Friday, March 1, 2024

Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 237: Ukraine FM asks Zelensky to cut diplomatic ties with Iran

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:

Ukraine to get anti-drone systems in coming days: NATO chief

NATO will deliver air defence systems to Ukraine in coming days to help the country defend itself against the drones, including those from Iran, that Russia is using to target critical infrastructure, the alliance’s secretary-general said on Tuesday.

Ukraine announced attacks by swarms of drones had destroyed almost a third of its power stations over the past week after Russia stepped up its attacks on infrastructure far from the front line after suffering a string of military setbacks at the hands of Ukrainian troops.

Addressing a security conference in Berlin, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg stated the answer to the attacks was for the allies to step up their deliveries of air defence systems.

“The most important thing we can do is deliver on what allies have promised, to step up and deliver even more air defence systems,” he continued, adding, “NATO will in the coming days deliver counter-drone systems to counter the specific threat of drones, including those from Iran.”

“No nation should support the illegal war of Russia against Ukraine,” Stoltenberg noted.

Iran has denied supplying its drones and missiles to Russia.

Over 1,100 Ukrainian towns left without power

Kyiv announced Tuesday that more than 1,100 towns and villages across Ukraine had been left without power after 10 days of Russia strikes that have targeted energy facilities across the country.

In the past 10 days Russia carried out around “190 mass strikes with missiles, kamikaze drones and artillery in 16 Ukrainian regions and in the city of Kyiv,” a spokesperson for Ukraine’s emergency services, Oleksandr Khorunzhyi, told a briefing.

“For now, 1,162 settlements in Dnipropetrovsk, Kirovograd, Zhytomyr, Kharkiv, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia, Lugansk, Mykolaiv, Kherson regions remain cut off from electricity,” Khorunzhyi noted.

As a result of the strikes, more than 70 people were killed and 240 injured over that period, according to statistics given during the briefing.

Russian missile supplies have fallen to critically low level: Ukrainian defense intelligence agency

Ukraine’s Defense Intelligence Agency believes that Russia’s supply of several missile types is critically low.

“The Russian defense industry cannot produce enough new missiles, and the ones they went to war with on February 24 are already running out,” Brig. Gen. Kyrylo Budanov, the head of Ukraine’s Defense Intelligence Agency, said in remarks distributed by the Agency.

“For many items this figure has already fallen below the critical level. I mean the level of 30%,” he added.

Budanov alleged that Russia’s supply of “Iskander” cruise missiles, for example, had fallen to 13% of normal levels.

Estimating Russian missile inventories is guesswork. In May, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky stated Russia had launched 2,154 missiles and probably used up 60% of its precision-missile arsenal. That now looks like wishful thinking.

The Pentagon’s view in May was that of its weapons stocks, Russia was “running the lowest on cruise missiles, particularly air-launched cruise missiles,” but that Moscow still had more than 50% of its pre-war inventory.

Budanov said that Russia has been “forced to look for some options to overcome the shortage of missiles. They came to the point that they began to use Iranian unmanned aerial vehicles.”

He added that Russia was “gradually exhausting” its supply of Iranian drones and that Russia continues to order more, Iran’s manufacturing “is not an instant process.”

A senior US military official stated on Friday that Russian forces had used an “extensive” number of precision-guided missiles throughout the ongoing conflict with Ukraine.

“I think the fact that they’re now going to the Iranians to use drones speaks to their concern associated with precision munitions, so every one of them fired is probably a very careful consideration for the Russians,” the official continued.

Russian air raids damaged more than 400 infrastructure targets

Russian attacks have damaged more than 400 infrastructure targets across Ukraine since early last week, said a senior Ukrainian official.

The Minister for Communities and Territories Development of Ukraine, Oleksii Chernyshov, stated that Russian missiles and Iranian-made drones had struck 408 Ukrainian targets since October 10.

The targets included 45 energy facilities and more than 180 civilian buildings.

