Saturday, April 20, 2024

Live Update: Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 365

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:

Moscow has fired 5,000 missiles since war began: Kyiv

Russia has fired more than 5,000 missiles on Ukraine since the war began just under a year ago, with more than 1,000 strikes made by drones, according to Ukrainian army officials.

Oleksiy Gromov, Deputy Chief of the Main Operational Directorate of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, revealed that his country had come under attack from 3,500 separate air attacks.

“In general, since the beginning of the full-scale armed aggression by the Russian occupying forces, almost 5,000 missile and almost 3,500 air strikes have been carried out on objects in the territory of Ukraine,” he said, according to Pravda Ukraine.

Gromov also added that due to the beginning of the “high-precision missile starvation”, Russian troops are using Kh-22 air-based anti-ship cruise missiles – so-called “carrier killers” – to destroy the residential buildings in Ukraine.

Zelensky says Ukraine will ‘prevail’ ahead of anniversary

Ukraine “will prevail” over Russian forces, President Volodymyr Zelensky has said, a day before the first anniversary of Moscow’s invasion of his country.

“We have not broken down, we have overcome many ordeals and we will prevail. We will hold to account all those who brought this evil, this war to our land,” Zelensky noted on Thursday.

Ukraine imposes 50-year sanctions on Russian financial sector

Ukraine’s parliament has imposed sweeping 50-year sanctions on Russian financial institutions including the central bank, all commercial banks, investment funds, insurers and other enterprises.

“It is a complete block on financial institutions of the Russian Federation accessing markets and assets in Ukraine. A complete block,” Andriy Pyshnyy, governor of the National Bank of Ukraine, said on Facebook.

“We should weaken it with all available means. It is the financial sector which is a strategic ‘donor’ of this war,” Pyshnyy added.

An overwhelming majority of 325 deputies voted to support the measures, intended to be in place for half a century.

Economy Minister Yulia Svyrydenko stated the sectoral sanctions would affect hundreds of banks and tens of thousands of financial institutions registered in Russia.

The measures include a ban on transactions with assets owned by the Russian Federation’s financial institutions, a ban on establishing business relations and a ban on transactions and investments in Russian financial institutions, Svyrydenko continued.

G7 urges IMF to deliver Ukraine funding package by end-March: Statement

Group of Seven finance ministers has urged the International Monetary Fund to deliver a new aid package to Ukraine by the end of March, according to a statement.

“(We) urge the IMF and Ukraine to deliver a credible, ambitious, fully financed and appropriately conditioned IMF program by the end of March 2023,” the G7 statement, released after a meeting in India, said.

Russia intensifying fighting to deplete Ukrainian forces: Ukrainian military

Ukrainian Brigadier General Oleksiy Gromov has told a briefing that Russia is stepping up fighting to wear down Ukrainian units.

“The enemy, having an advantage in the resource of human mobilisation, is deliberately intensifying hostilities in an effort to deplete the units of the armed forces of Ukraine,” Gromov said.

He stated the fiercest fighting was taking place on Thursday around the eastern city of Bakhmut, as Russia seeks to reach its goal of capturing the whole of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions by summer.

“In the short term, it is important for the Kremlin to capture the key settlements in the Donetsk region, and in the future to capture (all of) the Donetsk and Luhansk regions before the summer,” he added.

Kyiv has announced Russia is suffering heavy casualties as it throws recently mobilised troops into battle, but Gromov noted Moscow was using better-prepared soldiers from regular units in the already months-long battle for Bakhmut.

Four arrests after Ukrainian flag painted outside Russian embassy

Four people have been arrested after campaign group Led By Donkeys painted a Ukrainian flag on the road outside the Russian Embassy in London.

The Metropolitan Police announced three males and one female had been arrested on suspicion of criminal damage and obstructing the highway.

“At 08:45 today officers attended Kensington Palace Gardens, where paint had been thrown on the highway,” the Met said in a tweet, adding, “Four people, three males and one female, were arrested on suspicion of criminal damage and obstructing the highway.

