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Live blog: Russia hits illegally annexed Ukraine areas from ground, air

Friday, April 7, 2023

Russian forces have used ground-and air-fired missiles, rocket launchers and weaponised drones to bombard the provinces of Ukraine it has illegally annexed but doesn’t fully control, causing casualties, building damage and power outages.

The Ukrainian military said Russian forces launched 18 air strikes, five missile strikes and 53 attacks from multiple rocket launchers between Thursday and Friday mornings.

According to the General Staff statement, Russia was concentrating the bulk of its offensive operations in Ukraine’s industrial east, focusing on the cities and towns of Lyman, Bakhmut, Avdiivka and Marinka in Donetsk province.

Most of Friday’s battlefield reports concerned the four Ukrainian provinces Russia annexed in September: Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered his military to gain complete control of the provinces, while Ukraine has indicated it will soon launch a counteroffensive to take back more territory.

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1650 France accuses Russia of disinformation about French position in Ukraine war

France has accused Russia of disinformation about its role in Ukraine and past peace efforts.

Responding to a question from Anadolu, the French Foreign Ministry’s deputy spokesperson Francois Delmas said at a news conference that recent remarks on France by Moscow were “out of the subject.”

He was referring to accusations of “blackmail” by Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova on Wednesday, aimed at French President Emmanuel Macron, who said that anyone helping Moscow in the Ukraine war would become an “accomplice.”

Zakharova noted that as French head of state, Macron knew how much effort Russia putting into solving the Ukraine crisis by implementing the 2014 Minsk agreement, which Paris mediated.

As president of a NATO member country, Macron also knows how much the alliance did to destabilize the situation there, she added.

Delmas said Russia is the aggressor against Ukraine in the war, and that Kiev was defending “its sovereignty and its territorial integrity.”

1540 GMT Russia likely behind US military document leak, US officials say

Russia or pro-Russian elements are likely behind the leak of several classified US military documents posted on social media that offer a partial, month-old snapshot of the war in Ukraine, three US officials have told Reuters.

The documents appear to have been altered to lower the number of casualties suffered by Russian forces, the US officials said, adding their assessments were informal and separate from an investigation into the leak itself.

The US officials spoke on condition of anonymity given the sensitivity of the matter and declined to discuss the documents in any detail.

1458 GMT Russia, Belarus to prepare common security policy: Kremlin

Russia and Belarus are starting work on a common security policy as soon as possible, the Kremlin has announced.

Commenting on a statement by Russian President Vladimir Putin that the two countries had decided to outline a common security policy in the face of growing tensions on their borders with other nations, sanctions and an “information war” against them, spokesman Dmitry Peskov said they would work out the exact terms of such a draft “in the shortest possible terms.”

Referring to a recent proposal by Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko to destroy all nuclear weapons in the world, Peskov said such a move would be unrealistic.

“This would demand a consensus, and we do not see readiness from certain countries for any consensuses,” he said.

Peskov said Russian military chiefs would take into account recent remarks by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who said he expects Ukraine to launch a counter-offensive soon.

1452 GMT Political settlement only ‘correct’ way out for Ukraine crisis: Xi

China’s President Xi Jinping said that a political settlement is the only “correct” way out of the Ukraine crisis, the foreign ministry has said in a statement.

All parties should meet each other halfway to create conditions for a political settlement, Xi told French President Emmanuel Macron during a dinner in the Chinese city of Guangzhou, the statement said. 

1343 GMT — Ankara, Moscow agree to work to lift barriers to Russian grain, exports

With last year’s landmark grain corridor deal continuing, Ankara and Moscow have agreed to work to lift obstacles to Russian fertiliser and grain exports, the Turkish foreign minister has said.

“The grain corridor is proof that dialogue and negotiation are working. We attach importance to continuation of the agreement. This is also important in terms of reducing the world food crisis,” Cavusoglu told a news conference with his visiting Russian counterpart Lavrov in the capital Ankara.

“We agree that the barriers to Russian grain and exports should also be removed. We support efforts to remove these barriers.”

Cavusoglu said it is important to ensure shipments of Russian ammonia and fertilisers as well.

Lavrov had earlier said he and Cavusoglu discussed “a failure” to implement the terms of the Black Sea grain deal. He said Russia could work outside the deal if Western countries maintain what he said were obstacles to agricultural exports that were getting tougher.

