Sunday, March 3, 2024

Live Update: Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 169

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:

361 children have been killed and 705 children injured since war began

The Ukrainian parliament commissioner for human rights has issued updated figures for child casualties since 24 February.

As of 11 August, the commissioner announced that 361 children have been killed and 705 children have been injured. A further 204 are considered missing, and 6,159 have been deported.

Russia condemns Latvia’s ‘xenophobia’ for ‘terrorism sponsor’ statement

Moscow has condemned a resolution by Latvia’s parliament that designated Russia as a “state sponsor of terrorism”.

“Considering that there is no substance, except for animalistic xenophobia, behind this decision, it is necessary to call the ideologues nothing more than neo-Nazis,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova wrote on Telegram.

Europeans must be willing to ‘pay’ to support Ukraine: Top EU diplomat

Helping Ukraine in its fight against Russia comes at a price for Europe, which citizens should be willing to pay, the EU’s foreign policy chief has said.

A Russian victory would be Europe’s loss, Josep Borrell believes.

“We must explain to our citizens that this is not someone else’s war,” the diplomat said in an interview published by newspaper El Pais on Thursday.

“The public must be willing to pay the price of supporting Ukraine and for preserving the unity of the EU,” he noted.

“We are at war. These things are not free,” he added, acknowledging that the cost should be distributed “equitably.”

Borrell was referring to surging inflation and potential power shortages faced by European nations after deciding to punish Russia for attacking Ukraine by refusing to buy its energy. Brussels wants member states to cut consumption to be better prepared for peak demand this winter, but some countries have resisted the proposal.

Spain, Borrell’s home country, was among the dissenting voices. Energy Minister Teresa Ribera said last month that “imposing unfair sacrifices” was not the best way to deal with the crisis. She argued that, unlike people in some other nations, “Spaniards have not lived beyond our means from an energy point of view.”

Europeans “cannot show a lack of solidarity” with such squabbles, Borrell stated in the interview. He admonished Madrid for not appreciating “what this war represents to countries closest to it,” like Poland. Spain may benefit from the EU’s decoupling from Russia in the long run by becoming a major hub for supplying liquified natural gas to Europe, he added.

Borrell warned that Europe should be prepared for the conflict in Ukraine to continue for a long time. Commenting on European goals in the conflict, he said that “if Russia wins this war and occupies part of the Ukrainian territory, then we Europeans will have lost and will face a much greater threat.”

The Ukrainian government says it will only talk to Russia after pushing its military to where it was before 2014, which would include capturing Crimea. Borrell said Western nations have a “moral imperative” to back Kiev. He added the US and the EU have been in “absolute cooperation” on the issue, and suggested that this would not have been the case if the conflict started with Donald Trump in power in Washington.

UN chief urges parties to withdraw military personnel and equipment from Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant

The United Nations Secretary General said he is “gravely concerned” about the situation at Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine,

Reports of “further deeply worrying incidents” in the past few days could “lead to disaster,” António Guterres stated.

He called for the involved parties to withdraw any military personnel and equipment from the plant “and refrain from any further deployment of forces or equipment to the site.”

“We must be clear that any potential damage to Zaporizhzhia or any other nuclear facilities in Ukraine, or anywhere else, could lead to catastrophic consequences not only for the immediate vicinity, but for the region and beyond,” he continued, adding, “This is wholly unacceptable.”

German Chancellor pledges further arms deliveries to Ukraine in “near future”

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Thursday that Germany will continue to provide Ukraine with arms deliveries for its fight against Russia.

“Germany has broken with its tradition and supplied weapons to a war zone,” Scholz told journalists at a press conference in Berlin.

“We will continue to do so in the near future,” Scholz noted, without giving specific details.

In July, the German government released a list of lethal and non-lethal military aid provided to Ukraine.

The military equipment sent by Germany to Ukraine to date includes 14,900 anti-tank mines; 500 stinger anti-aircraft missiles; 10 Panzerhaubitze 2000 self-propelled howitzers; and 2,700 Strela man-portable air defense systems; as well as anti-drone devices, artillery ammunition, and handguns.

UK to send more rocket launcher systems to Ukraine

Britain will supply Ukraine with more multiple-launch rocket systems that can attack targets up to 80km (50 miles) away.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said the supply of weapons would help Ukraine defend itself against Russian heavy artillery.

“This latest tranche of military support will enable the Armed Forces of Ukraine to continue to defend against Russian aggression and the indiscriminate use of long-range artillery,” Wallace stated in a statement.

“Our continued support sends a very clear message, Britain and the international community remain opposed to this illegal war and will stand shoulder-to-shoulder, providing defensive military aid to Ukraine to help them defend against [Vladimir] Putin’s invasion,” he added.

Denmark to give additional 110 million euros to Ukraine for weapons, equipment and training

Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen announced on Thursday that Denmark will give another 110 million euros ($113.7 million) in financial aid to Ukraine for “weapons, equipment and training.”

