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02 Apr 22. Germany looks to buy Israeli or U.S. missile defence system. Berlin is considering buying a missile defence system from Israel or the United States to defend against threats including Russian Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad, German weekly Welt am Sonntag reported on Saturday.
The Iskander missiles can reach almost all of western Europe and there is no missile shield in place to protect against this threat, Germany’s chief of defence Eberhard Zorn told Welt am Sonntag in an interview published on Saturday.
“The Israelis and the Americans possess such systems. Which one do we prefer? Will we manage to establish an overall (missile defence) system in NATO? These are the questions we need to answer now,” Zorn said.
He did not specify the names of the systems but was most likely referring to Arrow 3 built by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) (ISRAI.UL) and the U.S. system THAAD produced by Raytheon (RTX.N).
Russia said in 2018 it had deployed Iskander missiles to its Kaliningrad exclave, a slice of Russia wedged between Poland and Lithuania. A mobile ballistic missile system, the Iskander replaced the Soviet Scud missile and its two guided missiles can carry either conventional or nuclear warheads.
In a landmark speech days after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Berlin would hike its defence spending to more than 2% of its economic output by injecting 100 billion euros ($110 billion) into the military.
Zorn belongs to a group of high-ranking officials consulting with Scholz on how to spend this money.
“So far, only one thing is clear: We have neither the time nor the money to develop these (missile defence) systems on our own because the missile threat is known to already be there”, Zorn said.
Referring to Germany’s lack of a short-range missile defence, which can be used to protect troops on the move or under threat while deployed, he said Berlin had started looking into the purchase of such systems and it now had to make a decision.
Beyond this, the Bundeswehr will have to invest 20bn euros by 2032 to replenish its ammunition storages, Zorn added. (Source: Reuters)
02 Apr 22. Russia says cooperation in space only possible once sanctions are lifted. Russia’s space director said on Saturday that the restoration of normal ties between partners at the International Space Station (ISS) and other joint space projects would be possible only once Western sanctions against Moscow are lifted.
Dmitry Rogozin, head of Roscosmos, said in a social media post that the aim of the sanctions is to “kill Russian economy and plunge our people into despair and hunger, to get our country on its knees”. He added, “they won’t succeed in it, but the intentions are clear”.
“That’s why I believe that the restoration of normal relations between the partners at the International Space Station (ISS) and other projects is possible only with full and unconditional removal of illegal sanctions,” Rogozin said.
Rogozin added that Roscosmos’ prosposals on when to end cooperation over the ISS with space agencies of the United States, Canada, the European Union and Japan will soon be reported to Russian authorities. He has previously said that the sanctions could “destroy” the U.S.-Russian partnership on the ISS.
The West has introduced sweeping sanctions against Russia over what Moscow calls a “special military operation” in Ukraine, launched on Feb. 24.
Despite the tensions, a U.S. astronaut and two Russian cosmonauts safely landed in Kazakhstan on Wednesday after leaving the space station aboard the same capsule. read more
The European Space Agency said last month it was suspending cooperation with Roscosmos over the ExoMars rover mission to search for signs of life on the surface of Mars.
British satellite venture OneWeb said last month it had contracted with Elon Musk’s SpaceX to send its satellites into orbit after calling off a March 4 launch of 36 satellites from Russia’s Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan because of last-minute demands imposed on it by Moscow.
