Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Live Update: Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 244

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 warns Russia may be planning false flag operation amid dirty bomb claims

Ukraine’s foreign minister says persistent Russian claims that Kyiv plans to detonate a so-called dirty bomb make it look as though Moscow itself plans to conduct a false flag operation.

Dmytro Kuleba told a news conference that Ukraine has never had any plans to develop such a weapon, which spread radioactive material upon detonation.

He added that officials from the UN’s nuclear watchdog would soon arrive in Ukraine and receive full access to the country’s facilities.

The diplomat called on Moscow to demonstrate the same level of transparency.

Ukraine urges refugees to stay abroad as winter power cuts loom

Refugees who fled in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine should stay abroad this winter due to blackouts created by Moscow’s bombardment of critical energy infrastructure, a Ukrainian minister says.

In an interview broadcast on Ukrainian national television, Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk told Ukrainians sheltering abroad that they should wait until spring before returning home.

“I wanted to ask [them] not to return,” she continued, adding, “We need to survive the winter.”

She noted the electrical grid “won’t survive” the return of refugees from abroad and warned the situation would “only get worse”.

Zelensky asks Italy for air defence systems: Report

President Volodymyr Zelensky has asked Italy for air defence systems.

“We need anti-aircraft defences; that’s vital for us,” Zelensky said in response to a question about whether he had any specific requests from Italy during an exclusive interview with the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera.

He added Ukraine wants refugees to return, the economy to be rebuilt and children to return to school.

“For this, we need weapons against attacks from the air and to ensure the safety of civilians,” he was quoted as saying.

“Italy produces anti-aircraft defence systems together with France, Germany. We hope they can help us,” he added.

Putin pushes for streamlined decision-making over Ukraine offensive

President Vladimir Putin has called for more streamlined decision-making in the war in Ukraine.

Addressing a new Coordination Council designed to boost support for an invasion now in its ninth month, Putin said increased coordination of government institutions and regions is necessary to manage the government’s work to produce more equipment for its forces and provide them with better medical and logistical support.

“I have discussed many times with many of you the issues related to the need to update all the work to improve administrative procedures,” Putin told the council, made up of government officials and regional leaders.

“Administrative reform is impossible without broader coordination between all departments: the economic bloc, the security bloc, the regions,” he added.

Putin set up the new council last week as he imposed martial law in four partially occupied regions of Ukraine that he has declared part of Russia. His forces have been forced to retreat in those eastern regions during offensives by a resurgent Ukrainian army

Progressives in US Congress withdraw letter urging talks to end Ukraine war

The US Congressional Progressive Caucus has withdrawn a letter to the White House that had urged a negotiated settlement to end the war in Ukraine, Chairwoman Pramila Jayapal stated.

“The Congressional Progressive Caucus hereby withdraws its recent letter to the White House regarding Ukraine,” Jayapal said in a statement, adding, “The letter was drafted several months ago, but unfortunately was released by staff without vetting.”

Analyst: Russia tries to take Iran’s foreign policy hostage by dragging it into Ukraine war

A political observer says Russia sought from the start to drag Iran into its own war on Ukraine so that it will not have to endure all the pressure alone, but the Islamic Republic’s national interests require the Tehran administration to maintain neutrality in the conflict.

Speaking to Shafaqna, Hossein Alaei, the founder and first commander of the Navy of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), said Iran needs to benefit from the opportunity created by the Russian war to secure an agreement for exports of oil and gas to Europe in the absence of Moscow from the market.

“Currently, Iran’s main issues are securing a removal of all sanctions, making efforts to enter the global market and de-escalating with America and Europe in order to satisfy the people,” he said.

Russia seeking to carve out in Iran a partner to its aggression against Ukraine: Former MP

A former Iranian parliamentarian says Russia has sought to carve out a partner in Iran to its military aggression against Ukraine and that the Islamic Republic has been “duped.”

Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh, a former chairman of the Iranian Parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, told Entekhab news outlet the notion that Iran was involved in the Ukraine war was absurd, since a country’s declaration of impartiality in a conflict suffices based on international conventions.

Russian forces making it increasingly difficult to leave occupied territories: Ukrainian government

​​Russian forces are making it harder for people to leave the occupied territories, prohibiting evacuation vehicles from leaving some regions, Ukraine’s government said in a statement issued on Tuesday.

“At the moment, evacuation is too hard. The opportunity to leave temporally occupied territories is almost exhausted,” according to the Ministry for Reintegration of the Temporary Occupied Territories.

“The occupiers have actually stopped allowing evacuation vehicles to leave the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions. They put up all kinds of obstacles: they demand licenses from drivers, use the fingerprinting procedure, check all documents, phones, cars, and so on,” it added.

“As a result, only a small number of people managed to leave in almost a month. Earlier, the same amount of people left over one or two days,” the statement read.

Ukraine external financing needs could reach $5bn a month next year: IMF chief

Ukraine’s external financing needs will be around $3bn a month through 2023 in a best case scenario, but could rise as high as $5bn if Russia’s offensive becomes “even more dramatic,” the managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has said.

Kristalina Georgieva also told a conference in Berlin focused on Ukraine’s reconstruction that the IMF was working with Ukrainian authorities to help define and implement its macroeconomic policies and what will be required of the country to become a member of the European Union.

She noted the IMF was also working toward a full-fledged IMF lending programme for Ukraine.

Russian official says proposal for secure zone around Zaporizhzhia plant ‘reasonable’: Report

A senior Russian official has been quoted by the country’s TASS news agency as saying that Moscow is generally supportive of the idea of creating a secure zone around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.

Mikhail Ulyanov, Russia’s ambassador to international institutions in Vienna, where the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is based, was responding to long-standing calls by the UN nuclear watchdog for a de-escalation of the conflict near the plant, Europe’s largest nuclear facility.

“The essence [of the IAEA proposal] in a nutshell is that you cannot shoot from the territory of the nuclear station and you cannot shoot at the station. Quite a reasonable idea, which we generally support. The question, as always, is in the details,” TASS quoted Ulyanov as saying.

Washington’s stance on Kiev’s “dirty bomb” plans unacceptable: Kremlin

Washington’s attitude to Kiev’s plans to use a “dirty bomb” is unacceptable, given the seriousness of the threat, Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the media on Tuesday.

“This approach is far from being serious. I would say it is improper against the backdrop of the seriousness of the danger we are confronted with,” he said, adding, “It should be placed squarely on the conscience of the telephone callers and those who made the statements.”

“Once again, we emphasize the great danger that is hiding behind the realization of Ukraine’s plans,” Peskov continued.

On Monday, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin told his Ukrainian counterpart Alexey Reznikov in a telephone conversation that Washington had rejected Russia’s warnings regarding Kiev’s intentions.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has also noted that Washington did not consider Russia’s warnings about the possibility Kiev might use a “dirty bomb” to be justified.

On Monday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that the threat of Ukraine’s possible use of a “dirty bomb” would be discussed at the UN Security Council. He added that Russia had reliable evidence Ukraine was plotting a “dirty bomb” provocation.

Russia ready explain to everyone interested what Kiev’s plotting: Diplomat

Moscow is ready to provide all interested parties with detailed clarifications on preparations by Kiev for a provocation with the use of a `dirty bomb,’ Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told Channel One television.

Earlier on Monday, the question was answered fully by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Viktorovich Lavrov, who commented on the situation. He pointed to a certain interest among overseas experts and said we are ready to establish appropriate contact. We want to make it clear to everybody that we are ready to [answer] any questions and that we will give the necessary answers, the Russian diplomat emphasized, adding that Russia had repeatedly reiterated this position.

“What the United States, what Britain and France should do now is postpone all their business to sit down and review the materials mentioned by Russia in phone calls and analyze the information in public,” Zakharova stated.

