Saturday, April 20, 2024

Live Update: Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 363

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:

G7 foreign ministers vow to keep up economic pressure on Russia

G7 foreign ministers have stated their countries will continue to impose economic costs on Russia over its offensive in Ukraine.

“We will impose further economic costs on Russia, and on individuals and entities – inside and outside of Russia – that provide political or economic support to these violations of international law,” the ministers said in a joint statement.

They also urged the international community to reject what they described as Moscow’s “brutal expansionism”.

The G7 comprises Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Biden, Duda discussed ‘shared efforts to support Ukraine’: White House

US President Joe Biden and his Polish counterpart Andrzej Duda discussed their “shared efforts to support Ukraine, impose consequences on Russia, and strengthen NATO” during talks in Warsaw, the White House has announced.

“In addition, the leaders discussed their countries’ growing cooperation in the energy sector, including civil nuclear energy, our strong bilateral defense relationship, and the importance of the democratic values that underpin the transatlantic alliance,” the White House said in a statement.

Ukraine tells schools to deliver lessons remotely amid fears of anniversary attacks

Ukraine’s education ministry has told the country’s schools to hold classes remotely starting Wednesday for the remainder of this week because of the risk of Russian missile attacks.

The ministry issued a statement saying it had made the recommendation to schools “to protect the lives and health of all participants in the educational process, as a preventive measure before the anniversary”.

Hundreds of schools have been destroyed during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Those that are still standing were only allowed to hold in-person classes this academic year if they had a functioning bomb shelter.

Russia’s Security Council chief meets top Chinese diplomat in Moscow

The head of Russia’s influential Security Council, Nikolai Patrushev, has told China’s top diplomat that Moscow and Beijing must stick together against the West, according to reports carried by Russian state news agencies.

Patrushev and Wang Yi held talks in the Russian capital on Tuesday.

A close ally of President Vladimir Putin, Patrushev told Wang that Moscow backed China’s position over Taiwan, Hong Kong and Xinjiang, according to a statement cited by the RIA Novosti news agency.

Impact of Russia’s New START treaty move ‘unclear’: US Department of State

A spokesman for the US Department of State has said it is “unclear” if Putin’s move to suspend Russia’s participation in the New START nuclear treaty will have a “practical impact”.

“We haven’t seen any reason to change our nuclear posture, our strategic posture just yet,” Ned Price told CNN.

The United States announced publicly this year that Russia was not in compliance with the New START treaty, he continued, adding Washington will watch to see what steps Moscow actually takes.

Biden promises to ‘bolster Poland’s energy security for generations’

President Joe Biden has again lauded NATO during his visit to Poland, as he thanked Warsaw for its support of Ukraine.

“As I told my Russian counterpart … you’re gonna get to NATO-isation of Finland. Turns out, I didn’t know Sweden was coming along, as well,” he said.

“But all kidding aside, I think if we keep our heads and we are focused, I think we’re in a better position than we’ve ever been. And I want to thank you President [Andrzej Duda] for how Poland is supporting Ukraine,” he continued, adding, “It is just incredible the way you’ve welcomed 1.6, 1.7 million Ukrainians.”

“We’ve reaffirmed our ironclad commitment to NATO’s pledge of security, including guaranteeing that the command headquarters for our forces in Europe are going to be in Poland, period. We’re also launching a new strategic partnership with plans to build nuclear power plants and bolster Poland’s energy security for generations,” the president stated.

Top US diplomat says Russia’s decision on New START treaty is “deeply unfortunate and irresponsible”

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Russia’s decision to suspend participation in the New START nuclear arms reduction treaty is “deeply unfortunate and irresponsible.”

The Joe Biden administration remains ready to talk about the nuclear arms treaty “at any time with Russia, irrespective of anything else going on in the world,” he stated.

“We’ll be watching carefully to see what Russia actually does,” he added, saying the US will ensure that it is “posturing appropriately for the security of our own country and that of our allies.”

“I think it matters that we continue to act responsibly in this area, it’s also something the rest of the world expect of us,” Blinken continued.

