Ukraine - Day 397 of the Invasion of Ukraine: Kyiv wants Emergency UN Meeting over Putin’s Nuclear Plans
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Day 397 of the invasion of Ukraine. Summary of key events in the last 24 hours:
Kremlin: Western reaction will not affect Belarus nuclear weapons plans
The Western reaction will not affect plans to deploy tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, said Dmitry Peskov, press secretary of Russian President Vladimir Putin. On Saturday, Putin personally announced the Kremlin's intention, pointing out that the United States has for years deployed nuclear weapons on the territory of its allies. NATO accused Moscow of "dangerous and irresponsible" nuclear rhetoric. Ukraine requested an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council. European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell urged Belarus not to accept Russian nuclear weapons, stressing that Minsk could face further sanctions. In an interview with "Rosiyskaya Gazeta", the Secretary of the Russian Security Council, Nikolai Patrushev, stated that NATO is a party to the conflict in Ukraine and does not hide its main goal - to defeat and dismember Russia.
Kazakhstan tightens measures to comply with sanctions against Russia
Kazakhstan said on Monday it will require exporters to submit additional documents when sending goods to Russia, following reports that Russian companies are using local intermediaries to circumvent Western sanctions, Reuters reported. Russia is Kazakhstan's main trading partner, and after the West banned the sale of thousands of goods to Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine, some Kazakh firms began buying such items and reselling them to Russian firms. However, the government in Astana has vowed to maintain the sanctions and said on Monday that the new rules, which take effect on April 1 and apply to exports within the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union, will reduce "illegal" trade. "(The procedure) excludes the submission of documents by impersonators, fake senders or recipients," a government statement quoted by Reuters said. Kazakhstan's exports to Russia jumped by a quarter last year, and Kazakh businessmen say Turkey's move to crack down on Russian "parallel imports" has sparked a new wave of inquiries from Russians seeking goods they cannot buy directly. Already at the beginning of the war, the government in Moscow approved a list of goods that it would buy through friendly countries in order to circumvent sanctions from enemy countries. These goods will not officially be paid for brands, copyrights, etc., since they are de facto not produced for the Russian market, but are imported into it as re-exports from third countries that are not sanctioned.
The Russian occupiers shelled Sloviansk, there are dead and wounded
There are dead and injured in Sloviansk after rocket strikes by the Russian occupiers this morning. "The enemy must know: Ukraine will not forgive the mockery of our people, it will not forgive these deaths and injuries. All Russian terrorists will be defeated. Everyone who participates in this aggression will be held responsible," said President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky, quoted by UNIAN. According to him, all services are working at the site, and the rubble is being cleared. At the moment, it is known about one dead and 25 wounded as a result of the shelling of Sloviansk, announced the chairman of the Donetsk regional military administration, Pavel Kirilenko. Administrative and office buildings, five high-rise cooperatives and seven private houses were destroyed, he specified. Kirilenko added that the Russian occupiers hit the city center around 10:30 a.m. with two S-300 missiles. At the same time, Druzhkovka was hit by missiles - two S-300 missiles hit the children's home in Druzhkovka and almost completely destroyed it. According to preliminary information, there are currently no victims or injured in Druzhkovka, added the head of OVA.
Russia: NATO countries are party to the war in Ukraine
Russia considers NATO member states a party to the conflict in Ukraine, Reuters reported, citing an interview by Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev with Russia's pro-government newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta on Monday. "Rossiyskaya Gazeta" quoted Patrushev as saying: "Actually, the NATO countries are a party to the conflict. They have made Ukraine a big military camp. They are sending weapons and ammunition to the Ukrainian troops, providing them with intelligence." Patrushev does not distinguish between countries that help Ukraine militarily and those such as Bulgaria and Hungary that refuse to do so. Since the beginning of the war 13 months ago, President Rumen Radev and the leader of Bulgaria's Socialists Kornelia Ninova have categorically opposed the provision of arms to Ukraine on the grounds that this would involve Bulgaria in the conflict. Patrushev, a former head of the FSB's internal security service, is considered one of the fiercest members of Russian President Vladimir Putin's inner circle, according to Reuters.