According to her, the Anglo-Saxon duet had created another monster who was currently pushing the world to the most dangerous brink.

Lavrov told reporters on Monday that the risk of Kiev using a “dirty bomb” would be on the agenda of a UN Security Council meeting soon. According to him, some of Moscow’s partners had suggested discussing the developments at a professional military level, while he dismissed as “not serious” the West’s rejecting these as false allegations.

Lieutenant General Igor Kirillov, Chief of the Radiation, Chemical and Biological Defense Troops of the Russian Armed Forces, said at a briefing on Monday that Russia’s top brass had all forces and means ready for executing missions amid radioactive contamination. Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu earlier warned his British, US, Turkish and French counterparts of the Ukrainian threat. Washington, London and Paris, however, dismissed Russia’s warnings as false allegations.

‘No time to waste’, Ukraine reconstruction must be swift: EU chief

The president of the European Commission has called on the world to help Ukrainians rebuild their country swiftly, adding the European Union is ready to coordinate reconstruction efforts with a secretariat.

“We have no time to waste, the scale of destruction is staggering. The World Bank puts the cost of the damage at 350 billion euros ($345bn),” Ursula von der Leyen told a reconstruction conference for Ukraine in Berlin.

Von der Leyen said an international coordination platform for the reconstruction needed to launch “as soon as possible, preferably before the end of the year or early at the beginning of next year”, noting that the European Commission was ready to provide the secretariat to it.

Ukraine’s nuclear agency says Russian troops carrying out unauthorised work at Zaporizhzhia plant

Ukraine’s state nuclear energy company has accused Russia’s military of carrying out unauthorised, secret construction work at a dry spent fuel storage facility within the occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant.

Energoatom said in a statement that Moscow’s recent claims about Kyiv’s alleged preparations to deploy a so-called “dirty bomb” may indicate Russia is in fact “preparing an act of nuclear terrorism” using nuclear materials and radioactive waste stored at the site in southeastern Ukraine.

There are 174 containers at the facility, each of which contains 24 assemblies of spent nuclear fuel, according to Energoatom.

Destruction of these containers as a result of an explosion would lead to a radiation accident and radiation contamination of several hundred square kilometers of the adjacent territory, it added.

Energoatom called on the UN’s nuclear watchdog – the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) – to assess what was going on.

Zelensky says Ukraine not got ‘single cent’ of £15bn recovery fund

President Volodymyr Zelensky has said Ukraine has not received “a single cent” towards its £15bn emergency recovery plan backed the European Commission and World Bank.

Addressing a Berlin conference on his country’s reconstruction via video link, he revealed Russian rockets and Iran-made drones had now destroyed more than a third of his country’s energy facilities.

“Russia destroys everything to make it harder for us to survive this winter, so that Ukraine cannot recover from this war for as long as possible, so that we cannot integrate the Ukrainian economic potential and the European economic potential for as long as possible,” he continued, adding, “Let the aggressor see that his goal is unattainable.”

“The EU will be able to fully and reliably replace dirty Russian energy sources with our help,” the president noted.

The European Commission and the World Bank estimated the costs of the reconstruction and recovery in Ukraine amounted to £309 billion as of last month.

Ukrainian military claims Russian forces preparing for “potential retreat” in Kherson

Russian forces in occupied Kherson are preparing “defensive positions” along the east bank of the Dnipro river and leaving small pathways for a “potential retreat” from the west bank, Ukraine’s military claimed Tuesday.

“According to available information, the enemy is arranging defensive positions on the left (eastern) bank of the Dnipro river in Kherson region,” the Armed Forces of Ukraine said in its daily operational update.

“Near the settlement of Hornostaivka, engineering and sapper units of the Russian occupation troops are laying mines along the coastline, leaving small pathways for the potential retreat of their troops from the right (western) bank,” it added.

The Russian-installed governor of the region, Vladimir Saldo, stated last week that the civil administration would move from Kherson city to the eastern (left) bank of the Dnipro river.

