Russian Court Orders Arrest In Absentia Of Ukrainian Ministers

A file photo of a court gavel.
A file photo of a court gavel.

 

A Moscow court on Tuesday ordered the arrest in absentia of two Ukrainian ministers after they were accused of violating Russia’s territorial integrity.

The decision came following a request by the FSB security service to arrest in absentia Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk and Deputy Foreign Minister Emine Dzhaparova.

“The request has been granted,” Anastasia Romanova, spokeswoman for Moscow’s Lefortovsky district court, told AFP.

Russia said in September it had annexed four Ukrainian regions its forces only partially controlled after holding so-called referendums in Donetsk and Lugansk in the east and Zaporizhzhia and Kherson in the south.

Senior Ukrainian political figures including President Volodymyr Zelensky have travelled across the country including to the regions Moscow claimed to have annexed despite the fighting.

In his latest trip, Zelensky on Tuesday visited the town of Sloviansk near the frontline.

Vereshchuk, Ukraine’s minister for the reintegration of the occupied territories, travelled to Kherson after Kyiv’s forces recaptured the city in November.

Dzhaparova, a Crimean Tatar, promotes issues related to the ethnic minority on the Crimean peninsula, annexed by Russia is 2014, and calls for international support for the “de-occupation of Crimea and its return to Ukraine”.

Both women have been put on Russia’s wanted list.

In response to the Russian security service’s request Dzhaparova quipped that Moscow had recognised “the effectiveness of my work.”

More Than 500 Ukrainian Localities Without Power

 

More than 500 Ukrainian localities remained without power Sunday following weeks of Russian airstrikes on the electric grid, an interior ministry official said.

“The enemy continues to attack the country’s essential infrastructure. Currently, 507 localities in eight regions of our country are cut off from electricity supplies,” deputy interior minister Yevgueny Yenin told Ukrainian television.

“The Kharkiv region is the worst hit with 112 isolated villages,” Yenin added.

Another 90 villages were cut off in the Donetsk and Kherson regions, he said, with others in the regions of Mykolaiv, Zaporizhzhia and Lugansk.

On Saturday, Ukrainian authorities — including Mykolaiv region governor Vitali Kim — had once again urged civilians to bear up in the face of continually deteriorating early winter conditions and regular power outages.

Repeated daily power cuts have left millions of people without heat or lighting while outside temperatures have dropped below zero Celsius (32 Fahrenheit) in recent days.

With further strikes on the network widely expected, Ukrainians fear a difficult prolonged winter as well as a flood of departures by refugees from a war now into a tenth month.

Private Ukrainian energy operator DTEK said Thursday that nearly half of Ukraine’s electricity grid remains damaged after Russia began targeting Ukrainian energy facilities in October following a series of humiliating military defeats on the ground.

Up To 13,000 Ukrainian Soldiers Killed Since Russian Invasion

A BM-21 ‘Grad’ multiple rocket launcher fires towards Russian positions on the front line near Bakhmut, Donetsk region, on November 27, 2022, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. (Photo by Anatolii STEPANOV / AFP)

As many as 13,000 Ukrainian troops have been killed since Russia’s invasion in February, a senior adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky has said.

“We have official estimates from the General Staff… And they range from 10,000 … to 13,000 dead,” Mykhailo Podolyak told Ukraine’s Channel 24 on Thursday.

Zelensky would make the official data public “when the right moment comes”, he added.


READ ALSO: Gunmen Kill Head Of Ecuador Prison Where Deadly Riots Broke Out


In June, as Russian forces battled to take full control of the easternmost Lugansk region, Zelensky said Ukraine was losing “60 to 100 soldiers per day, killed in action, and around 500 people wounded in action”.

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu in September said 5,937 Russian troops had been killed in the nearly seven months of fighting to that point.

Both sides are suspected of minimising their losses to avoid damaging the morale of their troops.

Top US general Mark Milley last month said more than 100,000 Russian military personnel have been killed or wounded in Ukraine, with Kyiv’s forces likely suffering similar casualties.

Those figures — which could not be independently confirmed — are the most precise to date from the US government.

Thousands of Ukrainian civilians have been killed in the worst fighting in Europe in decades.

Kremlin Rejects Biden Terms For Ukraine Talks

US President Joe Biden announces student loan relief on August 24, 2022 in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, DC. Biden announced that most US university graduates still trying to pay off student loans will get $10,000 of relief to address a decades-old headache of massive educational debt across the country. (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY / AFP)
In this file photo, US President Joe Biden announces student loan relief on August 24, 2022 in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, DC. Biden announced that most US university graduates still trying to pay off student loans will get $10,000 of relief to address a decades-old headache of massive educational debt across the country. (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY / AFP)

 

The Kremlin on Friday rejected US President Joe Biden’s terms for Ukraine talks with Russian leader Vladimir Putin, saying Moscow’s offensive will continue.