The Ukrainian authorities ordered the evacuation of all municipal offices in the town of Avdiivka
Ukrainian authorities have ordered the evacuation of all municipal offices in the town of Avdiivka, Donetsk region, which has again come under intense Russian attacks. Meanwhile, Moscow has accused Kyiv of an attempted drone attack in Russia's Tula region. "Unfortunately, Avdiivka is increasingly turning into a place from a post-apocalyptic movie," said the head of the local military administration, Vitaly Barabash, who announced the decision to evacuate. Yesterday, two high-rise buildings were subjected to Russian shelling. Avdiivka is located not far from the Russian-controlled city of Donetsk and about 90 kilometers from besieged Bakhmut. Before the war, the city had about 32,000 inhabitants, but after the Russian invasion, its population decreased more than 10 times. Meanwhile, Russia has accused Ukraine of an attempted drone attack in Russia's Tula region. In the explosion in Kireevsk, which is about 300 km from the border with Ukraine, three people were injured and residential buildings were damaged. Earlier, Kyiv called for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council over the deployment of tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus announced by Russian President Vladimir Putin. NATO described Russia's nuclear rhetoric as "dangerous and irresponsible". Spokesperson Oana Lungescu said the Alliance is being vigilant about the situation with Belarus. Lithuania said it would seek new sanctions against Moscow and Minsk, while Europe's top diplomat, Josep Borrell, urged Belarus not to accept nuclear weapons on its territory.
A drone was shot down 200 km south of Moscow
A Ukrainian drone was shot down by Russian air defenses, Moscow announced. The drone went down in the city of Kireevsk - about 400 kilometers from the Ukrainian border - on Sunday, the BBC reported, citing the defense ministry in Moscow. According to Russian state media, at least three people were injured in an explosion after the aircraft was shot down. Ukraine, which has so far denied claims it attacked Russian civilian targets with drones and has yet to comment on the incident. Russian authorities say the drone - said to be a Strizh (Tu-141) unmanned aerial vehicle packed with explosives - was shot down at 3:20 p.m. local time (2:20 p.m. Bulgarian). causing a large crater in the heart of the city. Several apartments were reportedly damaged in the town - which is located in the Tula region, 220 km south of Moscow - but no one was injured. In a statement on its Telegram channel, the Russian Ministry of Defense blamed Ukraine for the attack. "The Russian air defense systems deployed in the Tula region - anti-aircraft missile systems ‘S-300’ and ‘Pantsir-S1’, as well as systems for radio-electronic warfare ‘Pole-21’ provide reliable cover from this direction", reports the ministry. From there they specify that the drone was shot down by "Pole-21", which disabled its navigation system, and that the machine is Ukrainian. The BBC recalls that in December Moscow reported that three servicemen of the Russian Air Force had died after being injured by falling debris from a drone shot down at the Engels air base in the south of the country. The base has been used repeatedly by Russia to carry out missile strikes on various targets in Ukraine.
Borrell urged Belarus not to accept Russian nuclear weapons
European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell urged Belarus not to accept Russian nuclear weapons, stressing that Minsk could face further sanctions if it did so. Borrell's reaction comes 2 days after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced in an interview that his country plans to deploy tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus. "Belarus can still stop it, it's their choice. The European Union is ready to respond with additional sanctions," Borrell tweeted. Earlier, NATO also reacted to Russia's statement. A spokesman for the alliance, quoted by Reuters, said that Moscow was using "dangerous and irresponsible" nuclear rhetoric. And the Foreign Ministry of Ukraine requested an urgent meeting of the UN Security Council on the subject.
The fighters of the Ukrainian Armed Forces have mastered the Challenger 2 tanks. They are returning to Ukraine for the counteroffensive
The Ukrainian military has completed practical training on how to use Challenger 2 tanks in the UK. According to The Guardian, these tanks and trained crews will arrive in Ukraine for the spring counteroffensive. “It is truly inspiring to see the determination of Ukrainian soldiers who have completed their training on British Challenger 2 tanks on British soil. We will continue to support them and do everything we can to support Ukraine for as long as it takes," said British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace, who last week visited the training grounds of the Ukrainian Armed Forces. Tankers have been training since the second half of January. They arrived in England after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak became the first European politician to announce the transfer of tanks. The British Ministry of Defense has not yet disclosed the exact whereabouts of the Challenger 2 tanks, which are destined for Ukraine. The crews were trained in the operation of these machines, command and teamwork. The Ministry of Defense in London noted that the Ukrainian tankers surprised with their skills. "The Combat Maneuver Center team was honored to conduct this training for our Ukrainian partners. We were all extremely impressed with the level of competence demonstrated and have no doubt that our friends will use the Challenger 2 tanks most effectively in future battles when fighting for their country," said Lt. John Stone, who led the training mission. Britain's Ministry of Defense added that these tanks will give Ukraine a "gradual change in capabilities" on the battlefield with access to one of the most modern and advanced firing systems. On January 16, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced the transfer to Kyiv of 14 Challenger 2 tanks. At the time, this was the first official announcement of the provision of tanks to Kyiv. Ukrainian Ambassador to London Vadym Prystaiko said Volodymyr Zelensky and Rishi Sunak agreed during their meeting in Britain to double the number of tanks provided. In addition, London promised to provide Ukraine with 20 Bulldog armored personnel carriers and 30 AS-90 self-propelled artillery units.