Chernyshov insisted that Ukrainians would not be cowed by Moscow’s onslaught.

He noted that “such terrorist actions of the aggressor mobilise and harden us even more”.

UN commision finds Russia and Ukraine guilty of possible war crimes

A UN commission found Russian forces were responsible for the “vast majority” of human rights violations in the early weeks of the war in Ukraine, including attacks on civilians that were potential war crimes.

The Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine found that Russian forces had indiscriminately shelled areas they were trying to capture and “attacked civilians trying to flee”.

It also found abuses committed by Ukraine, including two cases of people who were out of action who were shot, wounded or tortured.

“Russian armed forces are responsible for the vast majority of the violations identified, including war crimes,” the Council said in the report, adding, “Ukrainian forces have also committed international humanitarian law violations in some cases, including two incidents that qualify as war crimes.”

Ukraine warns situation ‘critical’ after Russia attacks power grid

Ukraine has warned of an emerging “critical” risk to its power grid after President Volodymyr Zelensky said that repeated Russian bombardments had destroyed one-third of the country’s power facilities as winter approaches.

“The situation is critical now across the country. It’s necessary for the whole country to prepare for electricity, water and heating outages,” Kyrylo Tymoshenko, the deputy head of the Ukrainian president’s office, told Ukrainian television.

The strikes in the early hours of Tuesday hit Kyiv, Kharkiv in the east, Mykolaiv in the south and central regions of Dnipro and Zhytomyr, where officials noted hospitals were running on backup generators.

Estonian lawmakers declare Russia a ‘terrorist regime’

Estonian lawmakers condemned Moscow’s illegal annexation of Ukrainian territory and declared Russia a “terrorist regime”.

Out of the 101-seat legislature, the statement passed with 88 votes – 10 legislators were absent, and three abstained.

The statement said the Estonian parliament “declares Russia a terrorist regime and the Russian Federation a country that supports terrorism.

“(President Vladimir) Putin’s regime, with its threats of nuclear attack, has turned Russia into the biggest danger to peace both in Europe and in the whole world,” it added.

Foreign minister suggests Russia could downgrade diplomatic presence in West

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said Moscow could reduce its diplomatic presence in Western countries, blaming relations with Europe and the United States and Russia’s need to build ties elsewhere.

“Of course we do not see any sense in or have any desire to maintain the same presence in Western countries… and third world countries, both in Asia and Africa, on the contrary, need additional attention,” Lavrov stated in an address to new foreign ministry recruits.

Ukraine moves to cut diplomatic ties with Iran

Ukraine’s foreign minister said on Tuesday he was submitting a proposal to President Volodymyr Zelensky for Kyiv to cut diplomatic ties with Tehran for supplying weapons to Russia.

Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told a news conference that Tehran bore full responsibility for destruction in Ukraine.

He noted Kyiv would send an official note to Israel seeking immediate air defence supplies and cooperation in the sector.

Iran has denied supplying its drones and missiles to Russia.

Kremlin denies using Iranian drones in attack on Ukraine

The Kremlin on Tuesday denied its forces had used Iranian drones to attack Ukraine.

Ukrainian leaders have accused Russia of using Iranian Shahed-136 “kamikaze” drones, which explode on impact, in attacks on Kyiv.

Asked if Russia had used Iranian drones in its campaign in Ukraine, spokesman Dmitry Peskov stated that the Kremlin did not have any information about their use.

“Russian equipment with Russian nomenclature is used,” he said, adding, “All further questions should be directed to the Defence Ministry.”

Death toll from Tuesday’s Kyiv attack rises to 3

The number of people killed in a Russian attack on Kyiv Tuesday morning now stands at three, according to the mayor of the Ukrainian capital.

“Three people were killed in today’s attack on critical infrastructure in Kyiv,” Mayor Vitali Klitschko said on Telegram.

“They are employees of one of the critical infrastructure facilities,” he added.

Klitschko noted that two objects were “heavily damaged.”

