Saturday, March 2, 2024

Live Update: Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 442

Moscow warns of “adequate response” to London supply of long-range missiles to Kyiv

The Kremlin has warned its armed forces will provide an “adequate response’ to the United Kingdom’s decision to supply long-range missiles to Kyiv.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov condemned the move during a conference call with journalists on Thursday, promising a Russian reply.

“This will require an adequate response from our military who will naturally make relevant decisions with this in view,” Peskov added.

The missiles have a maximum range of 250 km (155 miles) and give Ukrainian forces a new long-range strike capability in advance of a highly anticipated counteroffensive.

UK to send cruise missiles to Ukraine

Britain confirms donating Storm Shadow cruise missiles to Ukraine, defence minister Ben Wallace said.

“I can confirm that the UK is donating Storm Shadow missiles to Ukraine,” Wallace told parliament.

“The use of Storm Shadow will allow Ukraine to push back Russian forces based within Ukrainian sovereign territory,” he added.

Wallace’s comments come after CNN reported earlier on Thursday that Britain would send the weapons to Kyiv ahead of its anticipated counteroffensive.

Russia will put on its wanted list ICC judges who issued arrest warrant for Putin: Official

Russia’s Investigative Committee will soon put on the country’s wanted list the judges of the International Criminal Court (ICC) who issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin and another official, the chairman of the Investigative Committee Alexander Bastrykin said Thursday, according to state news agency RIA Novosti.

“The Investigative Committee then very quickly opened a criminal case against the chairman and three judges, who actively influenced the adoption of this decision. They will soon be put on the wanted list,” Bastrykin stated, speaking at the St. Petersburg International Legal Forum.

The International Criminal Court issued on March 17 an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russia’s children’s rights commissioner Maria Lvova-Belova for an alleged scheme to deport Ukrainian children to Russia.

The court said there “are reasonable grounds to believe that Mr Putin bears individual criminal responsibility” for the alleged crimes, for having committed them directly alongside others, and for “his failure to exercise control properly over civilian and military subordinates who committed the acts.”

The ICC charges were the first to be formally lodged against officials in Moscow since it began its unprovoked attack on Ukraine last year.

Russia is not a member of the ICC. As the court does not conduct trials in absentia, any Russian officials charged would either have to be handed over by Moscow or arrested outside of Russia.

The Kremlin has labeled the ICC’s actions as “outrageous and unacceptable.”

12,000 people moved inland in Zaporizhzhia: Russian official

In Zaporizhzhia, about 12,000 residents have moved reportedly been moved inland after Ukrainian shelling, the Tass news agency cited the Russian-installed governor as saying.

“About 4 thousand people arrived in the city of Berdyansk. These are citizens who arrived in an organized manner by bus. First of all, children with parents or accompanying persons, the elderly, patients of medical institutions. In total, about 12 thousand people: 4 thousand arrived in Berdyansk, 8,000 who left on their own,” Sergey Tolmachev, the first deputy governor of the region, told reporters.

Tolmachev added that in the event of any escalation on the frontline, they are ready to move people to Crimea and the Rostov region.

Kremlin condemns US decision to send Russian assets to Kyiv

The Kremlin criticised a decision by the United States to send confiscated Russian assets to Ukraine, saying it was illegal and would backfire on Washington.

On Wednesday, US Attorney General Merrick Garland authorized millions of dollars worth of Russian businessman Konstantin Malofeyev’s assets to be sent for use in Ukraine.

Asked about the case, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the United States had “stolen” the money, and such decisions would “hit it like a boomerang”.

“This undermines the confidence of investors and owners of assets that are somehow connected with America, and this certainly cannot remain without consequences for the United States,” he added.

Last year, the US Justice Department charged Malofeyev with violating sanctions imposed on Russia, saying he had provided financing for Russians promoting separatism in Crimea.

Ukraine has already begun its offensive: Wagner Group chief

The founder of Russia’s Wagner Group mercenary force Yevgeny Prigozhin says Ukrainian units have begun their counterattack and are approaching Bakhmut from the flanks.

Ukrainian operations were “unfortunately partially successful”, Prigozhin said in a comment his press service published on Telegram in response to a Russian media request about Ukraine’s anticipated counteroffensive.