“They remain in custody,” it noted.

Germany pushes to plug Russia sanction gaps

Germany will propose measures to close loopholes in EU sanctions against Moscow that are letting embargoed goods flow into Russia and feed its “war machine”, the economy ministry has said.

Export data has shown that embargoed goods are still arriving in Russia through third-party states despite the sanctions, the ministry added. Under its proposal, companies would have to submit declaration forms detailing the end use of exports to third-party nations of goods that are key for the “Russian war machine”.

“We are working together with our partners to ensure that deliberate violations of the obligation to submit truthful end-use declarations would in future be a criminal offence throughout Europe,” according to the proposal seen by AFP.

Russia’s defence spending to climb as revenues shrink: Report

Russia is clearly developing into a war economy, with spending on defence increasing and state revenues shrinking, the German Economic Institute (IW) has said in a report.

Russia will this year hike spending on internal and external security by 25 percent to 124.7 billion euros ($132.1bn), according to the report, to which Reuters had exclusive access and which cited projections that Russia’s state Duma signed off on in October.

Until 2025, this amount of defence spending is expected to remain constant, representing more than 14 percent of the budget, the IW added.

While defence spending rises, revenues are falling. Compared with 2022, revenues from oil and gas exports will decline by more than 20 percent due to Western sanctions imposed over the invasion of Ukraine, the IW reported. Russia had a budget deficit of almost 4 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2022, and in 2023 this percentage is likely to increase along with spending.

US Treasury secretary reiterates that China should not support Russia’s war or help Moscow evade sanctions

US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen reiterated the Joe Biden administration’s warning to China to not provide material support for Russia’s war effort in Ukraine or for any of Moscow’s efforts to evade sanctions.

“We have made clear that providing material support to Russia or assistance with any type of systemic sanctions evasion would be a very serious concern to us. And we will certainly continue to make clear to the Chinese government and to companies and banks in their jurisdiction about what the rules are regarding our sanctions and the serious consequences they would face for violating them,” Yellen said during a press conference as the G20 finance leaders gather in India on Thursday.

Yellen would not comment on the intelligence the US has on the matter.

“I really don’t want to characterize US intelligence with respect to sanctions violations,” she added.

Yellen’s remarks came on the heels of Russian President Vladimir Putin saying that relations between his country and China are “reaching new milestones” as Beijing’s top diplomat, Wang Yi, wrapped up a visit to Moscow on Wednesday.

Russian warplane crashes in Russia’s Belgorod region near Ukraine’s border

A Russian military aircraft crashed in Russia’s Belgorod region, the local governor said in a statement on Telegram Thursday.

Vyacheslav Gladkov stated an aircraft belonging to the Russian Ministry of Defense crashed in the Valuysky municipality, not far from the country’s border with Ukraine.

“An investigation team and employees of the Ministry of Emergency Situations are currently working on the ground,” Gladkov continued, adding, “The reason for the incident is being investigated. The situation is under control.”

The region borders Ukraine, and the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv lies across the border from the city of Belgorod.

Spain’s PM arrives in Kyiv for surprise visit to mark invasion anniversary

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez arrived in Kyiv on Thursday for a surprise visit marking the first anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

“I return to Kyiv a year after the start of the war. We will stand by Ukraine and its people until peace returns to Europe,” Sánchez wrote on Twitter, alongside a video of himself stepping off a train and greeting Ukrainian officials.

The trip — which was not listed on the Spanish leader’s official agenda for Thursday —follows a highly secretive visit by Joe Biden to the Ukrainian capital on Monday, in which the US President announced a half-billion dollars in new assistance for Kyiv.

Spain is among a number of NATO allies that have agreed to send modern tanks to Ukraine and has trained 800 Ukrainian troops in the Iberian country since the start of war, Madrid’s defense minister announced Wednesday.

Americans divided on who will win Ukraine war: Poll

Americans are nearly evenly split on whether Russia or Ukraine will eventually win the conflict between them as the war reaches its first anniversary, according to a new survey.

