Saturday, April 20, 2024

Live Update: Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 211

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:

Talk of a nuclear conflict is “totally unacceptable”: UN Secretary-General

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told a Security Council meeting on Ukraine that talk of a nuclear conflict is “totally unacceptable.”

Guterres added that the annexation of a state’s territory by another state through the threat or use of force violates the UN Charter and international law.

Lavrov accuses Ukraine, West of ‘impunity’ in Donbas

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has accused Ukraine and its Western allies of “impunity” in the eastern Donbas region, claiming Kyiv was denying basic rights to its largely Russian-speaking population.

“People were denied their pensions, their subsidies, access to education and basic civil rights,” Lavrov said.

He argued Ukraine and its allies – Germany, France and the United States – were attempting to “impose on us a completely different narrative about Russian aggression.”

Rather than persuade Kyiv to implement the Minsk agreements that ended the Donbas war in 2014, Lavrov stated the West “cynically ignored” Ukraine’s repressive actions, including the “ousting” of the Russian language.

Turkey to possibly stop Russian Mir payments

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that Turkey is deciding whether to stop processing transactions made using Russia’s Mir payments system after receiving repeated warnings from the United States.

Two of the five Turkish banks processing Mir payments have listened to Washington’s warnings and suspended the transactions, seeking further guidance about how sanctions could potentially be applied.

But Erdogan told reporters in New York, “I will convene (a meeting) in Istanbul on Friday and make a final decision.”

However, he added that sanctions “do not really suit friendship.”

Washington has increased pressure on Turkish banks and businesses to comply with sanctions against Russia, warning that Turkish entities risk being exposed to secondary sanctions themselves.

Some 10,000 volunteers sign-up to enlist for Russian military

Approximately 10,000 volunteers have turned up to enlist for Russia’s military campaign in Ukraine without waiting for call-up papers, Russian news agencies reported on Thursday, citing the Russian General Staff.

On Wednesday, President Vladimir Putin announced Russia’s first public mobilisation since World War Two.

His defence minister announced it aimed to recruit 300,000 experienced specialists for Russia’s campaign in Ukraine, which has recently suffered severe setbacks.

China says investigation into Ukraine crimes should not be ‘politicised’

China’s Foreign Affairs Minister Wang Yi has backed investigations into violations of international humanitarian law, but said they should be “objective and fair based on facts rather than an assumption of guilt” and “must not be politicised”.

Earlier this month, the United Nations Human Rights Council found in a land-mark report that China had potentially committed “crimes against humanity” in Xinjiang. Beijing has denied the claims.

Wang called for increased humanitarian assistance in Ukraine and added that when it comes to the safety and security of nuclear facilities, “there is no room for trial and error.”

“Accidents and risks must be prevented,” he noted.

Ukraine’s energy minister discusses possible sanctions on Rosatom

Ukraine’s Energy Minister German Galushchenko has discussed the possibility of sanctions on Russia’s nuclear power supplier Rosatom with US Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, Ukraine’s energy ministry said on Thursday.

The ministry wrote on its website, “German Galushchenko emphasised that the Russian state corporation Rosatom takes direct part in the aggression against Ukraine and covers up acts of nuclear terrorism.”

President Volodymyr Zelensky said it was “not normal” last month that Western countries have not yet imposed sanctions on Rosatom.

Prisoner swap important step towards ending war: Erdogan

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says the prisoner swap, mediated by Turkey, involving almost 300 people, is an important step towards ending the war.

Turkish broadcaster NTV reported on Thursday that among those swapped, five senior Ukrainian commanders have arrived in Turkey, where they will remain until the war’s end.

“We will continue our efforts to achieve peace and stability in the future. For example, as soon as we return, we will call the leaders again and continue our telephone diplomacy with them,” Erdogan added.

Security Council must send message on Russia’s nuclear threats: US

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has called on every United Nations Security Council member to “send a clear message that [Russia’s] reckless nuclear threats must stop immediately.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin said earlier this week that his nuclear-armed country will “certainly use all means available to us” if its territory is threatened.

Blinken also prompted the 15 members to “tell President Putin to stop the horror that he started.”

“Tell him to stop putting his interests above the interests of the world, including his own people. Tell him to stop debasing this council and everything it stands for,” he added.

Kremlin denies reports one million reservists will be enlisted

The Kremlin has denied a report by Novaya Gazeta Europe that an undisclosed clause in President Vladimir Putin’s decree on partial mobilisation provided one million reservists to be enlisted to fight in Ukraine.