03 Apr 22. Ukraine has regained control of Kyiv region, deputy defence minister says. Moldova rebuts warning that Russian troops are massing on border. Ukraine has retaken the whole of the Kyiv region including several towns near its capital city, according to the country’s deputy defence minister. Hanna Maliar said late on Saturday that the country’s armed forces had regained control of the entire provincial area from Russian forces. “Irpin, Bucha, Hostomel and the whole Kyiv region were liberated from the invader,” she said in a Facebook post — referring to suburban towns north of the capital city. Ukraine’s national police force published a video filmed in Bucha and Hostomel, which is located near a key airport Russian forces sought to control. The video showed Ukrainian police teams in armoured vehicles patrolling bombed-out neighbourhoods including devastated buildings and cars. Russia has pulled back its troops from around Kyiv in recent days after failing to breach Ukrainian defences. Ukrainian officials said Russia was refocusing its offensive on the Donbas region — where it supported a separatist uprising in two breakaway “republics” in 2014 — the second city Kharkiv, and other areas in the country’s east. In a video address on Saturday night, President Volodymyr Zelensky accused Russian forces of mining territory behind them as they withdrew. “In the north of our country, the invaders are leaving,” he said. (Source: FT.com)
01 Apr 22. U.S. cancels ICBM test due to Russia nuclear tensions. The U.S. military has canceled a test of its Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile that it had initially aimed only to delay in a bid to lower nuclear tensions with Russia during the war in Ukraine, the Air Force told Reuters on Friday. The Pentagon first announced a delay of the test on March 2 after Russia said it was putting its nuclear forces on high alert. Washington said at the time it was important both the United States and Russia “bear in mind the risk of miscalculation and take steps to reduce those risks.” But it had publicly stated its intent only to delay the test “a little bit,” and not cancel it.
Air Force spokesperson Ann Stefanek said the decision to cancel the test of the LGM-30G Minuteman III missile was due to the same reasons as when it had been first delayed. The next Minuteman III test is scheduled to take place later this year.
“The Air Force is confident in the readiness of the strategic forces of the United States,” Stefanek said.
Altering the test schedule for America’s ICBM force can be controversial. U.S. Senator Jim Inhofe, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, expressed disappointment in March at the delay of a test he said was critical to ensure America’s nuclear deterrent remains effective.
Jeffrey Lewis, a missile researcher at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS), played down the impact of the cancelation.
“There’s a value to doing the tests but I don’t think missing one test in the grand scheme of things is a really big deal,” said Lewis, adding the Minuteman III was extremely reliable.
The nuclear-capable Minuteman III is key part of the U.S. military’s strategic arsenal and has a range of 6,000-plus miles (9,660-plus km) and can travel at a speed of approximately 15,000 miles per hour (24,000 kph).
Missiles are dispersed in hardened underground silos operated by launch crews. Russian President Vladimir Putin said in February that his nation’s nuclear forces should be put on high alert, raising fears that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could lead to nuclear war. But U.S. officials have said they have seen no reason so far to change Washington’s nuclear alert levels. Russia and the United States have by far the biggest arsenals of nuclear warheads after the Cold War that divided the world for much of the 20th century, pitting the West against the Soviet Union and its allies. Russia announced earlier on Friday it would military strengthen its western borders with Europe. (Source: Reuters)
04 Apr 22. In Ukrainian street, a corpse with hands bound and a bullet wound to the head. A man lay sprawled by the roadside in the Ukrainian city of Bucha on Sunday, his hands tied behind his back and a bullet wound to his head, one of hundreds of local residents that officials say have been found dead in the wake of five weeks of Russian occupation.
Bucha’s deputy mayor, Taras Shapravskyi, said 50 of the dead residents, found after Russian forces withdrew from the city late last week, were the victims of extra-judicial killings carried out by Russian troops, and the officials have accused Moscow of war crimes.
Russia’s defence ministry said in a statement issued on Sunday that all photographs and videos published by the Ukrainian authorities alleging ‘crimes’ by Russian troops in Bucha were a “provocation,” and no resident of Bucha suffered violence at the hands of Russian troops.
Reuters was not able to independently verify who was responsible for killing the dead residents.
But three bodies seen by Reuters reporters on Sunday — the corpse with the hands bound and two others which did not have bound hands — bore bullet shots to the head consistent with what Bucha mayor Anatoliy Fedoruk and his deputy described as executions.
In all three cases, there were no signs of any other significant injuries elsewhere in the body. All three people shot in the head were male, and all three were dressed in civilian clothing.
On the body of the person whose hands were bound, there were powder burn marks on his lips and face. Such marks can mean a person was shot at close range.
