Saturday, April 13, 2024

Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 379: Russian shelling targets several regions across Ukraine

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

Air raid alerts activated for entire territory of Ukraine

Air raid alarms are in place Thursday for the entire territory of Ukraine, the country’s emergency air alarms map shows.

The move comes after at least 11 people were killed and over 20 injured in missile strikes across Ukraine overnight Thursday.

Russia targeted critical infrastructure with more than 80 missiles.

The overnight strikes constitute “an attack like I don’t remember seeing before,” stated a spokesman for the Ukrainian air force on Thursday.

“As you can see, the attack is really large-scale and for the first time using such different types of missiles,” said Yurii Ihnat, spokesman for the Air Force Command of Ukraine, on Ukrainian television.

Ukraine’s PM calls for more weapons and sanctions against Russia after overnight attacks

Ukraine’s Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal called on Western allies to supply more weapons to Ukraine and impose more sanctions on Russia, following overnight Russian attacks that killed at least 11 people and over 20 injured across the country.

“Residential buildings have been hit. There are casualties. We need more weapons and more sanctions to stop the aggressor,” he said in a series of Twitter posts.

Noting that the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) was also impacted by the strikes — the sixth time since Russia launched its invasion — Shmyhal urged the UN nuclear watchdog International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to “take decisive action” to stop Russia’s “nuclear terrorism.”

At least 11 killed in overnight Russian strikes across Ukraine: Regional authorities

Russia’s overnight strikes have killed at least 11 people and left 22 injured, according to local officials.

As the assault continued into the early hours of Thursday morning, 81 missiles were fired into multiple Ukrainian regions including the nation’s capital, Kyiv, injuring three.

Ukraine is a “battle lab” for testing Iranian weapons outside of Middle East: Senior US defense official

Ukraine is becoming a “battle lab” for testing Iranian weapons outside of the Middle East, a senior US defense official claimed Thursday.

This comes ahead of US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin’s visit to Israel where Iranian-Russian military cooperation will be on the agenda.

“Everyone should be preparing for what the threat scenarios look like when Iran takes the tactics, techniques and procedures it learned in Ukraine and starts to use those coercive tactics here,” the official said in reference to the Middle East.

The official added that Russia is willing to transfer advanced technology to Iran in order to receive Iranian “lethal aid.”

“Difficult night” across Ukraine after Russian air strikes on “residential buildings”: Zelensky

It has been a “difficult night” in Ukraine as Russian forces launched a barrage of missiles on several regions, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a Facebook message on Thursday.

The Ukrainian president claims Russian missiles hit “critical infrastructure and residential buildings” across Kyiv, Kirovohrad, Dnipro, Odesa, Kharkiv, Zaporizhzhia, Lviv, Ivano-Frankivsk, Zhytomyr and the Vinnytsia regions.

“Unfortunately, there are injured and dead. My condolences to the families,” Zelensky stated.

The president added the Russian assault was “an attempt to intimidate Ukrainians again, returning to their miserable tactics. The occupiers can only terrorize civilians. That’s all they can do. But it won’t help them. They won’t avoid responsibility for everything they have done.”

Following the strikes 15% of the capital went without electricity temporarily, Mayor Vitali Klitschko said earlier on Telegram.

Zelensky has since confirmed that “all services” are now working, adding, “The energy system is being restored.”

Kremlin says report linking pro-Ukrainian group to Nord Stream pipeline explosions is “hard to believe”

A media report that a “pro-Ukrainian” group may have been behind last year’s attack on the Nord Stream gas pipeline is “hard to believe,” the Kremlin said Thursday.

“As for some pro-Ukrainian ‘doctor evil’ who organized this, it’s hard to believe,” Russian spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters on a daily call.

“It was too difficult a task that only a well-trained special state service could handle. There aren’t many of them in our world,” he said.

“We continue to demand a prompt and transparent investigation,” Peskov continued.

Moscow will demand to be admitted to the investigation, he added, calling the theory that Russia was involved in the explosions “completely unfounded and unsubstantiated.”

“Now, no matter what happens, Russia is the first to be blamed. Of course, this hoax does not stand up to scrutiny. It is completely unfounded and unsubstantiated, absurd in nature,” he stated.

Ukraine has denied any involvement in the sabotage of the Nord Stream pipelines following a media report citing new intelligence that a “pro-Ukrainian group” may have been behind the attack.

Mystery has surrounded who might be responsible for the brazen sabotage last September which damaged two pipes transporting Russian gas into the European Union and targeted a crucial source of revenue for Moscow.

Both pipelines were closed at the time of the attack, which came months after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Russia launched 81 missiles at Ukraine overnight: Ukrainian military chief

Russia fired 81 missiles of various types overnight into Thursday as it launched a fresh deadly onslaught against Ukraine, the head of the Ukrainian military stated.

Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces Gen. Valerii Zaluzhnyi said the missiles targeted critical infrastructure.