NATO secretary general says Putin is “preparing for more war”

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said President Vladimir Putin is “preparing for more war” in response to the Russian president’s state of the nation address on Tuesday.

Stoltenberg also noted that the alliance is “increasingly concerned” that China is planning support for Russia.

“It is President Putin who started this imperial war of conquest. It is Putin who keeps escalating this way,” Stoltenberg said at a news conference in Brussels Tuesday alongside Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and the European Union’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell.

“One year since he launched the invasion, we see no sign that President Putin is preparing for peace. On the contrary, as he made clear today, he’s preparing for more war,” he added.

“Russia is launching new offensives, mobilizing more troops, and reaching out to North Korea and Iran,” Stoltenberg continued, stating, “We are also increasingly concerned that China might be planning lethal support for Russia’s war.”

Stoltenberg echoed previous comments about support for Ukraine, welcoming “recent announcements by allies on new tanks, heavy weaponry, and training for Ukraine troops,” stating that it is “urgent to deliver on all these pledges.”

“We must give Ukraine what they need to win and prevail as a sovereign independent nation in Europe,” Stoltenberg continued, adding, “Key capabilities must reach Ukraine before Russia can seize the momentum.”

Stoltenberg said that he, Kuleba and Borrell discussed ramping up production to continue supporting Ukraine during Tuesday’s talks.

“Upon Ukraine’s request, we have agreed that NATO should assist Ukraine to develop a procurement system that is effective, transparent, and accountable. We have also agreed today to convene a meeting of NATO, EU and Ukrainian experts to see what more we can do together to ensure Ukraine has the weapons it needs,” he stressed.

China’s top diplomat arrives in Moscow for meeting with Russian foreign minister

China’s top diplomat Wang Yi has arrived in Moscow and will meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Moscow on Wednesday, according to Russian state news agency TASS, citing the Russian foreign ministry on Tuesday.

This would be the first visit to the country from a Chinese official since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Wang, who was named Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s top foreign policy adviser last month, is making the visit during an eight-day international tour.

Neither Russia nor China has specified whether Wang would meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin. However, on Monday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said “we do not exclude a meeting” between Wang and Putin.

“Russian-Chinese relations are very multifaceted and allied in nature, the agenda is clear and very extensive, so there are things to talk about,” Peskov told reporters.

China’s Foreign Ministry announced the visit to Moscow will provide an opportunity for China and Russia to continue to develop their strategic partnership and “exchange views” on “international and regional hotspot issues of shared interest.”

“Coordination” needed to deliver weapons to Ukraine: FM

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Tuesday that “coordination” was needed to deliver weapons and ammunition to the battlefield amid Russia’s war.

“The capacity to produce is there. The capacity to deliver is there. So we need coordination — coordination to deliver. And this is what we discussed today,” Kuleba told reporters at a joint news conference with the EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

Kuleba’s comments came after Russian President Vladimir Putin doubled down on the war in Ukraine in his state of the nation speech. He rolled out a familiar list of justifications for his unprovoked invasion, including NATO expansion.

The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense announced that Putin was not able to declare victory or speak at length about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine because of the country’s military which has been fighting back Moscow’s troops.

“Today’s speech by the Russian dictator was in part written by #UAarmy. It is thanks to our soldiers who are fighting near Svatove, Bakhmut, Avdiivka, Vuhledar, Orikhiv that there was no place for a “special military operation” in his annual address,” the ministry said in a tweet on Tuesday.

“Because there are no victories,” it added.

Ukrainian military says six civilians killed by Russian shelling in Kherson

Six civilians have been killed and 12 others wounded by Russian shelling of a market and public transport stop in the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson, Ukraine’s military claimed.

The southern military command announced in a statement that Kherson came under fire as Russian President Vladimir Putin was delivering his state-of-the-nation address.

NATO chief ‘regrets’ move by Putin to suspend participation in New START treaty

NATO’s Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has said he regrets Russia’s decision to suspend its participation in the New START nuclear arms control treaty with the United States.