Blinken reaffirms US support for Ukraine in call with Ukrainian foreign minister

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken reiterated US support for Ukraine in a call with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, following unsubstantiated Russian allegations that Ukraine plans to use a “dirty bomb.”

“The Secretary reaffirmed enduring U.S. support for Ukraine in the face of continued Russian aggression, atrocities, and rhetoric surrounding so-called ‘dirty bombs’ in Ukraine,” according to a readout from State Department spokesman Ned Price.

“He noted our commitment to work with Allies and partners to continue meeting Ukraine’s security assistance needs on the battlefield,” Price added.

Russia’s claims that Ukraine plans to use a dirty bomb have been strongly refuted by Ukraine, the US, the United Kingdom and the European Union, which have in turn accused Moscow of trying to launch its own false-flag operation.

A dirty bomb is a weapon that combines conventional explosives like dynamite and radioactive material like uranium. It is often referred to as a weapon for terrorists, not countries, as it is designed to spread fear and panic more than eliminate any military target. There is no record of such a weapon ever being used successfully.

On Monday, the UN’s nuclear watchdog has announced it will send safeguard inspectors to visit two nuclear locations in Ukraine at the request of authorities in Kyiv.

Tehran-based Etemad Daily: Ukraine war worryingly pivoting against Iran

Iranian daily Etemad, in an article, has raised concerns about how “the war in Ukraine is pivoting against Iran.”

The Ukrainian foreign ministry, the daily says, has proposed diplomatic ties with Iran to be severed, and the European Union has approved sanctions against Iranian officials and institutions.

The article points to alleged sales of Iranian drones to Russia as a party to the war in Ukraine and attempts to link it to the restrictions under the UN Security Council resolution 2231, as “extremely worrying.”

West going to provide support for Ukraine for decades to come: Berlin

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has said that the West intends to provide assistance to Ukraine “for decades” to come, noting that a “Marshall Plan of the 21st century” was on the agenda. He was speaking at the opening of an international conference on the restoration of Ukraine in Berlin on Tuesday.

“Now is the moment to discuss what the future of Ukraine should be and how it should be financed. We are here today to consider how to secure and maintain funding for Ukraine’s reconstruction and modernization for years and decades to come,” Scholz stated, adding that it was not just a donor conference, but something more fundamental.

“This is nothing but creation of a new Marshall Plan for the 21st century – a task for generations that must begin now,” Scholz stressed.

At the same time, he described as “the right geopolitical decision” the European Union’s support for Kiev. In addition, Scholz assured that Western support for Ukraine would last as long as necessary.

Scholz added that Western support for Ukraine would last as long as needed. Germany, he said, will continue to provide comprehensive assistance to Kiev, including the supply of air defense systems.

The German chancellor expressed hope that the issue of the restoration of Ukraine would be put on the agenda by the Indonesian authorities during the G20 summit in Bali in November.

German president visits Ukraine for first time since Russia’s invasion

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier arrived in Ukraine for a surprise visit on Tuesday, marking his first trip to the country since Russia’s invasion began in February.

Steinmeier’s spokesperson Cerstin Gammelin tweeted the president had “arrived in Ukraine with a double message.”

“My message to the people of Ukraine is: You can rely on Germany! We will continue to support Ukraine: militarily, politically, financially and humanitarianly,” the president was quoted as saying.

“Let us never forget what this war means for the people here! With all the hardships that the war also brings for us in Germany – Let’s look for a moment through the eyes of the Ukrainians,” he added.

This is Steinmeier’s first wartime visit to Ukraine after two failed attempts, firstly in April when he was uninvited due to his links with Russia and then last week when his trip was canceled for security reasons.

Iran says ready to hold technical meeting with Ukraine over drone use allegation

The Iranian foreign minister says Tehran is ready to hold a technical meeting with Ukraine over the claim of Russia’s use of Iranian-made drones in the Ukraine war.

