No changes in Russia’s nuclear position: NATO chief
Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg says NATO had not seen any changes in Russia’s nuclear posture since President Vladimir Putin’s announcement that he would station tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus.
“So far, we haven’t seen any changes in their nuclear posture that requires any change, changing our nuclear posture,” Stoltenberg told reporters at NATO headquarters in Brussels.
Last week, Putin announced that he intends to place tactical nuclear weapons on the Belarus border to help fend off attacks on Russia.
Putin said the move did not violate international law and he was doing what the US had done for decades by putting its nuclear weapons in Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey.
UNICEF: At least 501 children have been killed since escalation of war
Catherine Russell, executive director of Unicef, the United Nations children’s fund, has commented on the announcement by the OHCHR Ukraine civilian casualty update team that the number of children killed in the conflict since February 2022 has risen to at least 501.
She said, “This is another tragic milestone for Ukraine’s children and families.”
“Since the escalation of the war in February 2022, at least 501 children have been killed. This is just the UN-verified number. The real figure is likely far higher, and the toll on families affected is unimaginable,” she continued.
“Almost 1,000 children have been injured, leaving them with wounds and scars – both visible and invisible – that could last for life,” Russell added.
“Children and families in Ukraine are paying the highest price for this brutal war. Behind every number is a family torn apart and changed for ever. It is heart-wrenching,” she said, adding, “War is always the worst enemy of children, whether in Ukraine, or countless other conflicts around the world. Every child, no matter where they live, deserves to grow up in a peaceful environment.”
IAEA chief to visit Moscow on Wednesday: Russian official
The director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Rafael Grossi, will visit Moscow on Wednesday, Russia’s permanent representative to international organisations in Vienna, Mikhail Ulyanov, told state television on Monday.
Reuters reports Ulyanov stated that Grossi would meet with a Russian delegation and that they would discuss the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station, located in a Russian-occupied part of Ukraine, near the frontline of fighting between Russian and Ukrainian forces.
Russian forces captured Europe’s largest nuclear power station in March 2022, and since then have been forcing Ukrainian staff to continue to operate it. Both sides have accused the other of shelling the power plant and risking a nuclear accident. Grossi recently visited and inspected the plant for a second time since the war began.
Russia has right to use its army preventively in light of events around it: Kremlin
Aggressive developments around Russia make it necessary for Moscow to use the armed forces in a preventive manner, Russian Presidential Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told media on Monday, while commenting on the adoption of the updated Foreign Policy Concept.
“Many countries, in the first place, the countries of the collective West, have widely resorted to the preventive use of their armed forces,” Peskov stated, adding, “The current developments, aggressive developments around us just make it necessary to reserve such a right as well.”
He stressed that “the concept itself has been updated in the light of the new realities.”
On Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin approved an updated and revised concept of the country’s foreign policy. The concept states that Russia can use its armed forces for self-defense or for preventing attack against itself or its allies.
Russia to boost military capabilities in response to Finland joining NATO
Russia will boost its military potential in the western and north-western direction in response to Finland joining NATO, Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko told Sputnik.
According to the minister, Russia will take additional measures to ensure military security in the event of deployment of forces and assets of other NATO members in Finland.
Putin signs laws on establishment of courts in DPR, LPR, Kherson, Zaporozhye regions
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday signed a package of laws on the establishment of courts in the territories incorporated into Russia last fall, namely republics of Lugansk and Donetsk, and regions of Kherson and Zaporozhye, according to the official legal information portal.
The new legislation regulates that the selection of candidates for the initial composition of federal courts of general jurisdiction and arbitration courts will be carried out on a competitive basis of Russia’s High Qualification Board of Judges.
Judges who occupied the corresponding positions in the regions when they were under Ukrainian control will have the right to fill the position only if they meet official requirements and have Russian citizenship.
The laws also establishes the procedure of conducting competitive selection and qualification exams for judicial positions, as well as determine the powers of the High Qualification Board of Judges and the Higher Examination Commission for the Admission of the Qualification Examination for the Position of a Judge.
NATO delivered €65bln in military aid to Kiev, rolling out new program: Chief
NATO countries have delivered €65 billion in military aid to Ukraine and are currently developing a long-term program of military support, the alliance’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg stated at a news conference in Brussels on Monday.
“Allies have delivered 65 billion euros of military aid. And I welcome that modern battle tanks and other armored vehicles have started to arrive in Ukraine,” Stoltenberg said ahead of a NATO foreign ministers meeting slated for April 4-5.