The Economist-YouGov poll found 26 percent of respondents think Russia will emerge victorious, while 27 percent think Ukraine will fend off its aggressor and secure an eventual win.

More than a third, or 34 percent, aren’t sure which nation will prevail, and 13 percent think both are equally likely to succeed.

When it comes to who is currently winning the conflict, a plurality of Americans, or 32 percent, think neither Russia nor Ukraine is currently ahead.

Twenty-four percent think Ukraine is winning, and 22 percent think Russia is up. Another 22 percent aren’t sure.

Americans still overwhelmingly favor Ukraine, with 69 percent sympathizing with Kyiv and just 6 percent sympathizing with Moscow. More than half, or 56 percent, see Russia as an enemy.

As the war’s first anniversary on Friday approaches, nearly a third of Americans, or 27 percent, think the war will end “more than a year from now,” a pessimistic change from just 10 percent who saw it lasting more than a year back in March.

Now 7 percent say they think the war will never end, and 35 percent aren’t sure.

Russia perceives events in Ukraine as war with west for survival: Envoy

Russia views the situation around Ukraine as a war with the collective West for survival, Russia’s Permanent Representative to the UN Vasily Nebenzya said at a special session on Ukraine of the UN General Assembly on Wednesday.

“As for our country, we see all of this as a war with the West for survival, for the future of our country, for our children, for our identity,” he added.

The diplomat pointed out that the West has been implementing its plan at least since 2014 while “Ukraine is nothing but a bargaining chip in this plot.”

Negotiations on settling the Ukrainian crisis should be held with Washington nowadays, not with Kiev, and Moscow is ready to seek a diplomatic solution, Nebenzya stated.

“The quest to resolve this entire situation fraught with the most negative consequences for all of mankind in the event of a direct confrontation between Russia and NATO should now be held not between Russia and Ukraine anymore but between Russia and the collective West, above all, with Washington which is behind the Kiev regime,” the diplomat continued.

“We are ready to seek a serious and long-term diplomatic solution to this crisis and have repeatedly stated this,” he added.

“Our opponents have not yet gotten over their futile illusions of defeating a nuclear power,” the envoy noted, stating, “This is why we also have to deal militarily with the factors that forced us to launch the special military operation a year ago,” he explained.

The West aspires to strategically defeat Russia, dismember and destroy it, Nebenzya stressed.

“The West that used to tell us lulling tales about some sort of partnership and cooperation has now completely laid bare its true identity. Any decency has been cast off, a goal is set to defeat our country strategically, dismember and destroy it by arming Ukraine,” he said.

The diplomat added that such plots “are being openly discussed in a number of East European capitals and at the European Parliament and corresponding slogans are being promoted by current American and European politicians.”

“For the sake of this goal, the West has been and is turning a blind eye to the revival of neo-Nazism and the glorification of Nazi criminals in Ukraine,” he stressed.

Talks on Ukraine possible if West, Kiev lay down arms: Russian senior diplomat

Talks on Ukraine may take place if Western countries and the Kiev regime lay down their arms and stop shelling Russian cities, Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Galuzin said in an interview with TASS.

“If the West and Kiev want to sit down at the negotiating table, they should, above all, stop bombarding Russian cities and lay down their arms. After that, it will be possible to hold a discussion based on new geopolitical realities,” the senior diplomat noted.

Earlier, Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that the West was not displaying any readiness for peace initiatives on the situation in Ukraine. Last October, Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky issued a decree banning any talks with Moscow stating that he was not interested in interacting with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.

Putin commits to strengthening Russia’s nuclear triad

President Vladimir Putin has committed to Russia strengthening its nuclear triad, a military force structure capable of launching three types of nuclear weapons.

“This year, the first Sarmat missile system launchers with the new heavy missile will be put on combat duty. We will continue full production of the Kinzhal air-launched hypersonic systems and begin mass deployment of Tsirkon sea-launched hypersonic missiles,” Putin said in a statement released to coincide with Thursday’s Fatherland Day celebrations.