Speaking during a joint press conference with Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and the European Union’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, Stoltenberg urged Moscow to reconsider the move.

His remarks came shortly after President Vladimir Putin delivered a warning to the West over Ukraine in a combative state-of-the-union address.

Stoltenberg also rejected Putin’s claims that Kyiv and its Western allies were to blame for the war, saying instead that Russia was the aggressor.

“It is President Putin who started this imperial war of conquest … As Putin made clear today, he’s preparing for more war … Putin must not win … It would be dangerous for our own security and the whole world,” he added.

Russia’s FSB says it gave Biden no security guarantees before Kyiv visit: Report

Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) says it gave no security guarantees to US President Joe Biden after Washington informed Moscow in advance that he would be visiting Kyiv on Monday.

“The United States did notify Russia about Biden’s visit to Kyiv through a diplomatic channel. We did not give guarantees of his safety,” FSB Director Alexander Bortnikov was quoted by the state-owned TASS news agency as saying.

Russia summons US ambassador over Washington’s ‘aggressive course’

Russia’s foreign ministry has summoned US ambassador Lynne Tracy over what it says is Washington’s increasingly “aggressive course”, accusing it of widening its involvement in the war in Ukraine.

“In this regard, the ambassador was told that the current aggressive course of the United States to deepen confrontation with Russia in all areas is counterproductive,” the ministry added.

There was no immediate public response from Washington to Moscow’s move.

Ukrainian official accuses Russia of undermining Black Sea grain deal

Yuriy Vaskov, Ukraine’s depute infrastructure minister, has accused Russia of undermining the Black Sea grain deal designed to ensure Ukrainian food exports reach needy global markets.

“Since the end of October, the initiative has only been working at a maximum of 30 percent of its full capacity,” Vaskov told Al Jazeera from Kyiv.

“According to the deal, each vessel … should be inspected by the four parties to the initiative – Ukraine, the UN, Turkey and The Russian Federation – but since the end of October, the Russian Federation has decreased its number of inspection teams,” he added.

“Due to this reason, unfortunately since November we have an average of three vessels being inspected daily making inbound movements and the same number of inspections [being carried out] for vessels making outbound movements,” he stated.

Vaskov said negotiations on a renewal of the deal, which was signed in July last year and is set to expire in the middle of March, had already begun.

“Our expectation is not only for a prolonged initiative but for an increased number of inspections and … for the [extended] deal to be for a minimum of one year,” he added.

US official denounces ‘absurdity’ of Putin’s speech

A leading official in the United States has described President Vladimir Putin’s claims that the West and Kyiv are to blame for the war in Ukraine as an “absurdity”.

“Nobody is attacking Russia,” White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told reporters.

“There’s a kind of absurdity in the notion that Russia was under some form of military threat from Ukraine or anyone else,” he added.

Ukrainian official slam Putin’s state-of-the-nation address

Reaction to President Vladimir Putin’s state-of-the-nation address from Ukrainian officials has begun to filter through.

Mykhailo Podolyak, a senior adviser to Ukraine’s president, stated the Russian leader’s speech “demonstrated his irrelevance and confusion”.

“He stressed that RF [The Russian Federation] is in ‘taiga deadlock’, has no promising solutions and won’t have any. Because everywhere there are ‘Nazis, Martians and conspiracy theories’,” Podolyak said in a post on Twitter.

Russia to suspend participation in New START treaty: Putin

President Vladimir Putin says Russia is suspending its participation in the New START treaty with the United States.

The agreement is the last major pillar of post-Cold War nuclear arms control between the two countries and limits their strategic nuclear arsenals.

“I am forced to announce today that Russia is suspending its participation in the strategic offensive arms treaty,” Putin stated in his state-of-the-nation address.

He added Russia needed to be ready to test nuclear weapons if the US moves to do so itself.

Russian economy has withstood Western sanctions: Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin says Russia has all the financial resources it needs to guarantee its national security and development despite sweeping economic sanctions imposed by the West over the war in Ukraine.