Prigozhin’s assessment was released after President Volodymyr Zelensky’s interview with the BBC earlier in the day in which he said more time was needed to begin the counteroffensive.

UK supplies Ukraine with long-range missiles

Britain has supplied Ukraine with “Storm Shadow” long-range cruise missiles, CNN reported, citing multiple senior Western officials.

It said Britain had received assurances from Ukraine that these missiles would be used only within Ukrainian sovereign territory and not inside Russia.

Last week, a British-led group of European countries asked companies for expressions of interest to supply Ukraine with missiles with a range of up to 300km (190 miles).

But Britain said on Tuesday that no final decision had been taken on supplying the weapons.

Russians pushed back by 2km in Bakhmut: Ukraine

A Ukrainian army official says a Russian brigade near Bakhmut has been pushed back.

Colonel General Oleksandr Syrskyi, who is in charge of Ukraine’s ground forces, said Russian units in some parts of Bakhmut had retreated by up to 2km (1.2 miles) due to counterattacks.

He gave no further details.

The claim appeared to support comments by the head of the Wagner Group, who stated on Tuesday the Russian brigade had abandoned its positions in Bakhmut.

In a statement, Ukraine’s Third Separate Assault Brigade said: “It’s official. Prigozhin’s report about the flight of Russia’s 72nd Independent Motorized Rifle Brigade from near Bakhmut and the ‘500 corpses’ of Russians left behind is true.”

G7 nations discuss ways to support Ukraine

Financial leaders from the International Group of Seven (G7) nations are discussing ways to support Ukraine and pressure Russia to end the war as they meet in Japan for a three-day summit.

US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said the G7 nations “will stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes” to end the conflict.

The G7 leaders will also be looking into ways to prevent Russia and other countries from circumventing sanctions, Japanese Finance Minister Shunichi Suzuki told reporters.

“We have taken a wave of actions in the past few months to crack down on evasion. And my team has travelled around the world to intensify this work,” Yellen added.

Zelensky says Ukraine needs “a bit more time” before launching counteroffensive

Ukraine still needs “a bit more time” before it launches its long-awaited counteroffensive, as Kyiv’s forces await the arrival of more weapons from their Western allies, President Volodymyr Zelensky said.

“With [what we have] we can go forward and be successful,” Zelensky told European public service broadcasters in an interview published Thursday.

“But we’d lose a lot of people. I think that’s unacceptable. So we need to wait. We still need a bit more time,” he added.

Among the supplies Ukraine is waiting for are armored vehicles, including tanks, which Zelensky stated were “arriving in batches.”

They include German Leopard 2s and British Challenger 2s, along with other armored vehicles like American Bradleys and Strykers.

Zelensky’s comments came a day after the US announced a new $1.2 billion aid package to Ukraine intended to bolster air defenses and sustain ammunition supplies.

Trump won’t say whether he wants Russia or Ukraine to win war

Former US President Donald Trump would not say Wednesday night who he thinks should prevail in Russia’s war against Ukraine, instead telling New Hampshire GOP primary voters that he wants “everybody to stop dying.”

“I want everybody to stop dying. They’re dying. Russians and Ukrainians. I want them to stop dying,” Trump said at CNN’s town hall moderated by “CNN This Morning” anchor Kaitlan Collins.

“And I’ll have that done in 24 hours,” he added.

Trump, who would not say whether he wants Ukraine to successfully deter Russia when pressed by Collins, told the audience gathered at Saint Anselm College that he doesn’t “think in terms of winning and losing.”

“I think in terms of getting it settled so we stop killing all these people,” he continued.

Ukraine says Russian looting has increased in occupied regions

The number of lootings and robberies allegedly committed by Russian troops has increased during Russia’s evacuation of occupied territories, according to Ukraine’s deputy defense minister.

In a statement released Thursday morning, Hanna Maliar said Russian troops have been using “the alleged need to ensure the evacuation of the population” in the southern Zaporizhzhia region as a “pretext” to seize vehicles and other private belongings.

