Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Live Update: Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 386

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:

UN-backed inquiry accuses Russia of war crimes in Ukraine

Russian attacks against civilians in Ukraine, including systematic torture and killing in occupied regions, amount to war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity, according to a report by a UN-backed inquiry.

Among potential crimes against humanity, the report cited repeated attacks targeting Ukrainian infrastructure since the fall that left hundreds of thousands without heat and electricity during the coldest months, as well as the “systematic and widespread” use of torture across multiple regions under Russian occupation.

“There were elements of planning and availability of resources which indicate that the Russian authorities may have committed torture as crimes against humanity,” said Erik Møse, a former Norwegian Supreme Court and European Court of Human Rights judge who led the investigation.

The investigation also found crimes committed against Ukrainians on Russian territory, including deported Ukrainian children who were prevented from reuniting with their families, a “filtration” system aimed at singling out Ukrainians for detention, and torture and inhumane detention conditions.

Sending Polish MiGs to Ukraine ‘does not change’ US opposition to sending jets: White House

Poland’s move to become the first country to send MiG-29 warplanes to Ukraine does not alter the US’s decision against sending its own fighter aircraft to Kyiv, the White House has said.

“It doesn’t change our calculus with regards to F-16s,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters, referring to the US-built fighter jet.

Poland’s move “does not affect, does not change” that, he added.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken, speaking to reporters on a visit to Niger, alluded to the heavy costs of US fighter jets.

“I think it’s a mistake to get focused on any particular weapons system at any given time,” Blinken said.

He added it was important “not only making sure that the Ukrainians have the right weapons system, but that they can use it”.

“So depending on the system, that might require significant training” or maintenance, Blinken stated.

“Different countries are doing different things in response to what they have and to what the perceived needs are,” he continued.

Majority in neutral Switzerland back closer NATO ties

A majority in Switzerland now support closer ties with NATO, the government has said, a first in the country known for military neutrality.

The Swiss Military Academy and the Centre for Security Studies – both attached to ETH Zurich University – publish an annual survey of public opinion on foreign, security and defence policy issues, to evaluate long-term trends.

It showed that in January 2023, 55 percent of the Swiss population favoured closer ties with NATO – up 10 percentage points from the January 2021 survey.

“It is the first time that a small majority of the population has been of this opinion,” the defence ministry said in a statement.

“Since the start of the war in Ukraine, the Swiss have become more pessimistic about the future of our country and the world. They also now take a more critical look at neutrality and declare themselves ready for more cooperation,” it concluded.

Russia says it asked US about involvement in Nord Stream explosions

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova stated that Moscow requested an explanation from Washington regarding its involvement in the explosions in the Nord Stream gas pipelines.

During a news briefing in Moscow, Zakharova told Anadolu Agency that the explanations were demanded publicly and in a statement regarding the incident published on the ministry’s website on February 21.

“We have repeatedly spoken publicly, including to American representatives about this. And our comment of February 21 contains the following quote: ‘It was emphasised from the Russian side that the US should give explanations about the explosions on the Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 gas pipelines, and not interfere with an objective investigation to identify the perpetrators.’ Therefore, the short answer is yes,” she added.

US says Ukraine ceasefire would cement Russian ‘conquest’

A ceasefire in Ukraine would only serve to “ratify” Russia’s territorial gains against its eastern European neighbour, the White House has said.

The comments come after China unveiled a 12-point proposal to end the war, which calls for negotiations between Moscow and Kyiv and a nationwide ceasefire.

US National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said that while the “much ballyhooed” proposal from Beijing to halt hostilities “sounds perfectly reasonable”, it would ultimately lead to legitimising Russia’s territorial gains, and “would constitute another continued violation of the UN Charter”.

“A ceasefire right now would basically ratify Russia’s conquest. It would, in effect, recognise Russia’s gains, and all of its attempts to conquer a neighbour’s territory by force,” Kirby told reporters during a virtual briefing.

“Russia would basically be free to use that ceasefire to further entrench its positions in Ukraine, to rebuild their forces, refit them, reman them, retain them so that they can then restart attacks at a time of their choosing. And frankly, it’s just not a step that we believe [is] towards a just and durable peace,” he added.

Ukraine’s foreign minister emphasises Zelensky’s peace plan in call with Beijing

Ukraine’s foreign minister stated he emphasised the importance of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s peace plan during a phone call with his Chinese counterpart.