The cloth used to bind the man’s hands appeared to be a white armband. Russian troops, while they were in Bucha, required that local residents wear the armbands to identify themselves, according to one woman who was still wearing hers.
Reuters sent questions to the Kremlin and the Russian defence ministry about the corpses that its reporters had witnessed, but received no immediate reply.
Russia’s defence ministry, in its statement on Sunday said: “During the time that Russian armed forces were in control of this settlement, not a single local resident suffered from any violent actions.” It added that before Russian troops withdrew on March 30 they delivered 452 tons of humanitarian aid to civilians around the Kyiv region.
Shapravskyi, the deputy mayor, said some 300 people were found dead after the Russian withdrawal. Of these, he said officials so far have logged 50 as executions carried out by Russian forces. Reuters could not independently verify those figures.
The others were either killed in crossfire, or their deaths are so far unexplained.
“Any war has some rules of engagement for civilians. The Russians have demonstrated that they were consciously killing civilians,” Fedoruk, the mayor, said as he showed Reuters reporters one of the bodies.
Reuters also spoke to one local resident who described a person being found dead after Russian troops detained them, and another resident who described two people found dead with single gunshot wounds to the head.
Reuters was not able to independently verify the descriptions provided by the residents.
Sobbing as she gestured at her husband’s shallow grave, a shot of vodka topped with a cracker resting on freshly dug earth, Tetyana Volodymyrivna recounted an ordeal at the hands of Russian troops in this city 37 km (23 miles) northwest of Kyiv.
She and her husband, a former Ukrainian marine, were dragged from their apartment when Russian troops set up their command centre in their building. The soldiers held them prisoner in the apartment building where they lived.
She said the Russians, when they arrived in the city, asked people who they were, and demanded to see documents.
She said a fighter with the Russian forces who she believed was from Russia’s semi-autonomous Chechnya region warned he would “cut us up.” She did not say how she knew he was Chechen.
Reuters sent a request for comment to the office of the leader of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, a Kremlin loyalist, but received no reply.
Tetyana, who identified herself by her first name and patronymic but did not give her family name, was released after being held for four days. Her husband was nowhere to be seen for several days, until she was told about some bodies in a basement stairwell of the building where she and her husband lived.
“I recognised him by his sneakers, his trousers. He looked mutilated, his body was cold,” she said. “My neighbor still has a picture of his face. He had been shot in the head, mutilated, tortured.”
Reuters reviewed the photograph, which showed that the face and body were badly mutilated. The news agency could not determine if there was a bullet wound.
After recovering her husband’s body, she and some neighbours buried it in a garden plot near their building, just deep enough “so dogs wouldn’t eat him,” she said.
Another corpse still lay in the stairwell where her husband was found, a Reuters reporter saw. Local residents covered the body with a bedsheet as a mark of dignity.
“SHOT IN LEFT EYE”
Around the corner, another grave contained the remains of two men, a woman resident told Reuters. She said the men had been taken away by Russian troops. She did not witness them being killed. When the bodies were found, both had been shot through the left eye, she said. Six other residents gathered near the grave said her account was correct.
One of the residents said she recognised one of the dead men as a tenant in the apartment complex, who she said was a retired member of the Ukrainian military.
Bucha was captured in the days immediately after the Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces who swept south, capturing the defunct nuclear reactor at Chernobyl and moving southwards toward the capital.
Bucha and the northern outskirts of nearby Irpin were the point at which the Russian advance from the northwest was halted after they met with unexpectedly fierce resistance from Ukrainian forces.
The area witnessed some of the bloodiest fighting of the battle for the capital, until Russian forces pulled back from north of Kyiv. Moscow said in late March it was regrouping to focus on battles in eastern Ukraine.
On Saturday, Ukraine said its forces had retaken all areas around Kyiv and that it now had complete control of the capital region for the first time since the invasion.
On Sunday, roads in Bucha were littered with unexploded ordnance. Rockets poked out of the tarmac near burned-out wrecks of tanks. Some residents scrawled “Beware, mines” on their walls in chalk after finding booby traps or missiles on their premises.
