Saturday, April 20, 2024

Live Update: Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 285

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:

Zelensky claims high success rate in destroying Russian missiles

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a statement Monday that Kyiv’s air defenses have “intercepted most of the missiles.”

“Power engineers have already started to restore electricity. Our people never give up,” Zelensky added.

Earlier Monday, officials in three regions of Ukraine have claimed that most Russian missiles fired were intercepted.

The Kyiv City Military Administration said that 10 missiles had been identified flying over Kyiv.

“Preliminary, nine of them were intercepted,” it added.

In Dnipropetrovsk region, Valentyn Reznichenko, head of the military administration, stated that “defenders from the Air Command ‘East’ shot down 15 Russian missiles.”

Dmytro Lunin, governor of Poltava region in central Ukraine, wrote on Telegram that “there have been no hits in Poltava. Air Defense has been excellent. Up to ten Russian missiles were intercepted.”

Ukraine: Russian stocks of precision missiles at “critical levels” but attacks are still a “serious test”

Ukraine’s Defense Intelligence (DI) says that while Russian missile stocks may have fallen to “critical levels,” it still has enough to inflict heavy damage on Ukrainian infrastructure.

Andrii Yusov, the DI spokesperson, told Ukrainian television Monday that attacks during the day were “another terrorist attack on peaceful, civilian infrastructure, primarily energy infrastructure.”

Yusov noted that “regarding high-precision weapons in Russia, by many indicators the stockpiles of missiles have fallen to critical levels.”

“The Russians cannot afford regular massive [missile attacks) now, but this does not reduce the damage to infrastructure and losses for Ukraine. This is a serious test for us. There are a lot of S300 missiles left, so the frontline cities can be hit more,” the official added.

As for reports of explosions at or near airfields in the Russian cities of Ryazan and Engels, Yusov stated they “can neither confirm nor deny. When terrorists have something burning, it can only be positive.”

Anti-Russia sanctions obviously damaging European states themselves: Kremlin

Anti-Russia sanctions are obviously damaging the European countries that have imposed them, Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters when commenting on statements made by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Monday, adding that denying it is unprofessional.

Speaking about the influence of sanctions on Russia, Peskov stated, “Certain problems obviously arise due to sanctions, though they have not been critical so far, one could argue with Mr. Scholz here.”

“Specialists perfectly see the process of the Russian economy’s adjustment to those conditions, and it is unprofessional to deny it,” the spokesperson added.

“Moreover, it would probably be unprofessional to conceal the damage that sanctions are causing to European countries, I mean regarding the sanctions that the Europeans have imposed against us. This damage is obvious, same as the damage of those sanctions to the German economy, all our specialists, specialists in Brussels and specialists in Berlin are perfectly aware of that,” he noted.

Earlier, Scholz said that since the beginning of military actions in Ukraine it was clear that sanctions would remain for a long period of time, and that the efficiency of those restrictions was allegedly rising from week to week. Moscow should understand that not a single restriction will be lifted if Russia attempts to dictate the terms of the peace treaty, the chancellor added.

2 Ukrainian cities report no water or electricity

The Ukrainian cities of Odesa and Kryvyi Rih reported that they are without water or electricity.

In Odesa: The water supply company Infoksvodokanal, announced, “all pumping station and reserve lines are without power – thus consumers don’t have water.”

In Kryvyi Rih: “Part of the city is without electricity, some boiler houses and pumping stations are off,” stated Oleksandr Vilkul the head of city military administration.

Two dead in Russian missile strikes on Zaporizhzhia region, as city administration reports “several” explosions

Two people have been killed and another two injured in Zaporizhzhia region following a wave of Russian missile strikes, according to a Ukrainian official.

“Several private houses were destroyed” in the strikes, which hit 20 kilometers (12 miles) west of Zaporizhzhia city, wrote Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy head of the Ukraine’s presidential administration, on Telegram.

Earlier “several” explosions were reported in the city of Zaporizhzhia, according to Anatolii Kurtev, secretary of the city council.

“Some of them are the echoes of enemy incoming hits in the suburbs. Another part is the successful work of the Air Defense Forces,” he wrote on Telegram.