1338 GMT — Poland to halt Ukraine grain imports temporarily

Imports of Ukrainian grain to Poland will be temporarily halted to mitigate the impact on prices, but transit will still be allowed, Polish Agriculture Minister Robert Telus has said.

Telus took office on Thursday after his predecessor resigned amid farmers’ protests over falling prices of produce.

“We agreed to limit and for now halt exports to Poland,” Telus told reporters after meeting his Ukrainian counterpart. “Transit will be allowed but will be closely monitored in both countries, so that Ukraine grain doesn’t stay in Poland.”

Large quantities of Ukrainian grains, which are cheaper than those produced in the European Union, have ended up staying in Central European states amid logistical bottlenecks, hitting prices and sales for local farmers.

1143 GMT Ukraine tells Lula it won’t give Crimea up

Ukraine has rejected a proposition from Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who had suggested Kiev should give up Crimea to end the war with Russia.

Russia annexed the Crimea peninsula from Ukraine in 2014.

“There is no legal, political or moral reason that would justify us having to yield even a centimetre of Ukrainian land,” Ukrainian foreign ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenko said on Facebook.

“Any mediation efforts to restore peace in Ukraine should be based on respect for the sovereignty and the full restoration of Ukraine’s territorial integrity,” he added.

1050 GMT Data leak is Russian effort to sow doubt about counter-offensive: Kiev

A leak of classified documents detailing secret US and NATO plans to help Kiev looked like a Russian disinformation operation to sow doubts about Ukraine’s planned counter-offensive, a Ukrainian presidential official has said.

Mykhailo Podolyak told Reuters that the leaked data reported by the New York Times on Thursday contained a “very large amount of fictitious information” and that Russia was trying to seize back the initiative in its military campaign.

1047 GMT China next target of West: Russia

Lavrov has said that the West “is not hiding” that China is the “next target” after Russia, as well as any country that “dares to act independently.”

“They do not hide that when Russia, as they put it, is ‘defeated,’ China will be the next target as well as any country that dares to act independently and decides to be guided by its national interests, and not by what the US and the other Western countries determine,” Lavrov said in Ankara.

Lavrov added that statements by Western countries, saying it is not the right time to declare a cease-fire and their arms supplies to Kiev, show they do not want to resolve Ukraine’s conflict.

1027 GMT — Ukraine peace talks should be about ‘new world order’: Russia

Moscow wants any Ukraine peace talks to focus on creating a “new world order”, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has said on a visit to Türkiye.

The top Russian diplomat was in Türkiye – which has retained ties with both Moscow and Kiev – to hold talks with his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu.

“Any negotiation needs to be based on taking into account Russian interests, Russian concerns,” Lavrov said.

“It should be about the principles on which the new world order will be based.”

He added that Russia rejects a “unipolar world order led by ‘one hegemon'”.

Russia has long said it was leading a struggle against the United State’s dominance over the international stage, and argues the Ukraine offensive is part of that fight.

0942 GMT Türkiye says concerned Ukraine war will intensify in spring

Türkiye is concerned about the potential intensification of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine in the spring, Cavusoglu has said.

In a joint news conference with his Russian counterpart Lavrov in Ankara, Cavusoglu said Türkiye would continue with its efforts to bring an end to the war with negotiations. 

0911 GMT — Türkiye agrees with Russia request to lift fertiliser-export obstacles

Cavusoglu has said he agreed with Russia’s request to lift obstacles to Russian fertiliser and grain exports, and that this needs to be addressed in order to further extend the Ankara-brokered Black Sea grain deal.

Cavusoglu said Türkiye was committed to extending the deal ensuring the safe passage of grains and other commodities from Ukraine.

0835 GMT — Russian ruble hits 12-month low against dollar

The Russian ruble has fallen to its lowest rate against the dollar in a year, dipping to 82 rubles to the US unit on the Moscow Stock Exchange (MOEX).

Russia has been under massive sanctions imposed over the Ukraine offensive for more than a year.

Putin — who has until now said Moscow is largely resisting the sanctions — conceded last week that the punishments could have “negative” consequences for his country.