Kyiv residents have been asked to save electricity and water after two critical infrastructure facilities were struck on Tuesday, Klitschko said earlier in the day.

Air strike to continue on Ukraine infrastructure: Russia

Russia announced its forces were continuing strikes against Ukraine’s military and energy infrastructure targets.

The Russian defence ministry said the attacks were carried out with high-precision long-range air and sea-based weapons.

The targets were the “military command and energy infrastructure of Ukraine, as well as arsenals with ammunition and foreign-made weapons,” it noted, adding, “All assigned objects were hit.”

Russia has increasingly attacked Ukraine’s civilian infrastructure, including energy facilities, after a series of defeats on the battlefield saw Ukraine recapturing multiple settlements.

Two people killed in Tuesday’s attacks in Kyiv: Ukrainian prosecutor general

Two people have been killed and one injured in Russia’s attacks on Kyiv on Tuesday, according to the Ukrainian prosecutor general’s office.

“According to preliminary data, two people were killed and one was injured,” the prosecutor general’s office said in a statement.

“According to the investigation, on October 18, 2022, the armed forces of the Russian Federation, using means of warfare prohibited by international law, launched a missile attack on an energy supply facility on the left bank of the capital,” the statement added.

A separate series of drone attacks launched by Moscow on Monday killed at least five people in the Ukrainian capital city, including a pregnant woman and an elderly woman, according to local authorities.

Kyiv residents urged to save electricity and water due to damage to key facilities

Residents in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv have been asked to preserve electricity and water after two critical infrastructure facilities were hit on Tuesday.

“In Kyiv, as a result of rocket attacks by Russian barbarians, two critical infrastructure facilities were damaged. Emergency and rescue services are working on the ground,” the city’s mayor, Vitali Klitschko, said on Telegram.

“Currently, the provision of electricity and water supply services is partially limited in many houses on the left bank of the capital… I appeal to all Kyiv residents to save electricity as much as possible,” he continued.

“For residents who have low pressure in the water supply network – save water as much as possible now,” the mayor noted.

Work was underway to “stabilize the situation,” Klitschko added.

There were at least three attacks on an energy facility located on the left bank in Kyiv on Tuesday morning, the deputy head of the president’s office, Kyrylo Tymoshenko, confirmed earlier.

As many as three Ukrainian cities are experiencing power outages Tuesday as a result of Russian attacks overnight.

No decisions on partial mobilization end: Kremlin

The Kremlin said it has not set an end date for President Vladimir Putin’s partial mobilization order, despite as many as 40 regions having fulfilled their military draft quota as of Tuesday.

The Russian Ministry of Defense sets the quota for each region which needs to be completed, according to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

However, the fulfilment of the quota in these regions does not mean that mobilization is over. It can only end with a presidential decree.

“There have been no such decisions on the end of mobilization,” Peskov stated when asked about it, adding that “there can be no question” on surpassing the targeted figure of 300,000 soldiers “under current decree.”

On Monday, Moscow’s mayor Sergei Sobyanin announced the fulfilment of the quota in the Russian capital.

But Russian human rights group Agora noted that Sobyanin’s statement does not mean partial mobilization is over.

“As long as the partial mobilization is not completed by the official who announced it, its legality is preserved. That is, you need to wait for the presidential decree,” Russian human rights lawyer Pavel Chikov wrote on Telegram.

Putin has defended his partial mobilization of Russians that began in September, telling reporters on Friday that it is expected to end in two weeks. Some 222,000 troops out of the planned 300,000 Russians have been drafted so far, he added.

Russia destroyed 30% of Ukraine’s power stations: Zelensky

President Volodymyr Zelensky said Tuesday Russian forces had “destroyed” a third of Ukraine’s power stations in repeated strikes that targeted energy infrastructure.

“Since October 10, 30 percent of Ukraine’s power stations have been destroyed, causing massive blackouts across the country,” Zelensky wrote on Twitter, adding there was “no space left for negotiations with (President Vladimir) Putin’s regime”.