“During my call with China’s State Councilor and Foreign Minister Qin Gang today, we discussed the significance of the principle of territorial integrity,” Dmytro Kuleba said on Twitter.

“I underscored the importance of Zelensky’s Peace Formula for ending the aggression and restoring just peace in Ukraine,” he added.

Gang said in earlier remarks about the phone call that China was also concerned about an escalation of the war and wants Moscow and Kyiv to hold peace talks.

Western nations are debating sending Ukraine fighter jets: Denmark

Western nations are debating whether to send fighter jets to Ukraine, Denmark’s prime minister tells Danish TV2.

“This is something we’re discussing in the group of allied countries,” Mette Frederiksen said, adding, “It’s a big wish from Ukraine.”

Earlier on Thursday, Poland announced it would send four MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine, which would make it the first of Kyiv’s allies to do so.

UN calls for 120-day extension to Black Sea grain export deal

An agreement guaranteeing the safe export of grain from several of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports calls for a 120-day extension, the United Nations says.

“For us, the text in the agreement is clear, and it calls for a 120-day rollover,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric told Reuters when asked about remarks by Turkey.

On Wednesday, Turkey said it would continue talks to extend the deal for 120 days rather than 60 days, which Russia had suggested this week.

The grain deal, which was brokered with Russia and Ukraine by the UN and Turkey in July, will expire on Saturday if it is not renewed.

China wants Kyiv and Moscow to ‘resume peace talks’: Diplomat

Senior Chinese diplomat Qin Gang told Ukraine’s foreign minister during a phone call that Beijing is concerned about an escalation of the war and wants Moscow and Kyiv to hold peace talks.

“China hopes that all parties will remain calm, rational and restrained and resume peace talks as soon as possible,” Qin told Dmytro Kuleba, according to a Chinese foreign ministry statement.

China, which has refrained from condemning Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, has urged both sides to agree to a gradual de-escalation in a 12-point paper on the “political resolution of the Ukraine crisis”.

The plan called for the protection of civilians and respect for each other’s sovereignty.

Poland to deliver fighter jets to Ukraine in major escalation of military backing

Poland will become the first country to deliver fighter jets to Ukraine in the next few days, marking a significant upward step in military backing for Kyiv ahead of an expected counter-offensive.

The precedent, involving four Soviet-era MiG-29s as a first instalment, could lead to other NATO members providing warplanes, a longstanding Ukrainian request.

The Polish President, Andrzej Duda, made the announcement in Warsaw. He said the first planes being handed over were inherited from East Germany after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Duda stated the MiGs were coming to the end of their working lives after 30 years, but were “still in working order”.

The president added that more Polish MiGs were being serviced and repaired in preparation for being handed to Ukraine.

In all, Poland has 28 MiG-29s which are to be replaced over the next few years by South Korean FA-50s and US F-35s.

Slovakia, Finland and the Netherlands have all said they would consider supplying Ukraine with warplanes.

Russia facing a ‘sanctions war’: Putin

President Vladimir Putin stressed that Russia was facing a “sanctions war” in his first primary address to the country’s business elite since the war began a year ago.

Putin stated Russia was swiftly reorienting its economy towards countries that had not hit Russia with sanctions and thanked business leaders for working to help the Russian state.

He also urged Russia’s billionaires and business elite to invest in new technology, production facilities and enterprises to help Russia overcome what he said were Western attempts to destroy its economy.

Footage “absolutely confirms” collision between US drone and Russian jet: Senior US official

Footage released by US European Command Thursday morning of the dramatic encounter between a US drone and Russian fighter jet over the Black Sea “absolutely confirms” that there was a physical collision and dumping of fuel, a senior US official has told CNN.

However, the video does not confirm the Russian pilot’s intent.

“Don’t know,” the official said on the key question of whether the Russian pilot actually intended to strike the US drone’s propeller.

The official did say that there’s no question that the footage confirms that Russian fighter jets were engaging in “aggressive flying” and “recklessness,” echoing what other US officials have been saying consistently over the last few days.

According to two US officials familiar with the intelligence, senior officials at the Russian Ministry of Defense gave the order for the Russian fighter jets to harass the US drone over the Black Sea this week.

The high-level military officials’ connection to the incident suggests that the fighter jet pilots were not taking rogue action when they interfered with the US drone.