The missiles included:

  • 28 X-101/X-555 air-launched cruise missiles;
  • 20 Kalibr sea-launched cruise missiles;
  • 6 X-22 air-launched cruise missiles;
  • 6 X-47 Kinzhal air-launched cruise missiles;
  • 8 guided aircraft missiles — 2 X-31P and 6 X-59;
  • 13 S-300 anti-aircraft guided missiles.

In addition, eight launches of drones were carried out, he noted.

He added Ukrainian forces destroyed 34 out of 48 X-101/X-555, “Kalibr” cruise missiles, eight X-31P and X-59 guided missiles, and four drones.

Death toll in Lviv missile strike rises to 5

At least five people have now been confirmed dead in Lviv following a Russian missile strike Thursday, according to officials in the the western Ukrainian city.

Maksym Kozytskyi, head of the Lviv regional military administration, said the fifth victim was a man who was found under the rubble after the strike in a residential area in the city’s Zolochiv district

Ukrainian officials reported earlier that at least two people were injured in the capital Kyiv after Russian strikes targeted energy facilities in at least seven regions across Ukraine on Thursday.

Russian shelling targets at least 7 regions across Ukraine

Russian shelling targeted energy facilities in at least seven regions across Ukraine early on Thursday, Ukrainian Energy Minister Herman Halushchenko said on Telegram.

Halushchenko stated Kyiv, Mykolaiv, Kharkiv, Zaporizhzhia, Odesa, Dnipro and Zhytomyr were hit in the strikes.

Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant “completely disconnected” from power grid again: Officials

The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant has once again been “completely disconnected” from Ukraine’s power grid due to Russian shelling, state energy company Energoatom said on Telegram Thursday.

“Currently, the plant is disconnected and in blackout mode for the sixth time during the occupation, Units 5 and 6 are being put into cold shutdown, and 18 diesel generators have been switched on to power the plant’s own needs,” the post read, adding the plant has enough fuel to operate for 10 days.

The plant sits in the Russian-occupied part of the Zaporizhzhia region and is the largest in Europe. It has been held by Russian forces for some 12 months but is operated by its Ukrainian staff.

The facility’s latest disconnection from the power grid Thursday comes as officials across Ukraine reported Russian missile attacks targeting energy infrastructure.

“In addition, all domestic nuclear power plants located on the territory controlled by Ukraine have discharged their power due to the threat of missile attacks,” the Energoatom statement said.

At least 4 killed in Lviv after Russian missile strike

At least four people were killed following a Russian missile strike that hit a residential area in the Zolochiv district in Lviv on Thursday, the head of the Lviv regional military administration Maksym Kozytskyi said.

“At the moment, we know about four dead. These are four adults. Two men and two women. They were at home when the missile hit,” he continued, adding, “The rubble is still being dismantled. There may be other people under them.”

Kozytskyi stated the fire destroyed three residential buildings and had since been extinguished.

Ukrainian officials reported earlier that at least two people were killed in Kyiv after Russian shelling targeted energy facilities in at least seven regions across Ukraine on Thursday.

Explosions reported in southwestern Kyiv: Mayor

Explosions were heard in southwestern Kyiv on Thursday, Mayor Vitali Klitschko said on his official Telegram account.

“There were explosions in the Holosiivskyi district of the capital. All response teams have been dispatched to the scene. Update to come,” the post read.

At least two people were killed in Kyiv and about 15% of the capital was without electricity following the strikes, Mayor Vitali Klitschko wrote on Telegram.

Missiles slam the Odesa and Khmelnytskyi regions as explosions are reported in Kharkiv

Missiles struck the Odesa region’s energy infrastructure and damaged residential buildings early Thursday, according to Maxim Marchenko, head of the Odesa regional military administration.

“Fortunately, there were no casualties. Power supply is currently being restricted. Our air defense units have shot down missiles,” Marchenko said in a Telegram post, adding that a second wave could hit and residents should stay sheltering.

Northwest of Odesa, missiles also struck in the Khmelnytskyi region.

“Remain in your shelters! The enemy is striking the country’s critical infrastructure. Take care of yourself and your loved ones!” Serhiy Hamaliy, the head of the Khmelnytskyi region military administration, said in a Telegram post.

In Kharkiv, Mayor Ihor Terekhov stated there was a series of explosions.

“I don’t have details yet, but I ask that everyone be careful,” he wrote on Telegram, adding, “Our energy infrastructure is in the crosshairs. We are having problems with electricity in some parts of Kharkiv. But we will survive and everything will be repaired.”

Oleh Syniehubov, head of Kharkiv’s military administration, wrote there were at least 15 strikes.

“There is a threat of repeat strikes! Stay in your shelters!” he wrote.

Zelensky says he won’t meet with Putin because Russian leader can’t be trusted

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky can’t currently envisage a situation in which he would meet Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

“We don’t have any circumstances to talk to the Russian Federation president because he doesn’t hold his word,” Zelensky said to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer when asked what it would take to set up such a meeting.

“We don’t have any confidence in him,” Zelensky added.

“Russia should leave our territory. And after that, we’re happy to join the diplomatic tools. In order to do that, we can find any format with our partners just after that,” he continued.