“We will discuss how we can step up our support, including by continuing to strengthen Ukraine’s armed forces. And supporting their transition from Soviet-era to NATO equipment and doctrine. So I expect that ministers will agree to start work on developing a multi-year program for Ukraine,” he added.
According to Stoltenberg, NATO’s support for Kiev “is for the long-haul.”
This can make “a real difference” on the battle field, and “allow the Ukrainian forces to liberate more territory,” he maintained.
NATO’s position on Ukraine’s bid “remains unchanged” and that is that “Ukraine will become a member of the alliance”, Stoltenberg continued.
The main focus however is to “ensure that Ukraine prevails as a sovereign independent nation in Europe”, he said. So the first and most urgent step is for Kyiv’s allies to sustain and further step up military, lethal, non-lethal and economic support to Ukraine, he added.
NATO is also looking into how it can develop a political relationship with Ukraine, and how it can expand its work on more long-term reforms in institutional building, he says.
“It is extremely important to continue to demonstrate that NATO’s door remains open, as we’ll do tomorrow, when Finland will become a full member. As we do when we finalise the accession process for Sweden hopefully in the near future,” Stoltenberg stated.
Finland to become 31st NATO member
Finland will officially become a member of the NATO military alliance on Tuesday, the Finnish president’s office said.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters in Brussels, “Tomorrow we will welcome Finland as the 31st member.”
Poland has delivered “several” MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine: Senior official
Poland has already delivered “several” MiG-29 fighter aircraft to Ukraine, the Polish president’s foreign affairs adviser Marcin Przydacz said Monday during an interview with Polish radio RMF FM.
Poland announced it would send the aircraft, which were about to be decommissioned by the country’s air force, on March 16.
“When it comes to the MI-29 aircraft, which are still operating in the defense of Polish airspace, a decision has been taken at the highest levels, we can say confidently that we are sending MiGs to Ukraine,” Polish President Andrzej Duda said at the time.
“We have a dozen or so MiGs that we got in the ’90s handed down from the German Democratic Republic and they are functional and play a part in the defense of our airspace. They are at the end of their operational life but are still functional,” he added.
“We will replace them with deliveries of `south Korean FA-50s and American F-35s,” Duda continued.
Ukraine has long pushed for deliveries of fighter jets from its allies. So far only Poland and Slovakia, which has promised to deliver 13 MiG-29 fighter jets, have answered that call.
Warsaw has taken the lead among NATO allies in supplying Kyiv with heavy weapons, and Poland had been one of the most vocal European nations against Russia – even before the invasion of Ukraine.
Russia is still seen by many in Poland’s political and diplomatic circles in a Cold War context. Russian President Vladimir Putin has always been seen by Warsaw as untrustworthy and Russian expansion is something to be fought against at all costs
Russian-appointed official injured in car bomb in Melitopol: Ukrainian mayor
A Russian-appointed official was injured in a car explosion in the Ukrainian city of Melitopol on Monday, the Ukrainian mayor of the city, Ivan Fedorov, said in a Telegram post.
The injured person, Maksym Zubarev, is reportedly the head of the Russian-occupied Yakymivka community, located about 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) southwest of Melitopol, Fedorov stated.
According to Ukraine’s Security Service, Zubarev was among the organizers of pseudo-referendums in Russian-occupied territories of Ukraine.
In September, four Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine staged votes on joining Russia. The polls, which are contrary to international law, paved the way for Russian annexation of the areas.
The occupied city of Melitopol is a hub for Russian forces nearly 100 kilometers (62 miles) from the front lines.
Last week, Ukrainian forces shelled the city causing power supply suspensions and damaging railway infrastructure
German Vice Chancellor arrives in Kyiv with business delegation
Germany’s Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck arrived in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv on Monday.
“The purpose of this trip is to give Ukraine a clear sign that we believe that it will be victorious, that it will be rebuilt, that there is an interest from Europe not only to support in times of need, but also that Ukraine will be an economically strong partner in the future,” Habeck told journalists upon arrival in Kyiv.
Habeck is being accompanied by a business delegation.
This is the vice chancellor’s first visit to Kyiv since the beginning of the Russian war against Ukraine on February 24, 2022.
Modern Germany has been reluctant to become involved in international conflicts against the backdrop of post-WWII demilitarization, but the country has adopted an evolving approach to security and military policy in the wake of Moscow’s war on Ukraine.