Resident Volodomir Kopachov said Russians troops had set up a rocket system in a vacant lot next to his garden. When a Reuters reporter visited, boxes of ammunition and spent shell casings littered the ground.
Kopachov, a Ukrainian dog breeder, was in mourning.
He said his 33-year-old daughter, her boyfriend and a friend were shot dead by Russian troops after firing a party streamer towards them just days before the pullback. Kopachov’s wife said they fired the streamer as a gesture of defiance, not with the intent of harming the soldiers.
“It is so hard to go through it all,” said the 69-year-old,” as 10 Alabai, a breed of prized Central Asian Shepherd dog, barked in his backyard.
Kopachov said he had not ventured beyond the gates of his house for a month. “They were killing [people] on the spot. No one asked: ‘who you are, why you are out?’. The men were simply shot.”
The Kremlin denies that it has invaded Ukraine, saying it is carrying out a “special military operation” to degrade the Ukrainian armed forces and is targeting military installations rather than carrying out strikes on civilian areas.
Speaking in Hostomel, near Bucha, on Sunday, Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov said: “This is not a special operation, these are not police actions… These are inhumans who simply committed crimes against civilians.” (Source: Reuters)
01 Apr 22. 82nd Airborne, Truman carrier strike group deployments extended. Thousands of troops who mobilized over the past two months in response to Russia’s military build-up and then invasion of Ukraine are probably going to remain activated into the summer, the Pentagon confirmed on Thursday.
More than 5,000 troops are in Poland, training with local forces and facilitating handoffs of weapons and equipment to Ukrainian forces, while a carrier strike group has been operating in the Mediterranean Sea since late last year. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has decided both will extend past their original estimated deployments, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said.
“He reviews the posture literally every day, and he has decided that he’s going to keep the 82nd there for a while longer,” Kirby said. “And he has decided that the carrier Truman and her strike group will stay in the Med for a while longer.”
The support units that accompanied the 82nd will also stay, Kirby added. Aviation assets and an armored brigade combat team have also deployed to Germany and across Eastern Europe.
Kirby could not offer details on how long the extension would last, nor how long the original deployments were slated for. In general, unplanned deployments tend to be slated for about 90 days.
To date, about 11,000 troops have joined 80,000 that are already stationed in Europe. As Russia’s war in Ukraine wages on, there have been renewed discussions about how many American troops is the right number in Europe.
Air Force Gen. Tod Wolters, the head of U.S. European Command, told lawmakers on Wednesday that he has had discussions with his chain of command about increasing the number of troops on the continent.
“It’s got to change,” he said during a House Armed Services Committee hearing. “And certainly, this is an opportunity, as a result of this senseless act on behalf of Russia, to reexamine the permanent military architecture that exists not only in Eastern Europe, but in our air policing activity, in aviation and in our standing naval maritime groups.”
In the past 10 years, the Army has closed multiple garrisons in Germany, replacing permanently stationed forces with back-to-back rotational deployments.
Those troops have trained local forces up and down NATO’s eastern front, leading countries like Poland and Romania to suggest permanent basing.
“The rotational troop presence is not adequate,” Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Alabama, told Wolters. “It needs to be permanent.”
Wolters’ advice was included in considerations of a global force posture review completed last year. The Pentagon has classified its results, telling reporters that they will find out about the recommendations if and when they are announced as formal moves.
“You can bet that senior leadership at the department are going to take a look at our European posture going forward,” Kirby told Military Times on Wednesday. “Again, I can’t tell you when a decision is going to be made one way or the other.”
Asked whether the department had been considering making changes before Russia’s invasion, Kirby said the Pentagon had consulted with Wolters, but that the war in Ukraine would also be part of the decision-making process.