But there is no indication that high-level political leaders in Russia – particularly those in the Kremlin, including President Vladimir Putin — knew about the planned aggression in advance, one of the US officials stated.

US officials and their Russian counterparts have been in an open dispute over what transpired that led to the downing of a US drone over the Black Sea.

Situation in Bakhmut is “complicated” with no sign of Ukrainian withdrawal from city

The leader of the self-declared and pro-Russian Donetsk People’s Republic, Denis Pushilin, says that the situation in the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut remains “complicated” and that Ukrainian forces show no sign of leaving.

Pushilin was quoted Thursday by Russian state news agency RIA Novosti as saying that “the situation in Artemivsk [the Russian name for Bakhmut] remains complicated, Kyiv is not going to withdraw its troops.”

Pushilin said that the only road to Bakhmut for Ukrainian forces is “now under even more significant fire control of the Wagner Group. Because of this, it is extremely difficult for the enemy to deliver ammunition, food, and reinforcements.”

Irina Rybakova, a press officer of Ukraine’s 93rd separate mechanized brigade, told Ukrainian television Thursday that “for two weeks now there has been a difficult situation with the roads [into Bakhmut], which complicates logistics.”

“The center of Bakhmut is controlled by the Ukrainian forces. Russian artillery is constantly working on our section of the front,” Rybakova stated, adding, “They are now focused on the road.”

Forces from Russia’s Wagner private military group have made very limited gains in the last week in and around Bakhmut.

Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin Wednesday spoke of ammunition shortages and heavy fighting around the city, and claimed that his fighters had taken a very small settlement 8 kilometers (5 miles) northwest of the city.

The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said that “manpower, artillery, and equipment losses in fights for Bakhmut will likely constrain Wagner’s ability to complete a close encirclement of Bakhmut or gain substantial territory in battles for urban areas.”

“It seems that the Wagner offensive itself will not be sufficient to seize Bakhmut,” added the ISW.

UK not sending military support to Moldova amid fears of Russian aggression

Britain believes that the best way to protect Moldova from a Russian attack is not by sending it military support, but by protecting Ukraine, according to Foreign Minister James Cleverly.

“We strongly believe that one of the best ways of protecting Moldova from physical attack is helping the Ukrainians defend themselves against Russian aggression,” Cleverly said Thursday at a press conference during an official state visit to Moldova.

“Few societies understand the underhand tactics of Russian malign activity more than Moldova and Georgia,” stated Cleverly, adding that “the UK will not stand idly by while Moscow blatantly undermines their democracy, sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

The visit is part of the United Kingdom’s plan to announce additional financial support for Moldova and Georgia.

Moldova is set to receive more than $12 million (£10 million) in “funding for economic and governance reforms, including in the energy sector.”

“The new pledge for Moldova comes on top of the £12 million (over 14 million dollars) already contributing to critical anti-corruption and transparency work in the country,” a UK government statement announced Thursday.

Cleverly will also announce a more than $600,000 (£500,000) contribution “aimed at creating an environment for free and fair elections in 2024, protecting them from external interference.”

“The UK is ramping up its financial support to Moldova and Georgia, as they continue to suffer from the destabilising impact of Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine,” the statement read.

“Very important” to ensure quick ammunition supplies to Ukraine: German chancellor

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has warned that it is crucial to urgently provide Ukraine with fresh ammunition to counter Russia’s invasion.

“It is very important that we quickly supply Ukraine with the necessary ammunition and do so quickly,” Scholz told lawmakers at Germany’s lower house of parliament on Thursday, promising action at a European Union summit next week.

“Together with our European partners we will continue to ensure that Ukraine receives weapons and equipment to defend itself and to hold out,” Scholz added.

“At the European Council, we will decide on further measures together with our EU partners to achieve an even better, continuous supply,” he said, adding that ”we are prepared to open our procurement approaches with other countries as well.”

Scholz said that over the last 12 months Germany has supported Ukraine with nearly $15 billion to help fend off Russia’s invasion, which is ”a considerable sum – but it is appropriate for our country,” he said.

”And then there is Germany’s participation in the comprehensive European Union support for Ukraine – for example in the form of direct budget aid – which is 18 billion euros (more than $19 billion) this year alone,” said Scholz.

Europe’s sanctions package ”continues to make it harder for Russia to pursue their war of aggression – and we will keep up the sanction pressure,” Scholz continued, stating that ”we will be ensuring together that third party countries do not find loopholes in these sanctions.”