The Russian president stated domestic companies had rebuilt their supply chains in response to the sanctions.

He added that Moscow was working with other countries to build new payment systems and financial architecture.

UN says at least 8,000 civilians killed since beginning of war

The United Nations Office for Human Rights (OHCHR) announced at least 8,006 civilians have been killed in Ukraine since Russia began its offensive 12 months ago.

Another 13,287 civilians have been wounded amid the conflict, OHCHR said.

Volker Turk, the UN’s high commissioner for human rights, said the figures “lay bare the loss and suffering inflicted on people since Russia’s armed attack began”.

“Our data are only the tip of the iceberg. The toll on civilians is unbearable. Amid electricity and water shortages during the cold winter months, nearly 18 million people are in dire need of humanitarian assistance. Some 14 million people have been displaced from their homes,” he added.

OHCHR personnel on the ground stressed the true casualty figures are likely to be substantially higher as the numbers provided only accounted for verified individual cases.

It is “unlikely” Italy will send fighter jets to Ukraine: FM

Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani said it is “unlikely” Italy will donate fighter jets to Ukraine in an interview with Italian daily newspaper La Stampa.

Tajani stated the issue of sending fighter jets had not been discussed “yet,” but any such donation would have to be made in coordination with Italy’s allies.

“We’ll have to coordinate with our allies, figure out what kind of planes to send to them, because it doesn’t make sense to deliver different models to the Ukrainians,” Tajani continued, adding, “It seems to me practically impossible for Italian fighters to be sent.”

Italy’s Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni is currently visiting Kyiv and Tajani said she would assure Zelensky of Italy’s continued support for Ukraine.

“It’s beyond question,” he stated, adding, “We have already approved a sixth package and the sending of material is being finalized.”

“In a few weeks, in collaboration with the French, we will also send the Samp-T air defense missile system to Ukraine,” he noted.

Tajani went on to say that Italy remained at the forefront to help Ukraine with military supplies and want to support the country after the war.

He added: “We are among the countries that have most seized funds from the Russian oligarchs, we are talking about over 2 billion, money that can be used to rebuild the country.”

Russian forces make incremental gains in eastern Ukraine

Russian forces have made incremental gains in eastern Ukraine, analysis from the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) suggests.

They have made some progress around the city of Bakhmut and are pushing around the important logistical target of Kupyansk in the Kharkiv region.

Russian forces have taken the settlement of Paraskoviivka, north of Bakhmut, says ISW, citing geolocated footage posted on February 19 showing Russian forces taking down a Ukrainian flag.

Yevgeny Prigozhin, founder of the Wagner private military company, claimed his forces were in control of Paraskoviivka on February 17. This was refuted by the Russian Ministry of Defense, which claimed its forces took the settlement on February 20.

The competing claims advance the suggestions leadership of Wagner and the Russian Ministry of Defense are at odds with each other, the ISW analysis adds.

Ukrainian forces have not conceded any Russian gains in the area, but have said that Russia has concentrated part of its main offensive efforts around Bakhmut.

Kyiv says that its forces have repelled attacks around the city, as well as around Vasylivka, Novobakhmutivka, Vodiane, Nevelske and Maryinka.

The Ukrainian General Staff also stated Russian forces have been pushing around Kupyansk in the Kharkiv region, saying they have repelled attacks “in the vicinities of Hrianykivka and Masiutivka settlements.”

The city was captured by Russian forces on February 27 last year, but was re-taken by Ukraine on September 10.

Over the past few weeks, Russian forces have refocused their efforts in the area as part of a planned spring offensive along the eastern frontline.

According to the ISW, Russian military bloggers say Russian forces have conducted “successful” operations in the area, “despite their slow pace.”

Biden is not going “head to head” with Putin in Warsaw speech: Top aide

US President Joe Biden’s speech in Warsaw on Tuesday will act as an “affirmative statement of values” rather than a direct rebuttal to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s address to Russia’s Federal Assembly.