“In particular, in the settlements of Tokmak, Polohy, Kamianka, Rozivka, Mykhailivka, Molochansk, Enerhodar, Chernihivka in the temporarily occupied territory of Zaporizhzhia region, Russian occupiers, under the guise of so-called evacuation measures, stole property of local enterprises and citizens,” Maliar continued, adding, “In Enerhodar, at night, about 20 vehicles were stolen from the territory of the private enterprise Elektropivdenmontazh-10 and a warehouse was looted.”

Maliar stated that Russian troops “will use another cargo ship that arrived at the port of Berdiansk on May 7 to move the stolen property to the territory of the temporarily occupied Crimea.”

Russian authorities began evacuating towns and cities in the occupied region of Zaporizhzhia last week, amid rumors that Ukraine is set to launch a long-anticipated counteroffensive to reclaim territory seized by Moscow’s invasion. More than 1,600 people, including 660 children, have been evacuated from towns on the frontlines, according to the Russia-appointed acting head of the region.

Zaporizhzhia is home to Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, which has witnessed intense fighting since the start of the war and sparked concern among the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog. Rafael Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency warned Monday of the “increasingly unpredictable” situation at the Zaporizhzhia plant.

Ukraine’s military announced Wednesday that Russian soldiers prevented Ukrainian employees of the occupied plant from evacuating Enerhodar – a nearby frontline town – with their families.

Drone strikes hit Russia’s Belgorod and Bryansk regions: Governors

Additional drone attacks were conducted over Russia’s Belgorod region on the border with Ukraine, Belgorod Oblast Gov. Vyacheslav Gladkov said in a Telegram post Wednesday.

Two drones detonated and fell over a private residential area in the region, Gladkov said. No casualties were reported, but two residential buildings and a car were damaged, he added.

Another drone was shot down by Russian air defense systems over the region, Gladkov said. The governor added there were no casualties and that response teams are assessing the aftermath on the ground.

A drone strike hit Bryansk, another Russian region on the Ukraine border, said Bryansk Gov. Alexander Bogomaz.

Bogomaz said there were no casualties, and that an administrative building was struck in Stardoub. Response teams are working on site, he added.

Operation in Ukraine has been “very difficult”: Kremlin

The “special military operation” in Ukraine has been what Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov described as “very difficult,” but said certain goals have been achieved over the past year.

Speaking to Bosnian Serb channel ATV in remarks carried by Russian state news agency TASS on Wednesday, Peskov stated Russia is acting “slowly” In Ukraine because it is conducting a “special military operation, not a war.”

He acknowledged Ukraine’s stronghold in the eastern city of Bakhmut and said “a large amount of AFU troops are concentrated there, which is constantly receiving reinforcements.”

Peskov added the West has made “many mistakes” and “deceived Russia,” which prompted Russia to launch the operation in Ukraine — something he said the West became a participant in.

He maintained that the recent drone attacks on the Kremlin were an “attempted terrorist attack” against Russian President Vladimir Putin. By doing so, Peskov insisted, Ukraine has “equated itself with the state sponsors of terrorism.”

He added Russia will implement all necessary security measures following the incident.

Ukrainian officials and the US have repeatedly denied being behind a drone attack on the Kremlin.

Referring to the International Criminal Court (ICC) warrant issued against Putin earlier this year, Peskov said, “It’s difficult to imagine that anyone in the world would seriously consider issuing an ICC warrant against Putin, the leader of a nuclear power.”

Peskov told the channel that his country is “too strong a state” to give up its positions under pressure from the West, and said the Kremlin would not communicate with Western media “until they begin to show some interest in the truth.”

“Effective counterattacks” are underway in Bakhmut: Ukrainian military commander

Ukrainian forces are conducting “effective counterattacks” in the Bakhmut area, according to the commander of the Ukrainian Land Forces.

“Thanks to our well-thought-out defense in the Bakhmut sector, we are getting results from the effective actions of our units,” Colonel-General Oleksandr Syrskyi said on Telegram.

“In particular, we are conducting effective counterattacks. In some areas of the front, the enemy was unable to withstand the onslaught of Ukrainian defenders and retreated to a distance of up to 2 kilometers.”

Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of the Wagner private military company, also indicated that Ukrainian forces have been able to advance south of Bakhmut.

“It was the competent conduct of the defensive operation that exhausted the trained forces of the Wagner PMC and forced them to be replaced in certain areas by less trained units of the Russian regular army, which were defeated and retreated,” Syrskyi stated.