“Clearly, because of the acute threat of Russia and clearly, because of the way the security environment in Europe has changed,” he said. “So could it mean more troops more permanently based in Europe? It could, but again, no decisions have been made. (Source: Military Times)
01 Apr 22. Defense Department Announces $300m in Additional Assistance for Ukraine.
Attributed to Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby: This afternoon, April 1, the Department of Defense (DoD) notified Congress of additional assistance activities under authority provided by the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative (USAI).
Through USAI, DoD will provide up to $300m in security assistance to bolster Ukraine’s capacity to defend itself. This decision underscores the United States’ unwavering commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in support of its heroic efforts to repel Russia’s war of choice.
Capabilities in this package include:
- Laser-guided rocket systems;
- Switchblade Tactical Unmanned Aerial Systems;
- Puma Unmanned Aerial Systems;
- Counter-Unmanned Aerial Systems;
- Armored High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles;
- Small-to-large caliber nonstandard ammunition;
- Night vision devices, thermal imagery systems, and optics;
- Tactical secure communications systems;
- Non-standard machine guns;
- Commercial satellite imagery services;
- Medical supplies, field equipment, and spare parts.
The United States has now committed more than $2.3 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since the beginning of the Biden Administration, including more than $1.6bn in security assistance since Russia’s unprovoked, premeditated invasion.
Unlike Presidential Drawdown, USAI is an authority under which the United States procures capabilities from industry rather than delivering equipment that is drawn down from DoD stocks. This announcement represents the beginning of a contracting process to provide new capabilities to Ukraine’s Armed Forces.
The United States also continues to work with its Allies and partners to identify and provide to the Ukrainians additional capabilities. The United States will continue to utilize all available tools to support Ukraine’s Armed Forces in the face of Russian aggression. (Source: US DoD)
01 Apr 22. UK missile shoots down first Russian helicopter in Ukraine war. Ukrainian forces claim success with Starstreak. Britain’s most advanced portable missile system is thought to have shot down a Russian helicopter in its first use on the Ukrainian battlefield.
Starstreak, a high-velocity projectile that destroys targets with three kinetic darts, was filmed cutting the aircraft in two over the Luhansk region in the east of the country.
Footage of the attack shows the tungsten spears breaking the tail off the Mi-28N, after Ukrainians using British techniques opened fire.
A Ministry of Defence source believed that the video showed Starstreak in action over Ukraine. The source added that the anti-aircraft system had been deployed in the country for almost a week. Senior defence industry sources who examined the film also believe it to be the weapon.
In other developments:
- President Putin was visited by a cancer surgeon 35 times in four years at his Black Sea residence, an investigation has claimed.
- China mounted a cyberattack on Ukraine’s military and nuclear facilities in the build-up to Russia’s invasion, according to intelligence documents.
- President Zelensky vowed to punish traitors within Ukraine’s security establishment as he sacked two generals.
- Kyiv denied that two of its helicopters had attacked a fuel depot in Russia.
Starstreak was sent to Ukraine as part of a weapons package from Britain that includes thousands of Next Generation Light Anti-tank Weapon (NLAW) missiles. It can be fired from a stand or shoulder launcher and take out jets and helicopters up to 7km away.
Unlike other anti-aircraft missiles, it is not a “fire and forget” system. The projectile splits into three darts in mid-air and must be laser guided to targets by the operator on the ground. This makes it virtually impossible for enemy aircraft to deploy counter measures such as flares to distract the missile because, unlike the US-made Stinger, it does not home in on infrared energy.
Mastering the weapon is difficult. Soldiers must have 1,000 successful hits on a simulator before they are allowed to launch a live missile.
The MoD sent a team of Britain’s best Starstreak operators and a simulator to a secret location in a neighbouring country to train Ukrainians. They had aimed to get them ready with an intense course in two to three weeks, but the confirmation of its use yesterday suggests that soldiers have learnt to use it in one or two.
Starstreak is designed and made by the defence and aerospace company Thales in Belfast. “It really is a step change in the capability of Ukrainians because its range is far greater. It’s absolutely lethal and you can bring down anything from a MiG to battle helicopters — and it’s incredibly accurate,” an industry source told The Times. Britain has been one of the biggest contributors of military equipment to Ukraine. It is on track to send 10,000 anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles and is providing £400 million in humanitarian and military support.