“We did not set the speech up some kind of head to head,” said Jake Sullivan, the US national security adviser.

“This is not a rhetorical contest with anyone else,” he added.

Sullivan said Biden’s speech would be bigger than a single response to the address from his counterpart in Moscow.

“The President’s remarks today are … about something larger. And we selected this time, we selected this date, not because President Putin was speaking today,” he added.

Biden is set to speak later Tuesday from the Royal Castle in Warsaw. Sullivan couldn’t say whether Biden was watching any of Putin’s address, which is ongoing.

“There’s a kind of absurdity in the notion that Russia was under some form of military threat from Ukraine or anyone else,” Sullivan continued.

“And that’s an argument the President has made for some time and he will very directly make that point in the speech tonight, not as a rebuttal to Putin’s speech today, but rather to lay to rest an argument that Russia has been making for some time,” he noted.

As Biden marks one year of Russia’s unprovoked war, Sullivan said the president will put the war into a “larger context.”

“A context that reminds people where we were on the eve of this war a year ago, when there were fundamental questions being asked, being asked of the international order, being asked of the United States, being asked of the NATO alliance,” added Sullivan.

“And one year later, he believes that we have answered those questions about our unity and resolve, about our commitment to fundamental principles, and about our willingness to step up,” he continued.

Putin repeats claim that Ukraine invasion was necessary to defend Russia

Russian President Vladimir Putin began his address to the Federal Assembly with a familiar refrain: Russia had no choice but to attack Ukraine.

Putin claimed that the West was preparing to turn Ukraine into a launchpad bristling with weapons to attack Russia, meaning that Moscow had to act before it could do so.

This echoes his speech from February 24 last year, when he argued that Russia had no choice but to use force against Ukraine.

“They did not leave us any other option for defending Russia and our people, other than the one we are forced to use today,” he stated, adding, “In these circumstances, we have to take bold and immediate action. The people’s republics of Donbas have asked Russia for help.”

He blamed the West for starting the conflict in Ukraine, saying Western countries, led by the United States, were seeking “unlimited power” in world affairs.

The Russian president also added Moscow was defying the West’s attempts to ruin Russia’s economy through an unprecedented package of sanctions, noting trillions of dollars were at stake for the West, but Russia’s income flows had not dried up.

Putin said that Russia wanted to solve the conflict in Ukraine peacefully but that Western countries had prepared a “different scenario” behind its back.

“We were doing everything possible to solve this problem peacefully, negotiating a peaceful way out of this difficult conflict, but behind our backs a very different scenario was being prepared,” he told lawmakers from Russia’s parliament.

The president stressed that the West “cynically cheated its people”.

Putin vowed to “systematically” press on with Moscow’s offensive in Ukraine, as he gave his state of the nation address.

“Step by step, we will carefully and systematically solve the aims that face us,” the Russian president noted ahead of the first anniversary of the military intervention.

Putin also repeated the unsubstantiated claim that Ukraine was pushing to be provided with nuclear weapons, and doubled down on his framing of the invasion as a pre-emptive, defensive action.

Strike on Kramatorsk train station considered war crime: New HRW report

A Russian cluster munition strike, which was carried out against a crowded train station in Ukraine’s eastern city Kramatorsk last April, was “in violation of the laws of war, and was an apparent war crime,” according to a new report by Human Rights Watch and SITU Research.

Over 50 people, including five children, died in the strike on the Kramatorsk railway station on April 8, which at the time was being used to shelter civilians fleeing the fighting, according to Ukrainian officials.

According to the report, several hundred civilians were waiting at the station when “a ballistic missile equipped with a cluster munition warhead exploded and released dozens of bomblets, or submunitions.”

Approximately 15,800 lethal metal fragments were dispersed at the station and the surrounding area, which then struck the ground and detonated, “killing and wounding scores of people,” the report found.

First responders, station volunteers and ordinary citizens described trying to stop serious bleeding with “diapers” as ambulances rushed to the scene.