“I hope that we here today can agree on even more contributions. And of course, Denmark is ready to do our part,” Frederiksen stated at an international donor conference in Copenhagen.

UK Defense Secretary Ben Wallace and Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov were present at the conference in Denmark’s capital.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky also made a virtual appearance to thank the participants.

Latvian parliament declares Russia ‘state sponsor of terrorism’

Latvian MPs have adopted a statement declaring Russia a “state sponsor of terrorism” and said its actions in Ukraine constituted “targeted genocide against the Ukrainian people”.

The statement said the parliament “recognises Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism, and calls on other like-minded countries to express the same view”.

MPs stated they considered “Russia’s violence against civilians committed in pursuit of political aims as terrorism”.

They also condemned its use of cluster munitions “to sow fear and indiscriminately kill civilians”.

Russia “uses suffering and intimidation as tools in its attempts to demoralise the Ukrainian people and armed forces and paralyse the functioning of the state in order to occupy Ukraine,” the statement added.

The parliament also urged the European Union to stop issuing tourist visas for Russian and Belarusian citizens and to cut down on entry visas in general.

Russia says Switzerland cannot represent its interests in Ukraine

Russia announced it has turned down a Swiss offer to represent Ukrainian interests in Russia and Moscow’s interests in Ukraine because it no longer considers Switzerland a neutral country.

Switzerland has a long diplomatic tradition of acting as an intermediary between countries whose relations have broken down, but Foreign Ministry spokesperson Ivan Nechayev said this was not possible in the current situation.

“The Swiss were indeed interested in our opinion on the possible representation of Ukraine’s interests in Russia and Russia’s in Ukraine,” Nechayev told reporters.

“We very clearly answered that Switzerland had unfortunately lost its status of a neutral state and could not act either as an intermediary or a representative. Bern has joined illegal Western sanctions against Russia,” Nechayev added.

Neutral Switzerland has mirrored nearly all the sanctions that the European Union imposed on Russia over its military intervention in Ukraine.

Airstrikes hit Russian targets in south: Ukrainian military

Ukraine’s military said it carried out six airstrikes against Russian targets in southern Ukraine on Wednesday.

Russian forces were hit in the Beryslav district of Kherson and ammunition depots were destroyed in Bashtanka and Barvinka, officials stated.

Russian command posts, one located in the village of Chervonyi Maisk along the Dnipro River, were also destroyed, they added.

Moscow and Kyiv trade blame over nuclear plant attack

Ukraine has accused Russia on Wednesday of killing at least 13 people and wounding 10 with rockets fired from around a captured nuclear power plant in the centre of the country, in the knowledge it would be risky for Ukrainian forces to return fire.

“The cowardly Russians can’t do anything more so they strike towns ignobly hiding at the Zaporizhzhia atomic power station,” Andriy Yermak, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s chief of staff, said on social media.

Ukraine announced about 500 Russian troops are at the plant, where Ukrainian technicians continue to work.

Meanwhile, Russian news agencies reported that Russian anti-aircraft defence systems had thwarted Ukrainian attacks the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, as well as on the occupied Ukrainian city of Enerhodar.

UK: Russia’s military industrial capacity is ‘under significant strain’

Russia has long considered the defence industry to be one of its most important export successes.

But the British ministry of defence said that Russia’s military industrial capacity is “under significant strain”, and that the credibility of many of its weapon systems has been undermined by their association with Russian forces’ poor performance in the Ukraine war.

In its daily brief, the UK also added that Russia will face difficulties in carrying out some export orders for armoured fighting vehicles, due to Western sanctions and the exceptional demand for vehicles for Russia’s own forces in Ukraine.

Heavy fighting near Donetsk

Heavy fighting raged around the eastern Ukrainian town of Pisky as Russia pressed its campaign to seize all of the industrialised Donbas region.

An official with the Russia-backed Donetsk People’s Republic stated Pisky, on the front lines just 10km (6 miles) northwest of provincial capital Donetsk, was under the control of Russian and separatist forces.

“It’s hot in Pisky. The town is ours but there remain scattered pockets of resistance in its north and west,” the official, Danil Bezsonov, noted on the instant messaging service Telegram.

Ukrainian officials denied that the heavily fortified town, a key to the defence of Donetsk, had fallen.

Zelensky says military will respond to Russian shelling of Marhanets killed at least 13 people

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the country’s military will respond to Russia’s shelling of Marhanets, which killed at least 13 people and injured another 10.

“The Armed Forces of Ukraine, our intelligence, and our law enforcement agencies will not leave today’s Russian shelling of the Dnipropetrovsk region unanswered,” Zelensky stated in his nightly address on Wednesday.

The Ukrainian president went on to say the quickest way to end the war would be to inflict as many casualties as possible on Russia.

“The question of time actually directly depends on the question of the losses that Russia will suffer,” he continued, noting, “The more losses the occupiers have, the sooner we will be able to liberate our land and guarantee Ukraine’s security.”

