Saturday, March 2, 2024

Live Update: Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 346

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 claims over 130,000 Russian soldiers killed in war

More than 130,000 Russian soldiers have been killed in battle since their invasion, according to Ukrainian statistics.

They say that another 720 were killed on Friday, bringing the total to 130,590. They took out another six armoured personnel vehicles, three tanks and three anti-aircraft systems.

The figures, published by the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, have not been independently verified, and Russian statistics differ.

US and allies announce new price cap on Russian petroleum products

The US and allies are trying to further limit Russia’s ability to make money and finance war efforts with new price limits on products like gasoline and fuel oil.

A senior Treasury official announced additional sanctions on Russian energy sales in response to the country’s invasion of Ukraine.

“Our intent is not to crash the Russian economy,” the official told reporters on background Friday, adding, “Our intent is to make it impossible for the Kremlin to continue to make the choice of propping up the economy and also paying for their war.”

The agreement between the US, the G7, the European Union and Australia places a price cap on “seaborne Russian-origin petroleum products,” the US Department of Treasury announced. There are two price levels: one applies to “premium-to-crude” petroleum products like diesel, kerosene and gasoline, which will be capped at $100 USD per barrel, and “discount-to-crude” petroleum products like fuel oil, which will be capped at $45 USD per barrel.

“The thing that we’re focused on is cutting off the revenue,” the official stated, adding, “We’re also going after their military industrialized complex and supply chain so they can’t use the money they have to buy the weapons they need. Our approach to this is really to go after the things that are crucial to the Kremlin’s war effort and their ability to prop up their economy.”

In December, the same group implemented a price cap on crude oil — which the Treasury official said was already impeding Russia’s ability to finance the war. They added Russia had “openly acknowledged” the price cap was hurting the country’s economy. Data released by Russia showed that monthly tax revenues from energy sales declined 46% from the month prior.

Officials shrugged off reports that despite numerous sanctions, Russia’s economy is still expected to rebound, and may even outpace Germany and Britain. The senior Treasury official said economically, the country “doesn’t function any longer like a normal economy.”

“They’ve shut it down largely, meaning that if you have money of Russia, they’ll let you keep putting money in Russia, but you can’t take money out. They no longer allow foreign capital coming into Russia,” the official continued, saying, “They’re needing to spend more money to prop up their economy because they become a closed economy.”

‘Possible’ to start Ukraine EU entry talks this year: Kyiv

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky stated after hosting a summit with the EU in Kyiv that it was “possible” to start official accession talks this year.

“What exactly did we agree upon today?” Zelensky said in his traditional evening address to the nation.

“There is an understanding that it is possible to start negotiations on Ukraine’s membership in the European Union this year,” he added.

France, Italy finalise talks on air-defence system delivery to Ukraine

France and Italy have finalised technical talks for the joint delivery of a SAMP/T-MAMBA air defence system to Ukraine in the spring of 2023, the French defence ministry said.

“This will allow Ukraine to defend itself against Russian drones, missiles and plane attacks, through the coverage of a significant part of the Ukrainian territory,” a ministry statement added.

US announces $2.2bn in new arms, munitions for Ukraine

The US has announced a new package of arms and munitions for Ukraine worth $2.2bn.

The list included more ammunition for the HIMARS rocket systems that have allowed Ukraine forces to hit behind Russian lines, more air defence units and armoured vehicles, the Pentagon said.

Canada imposes sanctions over ‘Russian disinformation’

Canada has imposed sanctions on 38 people and 16 entities that it says are “complicit in peddling Russian disinformation and propaganda”.

Those targeted include Russian state-owned media group MIA Rossiya Segodnya and singer Nikolay Victorovich Baskov, who performed in a pro-war concert in Moscow, the Canadian foreign ministry announced in a statement.

American volunteer aid worker killed in Bakhmut while helping Ukrainian civilians

An American volunteer aid worker, Pete Reed, was killed in the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut on Thursday while aiding civilians, according to a statement from Global Response Medicine, the humanitarian aid group he founded.

Reed, a US Marine veteran, was listed as “killed while rendering aid” on a mission with another organization, GRM said in a statement posted on social media.

“Yesterday, GRM founder Pete Reed was killed in Bakhmut, Ukraine. Pete was the bedrock of GRM, serving as Board President for 4 years. In January, Pete stepped away from GRM to work with Global Outreach Doctors on their Ukraine mission and was killed while rendering aid,” according to a post shared on Instagram.

“This is a stark reminder of the perils rescue and aid workers face in conflict zones as they serve citizens caught in the crossfire. Pete was just 33 years old, but lived a life in service of others, first as a decorated US Marine and then in humanitarian aid. GRM will strive to honor his legacy and the selfless service he practiced,” the statement said.

Reed was also listed as the Ukraine country director on the Global Outreach Doctors’ website.

A US State Department spokesperson confirmed “the recent death of a US citizen in Ukraine” when asked for comment.

“We are in touch with the family and providing all possible consular assistance,” the State Department spokesperson said. “Out of respect for the privacy of the family during this difficult time, we have nothing further to add.”

Reed’s wife, Alex Kay Potter, wrote on Instagram that her husband not only lived for his duty but apparently died saving another team member’s life.

“He was evacuating civilians and responding to those wounded when his ambulance was shelled. He died doing what he was great at, what gave him life, and what he loved, and apparently by saving a team member with his own body,” the post said.

Reed started his humanitarian career working after Superstorm Sandy hit his home state of New Jersey, according to the biography pages on the Global Response Medicine and Global Outreach Doctors websites.

Reed led medical teams during the Battle for Mosul in Iraq, treating over 10,000 trauma patients, according to the websites.

Ukraine says new NATO-supplied tanks will act as “iron fist” in counteroffensive

Ukraine’s Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said on Friday that new NATO-supplied tanks will serve as an “iron fist” in Kyiv’s counteroffensive against Russian forces in Ukraine.

“We need a ‘tank coalition’ with the main tanks of NATO countries for a counteroffensive. That is, we will use them as a “steel fist” in order to break through their defense line,” stated Reznikov at a joint press conference with his Polish counterpart.

In order to deter a possible new Russian offensive in the south and east, the Armed Forces of Ukraine will “primarily use 155-mm artillery” among other weapons, he added, noting, “That is why we say today that the priority on the battlefield remains 155 mm artillery and shells for it.”

The US has pledged to provide 31 M1 Abrams tanks and Germany agreed to send 14 Leopard 2 A6s. Previously the United Kingdom has pledged 14 Challenger 2 tanks, while Poland has asked for approval from Germany to transfer some of its own German-made Leopard 2s to Ukraine.

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