“With the Borei-A nuclear-powered submarine Emperor Alexander III becoming operational in the Navy, the share of modern weapons and equipment in the naval strategic nuclear forces will reach 100 per cent. In the coming years, three more cruisers from this project will be delivered to the Navy,” he added.

Putin’s remarks for Fatherland Day — a Russian holiday designed to celebrate the country’s military achievements — went on to emphasize the reliance on a “modern and efficient Army and Navy.”

“Relying on actual combat experience, we will pursue balanced and high-quality development of all components of the Armed Forces, improve the system for training units. A solid foundation here is the soldiers, sergeants and officers who showed their worth in combat on the frontline,” Putin was quoted as saying.

He added that Russia’s military manufacturing industry was “quickly increasing production” as the government prioritizes investment in military hardware.

Pentagon warns of consequences for China if it provides lethal aid to Russia

Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh said Wednesday there “will be consequences for China” if it were to provide lethal military aid to Russia in its war against Ukraine.

“[W]e haven’t seen them give lethal aid to Russia at this time, for the war, but they haven’t also taken that off the table,” Singh said.

“And so we have been consistent from here, and I believe Secretary [of State Antony] Blinken also met with his counterpart in Germany just last week, we reinforced there that … there will be consequences for China should this partnership with Russia, further deepen,” she continued.

Singh added that China providing lethal aid to Russia in its war against Ukraine would “certainly be a miscalculation.”

Officials previously told CNN that there are signs Chinese officials want to “creep up to the line” of providing lethal military aid to Russia. The United States ambassador to the United Nations previously said that China doing so would be a red line.

Challenger tanks could arrive in Ukraine in the spring: British defense minister

Challenger 2 battle tanks could start to arrive in Ukraine in “the spring,” British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said in an interview with Reuters on Wednesday.

Britain could offer Ukraine more of its main battle tanks on top of the 14 already promised, but that would depend on the country’s defense needs, Wallace told the news agency.

Wallace was visiting a training site in southwest England where Ukrainian soldiers are learning to operate the tanks in combat conditions.

The UK defense ministry said in a statement that training was “continuing at pace” and would last several weeks.

“Ukrainians will continue to fight, and the UK, alongside our allies will not falter,” Wallace said. “We will continue to provide the capabilities needed to support Ukraine for as long as it takes,” he added.

Russians accused of crimes against humanity likely to “enjoy impunity” in Russia: US State Department

While Russians involved in crimes against humanity in the Ukraine war could be prosecuted before the war is over, the main challenge will be getting them in custody while they reside in Russia, US State Department said.

“While individuals remain within Russia, they will probably enjoy impunity because there is no international police force who can go and make those arrests,” stated Beth Van Schaack, State Department ambassador-at-large for global criminal justice.

Van Shaack added the US is “trying to support accountability wherever it is being pursued” without commenting on whether the US has shared its evidence used to determine the crimes against humanity.

A recent report funded by the department on at least 6,000 Ukrainian children being deported or trapped within Russia could show evidence of genocide, she said, adding that the US would continue to watch for other indications of genocide in Ukraine.

Air defense systems best solution to protect Ukraine’s energy infrastructure: Energy minister

Ukraine’s Energy Minister German Galushchenko on Wednesday pleaded with Kyiv’s allies for air defense systems to help protect the country’s energy system.

“The most important issue for the protection of our energy system is the air defense system. That is really what we ask our partners to support us with. We already got from our partners, but it’s very important especially from the United States…it allows our army to hit a lot of missiles that are supposed to target the energy infrastructure. That is the best solution for us,” he told CNN’s Becky Anderson in an interview on Wednesday.

The minister accused Russia of attacking Ukraine’s energy system daily since last October.

Around 50% of all energy systems in Ukraine have been hit by Russian attacks since the war began last year, he added.

Galushchenko stated the situation at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, which is currently occupied by Russian forces, is becoming “worse and worse,” but stressed that it’s still safe because of Ukrainian presence.

Zaporizhzhia, with six reactors, is the largest nuclear power station in Europe. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) maintains a team of three rotating experts to oversee operations at the plant.

