Saturday, May 18, 2024

Live Update: Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 431

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:

Death toll from Ukraine strike on Russian border village rises

The death toll from an overnight Ukrainian strike on the Russian border village of Suzemka has risen to four, the governor of Russia’s western Bryansk region stated on Sunday.

“Two more civilians have been found and removed from the rubble. Unfortunately, both of them died,” local governor Alexander Bogomaz said on on Telegram this afternoon.

A further two people are also being treated in hospital, he added.

Earlier on Sunday Bogomaz had confirmed that two people were killed in the shelling.

Rubble is still being removed and the village has declared a state of emergency.

Ukraine says it retains Bakhmut ‘road of life’

Ukraine remains in control of a key supply route into Bakhmut, a military spokesperson said.

“For several weeks, the Russians have been talking about seizing the ‘road of life,’ as well as about constant fire control over it,” Serhiy Cherevatyi, a spokesperson for Ukrainian troops in the east, stated in an interview with local news website Dzerkalo Tyzhnia.

“Yes, it is really difficult there … (but) the defence forces have not allowed the Russians to ‘cut off’ our logistics,” he added.

The “road of life” is a vital road between the ruined Bakhmut and the nearby town Chasiv Yar to the west – a distance of just over 17 km (10.56 miles).

Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of Russia’s mercenary Wagner Group reportedly threatened to withdraw some of his troops from the eastern city if Moscow did not send more ammunition.

In a nearly 90-minute video interview with Russian military blogger Semyon Pegov published on Saturday, Prigozhin threatened to withdraw troops from Bakhmut, saying they had enough ammunition left only for days.

“If the shortage of ammunition is not replenished, then … most likely, we will be forced to withdraw part of the units,” Prigozhin added, quoting a letter he said was sent to Russia’s Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, giving an April 28 deadline.

It was not immediately known when the interview was recorded.

Two killed in missile strike on Russian village: Governor

Two people were killed when a Ukrainian missile hit a Russian village near the countries’ border, the regional governor has stated.

Missiles hit the village of Suzemka, to the east of the frontier between the two countries, according to Alexander Bogomaz, the governor of Bryansk oblast.

“As a result of the strike inflicted by Ukrainian nationalists, unfortunately, two civilians were killed,” he said in a message posted on Telelgram.

“According to preliminary data, one residential building was completely destroyed, two more houses were partially destroyed,” he added.

Ukrainian military intelligence warns Crimea residents to avoid military facilities for “near future”

The Ukrainian defense ministry’s military intelligence service urged residents of Crimea to stay away from military facilities following a massive fuel depot fire sparked by a suspected drone attack in Sevastopol on Saturday.

Calling the blaze “bavovna,” which is used as another word for an explosion in Ukrainian, Andrii Yusov, a representative for the Defence Intelligence of Ukraine, said the fire “is God’s punishment, in particular for the civilians killed in Uman.”

Yusov was referring to the Russian missile strike on an apartment block in the central Ukrainian city of Uman Friday that killed at least 23 people.

“This punishment will be long-lasting,” he stated in an interview with Ukrainian media on Saturday.

“It is advisable for all residents of temporarily occupied Crimea not to stay near military facilities or facilities providing for the aggressor’s army in the near future,” he added.

Yusov claimed the fire “destroyed more than 10 tanks with oil products with a capacity of 40,000 tonnes.”

According to Yusov, the oil products were intended for use by the Russian Black Sea Fleet.

The Russian Defense Ministry has not yet commented on the incident. But the city’s Russian-installed governor, Mikhail Razvozhaev, said the now-extinguished blaze was the result of a drone attack. He added “only one drone was able to reach the oil reservoir” and another one was downed. Four fuel tanks were hit, but no one was injured, he added.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky stated in an interview released Saturday that Ukraine is preparing for a counteroffensive, but declined to say when it would happen. He has repeatedly pledged to “liberate” Crimea from Russia. Moscow declared the peninsula annexed since 2014.

Zelensky says counteroffensive “will happen”, but not ready to say when

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in an interview posted Saturday that a highly anticipated counteroffensive against Russian troops is in the works and “will happen.”

“There will be a counteroffensive,” Zelensky stated, while speaking to reporters from Finland, Denmark, Sweden and Norway. A video of the interview was shared to his Telegram account.

“We are preparing for it. It will happen,” he continued.

Zelensky added he believes in the mission’s success and that “we will be able to de-occupy our territories.”

But the Ukrainian president said he is “not ready to say in detail when it will happen and how.”

Ukraine is still in need of “certain weapons,” he noted, and the main risk for his troops is whether they will have enough of the ammunition they need.

“Weapons are decisive in the moments of de-occupation,” Zelensky stated.

Some background: Ukraine has made extraordinary efforts to conceal the start of its strategically vital counteroffensive.

Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar stated last week that the counteroffensive would not be announced.

Much of the focus of recent speculation centers on the southern Zaporizhzhia region, where Kyiv’s forces could attempt to separate the Russia-annexed peninsula of Crimea from occupied territory in eastern Ukraine and the Russian mainland.

Search and rescue operation ends in Uman apartment strike that killed 23, with 2 still missing

The search and rescue operation in the Ukrainian city of Uman has concluded, following Friday’s deadly missile strike that hit an apartment building, according to regional emergency services and Ukraine’s Minister of Internal Affairs Ihor Klymenko.

The strike left at least 23 people dead — including six children — and they have all been identified, Klymenko said.

Three boys — including a one-and-a-half year old, and two teens who were 16 and 17 — and three girls — aged 8, 11 and 14 — were killed, he added.

Two women remain missing, Klymenko said. They are also presumed dead, Vasyl Kozynenko, Uman’s deputy police chief, told CNN.

The strike is believed to have been the deadliest attack on Ukrainian civilians in months.

A challenging rescue: Seventeen people were pulled from the rubble, with nine suffering injuries, according to Klymenko.

“I am grateful to the rescuers, police, utility workers, and dozens of Uman residents who joined in the dismantling of the collapsed building. The work went very quickly because everyone was in a hurry. We were hoping to find someone alive under the rubble until the last minute,” Klymenko said in a post on Facebook.

The building kept collapsing during the rescue operation and parts of it could not be accessed, according to Yulia Norovkova, a spokesperson for the region’s emergency services. About 150 officers were involved in the recovery efforts.

“More than 100 people have already received psychological help,” Norovkova added.

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