Tuesday, March 7, 2023
Russia and Ukraine have exchanged scores of prisoners of war, the latest swap in more than a year of fighting.
Russia’s defence ministry said 90 Russian prisoners of war had returned from Ukraine in the latest exchange.
Kiev said 130 Ukrainian service personnel had been released from Russian custody.
Andriy Yermak, head of the Ukrainian presidential staff, said 87 of the Ukrainians had taken part in the defence of the southeastern city of Mariupol before it was captured by Russia.
Meanwhile, new US intelligence suggests that a pro-Ukrainian group carried out the attack on the Nord Stream pipelines last year, according to a New York Times.
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1657 GMT — Germany says no results yet of Nord Stream pipelines sabotage investigation
The German government has said it had taken note of a New York Times report that said new intelligence suggested a pro-Ukrainian group carried out the Nord Stream pipelines attack last year but its own investigation has not yet reached results.
Sweden, Denmark and Germany informed the United Nations Security Council a few days ago that the investigations are ongoing and that there are still no results, a spokesperson for the Chancellery said.
“The Federal Public Prosecutor has been investigating the matter since the beginning of October 2022. It thus has sovereignty over the procedure,” the spokesperson added.
1653 GMT — US says intel suggests pro-Ukrainian group sabotaged Nord Stream pipelines -NYT
New intelligence reviewed by US officials has suggested that a pro-Ukrainian group of likely Ukrainian or Russian nationals carried out the attack on the Nord Stream pipelines last year, but the intelligence reached no firm conclusions, the New York Times reported.
There was no evidence that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy or his top lieutenants were involved, or that the perpetrators were acting at the direction of any Ukrainian government officials, the newspaper reported, citing US officials.
The intelligence review suggests those who carried out the attacks opposed Russian President Vladimir Putin “but does not specify the members of the group, or who directed or paid for the operation,” the Times wrote.
“US officials declined to disclose the nature of the intelligence, how it was obtained or any details of the strength of the evidence it contains. They have said that there are no firm conclusions about it,” it added, citing the unnamed officials.
Ukraine denies involvement in attempted sabotage at Belarus air field
Ukraine’s foreign ministry has denied that Kiev was involved in attempted sabotage at a Belarusian air field last month.
Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko alleged that Ukrainian and US intelligence services were involved in the drone attack in late February which was claimed by Belarusian anti-government activists.
“It is clear that this is another attempt to create an artificial threat from Ukraine for the sake of justifying (Belarusian) support for Russia’s aggression,” Ukrainian foreign ministry spokesperson Oleg Nikolenko said in a statement.
1429 GMT — Ukraine destruction will harm generations to come: UN
The shocking magnitude of destruction inflicted by Russia’s war in Ukraine will harm the rights of generations to come, the UN rights chief has said.
Volker Turk branded it a “betrayal” of the promises made when the foundations of universal human rights were laid down in the aftermath of World War II.
He also accused Russian state media of bombarding people with constant pro-war messages inciting hatred.
“The war in Ukraine has led to civilian casualties and destruction of a shocking magnitude,” Turk said in his main speech to the UN Human Rights Council session in Geneva.
1424 GMT — Thousands of people in Ukraine have complex war-related injuries: WHO
Thousands of people in Ukraine have sustained complex injuries linked to the war and need rehabilitation services and equipment to help them, a senior World Health Organization (WHO) official has said.
They include fractures, amputations, spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain injuries and burns, Dr Satish Mishra from the WHO’s regional office for Europe, told a media briefing.
Attacks on healthcare facilities, fewer healthcare workers due to displacement and power shortages were all making it difficult for people to get care, he added.
1340 GMT — Poland to deliver 10 more Leopard tanks to Ukraine this week
Poland will send 10 more German-made Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine this week, the Polish defence minister has said ahead of a visit by UN chief Antonio Guterres to Kiev.
“Four (tanks) are already in Ukraine, another 10 will go to Ukraine this week,” Mariusz Blaszczak told a news conference.
Poland has promised to send 14 Leopard 2 tanks in total.
