Saturday, March 2, 2024

Live Update: Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 214

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:

Kremlin’s mention of possible use of nuclear weapons ‘absolutely unacceptable’: Ukraine

The Kremlin’s statements on the possible use of nuclear weapons are “absolutely unacceptable” and Kyiv will not give into it, according to Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and other Russian officials, including Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, have mentioned nuclear weapons as an option in extremis.

“Putin’s and Lavrov’s irresponsible statements on the possible use of nuclear weapons are absolutely unacceptable,” Kuleba wrote on Twitter.

“Ukraine won’t give in. We call on all nuclear powers to speak out now and make it clear to Russia that such rhetorics put the world at risk and will not be tolerated,” he added.

Ukraine claims Odessa again attacked by Iranian drones

Ukraine has claimed the southern port city of Odessa is attacked by Iranian-made drones overnight, two days after a Russian attack with such a weapon killed two civilians.

“Odessa was attacked again by enemy kamikaze drones,” said the Ukrainian army’s Operational Command South.

“The enemy hit the administrative building in the city centre three times,” it noted, adding, “One drone was shot down by (Ukrainian) air defence forces. No casualties (were) recorded.”

“These were Iranian drones,” a Ukrainian South Command spokeswoman, Natalya Gumenyuk, stated.

Ukraine tried to attack Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant with ‘kamikaze drones’: Russia

Russia’s defence ministry has said that Ukrainian forces have continued attacks around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in the south of the country, including launching eight “kamikaze drones” at the facility.

Russian forces shot down all of drones outside the territory of the nuclear power plant, the defence ministry added, and radiation levels remain normal.

Any annexed territory will have Russia’s ‘full protection’: FM

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says the four Ukraine regions where votes are under way in “referendums” will be under Moscow’s “full protection” if they are annexed by Russia.

At a news conference following his speech to the United Nations General Assembly in New York, Lavrov was asked if Russia would have grounds for using nuclear weapons to defend annexed regions of Ukraine. He stated Russian territory – including territory “further enshrined” in Russia’s constitution in the future – “is under the full protection of the state”.

“All of the laws, doctrines, concepts and strategies of the Russian Federation apply to all of its territory,” Reuters reported him as saying while also referring specifically to Russia’s doctrine on the use of nuclear weapons.

Lavrov’s comments came after he sought in his UN speech to portray opposition to Russia’s war in Ukraine as limited to the United States and countries under its sway.

The Group of Seven industrialised economies have said they will not recognise the results of the “referendum” votes.

Zelensky tells Russians Putin knowingly ‘sending citizens to their death’

President Volodymyr Zelensky has made an appeal to Russians, saying their president was knowingly “sending citizens to their death”.

Zelensky called on Moscow’s forces to surrender, adding, “You will be treated in a civilised manner … no one will know the circumstances of your surrender.”

It came just hours after Russia passed a law toughening punishments for voluntary surrender and desertion.

Russia says it had ‘no choice’ but to take military action in Ukraine

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has stated at the United Nations General Assembly that Moscow had “no choice” but to take military action in Ukraine.

At the heart of his address was a claim that the US and its allies are aggressively undermining the international system that the UN represents – not, as the West maintains, the other way around.

“The future of the world is being decided today,” Lavrov said, adding, “the question is whether or not it is going to be the kind of order with one hegemon at the head of it.”

Lavrov has bitterly criticised Western nations for their “grotesque” fear of Russia, telling the United Nations that such states were seeking to “destroy” his country.

“The official Russophobia in the West is unprecedented, now the scope is grotesque,” Lavrov said, adding, “They are not shying away from declaring the intent to inflict not only military defeat on our country but also to destroy and fracture Russia.”

Lavrov has noted at the annual gathering at the United Nations that Washington is trying to “turn the entire world into its own backyard” through sanctions.

“It’s pure, unadulterated dictatorship, or an attempt to impose it,” the foreign minister continued.

The US has imposed several rounds of sanctions on Moscow following the February invasion of Ukraine.

China FM calls on Russia, Ukraine not to let war ‘spill over’

China at the United Nations has urged Russia and Ukraine not to let the effects of their war “spill over” and called for a diplomatic resolution.

“We call on all parties concerned to keep the crisis from spilling over and to protect the legitimate rights and interests of developing countries,” Foreign Minister Wang Yi said in an address at the United Nations General Assembly.

At least 747 protesters arrested in Russia

At least 747 people have been arrested in fresh protests in Russia against the partial mobilisation ordered by President Vladimir Putin.

The human rights portal reported arrests in a total of 32 cities across the country. These are only the men and women known by name – there could be considerably more people in custody, it announced.

At least 380 arrests were reported from Moscow and 125 in St Petersburg.

At least 2,000 people in total have been detained across Russia for protesting against military mobilisation.

Duma may consider annexation of occupied parts on Thursday

The Duma, Russia’s lower house of parliament, may debate bills incorporating Russian-occupied parts of Ukraine into Russia on September 29, the TASS news agency has reported, citing an unnamed source.

Voting is due to finish on Tuesday.

Six more grain ships leave Ukraine under Istanbul deal: Turkey

Six more ships have left Ukrainian ports under the historic Istanbul grain export deal, the Turkish defence ministry has announced.

A ministry statement did not disclose the ships’ points of departure or destinations.

Turkey, the United Nations, Russia and Ukraine signed an agreement in Istanbul on July 22 to resume grain exports from three Ukrainian Black Sea ports after they were paused when the Russia-Ukraine war began in February.

Russia toughens penalty for voluntary surrender, refusal to fight

President Vladimir Putin has signed amendments toughening punishment for voluntary surrender and refusal to fight by up to 10 years in prison, just days after ordering a partial mobilisation.

A separate law, also signed on Saturday, facilitates access to Russian citizenship for foreigners who enlist in the Russian army, following the mobilisation designed to increase the ranks of his army fighting a military operation in Ukraine.

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