Forty Burundian rebels have been killed in a joint offensive by the militaries of Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi in eastern DRC, a Congolese army spokesman said on Sunday.
The two armies “carried out a high-intensity offensive operation” against Burundian rebels of the National Liberation Forces (FNL), Lieutenant Marc Elongo-Kyondwa said in a statement.
The enemy “suffered a heavy loss of men and equipment: 40 attackers neutralised (killed),” he said.
The two armies “dislodged” the FNL “from all the four hills overlooking the town of Nabombi,” considered a command post of the FNL’s self-proclaimed general Aloys Nzabampema, he added.
The Congolese army called on local people to cooperate with the regular forces and “young people to dissociate themselves from armed groups”, the statement quoted Congolese General Major Ramazani Fundi, commander of operations in the southern part of the province, as saying.
The FNL is a branch of Agathon Rwasa’s former rebel group, now the main political opposition in Burundi.
Since August, Burundian soldiers charged with fighting armed groups have been officially present in DRC’s South Kivu region, as part of the Community of East African States (EAC) force.
In June, the EAC decided to set up a regional force, comprising the Kenyan and Ugandan armies alongside Congolese soldiers in North Kivu and Ituri, the South Sudanese army in Haut-Uele and Burundians in South Kivu.
Kinshasa, which accuses Rwanda of actively supporting M23 rebels in North Kivu, has refused to allow Kigali to take part in the force.
For nearly 30 years, the east of the DRC has been plagued by violent armed groups, some local, others made up of militiamen from neighbouring countries.
Ukraine battled Friday to get water and power to millions of people cut off after Russia launched dozens of cruise missiles that battered the country’s already crippled electricity grid.
The energy system in Ukraine is on the brink of collapse and millions have endured emergency blackouts over recent weeks.
The World Health Organization has warned of “life-threatening” consequences and estimated that millions could leave their homes as a result.
“The situation with electricity remains difficult in almost all regions,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Thursday evening. “However, we are gradually moving away from blackouts — every hour we return power to new consumers.”
More than 24 hours after Russian strikes smashed Kyiv, mayor Vitali Klitschko said late Thursday that 60 percent of homes in the capital were still suffering emergency outages. Water services had been fully restored however, said city officials.
But the shelling had killed seven people at Vyshgorod, on the outskirts of the city, said Oleksiy Kuleba, head of the Kyiv Regional Military Administration.
And a fresh round of strikes Thursday killed at least four people in the southern city of Kherson, recently recaptured by Ukraine, said a senior official there.
The latest attacks on the power grid come with winter setting in and temperatures in the capital hovering just above freezing.
The western region of Khmelnytsky was one of the worst affected by power outages, with just 35 percent of its normal capacity, but that was enough to connect critical infrastructure, according to Serhii Hamaliy, the head of the regional administration.
About 300,000 residents in the eastern Kharkiv region, near the border with Russia, were still without power on Thursday evening, but electricity supply had been restored for nearly 70 percent of consumers, said Oleh Synehubov of the regional military administration.
“We’ve restarted power supplies,” said Igor Terekhov, mayor of Kharkiv city, adding that water was being restored to homes and municipal workers were reconnecting public transport.
“Believe me, it was very difficult.”
Ukraine accused Russian forces of launching around 70 cruise missiles as well as drones in attacks that left 10 dead and around 50 wounded.
But Russia’s defence ministry denied striking any targets inside Kyiv, insisting that Ukrainian and foreign air defence systems had caused the damage.
“Not a single strike was made on targets within the city of Kyiv,” it said.
Moscow is targeting power facilities in an apparent effort to force capitulation after nine months of war that has seen its forces fail in most of their stated territorial objectives.
“The way they fight and target civil infrastructure, it can cause nothing but fury,” said Oleksiy Yakovlenko, chief administrator at a hospital in Ukraine’s eastern city of Kramatorsk.
