Saturday, February 4, 2023

Live Update: Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 329

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 victory is ‘inevitable’: Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin stated that a Russian victory in Ukraine is “inevitable”.

In televised remarks to workers during a visit to a weapons factory in his home town of St. Petersburg, Putin told workers and reporters: “Victory is assured, I have no doubt about it.”


Death toll in Brovary helicopter crash rises to 17, including 4 children

The State Emergency Services of Ukraine now say that 17 people, including four children, died in the Brovary helicopter crash.

Ukrainian Interior Minister Denis Monastyrsky was among those killed in the helicopter crash near a kindergarten in the Kyiv suburb.

Additionally, 25 people, including 11 children, are hospitalized.


Lithauania is confident that battle tanks will be sent to Ukraine

Lithuania’s foreign minister says he is confident main battle tanks will be delivered to Ukraine after talks with partners at the World Economic Forum.

The foreign minister added that the West still needs to do more to ensure Kyiv will win the war.

Gabrielius Landsbergis told the Reuters news agency in an interview that after the UK announced it would send Challenger tanks, there was less argument for others not to.


Ukrainian Security Services launches investigation into Brovary helicopter crash

The Ukrainian Security Services (SBU) have “launched a pre-trial investigation” of the helicopter crash in the Kyiv suburb of Brovary that killed at least 17 people, including Ukraine’s interior minister.

The SBU announced that “several versions of the tragedy are being considered,” including “violation of flight rule, technical malfunction of the helicopter, deliberate actions to destroy the helicopter.”

There has been no suggestion from any other Ukrainian officials about Russian involvement in this crash. Earlier, President Volodymyr Zelensky called the crash a “tragedy.”


US has moved munitions stored in Israel for use by Ukraine: Report

The United States has transferred American munitions stored in Israel for use in Ukraine and plans to send more soon, US and Israeli officials told CNN Wednesday.

A US official told CNN they have moved “some” of the 300,000 155-millimeter shells that the US and Israel agreed would be transferred, and that there are plans to move the remaining amount in the coming weeks.

Israel Defense Forces spokesperson Richard Hecht told CNN that the Americans notified the Israelis a while ago they were transferring munitions.

Hecht added the munitions are US-owned, that their movements are “American business” and that they don’t need Israeli permission to move the munitions.


Ukraine revises number of dead in helicopter crash down to 16

Ukrainian officials have revised the number of dead in the helicopter crash in Brovary down to 16 from 18.

Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy head of the Ukrainian Presidential Administration, said that the 16 victims included three children.

All 9 people onboard the helicopter — six Interior Ministry officials and three crew members — died in the crash, leaving a further seven dead.

According to Tymoshenko, 30 people are in hospital, including 12 children. He added that the search and rescue operation is continuing.

Serhiy Kruk, chief of the State Emergency Service, named the crew members as Oleksandr Vasylenko, Kostiantyn Kovalenko, Ivan Kasyanov.


The world is suffering ‘interlinked’ challenges: UN chief

The world is in a “sorry state” because of several “interlinked” challenges, including climate change and Russia’s war in Ukraine, the UN chief said at the World Economic Forum.

“We are looking into the eye of a category five hurricane. Our world is plagued by a perfect storm on a number of fronts,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres stated on the second day of a summit of world political and business leaders in Davos.

Guterres added the world is “flirting with climate disaster” as commitments to help the environment are “nearly going up in smoke” while Russia’s invasion of Ukraine adds to the interlinked challenges that are affecting the world.

“Not only because of the untold suffering of the Ukrainian people, but because of its profound global implications on food and energy prices, on trade and supply chains, on questions of nuclear safety and on the very foundations of international law and the United Nations’ charter,” he continued.


Moscow says will be forced to act if Finland joins NATO

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says Moscow will be forced to take unspecified measures on its border if Finland joins the NATO military alliance.

Finland and Sweden have applied to join the bloc and are currently in advanced negotiations over their accession.

Lavrov stated Finland and Russia had long had friendly relations, but that changed and Russia would therefore have to take “appropriate measures on our borders”, if Finland – with which it shares a 1,300-km (807-mile) border – did become a NATO member.


