Thursday, April 18, 2024

Live Update: Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 435

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:

Washington, London, NATO bear overall responsibility for Kiev’s actions: Russia

The United States, the United Kngdom and other NATO countries bear overall responsibility for all of the actions of the Kiev regime, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova wrote on her Telegram channel on Thursday.

“First and foremost, the creators and handlers of the Kiev regime, who hail from Washington, London and NATO, bear overall responsibility for everything that it [Kiev] is perpetrating,” she noted.

The diplomat stressed that Western countries have “eliminated Ukraine’s legitimate authorities, placed opportunists and bandits at the helm, pumped them with money and weapons, instilled in them a sense of absolute license and impunity, and provided them with political cover and military support.”

Drone attack ‘must not go unanswered’: Russia

Russia’s Foreign Ministry announced an alleged Ukrainian drone attack against the Kremlin “must not go unanswered” and showed Kyiv had no desire to end the war with negotiations.

In a statement, the ministry also condemned the West’s “silence” over the incident and called on others to condemn what Moscow has called an attempt to kill President Vladimir Putin.

Russia calls Zelensky’s comments ‘nonsense’

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova called President Volodymyr Zelensky’s statements at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague “nonsense about a nuclear bomb,” Tass news agency reported.

On Telegram, Zakharova quoted Zelensky, who said that Ukraine wants to “make this war the last in the world” and responded, “a drug addict is delusional about a nuclear bomb.”

White House official denies “ridiculous” allegations from Moscow over alleged Kremlin drone strike

John Kirby, the National Security Council’s Coordinator for Strategic Communications, called accusations from Russia that the US directed Ukraine to carry out an alleged Kremlin drone attack and assassination attempt on President Vladimir Putin “ridiculous.”

His remarks came after Moscow spokesperson Dmitry Peskov alleged without any evidence that the US was behind the purported drone attack, and suggested the Ukrainian government was implementing decisions made in Washington.

“We are well aware that decisions on such actions and such terrorist attacks are not made in Kyiv, but in Washington. And Kyiv is already executing what it is told to do,” Peskov said on Thursday.

“Such attempts to disown this both in Kyiv and in Washington are, of course, absolutely ridiculous,” he added.

Ukraine vehemently denied responsibility for the alleged incident on Wednesday, as a series of extraordinary allegations from Moscow inflamed tensions between the two sides even further.

Zelensky says Putin “deserves to be sentenced” in Hague for actions in Ukraine

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky stated Russian President Vladimir Putin “deserves to be sentenced” for Moscow’s invasion, during a speech at the International Criminal Court (ICC) headquarters in the Netherlands where the ongoing conflict was likely at the top of his agenda.

“Of course we want to see Vladimir here in the Hague,” Zelensky said while speaking at the World Forum.

“The one who deserves to be sentenced for these criminal actions right here in the capital of the international law,” he added.

“I’m sure we will see that happen when we win and we will win and when we win not just on the battlefield, not just against this aggression. Look at how countries around the world are coming together to help Ukrainians defend themselves, whatever their heart have this desire to help the feeling that more than the fate of one country is at stake,” he continued.

The ICC has launched several war crimes investigations linked to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, where Kyiv, allied officials and the media have reported alleged atrocities committed by Moscow’s troops.

In March, the court issued arrest warrants for Russian President Vladimir Putin and Maria Lvova-Belova, a member of Putin’s government, for an alleged scheme to forcibly deport thousands of Ukrainian children to Russia.

At the same time, the ICC’s Chief Prosecutor Karim Khan told CNN he believes Russian President Vladimir Putin could stand trial for alleged crimes committed during the conflict, despite Moscow’s arguments that it is not subject to the court’s decisions.

EU foreign policy chief urges Russia not to escalate war on Ukraine following alleged Kremlin drone attack

The European Union’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell called on Russia not to intensify attacks on Ukraine, after Moscow accused Kyiv of targeting the Kremlin in an alleged drone strike and assassination attempt on President Vladimir Putin.

“We call Russia not to use this alleged attack as an excuse to continue the escalation of the war. This is what worries us,” Borrell told reporters in Brussels.

“What worries us is this can be used in order to justify more conscription of people, soldiers, more attacks on Ukraine,” he continued.

