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Live blog: Deadly Russian drone attack hits western Ukraine

Monday, February 27, 2023

At least one person has been killed and four others injured in a drone attack in the western Ukrainian city of Khmelnytskyi. A number of buildings were damaged in the attack.

“This time the enemy used a UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle). At the moment, there is information about one person killed and four injured,” Oleksandr Symchyshyn, the city’s mayor, said on Telegram.

The victim was a firefighter who died on duty, Symchyshyn said.

Earlier, a Ukrainian military statement said Russia attacked Ukraine from the north with 14 drones, claiming that 11 of them were destroyed by air defence systems.

Following are the latest updates:

2014 GMT – Zelenskyy: Ukraine can only defend skies if partners lift ‘aviation taboo’

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in a nightly speech on Monday that his country can only defend its skies if an “aviation taboo” is ended, allowing the air force to completely defend the country’s skies.

“Our pilots and anti-aircraft units, and other experts of our air force are doing a great job,” he said.

“But we will be able to completely protect our skies when the aviation taboo is fully lifted in relations with our partners.”

1647 GMT – Russia blasts EU, US sanctions as ‘absurd’ and ‘futile’

Moscow hit out at the European Union and the United States after they adopted their latest packages of sanctions against Russia for its military intervention in Ukraine.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters the European Union’s latest round of sanctions, which was adopted last week, was “absurd”.

The EU’s penalties, which target 121 individuals and entities, are the 10th round of sanctions aimed at undercutting Russia’s finances and military supplies for the conflict.

Peskov said Western countries were struggling to find more people and entities to punish.

Separately, the Russian foreign ministry blasted the latest US round of sanctions — also adopted last week — as “futile and mindless” attempts “aimed at undermining our industrial and financial potential, at shutting Russia off from international economic relations.”

1232 GMT – Russia says its forces destroyed ammunition depot near Bakhmut

Russia’s defence ministry has announced that its forces had destroyed a Ukrainian ammunition depot near the city of Bakhmut, also shooting down four HIMARS missiles and five drones launched by Ukrainian forces.

Russia has made the capture of Bakhmut a priority in its drive to take control of Ukraine’s eastern Donbas industrial region.

The Russian forces, however, have been met with fierce resistance from Ukraine with reports of heavy losses on the Russian side. 

0842 GMT – UN rights chief warns of backsliding on global freedoms

The United Nations Human Rights chief Volker Turk has warned that human rights gains made in recent decades were being reined back and even reversed, citing Russia’s “senseless” offensive in Ukraine as a current example of oppression.

“Much of the progress made over decades is being reined back and even reversed in some parts…,” High Commissioner Turk said in a speech on the opening day of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva attended by more than 100 ministers and heads of state.

He called for countries to work to overcome their differences and create a “new worldwide consensus on human rights”.

0750 GMT – Zelenskyy signs decrees imposing further sanctions against Russia

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has signed decrees imposing further sanctions on Russia as the EU adopted its 10th sanctions package against Moscow.

“I signed three decrees to implement the NSDC (National Security and Defense Council) decisions… against those who help maintain mercenary structures in Russia for the war against Ukraine and all free people,” Zelenskyy said in an evening address.

The statement also said the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry would be tasked with informing authorities from the EU, US, and other countries on the application of the sanctions and raise the issue of introducing similar restrictive measures.

0500 GMT – Ukraine in focus as UN human rights session opens

More than 100 heads of state and ministers will take part in the week-long UN Human Rights Council session in Geneva, where many states will seek to extend the mandate of a UN investigation body set up to probe alleged Russian atrocities in Ukraine.

Kiev, which has called for the establishment of a special tribunal to prosecute Russia’s political and military leadership over the attack, has said the body was essential to ensure Russia is held accountable for its crimes.

Ukraine and its allies are disgruntled by the participation of Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov. It’s the first time a Russian official from Moscow has attended in person since the war began a year ago.