Russia’s FM blames Ukraine conflict on US ‘hybrid war’ against Moscow

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has accused the United States of preparing the ground for the conflict in Ukraine as part of what he called a “hybrid war” against Moscow.

Speaking at a news conference in the Russian capital, Lavrov noted the crisis in Ukraine started long before Moscow sent tens of thousands of troops into the country last February in what the Kremlin called a “special military operation”.


Putin could announce a second wave of mobilisation soon: Analysts

President Vladimir Putin could announce a second wave of mobilisation against Ukraine in the coming days, according to the US Institute for the Study of War (ISW).

This could come as soon as Wednesday, as the Kremlin leader is set to attend celebrations in St Petersburg to mark the breaking of the siege by German troops in January 1944.

The ISW speculates, citing Russian bloggers, that Putin could officially declare war on Ukraine.

Until now, the invasion has been described within Russia as a “special military operation,” with the term “war” forbidden and punishable under Russian criminal law.

The report added that Ukrainian and Western intelligence services have repeatedly warned of Putin’s plans for a second mobilisation in mid-January.


Russia says it sees no serious proposals for peace in Ukraine

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says Moscow is yet to see any serious proposals for peace in Ukraine and that President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s ideas on the subject were unacceptable.

Lavrov stated Moscow stood ready to discuss the conflict with Western countries and to respond to any serious proposals, but that any talks needed to address Russia’s wider security concerns.

Speaking at a news conference in Moscow, Lavrov called again for NATO to remove its “military infrastructure” from Ukraine and other countries close to Russia’s borders.


FM compares Western intervention to Hitler’s ‘final solution’

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the US had assembled a coalition of European countries to solve “the Russian question” in the same way Adolf Hitler had sought a “final solution” to eradicate Europe’s Jews.

Using Ukraine as a proxy, he stated, “they are waging war against our country with the same task: the ‘final solution’ of the Russian question”.

“Just as Hitler wanted a ‘final solution’ to the Jewish question, now, if you read Western politicians … they clearly say Russia must suffer a strategic defeat,” he added.

Lavrov came under fire last May after he noted the Nazi leader had had “Jewish blood”, drawing angry protests from Israel.

The ‘Final Solution’ was Hitler’s Holocaust blueprint, which led to the systematic murder of 6 million Jews, as well as members of other minorities.


At least 18 dead and 29 injured in Brovary helicopter crash: Police

The death toll in the helicopter crash in Brovary has risen to 18, according to the head of the Kyiv Regional Military Administration.

Oleksiy Kuleba wrote on Telegram that three of those killed where children following the crash near a kindergarten and a residential building in the Kyiv suburb. Kuleba added that 29 people are injured, including 15 children.

Among the dead is Ukrainian Interior Minister Denis Monastyrsky and the Ukrainian Interior Ministry’s leadership team.

Anton Gerashchenko, an advisor to the Ukrainian Interior Minister, posted on social media that Monastyrsky, deputy minister Yevheniy Yenin and secretary of state Yuriy Lubkovychis died in the crash.

Gerashchenko said: “We will always remember you. Your families will be cared for. Eternal memory to my friends.”

The helicopter that crashed was a Eurocopter EC225 “Super Puma,” a CNN producer on the ground has confirmed after seeing remnants of flight manuals among the debris.


US president and German chancellor discuss military aid for Ukraine ahead of talks in Germany this week

US President Joe Biden and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz spoke on the phone Tuesday night, with the conversation focusing on support for Ukraine, according to Germany’s chancellery.

Both leaders agreed that their support ”must be effective, sustained and closely coordinated,” said Steffen Hebestreit, government spokesman for Scholz, in a statement.

At the beginning of January, Washington and Berlin jointly agreed to send infantry fighting vehicles to support Ukraine in the war against Russia.

Biden announced that the US intended to supply Ukraine with another round of security assistance, including Bradley Fighting Vehicles.

Scholz stated that Germany would provide Ukraine with Marder infantry fighting vehicles and an additional Patriot air defense battery.

