Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Live Update: Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 270

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:

Russian army accuses Kyiv of staging ‘provocation’

The Russian army has accused Kyiv of staging a “provocation” by shelling the territory of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant that is under its control in southern Ukraine.

Kyiv “does not stop its provocations aiming at creating the threat of a man-made catastrophe at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant”, it said in a statement.

Despite shelling on November 19 and 20, radiation levels “remain normal”, it added.

Russia’s defence ministry says Ukraine fired at power lines in Zaporizhzhia

Russia’s defence ministry has accused Ukraine of firing shells at power lines supplying Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, Russian news agencies reported.

The defence ministry was quoted as saying that damage at the nuclear plant will be investigated by experts from the IAEA and state-owned nuclear power supplier Rosatom.

IAEA director says news from Zaporizhzhia ‘extremely disturbing’

IAEA director general Rafael Mariano Grossi has expressed concern over the renewal of hostilities around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear site.

“The news from our team yesterday and this morning is extremely disturbing,” Grossi said in a statement, adding, “Whoever is behind this, it must stop immediately. As I have said many times before, you’re playing with fire!”,

He noted that the agency’s experts were in close contact with site management and will continue to assess and report on the situation.

Russia has accused Ukraine of shelling the plant, which it occupied soon after the invasion began on February 24.

Powerful explosions rock Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant: IAEA

Powerful explosions have rocked the area of Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has announced.

“In what appeared to be renewed shelling both close to and at the site of Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, IAEA experts at the ZNPP reported to Agency headquarters that more than a dozen blasts were heard within a short period of time in the morning local time,” the IAEA said in a statement.

The IAEA team could see some of the explosions from their windows, the statement added, but the damage so far has not been critical for nuclear safety and security.

Moscow looking to control information in occupied territories: ISW

Russian authorities are working to establish control over the information space in occupied territories, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) has noted.

According to the US-based think-tank, Moscow’s authorities are dispatching propagandists to occupied territories to organise TV broadcasts and launch branches of the All-Russian State Television and Radio Broadcasting Company (VDTRK).

Occupation authorities plan to use seized broadcasting property to facilitate broadcasting, including the 196-metre TV towers in Mariupol and Melitopol, ISW added.

Russia claims Ukraine shelling Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant

Russian nuclear power operator Rosenergoatom says the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant has come under Ukrainian shelling, but no radiation leak has been detected.

Adviser Renat Karchaa stated the shells had been fired near a dry nuclear waste storage facility and a building that houses fresh spent nuclear fuel, Russian news agency TASS reported.

The facility was occupied by Russian forces soon after the war began. Russia and Ukraine have blamed each other for shelling at the site that has damaged buildings and threatened a nuclear accident.

Zelensky: Energy supply problems worst in and around Kyiv

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky has said in his nightly video address that energy supply problems in the country were worst in and around Kyiv, as well as in six other regions, adding that work was continuing “to stabilise the situation”.

The country’s energy ministry on Saturday announced that electricity supplies were under control, despite a series of Russian attacks on power-generating infrastructure and there was no need to panic.

Separately, the head of DTEK, the country’s largest private energy company, reported there was no need for people to leave Ukraine to alleviate the power problem.

Russian missile attacks have crippled almost half of Ukraine’s energy system and Kyiv authorities stated on Friday that a complete shutdown of the capital’s power grid was possible.

At least 437 Ukrainian children killed in war: Prosecutor general

At least 437 Ukrainian children have been killed as a result of Russia’s invasion, Ukraine’s Prosecutor General’s Office has announced.

More than 837 children have also been injured in a tally that officials said was “not final” because they were still verifying information from zones of active fighting, liberated areas and territory still occupied by Russian forces.

The eastern Donetsk region was the most affected, with 423 children killed or injured, the prosecutor’s office added.

The United Nations has reported at least 16,295 civilians have been killed since Russia’s February 24 invasion, which Kyiv and Western leaders have denounced as an act of unprovoked aggression. Moscow denies targeting civilians.

Ukraine checks authenticity of ‘war crime’ footage

Ukraine’s military has said it was checking the authenticity of footage that Moscow describes as surrendering Russian soldiers being executed.

