian army hit 1,612 targets since start of operation in Ukraine

The Russian Armed Forces have hit 1,612 targets since the start of a special military operation in Ukraine, Russian Defense Ministry Spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov announced.

“As many as 1,612 targets have been hit since the start of the operation, including 62 command posts and communications centers, 39 S-300, Buk M-1 and Osa missile systems and 52 radar stations,” he specified.

According to him, 49 aircraft were destroyed on the ground and another 13 in the air. A total of 606 tanks and other armored combat vehicles, 67 multiple rocket launchers, 227 field artillery pieces and mortars, 405 military motor vehicles and 53 unmanned aerial vehicles were also destroyed.

Russia claims only 498 of its soldiers have been killed in the fighting with 1,507 wounded.

Russian column advancing on Kyiv now 30km away

The Ministry of Defence has said the Russian column advancing on Kyiv is now 30km away from the city having been waylaid by by attacks from Ukrainian soldiers and vehicle breakdowns.

The mass of troops and armoured vehicles has made “little progress in the past three days”, according to latest British intelligence.

Russian forces strike radio & television centre in Kyiv

Russian troops have struck a radio and television centre in Kyiv and captured the town of Balakliya near the city of Kharkiv in eastern Ukraine, the Interfax news agency quoted Russia’s defence ministry as saying.

Missiles have continued to bombard the city of Kharkiv throughout the night.

Germany mulls supplying anti-aircraft missiles to Ukraine

Germany is considering supplying 2,700 anti-aircraft missiles to Ukraine as it seeks to defend itself against an invasion by Russia, a government source said.

German news agency DPA reported earlier that the economy ministry had approved supplying the Soviet-made Strela missiles, part of the inventories of the former German Democratic Republic’s army.

A source told Reuters that the Federal Security Council had yet to approve the move, adding, “The missiles are ready to be transported.”

Russian & Belarusian athletes banned from Winter Paralympics

Russian and Belarusian athletes are banned from competing in the Beijing Winter Paralympics, the International Paralympic Committee said in a statement, citing the war in Ukraine.

“In order to preserve the integrity of these Games and the safety of all participants, we have decided to refuse the athlete entries from RPC and NPC Belarus,” the IPC added.

Brent oil surpasses $118 per barrel first time since February 2013

The price of a futures contract for Brent crude oil with May delivery on London’s ICE rose by 4.68% on Thursday and exceeded $118 per barrel.

The last time Brent exceeded $118 per barrel was in February 2013.

The price of futures contract for WTI crude oil grew by 3.54% to $114.5 per barrel.

Pro-Russian separatists threaten Mariupol with strikes

Eduard Basurin, a pro-Russian separatist commander in Donetsk, is threatening to launch targeted strikes on the port city of Mariupol unless Ukrainian forces there surrender, according to the Interfax news agency.

Russia and separatists say they have encircled the city of 430,000 located on the Azov Sea coast.

Pentagon chief weighs in on Ukraine no-fly zone

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has rejected any plan to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine following pleas from officials in Kiev, saying it would inevitably kick off a hot conflict between nuclear powers.

The Pentagon head agreed that a no-fly zone (NFZ) is a “non-starter” – a statement in line with the president’s pledge that American troops would not directly intervene in the conflict.

“President Joe Biden’s been clear that US troops won’t fight Russia in Ukraine, and if you establish a no-fly zone, certainly in order to enforce that no-fly zone, you’ll have to engage Russian aircraft. And again, that would put us at war with Russia,” Austin stated.

Wounded Russian troops arriving in Belarus

The Associated Press, citing doctors and residents, said Russian soldiers wounded in fighting around Kyiv are being ferried to a Belarus hospital near the Ukraine border.

The agency added a string of seven bus-size Russian military ambulances – their windows blocked with gray shades – pulled up to the back entrance of the hospital in Belarus’s Gomel region on Tuesday evening.

Fire that emerged under skin of Ukraine as an offshoot of Cold War

In an article on Russia’s war in Ukraine, the IFP managing director says that, following the disintegration of the Soviet Union, different governments in Kiev played as puppets in the hands of the US and NATO and tried to pave the way for White House getting concessions from the Kremlin. Russia’s security concerns are understandable, but should not be a pretext for war against another nation.

US eyeing ways to strip Russia of UN influence

The US State Department may try to find a way to boot Russia from its permanent seat on the UN Security Council, shaking up the international body’s balance of power amid outrage over the war in Ukraine.