On Thursday, the United States Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and newly appointed German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius are set to meet in Berlin ahead of a key meeting with the Ukraine contact group at the Ramstein Air Base in Germany on Friday.

The meeting in Ramstein, hosted by Austin, will focus on more military aid for Ukraine. 


Ukrainian interior minister killed in helicopter crash: Police

Ukrainian Interior Minister Denis Monastyrsky is among three ministers killed in the Brovary helicopter crash, Ukrainian National Police Chief Ihor Klymenko said.

“The crash killed the leadership of the Ministry of Internal Affairs – the Minister, the First Deputy Minister and the State Secretary,” Klymenko said.

At least 16 people died in the crash, nine of whom were aboard the helicopter when it went down near a kindergarten and residential building in the Kyiv region.


At least 16 killed in helicopter crash in Kyiv region: Ukrainian police

At least 16 people have been killed after a helicopter crashed in a Kyiv suburb on Wednesday, Ukrainian police said.

National Police chief Ihor Klymenko stated nine of the dead had been onboard the aircraft, which crashed near a kindergarten and residential building in the eastern suburb of Brovary.

Two of those killed were children, he continued, adding another 22 people are in hospital, including 10 children.


Helicopter crashes near kindergarten and residential building in Kyiv region

A helicopter crashed near a kindergarten and a residential building in the Ukrainian city of Brovary in the Kyiv region on Wednesday, according to Oleksiy Kuleba, head of the Kyiv regional military administration.

“At the time of the tragedy, there were children and the staff in the kindergarten. At the moment, everyone was evacuated,” he wrote on Telegram.

Kuleba said there are injured people, but did not give further details on how many or the degree of injuries.

Paramedics, the police and firefighters are responding at the scene, he added.


Over 9,000 civilians killed in Ukraine during Russia’s invasion: Kyiv official

More than 9,000 civilians, including 453 children, have been killed in Ukraine since Russia’s full-scale invasion began last February, Andriy Yermak, head of the Ukrainian presidential staff, told the World Economic Forum, according to a statement from the Ukrainian presidential office.

According to the senior presidential aide, Ukraine has also registered 80,000 crimes committed by Russian forces during the invasion.

“We will forgive not a single torture or life taken, not a single destroyed home, not a single tear of a Ukrainian child. Each criminal will be held accountable,” Yermak said in his virtual remarks.

Yermak urged the international community to establish a Special International Tribunal to hold Russia’s leadership accountable for “the crime of aggression,” as the International Criminal Court does not have the relevant jurisdiction, the statement said.

He also called for the development of mechanisms that would allow the confiscation of Russian assets to pay for war damages.

“No victory is complete without restoration of justice. That means the guilty must be punished, and the damages they have caused must be compensated. The repetition of crime must be prevented,” Yermak told the forum, adding, “In our case, justice is reached through trial of those who committed war crimes.”


Russia bans more European officials in retaliation for EU sanctions

Russia has expanded its list of blacklisted European Union officials in response to the EU’s ninth round of sanctions imposed in December, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement Tuesday.

Those now barred from entering Russia include senior officials from military agencies of EU countries involved in the training of Ukrainian troops, the statement read.

It also includes European state-run and commercial entities that manufacture and supply weapons and military equipment to Kyiv, and citizens of EU countries “who engage in systematic public anti-Russian rhetoric,” the statement added.

The ministry did not mention specific names of individuals or entities.

The EU sanctions imposed in December added almost 200 individuals and entities to an asset freeze list, including Russian military members, defense firms, politicians and Russian proxy authorities in occupied areas of Ukraine, the European Commission said at the time.

“We consider these EU moves illegitimate and believe they undermine the UN Security Council international legal prerogatives,” Russia’s Foreign Ministry said Tuesday, adding “any and all unfriendly actions by Western countries will be met with a timely and commensurate response.”


Biden administration says more US aid to Ukraine could be announced “as soon as end of this week”

The White House teased that additional Ukrainian aid could be announced “as soon as the end of this week,” while vowing to work to hold President Vladimir Putin responsible for any war crimes committed during Russia’s invasion of the country.