The Ukrainian leader also spoke about how he and his family are dealing with the war, which is now in its second year.

“My daughter joined the university and she studies there, and my son is attending school in Ukraine,” he said, adding, “They’re both in Ukraine. They’re very much like other Ukrainian kids. We live with sirens.”

“We want victory. We don’t want to get used to war, but we got used to the challenges. Everyone wants one thing — to end the war,” he stated.

White House official says US focus is on providing weaponry that Ukraine needs now

The US is focused on providing Ukraine with the necessities: artillery, armor, ammunition and air defense, said John Kirby, the White House national security spokesman, when asked about sending F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine.

“What we’re focused on right now quite frankly, Wolf, is the kind of fighting that we expect that the Ukrainians will be doing in the weeks and months ahead here as the weather improves,” Kirby told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.

“And this is based on their assessment of the fighting that they’re going to be doing in the weeks and months ahead,” he added.

He stated Ukrainians are using the air defense systems they currently have “quite effectively.”

He noted the Russians “have not achieved anything near, or even approaching, air superiority over the skies of Ukraine” and attributed it to the support provided to Ukraine by the US and its allies.

Fighter jets could decide a Ukrainian victory: Zelensky

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer he is “very grateful” for US President Joe Biden’s visit to Ukraine last month.

“It’s an important signal to the whole world that the US is supporting us. And I think that US believe that we will prevail,” Zelensky said.

But on the question of whether the US will send Ukraine F-16 fighter jets to help the battle for control in the skies, he stated, “The fighter jets issue is difficult. We’re waiting for this decision to be taken.”

“We really need this and really appeal to the president that they could start training Ukrainian pilots, and President Biden told me that it will be worked upon … I believe that the United States will give us the opportunity to defend our skies,” the president added.

Asked if the supply of Western jets will “make or break” a Ukrainian success in the war, Zelensky said: “Yes, we believe so.”

Recalling a discussion with Biden over jets, Zelensky noted Biden and his aides felt jets “were not needed” at the moment.

“And I said, ‘No, we need those jets,'” Zelensky continued.

“What fighter jets could do, they could help us to defend ourselves,” Zelensky stated, adding, “That’s why we need it urgently.”

The US is working with Ukrainian pilots in the United States to determine how long it would take to train them to fly F-16 fighter jets, three sources briefed on the matter told CNN.

Two Ukrainian pilots are currently at a military base in the US having their skills tested in flight simulators to see how much time they would need to learn to fly various US military aircraft, including F-16s.

A US military official added that “there are no updates to provide regarding F-16s to Ukraine” and there are no immediate plans to increase the number of Ukrainian pilots in the US.

EU defense ministers call for plans to support Ukraine with ammunition

The European Union is “at the decisive moment now” for the bloc’s support to Ukraine, its Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton said Wednesday.

Speaking at the EU defense ministers meeting in Stockholm, Breton urged that “it is absolutely mandatory that we move towards a sort of war economy mode in terms of supply and defense industry.”

“We need to do whatever it takes to supply Ukraine, especially with ammunitions,” he added.

The EU’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, called for EU defense leaders to work on a standard procurement scheme in the short term and increase defense capacity in the long term.

In a separate interview with CNN Wednesday, Borrell’s spokesperson Peter Stano said the EU’s top diplomat proposes that the bloc spend $1 billion on joint procurement of “crucially needed” ammunition for Ukraine.

“Right now, at this particular point, the ammunition is something the Ukrainians are needing most,” Stano added.

During the meeting, Swedish Defense Minister Pal Jonson echoed Borrell’s called for a plan, saying, “The Ukrainians direly need the ammunition in order to continue this war. And the other aspect of it is that we have to ramp up production in Europe.”

“There are some talks about the EDA (European Defence Agency). I think it’s very important that the European Defence Agency has a coordinating role. There are also being proposals launched,” Jonson continued.

Meanwhile, Estonian Defense Minister Hanno Pevkur urged leaders to make sure they are not “digging into the bureaucracy,” adding that “the aim is 1,000,000 rounds for Ukraine.”

US intelligence report: Moscow has “increased its reliance on nuclear weapons” due to losses in Ukraine

As Russia deals with “extensive damage” from its war in Ukraine, Moscow will grow more dependent on its nuclear, cyber and space capabilities, US intelligence agencies said in their unclassified annual threat assessment report.

Heavy losses on the battlefield in Ukraine “have degraded Moscow’s ground and air-based conventional capabilities and increased its reliance on nuclear weapons,” the Office of the Director of National Intelligence said in the report, which intelligence officials testified on before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday.

“Although its cyber activity surrounding the war fell short of the pace and impact we had expected, Russia will remain a top cyber threat as it refines and employs its espionage, influence, and attack capabilities,” according to the report.

Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines called Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “nuclear saber-rattling” an attempt to “deter the West from providing additional support to Ukraine.”

“He probably will still remain confident that Russia can eventually militarily defeat Ukraine and wants to prevent Western support from tipping the balance and forcing a conflict with NATO,” she said before Congress on Wednesday.

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