Saturday, April 20, 2024

Live Update: Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 375

Russia, wary of NATO’s eastward expansion, began a military campaign in Ukraine on February 24, 2022 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:

Russia is in ‘trouble’ over shell shortage: Wagner boss

Russia is facing an ammunition shortage, the leader of the Wagner Group said as he warned that the Bakhmut frontline would “crumble” if he withdrew his troops.

In a video posted on Twitter, Yevgeny Prigozhin stated: “[If Wagner rolls back] it is clear that the front will crumble – it will fall apart up to the Russian borders, and maybe even further.”

He added the pay disputes could lead to situation where his mercenaries withdrew and the Government would be “forced to explain to the Russian people why we are in such trouble”.

He further described Wagner as “the cement” which is preventing the Ukrainians from breaking through Russian lines.

Prigozhin has historically been a key Vladimir Putin ally, but tensions between them have appeared during the war regarding the extent to which the Russian offensive relies on the private mercenary group.

Woman and two children killed in mortar shelling in Kherson: Ukraine official

A woman and two children were killed in Russian mortar shelling of a village in the southern Ukrainian region of Kherson, the head of Ukraine’s presidential office said on Sunday.

“Mortar shelling of Poniativka village in Kherson region. A private house was hit,” Andriy Yermak wrote on the Telegram messaging app.

“Russian terrorists continue to kill civilians,” he added, providing no additional details of the attack.

Kherson was occupied by Russian troops from the early days of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine until its recapture by Kyiv’s forces in November.

Since its liberation, the city has regularly been shelled from Russian positions across the Dnipro river.

At least 13,000 children deported to Russia: Ukrainian MP

A Ukrainian MP has told Sky News that at least 13,000 children had been taken from Ukraine to Russia since the war began – and there could be tens of thousands more.

Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze said: “Some of them have been taken to so-called summer camps or vacation camps for a week, then never returned. And some of them were even given already for adoption to Russian families as if they didn’t have their own families back in Ukraine.”

Russia claims that it has “evacuated” more than 700,000 children, but Ukrainian officials have described it as abduction. Ukrainian estimates of numbers are far lower, but still as many as a few hundred thousand.

The Sunday Times today reported the story of a single mother in Kherson who was told to present her daughter for a summer camp in Russian-held Crimea, along with her documentation. Instead of returning after two weeks she was told the child had been moved to another camp, but she has not seen her daughter since September.

Russia will ‘run out of weapons by end of Spring’

Ukrainian intelligence believes that the Russian army will run out of military tools by the end of this Spring, its spy chief said in an interview with USA Today.

Kyrylo Budanov stated “Russia has wasted huge amounts of human resources, armaments and materials. Its economy and production are not able to cover these losses. It’s changed its military chain of command.”

USA Today reported Budanov did not evidence these claims, although other military analysts and even Yevgeny Prigozhin, a key Vladimir Putin ally, have also suggested that Russia is running low on munitions.

Sending fighter jets to Ukraine ‘only a question of time’: Latvian PM

Western states delivering fighter jets to support Ukraine defending itself against Russia is “only a question of time”, Latvia’s prime minister has said.

Speaking to German news magazine Der Spiegel, Krišjānis Kariņš stated his own country would not hesitate to send jets to Kyiv “if we had any.”

“The delivery of fighter jets is only a question of time”, said US-born Kariņš, of the centre-right New Unity party.

“I don’t see why the west shouldn’t deliver fighter jets. If Ukraine needs fighter jets, it should get them,” he added.

In the wake of Russia’s war of aggression, Latvia has decided to back compulsory military service for men aged 18 to 27 for the first time since 2007.

In the interview Kariņš indicated he would welcome similar moves in other European countries.

“Across the whole of Europe we need a lot more reservists: trained people who can be deployed at the shortest notice,” he continued.

Turkey working on extension of grain deal

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Sunday that Ankara is working hard to extend a UN-backed initiative that has enabled Ukraine to export grain from ports blockaded by Russia.

The deal was brokered last year and enables Ukrainian grain to be shipped out of the country, but it is due to expire on March 18 unless an extension can be agreed.

Speaking a UN conference in Doha, Qatar, Cavusoglu stated, “We are working hard for the smooth implementation and further extension of the Black Sea grain deal.”

Earlier in the week, Russia announced it would only agree to an extension if the interests of its own farmers are accounted for.

