Friday, March 1, 2024

Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 440: Putin says in Victory Day speech “true war” unleashed on Russia

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:

European grain restrictions are “absolutely unacceptable”: Zelensky

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Tuesday criticized “protectionist measures” from neighboring countries which limit imports of Ukrainian grain, saying they are “absolutely unacceptable.”

The EU last week adopted a temporary measure that bans wheat, maize, rapeseed and sunflower seed originating in Ukraine from being exported to Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia, after those countries raised concerns over local farmers being undercut by a bottleneck of cheap Ukrainian grain.

“Unfortunately, we have encountered problems where we should have continued to see strong signs of solidarity, in proportion to the threats that exist today — tough and even brutal, for wartime, protectionist measures from our neighbors,” Zelensky said at a joint news conference with EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

“Any restrictions on our exports now are absolutely unacceptable because they do not strengthen all of us in Europe, instead they strengthen the aggressor’s capabilities,” he added.

Addressing Zelensky’s concerns, von der Leyen described the grain topic as a “challenging situation” and vowed to set up a joint “coordination platform” to get grain exports “fully functioning again.”

“The immediate priority now is that the grain transit goes seamlessly and at the lowest possible cost outside of Ukraine towards the European Union,” she stated.

Russia is attempting to destroy values because it’s afraid of Ukraine’s path to EU: Bloc’s chief

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen stated Tuesday that Russia is seeking to destroy values of freedom in Ukraine because it is afraid of the country’s path to the European Union.

“We Europeans cherish our liberty, our democracy, our freedom of thought and speech,” von der Leyen said alongside Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during a visit to Kyiv to mark Europe Day.

“Ukraine is fighting for the ideals of Europe that we celebrate today. In Russia, Putin and his regime have destroyed these values,” she continued.

“They are afraid of the success you represent and the example you show, and they are afraid of your path to the European Union,” she stated.

Von der Leyen added that Russia has “dramatically failed,” and Ukraine is “fighting back successfully.”

Russia has failed to capture Bakhmut: Zelensky

Russia has failed to capture the eastern city of Bakhmut before the May 9 deadline — a day when Russia marks the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany in World War II, Ukrainian President Volodmyr Zelensky stated Tuesday

“They were not able to capture Bakhmut. This was the last important military operation that they wanted to complete by the ninth of May,” Zelensky said in a joint news conference with European President Ursula von der Leyen.

“Unfortunately, the city does not exist anymore. Everything is fully destroyed,” he added.

The Ukrainian president also said ammunition the European Union has pledged to deliver to Ukraine is already needed on the battlefield, calling for faster deliveries.

“Ukraine daily demonstrates efficiency of our defense against Russian aggression. Every intercepted terrorists’ missile, every success of our warriors in defeating Russian attacks, these are the proofs that we can win over this aggressor,” Zelensky stated.

“The main thing is the proportionality of our abilities to the abilities that the aggressor has. And in this context, I have thanked Ursula for the readiness of the European Union to provide Ukraine this badly needed ammunition, one billion artillery shells, and we have also discussed the key issues, the speed of the procurement and delivery of this ammunition, because they are needed on the battlefield already now,” he added.

Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin marked May 9 with the annual Victory Day parade and launched yet another scathing attack on the West, accusing it of holding Ukraine hostage to its anti-Russian plans. He also claimed that “real war” has been unleashed against Russia.

Wagner leader releases rant while Moscow celebrates Victory Day

Wagner founder and financier Yevgeny Prigozhin has criticized the Russian military’s focus on the Victory Day parade in Moscow, which comes just as Ukraine is about to launch a counteroffensive.

In the latest in a series of rants directed at Russia’s military leadership in Moscow, Prigozhin claimed Ukrainian forces were on Tuesday “tearing up the flanks” in the direction of Bakhmut and “regrouping at Zaporizhzhia.”

“And a counteroffensive is about to begin,” he said during a long stream on his social media accounts on Tuesday.

Prigozhin claimed that Russians should pay more attention to unfolding events in Ukraine, rather than the televised Victory Day parade.

“They absolutely, clearly say that the counteroffensive will be on the ground, not on TV. In our country everybody thinks that we should do everything on TV and celebrate the Victory Day,” he added.

The Wagner founder went on to say Victory Day belonged to a previous generation.

“Victory Day is the victory of our grandfathers,” he said, adding, “We haven’t earned that victory one millimeter.”

Prigozhin criticized the Russian military leadership for their lack of support for his fighters and for failing to hold the lines near Bakhmut, in a long stream posted on his social media accounts.