Scholz noted that the 27 European leaders are due to discuss issues such as competitiveness and energy, as well as the war in Ukraine, in Brussels next Thursday and Friday.

US military releases footage of Russian fighter jet forcing down US drone over Black Sea

The US military’s European Command has released footage of the Tuesday encounter between a US surveillance drone and a Russian fighter jet as it played out over the Black Sea.

The newly declassified video depicts critical moments in the mid-air encounter, which the Pentagon said lasted 30-40 minutes.

The video shows the camera of the MQ-9 Reaper drone pointed backward toward its tail and the drone’s propeller, which is mounted on the rear, spinning.

Then, a Russian Sukhoi SU-27 fighter jet is shown approaching. As it draws closer, the Russian fighter dumps fuel as it intercepts the US drone.

In another portion of the footage, the Russian jet makes another pass. As it approaches, it again dumps fuel.

The video from the drone is then disrupted as the Russian fighter jet collides with the MQ-9 Reaper, damaging the propeller and ultimately forcing the US to bring down the drone in the Black Sea. Russia has denied that a collision occurred.

When the camera comes back online in the footage, the view is again pointed backward, and the propeller is shown damaged from the collision.

With the propeller damaged, the drone operators effectively flew the aircraft as a glider as it descended over the Black Sea, bringing it down in international waters southwest of Crimea.

On its way down, two US officials told CNN the operators remotely wiped the drone’s sensitive software, mitigating the risk of secret materials falling into enemy hands before it crashed into the water.

On Wednesday, National Security Council communications coordinator John Kirby told “CNN This Morning” that the drone had not been recovered, and that he was “not sure” the US would be able to recover it.

Moscow had made clear it would attempt to retrieve the wreckage of the drone, and two officials told CNN Wednesday that Russia had reached the MQ-9 crash site in the Black Sea.

Kirby would not confirm the reported development, but stated the US had “made it impossible for them to be able to glean anything of intelligence value off the remnants of that drone, whatever remnants there might be on the surface of the water.”

Zelensky says Russia will be held accountable for Mariupol theater bombing

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday vowed to hold Russia accountable for the bombing last year of a theater in the southeastern city of Mariupol that killed hundreds of people.

“A year ago, Russia deliberately and brutally dropped a powerful bomb on the Drama Theater in Mariupol downtown. Next to the building was the inscription ‘Children,’ which was impossible to overlook. Hundreds of people were hiding from the shelling there,” Zelensky said on the anniversary of the attack.

The bombing of the theater, where Ukrainian officials say up to 1,300 people had sought refuge, was among the most brazen of Russia’s attacks on civilians since its invasion began in late February last year.

Painted on the ground outside the building — in giant Russian letters — was the word “CHILDREN.” The message — large enough to be viewed from the sky — was scrawled near a public square. Russia has denied its forces hit the theater, claiming instead that the Azov battalion, the Ukrainian army’s main presence in Mariupol, blew it up.

“Step by step, we are moving towards ensuring that the terrorist state is fully held to account for what it has done to our country and our people. We will not forgive a single life ruined by the occupiers,” Zelensky added.

Chinese-made drone, retrofitted and weaponized, downed in eastern Ukraine: Report

Driving deep into the forest, the hush between the towering pine trees and the clear blue skies was splintered every few seconds by the sound of distant explosions from the frontline battles for eastern Ukraine.

Guiding us through the woodland on foot, Ukrainian soldiers eventually brought us to a clearing where they showed us the wreckage of a weaponized drone which they said they shot down with their AK-47 automatic weapons over the weekend.

The drone was a Mugin-5, a commercial unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) made by a Chinese manufacturer based in the port city of Xiamen, on China’s eastern coast.

Some tech bloggers say the machines are known as “Alibaba drones” as they have been available for sale for up to $15,000 on Chinese marketplace websites including Alibaba and Taobao.

Mugin Limited confirmed to CNN that it was their airframe, calling the incident “deeply unfortunate.”

It’s the latest example of a civilian drone being retrofitted and weaponized since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a sign of the rapidly shifting patterns of warfare.

“Along the front lines, basically all the time we’re conducting aerial reconnaissance,” stated Maksim, a 35-year-old territorial defense fighter who only wanted to go by his first name.