Washington is “investigating the prospects” of expelling Russia as one of the five permanent Security Council members, Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman told US lawmakers. No decision has been made on whether to try to achieve such an outcome, which would likely require changes to the UN’s charter.

Russian ships on way to Odesa

Several Russian warships have left Crimea and are heading to Odesa, according to reports.

US officials have announced an amphibious assault on Ukraine’s third largest city could come as soon as today.

Ukrainian mayor says Wednesday was most difficult day so far

The mayor of the southern Ukrainian city Mariupol called Wednesday the most difficult day yet of the Russian invasion, amid heavy shelling and growing numbers of wounded civilians in hospitals.

Mayor Vadym Boychenko addressed the citizens of Mariupol and stated Ukrainian forces fought back valiantly against those who were shooting at homes.

Boychenko also noted critical infrastructure was compromised in the city, and that citizens are without water and electricity until utility services restore them on Thursday.

“Massive explosions” heard in Kyiv

Ukrainian media say several “massive explosions” have been heard in Kyiv, triggering air raid sirens amid fighting on the outskirts of the capital.

Residents were called upon to seek shelter immediately, the Ukrainian UNIAN news agency reported, without providing more details.

Kyiv’s Mayor Vitali Klitschko said in a Telegram post that “the enemy is trying to break through into the capital”. He added there were no casualties.

Russian strikes hit schools, cathedral in Kharkiv

Russian military strikes hit three schools and a cathedral in the northeastern town of Kharkiv, local media reported, adding that several shops near the city council building were also damaged.

Meanwhile in Okhtyrka, dozens of “residential buildings” were destroyed as a result of artillery blasts, the reports said. No injuries have been reported.

Ukraine’s president claims nearly 9,000 Russian soldiers killed within a week

Ukraine’s president has claimed that nearly 9,000 Russian soldiers have been killed since the full-scale war on the country began a week ago.

Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said that his country thwarted Russia’s “sneaky” plans, adding he was proud of the “heroic” resistance to Moscow’s invasion.

“We are a nation that broke the enemy’s plans in a week. Plans written for years: sneaky, full of hatred for our country, our people,” Zelensky stated.

Oil jumps, Brent above $116 per barrel as supply issues persist

Oil prices extended their rally on Thursday, with Brent rising above $116 a barrel, as trade disruption and shipping issues from Russian sanctions over the Ukraine crisis sparked supply worries while US crude stocks fell to multi-year lows.

Brent crude futures rallied to $116.83 a barrel, the highest since August 2013. The contract was at $116.60 a barrel, up $3.67 by 0112 GMT.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude was at $113.01 a barrel, up $2.41 after touching a fresh 11-year high of $113.31 a barrel.

Washington says ‘vital, defensive’ equipment getting to Ukraine

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that Ukraine is receiving “vital, defensive” military assistance as it continues to defend itself against Russia’s invasion.

“When it comes to vital, defensive military equipment that Ukraine needs, we are very actively coordinating its provision, and that assistance is getting there,” Blinken told reporters on Wednesday.

Blinken is traveling to Europe to consult with NATO allies and other European partners as Russia continues its invasion of Ukraine. He will travel to Belgium, Poland and Moldova, as well as the Baltic states of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia from March 3 to 8, State Department spokesperson Ned Price announced in a statement.

Report: US set to sanction more Russian oligarchs

US officials are preparing to expand sanctions against Russian oligarchs in efforts to ramp up pressure on Moscow as its invasion of Ukraine enters its second week.

The Washington Post and Reuters reported that the new list could include a number of officials and oligarchs sanctioned by the European Union on Monday.

Among the oligarchs expected to be on the expanded list is iron and steel magnate Alisher Usmanov. Others on the EU sanctions list who are yet to be hit by the US include Nikolay Tokarev, the head  energy giant Transneft and Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

UN records 752 civilian casualties in Ukraine conflict

The United Nations Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine said that it has recorded 752 civilian casualties in Ukraine since the beginning of the Russian invasion.

It added that until midnight on March 1, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) recorded 227 killed, including 15 under the age of 18, and 525 injured.

UN: 1 million refugees have fled Ukraine in a week

One million refugees have fled Ukraine since the Russian invasion began, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said in a tweet Wednesday evening.

“In just seven days we have witnessed the exodus of one million refugees from Ukraine to neighbouring countries,” Grandi stated.

“For many millions more, inside Ukraine, it’s time for guns to fall silent, so that life-saving humanitarian assistance can be provided,” he added.