Videos circulated on Russian social media this week purporting to show the bodies of Russian servicemen apparently killed after having surrendered to Ukrainian troops – an act Moscow has called a “war crime”.

“Before launching an investigation, there must be grounds for it,” Ukraine’s spokesman for the general staff Bogdan Senyk told AFP, adding, “We are currently establishing whether these videos are fake,” he said, adding they have been handed over to “specialists”.

“We are aware of the videos and we are looking into them,” a UN spokesperson told AFP on Friday, calling for the perpetrators to be held to account.

The Russian Investigative Committee, which probes major crimes, has said it has opened a criminal case into the “execution of captured Russian servicemen”.

The incident was not “the first and not the only war crime” committed by Ukrainian forces, said a Russian defence ministry statement.

Ukraine to evacuate people who want to leave Kherson: Official

Ukraine will soon begin evacuating people who want to leave the recently-liberated southern city of Kherson and the surrounding areas, a senior official has announced, citing damage done by Russian forces.

Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said some people had expressed a wish to move away from both Kherson and the area around Mykolaiv, about 65 km (40 miles) to the northwest.

“This is possible in the next few days,” she told a televised news conference in Mykolaiv when asked when the evacuations would begin, saying the government had already made the necessary preparations.

Among those who wanted to leave were the elderly and those who had been affected by Russian shelling, she added.

Kyiv announced Russian troops destroyed Kherson’s critical infrastructure before leaving earlier this month.

“This is only a voluntary evacuation. Currently, we are not talking about forced evacuation,” Vereshchuk continued.

“But even in the case of voluntary evacuation, the state bears responsibility for transportation. People must be taken to the place where they will spend the winter,” she added.

Moscow has not officially contacted Kyiv about peace talks: Ukraine official

Moscow has not officially contacted Kyiv about peace negotiations, but Russia would in any case need to completely withdraw its forces for talks to take place, a top Ukrainian official has stated.

“We have not any official application from the Russian side about … negotiations,” Andriy Yermak, the Ukrainian presidential chief of staff, said in English remarks made via video link at the Halifax International Security Forum.

Any talks not based on Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity within the limits of its internationally recognised borders are “not acceptable”, he added.

His remarks came a day after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky dismissed the idea of a “short truce” with Russia, saying it would only make things worse.

“Russia is now looking for a short truce, a respite to regain strength. Someone may call this the war’s end, but such a respite will only worsen the situation,” the Ukrainian leader noted in remarks broadcast at the same security forum.

US: Failure to help Ukraine secure future could lead to global ‘tyranny’

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has said failure to help Ukraine secure its own future could lead to a “world of tyranny and turmoil”, in a speech on Saturday that sought to lay out the stakes in the war for the international community.

Austin’s remarks, delivered at a security forum in Canada, were some of his most powerful to date on Russia’s nearly nine-month-old invasion.

He warned of the risks of global nuclear proliferation.

“Vladimir Putin’s fellow autocrats are watching. And they could well conclude that getting nuclear weapons would give them a hunting licence of their own. And that could drive a dangerous spiral of nuclear proliferation,” Austin added.

Ukraine energy ministry: No need to panic, despite Russian attacks on power sources

Ukrainian electricity supplies are under control despite a series of Russian attacks on power-generating infrastructure, the energy ministry has said.

Separately, the head of DTEK, the country’s largest private energy company, announced there was no need for people to leave Ukraine to alleviate the pressure on power resources.

Russian missile strikes have crippled almost half of Ukraine’s energy system, and authorities in Kyiv said on Friday that a complete shutdown of the capital’s power grid was possible.

“Denying the panicky statements spread by social networks and online media, we assure you that the situation with the energy supply is difficult, but under control,” the energy ministry noted in a statement.

UK to provide new air defence package for Ukraine

The UK will provide a 50 million pound ($59.4m) air defence package for Ukraine, including anti-aircraft guns and technology to counter Iranian-supplied drones, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has stated on his first trip to Kyiv.

“We are today providing new air defence, including anti-aircraft guns, radar and anti-drone equipment, and stepping up humanitarian support for the cold, hard winter ahead,” Sunak said in a statement.

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