“This is what everyone who defends our state and helps Ukraine should think about: how to inflict the greatest possible losses on the occupiers so that the time of the war is shorter,” he added.

Zelensky went on to reiterate the Ukraine would liberate the entire country from Russian occupation.

“We expelled the Russian army from the northern regions. We expelled the invaders from our Zmiinyi island. They already feel that the time has come to flee from Kherson and from the south of our country in general,” he said.

“There will be a time when they will flee from the Kharkiv region, from Donbas, from Crimea… And everyone who can help this should help this,” he added.

Ukraine urges EU, G7 states to stop issuing visas to Russians

Ukraine’s foreign minister has urged European Union and G7 countries to stop issuing visas to Russian citizens, citing what he said was their support for the invasion of Ukraine.

“Russians overwhelmingly support the war on Ukraine. They must be deprived of the right to cross international borders until they learn to respect them,” Dmytro Kuleba tweeted.

His plea echoed an earlier call by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy for Western countries to impose a one-year travel ban on Russians, stating they should be forced to “live in their own world until they change their philosophy”.

First wartime wheat shipments from Ukraine expected next week: UN

A top UN official has said the first wartime wheat from Ukraine should ship next week under a landmark deal also signed by Russia aimed at tackling the global food crisis.

The first 12 ships to leave the three Black Sea ports designated by the agreement were carrying 370,000 tonnes of corn and foodstuffs, according to Frederick Kenney, interim UN coordinator at the joint centre in Istanbul overseeing the deal.

But that should change once the ships docked in Ukraine amid Russia’s invasion leave their ports, and new ones come in to pick up wheat that has accumulated with this year’s harvest, Kenney told reporters.

Six killed in Russian attacks on eastern Ukraine city of Bakhmut: Governor

Alleged Russian attacks on the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut have killed at least six people and left three others injured, the regional governor claimed.

“The Russians bombed the city with a multiple rocket launcher, hitting a residential area. According to initial information, 12 residential buildings have been damaged and four are on fire,” Pavlo Kyrylenko wrote on Telegram.

Ukrainian attack hits bridge in Russian-occupied south: Military

Ukraine hit one of two bridges across the Dnieper river in the Russian-occupied south and added to damage that was inflicted by earlier attacks, the southern military command has said.

The attacks on the Kakhovskyi bridge aim to create problems for Russian logistics, the command said in a Facebook post. The bridge is “unfit for use”, it added.

‘Big uptick’ in applications for Ukraine grain shipments expected: UN

The United Nations expects to see a “big uptick” in applications for ships to export Ukraine grain after transit procedures were agreed upon by Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and the United Nations, a senior UN official has stated.

The number of inbound vessels is expected to “grow in the near future” as grain deals are made, said Frederick Kenney, interim UN coordinator at the Joint Coordination Centre for the Black Sea Initiative.

China calls US ‘main instigator’ of Ukraine crisis

China, which Russia has sought as an ally since being cold-shouldered by the West over its invasion of Ukraine, has called the United States the “main instigator” of the conflict.

In an interview with Russian state news agency TASS published on Wednesday, China’s ambassador to Moscow accused Washington of backing Russia into a corner with repeated expansions of the NATO transatlantic military alliance.

“As the initiator and main instigator of the Ukrainian crisis, Washington, while imposing unprecedented comprehensive sanctions on Russia, continues to supply arms and military equipment to Ukraine,” Zhang Hanhui was quoted as saying.

“Their ultimate goal is to exhaust and crush Russia with a protracted war and the cudgel of sanctions,” he added.

Zhang also noted Sino-Russian relations had entered “the best period in history, characterised by the highest level of mutual trust, the highest degree of interaction, and the greatest strategic importance”.

Ukraine: 9 Russian warplanes destroyed in Crimea explosions

Ukraine’s air force has said that nine Russian warplanes were destroyed in the explosions that rocked a Russian air base in the annexed Crimean Peninsula on Tuesday.

The air force’s claim, posted on Facebook alongside the overall losses Kyiv says Russia has suffered during the war, came amid speculation the blasts were the result of a Ukrainian attack that would represent a significant escalation in the conflict.

The explosions, which killed one person and wounded 14 others, according to Crimea’s governor, sent tourists fleeing in panic as plumes of smoke towered over the nearby coastline.

Russia has announced the explosions were detonations of stored ammunition, not the result of an attack. Kyiv, for its part, has suggested the blasts could have been caused by Russian incompetence or an attack by partisans.

Second grain ship docks at Ukrainian port for loading: Minister

The second commercial ship to arrive in a Ukrainian port since the start of Russia’s invasion has docked in the port of Chornomorsk and is ready to load grain, Ukraine’s infrastructure minister has noted.

“OSPREY S is ready to export 30 000 thousand tons of corn. Let’s keep working!,” infrastructure minister Oleksandr Kubrakov wrote on Twitter.

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