He did not confirm the target of the missiles.

Western ammunition stock will take ’10-15 years’ to refill

According to the owner of major arms manufacturer Czechoslovak Group, it will take 10-15 years to refill Western weapon stocks after supporting Ukraine’s army.

Despite the flow of ammo to Ukraine, CSG owner Michal Strnad said Ukrainian forces were experiencing shortfalls as Western governments were running down their arsenals amid limits on production capacity.

Strnad told Reuters news agency his firm was now responsible for about 25-30 percent of European output of NATO-standard 155mm artillery.

“Artillery ammunition are very scarce goods today,” he stated in an interview.

“I estimate it will take 10-15 years to refill (Western armies’) stocks” due to the war in Ukraine, he added.

European governments have significantly drawn on their arsenals to support Ukraine, which Strnad noted was firing 40,000 shells per week from several hundred, Western-supplied howitzers.

NATO is a ‘serious threat’ to Russia: FM

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says NATO is a “serious threat” to Russia, and the West’s positions risk a “direct clash between nuclear powers with catastrophic consequences.”

Lavrov added that he regretted that the US had rejected talks with Moscow over “strategic stability” related to nuclear weapons and said that without direct negotiations between the world’s two largest nuclear powers, the risk to global security would only grow.

Unexplained explosions reported at two Russian airbases

Explosions hit two airbases in Russia, RIA Novosti reported.

One of the explosions reportedly happened at a base that houses nuclear-capable strategic bombers that have been involved in launching strikes against Ukraine.

RIA reported that three servicemen were killed, six others injured, and a plane was damaged early on Monday when a fuel truck exploded at an airbase in Ryazan, in western Russia.

Authorities in the Saratov region along the Volga River said they were checking reports about an explosion in the area of the Engels airbase, which houses Tu-95 and Tu-160 strategic bombers that have been involved in launching strikes on Ukraine.

Saratov regional Governor Roman Busargin stated there was no damage to civilian facilities and that authorities were checking whether there have been any incidents at military facilities.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov noted the president was regularly informed about ongoing developments.

Russia has begun a new missile attack: Ukrainian Air Force

Russian forces have launched a fresh set of missiles towards Ukraine, according to Ukrainian officials.

“We see that strategic bombers have taken off and the first wave of missiles was already launched,” said Yurii Ihnat, spokesman for the Ukrainian Air Force.

There may be several waves of attacks, added Ihnat.

Air defense systems are operating, but there is “no information” on the number of missiles launched or how many have been shot down, he stated.

The governors of Odesa, Poltava and Vinnytsia regions have announced that missiles are incoming on social media.

Kyiv’s air defense systems are “working” around the Ukrainian capital as there is a “movement of missiles towards the region,” said Oleksii Kuleba, head of Kyiv’s regional military administration, on Telegram.

He urged residents to stay in shelters.

India to continue buying Russian oil despite price cap

India will prioritise its energy needs and continue to buy oil from Russia, India’s foreign minister has signalled as a G7-enforced price cap came into effect.

Minister of External Affairs Subrahmanyam Jaishankar commented after visiting German counterpart Annalena Baerbock, as they discussed bilateral relations and Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Jaishankar said it is not right for European countries to prioritise their energy needs but “ask India to do something else”.

“Europe will make the choices it will make. It is their right,” he told reporters.

Jaishankar did not directly refer to the price cap but said the EU was importing more fossil fuel from Russia than India.

Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, India has steadily increased its purchases of discounted Russian oil.

Energy situation in Ukraine “remains difficult”: State energy company

Ukraine continues to suffer a “difficult” energy situation, according to state energy provider Ukrenergo.

“We all have a difficult heating season ahead,” the company said in an update Monday.

Russian forces have deliberately targeted energy infrastructure in Ukraine, where authorities have been battling to maintain power, water and cell phone connectivity.

This weekend, however, Ukrenergo announced “it was possible to apply the minimum amount of emergency shutdowns,” due in part to increased capacity at nuclear power plants.

The company also noted an increase in electricity consumption “due to both the beginning of the week and drop in temperatures throughout the country.”