Power outages hit at least three Ukrainian cities, following Russia’s attacks on energy facilities

Areas in at least three Ukrainian cities, including the capital Kyiv, are experiencing power interruptions as a result of Russia’s strikes on critical infrastructure on Tuesday, according to Ukrainian officials.

The local energy company in Kyiv, DTEK, said in a statement on Facebook that a residential neighborhood in the city is experiencing power cuts and water outages.

“Russian shelling has damaged a critical infrastructure facility in the Desnyansky district, causing interruptions in the electricity supply to the residents of the Troyeshchyna residential district and the water channel that supplies water to the Left Bank of the capital,” the company added.

In Dnipropetrovsk region, at least three areas, including parts of Dnipro city, experienced electrical outages and a water pumping facility lost power after Russia launched two missiles at an energy facility, causing “fire and severe destruction,” according to local authorities.

Further west, the mayor of Zhytomyr noted in a statement earlier that the city was experiencing power and water cuts, with hospitals running on back up energy.

Damage to Nord Stream pipelines caused by “powerful explosions”: Danish police

Preliminary investigations have confirmed that explosions were the cause of damage to two major gas pipelines between Russia and Europe last month, according to a statement Tuesday by Danish authorities.

“The investigations have confirmed that there has been extensive damage to Nord Stream 1 and 2 in Denmark’s exclusive economic zone and that the damage was caused by powerful explosions,” said the statement from Copenhagen Police and the Danish Security and Intelligence Service.

A joint investigation team has been created “to further investigate the incidents,” it added.

Western nations have announced leaks discovered last month in the two Russian gas pipelines were likely the result of sabotage.

Investigations by European authorities have determined powerful underwater explosions had occurred just before the pipelines burst in several places.

The pipelines were created to funnel gas from Russia into the European Union, and were controversial long before Russia waged war on Ukraine, largely because of fears around European reliance on Russian energy.

Canada expands sanctions on Russia over Ukraine

Canada sanctioned 34 more people and one entity in Russia over what it said was spreading of disinformation, according to a statement by the country’s Foreign Ministry.

The sanctions are related to the Russian special operation in Ukraine, according to the statement.

The sanctions targeted the Zvezda television channel and Russian journalists Mikhail Leontiev, Tina Kandelaki, Kirill Kleimyonov, Alexander Kots, television host Maria Sittel, sports host Dmitry Guberniyev, editor-in-chief of the Moskovsky Komsomolets newspaper, Pavel Gusev, and Komsomolskaya Pravda journalist Alexander Gamov.

Other sanctioned people included actors Sergey Bezrukov, Dmitry Pevtsov and Vladimir Mashkov, chairman of the Russian military history association Vladimir Medinsky, head of the New People faction at the State Duma, Alexey Nechayev.

Strikes on Zhytomyr energy facility cause power and water outages: Ukrainian officials

Two strikes on an energy facility in Zhytomyr, located west of Ukraine’s capital, are causing power and water outages, according to Ukrainian officials.

“Preliminarily, two hits at the power supply facility. The State Emergency Service is working,” Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy head of the President’s Office said in a post on Telegram.

The mayor of Zhytomyr, Serhii Sukhomlyn, stated the city is experiencing power outages.

“The morning began with hits at Zhytomyr. Now there is no power or water supply in the city,” he continued.

Hospitals are working on backup power supply, he added.

Power facilities in Kyiv and Dnipro were also hit by Russian strikes Tuesday, according to Ukrainian officials.

Kyiv energy facility hit by strikes: Ukrainian officials

An energy facility in Ukraine’s capital Kyiv was hit by at least three Russian strikes on Tuesday morning, according to a senior official

“Preliminary three strikes on an energy facility on the Left bank of the city,” Deputy head of the President’s Office of Ukraine Kyrylo Tymoshenko said in a post on Telegram.