Despite the increasingly frequent blackouts, Yakovlenko said his resolve was unwavering.
“If they expect us to fall on our knees and crawl to them it won’t happen,” Yakovlenko told AFP.
Russian troops have suffered a string of battlefield defeats.
Ukraine’s recapture of Kherson meant a withdrawal from the only regional capital Russia had captured, Moscow’s troops destroying key infrastructure as they retreated.
On Thursday, Yaroslav Yanushevych, head of the Kherson military administration, said Russian strikes there had killed at least four people.
“The Russian invaders opened fire on a residential area with multiple rocket launchers. A large building caught fire,” he said on Telegram.
Ukraine prosecutors also said Thursday that the authorities had discovered a total of nine torture sites used by the Russians in Kherson, as well as “the bodies of 432 killed civilians”.
Wednesday’s attacks disconnected three Ukrainian nuclear plants automatically from the national grid and triggered blackouts in neighbouring Moldova, where the energy network is linked to Ukraine.
All three nuclear facilities had been reconnected by Thursday morning, said the energy ministry.
Power was nearly entirely back online in ex-Soviet Moldova, where its pro-European president Maia Sandu convened a special meeting of her security council.
The Kremlin said Ukraine was ultimately responsible for the fallout from the strikes and that Kyiv could end the strikes by acquiescing to Russian demands.
Ukraine “has every opportunity to settle the situation, to fulfil Russia’s demands and as a result, end all possible suffering of the civilian population,” spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
Zelensky said Ukraine’s forces were “preparing to advance” in some areas.
“Almost every hour I receive reports of occupiers’ attacks on Kherson and other communities of the region,” he said.
“Such terror began immediately after the Russian army was forced to flee from Kherson region. This is the revenge of those who lost.”
The Ukrainian leader struck an optimistic tone at the end of his nightly address.
“We have withstood nine months of full-scale war, and Russia has not found a way to break us.”
Nearly half of Kyiv residents were still without electricity on Friday as engineers battled to restore services two days after Russian strikes hammered the country’s energy grid.
Systematic and targeted Russian attacks for weeks have brought Ukraine’s energy infrastructure to its knees as the country careens towards a freezing winter, spurring fears of a health crisis and a further exodus, nine months into war.
Municipal workers struggled Friday to reconnect essential services such as heat and water as temperatures in Kyiv approached freezing and UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly visited to announce a new aid package.
“Half of consumers are still without electricity,” Mayor Vitali Klitschko said. “A third of houses in Kyiv already have heating and specialists continue to restore it.”
“During the day, energy companies plan to reconnect electricity for all consumers on an alternating basis,” he wrote on Telegram.
Lines of cars queued outside petrol stations in Kyiv on Friday to stock up, AFP journalists said. Mobile networks in some areas were still experiencing disruptions.
Nationwide, repair work was ongoing, said Volodymyr Kudrytskyi, head of national electricity operator Ukrenergo, but insisted that “the most difficult stage” had passed.
Ukrenergo said that producers were providing more than 70 percent of the need across the country.
‘We live like this now’
Millions of Ukrainians have endured the cold without power since Russia fired dozens of missiles and launched drone attacks at water and electricity facilities on Wednesday.
“Yes, this is a difficult situation and yes, it can happen again. But Ukraine can cope,” presidential advisor Mykhailo Podolyak said on television.
With gas for cooking and heating disconnected in her Kyiv apartment, Albina Bilogub told AFP that she and her children all sleep in the same room to stay warm.
“In our building, very few people have gas, so we go to the woman that I work for — I change her clothes because she is disabled — and we cook there,” she said.
“This is our life. One sweater, a second, a third. We live like this now.”
In northern Kyiv, a vet in blue scrubs and a face mask shone a light over an operating table in a darkened clinic as colleagues operated on an ailing dog late Thursday.
“We were in the middle of an operation and our lights turned off because a rocket fell not far away, so there was a power cut,” said Oleksiy Yankovenko.