Hossein Amirabdollahian said, through the European Union foreign policy chief, Tehran has declared its readiness for a meeting between technical teams of Iran and Ukraine so that any possible evidence on the use of Iranian drones against Ukraine could be tabled.

The top diplomat added that if during the meeting their claim is proven, “we will not remain indifferent”, though Russian officials have reiterated that the equipment used in the war against Ukraine are Russian-made.

Most Ukrainians back continued armed resistance to Russia: Poll

An overwhelming majority of Ukrainians believes the country should keep up its armed resistance to Russia’s invasion, according to a survey.

The survey, conducted by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology (KIIS) showed 86% of those polled said it was necessary to continue fighting the invaders even if missile and drone attacks on Ukrainian cities persist.

The proportion of people backing continued armed resistance remained high, at 69%, even in the eastern regions of Kharkiv and Donetsk, which have seen far more fighting and are home to larger numbers of Russian speakers.

In an autumn counter-offensive, Ukrainian forces have retaken territory in both regions, which border Russia.

Two thirds of all respondents who answered the question in Russian rather than Ukrainian were in favour of continuing the fight against the Russian invaders, the survey found, while that number stood at 89% among those who replied in Ukrainian.

Ukraine president continues to call for air-defense systems to combat Iranian-made drones

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky is continuing to urge for more air-defense systems, saying that according to Ukrainian intelligence, Russia had ordered about 2,000 Shahed drones from Iran.

Ukraine’s president stated Russia might be offering Iran assistance with its nuclear program in exchange for Iranian-made drones that Russia has used to batter Ukraine in recent weeks, though he didn’t offer any evidence to support that claim, nor can CNN independently authenticate that.

Zelensky also spoke about why Russia had resorted to using drones.

“Russia loses to us in a real confrontation on the battlefield. Vladimir Putin’s army does not know how to fight. We beat them on our land in such a way that it is forced to withdraw its contingents even from other regions that they tried to destabilize,” he added.

He continued, “But, unfortunately, we do not have our own ‘Iron Dome’. We still do not have a modern and effective air defense and missile defense system that could secure our skies. That is why Russia hopes to use terror in the air to compensate for losses on the ground.”

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian noted Tehran will not remain indifferent if it is proven that its drones are being used by Russia in the Ukraine war.

He was quoted by Iranian state media as saying the defence cooperation between Tehran and Moscow will continue.

Liberal Democrats call on Biden to shift Ukraine strategy and negotiate directly with Russia

More than two-dozen liberal House members are calling on President Joe Biden to shift course in his Ukraine strategy and pursue direct diplomacy with Russia to bring the months-long conflict to an end.

In a letter sent to Biden on Monday, the group of 30 Democrats praised Biden’s efforts to support Ukraine while avoiding direct US involvement on the ground. But they suggest a more forceful attempt at bringing the war to an end through diplomacy, saying it is necessary to prevent a long and slogging conflict.

“Given the destruction created by this war for Ukraine and the world, as well as the risk of catastrophic escalation, we also believe it is in the interests of Ukraine, the United States, and the world to avoid a prolonged conflict,” the group, led by Congressional Progressive Caucus chairwoman Pramila Jayapal, write in the letter.

“For this reason, we urge you to pair the military and economic support the United States has provided to Ukraine with a proactive diplomatic push, redoubling efforts to seek a realistic framework for a ceasefire,” it added.

The letter comes at a critical moment in the war, with Russia increasingly targeting civilian infrastructure with a particular focus on cutting power supplies ahead of winter.

In Congress, questions have grown about the willingness of lawmakers to sustain the massive financial and military support that has gone to Ukraine. Some Republicans have threatened to cut aid to the country if they take control of Congress in November.

The liberal Democrats, in their letter, say that more direct attempts at engaging Moscow were necessary.

John Kirby, the strategic communications coordinator at the National Security Council, said the White House had received the letter. He also added there were no indications that Russian President Vladimir Putin was willing to engage in serious diplomacy to bring the war to an end.