“Today [Tuesday], one of the units of the Ministry of Defense fled from one of our flanks, abandoning their positions. They all fled and left a front nearly two kilometers wide and 500 meters deep. Good thing we blocked it somehow,” Prigozhin said.

Prigozhin went on to say his fighters would be able to take the city if they were supplied with enough ammunition — but that Moscow had backtracked from its initial promises.

“We were promised on May 7 that we would be given ammunition,” he explained.

In the morning of May 8, Prigozhin said that Moscow gave an order to provide Wagner with “everything” they wanted. However, they were subsequently only provided with “10% of what was requested,” he claimed.

“We were simply blatantly lied to,” Prigozhin added.

The Wagner founder went on to say the Russian Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov was to blame for the decision.

“This morning the Chief of the General Staff [Valery Gerasimov] personally corrected all the figures and reduced them tenfold,” he claimed, without providing evidence. “This is very bad. If it goes on like this, we won’t be able to fight.”

“If all the tasks are performed in order to deceive the Supreme Commander-in-Chief, either the Supreme Commander-in-Chief will tear you’re a** up or the Russian people, who will be very upset if the war is lost,” Prigozhin added.

The Wagner founder added that his fighters would not leave Bakhmut and that they would “insist for a few more days,” he continued.

“Our enemy today is not the AFU (Armed Forces of Ukraine), but the Russian bureaucrat. Especially the near-war one,” he said, adding, “The shells are lying in warehouses, they are resting there. The industry is producing these reserves and instead of giving them to the troops, they are being stockpiled in warehouses. No one knows what for. Instead of spending a shell to kill the enemy, they kill our soldiers.”

UN chief’s statement on peace is ‘surprising’: Adviser

Ukrainian adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky disagrees with the UN Secretary-General, who said peace in Ukraine was now “impossible” because both sides are convinced they will win.

Mikhail Podolyak wrote on Twitter, “Statement by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres that “peace in Ukraine is impossible now” is somewhat surprising. Because peace is quite possible if… 1. The aggressor is finally reminded of the relevant articles of the UN Charter and “politely” asked to leave foreign territory.”

“2. If RF [Russian Federation] is no longer considered a part of the UN and the UN Security Council. 3. If Russia withdraws its troops from Ukraine … There is no need to create ideas and justify artificial helplessness when everything is obvious,” he added.

EU must not be intimidated by Moscow: Berlin

The EU must not be intimidated by Moscow’s parade of military power but continue to support Ukraine for as long as it takes, Germany Chancellor Olaf Scholz said.

“2,200 kilometres northeast from here, (Russian President Vladimir) Putin is parading his soldiers, tanks and missiles today,” Scholz told lawmakers in a speech at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, according to prepared remarks.

“We must not be intimidated by such power plays! Let’s remain steadfast in our support for Ukraine – for as long as it takes!” he added.

On Tuesday, Russia marked the Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany with a parade through Moscow.

Russia remembers the role US, UK and China played in World War II: President

In his Victory Day speech in Red Square Tuesday, President Vladimir Putin said Russia honors the sacrifice of the allied armies of the United States, the United Kingdom and China in World War II.

“The memory of our defenders of the motherland is sacred in our hearts,” Putin stated, adding: “We honor members of the resistance who fought Nazis, soldiers of allied armies of the US, Britain and other countries. We remember and honor the memory of Chinese soldiers in their battle against Japanese militarism.”

Putin suggested that “experience of solidarity” could be a foundation toward building a “multipolar world.”

“I am convinced that the experience of solidarity and partnership in the days of the struggle against a common threat is our heritage and a reliable base of support in our movement towards a multipolar world based on trust and indivisible security, equal opportunities for unique and free development for all nations in the world,” the president continued.

Ukraine has become “hostage” to Western-led regime: Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed Ukraine has become “hostage” to a regime led by “Western masters,” during his Victory Day speech in Red Square.

“The Ukrainian nation has become hostage to a coup which led to a criminal regime led by its Western masters. It has become a pawn to their cruel and selfish plans,” Putin said.

The Russian leader has previously used similar rhetoric in an attempt to justify Moscow’s military operation against Ukraine.

Tuesday marks the second Victory Day parade since Putin ordered the invasion in February last year.

Putin says “true war” is being waged against Russia and he wants a “peaceful” future

Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed on Tuesday that a “true war” is being waged against his country, adding that he wants a peaceful future in a speech during the annual Victory Day parade in Moscow.

“A true war has been unleashed against our motherland,” Putin said as Russia stages its main annual Victory Day parade on Moscow’s Red Square marking victory over Nazi Germany in World War II.

“Today, civilisation is again at a decisive turning point,” Putin stressed at the parade, which included elderly veterans and soldiers from Russia’s Ukraine campaign.