Prigozhin said earlier that units of Russia’s 72nd brigade had retreated from their positions. Other Russian accounts have said Wagner forces have moved to the city itself.

“Despite a significant concentration of troops and loud statements by Russian war criminals about their intentions to take Bakhmut by May 9, the enemy failed to capture the Ukrainian city,” Syrskyi continued, adding, “Our defense forces are holding the frontline securely and preventing the enemy from advancing. The battle for Bakhmut continues.”

He singled out the 3rd Separate Assault Brigade, which was involved in an assault on the positions of the 72nd Brigade, and “inflicted a powerful strike on the enemy in the battle,” Syrskyi said.

Russia conducted unsuccessful offensives in multiple areas: Ukraine military

The Russian offensive is concentrated in four different parts of the Donetsk region, with the “fiercest battles” in the cities of Bakhmut and Mariinka, according to the Ukrainian military’s General Staff.

Russia conducted unsuccessful offensive actions in Bakhmut and the Avdiivka and Mariinka areas, it said. Russian forces claimed earlier Wednesday that they had taken the village of Kamianka, north of Avdiivka, where Ukrainian forces have been surrounded on three sides for several months.

Further south — where observers expect a Ukrainian counteroffensive to be focused — Russian forces are conducting “defensive operations in the Zaporizhzhia and Kherson directions,” and had carried out a number of airstrikes, the General Staff announced.

Settlements close to the front lines had also been shelled, including 35 airstrikes and four attacks from MLRS [rocket systems] on the positions of Ukrainian troops and settlements of the Kherson region, it added.

The General Staff also claimed that Russians were evacuating civilians in the town of Tokmak in the Zaporizhzhia region to ”terrible living conditions” further south.

“Russian occupiers, under the pretext of evacuating civilians, continue to take away looted property from the front-line settlements of the Zaporizhzhia region,” it said, adding that medical institutions in the city of Enerhodar had been looted.

The Ukrainian air force had carried out several strikes, it noted, including against a Russian electronic warfare unit. The Ukrainians appear to be trying to disrupt both Russian military communications and electronic warfare capabilities ahead of a counter-offensive.

Wagner units have pulled back to Bakhmut due to alleged lack of coordination with Russian army: Ukraine

Fighters from the Wagner private military group have been pulled back to the eastern city of Bakhmut from other areas where they had combat missions, according to Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar.

They have been replaced by regular Russian army troops in those areas, she stated.

As the situation around Bakhmut appears to become more fluid, Ukraine’s military has not lost any positions in the area over the last day, Maliar said on Telegram.

Russian military bloggers have made similar reports, but they have complained that there is little coordination between Wagner fighters and Russian forces. Those same complaints have also been aired by the head of the mercenary group, Yevgeny Prigozhin.

Earlier Wednesday, Prigozhin said a Russian brigade had abandoned its positions south of Bakhmut, leading to many casualties among his fighters.

Russian planning evacuations near Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant: Ukraine

Ukraine’s state-owned energy company Energoatom says Russia plans to evacuate more than 3,000 staff members from Enerhodar, a town near the Zaporizhzhia plant, but warned that this could result in a “catastrophic staff shortage.”

“The Russian occupiers are proving their inability to ensure the operation of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, as there is now a catastrophic lack of qualified personnel,” the energy company said on Telegram.

Earlier, Ukraine’s military announced that Russian troops were stopping staff from evacuating Enerhodar.

“In Enerhodar, the Russian occupiers organised a so-called ‘evacuation’ for family members of Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Plant employees,” Ukraine’s armed forces said in a statement.

“Yet the employees of the power plant are not allowed to leave the city,” it added.

Russia’s war in Ukraine is informing China’s view on Taiwan: NATO chief

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is informing China’s calculations on a possible invasion of Taiwan, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told CNN Wednesday.

“What happens in Europe matters for Asia, and what happens in Asia matters for Europe,” Stoltenberg stated.

“Security is global,” he continued.

“Beijing is watching closely what happens in Ukraine, the price President Putin is paying but also the potential rewards. So what happens in Ukraine actually matters for the calculations Beijing, China’s making regarding, for instance, Taiwan,” he added.

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