Sunday, February 25, 2024

Live Update: Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 383

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 troops wrap up Leopard tank training in Spain

Ukrainian soldiers have wrapped up a four-week training course in Spain on how to operate the Leopard 2 tanks Western allies have agreed to deliver to help Kyiv fight Russian forces, the Spanish ministry has said.

The 55 Ukrainian trainees arrived mid-February in Spain and are scheduled to fly to Poland on Wednesday as they start to make their way back to Ukraine and the frontline, ministry sources said.

They have been training 12 hours a day, six days a week, at a Spanish military base in the northeastern city of Zaragoza, Captain Contreras, who declined to give his first name, told reporters Monday during a tour of the San Gregorio training military camp.

Finnish PM open to discussing donating F18 jets to Ukraine

Finland’s prime minister has said that she was open to discussing giving fighter jets to Ukraine, despite facing criticism at home, as Kyiv has pleaded for more advanced weapons systems.

While Finland is currently operating a fleet of F/A-18 Hornet jets, it announced in December 2021 that it was ordering 64 F-35A multi-role fighter jets from US contractor Lockheed Martin.

“We have new F35 fighters coming… When these old Hornets are decommissioned, we can discuss their future use,” Prime Minister Sanna Marin told reporters.

However, while Finland plans to replace the jets – the model of which entered into production in the 1980s – the new aircraft are not due to arrive until 2025.

Russia is not opposed to extending grain deal by 60 days: Deputy FM

Russia is not opposed to extending the Black Sea grain deal, but only for 60 days, the RIA Novosti news agency cited Russia’s deputy foreign minister, Sergey Vershinin.

Monday marked the first day of talks between Russia and representatives from the United Nations in Geneva.

According to the Vershinin, Russia does not object to extending the deal after it expires on March 18, “but only for 60 days.”

ICC expected to seek arrest warrants for Russians

The International Criminal Court (ICC) is expected to seek arrest warrants against Russians involved in the conflict in Ukraine “in the short term”, a source with knowledge of the matter tells the Reuters news agency.

The ICC’s prosecutor is expected to ask a judge to approve issuing warrants against several Russians for the abduction of children from Ukraine to Russia and the targeting of civilian infrastructure, the source said on the condition of anonymity.

The New York Times, which also reported on the expected ICC warrants, added that it was not clear who the court is planning to charge, but it would be the first international charges to be brought since the conflict began.

Ukrainian presidential adviser slams the Oscars

Ukrainian presidential adviser Mikhail Podolyak has criticised the Academy Awards after President Volodymyr Zelensky was not granted permission to send a video message to the ceremony.

In a Twitter post, the adviser referenced the academy awarding a documentary about imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny and said: “If Oscar is outside of politics, how should we understand the documentary manifesto Navalny where internal Russian politics is overflowing?”

“If Oscar is out of the context of the war in Ukraine & the mass genocide of Ukrainians, why do you constantly talk about humanism & justice?” he asked.

Russia’s goals in Ukraine now can only be achieved by military means: Kremlin

Russia’s goals in Ukraine can only be achieved by military means at the moment, Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Monday.

“For us, the absolute priority continues and will always remain the achievement of the goals set. At the moment they can only be achieved by military means,” the Kremlin spokesman said.

At the same time, the Kremlin does not yet see any preconditions for the transition of the situation in Ukraine to a peaceful course.

“So far there are no preconditions for the transition of the process into a peaceful course,” Peskov added.

Ukrainian forces killed ‘1,100’ Russian soldiers in Bakhmut: Zelensky

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky says Russian forces have lost “more than 1,100” soldiers during the battle for Bakmut.

“In less than a week, starting from 6th March, we managed to kill more than 1,100 enemy soldiers in the Bakhmut sector alone, Russia’s irreversible loss, right there, near Bakhmut,” he stated.

He added Russian forces had also sustained 1,500 “sanitary losses” – soldiers wounded severely enough to keep them out of further action.