Borrell added that the “only solution for the war” is to support Ukraine “militarily, politically and economically.”

“The best solution for the war, the only solution for the war, is Russia stopping the attack and withdrawing their troops from Ukraine,” he said.

His remarks came as the Kremlin accused Ukraine of following orders by the US to carry out the alleged attack.

Ukraine on Wednesday denied any involvement in the strike. US officials said earlier this week they were still assessing the incident, and had no information about who might have been responsible.

Moscow accuses Washington of being behind alleged Kremlin drone attack

Russia has accused Washington of being behind what it says was a drone attack on the Kremlin and an assassination attempt against President Vladimir Putin, the latest in a series of extraordinary allegations over the incident on Wednesday.

When asked by CNN if the Kremlin believed the US was behind the attack, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said: “Undoubtedly, Such decisions, the definition of goals, the definition of means — all this is dictated to Kyiv from Washington.”

“We are well aware of this,” he added.

“We are well aware that decisions on such actions and such terrorist attacks are not made in Kyiv, but in Washington. And Kyiv is already executing what it is told to do,” Peskov scontinued, stating, “Such attempts to disown this both in Kyiv and in Washington are, of course, absolutely ridiculous.”

The Kremlin spokesperson doubled down on the accusations, without providing any evidence, expanding on Russia’s view of how these decisions are made.

“We know that it is often not even Kyiv who determines the goals themselves, they are determined in Washington, and then these goals are brought to Kyiv so that Kyiv fulfils [those tasks],” Peskov said, noting, “Not every time Kyiv is given the right to choose the means, this is also often ordered from across the ocean.”

“Washington must clearly understand that we know this,” he added.

Peskov did not provide any evidence to his claims, nor additional details regarding the alleged attack, saying that information would be released later.

He also told journalists Putin is “calm,” despite the alleged attack and assassination attempt.

“You know that in such difficult, extreme situations, the president always remains calm, collected, clear in his assessments, in the commands he gives out,” he added, saying, “Therefore, nothing changed in this regard.”

He told CNN during the call with reporters that the alleged strike damaged two of the Senate Palace’s copper sheets, which will be repaired.

Russia has claimed Ukraine launched a drone strike targeting the Kremlin in an attempt to kill Putin, the official residence of the Russian president and the most potent symbol of power in Moscow.

Ukraine has strongly denied involvement in the alleged strike.

US officials stated that they were still assessing the incident, and had no information about who might have been responsible.

Russia launches investigation into fires at oil facilities in border region

Russia’s federal investigative authority is launching a probe into fires at oil facilities in the southwestern Rostov region, after Moscow accused Ukraine of hitting the depots in a series of targeted attacks.

According to a statement published by the Russian Investigative Committee on Telegram, the investigation will focus on the fires at the Novoshakhtinsk oil products plant in Rostov among other “criminal actions by the Armed formations of Ukraine.”

Kyiv has not commented on the fires.

The Russian Investigative Committee said an unmanned aerial vehicle “crashed into the structures of the plant’s inter-workshop flyover under construction,” on Wednesday night.

“The fire that resulted from the explosion was immediately extinguished. There were no casualties or injuries, and minor damage was caused to structures,” the statement commented.

The committee said it will also be investigating an unmanned aerial vehicle attack on a water tower in the Belgorod Region, as well as a fire that broke out at an oil refinery in the village of Ilsky in the Krasnodar region. It said it believed the blaze was caused by an attack of an “unknown unmanned aerial vehicle.”

Border attacks between Moscow and Kyiv have been ramping up in recent weeks. They included civilian and infrastructure targets and suggest an attempt to exhaust each other ahead of an anticipated Ukrainian spring offensive.

Kherson death toll rises to 23 after Russian shelling: Ukrainian official

The death toll has risen to 23 following Russian shelling of the city of Kherson in southern Ukraine and its surrounding villages on Wednesday, the regional military chief stated Thursday.

Oleksandr Prokudin, head of the Kherson regional military administration, said on Telegram that another 46 people were injured, including two children.

Russian forces shelled Kherson 16 times, including its residential area, he noted. More than 80 shells hit Pryvokzalna Square, a railway station and crossing, a gas station, two stores, a factory and a car repair shop, he added.