“I had to finish the operation under the flashlights,” he added.
Ukraine’s Western allies have denounced the Russian attacks on energy as a “war crime”, coming in the wake of a string of military setbacks for Russia on the frontlines.
Moscow insists it targets only military linked infrastructure and blamed Kyiv for the blackouts, saying Ukraine can end the suffering by agreeing to Russian demands.
Britain’s foreign minister announced new aid for Ukraine during his visit to Kyiv, including ambulances and support for victims of sexual violence by Russian soldiers.
“As winter sets in, Russia is continuing to try and break Ukrainian resolve through its brutal attacks on civilians, hospitals and energy infrastructure,” Cleverly said.
“Russia will fail,” he said, vowing UK support “will continue for as long as it takes”.
The attacks on Ukraine’s grid are Russia’s latest strategy designed to force Ukrainian capitulation after Moscow’s forces failed to topple the government and capture Kyiv nine months after launching their invasion.
Although they have captured swathes of territory in the south and east and the Kremlin claimed to annex four regions, Ukrainian troops are clawing back territory.
Russian forces have shelled the southern city of Kherson, from which they retreated earlier this month in their latest setback. The Ukrainian presidency said 11 people were killed and nearly 50 injured in the Kherson region on Thursday.
The body of an Israeli killed in a car accident was “taken” by Palestinian militants from a West Bank Hospital Tuesday, officials said, as a teenager was killed in clashes between the army and militants.
The Israeli army said the body of an 18-year-old Israeli-Druze who died in a “serious road accident” in the West Bank was “taken” from a hospital in Jenin, a stronghold of Palestinian militant factions in the north of the occupied West Bank.
Local sources told AFP the body was in the hands of an armed group.
Abductions of Israelis, dead or alive, have been used in the past as bargaining chips by armed Palestinian groups to secure the release of prisoners and the return of the bodies of Palestinians killed in clashes by Israel.
In the major West Bank city of Nablus, 16-year-old Ahmed Amjad Shehadeh died after “a bullet penetrated his heart fired at him by Israeli occupation soldiers during the storming of the city”, the Palestinian health ministry said in a statement.
A further statement said that one other Palestinian was in a “critical” condition, while three others were being treated in hospital.
Witnesses in Nablus reported fighting throughout the night in the city, where a nascent militant group called “The Lions’ Den” has emerged in recent months.
The Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, the armed wing of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas’s secular Fatah movement, said in a statement that some of its fighters had been involved in the clashes.
The Israeli army confirmed to AFP it was “operating in the city of Nablus to secure the entrance of Israeli civilians to Joseph’s Tomb”.
“Armed suspects in the area are shooting live fire at the forces. The forces are responding with live fire,” the statement added.
The clashes occurred as the army escorted pilgrims to the tomb, a flashpoint for West Bank violence, believed to be the last resting place of the biblical patriarch Joseph .
The Palestinian office of religious sites considers Joseph’s Tomb to be an Islamic archaeological monument.
Israel’s army organises monthly escorted pilgrimages to the site, and prohibits civilians entering on their own.
Violence has flared this year in the West Bank, where the Israeli army has launched near-daily raids since a series of attacks in Israel that killed several civilians.
The United Nations says more than 125 Palestinians have been killed this year across the West Bank.
Israel has occupied the territory since the 1967 Six-Day War.
At least 18 people were killed in Colombia in clashes between holdouts from the former rebel army FARC and another armed group linked to drug trafficking, the government said Sunday.
The government ombudsman’s office said the fighting occurred on Saturday in southwest Colombia, near the border with Ecuador.
The clashes involved rebels who have rejected a 2016 peace agreement that the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) signed with the government and a criminal band that calls itself Comandos de la Frontera, or Border Commandos.
The WTO should be reformed to curb the “manipulation of global markets by malign actors”, he will also say in another coded critique of G20 member China.