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitchko noted, “Explosions again in Kyiv this morning. It’s Desnyanskyi district. Critical infrastructure facility. All services are headed to the scene.”

The strikes come a day after at least four people were killed when Russia attacked Kyiv with Iranian-made “kamikaze” drones.

At least 1 killed in Mykolaiv shelling: Mayor

A man was killed when a residential building was hit by shelling in the southern Ukrainian port of Mykolaiv overnight, Mayor Oleksandr Senkevich said on Telegram Tuesday.

“A night of shelling in Mykolaiv left a two-story residential building in the city’s central district destroyed. Rescuers pulled the body of a 55-year-old man from under the rubble. A flower market was also destroyed in the same area of the city,” Senkevich wrote.

“As of 6:20 a.m., power supply was restored in Mykolaiv. I thank the power engineers for their efficient work,” he added.

Shelling causes “severe damage” at Dnipro power facility: Ukrainian official

A power facility in the central Ukrainian city of Dnipro was severely damaged by two strikes on Tuesday, a top Ukrainian official said.

“Two strikes have hit an energy infrastructure facility, causing severe damage. The State Emergency Service is on site,” Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy head of the Ukrainian President’s office, announced in a statement on Telegram.

“Due to the shelling of the city, some areas may experience a loss of electricity and water supply. Response teams are already working on restoring services,” he added in a later post.

Last week, Ukraine’s energy minister told CNN that recent Russian strikes had hit about 30% of the country’s energy infrastructure. Energy Minister Herman Halushchenko noted Moscow’s new tactic was targeting Ukrainian electricity exports to Europe, which “helps European countries to save on Russian gas and coal.”

Kharkiv “under fire”: City’s mayor

Kharkiv in northeastern Ukraine is “under fire,” the city’s mayor said in a Telegram post Tuesday, reporting a “series of explosions.”

“Kharkiv is under fire. Within five minutes there were two series of explosions in the city. According to preliminary information, the district of one of the industrial enterprises of the city is under attack,” Mayor Ihor Terekhov stated.

Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city before the start of the war, is among the territories reclaimed by Ukrainian forces during their recent counteroffensive.

The reports of explosions in Kharkiv Tuesday come a day after at least four people were killed when Russia attacked Ukraine’s capital Kyiv with “kamikaze” drones, according to Ukrainian officials.

Air raid sirens go off across Ukraine

Air raid sirens went off across Ukraine on Tuesday morning, the Strana media outlet reported.

“Air raid sirens are sounding across the entire territory controlled by Ukraine,” the news outlet said.

Zelensky hails prisoner exchange: “We do not forget about any of our people”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has hailed an exchange of more than 200 prisoners by Russia and Ukraine.

Among those released by Russian and pro-Russian forces, he said, were people who had been detained since before Russia’s full-scale invasion in February.

“We do not forget about any of our people,” he continued, adding, “We must return them all. And we will.”

“I thank all those involved for this success, and I also thank all those who replenish our exchange fund, who ensure the capture of the enemy,” he added, saying, “The more Russian prisoners we have, the sooner we will be able to release our heroes. Every Ukrainian soldier, every commander on the front line must remember this.”

Elon Musk says SpaceX has withdrawn request for Pentagon to fund Starlink in Ukraine

SpaceX founder Elon Musk stated that the funding request the company had made to the Pentagon to start picking up the bill for satellite internet services for Ukraine has been withdrawn.

Musk’s announcement on Twitter followed an exclusive CNN report that SpaceX made a request to the Pentagon in September saying they were no longer able to donate the critical Starlink terminals or support the expensive accompanying service “for an indefinite period of time.” SpaceX asked the Pentagon to start paying for the service for the current terminals operated by the Ukrainian government as well as fund almost 8,000 new terminals and service for Ukraine’s military and intelligence services.