The regional military administration has declared Thursday through Saturday as days of mourning, he continued.

Following the shelling Wednesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said: “The world needs to see and know this.”

“A railway station and a crossing, a house, a hardware store, a grocery supermarket, a gas station — do you know what unites these places? The bloody trail that Russia leaves with its shells, killing civilians in Kherson and Kherson region,” he added.

Netherlands will do “everything in their power” to make sure Russia is “being held to account” over Ukraine

Dutch Foreign Minister Wopke Bastiaan Hoekstra said the Netherlands will do “everything in their power” to make sure Russia is “being held to account” over the war in Ukraine, before President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed the World Forum in a speech highlighting atrocities allegedly committed by Moscow.

“Children are being kidnapped every single day, every single day. And these are ordinary innocent people who have done nothing to deserve this terrible fate,” Hoekstra stated in an introductory speech.

“And we can never accept this. And we will do everything in our power to ensure that Russia is being held to account,” Hoekstra added.

“Together with all those who want peace and believe in justice,” he continued.

Hoekstra’s remarks preceded Zelensky’s comments that Russian President Vladimir Putin “deserves to be sentenced” for Moscow’s invasion.

“Of course we want to see Vladimir here in the Hague,” Zelensky said while speaking at the World Forum.

“The one who deserves to be sentenced for these criminal actions right here in the capital of the international law,” he added.

The ICC has launched several war crimes investigations over alleged atrocities committed by Moscow, issuing arrest warrants for Putin and Maria Lvova-Belova, a member of Putin’s government.

Kremlin attack likely staged to prepare for ‘wider societal mobilisation’: ISW

Washington, DC-based think tank the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said the alleged drone attack by Ukraine on the Kremlin was probably staged by Moscow.

“Russia likely staged this attack in an attempt to bring the war home to a Russian domestic audience and set conditions for a wider societal mobilization,” the ISW announced on Thursday.

The ISW points out that Russia has recently increased domestic air defences around Moscow and that it is “extremely unlikely that two drones could have penetrated multiple layers of air defense and detonated or been shot down just over the heart of the Kremlin”.

The shooting down also “provided spectacular imagery” which was “caught nicely on camera”, ISW noted.

The “official Russian narrative around the [drone] strike suggests that Russia staged this incident in close proximity to the May 9th Victory Day holiday in order to frame the war as existential to its domestic audience”, it added.

Ukraine Air Force says it shot down 18 drones launched by Russia

Ukraine’s Air Force destroyed 18 of 24 drones fired by Russia on Wednesday night, it announced in a statement released early Thursday.

“On (Wednesday night), the enemy again attacked with Shaheds from the north (Bryansk region) and from the south – the eastern coast of the Azov Sea,” the statement said, adding, “This time, the Air Force, in cooperation with the air defense of other components of the Ukrainian Defense Forces, destroyed 18 attack UAVs.”

Explosions were heard in the capital Kyiv and Odesa early Thursday morning, with air defenses activated and people told to stay in safe places until air alerts stopped ringing, according to Ukrainian officials.

The capital region’s military chief said Ukrainian air defenses withstood Russia’s most intense air attack on Kyiv since the start of the year overnight and into Thursday morning, and destroyed all Russian missiles and drones.

There were no civilian casualties or damage to residential buildings and infrastructure, he added.

Oil refinery in Krasnodar on fire following drone attack

A fire broke out in the reservoir of Russia’s Ilsky oil refinery in the Krasnodar territory, according to Russian state news agency Tass early Thursday.

Citing emergency services, Tass reported that the fire was a result of a drone strike.

“Due to an attack by an unknown drone, a fuel tank at the Ilsky Oil Refinery in the urban-type settlement of Ilsky in the Seversky district caught fire,” Tass quoted emergency services, adding that firefighters have been dispatched to the site.

The fire was burning in an area of 1,200 square meters, it noted.

There were no casualties, according to Veniamin Kondratiev, governor of the Krasnodar region, who said in a Telegram post that residents are no longer in danger.