Sunak’s pre-summit warnings against Russian President Vladimir Putin’s regime have been clearer.
“We will call out Putin’s regime, and lay bare their utter contempt for the kind of international cooperation and respect for sovereignty forums like the G20 represent,” he said in a statement Saturday.
While Putin is not attending the summit, Sunak’s spokesman said the prime minister would confront Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Bali.
Some pundits had queried whether Sunak might go soft on Russia in view of the economic crisis affecting Britain, on the back of surging energy prices.
But Sunak’s spokesman told reporters that Britain’s support for Ukraine “will not fade or alter”.
In Bali, Sunak “will speak with our allies in one voice on this”, the spokesman added.
Sunak is due to return to Britain early on Thursday and head straight into his finance minister’s presentation of an emergency budget statement.
The statement is expected to include painful tax hikes and spending cuts, after Sunak’s short-lived predecessor Liz Truss panicked markets with a spree of unfunded tax cuts.
Sunak said Thursday’s budget would “set out how we will get this country on the right path”.
“But addressing the biggest economic crisis in a decade will require a concerted effort by the world’s largest economies -– these are not problems we can solve alone,” he said before flying to Bali.
“At the G20, leaders need to step up to fix the weaknesses in the international economic system which Putin has exploited for years.”
Ukraine said on Friday its forces were entering the southern city of Kherson and hailed an “important victory” after Russia announced its troops had retreated from the only regional capital it has captured after nearly nine months fighting.
The announcement that Moscow’s pullout was over came hours after Russian strikes killed seven people in Mykolaiv, a city near Kherson, that Russian troops have battered for months.
“Kherson is returning to Ukrainian control and units of the Armed Forces of Ukraine are entering the city,” the defence ministry said on social media.
It added that its artillery teams had clear views over Russia’s routes to retreat and warned: “Any attempts to oppose the Armed Forces of Ukraine will be stopped.”
Russia announced earlier that it had finished pulling back its troops.
But the Kremlin insisted that Kherson was still part of Russia and that it did not regret annexing the entire Kherson region at a lavish ceremony in late September.
“The transfer of Russian troops to the left [eastern] bank of the Dnipro River was completed. Not a single piece of military equipment and weapons was left on the right [western] bank,” the Russian defence ministry said.
“Ukraine is gaining another important victory right now and proves that whatever Russia says or does, Ukraine will win,” Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba wrote on social media.
He posted an amateur video showing Ukrainians removing a billboard near Kherson that proclaimed: “Russia is here forever”.
Ukraine’s parliament published pictures of people with Ukrainian flags in the city centre.
Kherson was the first major urban hub to fall to Russian troops after President Vladimir Putin announced Moscow’s “special military operation” in Ukraine, and it was the only regional capital his forces seized.
Its full recapture by Kyiv would be a political and symbolic blow to Putin and open a gateway for Ukraine’s forces to the entire Kherson region, with access to both the Black Sea in the west and Sea of Azov in the east.
It would also disrupt an important land bridge for Russia between its mainland and the Crimean peninsula, which Moscow annexed from Ukraine in 2014.
Ukrainian officials were initially wary after Moscow announced this week that it would pull forces to defensive positions on the east bank of the river in Kherson.
While it would appear a major Russian setback in a region Vladimir Putin claimed to have annexed, the Kremlin on Friday dismissed any suggestion the status of the region had changed after the retreat.
“This is a subject of the Russian Federation. There are no changes in this and there cannot be changes,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.
The region of Kherson was one of four territories of Ukraine that Putin claimed to have annexed during a grand ceremony in the Kremlin in late September, vowing at the time to use all available methods to defend it from Kyiv.
Asked by reporters whether Russia now regretted annexing Kherson, Peskov said the Kremlin had “no regrets” about the move.
The announcement from Moscow that it had finished retreating in Kherson came after a fatal Russian strike on a residential building in the southern city of Mykolaiv.