In the days before the strike, “tens of thousands” of people from the Eastern Donbas traveled through the station “as part of an evacuation encouraged and facilitated by local authorities,” according to the report.

The United Nations Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) prohibits cluster munitions due to their “humanitarian impact on civilians,” but neither Russia or Ukraine are state parties to this treaty.

“The Russian commanders responsible for ordering the attack, which used an inherently indiscriminate weapon in a well-known major evacuation hub, should be investigated and held accountable,” the report continued.

The Russian Ministry of Defense routinely denies attacking civilians, despite ample evidence collected by international media and watchdog groups.

Putin’s war on Ukraine has is ‘strategic failure’: Blinken

President Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine has been a strategic failure, Antony Blinken, the US Secretary of State, said on Tuesday.

“One year after President Putin attacked Ukraine it is clear that his war has been a strategic failure in every way,” Blinken told a joint news conference with Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias in Athens.

China is concerned about Ukraine conflict “spiraling out of control”: FM

China is “deeply worried” about the conflict in Ukraine “spiraling out of control,” Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang said on Tuesday while delivering a keynote address at the opening of a security conference.

“China is deeply worried about the continuous escalation of the conflict and possibility of the situation spiraling out of control,” Qin stated at the Lanting Forum held by the Chinese Foreign Ministry in Beijing.”

“We urge relevant countries to immediately stop fueling the fire, blaming China, and hyping up the rhetoric ‘today Ukraine, tomorrow Taiwan’,” he added.

Beijing has repeatedly refused to condemn Russia for its invasion of Ukraine and has refrained from calling it a “war” — instead using the Kremlin’s description of a “special military operation.” China has consistently laid blame on NATO and the United States for the conflict.

Qin’s remarks come as China’s top foreign policy official Wang Yi is expected to visit Moscow this week, just days ahead of the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion and amid claims from US officials that Beijing is considering providing lethal military aid to the Kremlin.

On Monday, Wang noted China is willing to work with other countries to achieve a ceasefire and lasting peace in Ukraine, according to state-run news agency Xinhua.

Belarus says Ukraine army groups massed at border

Belarus claimed that there is a “significant grouping” of Ukrainian forces at its border.

“At present, a significant grouping of the Ukrainian army is concentrated in the immediate vicinity of the Belarusian-Ukrainian section of the state border,” the defence ministry said in a post on Telegram.

“The probability of armed provocations, which can escalate into border incidents, has been high for a long time,” it added.

Italy’s PM travels to Ukraine

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni is travelling to Kyiv in her first visit to the war-torn country, Italian news agency ANSA reports.

Her visit comes after Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky thanked Italy for the delivery of a new aid package and acknowledged that Rome’s support for Ukraine’s war effort has not changed.

The Italian government has been questioned over its stance toward the conflict due to a number of controversial comments made by one of Meloni’s coalition partner, ex-premier and Forza Italia leader Silvio Berlusconi who blamed Zelensky for starting the war.

Russian rouble weakens ahead of Putin address to parliament

The rouble weakened on Tuesday despite increased demand for the currency ahead of month-end tax payments as President Vladimir Putin prepares to update Russia’s political and military elite on the Ukraine conflict.

At 0732 GMT the rouble was 0.7 per cent weaker against the dollar at 75.05, edging closer to an almost 10-month low of 75.30 hit on Friday.

The Russian currency had lost 0.5% to 80.04 versus the euro and was down 0.2 per cent against the yuan at 10.89.

Putin will address members of both houses of parliament on Tuesday, nearly a year since despatching tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine in a move that has triggered the biggest confrontation with the West since the depths of the Cold War.

Biden has crossed into Poland after surprise trip to Ukraine

US President Joe Biden has left Ukraine after a highly symbolic covert visit.

He crossed the border into Poland at roughly 8 p.m. local time (2 p.m. ET), according to a report from the traveling press pool.

Biden traveled by train in and out of Kyiv, making the 10-hour journey with only a handful of advisers and two journalists.