“We have repelled international terrorism and to fit we will defend the residents of Donbas and secure our own safety,” he added, referring to the eastern region of Ukraine that has largely been occupied by Russian forces since Putin ordered the invasion of his neighbor in February last year.

“Russia has no unfriendly nations in the west or in the east,” Putin also claimed.

Victory Day is the most significant in Putin’s calendar, and he has long used it to rally public support and demonstrate the country’s military prowess.

On Tuesday, he added that he wants a peaceful future.

“As the majority of people on this planet we want to see the future peaceful, free and stable,” he said, noting, “We believe any ideology of supremacy due to its nature is repulsive, criminal and deadly.”

Russia’s Victory Day parade begins in Moscow’s Red Square

Russia’s annual Victory Day parade is underway in Moscow’s Red Square, where Russian President Vladimir Putin is watching and expected to make a speech.

Russian Defense Minster Sergei Shoigu inspected the troops and congratulated them on the 78th anniversary of victory over Nazi Germany in World War II

Victory Day is the most significant in Russian President Vladimir Putin’s calendar, and he has long used it to rally public support and demonstrate the country’s military prowess.

But this year, the grandeur of the parade contrasts with Russia’s faltering military campaign in Ukraine. Outside of Moscow, several regions in Russia — many near the border with Ukraine — scaled down preparations for the spectacle due to security concerns and a lack of military equipment to display.

Among the troops taking part in the parade today are servicemen who participated in what Russia calls “its special military operation” in Ukraine.

Ukraine says its air defences shoot down 23 of 25 missiles

Ukraine says its air defences have shot down 23 of 25 missiles fired chiefly at the capital, Kyiv, and there are no reported casualties.

It was the second night in a row of major Russian air strikes on Ukraine and the fifth so far this month.

“Overnight into the ‘sacred’ May 9, [they] launched an attack on the territory of Ukraine,” Ukraine’s air force said on the Telegram messaging app.

Sergei Popko, head of the Kyiv city military administration, stated the Russians were trying to kill civilians, adding, “As at the front, the plans of the aggressor failed.”

Debris fell on a house in the Holosiivskyi district in the southwest of Kyiv but caused little damage, Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said. Debris lay in a road in the often-targeted Shevchenkivskyi district of central Kyiv.

US set to announce $1.2 billion aid package to Ukraine ahead of counteroffensive

The United States is set to announce a $1.2 billion aid package to Ukraine as early as Tuesday, according to a US official familiar with the package.

It comes at a critical point with Ukraine’s counteroffensive against Russian forces looming.

The package will include drones, artillery ammunition and air defense missiles as well as other capabilities, the official stated.

The package — first reported by the Associated Press — will fall under the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative (USAI), which means it will be contracted and purchased from manufacturers instead of pulled directly from Defense Department stocks in a drawdown.

Instead of supplying Ukraine with the weapons it currently needs, USAI packages are intended to create a medium and long-term supply for Ukraine.

Last week, the Pentagon announced its 37th drawdown package for Ukraine since August 2021. The $300 million package included additional ammunition for the HIMARS rocket system, artillery and tank ammunition, anti-tank weapons and more.

Wagner forces in Bakhmut are receiving more ammunition: Head of private military group

Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of the private Russian military group Wagner, stated on Monday that preliminary information indicates that his fighters in the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut have started to receive more ammunition.

“Ammunition supplies, according to preliminary data, we continue to receive. I haven’t seen it in person yet,” Prigozhin said in a voice memo posted to his Telegram channel late on Monday.

Prigozhin has repeatedly complained that his Wagner units are not receiving enough ammunition from Russia’s defense establishment. Last week, he announced they would withdraw from Bakhmut — a threat he now appears to be rowing back on.

Earlier Monday, a Ukrainian commander in Bakhmut said his unit faces “constant” shelling and had seen no evidence of the Russian ammunition shortage that Prigozhin had claimed.

Italy calls on its nationals to leave Ukraine

Italy says it “strongly” recommends any of its citizens still in Ukraine to leave the country by any means.

The country’s foreign ministry issued an alert in the wake of “ever heavier missile attacks on Kyiv and across all Ukrainian territory”.

“All travel to Ukraine, in any capacity, is strongly discouraged,” the ministry announced, urging anyone going for work to take “appropriate risk prevention and mitigation measures” and exercise “maximum caution”.

Russia launched its biggest swarm of drone attacks for months against Ukraine on Monday, and Kyiv says it will soon launch a counteroffensive to try to reclaim territory from Moscow’s invasion forces.