Ukraine wants emergency UN meeting over Putin's nuclear plans
Ukraine's government has called for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council to "oppose the Kremlin's nuclear blackmail" after Russian President Vladimir Putin revealed plans to deploy tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus. One of the Ukrainian officials said that Russia has "taken Belarus as a nuclear hostage". However, Moscow said it was making the move in response to increasing Western military support for Ukraine. Putin announced the plan in a televised interview broadcast on Saturday, saying it was prompted by the UK's decision last week to provide Ukraine with armor-piercing projectiles containing depleted uranium. Putin said that by deploying its tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, Russia was following the lead of the United States. He noted that Washington has nuclear weapons located in Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey. "We are doing what they have been doing for decades - deploying them to some allied countries, preparing the launch platforms and training their crews," he said. Ukraine's Foreign Ministry condemned the move in a statement today and called for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council. "Ukraine expects effective actions to counter the Kremlin's nuclear blackmail by the UK, China, the US and France, including as permanent members of the UN Security Council, which have a special responsibility to prevent threats of aggression using nuclear weapons" , the statement said. "The world must unite against someone who threatens the future of human civilization." Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of Ukraine's National Security and Defense Council, tweeted that Putin's statement was "a step towards internal destabilization" of Belarus that maximizes "the level of negative perception and public rejection" of Russia and Putin in Belarusian community. Putin said that Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has long asked to have nuclear weapons in his country again to oppose NATO. Belarus borders three NATO countries - Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, and Russia is using its territory as a springboard to send troops into neighboring Ukraine on February 24, 2022.
Lavrov: The US crossed all lines to assert its hegemony
The US has crossed "all lines" of diplomatic and ethical norms in an attempt to assert its hegemony, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said. "Everything can be expected from the United States. They have already crossed all lines - diplomatic, ethical and any other, in their desire to ensure their hegemony," he said in an interview with the Rossiya-24 television channel. Russia has characterized US opposition to its 13-month war in Ukraine as an attempt to impose US "hegemony". Saying that China represents a tradition of a "great civilization that is more than a thousand years old", Lavrov added that Beijing has developed its own unique style of responding to US diplomatic pressure. "It includes dignity, a thorough analysis of everything that is happening and avoiding any hasty moves," Lavrov said. Lavrov's comments come four days after Chinese President Xi Jinping wrapped up a visit to Moscow where he met with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to discuss bilateral ties and Beijing's proposals for a peaceful settlement of the Russian-Ukrainian war. The US said China could not be an impartial mediator in the war and rejected China's proposal for a diplomatic solution to the conflict.
Zelensky: The counteroffensive cannot begin without more Western weapons
President Volodymyr Zelensky said Ukraine's counteroffensive against Russia cannot begin until Western allies send more military support, the BBC reported. He told a Japanese newspaper that he would not send his troops to the front line without more tanks, artillery and HIMARS missile launchers. In an interview with the Yomiuri Shimbun, he said the situation in eastern Ukraine was "not good." "We are waiting for ammunition to arrive from our partners," added Zelensky. Asked about the expected counter-offensive, he remarked: "We can't start yet, we can't send our brave soldiers to the front line without tanks, artillery and long-range missiles." Zelensky added: "If you have the political will, you can find a way to help us. We are at war and we cannot wait.” For several weeks, there have been rumors that Ukraine will launch a spring offensive against Russian forces. Ukrainian commanders have hinted that this may be coming. Oleksandr Syrskyi, commander of Ukraine's ground forces, said this week that it could happen "very soon". Some analysts point out that the Ukrainian military is discussing the idea of a counteroffensive to confuse the Russians. Others believe a counteroffensive is possible soon. The US Institute for the Study of War last week suggested that the Russian offensive was losing momentum and concluded: "Therefore, Ukraine is well positioned to regain the initiative and launch counteroffensives in critical sectors of the current front line." However, President Zelensky is more pessimistic. He has often warned that the war could drag on for years unless Western allies speed up arms deliveries. But this is the first time he has actually said that the counteroffensive itself could be delayed by the lack of Western equipment. Ukraine's allies have promised more tanks, artillery and longer-range missile systems. But some countries are having trouble delivering on what they promised, while others are taking longer than expected to deliver the equipment to Ukraine. Western officials say military support is arriving, but acknowledge that training and planning are taking time. They also point to other factors, such as the muddy terrain, which made it difficult for any army to maneuver. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Defense urged people to stop discussing potential counter-offensive plans. Ukraine's Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said on social media that only three people have the right to publicly disclose military plans - the president, the defense minister and the commander-in-chief. "Everyone else can only quote them," she wrote. “Please stop asking counteroffensive experts questions on the air, please stop writing blogs and posts about this topic, please stop publicly discussing our military's military plans.”