Biden flew to Poland aboard a C-32 aircraft with a refueling stop in Germany before boarding the train into Ukraine on Sunday.

The train went by night into Ukraine, making only a few stops to collect additional security.

“A gun needs a bullet”: EU’s top diplomat stresses importance of upping ammunition supply to Ukraine

To counter a growing number of Russian troops, Ukraine needs more ammunition, in addition to other pledges of military support from allies, the European Union’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell stated.

Russia is massing “almost twice the number of soldiers that were there at the beginning of the war” in Ukraine, adding that the next few weeks will be crucial, he said.

“The Ukrainian army urgently needs large amounts of ammunition to counter Russian aggression,” Borrell continued, noting, “A gun needs a bullet.” ”

“For that, time is of essence. Speed means lives. We need to respond quickly. Not only more support, but to provide it quicker,” Borrell added.

The best way to get ammunition to Ukraine quickly is to share existing European army stockpiles so that there is no time wasted waiting for them to be produced, he said.

“We have to use what has already been produced and stockpiled, or what has already been contracted and will be produced in the coming days. Priority has to be given to the supplies for the Ukrainian army, as much as we can,” he added.

Borrel also stated a tenth package of sanctions against Russia was also discussed at a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels on Monday, announcing that they have been “presented as a Regulation for the Council to approve,” which should happen in the “next hours, or next days.”

Nearly 22,000 Russians have tried to enter the US since Putin’s war draft

Over the past six months, data posted by American border authorities shows that the number of Russian citizens they have encountered has nearly tripled: from 1,645 Russians in August 2022 (the month before Russia’s draft began) to 4,509 in January.

In total, nearly 22,000 Russians have tried entering the United States through the country’s southern border since October 2022, the first full month after the draft was announced, according to the latest US Customs and Border Protection data.

China willing to work with other nations on securing ceasefire and lasting peace in Ukraine: Top envoy

China is willing to work with other countries to achieve an early ceasefire and lasting peace in Ukraine, the country’s top diplomat Wang Yi said while visiting Budapest on Monday, according to Chinese state news agency Xinhua.

“China will work with all the peace-loving countries, including Hungary, to make efforts to achieve an early ceasefire and lasting peace,” Wang stated during a meeting with Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó, Xinhua reported.

Wang, who was named Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s top foreign policy adviser last month, is due to arrive in Russia this week, a year after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Neither Russia nor China has specified whether Wang would meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin. However, on Monday, Russian spokesman Dmitry Peskov noted “we do not exclude a meeting” between Wang and Putin.

China’s Foreign Ministry announced earlier the visit to Moscow will provide an opportunity for China and Russia to continue to develop their strategic partnership and “exchange views” on “international and regional hotspot issues of shared interest.”

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Wang on Saturday in Munich, Germany, and warned “about the implications and consequences” if Beijing increases its support for Russia’s war effort, according to a US readout of the meeting.

On Monday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky warned China not to give any support to Russia, saying it could lead to another world war.

Japan pledges an additional $5.5 billion to Ukraine

Japan will provide an additional $5.5 billion (around 738 billion yen) in financial assistance to Ukraine, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced Monday, just days before the one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion.

“Japan is in a position to lead the world’s efforts to support Ukraine in its fight against Russian aggression and to uphold a free and open international order based on the rule of law,” Kishida said while speaking in Tokyo.

Japan had already pledged $600 million in financial assistance, millions worth of humanitarian aid and joined Western allies in imposing sanctions on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.

Kishida also added he will host an online summit of G7 leaders with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Friday, the day of the anniversary and ahead of the annual G7 summit in Hiroshima in May.

Ukraine says not to “overestimate” Russian capacity to produce weapons

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba asserted to not “overestimate” Russian capacity to produce weapons, as he urged allies to expand sanctions against entities producing Russian missiles.

Kuleba sat down with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour at the Munich Security Conference over the weekend for an interview that aired on CNN on Monday.

“Our partners have a tool in their hands to suppress this production, which is sanctions,” he said.