The agency’s Director General Rafael Grossi on Tuesday called on Russia and Ukraine to facilitate this month’s rotation of independent experts at the plant, which has been delayed for more than two weeks. He said the situation there continues to be “dangerous and unpredictable.”

“Of course, the station is not in operation from September, but now it’s a very difficult situation for the Ukrainian staff which is still maintaining the security systems there,” the energy minister told CNN.

“(Ukrainian staff at the plant) are under pressure, the Russians beat them and torture the people…the Russian military is still there and they use the plant to attack the Ukrainian army, so they put heavy vehicles there which is quite a challenging situation,” he alleged.

There have been more than 800 attacks on Ukraine’s health facilities since Russia’s invasion: WHO chief

Ukraine has suffered at least 802 attacks on health care facilities, resulting in the deaths of 101 doctors and patients, World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus stated at a media briefing on Wednesday.

“The health consequences of this war have been devastating,” he said.”

Ghebreyesus added the war has exacerbated the need for mental health support, rehabilitation, treatment for diseases such as cancer, HIV and tuberculosis, and vaccines for measles, polio, pneumonia, and Covid-19.

Finance minister: Ukraine needs an extra $10 billion in financing

Ukraine Finance Minister Sergii Marchenko told CNN’s Julia Chatterley the country needs an extra $10 billion to cover its budget needs in 2023 and to start the reconstruction of the economy.

Marchenko met with Kristalina Georgieva, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund, in Kyiv on Monday which he called very productive.

He said, “now we see our relationship is quite stable and we are moving in the direction of a fully-fledged program with the IMF.”

Marchenko went on to say “we are ready to fulfill all requirements and conditions to be able to move on with the program.”

He added that would include necessary measures to stabilize the macroeconomic situation and to create an environment for fiscal responsibility.

He told CNN they agreed to start discussing the new program within weeks.

Ukrainian prosecutors identify 91 Russian soldiers involved in Bucha crimes

The Ukrainian Prosecutor General said his office has identified 91 Russian soldiers responsible for war crimes in Bucha.

“During the occupation, the Russian army committed more than 9,000 war crimes in the Bucha district of Kyiv region, and more than 1,700 civilians were killed, including about 700 in Bucha,” the office announced in a post on Twitter Wednesday.

“So far, 91 Russian military personnel involved in these crimes have been identified. The work on bringing all those involved to justice is ongoing,” it added.

Bucha is where the Ukrainian army found bodies of at least 20 civilians after liberating the suburb in early April. Some had their hands tied behind their backs.

“After the liberation, we found mass graves with tortured bodies of men, women, and children. Torture, murder, sexual violence,” Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin said, according to his office.

“This is the true face of the ‘Russian world’ and the regime of the Russian Federation, which is based on a complete disregard for the principles of human rights and humanitarian law,” he added.

“We count on your support in establishing an international tribunal to bring the Russian leadership to justice. Justice for the victims of war is justice for the world,” Kostin told a delegation from the US House of Representatives.

China pushes back on NATO concerns it could provide lethal support to Russia

China’s Foreign Ministry on Wednesday said the country was not considering sending lethal support to Moscow to use in its war in Ukraine, accusing the United States and NATO of spreading falsehoods about Beijing’s potential role in the conflict.

“The United States and other NATO countries are now constantly spreading that China may provide weapons to Russia, which is a ploy that was used and busted at the beginning of the Ukrainian crisis,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin stated at a regular press briefing on Wednesday.

His comments come after NATO’s Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg on Tuesday said the alliance is “increasingly concerned that China might be planning lethal support for Russia’s war.”

In his remarks Wednesday, Wang noted China urges NATO “to stop smearing China with unfounded speculations on Ukraine, abandon the old Cold War mentality of zero-sum game and bloc confrontation, and stop fomenting confrontation.”

Wang also claimed the US and other NATO countries are “the largest source of weapons to the battlefield of Ukraine.”

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with China’s top diplomat Wang Yi on Saturday 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.

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