Russian troops failed to capture the Black Sea city from Ukraine in the early stages of their invasion but have launched rockets and missiles on the embattled city for months.
An AFP journalist at the scene of the strike saw a gaping hole cut through a Soviet-style residential building with emergency workers in yellow helmets on the site clearing rubble.
Mykolaiv regional governor Vitaliy Kim said on social media the toll had risen to six.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky branded the strike a “cynical response to our successes at the front”.
He announced late on Thursday that his forces had recaptured more than 40 towns and villages in southern Ukraine during a counter-offensive begun in August.
On Thursday, the United States announced a new $400-million security assistance package for Kyiv, including defence systems and surface-to-air missiles.
“(With) Russia’s unrelenting and brutal air attacks on Ukrainian civilian and critical infrastructure, additional air defense capabilities are critical,” Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh told journalists.
Kyiv forces have recaptured over 40 towns and villages in southern Ukraine, President Zelensky said Thursday, as Moscow signaled its army had begun retreating from the strategic city of Kherson.
The United States meanwhile announced a new $400 million security assistance package for Kyiv, which will include defense systems and surface-to-air missiles as Ukraine is reeling from massive recent Russian airstrikes targeting key infrastructure.
“Today we have good news from the south,” Zelensky said in his daily address to the nation. “The number of Ukrainian flags returning to their rightful place as part of the ongoing defense operation is already dozens.”
Zelensky said 41 settlements have been “liberated” from Russian occupation.
Moscow said it had made the “difficult decision” to pull forces from Kherson, and Russia’s defence ministry on Thursday said its units were manoeuvring in the area.
Ukrainian troops have for weeks been capturing villages en route to Kherson city in the eponymous region, where Kremlin-installed leaders have been pulling out civilians in what Kyiv has called illegal deportations.
The retreat would be a major Russian setback in a region Vladimir Putin claimed to have annexed, but officials in Kyiv have remained wary, saying Russia was unlikely to leave Kherson without a fight.
Battlefield… and diplomacy?
In his speech, Zelensky, who has been facing pressure from Western capitals to resume peace talks with Russia, hinted that negotiations were not ruled out if Ukraine regains all its territory.
“We have to go all the way on the battlefield and through diplomacy so that all over our land, along our entire internationally recognised border, our flags — Ukrainian flags — are installed,” Zelensky said.
He also thanked US President Joe Biden and the American people for the air defense systems.
“Together we’re building an air shield to protect civilians,” Zelensky said on Twitter. “We’re bringing victory over the aggressor closer!”
US media have reported in recent days that the Biden administration has been urging Zelensky to publicly declare a willingness to talk to Russia.
And on Wednesday top US general Mark Milley said that military victory may not be possible in the war.
“There’s… an opportunity here, a window of opportunity for negotiation,” he said.
‘Can you trust a thing they say?’
On the battlefield, in the southern city of Mykolaiv, which Russian forces have pounded with artillery and missiles for months, there was little belief the Russians would retreat.
“How can you trust a thing they say?” asked Volodymyr Vypritskiy, a 55-year-old driver. “How can you trust people that always told us they were our brothers? People who start killing their brothers — can you really believe them?”
Zelensky has suggested Russia could be strategically feigning rather than experiencing a major setback.
Military officials in Kyiv reiterated that caution on Thursday.
“At this point, we can’t confirm or deny information about the retreat of Russian troops from Kherson,” said Oleksiy Gromov, from the Ukrainian armed forces’ general staff.
Russia losing the Kherson region would return to Ukraine important access to the Sea of Azov and leave Putin with little to show from a campaign that has turned him into a pariah in Western eyes.
The retreat will put pressure on Russian control of the rest of the Kherson region, which forms a land bridge from Russia to Crimea, the peninsula that Moscow annexed in 2014.