“When you see and you listen to his rhetoric, and you see the other things, be they atrocities, the war crimes, the airstrikes against civilian infrastructure that the Russians are committing, it’s clear Mr. Putin is in no mood to negotiate,” Kirby continued.

He stated it would be up to Ukraine and its president, Volodymyr Zelensky, to determine when the time is right to return to the negotiating table.

IAEA preparing to inspect two sites in Ukraine over ‘dirty bomb’ claims

The United Nations nuclear watchdog says it is preparing to send inspectors in the coming days to two Ukrainian sites at Kyiv’s request, in an apparent reaction to Russian claims that Ukraine could deploy a so-called dirty bomb, which Ukraine denies.

“The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is aware of statements made by the Russian Federation on Sunday about alleged activities at two nuclear locations in Ukraine,” the IAEA said in a statement, adding that both were already subject to its inspections and one was inspected a month ago.

“The IAEA is preparing to visit the locations in the coming days,” it added.

US: Russia will face consequences for using ‘dirty bomb’ or nuclear weapon

US State Department Spokesperson Ned Price says there will be consequences for Russia whether it uses a so-called “dirty bomb” or a conventional nuclear weapon.

Washington and other Western countries have accused Russia of plotting to use a threat of a device laced with nuclear material as a pretext for escalation in Ukraine.

Asked if Washington would treat the use of a “dirty bomb” the same as any other nuclear bomb, Price stated “there would be consequences” for Russia either way.

“Whether it uses a ‘dirty bomb’ or a nuclear bomb. We’ve been very clear about that,” Price told reporters.

NATO warns Russia against ‘dirty bomb’ pretext

NATO says Russia must not escalate the conflict in Ukraine with false claims that Kyiv is planning to unleash a so-called “dirty bomb”.

Jens Stoltenberg, NATO secretary general, weighed in following Moscow’s repeated allegations that Ukraine could deploy such a weapon, sparking fears Russia could use one and blame Kyiv.

“NATO Allies reject this allegation. Russia must not use it as a pretext for escalation. We remain steadfast in our support for Ukraine,” he wrote on Twitter.

The Kremlin has alleged that Ukraine is in the “final stages” of developing a dirty bomb, a claim strongly rejected by Kyiv.

Russia urges UN chief to prevent Kiev’s `dirty bomb’ provocation

Russia calls on United Nations chief Antonio Guterres to do everything he can to prevent Ukraine from carrying out its “dirty bomb” provocation, the Russian Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Vasily Nebenzya, said in a letter seen by TASS.

“We call on the Secretary-General of the United Nations to do everything in his power to prevent this heinous crime from happening,” the letter reads. “We will regard the use of the `dirty bomb’ by the Kiev regime as an act of nuclear terrorism,” Nebenzya warned.

According to information received by Russia’s Defense Ministry, “this provocation may be carried out with the support of the Western countries” and Russia urges “the Western countries to exert their influence on the regime in Kiev to abandon its dangerous plans threatening international peace and security,” Nebenzya continued.

“Amidst the anti-Russian propaganda campaign, we would like to stress that the Russian Federation has not intended, nor intends to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine,” he emphasized.

Lieutenant General Igor Kirillov, Chief of the Radiation, Chemical and Biological Defense Troops of the Russian Armed Forces, said at a briefing on Monday that the Russian Defense Ministry had all forces and means ready for executing missions amid radioactive contamination.

The ‘dirty bomb’ threat was also mentioned by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Monday. Russia’s top diplomat stated that Moscow would raise the issue of Kiev’s preparations for using such weapons at the UN.

Earlier, Russia’s defense chief Sergey Shoigu held negotiations with his counterparts from the United States, Great Britain, Turkey and France, warning about the ‘dirty bomb’ threat posed by Ukraine. Washington, London and Paris, however, dismissed Russia’s warnings.


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