0835 GMT — Father of Russian girl who drew anti-war pictures held in Belarus – TASS cites embassy

Alexei Moskalyov, a Russian man who was charged with discrediting the country’s army after his daughter Masha drew an anti-war picture, is being held in Belarus, Russian state-owned news agency TASS has reported, citing the Russian embassy in the country.

0823 GMT — Russia’s Lavrov holds talks in Türkiye

Russia’s Lavrov has held talks in Türkiye on extending an Ankara-brokered deal that allows Ukraine to export grain through a safe corridor in the Black Sea.

Lavrov, who arrived in Ankara on Thursday, joined Türkiye’s Cavusoglu, at a dinner breaking the fast during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan before the pair headed into talks.

They are due to address a joint news conference at the presidential palace where Lavrov will also meet Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

0743 GMT — Ukraine holds out in Bakhmut despite ‘difficult’ situation

Ukraine has said that Russia was concentrating all its efforts on capturing the eastern city of Bakhmut where it described the situation as “difficult” but said it was holding out despite Russia’s numerical superiority.

Eastern Military Command spokesperson Serhiy Cherevatyi told Reuters news agency that Ukraine controlled the situation in Bakhmut, understood Russian intentions and that Moscow had tactical success in some places, but was paying a high price for it. 

“The situation is difficult, the enemy is concentrating maximum efforts to capture Bakhmut. However it is suffering serious losses and not reaching strategic success,” Cherevatyi said.

“All decisions are taken with the aim of not allowing the enemy to break through our defence, to inflict maximum damage to it and preserve personnel,” he said.

Russia’s assault on Bakhmut, a small city in the Donetsk region, has been the focus of the biggest battle of the war that Moscow launched in February 2022.

0611 GMT —  Russia seizes Bakhmutka River’s west bank: UK

Russia has seized the west bank of the Bakhmutka River, endangering a key Ukraine supply route, in its push to regain control of the devastated eastern city of Bakhmut, the British defence ministry said.

“Russia has made further gains and has now highly likely advanced into the town centre … Ukraine’s key 0506 supply route to the west of the town is likely severely threatened,” the ministry said on Twitter in a regular bulletin.

0349 GMT — Top secret US documents on Ukraine war plan spill onto internet

Secret documents that provide details of US and NATO plans to help prepare Ukraine for a spring offensive against Russia have spilt onto social media platforms, the New York Times reported.

The Pentagon said it is assessing the reported security breach.

“We are aware of the reports of social media posts, and the Department is reviewing the matter,” Deputy Press Secretary Sabrina Singh said.

The documents were spread on Twitter and Telegram, and reportedly contain charts and details about weapons deliveries, battalion strengths and other sensitive information, the Times said.

One of the documents summarised the training schedules of 12 Ukraine combat brigades, and said nine of them were being trained by US and NATO forces and needed 250 tanks and more than 350 mechanised vehicles, the newspaper said.

0300 GMT — No winner as Ukraine conflict turns into trench warfare: Serbia

Serbian President Aleksander Vucic has said in an interview with RTS TV  that the conflict in Ukraine has turned into a “difficult trench warfare”, adding that neither side can win, according to Russian TASS news agency.

“Judging by how the situation unfolds, none of the sides can win,” he said, adding that the crisis “has turned into difficult trench warfare.”

Vucic said he was “afraid” of the current global situation.

In February, Vucic said the conflict would worsen and become uncontrollable. He also anticipated the decision to send tanks to Ukraine by Western allies would be followed by a decision to supply Kiev with F-16 fighter jets. 

Russia has threatened to target fighter jets given to Kiev. 

2200 GMT — Kiev’s forces cling to Bakhmut ghost city 

Ukrainian and Russian forces have battled in Bakhmut, the devastated eastern city which has become a symbol of Kiev’s defiance.

The head of Russia’s private Wagner militia said Ukrainian forces were not abandoning Bakhmut but that, even if they did, he would need more support from the regular Russian military before trying to advance further.

“Bakhmut is performing the key task of inflicting as many losses on Russia as possible and, most importantly, to prepare for a counter-attack to take place in late April-May,” said Pavlo Narozhniy, a Ukrainian military analyst.

Fighting also continues to rage further south around Avdiivka, a town near the Russian-held regional capital of Donetsk.

For our live updates from Thursday (April 6), click here.

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