Kherson was one of four Ukrainian regions that Russia declared it had annexed in September, shortly after being forced to withdraw from swathes of territory in the northeastern Kharkiv region.
The United States this week estimated more than 100,000 Russian military personnel have been killed or wounded in Ukraine.
Kyiv’s forces have likely suffered similar casualties, according to General Milley.
Russia has been pushing to capture the eastern Donbas city of Bakhmut, with the battered town famous for wine and salt mines coming under intensive fire for weeks.
“It has become harder these past three days. The Russians are pushing more and more. But our boys are holding their positions,” 26-year-old soldier Vitaliy told AFP in Bakhmut.
Around half of the 70,000 people living in the city have stayed despite the fighting, mostly in the east of the city, for the past four months.
President Volodymyr Zelensky said the strike was a “cynical response to our successes at the front.”
“A strike at a five-storey residential building. Destroyed from the 5th to the 1st floor,” he said on social media.
Images circulating social media showed a gaping hole cut through a Soviet-style residential building with emergency workers in yellow helmets on the site clearing rubble.
Ukrainian officials have remained wary after Moscow signalled late Wednesday that it would pull forces from the west bank of the Dnipro river in Kherson, in what would be a major Russian setback in a region Vladimir Putin claimed to have annexed.
Milley also said there is a chance for talks on ending the war, and that military victory may not be possible for either Russia or Ukraine.
“There has to be a mutual recognition that military victory is probably in the true sense of the word maybe not achievable through military means, and therefore you need to turn to other means,” Milley said.
“There’s… an opportunity here, a window of opportunity for negotiation.”
Milley’s comments came after Russia ordered its troops to withdraw from the city of Kherson in southern Ukraine — a major blow to Moscow’s military campaign.
But officials in Kyiv reacted with caution, saying the Russian army was unlikely to leave the strategic city without a fight, while US President Joe Biden suggested the retreat was evidence Moscow has “real problems” on the battlefield.
Russia’s strategic forces carried out drills Wednesday, including a test launch of a ballistic missile from a submarine, further stoking concerns that a nuclear weapon could be deployed in the Ukraine war.
Russian President Vladimir Putin surveyed the drills carried out by his nuclear-capable forces as Moscow persisted in claiming, without offering evidence, that Kyiv was developing a “dirty bomb.”
On Monday the Russian foreign ministry posted photographs of ostensible nuclear materials on social media it said depicted “Ukraine’s capacities to create the ‘dirty bomb.'”
But on Wednesday Slovenia said the photo came from its own nuclear waste management agency and dated to 2010.
According to Dragan Barbutovski, an advisor of Slovenian Prime Minister Robert Golob, it depicted smoke detectors.
Heavy fighting on main fronts
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky said fighting remained intense in the eastern Donbas region near Bakhmut, a town Russia’s elite Wagner troops have made a concerted push to seize.
“The situation on the front line hasn’t changed significantly,” Zelensky said in his daily address to the nation. “The fiercest battles are in the Donetsk region, towards Bakhmut and Avdiyivka.”
In the main southern front, Russians were apparently fortifying their positions in Kherson city as civilians were evacuating the region.
At least 70,000 people have left their homes in Kherson province in the space of a week, a Moscow-installed official, Vladimir Saldo, told a regional TV channel.
Pro-Kremlin authorities have sought to move residents to the Russian-controlled areas on the left bank of the Dnipro river, as Ukraine troops are expected to make a bid for the main urban area on the right bank.
Saldo banned entry to the right bank area of the region for a period of seven days “due to the tense situation on the contact line.”
“The Russians do appear to be digging in to defend that region,” said Pentagon spokesman Pat Ryder on Tuesday.
Submarine missile launch
Western officials downplayed the Kremlin’s war games, a regular event for which Moscow gave foreign counterparts advance warning.
“Under the leadership of… Vladimir Putin, a training session was held with ground, sea and air strategic deterrence forces, during which practical launches of ballistic and cruise missiles took place,” the Kremlin said in a statement.