State news agency RIA Novosti cited Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov as calling the report “a lie”.

Novaya Gazeta Europe cited an unnamed source in the presidential administration that point 7 of the decree was withheld as “For official use” in Wednesday’s public release, allowing armed forces to draft a million personnel.

Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu stated on Wednesday about 300,000 reservists would be called up and that they would be specialists with combat experience.

However, no figure appeared in the decree published on official websites.

Explosion hits market in Melitpol; Russia and Ukraine trade blame

A blast hit a crowded market in Melitopol, according to Ukrainian and Russian-installed officials, on the eve of referendums that could see four regions effectively annexed by Russia.

Ukrainian and Russian-installed officials exchanged blame for the explosion, with Melitopol’s exiled mayor Ivan Fedorov saying occupying forces deliberately staged the attack to accuse Ukraine of terrorism.

However, Vladimir Rogov, a member of the Russian-installed local administration, said the attack had been carried out by Ukrainian special services to intimidate civilians ahead of the referendums.

Melitopol is a Russia-occupied city and municipality in Zaporizhzhia oblast.

Moscow reservists to be paid 50,000 rubles

Moscow residents called up as part of Vladimir Putin’s partial mobilisation announcement will be paid an additional 50,000 Russian rubles ($838) a month, following the mayor’s decree, the Ria Novosti news agency reported.

In the announcement published on the mayors portal, the statement said: “Soldiers called up by the military commissariat of the city of Moscow for military service for mobilisation … and who entered into a contract for military service with the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation after joining.

“The following measures of social support are provided: a monthly payment during the period of military service in the amount of 50 thousand rubles,” it added.

In the case of serious injury, concussion, injury, or mutilation during the war, soldiers will be given a one-time payment of one million roubles ($16,776).

Putin can’t get away with ‘shredding’ international order: Blinken

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has stated Russian President Vladimir Putin must be hold accountable for “shredding” the international order by waging war against Ukraine.

Putin’s announcement of plans to mobilise military reservists earlier this week, as world leaders gathered at the United Nations’ General Assembly, was an indication of Moscow’s “utter contempt for this council,” Blinken noted.

“The very international order that we have gathered here to uphold is being shredded before our eyes,” he continued, adding, “We cannot – we will not – allow President Putin to get away with it.”

Baltic nations refuse to grant automatic asylum for fleeing Russians

Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania have said they are not prepared to automatically offer asylum to Russia’s fleeing the partial order to be enlisted.

On Wednesday, many Russians booked one-way tickets out of the country after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that 300,000 military reservists would be called up for the war in Ukraine.

In Latvia, Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics said they would not issue humanitarian or other visas to Russians seeking to avoid mobilisation, citing security reasons.

“We must not give in to his (Putin’s) blackmail and must support Ukraine as much as we can,” the minister added.

“Russia today is as dangerous to Europe and world peace as Nazi Germany was in the last century,” stated Rinkevics, according to the Baltic News Service.

UN chief opens meeting urging probe into ‘catalog of cruelty’ in Ukraine

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for a probe into the Ukraine war as he opened a Security Council meeting with the top Russian and US diplomats.

Reports from the United Nations rights body show “a catalog of cruelty — summary executions, sexual violence, torture and other inhumane and degrading treatment against civilians and prisoners of war,” Guterres said.

“All these allegations must be thoroughly investigated, to ensure accountability,” he stated, without directly pointing the finger at Russia.

“Perpetrators must be held to account in fair and independent judicial proceedings. Victims and their families have a right to justice, remedy and reparation,” the UN chief added.

Putin’s partial mobilization only strengthens support for Ukraine in Berlin: German DM

Russia’s “partial mobilization” and planned referendums in occupied parts of Ukraine will not deter Germany’s military support for Ukraine, the country’s Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht announced Thursday.

“Rather, this reaction from Putin to Ukraine’s successes spurs us on to continue to support Ukraine and send this clear signal,” Lambrecht told reporters in Berlin following a meeting with her French counterpart.

“We see that Ukraine has achieved great successes,” she said, highlighting the support it received from Germany and France.

“We see how Russia reacts to these successes — in a desperate manner,” she added.

Lambrecht also stated the announced referendums by Kremlin-backed officials in Ukraine ”will have no impact on us,” noting they will not change the level of support Ukraine will receive from Germany.

French Defense Minister Sebastien Lecornu said France will also continue its support for Ukraine in terms of arms and training, adding that France needed cooperation within NATO to do so.