The US is providing the largest haul of weaponry, with shipments of Stingers and Javelin launchers as well as state-of-the-art Switchblade drones as part of a $1 billion package.
Canada, which has the third-largest population of Ukrainians, after Ukraine and Russia, has donated thousands of launchers, hand grenades and almost $30 million worth of sniper rifles, ammunition, night-vision gear and body armour.
The Ukrainian air force has said that Russia will win the war if western powers do not donate better aircraft and air defence systems. Despite the success of their ground forces against Russia over the past five weeks, air superiority is “the deciding factor in this war”, military officials have said.
They said that Ukraine was ill-equipped to defend against Russian air power, adding that Stingers were “not enough” to secure their airspace. Instead, the air force asked for F-15 and F-16 fighters, claiming its pilots were capable of learning how to fly them in two to three weeks. The jets are said to be superior to the Su-27 used by Ukraine at present.
Also requested was the US Patriot system, a heavy duty “long-range, all-altitude, all-weather” air defence system that can destroy tactical ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and aircraft.
US officials say that Russia has ramped up aircraft sorties to more than 300 in a 24-hour period. The Ukrainian air force said on Twitter that it could not close the sky or gain air superiority “due to a large discrepancy in equipment and technologies”, adding that it had been “urgently requesting more modern fighter jets and air defence tools from its allies since the outset of the war. Over the past month, our air force has sustained losses; as equipment is destroyed by Russian forces or damaged in action, our need only grows more urgent.”
Commenting on its ability to take out Russian aircraft from the ground, the air force said: “Stingers have a limited range and functionality [and] cannot compensate for a lack of modern fighter jets and medium and long-range missile defence systems. Kamikaze drones are designed to destroy targets on the ground and also cannot defend against Russian aircraft and missiles.” (Source: The Times)
01 Apr 22. Tanks and bodies mark path of Russian retreat near Kyiv.
- Ukraine takes back more territory near Kyiv
- Huge fire in Russian logistics hub as peace talks resume
- Gas still flowing to Europe despite Putin threat
- Red Cross convoy again fails to reach besieged Mariupol
- Workers collect the bodies in recaptured Irpin
– Ukraine recaptured more territory around Kyiv from Russian soldiers who left shattered villages and their own abandoned tanks as they moved away from the capital, while a disputed cross-border strike in Russia complicated peace talks on Friday.
In the hamlet of Dmytrivka to the west of the capital, smoke was still rising from the wrecks of armored vehicles and the bodies of at least eight Russian soldiers lay in the streets, Reuters correspondents saw. read more
“From one side we were hearing the tanks shooting at us, and from the area of Bucha was a massive mortar shelling,” said resident Leonid Vereshchagin, a business executive, referring to a town to the north.
Ukrainian forces went on to take back Bucha, its mayor said on Friday in a video that appeared to be filmed outside the town hall. The advances followed several days of Ukrainian gains around Kyiv and in the north.
In southwest Ukraine, anti-air defences thwarted an attempted attack on critical infrastructure in the Black Sea port of Odesa, the Ukrainian military said. Reuters could not immediately verify the account. read more
Odesa’s governor, Maksym Marchenko, said three missiles had hit a residential district, causing casualties. He said the missiles were fired from an Iskander missile system in Crimea, the southern Ukrainian peninsula annexed by Russia in 2014.
Russia denies targeting civilians.
President Vladimir Putin sent troops on Feb. 24 for what he calls a “special operation” to demilitarise Ukraine.
The West calls it an unprovoked war of aggression that has killed thousands, uprooted a quarter of Ukraine’s population and brought Russian-U.S. relations to their worst point since the Cold War.
Aiming to lower nuclear tensions with Russia, the U.S. military has canceled an intercontinental ballistic missile test that it had initially aimed only to delay, the Air Force told Reuters. r
In the Russian border city of Belgorod, a logistics hub for its war effort, Moscow said Ukrainian helicopters struck a fuel depot, causing a huge fire. Ukraine denied responsibility for the incident, the first of its kind in the five-week-old war.