After the CNN report revealed the request and showed in greater detail that SpaceX is not solely responsible for Starlink access in Ukraine (in fact numerous international efforts funded much of it), Musk tweeted on Saturday: “To hell with it…even though Starlink is still losing money & other companies are getting billions of taxpayer $, we’ll just keep funding the Ukraine govt for free.”

Musk’s tweet on Monday went a bit farther, saying the step had been taken to rescind the request to the Defense Department.

Two sources briefed on the discussions between SpaceX and the Pentagon told CNN that as of Friday, before Musk’s apparent about-face, the Pentagon had in fact agreed to the request from SpaceX to pay for ongoing service for Ukraine’s government and the new request from Ukraine’s commanding general.

US: Iran supplying drones to Moscow a ‘violation’ of UN resolution

The United States agrees with assessments from France and the United Kingdom that Iran supplying drones to Russia would violate a United Nations Security Council resolution that endorsed the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and six powers, US State Department Spokesperson Vedant Patel stated on Monday.

“Earlier today our French and British allies publicly offered the assessment that Iran’s supply of these UAVs [for] Russia is a violation of UN Security Council resolution 2231,” Patel told reporters, referring to uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAVs), or drones. “This is something that we agree with.”

Ukraine has reported a spate of Russian attacks using Iranian-made Shahed-136 drones in recent weeks. Iran denies supplying the drones to Russia, while the Kremlin has not commented.

The State Department assessed that Iranian drones were used on Monday in a morning attack on Kyiv, an official noted.

White House Spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre also accused Tehran of lying when it says Iranian drones are not being used by Russia in Ukraine.

US will hold Russia accountable for ‘war crimes’ after drone attacks

The United States will hold Russia accountable for “war crimes”, the White House has said, hours after Russia attacked Ukrainian cities with drones, killing at least four people in an apartment building in downtown Kyiv.

Russian forces also targeted infrastructure across the country in the second wave of air raids in a week.

US President Joe Biden’s press secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre, told reporters that the White House “strongly condemns Russia’s missile strikes today” and added the attack “continues to demonstrate [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s brutality”.

US warns nations, companies not to assist Iran’s drone programme

The US has warned that action would be taken against nations and companies found to be assisting Iran’s drone programme after it was implicated in deadly attacks on Kyiv.

“Anyone doing business with Iran that could have any link to UAVs or ballistic missile developments or the flow of arms from Iran to Russia should be very careful and do their due diligence,” state department spokesman Vedant Patel told reporters.

“The US will not hesitate to use sanctions or take actions against perpetrators,” he added.

“Russia deepening an alliance with Iran is something the whole world – especially those in the region and across the world, frankly – should be seen as a profound threat,” he stated.

Citing previously released US intelligence, Patel said that some of Iran’s unmanned aircraft sold to Russia have malfunctioned.

The transfer shows the “enormous pressure” on Russia after its setbacks in Ukraine, he continued, adding that Moscow is “being forced frankly to resort to unreliable countries like Iran for supplies and equipment”.

Iran has denied supplying its drones and missiles to Russia.

White House says Iran lying about selling kamikaze drones to Russia

The Joe Biden administration says that Iranian denials that it has supplied military equipment to Russia are lies, following deadly Russian strikes in Kyiv on Monday that Ukrainian officials claimed came from Iranian drones.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said that reports from Kyiv appear to document Iranian Shahed-136 drones striking the city.

“We have been warning since July … that Iran was planning to sell UAVs [unmanned aerial vehicles] to Russia for use against Ukraine. … There is extensive proof of their use by Russia against both military and civilian targets there,” Jean-Pierre told reporters Monday.

“You all have seen as well the reports this morning of what appear to be an Iranian drone strike in downtown Kyiv, yet Iran continues to lie about this,” she continued.

“They have not been truthful about this and deny providing weapons to Russia for use in Ukraine. Meanwhile, according to these new reports, Iran is considering selling more destructive weapons to support an invasion they claim to oppose,” she added.

Iran has denied supplying its drones and missiles to Russia.

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