“I suspect that you will continue to hear coming from the United States additional packages of security assistance, additional weapons and capabilities for Ukraine – perhaps as soon as the end of this week,” National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.

Kirby didn’t answer when asked if the package would include tanks for the Ukrainians, saying he didn’t “want to get ahead of things we haven’t announced yet,” but he stated the US was focused “on trying to make sure that we are giving Ukraine what they need in the fight that they’re in.”

“We’re gonna continue to modulate these packages so that they’re most appropriate for what Ukraine needs and if we can’t provide that, we’re working with other allies and partners to see if they can,” he added.

He was also asked if the Russian missile strike on an apartment building in Dnipro, Ukraine, that killed dozens, including six children, was a war crime.

Kirby noted the US had been “very, very clear and honest about the fact that the Russian Armed Forces continue to commit atrocities and war crimes” and would work with the international community to hold Russia accountable.

“It is just egregious to look at what Mr. Putin did here over the last 48 hours or so in hitting an apartment complex with no military value whatsoever,” he continued, adding, “It wasn’t about knocking out power or water. It was about killing innocent civilians while they were at home.”


Aid to Ukraine will not stop until the war stops: Dutch PM

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte pledged that aid to Ukraine will not stop until the war stops.

“I must say President Biden is very much focused on this. We totally agreed that we can only stop when the war stops and with a successful outcome for Ukraine. So, the end has to be successful Ukraine, Russia losing it, losing the war,” Rutte told CNN Tuesday.

Rutte was speaking after meeting with US President Joe Biden at the White House and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.

Rutte emphasized it was up to Ukraine whether to engage in peace talks. “The only one who can decide it is Volodymyr Zelensky, sitting in Kyiv, the President of Ukraine. It cannot be the Netherlands, the US or any other countries that decide that for Ukraine.”

He also praised the US for supplying Ukraine with military gear, calling it “impressive” and “a game changer.”

He added that the fate of the West was at stake in the war, which is why the Netherlands was committed to supporting Ukraine for as long as was needed.

“If Putin would win this, it won’t stop at Ukraine. It will continue, and then, in the end, the collective safety of the whole West is under threat,” Rutte stated.


Blinken: US determined to give Ukraine support it needs to succeed on the battlefield

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Tuesday the support Washington has provided to Kyiv has evolved throughout the course of the war as the United States is determined to give Ukraine “what it needs to succeed on the battlefield.”

“As this aggression has evolved, so too has our assistance to Ukraine, making sure that it has what it needs to meet the aggression head on,” Blinken stated at a news conference in Washington, DC, alongside British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly.

Blinken teased “more announcements” from the US coming out of the meeting of the Ramstein group, which Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin will attend in Germany this week. Blinken did not get into details about what else the US might be providing to Ukraine.

“If you look at the trajectory from Stingers to Javelins to HIMARs to Bradley Fighting Vehicles to Patriot missile batteries, we have continuously provided what Ukraine needs and we’re doing it in a way to make sure that it’s responsive to what’s actually happening on the battlefield, as well as projecting where it might go, making sure as well that the Ukrainians are trained on the systems that were provided, that they have the ability to maintain the systems,” Blinken continued.

He added the provision of US support started “when we saw the storm clouds gathering in the months before the aggression.”

The top US diplomat reiterated that the fastest way to end the war is “to give Ukraine a strong hand on the battlefield,” which is what the US is doing, he said.

Blinken praised the United Kingdom for its announcement that it will provide tanks to Ukraine, saying, “We applaud the prime minister’s commitment over the weekend to send Challenger 2 tanks and additional artillery systems to Ukraine, elements that will continue to reinforce and add to what the United States has provided, including in our most recent drawdown.”


European Union needs to stay united on Ukraine: Spain’s PM

Spain’s prime minister on Tuesday stressed the need for long-term European unity in its support of Ukraine.

In an interview with CNN’s Julia Chatterley at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said that the price of Russia’s war on the Ukrainian people has been high.

“They need to feel the solidarity, the empathy and commitment of the whole European Union. We will be with the Ukrainians for as long as it takes,” he stated.