War in Ukraine cannot be ended with ‘piecemeal gains’: Turkey’s presidential office

Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin has stated that the war in Ukraine cannot be ended with “piecemeal gains”.

“Thirty years after the end of the Cold War, Russia tells the West: ‘Let’s make a new agreement, make a new bargaining and build a new global security architecture. Let me be in it, (where I) feel safe. Let the West, Ukraine, Europe and NATO be in it as well,’” Kalin told the Haberturk news channel.

Without bargaining for such an agreement at the strategic level, Kalin said, he “does not believe that the Ukraine war can be ended with piecemeal gains” by either side.

“This is the impression I got during my meeting with Putin,” he added.

World Athletics offers funding to help Ukraine train for championships

World Athletics, the governing body for track and field, says dozens of Ukrainian athletes and officials preparing for their world championships in August can get funding for training camps.

The body will invest $190,000 and prioritise replacing equipment for pole vaulters — the event of Ukrainian great Sergey Bubka — destroyed in Russian missile attacks.

A college in Bakhmut named after Bubka, who is now senior vice president of World Athletics, was part of a sports complex including a track stadium and indoor arena destroyed during fierce fighting there in recent months, the national track federation said.

“It was the only centre where athletes could conduct training camps at any time of the year. Now there is nothing left in Bakhmut,” Ukrainian officials wrote in a letter, World Athletics added.

World Athletics President Sebastian Coe pledged ahead of the August 19-27 championships in Budapest, Hungary, to do “whatever we can to help athletics survive and recover in Ukraine”.

Russia launched its “most massive attack” with drones Monday: Kyiv mayor

Russia’s wave of strikes on Ukraine early Monday was its “most massive attack with kamikaze drones,” Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko said.

“I visited a high-rise building that was hit by fragments of a Russian drone at night,” Klitschko wrote in a statement on Telegram.

“Last night, the barbarians staged the most massive attack with kamikaze drones. Almost 60 drones were launched,” more than half of which targeted Kyiv, according to Klitschko.

Other attacks were recorded in Ukraine’s Kharkiv and Kherson areas.

The Ukrainian military said it repelled the assault on the capital city, the latest in Moscow’s efforts to wear down its air defense system. According to Kyiv’s mayor, “36 drones flew to the capital” but were shot down by air defense forces.

“However, debris from several drones damaged some social facilities and a residential high-rise building in Sviatoshyn district,” Klitschko continued.

The mayor added the drone attack did not cause any deaths, “but five people were injured in two districts of the city.”

“Three of them were in high-rise buildings. Two victims were hospitalized, one of them underwent surgery. Doctors say that there is no threat to their lives,” he notedf.

New round of EU sanctions aims to stop Russia from bypassing previous sanctions: spokesperson

An 11th round of European Union sanctions against Russia will focus on how to effectively cut off ways for Moscow to bypass any existing European sanctions, the EU Commission announced Monday.

“[The goal] is to prevent Russia and its military industrial complex from finding a way to reach goods banned for them [by previous sanctions],” the European Commission’s chief spokesperson Eric Mamer said at a news conference.

On Sunday, the Financial Times reported that a new EU package of sanctions under consideration lists seven Chinese companies accused of selling equipment to Russia that could be used in weapons. The sanctions list would need unanimous approval from the 27 member states before it can be enforced.

China noted Monday it opposes any measures against trade based on its relationship with Russia.

“We urge the EU not to take the wrong path, otherwise China will firmly guard our legal rights,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin stated at a news conference Monday.

NATO air policing units on high alert after Russian jet narrowly missed Polish plane

NATO says its air policing units have been put on a higher state of readiness after a near-miss between a Russian fighter jet and a Polish aircraft on patrol for the EU’s border agency, Frontex, on Friday.

“NATO air policing detachments were put on higher readiness in response to the dangerous behaviour of a Russian military plane in the vicinity of a Polish Frontex aircraft over the Black Sea near Romania,” a NATO official speaking on the condition of anonymity told the Reuters news agency.

The official added NATO “remains vigilant” and referred further questions to Polish authorities.

Germany bans Russian flags at memorials on WWII anniversary

A Berlin court banned Russian flags and symbols from being displayed around three Soviet memorials in the German capital during World War II commemorations.

The higher administrative court said it agreed with police who feared Russian flags and Saint George ribbons could be interpreted as symbols of support for Russia’s war in Ukraine.

“In the current context, they could be understood as a declaration of sympathy for the war” and “convey a willingness to use violence”, the court announced in a statement.

Police had originally prohibited both Ukrainian and Russian flags at the memorials on May 8 and 9 when the end of World War II is commemorated each year. They had argued that “respect for these memorials and monuments must be preserved against the backdrop of the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war”.

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