Temperatures in Kyiv hit -7 degrees Celsius (44 Fahrenheit) on Monday, according to the Ukrainian Hydrometeorological Center.

Russian attacks on critical facilities have dropped off in the past week or so, but Ukrenergo is struggling to bring damaged facilities back online.

Better-trained Russian soldiers increase military threat: Ukraine

Russia’s recent mobilisation has increased its military threat in Ukraine as better-trained soldiers are now arriving at the front line, the commander of Ukrainian ground forces said.

Russian forces, he stated, were using a lot of old equipment because it had no other way of replenishing supplies, and they had made only slow progress around Bakhmut.

“On the eastern front, the situation is very tense, the enemy attacks our units every day,” General Oleksander Syrskyi told national television.

Asked about the mobilisation ordered by Moscow in September, he noted: “Such a number of personnel increased the threat for us and these are not just words — these are new brigades, new battalions that have been trained, this is the replenishment that the army was waiting for because it was exhausted.”

“Those who come now have a better level of training than those who were previously sent to the front,” he added.

China on oil price cap: All should make constructive efforts to secure global supplies

China calls on all parties to make constructive efforts to secure global oil supplies, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning said on Monday, commenting on a price cap on oil from Russia.

“Oil is one of the world’s major commodities, and ensuring the security of the global energy supply is paramount. We believe that all parties should make constructive efforts to this end,” the spokeswoman told reporters.

When asked whether Beijing will join to the price cap, the diplomat stated that China and Russia conduct energy cooperation on the basis of respect and mutual benefit.

G7 price cap will destabilise energy market: Kremlin

The Kremlin announced that the G7 price cap on Russian oil will destabilise global energy markets but not affect Moscow’s ability to sustain its military operation in Ukraine.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov stated Russia was preparing how it would respond to the move by the G7 and allies to ban countries and companies from dealing with Russian sea-borne exports of oil where the price is above $60 a barrel.

Several Russian officials have previously said Moscow would not sell oil to countries that abide by the cap.

Russian troops are running at ‘reduced tempo’: US Intelligence

The head of US intelligence says Russian troops are running at a “reduced tempo” and suggests Ukrainian forces could have brighter prospects in coming months.

Avril Haines, the US director of national intelligence, stated her team was “seeing a kind of a reduced tempo already of the conflict” and expects both sides will look to refit and resupply, for a possible Ukrainian counter-offensive in the spring.

“But we actually have a fair amount of scepticism as to whether or not the Russians will be, in fact prepared to do that,” noted Haines, speaking to NBC’s Andrea Mitchell.

“And I think more optimistically for the Ukrainians in that time frame,” she continued.

She added that President Vladimir Putin “is becoming more informed of the challenges that the military faces in Russia.”

Over 51,000 Russian war crimes, crimes of aggression recorded so far: Ukraine

The Russian military has committed 51,161 war crimes and crimes of aggression in Ukraine since the start of the war, the Ukrainian prosecutor general said.

The office of the prosecutor general added that 18,585 crimes against Ukraine’s national security have also been recorded by Ukrainian law enforcement agencies.

G7 price cap on Russian oil kicks in

The price cap on Russian seaborne oil agreed upon by the European Union, the G7 and Australia has come into force.

The cap of $60 per barrel, which has taken effect, is aimed at limiting Russia’s ability to finance its war in Ukraine while making sure it keeps supplying the global market.

China to maintain ‘mutually beneficial’ energy relations with Russia: Report

The Chinese foreign ministry has said Beijing will continue its energy cooperation with Moscow on the basis of respect and mutual benefit, following the European Union’s agreement to impose a price cap on Russia’s oil exports, Russia’s RIA news agency reported.

China has upped its purchases of Russia’s Urals oil blends this year, which now trades at a steep discount to Brent, the global benchmark.

Ukraine, Baltics rebuke Macron for suggesting ‘security guarantees’ for Russia

French President Emmanuel Macron’s suggestion the West should consider Russia’s need for security guarantees if Moscow agrees to talks to end the war in Ukraine unleashed a storm of criticism in Kyiv and its Baltic allies.