Ukrainian army lost approximately 55,510 personnel since the war began

The General Staff of the Ukrainian army tweeted that the army has lost approximately 55,510 personnel, 2,236 tanks and 4,776 armoured personnel vehicles since the start of the Russian invasion.

Moscow’s arsenal could be used to defend territories that join Russia: Former Russian President

Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has said that any weapons in Moscow’s arsenal, including strategic nuclear weapons, could be used to defend Ukrainian territories that join Russia.

Medvedev, who also serves as deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council, stated that referendums planned by Russian-installed and separatist authorities in southeastern Ukraine will take place, and “there is no going back”.

“The Western establishment and all citizens of NATO countries in general need to understand that Russia has chosen its own path,” Medvedev added.

Russia has agents in Ukraine’s defence sector: Zelensky representative

According to President Volodymyr Zelensky’s representative, Russia has agents in Ukraine’s defence sector who pass information to Moscow and allow Russia to anticipate Ukrainian moves on the battlefield.

Fedir Venislavskyi told a briefing, “We cannot underestimate the enemy.”

“Their main intelligence directorate, unfortunately, has many agents, including in our defence sector. I think that they partly understand the next steps of our armed forces that we will see in the near future,” Venislavskyi added.

Britsh PM vows continued military support to Ukraine

British Prime Minister, Liz Truss, tweeted, “We will not rest until Ukraine prevails”, as she spoke at the United Nations General Assembly.

In her speech, Truss said: “new UK weapons are arriving in Ukraine as I speak.”

“At this crucial moment in the conflict, I pledge that we will sustain or increase our military support to Ukraine for as long as it takes,” she added.

Russia says 5,937 troops dead since war began

Russia’s Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu stated that 5,937 Russian soldiers have died in Ukraine since the military intervention began in February.

In a rare admission of military losses from Moscow, Shoigu noted in a televised address: “Our losses for today are 5,937 dead.”

He added that Russia is “fighting not so much Ukraine as the collective West” in Ukraine.

Exodus of men drafted ‘exaggerated’: Kremlin spokesman

The Kremlin announced reports of an exodus of draft-age men from Russia after the announcement of a partial mobilisation were “exaggerated”.

In a call with reporters, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov declined to deny Russian media reports that some anti-mobilisation protesters detained on Wednesday night had been given draft papers, noting that “this is not against the law”.

Amount of people crossing the Finland-Russia border has increased: Finnish border guard

Traffic across the Finland-Russia border intensified overnight, according to Finnish officials, following the Kremlin’s announcement of a partial mobilization on Wednesday.

Some 4,824 Russians arrived in Finland via the country’s eastern border on Wednesday, the Finnish border guard’s head of international affairs Matti Pitkaniitty said in a tweet, an increase of 1,691 compared to the same day last week.

However, Pitkaniitty continued that the number of people crossing the border Wednesday was lower than on a normal weekend.

Border traffic on Thursday morning has remained busy, the Border Guard of Southeast Finland added in a tweet Thursday.

On Wednesday, Defense Minister Antti Kaikkonen stated Finland is closely monitoring the situation in Russia

Russia, Ukraine exchange nearly 300 prisoners in surprise swap

Russia and Ukraine have carried out a surprise prisoner swap involving nearly 300 people, the largest since Moscow’s invasion began nearly seven months ago.

Those released include prisoners of war from countries including the United States, the United Kingdom, and Morocco, some of whom had been sentenced to death after being captured in Ukraine and accused of being mercenaries.

Russia also freed some 215 Ukrainians, including the five commanders who led a prolonged Ukrainian defence of the southern port city of Mariupol earlier this year.

In exchange, Ukraine sent back 55 Russians and pro-Moscow Ukrainians and Viktor Medvedchuk, the leader of a banned pro-Russian party who was facing charges of treason.

The deal, hammered out with the help of Saudi Arabia and Turkey, had been under preparation for some time and involved intense haggling.

EU ministers agree to prepare ‘new restrictive measures’ against Russia

European Union foreign ministers agreed in New York to push forward with a new round of sanctions against Russia, EU Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell told reporters.

“We will continue and increase our military support, continue providing arms to Ukraine, and we will study, we will adopt, new restrictive measures – both personal and sectorial,” Borrell said.

The exact details on those new sanctions must still be determined, he added. The agreement reached in New York, which he said was unanimous, was a “political” one.

“Some hours after Putin’s speech, it was a matter of sending a powerful political message,” he said, adding, “They will not shake our determination. They will not shake our resolve, our unity, to stand by Ukraine.”

He stated that he was confident that “unanimous agreement” would be possible for the new sanctions package.

