Thursday, April 18, 2024

Live Update: Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 382

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:

Ukraine’s military claims to have repelled over 90 Russian assaults

Ukraine’s military repelled more than 92 Russian assaults in five areas over the past day, the general staff of Ukraine’s armed forces claimed in its morning briefing, the Kyiv Independent reported.

According to the general staff report, Russian forces are concentrating their efforts on conducting offensives toward Lyman, Bakhmut, Avdiivka, Mariinka, and Shakhtarsk in Donetsk oblast.

Amnesty slams Aramco for ‘surplus amassed’ by crisis, including Ukraine war

Amnesty International has criticised Saudi Aramco “record” profits, which the company said totalled $161.1bn last year.

“It is shocking for a company to make a profit of more than $161 billion in a single year through the sale of fossil fuel –- the single largest driver of the climate crisis,” Agnes Callamard, secretary-general of Amnesty International, said in a statement.

“It is all the more shocking because this surplus was amassed during a global cost-of-living crisis and aided by the increase in energy prices resulting from Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine,” Callamard added.

Global energy prices surged after Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022.

The mostly state-owned energy giant, the world’s second most valuable company behind Apple, said in a filing with the Saudi stock market that net income for 2022 was up 46 percent from $110bn in 2021.

The results — the strongest since Aramco became a listed company in 2019 —  were “predominantly due to the impact of higher crude oil prices and volumes sold, and stronger refining margins,” it added.

Turkish minister believes Black Sea grain deal will be extended

Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar has said he believes that a deal allowing Ukrainian grain to be exported via the Black Sea will be extended from its current March 18 deadline.

The deal was extended for 120 days in November and will renew on March 18 if no party objects. However, Moscow has already signalled it will only agree to an extension if restrictions affecting its own exports are lifted.

Turkey has announced previously that it is working hard to extend the deal.

“In separate talks with the Russian and Ukrainian sides, we saw that both sides are approaching this positively. We believe it will conclude positively,” Akar said in an interview with state-owned Anadolu Agency.

Russian advance stalls in Ukraine’s Bakhmut: Report

Russia’s advance seems to have stalled in Moscow’s campaign to capture the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, according to a leading think tank said in an assessment of the longest ground battle of the war.

The Washington-based Institute for the Study of War said there were no confirmed advances by Russian forces in Bakhmut.

Russian forces and units from the Kremlin-controlled paramilitary Wagner Group continued to launch ground attacks in the city, but there was no evidence that they were able to make any progress, ISW added.

Ukraine slams decision to reject Zelensky’s Oscars speech request

Ukrainian foreign minister “sharply” has criticised the decision to reject President Volodymyr Zelensky’s request to speak at the Oscars ceremony, according to a report.

“The decision not to invite Zelensky to deliver a speech during the Oscars ceremony, where one of the leading Best Foreign Language Film nominees is an anti-war Picture, is highly hypocritical,” Dmytro Kuleba said in an interview with Germany’s Bild am Sonntag newspaper.

Ukraine readies for counteroffensive in Bakhmut: Commander

A top Ukrainian commander has said his forces’ ongoing defence of Bakhmut in the face of fierce and sustained Russian attacks was necessary to “buy time” for a planned counteroffensive.

“The real heroes now are the defenders who are holding the eastern front on their shoulders, and inflicting the heaviest possible losses, sparing neither themselves nor the enemy,” the commander of Ukraine’s ground forces, Oleksandr Syrsky, stated.

President defends position on ban to transfer Swiss arms to Ukraine

Swiss neutrality is more important than ever, President Alain Berset has said, defending the  controversial ban on transferring Swiss-made arms to Ukraine.

“Swiss weapons must not be used in wars,” he told the NZZ am Sonntag weekly.

The long tradition of neutrality has been hotly debated since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

Despite pressure from Kyiv and its allies, Switzerland has continued to block countries that hold Swiss-made weaponry from re-exporting it to Ukraine.

To date, requests from Germany, Spain and Denmark have ben rejected under the War Materiel Act, which bars all re-export if the recipient country is in an international armed conflict.

Berset told NZZ the policy was based on “commitment to peace, to humanitarian law, to mediation where possible”.

Russia says it has not taken part in grain deal renewal talks

Russia’s foreign ministry has announced that Russian representatives had not yet taken part in negotiations on extending the Black Sea grain deal.

“There have been no negotiations on this subject, especially with the participation of Russian representatives,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said.

The next round of talks on extending the deal will be held in Geneva on March 13 between Russia’s delegation and top United Nations trade official Rebeca Grynspan, Zakharova added.

Ukraine Deputy PM stresses human cost of Russian attack on Bakhmut

Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Olga Stefanishyna has said that the high human cost of Russia’s assault on Bakhmut.

“Thousands of Russian soldiers died at a considerable rate in this battle,” she stated in an interview with the French newspaper Journal du Dimanche.

“The human mass of its infantry is a formidable weapon, it seems inexhaustible in volume and in time,” she continued.

However, even if it did capture the “small town”, she added, “it will not impact the strategic corridors we still control in the region”.

Switzerland dismantling missiles instead of sending them to Ukraine: Report

Switzerland is scrapping outdated Rapier surface-to-air missiles that could have been used by Ukraine to shoot down low-flying targets, Swiss newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung reports.

A spokesperson for the Swiss Federal Office for Defence Procurement (Armasuisse) said that all Rapier short-range anti-aircraft missile systems would be dismantled, NZZ reported on Saturday.

The Swiss government prohibits countries that purchase Swiss arms from re-exporting them without permission. In February, the Swiss government refused to let Spain transfer Swiss-made anti-aircraft guns to Ukraine.