Russian state-run media ran footage of a submarine crew preparing the launch of a Sineva ballistic missile from the Barents Sea in the Arctic.
The drills also included launching test missiles from the Kamchatka peninsula in the Russian Far East.
In calls to Chinese and Indian correspondents, Russia’s Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu continued to press his allegations that Ukraine planned to detonate “dirty bomb” — a crude, small weapon filled with radioactive, biological or chemical materials — which it would blame on Russia.
Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh said that in his call with Shoigu, he “pointed out that the nuclear option should not be resorted to by any side as the prospect of the usage of nuclear or radiological weapons goes against the basic tenets of humanity.”
Cultural damage studied
Meanwhile the UN culture agency UNESCO said it is using before-and-after satellite imagery to monitor the cultural destruction inflicted by Russia’s war in Ukraine, and would make its tracking platform public soon.
UNESCO said it had verified damage to 207 cultural sites in Ukraine since the Russian invasion began on February 24, including religious sites, museums, buildings of historical and or artistic interest, monuments and libraries.
“Our conclusion is it’s bad, and it may continue to get even worse,” UNESCO’s cultural and emergencies director Krista Pikkat told reporters at a briefing in Geneva.
“Cultural heritage is very often collateral damage during wars but sometimes it’s specifically targeted as it’s the essence of the identity of countries,” said Pikkat.
Earlier this month, Zelensky requested that UNESCO add the historic port city of Odessa to its World Heritage List in a bid to protect it from Russian air strikes.
UNESCO is working with the Odessa authorities to make sure that its main monuments and cultural sites are marked with a blue shield — the emblem used during armed conflicts to denote cultural property that should be protected.
Myanmar military air strikes on a concert held by a major ethnic rebel group killed around 50 people and wounded 70, the rebels said on Monday.
“Around 8:40 pm (1440 GMT) Sunday, two Myanmar military jets attacked” a ceremony the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) was holding, Colonel Naw Bu told AFP.
“Around 50 people were killed including KIA members and civilians,” he said, adding that around 70 were wounded.
Local media reported that up to 60 soldiers and civilians had been killed.
Images shared by local media purported to show the aftermath, with debris littering the ground.
The United Nation’s office in Myanmar said it was “deeply concerned and saddened by reports of airstrikes that took place in Hpakant, Kachin State”.
“Initial reports suggest that over 100 civilians may have been affected by the bombing,” it said in a statement.
“Numerous fatalities have also been reported,” it added.
A junta spokesman did not respond to request for comment.
The US Embassy in Yangon said it was “following reports of a military airstrike targeting a Kachin gathering resulting in the deaths of a large number of civilians”.
The KIA has clashed regularly with the military for decades, with heavy fighting erupting in the wake of last year’s coup.
Myanmar has been in turmoil since a military coup last year, with swathes of the country engulfed by fighting.
Reports of the strikes come days before Southeast Asian foreign ministers will hold emergency talks to discuss strife-torn Myanmar ahead of November’s Association of Southeast Asian Nations leaders’ summit.
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has spearheaded so far fruitless efforts to resolve the crisis, and the bloc is frustrated by escalating human rights atrocities.
In September, at least 11 schoolchildren died in a military air strike and firing on a Myanmar village in northern Sagaing region.
The junta said it had sent troops in helicopters to Let Yet Kone after receiving a tip-off that fighters from the KIA and a local anti-coup militia were moving weapons in the area
A number of Myanmar’s myriad ethnic rebel groups have come out in support of the anti-coup movement, offering shelter and even training to activists.
Last May, the KIA said it downed a military helicopter gunship during fierce clashes near the town of Momauk in the country’s far north.
More than 2,300 people have been killed in the military’s crackdown on dissent since the coup and over 15,000 arrested, according to a local monitoring group.
The junta blames anti-coup fighters for the deaths of almost 3,900 civilians.