The fire destroyed several oil tanks and will likely add short-term strain to Russia’s already stretched logistics chains, Britain’s defence ministry said.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the incident could jeopardise Ukrainian-Russian peace talks, which resumed on Friday by video link. Russia will strengthen its western borders so it won’t “cross anyone’s mind to attack,” Peskov said later. r
Hours after the blaze began at the oil depot, an eyewitness reached by telephone in Belgorod, who asked not to be identified, said aircraft were flying overhead and there were continuous explosions from the direction of the border.
“Something is happening. There are planes and constant explosions in the distance.” Security camera footage showed an explosion following what appeared to be the flash of a missile. read more
Ukraine’s top security official said Russia’s accusations were not correct. Ukraine’s defence ministry earlier had declined to confirm or deny involvement.
“Ukraine is currently conducting a defensive operation against Russian aggression on the territory of Ukraine, and this does not mean that Ukraine is responsible for every catastrophe on Russia’s territory,” said ministry spokesperson Oleksandr Motuzyanyk.
A Russian threat to cut off gas supplies to Europe unless buyers paid with roubles by Friday was averted for now, with Moscow saying it would not halt supplies until new payments are due later in April.
Russia says the southeastern region of Donbas, where it has backed separatists since 2014, is now the focus of its war efforts. The besieged and bombarded Azov Sea port city of Mariupol has been its main target there.
Conditions on Friday made it impossible to go ahead with a plan to evacuate civilians from Mariupol, where tens of thousands are trapped, the International Committee of the Red Cross said.
United Nations aid chief Martin Griffiths will travel to Moscow on Sunday and then to Kyiv as the U.N. pursues a humanitarian ceasefire in Ukraine, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told reporters.
A total of 6,266 people were evacuated from Ukrainian cities through humanitarian corridors on Friday, said Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy head of the Ukrainian president’s office.
After failing to capture a single major city, Russia has painted its draw-down of forces near Kyiv as a goodwill gesture in peace talks. The negotiations led to a prisoner exchange on Friday, Tymoshenko said, with the release of 86 Ukrainian troops.
Tymoshenko did not say how many Russian soldiers were released.
Ukraine and its allies say Russian forces have been forced to regroup after suffering heavy losses due to determined Ukrainian resistance.
Regional governors in Kyiv and Chernihiv said Russians were pulling out of areas in both those provinces, some heading back across borders to Belarus and Russia.
In Irpin, a commuter suburb northwest of Kyiv that had been one of the main battlegrounds for weeks, now firmly back in Ukrainian hands, volunteers and emergency workers carried the dead on stretchers out of the rubble.
Lilia Ristich was sitting on a metal playground swing with her young son Artur. Most people had fled; they had stayed.
She listed neighbours who had been killed – the man “buried there, on the lawn”; the couple with their 12-year-old child, all burned alive.
“I pray for all this to end and for them never to come back,” she said. “When you hold a child in your arms it is an everlasting fear.” (Source: Reuters)
02 Apr 22. Ukraine continue to advance against Russian forces near Kyiv, UK says. Ukrainian forces continue to advance against withdrawing Russian forces in the vicinity of Kyiv, British military intelligence said on Saturday. Russian forces are also reported to have withdrawn from Hostomel airport near the capital, which has been subject to fighting since the first day of the conflict, Britain’s Ministry of Defence said in a regular bulletin.
“In the east of Ukraine, Ukrainian forces have secured a key route in eastern Kharkiv after heavy fighting,” the ministry added. (Source: Reuters)
01 Apr 22. Ukraine claims Bucha among towns north of Kyiv to be liberated. Ukrainian officials claimed on Friday that the country’s armed forces had liberated Bucha, a suburb adjacent to Irpin, just north of the capital Kyiv, as well as scores of other towns and villages across the country. The development follows more than a month of fierce Ukrainian resistance that bogged down Russian forces in the area, preventing a swift capture of Kyiv. Ukraine’s retaking of Bucha comes days after Russia’s defence ministry suggested it would scale back its forces from around Kyiv and focus on military operations in the east and south of the country.