“For example, we proposed a very specific list of Russian entities involved in the productions of missiles. So put them on the sanctions, make their life even more complicated and suppress the production of missiles,” he added.

Addressing growing concerns in Europe that ammunition supplies are diminishing, Kuleba stated “there will never be enough ammunition as long as the war continues”.

“Yes, if you ask me what we need the most here and now, I’d artillery munitions. If you ask me [to] imagine that’s solved, what is next, I’d say Howitzers to use this ammunition,” the foreign minister noted.

“Businesses need contracts and to have contracts you need money. Therefore, if governments want to support Ukraine, they can finance their own companies by contracting their production of ammunition and other weapons, and that’s what we are working on,” Kuleba continued.

NATO chief: Putin is “not planning for peace” as war in Ukraine heads into its 2nd year

No one knows how the war in Ukraine will end, but “there is no sign” that Russian President Vladimir Putin “has changed his ambitions” as the invasion approaches the one-year mark this week, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said.

“We see the opposite. He’s not planning for peace. He’s planning for more war,” he told CNN at the Munich Security Conference.

“They are launching offensive operations already,” the NATO chief stated, pointing to fighting in eastern Ukraine, specifically the city of Bakhmut.

“Whether this is the big spring offensive or whether it’s just a kind of prelude to that, it’s a bit hard to tell. But they are pouring in more and more troops and more and more weapons,” he added.

Stoltenberg said Russia is trying to make up for poor equipment and logistics with more troops, something he described as “throwing just waves of people on the defensive lines,” a type of fighting that hasn’t been seen since World War I.

“If you don’t care so much about human lives then you just throw in more and more,” he added.

Stoltenberg noted while how the conflict will end is unclear, what he is sure of is the importance of western military support for Ukraine.

“If you want Ukraine to prevail as a sovereign nation and if you want a peaceful negotiated solution tomorrow, then you need to provide military support today,” he said, adding that the effectiveness of negotiations for Ukraine depends on “strength on the battlefield.”

Kyiv will be ready to respond to provocative actions by Russia around war anniversary: Ukrainian Air Force

The Ukrainian military will be “ready” to respond to any possible “provocative actions” by Russia around the anniversary of the February 2022 invasion of Ukraine, Yurii Ihnat, spokesperson for the Ukrainian Air Force Command, told CNN on Monday.

The official didn’t elaborate on any possible specific threats, but said if the Russians engage in some sort of “provocative actions” on February 23, 24 or 25, the Ukrainian Air Force is “on stand-by 24/7, our job is to be ready at all times.”

Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022. February 23 is celebrated in Russia as Defender of the Fatherland Day.

China says US “is not qualified to lecture” on supplying arms to Russia

China’s Foreign Ministry on Monday said the United States “is not qualified to lecture” on the supplying of arms amid concerns from US officials that Beijing is considering providing “lethal support” to Russia’s military.

Speaking to reporters, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin stated: “It is the US side, not the Chinese side, that supplies a steady stream of weapons to the battlefield.”

“The US side is not qualified to lecture China, and we would never accept the US dictating or even coercing pressure on Sino-Russian relations,” he added.

“Who is calling for dialogue and peace and who is handing out knives and encouraging confrontation?” he continued.

Wang added that China continues to “urge peace and promote talks” to resolve the conflict in Ukraine and that it stands firmly on “playing a constructive role in promoting the de-escalation and cooling down the situation.”

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Sunday he has concerns that Beijing is considering stepping up its partnership with Moscow by supplying Russia’s military with “lethal support.” Blinken raised the issue when he met with China’s top diplomat Wang Yi on Saturday, officials announced.

The US has begun seeing “disturbing” trendlines of late in China’s support for Russia’s military, and there are signs that Beijing wants to “creep up to the line” of providing lethal military aid to Russia without getting caught, according to US officials familiar with the intelligence.

The officials would not describe in detail what intelligence the US has seen suggesting a recent shift in China’s posture but said US officials have been concerned enough that they shared the intelligence with allies and partners.

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