Attack on Russian plane in neutral airspace to be seen as declaration of war: Moscow

A deliberate attack on a Russian aircraft in neutral airspace would be an open declaration of war against the largest nuclear power, Moscow is not seeking confrontation, Russian Ambassador to the United States Anatoly Antonov said on Wednesday.

“Some lawmakers’ calls go far beyond common sense,” he stated, commenting on US Senator Lindsey Graham’s (from South Carolina) threats to shoot down Russian planes approaching US aircraft in international airspace.

“The Russian Ministry of Defense has explained in detail the reasons and course of actions of Russian pilots during yesterday’s incident over the Black Sea. I repeat, for those who have not gathered themselves to look at the situation objectively: our fighters did not come into contact with the American UAV,” he added, commenting on the loss of a MQ-9 American drone.

“Russia did everything possible to prevent this kind of incident – it informed the international community in good time about the boundaries of the temporary airspace regime established for the special military operation,” the envoy continued.

“Of course, it is a shame for the Pentagon to lose expensive piece of equipment. But in this case, the US military should redirect accusations of unprofessional actions back to themselves,” he noted.

“As for the aforementioned senator, this is by no means the first attempt by the notorious lawmaker to provoke a dangerous escalation in the US-Russian relations. A year ago he urged our citizens to make an assassination attempt on the president of Russia. Does Senator Graham really believe that a direct military clash with Russia is in the interests of the voters who entrusted him with their lives and livelihood?” the Russian ambassador stated.

“A deliberate attack on a Russian aircraft in neutral airspace is not just a crime under international law, but an open declaration of war against the largest nuclear power. An armed conflict between Russia and the United States would be radically different from the proxy war the Americans are waging remotely against us in Ukraine,” Antonov warned.

“Is the Capitol willing to put American citizens and the international community at risk of a full-scale nuclear war? Give us an answer, distinguished Senator!” he added.

“It is not the Russian pilots who should be called out, but American politicians who are inciting the start of an apocalyptic conflict. We do not seek a conflict with a nuclear power. We continue to maintain contacts, including through the Defense Ministry, to prevent unintentional incidents. I wish US politicians had the same attitude toward relations with Russia,” the diplomat stressed.

According to Russia’s Defense Ministry, Russian airspace control systems detected an American MQ-9 unmanned aerial vehicle flying near the Crimean Peninsula on Tuesday. The drone flew with its transponders turned off, violating a temporary boundary established for the special military operation, communicated to all users of international airspace, and published in accordance with international standards.

Russia’s top brass added that as a result of sharp maneuvering, the drone went into uncontrolled flight before losing altitude and crashing into the Black Sea. The ministry stressed that Russian fighter jets had not used on-board weapons, nor had they come into contact with the unmanned aerial vehicle, and returned safely to their home airfield.

According to the US European Command, one of the two Russian Su-27 warplanes hit the drone’s propeller to make it crash into the Black Sea.

MQ-9 Reaper is a modular reconnaissance and strike unmanned aerial vehicle engineered by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems. It is equipped with a turboprop engine and can develop a speed of more than 400 kilometer per hour. The maximal flight duration is 24 hours. The drone is capable of carrying air-to-surface and air-to-air missiles, and laser-guided bombs.

Less than 3,000 people, including 33 children, remain in Bakhmut: Ukrainian official

Less than 3,000 people — including 33 children — remain in the embattled city of Bakhmut, according to Pavlo Kyrylenko, head of the Donetsk regional military administration.

“The evacuation continues, and not only in Bakhmut, we are working along the entire frontline,” Kyrylenko said on national television Wednesday.

Evacuation is mandatory in the region, but some people still refuse to leave, he stated.

“There are still people who definitely do not want to leave, and it is a very difficult task to persuade them. More than 1,100,000 people out of 1,670,000 have left Donetsk region since February 24, 2022,” he added.

Situation on battlefield doesn’t favor Ukraine: Russia’s UN mission

The current situation in Ukraine does not favor Kiev’s armed forces, and it will only get worse for them in the near future, Russia’s First Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN Dmitry Polyansky said on Wednesday in a conversation with American journalist Kim Iversen, according to a recording posted on the Rumble video platform.

“We have everyday reports that there are advances of Russian troops. The weather conditions are also not in favor of the Ukrainian army because they can’t use heavy machines for their tasks,” he said.