Blaszczak was heading to a meeting of European Union defence ministers in Stockholm on Tuesday to discuss the security of Europe and support for Ukraine.
“We are also scheduled for talks with Boris Pistrius, the German defence minister. The basic issue we will talk about is the low availability of spare parts for Leopard tanks,” Blaszczak said.
This problem could be solved primarily by the German arms industry and Poland is also ready to produce such parts, he added.
1301 GMT — UN chief en route to Kiev, will meet Zelenskyy
UN chief Antonio Guterres is traveling to Ukraine to meet in Kiev with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, in his third trip since Russia’s full-scale military offensive, his spokesman said.
“The Secretary-General has just arrived in Poland on his way to Ukraine,” Stephane Dujarric said in a statement.
Guterres was due to arrive in Kiev later on Tuesday before meeting with Zelensky on Wednesday morning “to discuss the continuation of the Black Sea Grain Initiative (grain export scheme) in all its aspects, as well as other pertinent issues,” the spokesman said.
Guterres is due to depart Ukraine on Wednesday, and be back at United Nations headquarters in New York the following day.
1139 GMT — Russia jails opposition blogger for ‘defaming’ army
A Moscow court has sentenced the founder of an opposition social media platform to nearly nine years in jail on charges of spreading “false” information about the army, Russian news agencies reported.
Dmitry Ivanov, a 23-year-old former maths and cybernetics student at Moscow State University, created and curated a channel critical of the government on the Telegram social media app.
He reportedly shared posts critical of what Russian President Vladimir Putin describes as Russia’s “special military operation” in Ukraine.
1132 GMT — Kiev identified Ukrainian POW in viral video of killing
Ukraine has said it identified a soldier filmed being shot dead in a video that circulated widely on social media, sparking outrage and spurring officials to demand a probe.
The footage shows what appears to be a detained Ukrainian combatant standing in a shallow trench, smoking and being shot after saying “Glory to Ukraine”.
The phrase spoken by the alleged detained Ukrainian soldier was trending on social media on Monday and senior officials in Kiev blamed Russian forces and called for justice.
“According to preliminary data, the deceased is a serviceman of the 30th separate mechanised brigade — Tymofiy Mykolayovych Shadura,” the Ukrainian military said on Telegram.
1100 GMT — Zelenskyy vows to defend Bakhmut as Russian troops close in
Ukraine’s Zelenskyy has said that he instructed the army to find forces to bolster the defence of the embattled eastern city of Bakhmut which has become a symbolic prize in the war with Russia.
“I told the Chief of Staff to find the appropriate forces to help the guys in Bakhmut. There is no part of Ukraine about which one can say that it can be abandoned,” Zelenskyy said.
Zelenskyy’s top adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said that Ukrainian forces around Bakhmut have been grinding down enemy forces, reinforcing their positions and training tens of thousands of Ukrainian military personnel for a possible counteroffensive.
Intense Russian shelling targeted the city in the Donetsk region and nearby villages as Moscow waged a three-sided assault to try to finish off Bakhmut’s resistance.
The nearby towns of Chasiv Yar and Kostiantynivka came under heavy shelling, damaging cars and homes and sparking a fire.
1016 GMT — Kremlin says US is ‘invisible hand’ in Ukraine
The Kremlin has said that the United States was driving the Ukraine conflict, saying China’s foreign minister was joking when he said an “invisible hand” was to blame.
“Here we can probably disagree with our Chinese comrades. This is of course a joke. You know what the joke is: this is not an invisible hand, this is the hand of the United States of America. This is the hand of Washington,” Peskov told reporters.
“Washington does not want this war to end. Washington wants and is doing everything to continue this war. This is the visible hand.”
Moscow has repeatedly declared that the United States and its allies are using Ukraine to wage war against it. That narrative is rejected by Kiev and the West, which say Ukraine is fighting for survival against an imperial land grab by Russia.
1011 GMT — Russia’s Defence Minister emphasises critical capture of Bakhmut
Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu has said that the seizure of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine was critical to punching a hole in Ukrainian defences and would allow Moscow’s forces to mount further offensive operations deeper inside the country.