ISW: Putin still believes in total Russian victory in Ukraine, successful VSU offensive could turn war to peace
Russian President Vladimir Putin continues to believe that over time he can achieve total victory in Ukraine, according to an analysis by the Washington-based think tank Institute for the Study of War (ISW). Putin, the institute's analysts wrote in their latest report, rejects the idea, increasingly prevalent in Western discourse, that current military realities require or support a negotiated resolution of the conflict. The Russian leader remains focused on achieving his original military goals through a protracted conflict in which he wins either by imposing his will on Ukraine by force or by bending Ukraine's will after Kyiv is abandoned by the West. The outcomes of wars are usually determined on the battlefield by negotiations that simply ratify military realities. Putin probably has one such example clear in his mind – World War II in Europe. This war ended only when the Allied forces completely defeated the German army and the Soviet troops remained in the ruins of Berlin. Japan surrendered a few months later after the US demonstrated its ability to completely destroy the country. Going further back in history, the peace that ended the three wars of German unification, the American Civil War, and the Napoleonic Wars also simply ratified the realities created by decisive military victories. Even the most recent war followed this pattern. The US withdrawal from Afghanistan was followed by a decisive military victory for the Taliban, ending that conflict (for now) without a formal treaty or agreement ratifying that outcome. History offers many counterexamples, of course, including the Dayton Accords that ended the Bosnian conflict, as well as the resolution following the Arab-Israeli war of 1973. But it cannot be said that all wars end in negotiated settlements, especially if under ‘agreed terms’ means mutual recognition of the impossibility of achieving the desired goals through military force. Putin started the current war and is the key actor who must come to the decision that he cannot achieve his goals through military force and must instead engage in negotiations to resolve the conflict. The war will drag on as long as Putin believes he can impose his will on Ukraine. Russia's president continues to show by word and deed that he has not yet come to an end to the war despite the setbacks of his major military effort this winter. Russian military bloggers, as well as the media in Russia, Ukraine and the West, are abuzz with discussion of the upcoming Ukrainian counter-offensive, for which the only real questions seem to be when and where it will happen. This would be an opportune time for Putin to conclude that Russia cannot impose its will on Ukraine by force and that he must seek a compromise solution. It is obvious that the Russian dictator has not reached such a conclusion. Instead, Putin is doubling down on his commitment to overwhelming Ukraine militarily and/or prolonging the war by mobilizing Russia's defense industrial base and renewing various covert schemes to generate renewed combat power. Putin's March 25 speech continued a months-long effort to mobilize Russia's military industry for a protracted war. This effort and his speech are also intended to portray Russia (falsely) as a modern incarnation of Stalin's Soviet Union, capable of overwhelming its enemies with unstoppable masses of men and equipment, despite Putin's apparent reluctance to actually put Russia fully on a war footing. The continuation of Russian offensive operations around Bakhmut and Avdiivka, as well as on the front lines of Luhansk and western Donetsk, is a further signal that Putin remains committed to winning a protracted war whose outcome is largely determined by the military realities on the ground. These attacks have now become not just pointless, but actually harmful to Russian preparations for the next phase of this war, which will revolve around the upcoming Ukrainian counter-offensive. Russian forces may or may not drive Ukrainian troops out of Avdiivka or Bakhmut, but they will not gain a significant operational advantage because they lack the ability to exploit such an advance. Putin's continuation of these Russian offensive operations in the current operational and strategic context amounts to strategic malfeasance, ISW believes. The Russian leader is using up scarce Russian combat power in pursuit of operationally meaningless successes. Putin's insistence on sticking to these offensive operations, however, may make sense in a protracted conflict during which Western support for Ukraine wanes or ends. A successful series of Ukrainian counteroffensives, not just one, is almost certainly necessary, but not sufficient, to convince Putin to open negotiations on terms other than achieving all of his stated goals. Ukrainian forces must show that they can do what Russian forces cannot, namely change realities on the ground through military action. They must further damage Russian military power in Ukraine to the point where it becomes clear to Putin and the inner circle supporting him in this war that the Russian armed forces cannot hope to improve the outcome of the war by continuing the battles. That's why multiple major Ukrainian victories at the operational level are likely to be essential to creating any prospect of a negotiated settlement to the current conflict or forcing Putin to accept unfavorable military realities without a formal settlement, the ISW analysts wrote.