Russia, which denies committing war crimes or targeting civilians in Ukraine, was suspended from the council over the offensive in April but can still take part as an observer.

0220 GMT – Croatia to send 14 helicopters to Ukraine

Croatia plans to send 14 helicopters to Ukraine, a local newspaper reported.

The Jutarnji List daily said that preparations have begun for the donation of the helicopters from the Croatian Armed Forces.

The country will send 12 MI-8 MTV-1 and 2 MI-8T helicopters.

The helicopters underwent the necessary maintenance in the hangars and will be ready within 10 days.

They are expected to be delivered first to Poland and then to Ukraine.

The Croatian government has kept all military support to Ukraine secret. Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic did announce in November that 14 helicopters would be sent to Ukraine but declined to provide further details.

President Zoran Milanovic, known for his opposing view on sending military aid to Ukraine, reacted by saying: “I don’t care.”

0001 GMT – Ukraine’s ground forces commander visits besieged Bakhmut

The commander of Ukrainian ground forces Colonel General Oleksandr Syrskyi visited besieged Bakhmut to boost morale and talk strategy with units defending the town and surrounding villages in eastern Ukraine, the military said over the weekend.

Military analysts expect that Ukraine’s forces will put their “maximum effort” in coming days into defending Bakhmut, which in recent months has seen some of the bloodiest attritional fighting of Russia’s year-old offensive.

Russia has made the capture of Bakhmut a priority in its strategy to take control of Ukraine’s eastern Donbass industrial region.

The 57-year-old commander, one of Ukraine’s most experienced, has been regarded as the mastermind behind the defeat of Russian forces as they advanced on Kiev early in the war and in the Kharkiv region in September.

0010 GMT – China ‘considering’ sending lethal equipment to Russia, says CIA chief

China is considering sending lethal equipment to Russia to aid in its war with Ukraine, the CIA chief said.

“We’re confident that the Chinese leadership is considering the provision of lethal equipment,” said CIA Director William Burns in an interview with CBS’ Face The Nation public affairs program.

“We also don’t see that a final decision has been made yet.

And we don’t see evidence of actual shipments of lethal equipment,” said Burns, adding it is important for Secretary of State Antony Blinken and President Joe Biden “to make very clear what the consequences of that would be to deter it because it would be a very risky and unwise bet.”

Asked why would Beijing risk its relations with the US and Europe, Burns said “It’s a good question, and that’s why I hope very much that they don’t.”

US national security advisor Jake Sullivan on Sunday also said there would be “real costs” for China if it provides lethal weapons to Russia.

“From our perspective, actually, this war presents real complications for Beijing. And Beijing will have to make its own decisions about how it proceeds, whether it provides military assistance,” said Sullivan on CNN’s State of the Union program.

005 GMT – Zelenskyy fires a top Ukrainian military commander

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy fired a senior military commander helping lead the fight against Russian troops in the country’s embattled east but gave no reason for the move.

In a one-line decree, Zelenskiy announced the dismissal of Eduard Moskalyov as commander of the joint forces of Ukraine, which are engaged in battles in the Donbass region.

Zelenskyy mentioned Moskalyov in a daily address on Friday when listing the military commanders he had spoken to. Moskalyov had been in the post since March 2022, shortly after Russia attacked Ukraine.

Neither the joint forces’ Facebook nor Twitter accounts made any mention of the dismissal.

0002 GMT– Billionaire Ackman donates $3.25 million for ambulances in Ukraine

Billionaire hedge fund manager Bill Ackman has pledged $3.25 million to help buy more than a dozen ambulances for Ukraine as it defends itself against Russia’s attack, according to a fellow investor who cited a conversation with him.

Ackman’s donation will cover the purchase of 15 specially equipped Toyota 4×4 Land Cruiser ambulances and the costs of operating them on the front lines, investor Whitney Tilson, who is on the advisory board of Ackman’s charity, Pershing Square Foundation, wrote in an email to his friends and professional contacts.

For our live updates from Sunday (February 26), click here.

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