“Bucha is free! The Ukrainian military liberated the city,” said the town’s mayor, Anatoly Fedoruk, in a video address on Friday. (Source: FT.com)
01 Apr 22. Erdogan wants Zelensky and Putin to meet in Turkey. Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has pressed Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelensky and Russia’s Vladimir Putin to hold direct talks to end the war, offering to host such a summit in Turkey.
Erdogan spoke by telephone with Putin on Friday, a day after a call with Zelensky. The Turkish leader said Zelensky “looked positively” on meeting Putin, whose army invaded Ukraine on February 24.
However, a statement from Erdogan’s office after his conversation with Putin did not include the Russian president’s response to his offer to bring the two men together. The Kremlin has repeatedly ruled out direct negotiations between Putin and Zelensky.
Erdogan has argued that Turkey’s good relations with both Kyiv and Moscow position it as a mediator in peace talks. Ukrainian and Russian negotiators met this week in Istanbul to discuss Zelensky’s detailed peace proposals, including military neutrality and binding security guarantees from outside nations. The talks failed to yield a breakthrough. (Source: FT.com)
01 Apr 22. EU and Chinese leaders clash over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Sino-European virtual summit exposes divisions over Beijing’s supportive line. The EU and China clashed over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Friday, as the bloc’s leaders warned Beijing at a virtual summit not to aid Moscow’s war effort and Chinse president Xi Jinping pushed Brussels to act more independently of the US. Speaking after video meetings that exposed widening divisions between the EU and Beijing, Charles Michel, the European Council president, said China could not “turn a blind eye” to Russian aggression. Standing alongside him, Ursula von der Leyen, European Commission president, admitted the two sides had exchanged “clearly opposing views” at the summit. Anything China did that supported Russia’s ability to wage war would do “major reputational damage” to the country in Europe, von der Leyen warned. “China has an influence on Russia and therefore we expect China to take its responsibility” to help bring a peaceful resolution of the conflict, she said. Xi, however, refused to budge from his position that the US and EU had adopted what Chinese diplomats call a “cold war mentality” over the crisis in Ukraine. China’s president called on the EU “to pursue an independent policy towards China” — a thinly veiled criticism of European solidarity with the US in blaming Russia for the crisis and in imposing strong sanctions on Russian president Vladimir Putin’s regime. Recommended News in-depthChinese politics & policy Russia’s invasion of Ukraine forges new unity of EU purpose on China While Xi’s diplomats insist the country is a neutral party on Ukraine, they and Chinese state media have repeatedly endorsed Russia’s justifications for the invasion and blamed the US and Nato expansion for stoking conflict. According to the official Xinhua news agency, Xi said “regional security conflicts” in Europe were the “root cause” of the Ukraine crisis. Xi “did not condemn, but also did not defend” Putin’s invasion, according to a person present during the video call, adding that the Chinese president ignored a direct question from Michel as to whether he supported the invasion. Instead, Xi referred to the importance of understanding Russia’s “security concerns in Europe”, the person said. In a separate video call with the EU duo, Chinese premier Li Keqiang insisted Beijing was working towards a peaceful resolution of the crisis in “its own way”. In the run-up to Friday’s summit, Wang Yi, China’s foreign minister, told his Russian counterpart “the Ukrainian issue” was the result of “the long-term accumulation of security conflicts in Europe” as well as a “cold war mentality and group confrontation”. Wang hosted Sergei Lavrov on the sidelines of a regional security meeting about Afghanistan on Wednesday, their first in-person meeting since the war in Ukraine began in late February. In early February, Xi and Putin announced there were “no limits” to their friendship. But analysts say the threat of secondary western sanctions has stopped China from offering significant support to the struggling Russian economy. (Source: FT.com)
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