Former security guard of Yanukovych, Valerii Astakhov, to Ukrainian children: “You will stand in the basement and listen to me”
Former "Berkut" officer Valerii Astakhov is the man who used violence and threats against Ukrainian children taken to Russian camps, "Insider" reported. Astakhov participated in the Maidan events as a security guard of the former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. His name can be found in the “Миротворец” (Peacemaker) database. According to them, Astakhov served in the Ukrainian Ministry of Internal Affairs, but after the annexation of Crimea, he accepted Russian citizenship and went to work in the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs in Yevpatoria. Astakhov was recognized by a boy who told about the beatings of Ukrainian children in the camps. It is known that Astakhov already took children from Sloviansk to the Rostov region in 2014. According to Kommersant, 38 people were taken out, including 21 children aged 2 months to 12 years, and Astakhov accompanied them. On March 23, 2023, 17 children will return to Ukraine, whom the occupation authorities in the Kherson region sent on "vacation" to children's camps in the annexed Crimea back in October of last year. Initially, it was announced that the children would spend 10 days there, but in the end they were kept for half a year. The journalist from "Insider" Tetiana Popova spoke with the returning children and their parents in Kyiv. According to 16-year-old Vitaly, the children were beaten, threatened and kept in a basement. A girl from Kherson was hit with an iron rod with such force that a "blue stripe" remained on her back. In the Druzhba camp in Yevpatoria, Astakhov took the children to a basement, showed them the stick in question and threatened to beat them for supporting Ukraine. "He said: 'I will lock you in the basement, you will sit there, you will listen to me,'" Vitaly recounts. The child claims that there was no bed linen in the Druzhba camp, only a dirty mattress and a pillow. Not all children have experienced violence in the camps, but all speak of poor conditions and poor quality food. According to a study by a Yale University laboratory, more than 40 camps for Ukrainian children are currently operating in Siberia, the Black Sea coast, the central regions, the Urals and the annexed Crimea. The camps teach children "traditional values", teach them history according to "Russian standards" and teach them how to shoot and operate equipment. In some camps, including in Crimea and Chechnya, children are said to be undergoing a "young fighters course". At the end of December, it became known that the administrations of the camps in Crimea were not letting the children from Kherson go home. More than 100 children were reported not to have returned to Balakliia from another camp. The website of the state portal "Children of War" states that 16,226 children are missing. According to the website, 308 have been returned to their homeland so far. On March 17, the International Criminal Court in The Hague issued arrest warrants for Russian President Vladimir Putin and Children's Ombudsman Maria Lvova-Belova on charges of forcibly removing children from Ukraine.
Actor Orlando Bloom visited Kyiv as a UNICEF ambassador
Actor Orlando Bloom, who is a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations children's fund UNICEF, visited a children's center in Kyiv, Reuters reported. The star of the films "Pirates of the Caribbean" and "The Lord of the Rings" also met with the president of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky. It was the British actor's first trip to Ukraine since 2016. "I never imagined that the war would escalate across the country when I was there" (in 2016), the actor shared on Instagram. "Today I was fortunate to hear children's laughter at the Spilno center, supported by UNICEF, which is a safe, warm and nurturing space where children can play, learn and receive psycho-social support," said Orlando Bloom. Spilno centers located across Ukraine offer support to displaced children and their families, with more than half of the one million children and their caregivers visiting such a center in the past year, UNICEF said in a statement on their website, notes BTA. According to the General Prosecutor's Office of Ukraine, at least 465 children were killed in Russia's 13-month war against Ukraine.