“I think we’re on the eve of quite serious military developments there, [that are] not in the favor of Ukraine,” Polyansky noted, “I don’t know how they will cope with this and what they will tell their Western sponsors.”

According to the diplomat, the Ukrainian military is now in a very dire situation, suffering heavy losses.

The first deputy permanent representative believes that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has become hostage to the promises he made to the West, in which he claimed that he could allegedly defeat Russia militarily if arms supplies continued. At this point, the task of the Kiev authorities is to show that the army is “capable of [a] counteroffensive.”

“The situation around Bakhmut (the Ukrainian name for Artyomovsk) is really very bad for Ukraine,” Polyansky added.

Human rights mechanisms, Western media mum on Ukrainian army’s atrocities: Russia

The Western mass media and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) are hushing up the cannibal ferocity of the Ukrainian military and authorities, Russia’s Permanent Representative to the UN Geneva office Gennady Gatilov stated on Wednesday.

This topic “is deliberately and cowardly being hushed up by both the Western mass media and international human rights mechanisms,” he said at a roundtable meeting on the violations of the rules of warfare by Ukrainian troops held in Geneva on the sidelines of the 52nd session of the UN Human Rights Council.

“You will not hear anything about these crimes in the statements by the Europeans, Americans and their satellites, including within the UN Human Rights Council, the OHCHR and the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine,” Gatilov continued.

“All of them prefer to ignore the cannibal ferocity and moral insensitivity of the Ukrainian authorities who don not shun brutal violence against innocent civilian population and unarmed and wounded prisoners of war, the use of prohibited warfare methods,” he added.

The Russian diplomat noted that Ukrainian troops continue massive shelling attacks on Donbass cities, using Western artillery systems and deploying weapons and militants at schools, hospitals and other civilian infrastructure facilities.

“Amide the unbecoming silence of international human rights mechanisms, Western political circles and the so-called independent mass media, it is extremely important to draw attention to Kiev’s crimes,” he stressed.

The roundtable meeting was organized by the Russian mission jointly with the Information Group on Crimes against the Person (IGCP), the Verum public project, and the fund for the support of Jewish culture, science and education.

Russian forces have reached the MQ-9 crash site: US officials

The Russians have reached the MQ-9 crash site in the Black Sea, according to two US officials, as the Kremlin promises to attempt to recover the US surveillance drone.

Russia’s Navy has several ships in the Black Sea, including ships based in Crimean ports, which would have placed them in an advantageous position to attempt to recover the US MQ-9 Reaper drone after its encounter with Russian fighter jets on Tuesday.

The drone came down in international waters approximately 70 miles southwest of Crimea, one of the officials said. It is unclear if Russia was able to recover any of the wreckage from the drone when they arrived at the crash site.

White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby would not confirm that Russians were at the site. He reiterated however that the US took steps to make it “impossible” for Russia to acquire any useful information from the drone’s remnants.

“Whatever’s left of that that’s floating will probably be flight control surfaces, that kind of thing,” he told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.

“Probably nothing of real intrinsic value to them in terms of re-engineering or anything like that. We’re not overly concerned about whatever they might get their hands on,” he continued, adding, “It’s our property and they have no business recovering anything.”

The Russian Security Council Secretary announced Wednesday that Russia will try to obtain the drone wreckage to study it.

“I don’t know if we will be able to get it or not, but we need to do it… And we will definitely look into it,” stated Nikolai Patrushev on on Russian state TV Rossiya 1.

The drone landed in a part of the Black Sea that’s likely almost a mile deep, Gen. Mark A. Milley noted, making any recovery effort extremely difficult.

The US also has no Navy ships in the Black Sea, compounding the challenges in any US recovery attempt.

Russian foreign minister blames US for “ignoring” Black Sea airspace restrictions

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov accused the United States on Wednesday of “ignoring” the airspace restrictions that Russia imposed in the coastal regions of the Black Sea since the start of the war with Ukraine.

“They completely ignore the fact that after the start of a special military operation, our military declared the relevant areas of the Black Sea, adjacent in certain places, as areas with a limited status for the use of any aircraft,” Lavrov said in an interview with Russian state TV Rossiya-1.

Lavrov also blamed the US for “constantly looking for provocations aimed at increasing tensions.”

“Any incidents that provoke a clash between the two great nuclear powers always pose a great risk,” he added.