Oil exports to India will be guided by Russian contracts not sanctions: Kremlin

Asked about reports that India is abiding by a Western price cap on Russian oil exports, the Kremlin has said it would be guided by its contacts with India rather than by news reports.

On Sunday, Bloomberg reported  that India would not breach Western sanctions on Russian oil prices.

India has significantly increased oil imports from Russia since the beginning of the conflict in Ukraine.

Putin ally doubts pro-Ukraine group responsible for pipeline blast

One of President Vladimir Putin’s top allies doubts that a pro-Ukrainian group blew up the Nord Stream gas pipelines last year.

Last week the New York Times reported that intelligence reviewed by US officials suggested that a pro-Ukraine group attacked the pipelines in September.

Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev cast doubt on the report, questioning if such a group would have the capability to carry out sabotage.

“In an attempt to cover up the true people behind the crime, pro-government Anglo-Saxon media – on orders from above – have named a culprit – a group of Ukrainian terrorists,” Patrushev told the Argumenti I Fakti newspaper.

Patrushev added Russia still did not know who was behind the attack because it had not been included in the investigation.

China’s Xi to travel to Moscow soon: Report

Chinese President Xi Jinping is planning to travel to Moscow to meet his Russian counterpart as soon as next week, people familiar with the matter told the Reuters news agency.

Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov did not unveil whether Xi might actually visit Russia next week.

“Right now I have nothing to say on the subject. As a rule, announcements of official foreign visits are made synchronously, by mutual agreement. When there is such readiness, we will let you know,” the Kremlin spokesman stated, answering a corresponding question.

According to people familiar with the matter, the Chinese leader will also take part in a virtual meeting with his Ukrainian counterpart for the first time since the conflict began, likely after meeting with Putin in Moscow next week.

Wagner chief admits Ukrainian forces are fiercely fighting in Bakhmut

Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of the Russian private military company Wagner, has admitted that Ukrainian forces are fighting fiercely in Bakhmut, saying they are “fighting for every meter.”

In a new audio message posted on his Telegram page on Sunday, Prigozhin stated, “the situation in Bakhmut is very difficult, the enemy is fighting for every meter. The closer we are to the city center, the harder the battles, the more artillery works against us, and the more tanks.”

“The Ukrainians are throwing up endless reserves,” Prigozhin added.

Russia has continued its assault on Bakhmut and shelled another eastern city nearby: Ukraine’s military

Russian troops continued to attack the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut Sunday, Ukraine’s military said in an update.

The city of Sloviansk, located about 59 kilometers (36 miles) northwest of Bakhmut, was also hit, the General Staff of the Armed Services of Ukraine said in the note.

“Over the past day, the enemy launched a missile attack on a civilian infrastructure facility in Sloviansk, Donetsk region. The enemy also carried out four air strikes and fired about 20 times from multiple launch rocket systems,” the update reads.

Sloviansk is among the towns noted by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky this week as potential next targets for Russia if Bakhmut falls.

“We understand that after Bakhmut (the Russians) could go further. They could go to Kramatorsk, they could go to Sloviansk, it would be open road for the Russians after Bakhmut to other towns in Ukraine, in the Donetsk direction,” he told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer in an exclusive interview from Kyiv.

“That’s why our guys are standing there,” he added.

There have been no confirmed advances by Russian forces in Bakhmut, according to think tank the Institute for the Study of War, but the exact picture of what is happening in the besieged eastern city is difficult to establish.

No confirmed advances by Russian forces in Bakhmut: Think tank

There have been no confirmed advances by Russian forces in Bakhmut, according to think tank the Institute for the Study of War.

The report published late Saturday said that despite Russian forces and units from the paramilitary Wagner Group launching continued ground attacks in the city, there is no evidence that they made any progress.

“Russian forces did not make any confirmed advances within Bakhmut on March 11.
“Ukrainian and Russian sources continue to report heavy fighting in the city, but Wagner Group fighters are likely becoming increasingly pinned in urban areas, such as the AZOM industrial complex, and are therefore finding it difficult to make significant advances,” the ISW added.

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