“It’s clear that Putin is trying to destroy Ukraine,” he continued.

“In line with the United Nations charter, and international law, Ukraine is exercising its legitimate right to defend itself against Russian aggression, to regain full control of its territory, and has the right to liberate occupied territories within its internationally recognized borders. And for that, we will continue supporting Ukraine’s efforts, the provision of military equipment, as long as it takes,” he noted.

Zelensky claims Russia is afraid of peace talks in Ukraine

Russia is afraid of real peace negotiations in Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelensky said during his address to the United Nations General Assembly.

Instead, Russia lies to everyone, the president stated, adding it “talks about the talks but announces a military mobilization.”

Zelensky, in his pre-recorded remarks, noted, “What is true then? The military mobilization in Russia is true. Sham referendums are also true. Russia wants war. It’s true.”

Zelensky ended his address by stating, “We are ready for peace. But true, honest and fair peace. That’s why the world is on our side.”

He called for Russia to be deprived of its veto power, as Moscow is one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council.

“So long as the aggressor is party to decision making in the international organization you must be insulated from them, at least until aggression stops,” he continued.

Zelensky called for the creation of a special tribunal to punish Russia for invading Ukraine.

“A special tribunal should be created to punish Russia,” Zelensky said, adding, that “this will become a signal to all would-be aggressors, that they must value peace or be brought to responsibility by the world”.

Zelensky said he believes Ukraine will continue to liberate territory as the military mounts its counteroffensive against Russian aggression.

“We can return the Ukraine flag to our entire territory. We can do it with the force of arms, but we need time,” he added.

He stated Ukraine tried ending the war at the negotiating table, but concluded, “This is a war for life.”

Zelensky reiterated his country needed support in the form of weapons and military assistance in order to be successful on the battlefield.

“How can we allow the Russian army somewhere on Ukraine soil knowing that they’re committing such mass murders everywhere? We cannot,” he continued.

“We must protect life and the world must protect life,” Zelensky added.

North Korea says it never sold weaponry to Russia

North Korea says it never exported weapons or ammunition to Russia, according to the state-run Korean Central News Agency.

Earlier this month, a US official told CNN that Russia is purchasing millions of rockets and artillery shells from North Korea for use in Ukraine. The New York Times first reported the purchases.

North Korea condemned the US “for thoughtlessly circulating the rumor against the DPRK to pursue its base political and military aim” and said the US should keep its mouth shut, according to KCNA.

The state media cited a press statement from the Vice Director General of the General Bureau of Equipment of the Ministry of National Defense but did not provide a name for the Vice Director General.

North Korea announced the “development, production, possession of military equipment, but also their export and import are the lawful right peculiar to a sovereign state, and nobody is entitled to criticize it.”

However, the statement added, “We have never exported weapons or ammunition to Russia before and we will not plan to export them.”

It noted that the rumors about exports to Russia were aimed at tarnishing North Korea’s image.

Over 1,300 arrests in Russia anti-mobilisation protests: NGO

More than 1,300 people have been arrested at demonstrations across Russia against Vladimir Putin’s announcement of a partial mobilisation of civilians to fight in Ukraine, a police monitoring group has reported.

The OVD-Info monitoring group counted at least 1,332 people detained at rallies in 38 different cities across the country after Putin’s morning address to the nation.

Shelling damages cables providing essential power to one Zaporizhzhia nuclear reactor

The cables providing essential electricity to one of Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant’s reactors was damaged by shelling, temporarily forcing the unit to run on emergency diesel generators before external power was restored, the UN nuclear watchdog has said.

The plant’s five other reactors were not affected, the International Atomic Energy Agency added in a statement.

Turkey condemns Russia’s ‘illegitimate’ votes in Ukraine

Turkey has condemned Russia’s “illegitimate” plans to hold annexation referendums in four Moscow-controlled regions of Ukraine.

“Such illegitimate fait accomplis will not be recognised by the international community,” the Turkish foreign ministry announced in a statement.

Kyiv pledges to kill troops deployed in Ukraine ‘voluntarily or by mobilisation’

The commander of Ukraine’s army said his forces would “destroy” invading Russian troops whether they had been deployed voluntarily or as part of a new mobilisation announced by Russia.

“There are no statements from the military and political leadership of the aggressor country that can affect our willingness to fight for our freedom. We will destroy everyone who comes to our land with weapons – whether voluntarily or by mobilisation,” Ukrainian armed forces commander-in-chief Valeriy Zaluzhnyi wrote on Facebook.

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