When asked if he believed Putin had been weakened, Sánchez noted that it was his impression that he had been.

Earlier, the prime minister warned delegates attending the forum that it is crucial the EU “fights the rotten seeds Putin has planted in our own countries.”

The Russian president has allies in Europe who hide their sympathies and ties to Putin who must be prevented from destroying the EU from the inside, Sánchez continued.

In his address, he pledged to fight them with the same conviction the Ukrainians are fighting the Russian forces but with different weapons.


Around 100 Ukrainian troops have begun Patriot missile training at US base: Defense Department

The US Defense Department confirmed that “upwards of 90 to 100 Ukrainians” have all arrived at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and have begun their training on the Patriot missile system.

On Monday, the US Army base announced that Ukrainian troops had arrived at the location to begin training.

Fort Sill is home to the Fires Center of Excellence where the US conducts Patriot training for its own military and other countries.

“The same instructors who teach U.S., allied and partner nations will conduct the Ukrainian training, and these classes will not detract from the ongoing training missions at Fort Sill,” the base announced in a statement.

The training will take “several months” on the advanced, but complex long-range aerial defense system, according to Pentagon officials. It’s not clear how much the military can accelerate the training program.


Death toll from Russian strike on a Dnipro apartment building rises to 45

The death toll from Saturday’s Russian attack on an apartment building in the central Ukrainian city of Dnipro has risen to 45, the head of the Dnipropetrovsk region military administration said Tuesday.

Another child was found among the dead, Valentyn Reznichenko said on Facebook. The total number of people killed now stands at at least 45, among whom six were children.

At least 19 people are still missing.


UK foreign secretary: Decision to give heavy weaponry to Ukraine sends “clear message” to Putin

The British government decided to send heavy weaponry to Ukraine, including tanks, because the nation needs to give Russian President Vladimir Putin a “really clear message” about international support for Kyiv, British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said Tuesday.

Cleverly stated Putin should understand that Britain is going to have “the strategic endurance to stick” with Ukraine until “the job is done.” He added support is constantly being reassessed by Ukraine’s partners and has evolved throughout the war, noting that “last year, we weren’t talking about tanks, and we weren’t talking about heavy artillery.”

“Now what we recognize they need is the ability to push back hard and the east and the south,” Cleverly said in a conversation with CNN’s Kylie Atwood at The Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

Cleverly would not preview future military support, but maintained that “our support has evolved and it is inevitable that it will continue to evolve.”

“The message we’re sending to Putin and frankly, anyone else that cares to be watching, is that we made a commitment to supporting Ukrainians until they were victorious,” Cleverly continued.

“This is what they need to get the job done. This is what we’re going to supply. And we’re going to supply modern heavy military equipment and the ammunition to allow them to defend themselves properly,” he noted.

“What Putin should understand is we are going to have the strategic endurance to stick with them until the job is done, and the best thing that he can do to preserve the lives of his own troops is to recognize that we’re going to stick with Ukrainians until they are victorious, and bring that war to a conclusion and get around the negotiating table in good faith, and not these kind of performative things that he’s been doing up until now,” Cleverly stated, saying that such actions by the Russian leader would save lives and money.


Western allies need to “step up” military support to Ukraine: European Commission president

Western allies need to “step up” the level of military support and equipment being sent to Ukraine, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour Tuesday.

Ukraine needs “all the military equipment” that “it can handle, and this also includes the advanced systems,” von der Leyen said.

“I hope very much that [at] Ramstein … that there will be a big move forward,” she added, referring to an upcoming meeting in Germany on Friday, where allies will meet Ukrainian defense officials at Ramstein Air Base as part of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group.

Germany has come under pressure in recent days over the levels of military support it is sending to the war-torn nation, with the UK urging Berlin to send German-made Leopard tanks and to authorize others to do the same.

Von der Leyen also confirmed that a tenth round of sanctions against Russia is coming.

The tenth round “will be mainly focused on closing these loopholes, on finishing off with these circumventions, and on having massive consequences for those who circumvent the sanctions of the European Union,” she stated.

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