In an interview with French TV station TF1, Macron said Europe needs to prepare its future security architecture and also think “how to give guarantees to Russia the day it returns to the negotiating table”.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s top aide, Mykhailo Podolyak, stated it is the world that needs security guarantees from Russia, not the other way around.

“Civilized world needs ‘security guarantees’ from barbaric intentions of post-Putin Russia,” Podolyak wrote on Twitter.

Scholz: We must avoid dividing world into Cold War-style blocs

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has warned against creating a new Cold War by dividing the world into blocs and called for putting all efforts towards building new partnerships in an opinion piece for Foreign Affairs magazine published online.

The West must stand up for democratic values and protect open societies, “but we must also avoid the temptation to once again divide the world into blocs,” wrote Scholz in the piece.

Russia gearing up for ‘massive attack’ on Ukraine: Official

Russia is getting ready for a “massive attack” on Ukraine’s critical infrastructure, according to a Ukrainian official.

“We understand that a massive attack is being prepared and is possible any day … Remember that neither day nor night matters to the enemy. Their task is terror,” Nataliya Gumenyuk, spokesperson for Ukraine’s Southern Defence Forces, told Ukraine’s Channel 24.

She said Ukrainian authorities are taking necessary precautionary measures.

“For almost two weeks, the enemy has not launched massive missile strikes. However, this pause may end at any time,” she stated, adding that the Ukrainian military is beefing up protection at power plants and other critical infrastructure.

Ukraine presidential aide warns against Musk’s ‘magical simple solutions’

A top Ukrainian presidential aide criticised Twitter owner Elon Musk for the billionaire’s “magical simple solutions”, citing ideas put forward by Musk on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and Twitter content moderation.

Mykhailo Podolyak listed “exchang[ing] foreign territories for an illusory peace” and “open[ing] all private accounts because freedom of speech has to be total”, as examples of such suggestions.

“[Elon Musk] prefers so-called magical ‘simple solutions’,” Podolyak wrote on Twitter, an apparent reference to self-described free speech advocate Musk’s plans to reform Twitter, as well as a tweet in which he called for Ukraine to give up the Russian-occupied Crimean peninsula in exchange for peace.

Twitter representatives did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Musk was praised in the war’s early days for providing thousands of Starlink satellite internet devices, made by Musk’s SpaceX, to Ukraine free of charge, but the friendship ran into difficulties in October when Musk voiced support for peace conditions rejected by Kyiv.

Russia will not export oil subject to Western price cap: Deputy PM

Russia is working on the possibility of banning oil supplies subject to a western-imposed price cap, Russian deputy prime minister Alexander Novak said.

“We are working on mechanisms to prohibit the use of a price cap instrument, regardless of what level is set, because such interference could further destabilise the market,” Novak stated.

Russia will not operate under a price cap, even if Moscow has to cut production, he added.

Public support in Russia for war ‘falling significantly’: UK

The British Ministry of Defence, in its latest intelligence estimate, has pointed to new signs from an independent Russian media outlet that public support in Russia for the military campaign was “falling significantly”.

Meduza, a website reporting Russian news from Latvia, says it had obtained a recent confidential opinion survey conducted by the Federal Protection Service, which is in charge of guarding the Kremlin and providing security to top government officials.

The survey, commissioned by the Kremlin, found that 55% of respondents backed peace talks with Ukraine while 25% wanted the war to go on. The report didn’t mention the margin of error.

Levada Center, Russia’s top independent pollster, found in a similar poll carried out in November poll that 53% of respondents supported peace talks, 41% spoke in favour of continuing the fight, and 6% were undecided. That poll of 1,600 people had a margin of error of no more than 3.4%.

The British MoD noted that “despite the Russian authorities’ efforts to enforce pervasive control of the information environment, the conflict has become increasingly tangible for many Russians since the September 2022 partial mobilisation.”

“With Russia unlikely to achieve major battlefield successes in the next several months, maintaining even tacit approval of the war amongst the population is likely to be increasingly difficult for the Kremlin,” it added.

In recent weeks, Russia’s military focus has been on striking Ukrainian infrastructure and pressing an offensive in the east, near the town of Bakhmut, while shelling sites in the city of Kherson, which Ukrainian forces liberated last month after an eight-month Russian occupation.

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