“It’s been a second turbulent night in a row for our emergency services. A tank of petroleum products at the Ilsky Oil Refinery in the Seversky District has now been confirmed to be on fire. Fire brigades and MES staff of 48 people and 16 vehicles are already at work,” he stated.

On Wednesday, Russian state media reported a drone strike ignited a fire that engulfed an oil storage facility in the port of Volna in southwestern Russia’s Krasnodar region.

The facility is close to the Kerch bridge that was set ablaze by Ukrainian forces in October 2022. It is unclear how the fuel storage tank caught fire and Ukraine has not commented on the incident.

Russia opens terrorism probe after Kremlin drone attack

Russia has opened a terrorism probe after Moscow announced it shot down two drones aimed at President Vladimir Putin’s residence and accused Ukraine of a “terrorist” assassination attempt.

“The Investigative Committee of Russia has opened a criminal case on terrorism in connection with an attempt to strike the Kremlin residence of the President of Russia,” the committee, which probes major crimes, said in a statement.

Zelensky slams Russia after deadly shelling in Kherson region

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky lashed out at Russia after he said at least 21 people were killed by shelling in the southern Kherson region.

“The world needs to see and know this,” Zelensky wrote on Telegram on Wednesday.

“A railway station and a crossing, a house, a hardware store, a grocery supermarket, a gas station — do you know what unites these places? The bloody trail that Russia leaves with its shells, killing civilians in Kherson and Kherson region,” he stated.

Zelensky added that at least 48 people were also wounded and sent his condolences to the families and friends of those affected.

“We will never forgive the culprits,” he vowed, noting, “We will defeat evil state and hold all the perpetrators to account.”

White House: It’s too early to tell if Russian drone claims amount to “false flag” operation

It is “too early” to say whether Russia’s claims of a Ukrainian attempt to assassinate President Vladimir Putin amount to a “false flag” operation, the White House said Wednesday, adding that it would not speculate about the veracity of Moscow’s claims.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre also said the US was not taking any steps that would help Kyiv from striking inside Russia.

“Since the beginning of this conflict, the United States is certainly not encouraging or enabling Ukraine to strike beyond its borders,” she continued, adding, “We’ve been very clear from here about that.”

She added, “I don’t want to get into speculation from here about the authenticity of this report.”

Earlier, US officials said it had no advance warning of the drone attack in Moscow. American agencies were urgently working to assess Russia’s claims.

Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky denied earlier that his country had staged an attack on Putin.

Asked about the prospect of a Russian “false flag” operation, which the US has warned of previously, Jean-Pierre stated it wasn’t prudent to speculate.

“It is really too early to tell, as you asked me, about a false flag,” she continued, adding, “But obviously Russia has a history of doing things like this.”

Latest US arms package to Ukraine valued at $300m: Washington

The United States will continue to stand with Ukraine as it defends itself from “Russia’s war of aggression”, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said.

“Pursuant to a delegation of authority from President Biden, I am authorising our 37th drawdown of US arms and equipment for Ukraine valued at $300m,” he stated.

The package, Blinken noted, includes additional ammunition for High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, howitzers, artillery and tank ammunition, anti-tank weapons, rockets, small arms and ammunition, trucks and trailers to transport heavy equipment, and spare parts and other field equipment.

“This latest package will help Ukraine continue to bravely defend itself in the face of Russia’s brutal, unprovoked, and unjustified war. Russia could end its war today. Until Russia does, the United States and our allies and partners will stand united with Ukraine, for as long as it takes,” he continued.

European Union will ramp up ammunition production for Ukraine and European defense: EU Commission

The European Union is boosting production of ammunition and missiles to help replenish depleting Ukrainian and EU stocks, the European Commission announced Wednesday.

With an allocated a budget of $552 million, the initiative — which is called the Act in Support of Ammunition Production (ASAP) — will “ramp up the EU’s production capacity” and “address the current shortage of ammunition and missiles as well as their components,” the commission said in a news release.

President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen said, “Ukraine is heroically resisting the brutal Russian invader. We stand by our promise to support Ukraine and its people, for as long as it takes. But Ukraine’s brave soldiers need sufficient military equipment to defend their country.”

ASAP will “help supply more ammunition for Ukraine to defend its citizens and it will also strengthen our European defense capabilities,” von der Leyen added.

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