Trump vows to end Ukraine conflict in 24 hours

President Joe Biden is leading the United States “into oblivion,” Donald Trump told the Conservative Political Action Conference in Maryland on Saturday, promising to stop wasting US taxpayer money on “stupid” foreign wars as he rallies support for a potential political comeback in 2024.

“I was the only president in decades that didn’t have a war,” Trump said in his nearly two-hour long speech at the annual conservative gathering at Gaylord National Resort, claiming that if he was in office right now, “Ukraine would have been thriving, there would have been no dead people, no obliterated cities that can never be rebuilt.”

Last month, Trump promised to immediately call Moscow and Kiev, if re-elected, insisting he knows exactly what to tell Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky to stop the conflict.

“I know what to say,” he reiterated on Saturday.

“Before I arrive in the Oval Office, I will have the disastrous war between Russia and Ukraine ended… I will get the problem solved and I will get it solved in rapid order and it will take me no longer than one day,” the former president added.

At the same time, Trump blasted Biden for wasting billions of US taxpayer dollars instead of forcing Washington’s European allies to bankroll Kiev.

“Is NATO putting up dollar for dollar with us?” he said, adding, “We put up $140 billion and they put up just a tiny fraction of that. And you know, we all want to see success, but it’s far more important to them than it is to us because of that location.”

“We are never going back to a party that wants to give unlimited money to fight foreign wars that are endless wars, that are stupid,” Trump proclaimed.

Trump warned Americans that they are facing the “most dangerous time in our country’s history, and Joe Biden is leading us into oblivion,” claiming that the world will soon plunge into WWIII unless “something doesn’t happen fast.”

“I am the only candidate who can make this promise: I will prevent world war three,” he stated.

Death toll in Zaporizhzhia flats blast rises to 13

Nezta, the eastern European news agency, reported on Sunday that 13 people have died after a missile strike on an apartment block in the city on Thursday morning.

Last night, the death toll stood at 11.

On Saturday, the bodies of an eight-month old baby and her family were found in the rubble.

Zelensky eyes start of Ukraine-EU accession talks this year

Speaking at a meeting with European Parliament President Roberta Metsola in Lviv, President Volodymyr Zelensky said Ukraine is working to fulfil recommendations to join the European Union.

“Ukraine is working to complete the implementation of the recommendations of the European Commission as soon as possible and begin negotiations on joining the EU this year,” he stated.

Metsola reassured Zelensky of EU’s support in the war against Russia.

In a tweet, she said, “Together in Ukraine again. For Ukraine. For Europe. For peace. For freedom. For justice. For all our people.”

Ukrainian deputy commander: “Every hour in Bakhmut is like hell” but Ukraine has stabilized front line

The front line in Bakhmut has been stabilized over the past few days by Ukrainian troops, despite intense and ongoing attacks by Russian forces, a deputy commander in the National Guard of Ukraine said Saturday.

According to the Svoboda battalion’s Volodymyr Nazarenko, Russian forces have not crossed the Bakhmutka River, and the city center remains under control of Ukrainian forces.

“Every hour in Bakhmut is like hell. The enemy had successes in the north, northwest of Bakhmut a week ago. Ukrainian soldiers are fighting back. Over the past few days, the front line has been stabilized thanks to our hard work and efforts,” Nazarenko told Ukrainian broadcaster Kyiv24.

Near the village of Ivanivske, southwest of Bakhmut, “the Kostiantynivka-Bakhmut road is under the control of Ukrainian forces. They are doing this with enormous efforts,” he continued.

Russian forces lack ammunition and are resorting to “chaotic shelling” and are attempting to bomb supply lines. Moscow’s troops, however, still have more ammunition than the Ukrainians, he added.

Kyiv says it will use seized Russian assets to rebuild country and compensate Ukrainians

Ukraine is planning to use more than $460 million worth of assets seized from Russian banks to rebuild the country and compensate Ukrainians, Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said at a conference in Lviv Saturday.

In a Facebook post about the conference, Shmyhal stated Ukraine is developing procedures for using the confiscated assets to help Ukrainian citizens and their communities recover in the wake of Russia’s invasion.

The government is working with allies to develop a system based on an international treaty, which will help decide how to issue reparations to Ukrainians.

The system will include an international register of losses from the war, a commission to consider applications for compensation and a fund from which compensation will be paid.

The prime minister also added that Ukraine is using billions of dollars worth of assistance from the United States and European Union to rapidly restore the country’s battered energy infrastructure and other ailing sectors.

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