Small Russian advances in Bakhmut are coming “at great cost”: top US military official

Russia is making “small tactical advances” around the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, but “at great cost,” Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Mark Milley said Wednesday.

Right now there is intense fighting in and around the eastern city, Milley stated, but in other places on the front line, there have been “significant exchanges of artillery, but no significant maneuver gains by either side.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has warned that a Russian capture of Bakhmut would give them an “open road” to capturing other key Ukrainian cities in the east.

More than a year after the invasion of Ukraine started, Milley noted Russian soldiers have been thrown into the war without “any sort of synchronized coordination and direction.”

“Russia continues to pay severely in terms of lives and military equipment for its continued war of choice,” he added.

US defense secretary says he expects “bipartisan support” for Ukraine to continue

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin was asked Wednesday about comments by potential presidential candidates that support for Ukraine should not be a priority and if he was concerned that election rhetoric could undermine American support for Ukraine going forward.

Austin said that he’s seen “bipartisan support” for providing security assistance to Ukraine throughout the conflict “up to this point.”

“I expect that we will continue to see that going forward. We’ve heard some senior leaders on both sides of the fence say that, and so I expect that will continue,” Austin stated.

“Ukraine matters. It matters not to just Ukraine or to the United States, it matters to the world. This is about the rules-based international order,” he added.

He noted that countries from around the world “continue to come back” to meetings of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group.

“They continue to come back and they continue to work hard to ensure that Ukraine gets everything that it needs to be successful. And that will remain our focus,” he continued.

Russia “running out of capability” in Ukraine more than a year after invasion: Pentagon chief

Russia is “running out of capability” after invading Ukraine more than a year ago, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Wednesday following a meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group.

“Russia has had to depend on Iran and North Korea and has had to use equipment dating back to World War II,” Austin stated, adding, “So Russia is running out of capability and running out of friends.”

He said Russian President Vladimir Putin has “now had a year’s worth of proof that the United States and the Contact Group will support Ukraine’s right to defend itself for the long haul.”

“But Putin still hopes that he can wear down Ukraine and wait us out,” he added. “So we can’t let up, and we won’t,” he added.

US Secretary of State says drone incident with Russia “is being investigated”

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Wednesday that Russia’s downing of a US drone over the Black Sea “is being investigated.”

Speaking at a news conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Blinken declined to speak to the motive or intent behind the incident, saying he would let the investigation proceed.

“What I can say very clearly is this was a reckless and unsafe action,” Blinken stated, adding the US is “in close coordination” with allies and partners on the matter.

US drone downing “inevitable” as long as Russia controls Crimea: Ukraine’s FM

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba stated on Wednesday that the apparent downing of a US drone over the Black Sea by a Russian fighter jet was “inevitable.”

“As long as Russia controls Crimea, these kinds of incidents will be inevitable and the Black Sea will not be a safe place,” he said in an interview with the BBC, adding that the “only way to prevent such incidents is actually to kick Russia out of Crimea.”

When asked whether he believed the incident might make the US more cautious in its approach to the conflict, Kuleba told the BBC he did not believe that this was the case.

“The mood is not to escalate but nor is the mood to lean under the pressure — the physical or rhetorical pressure — of Russia,” he continued.

Putin announces large-scale effort to increase weapons production

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a large-scale effort to build up capacities in order to produce more weapons for his war in Ukraine.

Putin said increased production of weapons is “urgently needed,” and he assured that special attention would be paid to the legalities and allotment of funding toward the initiative while speaking to the board of the Prosecutor General’s Office of Russia on Wednesday.

“Primarily, in terms of the timely fulfillment of obligations for the supply of necessary weapons, equipment, ammunition for the needs of the special military operation, for the accurate implementation of all tasks of the state defense order, and the effective use of budgetary resources,” he stated, using the euphemism for the full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

According to Putin, the government is allocating many resources for defense needs “without detriment to other areas.”

But the funds “must be spent rationally, in strict accordance with the law,” he added.

“In addition, prosecutors should supervise the modernization of defense industry enterprises, including building up capacities for the production of an additional volume of weapons. A lot of effort is underway here. We need it urgently now and it will come in handy in the future,” he said.

Putin added Russia is on a positive path and “strengthening the sovereignty” of the country.

“We are with you at the stage of large-scale, positive changes aimed at strengthening the sovereignty of the country, its independence, the future of Russia and creating conditions for its confident development,” Putin continued.

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