Russian forces have been waging an intense campaign for months to seize control of the small city in what would become their first significant territorial advance since last summer.
“The city is an important hub for defending Ukrainian troops in the Donbass. Taking it under control will allow further offensive actions to be conducted deep into Ukraine’s defensive lines,” Shoigu said.
The heavily industrialised Donbass region of eastern Ukraine comprises Donetsk and Luhansk, which are both claimed by Russia along with two other Ukrainian regions. Kiev and the West regard Russia’s claim to be illegal.
0308 GMT — Ukraine crisis driven by ‘invisible hand’: China
The Ukraine crisis seems to be driven by an invisible hand pushing for the protraction and escalation of the conflict, China’s Foreign Minister Qin Gang has said.
The “invisible hand” is “using the Ukraine crisis to serve certain geopolitical agendas”, Qin said on the sidelines of an annual parliament meeting in Beijing, calling for dialogue to begin as soon as possible.
0028 GMT — Blinken discusses Ukraine, NATO with Lithuanian counterpart
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken welcomed his Lithuanian counterpart Gabrielius Landsbergis on Monday in Washington, DC, where they discussed bilateral relations, the war in Ukraine and the next NATO summit in July.
Blinken and Landsbergis underscored the “strength of the US-Lithuania relationship as NATO Allies” as well as the support for Ukraine, according to a joint statement released following their meeting.
They “committed to continue imposing strong economic costs on Russia through sanctions and pursuing accountability for those responsible for Russia’s attacks,” the statement said.
“They also pledged to continue to provide the support Ukraine needs to alleviate the suffering of its people and to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders until Ukraine prevails while encouraging Allies and partners to do the same,” it added.
0017 GMT — Ukraine brings back 307 children from Russian occupied territories
Ukraine has brought 307 children out of Russia-occupied territories, the country’s human rights ombudsman has said, including an eight-year-old boy who was recently reunited with his grandmother.
Ukraine’s authorities estimate more than 16,000 children have been deported to Russia since the start of the war a year ago. Russia has said it has been evacuating people voluntarily from Ukraine.
“At the end of February, the office of the Commissioner for Human Rights received a request to help bring back a child who was in the territory temporarily occupied by Russia,” Dmytro Lubinets, the ombudsman, said on the Telegram messaging platform.
“Within a few days, with the assistance and work of the staff of the ombudsman’s office, Sashko met his grandmother.” The ombudsmen did not reveal details of the operation.
2036 GMT — Ukraine urges probe over footage of alleged POW killing
Ukraine’s foreign minister has urged the International Criminal Court to probe footage circulating on social media that he said showed Russian forces killing a Ukrainian prisoner of war.
“Horrific video of an unarmed Ukrainian POW executed by Russian forces merely for saying ‘Glory to Ukraine’. Another (piece of) proof this war is genocidal,” Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba wrote on social media.
Kuleba said it was “imperative” that International Criminal Court Prosecutor Karim Khan “launches an immediate ICC investigation into this heinous war crime”.
“Perpetrators must face justice,” he added.
2001 GMT — Ukraine seeks US cluster bombs to adapt for drone use – lawmakers
Ukraine has broadened a request for controversial cluster bombs from the United States to include a weapon that it wants to cannibalize to drop the anti-armour bomblets it contains on Russian forces from drones, according to two US lawmakers.
Kiev has urged members of Congress to press the White House to approve sending the weapons but it is by no means certain that the Biden administration will sign off on that. Cluster munitions, banned by more than 120 countries, normally release large numbers of smaller bomblets that can kill indiscriminately over a wide area, threatening civilians.
Ukraine is seeking the MK-20, an air-delivered cluster bomb, to release its individual explosives from drones, said US Representatives Jason Crow and Adam Smith, who both serve on the House of Representatives Armed Services Committee. That is in addition to 155 mm artillery cluster shells that Ukraine already has requested, they said.
They said Ukrainian officials urged US lawmakers at last month’s Munich Security Conference to press for White House approval.
For our live updates from Monday (March 6), click here.