Ukraine FM urges Germany to send more ammunition, train up pilots

Ukraine’s foreign minister has urged Germany to speed up supplies of ammunition and to start training Ukrainian pilots on Western fighter jets.

Dmytro Kuleba told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper in an interview that ammunition shortages were the “number one” problem in Ukraine’s fight against Russia.

He added German weapons manufacturers had told him at the Munich Security Conference last month they were ready to deliver but were waiting for the government to sign contracts.

“So the problem lies with the government,” Kuleba was quoted as saying.

Russia says about 210 Ukrainian soldiers killed in Donetsk region

Russia’s defence ministry announced that up to 210 Ukrainian soldiers were killed in the Donetsk region, where clashes have been ongoing.

Moscow did not specify the casualties in Bakhmut, the eastern Donetsk town, now nearly deserted.

Over 500 pro-Russia troops killed, injured in Bakhmut: Kyiv

Serhiy Cherevatyi, a Ukrainian military spokesperson, has said that 221 pro-Moscow troops were killed in the clashes in the contested city of Bakhmut.

The official added that more than 300 troops were injured in the fighting in the city.

Over 40 missiles have hit the city of Kharkiv since the beginning of 2023: Zelensky

More than 40 missiles have hit the northeastern city of Kharkiv since the beginning of the year, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his nightly address on Saturday.

“Only since the beginning of this year – in less than two-and-a-half months – over 40 enemy missiles have already struck Kharkiv,” Zelensky stated, calling the resulting “ruins, debris, shell holes in the ground” a self-portrait of Russia.

Oleh Synehubov, the head of the Kharkiv region military administration, said Saturday that engineers were working to restore power to thousands of customers in the region following Thursday’s massive Russian attack.

Zelensky also talked about the shelling of other areas in Ukraine. He said three people who were killed in Russian shelling in the city of Kherson “simply went to a store to buy groceries.”

The attack happened on the Mykolaiv highway, injuring two others, according to a Telegram post earlier on Saturday from Oleksandr Prokudin, the head of the Kherson region’s military administration.

Zelensky stated that “in Zaporizhzhia, a Russian missile hit the city’s life support facility.”

“In the border areas, the occupier fired at villages to intimidate people, to drive people away,” he added.

The Ukrainian president announced “a new sanctioning step against individuals and legal entities” associated with Russia.

“The relevant decree has been published,” he said, adding, “These are more than 280 companies and 120 people who, through gambling business schemes, worked against Ukraine, withdrew funds from our state and financed various Russian schemes.”

The decree “closes schemes worth tens of billions,” Zelensky continued.

Ukraine is implementing extra security measures after this week’s massive attack: Interior minister

Officials are putting extra security and defense measures in place across Ukraine to protect critical infrastructure and residential areas from another potential country-wide Russian attack, Ukraine’s Interior Minister Ihor Klymenko said on national television Saturday.

“I can say that we are always ready for the so-called ‘retaliatory strikes’ (missile attacks) when the enemy insidiously destroys not only critical infrastructure facilities but also residential buildings,” he stated.

“I would like to remind you that since the beginning of the large-scale invasion, more than 40,500 such strikes have been carried out on the territory of our country. About 152,000 residential buildings and about 400,000 public infrastructure facilities have been destroyed,” he added.

Klymenko said he could not elaborate on the details of the extra security measures but said authorities are trying to help residents feel safe, especially in the cities where the biggest attacks occurred. Officials are securing the centers where people can find shelter, warm up and charge their devices, and are conducting “intensified patrols,” he added.

On Thursday, Russia launched a widespread attack on Ukraine using an array of 95 missiles, including six Kinzhal ballistic missiles that have the ability to elude Kyiv’s air defenses, the Ukrainian military announced.

Wagner chief claims further advancements toward center of Bakhmut

Wagner private military company chief Yevgeny Prigozhin claimed his fighters have made further advancements toward the embattled city of Bakhmut, posting a video in which he claims to be standing about 1.2 kilometers (less than a mile) away from the administrative center of the city.

“That’s about a five-story building where the smoke comes from — the building of the city administration, the administrative center of the city. It’s one kilometer and 200 meters away,” Prigozhin said in the video as he pointed in that direction.

“This is the place where the Armed Forces of Ukraine will conduct a counteroffensive from the north, it is important for us that the warriors cover our flanks,” he continued.

“If the flanks are covered, then everything is in order, if not, then PMC Wagner will be surrounded, along with the Ukrainians who are inside Bakhmut,” he added.

The eastern city, located in Donetsk region, continues to be the site of some of the fiercest fighting between Ukrainian and Russian forces.

Russian paratroopers are reinforcing Wagner fighters in Bakhmut attacks: Ukrainian military spokesperson

As Russian attacks on the eastern city of Bakhmut continue, there have been more than 50 combat engagements between Ukrainian and Russian forces over the last 24 hours in the area, according to a Ukrainian military spokesperson.

“The enemy was actively conducting combat operations all week, just like the previous week. Yesterday was no exception,” said Serhii Cherevatyi, spokesperson for the eastern grouping of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, on national television Saturday.

“Over the last 24 hours, the enemy attacked our positions in the Bakhmut sector 157 times with artillery and multiple rocket launchers,” he continued.

Cherevatyi added Bakhmut itself was attacked 16 times, and 23 combat engagements took place within the city itself.

When asked which Russian units are leading the attacks on Bakhmut, and whether the tactics of the Russian forces have changed, Cherevatyi said most of the assault groups consist of Wagner fighters who are reinforced by Russian paratroopers.

“The Wagner PMC has not been destroyed, we are only on the way to (achieving that),” he added.

On Friday, Cherevatyi stated a third wave of fighters from the Wagner private military company fighting in the area are being replaced by Russia’s regular army.

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