International Criminal Court begins war crime investigation in Ukraine

The International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands announced it would immediately proceed with an active investigation following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

ICC Prosecutor Karim A.A. Khan said in a statement 39 of the court’s member states had requested for the investigation to proceed.

“Our work in the collection of evidence has now commenced,” Khan added, noting the investigation will cover incidents in Ukraine from 2013 to the present.

Khan stated his office “had already found a reasonable basis to believe crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court had been committed, and had identified potential cases that would be admissible.”

The ICC’s chief prosecutor implored all parties engaged in conflict to adhere to international humanitarian law.

New satellite images show destruction wreaked by Russian strikes in areas north of Kyiv

New satellite images of areas in Ukraine hit by Russian military strikes show the extent of the damage in the first five days of the invasion.

The images were captured on February 28 by Maxar Technologies. Since then, dense cloud cover has prevented most satellites from observing anything on the ground across the country.

The images show homes on fire in the village of Rivnopillya in the Chernhiv region, roughly 80 kilometers (about 50 miles) north of the capital, Kyiv. Dozens of impact craters can be seen dotting the fields surrounding the village.

In Chernihiv, a bridge across the Stryzhen River appears to have been destroyed, while residential buildings and a factory nearby seem to have sustained damage. A Russian military convoy was also seen on a nearby roadway.

The satellite images also show the burned remains of Russian military vehicles in a residential area in Bucha, a town outside of Kyiv. On Sunday, Ukrainian officials claimed they had thwarted the advance of a Russian column in Bucha.

In Sukachi, a small town 70 kilometers (about 43.5 miles) northwest of Kyiv, a large impact crater is seen in the middle of a roadway, with houses nearby appearing significantly damaged.

The images also captured scenes of daily life amid the war in both Chernihiv and Kyiv, with dozens of people lining up outside supermarkets.

Live Updates: Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 8

Kherson mayor indicates city has fallen

The mayor of the Ukrainian city of Kherson Ihor Kolykhaiev has said that the Ukrainian military is no longer in the city and that its inhabitants must now carry out the instructions of “armed people who came to the city’s administration” — indicating that the city has now fallen under Russian control.

The announcement follows several days of pressure on Kherson by Russian forces who had surrounded the city.

Kherson is a strategically important city on an inlet from the Black Sea with a population of nearly 300,000.

Zelensky claims deteriorating morale among Russian troops

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has claimed the morale of Russian forces is crumbling.

Zelensky said, “More and more occupiers are fleeing back to Russia, from us, from you, from all those who drive out the enemy with javelins, guns, tanks, helicopters – with everything that shoots. I wish you health, native Ukrainians, strong and kind, but not to the enemy!”

“We are a nation that broke the enemy’s plans in a week — plans those have been built for years, vile, calculated, with hate for our country, for our people, for any people who have 2 things: freedom and heart. But we stopped them and beat them,” he added.

Zelensky stated, “Our military, our border guards, our territorial defense, even ordinary farmers capture the Russian military every day. And all the captives say only one thing: they do not know why they are here. Despite the fact that there are dozens of times more of them, the morale of the enemy is constantly deteriorating.”

He also mentioned the opposition to Russian forces of ordinary Ukrainians. “Blocking roads, people come out in front of enemy vehicles – it’s extremely dangerous, but how courageous. It is also salvation.”

World Bank halts all programmes in Russia, Belarus

The World Bank has announced it had stopped all programmes in Russia and Belarus with immediate effect, following the Russian invasion of Ukraine and “hostilities against the people of Ukraine”.

In a statement, the multilateral development bank said it had not approved any new loans to or investments in Russia since 2014, the year Russia annexed the Crimea region of Ukraine.

The bank added it had not approved any new lending to Belarus since mid-2020, when the United States imposed sanctions on the country over a disputed presidential election.

Pentagon: Russian advance on Kyiv ‘remains stalled’

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby has said the Russian military’s push towards Kyiv from the north “remains stalled”.

“From our best estimates, [Russian forces] have not made any appreciable progress geographically speaking, in the last 24 to 36 hours,” Kirby told reporters.

He added the Pentagon believes the advance has slowed down because Russian forces are deliberately regrouping while also facing unanticipated logistical challenges and resistance from Ukrainians.

Russian soldiers captured by Ukrainian forces in southern city of Mykolaiv

Ukrainian forces captured several Russian troops in the southern city of Mykolaiv, where fierce fighting broke out in recent days, according to the region’s governor and a member of Ukraine’s Parliament pictured with the captured soldiers.

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