After months of hesitation, the German government announced in January that it would answer Kyiv’s calls for the high-tech Leopard 2 tanks.
Russian forces ‘very far’ from capturing Bakhmut: Ukrainian official
Ukraine has announced that Russian forces are “very far” from capturing the eastern town of Bakhmut and that fighting raged around the city administration building where the Wagner mercenary group claims to have raised the Russian flag.
“Bakhmut is Ukrainian, and they have not captured anything and are very far from doing that to put it mildly,” Serhiy Cherevatiy, a spokesperson for the eastern military command, told Reuters by telephone.
Russia’s flag hoisted over Bakhmut, city technically captured: Wagner founder
Russia’s flag has been hoisted over Artyomovsk (called Bakhmut in Ukraine) city hall, Yevgeny Prigozhin, the founder of the Wagner private military company, claimed on Monday.
“April 2, 23:00 precisely. Behind me is the building of [Artyomovsk’s] city administration. This Russian flag is for Vladlen Tatarsky, [the Russian military reporter killed in a blast in St. Petersburg on Sunday]. ‘In grateful memory,’ is written on this flag. Technically we have captured Bakhmut,” he said as quoted by the Telegram channel of his press service.
Prigozhin noted that the commanders of Russian units that captured the city hall and the entire central district “will carry and place the flags.”
“The adversary remains in Western blocks,” he added.
Zelensky: Situation in Bakhmut ‘especially hot’
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky stated that the military situation around the city of Bakhmut, besieged by Russian forces for months, is “especially hot”.
He praised his country for having repulsed Russian troops from areas around Kyiv a year ago.
“You have stopped the biggest force against humanity of our time,” Zelensky said on Telegram.
“You have stopped a force that despises everything and wants to destroy everything that gives people meaning,” the president added.
Russia extends oil production cuts until end of year: Deputy PM
Russia announced it is extending until the end of the year oil production cuts of 500,000 barrels per day, a response to Western sanctions that were due to expire at the end of June.
“As a responsible and preventive action, Russia is implementing a voluntary reduction of 500,000 barrels per day until the end of 2023,” Alexander Novak, the deputy prime minister in charge of energy issues, said in a statement.
Ukrainian official offers plan for a Crimea without Russia
A top Ukrainian official has outlined a series of steps the government in Kyiv would take after the country reclaims control of Crimea, including dismantling the strategic bridge that links the seized Black Sea peninsula to Russia.
Oleksiy Danilov, the secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, published the plan as Ukraine’s military prepares for a spring counteroffensive in hopes of making new, decisive gains.
Danilov suggested prosecuting Ukrainians who worked for the Moscow-appointed administration in Crimea, adding that some would face criminal charges and others would lose government pensions and be banned from public jobs.
All Russian citizens who moved to Crimea after 2014 should be expelled, and all real estate deals made under Russian rule nullified, Danilov wrote on Facebook.
Moscow annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, but most of the world does not recognise it as Russian territory. The peninsula’s future status will be a key feature in any negotiations on ending the current fighting.
UK ministry says alcohol behind many Russian losses in Ukraine
Excessive alcohol consumption has been the cause of many deaths among Russian forces in Ukraine, the British Defence Ministry has said in its regular update on the war.
“While Russia has suffered up to 200,000 casualties since its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, a significant minority of these have been due to non-combat causes,” it added.
It noted a recent Russian Telegram news channel report of “extremely high” numbers of incidents, crimes and deaths linked to alcohol consumption among the Russian forces.
EU to guard against any Russian abuse of UN presidency: Borrell
The European Union will guard against any abuse during Russia’s presidency of the United Nations Security Council during the month of April, the bloc’s foreign policy chief says.
Russia, one of the council’s five permanent members, assumed the presidency on Saturday as part of the monthly rotation among its 15 members.
“Despite being a permanent member of the Security Council, Russia continuously violates the very essence of the UN legal framework,” Joseph Borrell tweeted.
“The EU will stand against any abuse by (the) Russian presidency,” he added.
Ukraine army chief promises to fight on for ‘independence’
Ukraine will continue to fight for its independence, the chief of the army says, a year after the bodies of dozens of civilians were found in Bucha following Russia’s retreat from the outskirts of Kyiv.
“We will continue to fight for the independence of our nation,” Valery Zaluzhny wrote on Telegram.
Russian forces withdrew from Bucha, a commuter town northwest of Ukraine’s capital, on March 31, 2022 – a little more than a month after President Vladimir Putin ordered his troops to invade Ukraine.