“What did President Biden say in fact? He said that negotiations are possible only after Putin leaves Ukraine,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters, adding Moscow was “certainly” not ready to accept those conditions.

“The special military operation is continuing,” Peskov said, using the Kremlin term for the assault on Ukraine.

During a state visit by French President Emmanuel Macron, Biden said Thursday he would be willing to speak to Putin if the Russian leader truly wants to end the fighting.

READ ALSO: 13,000 Troops Killed Since Russian Invasion – Ukraine

“I’m prepared to speak with Mr Putin if in fact there is an interest in him deciding he’s looking for a way to end the war,” the US leader said.

Peskov on Friday said Putin was ready for talks to ensure Russia’s interests are respected but added that Washington’s stance “complicates” any possible talks.

“The United States does not recognise new territories as part of the Russian Federation,” Peskov said, referring to Ukrainian regions that the Kremlin claims to have annexed.

In September, Moscow held so-called referendums in four regions of Ukraine — Donetsk, Kherson, Lugansk and Zaporizhzhia — and said residents had voted in favour of becoming subjects of Russia.

The United Nations has condemned the “attempted illegal annexation” of Ukrainian land.

Peskov said that before sending troops to Ukraine on February 24 Putin had repeatedly proposed to hold talks with NATO, the OSCE and the United States but those attempts had proved “unsuccessful.”

13,000 Troops Killed Since Russian Invasion – Ukraine

Ukrainian soldiers stand on an armoured personnel carrier (APC), not far from the front-line with Russian troops, in Izyum district, Kharkiv region on April 18, 2022, during the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Anatolii Stepanov / AFP
Ukrainian soldiers stand on an armoured personnel carrier (APC), not far from the front-line with Russian troops, in Izyum district, Kharkiv region on April 18, 2022, during the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Anatolii Stepanov / AFP

 

As many as 13,000 Ukrainian troops have been killed since Russia’s invasion in February, a senior adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky has said.

“We have official estimates from the General Staff… And they range from 10,000 … to 13,000 dead,” Mykhailo Podolyak told Ukraine’s Channel 24 on Thursday.

Zelensky would make the official data public “when the right moment comes”, he added.

In June, as Russian forces battled to take full control of the easternmost Lugansk region, Zelensky said Ukraine was losing “60 to 100 soldiers per day, killed in action, and around 500 people wounded in action”.

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu in September said 5,937 Russian troops had been killed in the nearly seven months of fighting to that point.

Both sides are suspected of minimising their losses to avoid damaging the morale of their troops.

Top US general Mark Milley last month said more than 100,000 Russian military personnel have been killed or wounded in Ukraine, with Kyiv’s forces likely suffering similar casualties.

Those figures — which could not be independently confirmed — are the most precise to date from the US government.

Thousands of Ukrainian civilians have been killed in the worst fighting in Europe in decades.

AFP

Biden, Macron Pledge To Support Ukraine’s Fight ‘As Long As It Takes’

US President Joe Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron shake hands after a joint press conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on December 1, 2022. (Photo by Ludovic MARIN / AFP)

US President Joe Biden and visiting French leader Emmanuel Macron declared Thursday that they would not let up on support for Ukraine’s war against Russia and pledged to hold Moscow responsible for war crimes.

The two reaffirm “support for Ukraine’s defense of its sovereignty and territorial integrity, including the provision of political, security, humanitarian, and economic assistance to Ukraine for as long as it takes,” they said in a statement.

“They also reiterate their steadfast resolve to hold Russia to account for widely documented atrocities and war crimes,” the statement added.

AFP

Guard Slightly Injured As Letter Bomb Rattles Ukraine Embassy In Madrid

 

A security guard at Ukraine’s embassy in Madrid was lightly injured Wednesday while opening a letter bomb addressed to the Ukrainian ambassador, prompting Kyiv to boost security at its embassies.

The letter, which arrived by regular post, exploded in the early afternoon as the guard opened it in the embassy garden, said the central government’s representative in Madrid, Mercedes Gonzalez.

The guard was discharged from hospital later Wednesday and returned to work, Ukraine’s ambassador to Spain, Serhii Pohoreltsev, said.

In an interview with Spanish state television, Pohoreltsev appeared to blame Russia: “We are well aware of the terrorist methods of the aggressor country,” he said.

“Russia’s methods and attacks require us to be ready for any kind of incident, provocation or attack,” he added.

Spain’s National Police force were informed of an explosion at the embassy at around 1:00 pm (1200 GMT), a police source said.

The source said the guard was “lightly” injured and “went himself to a hospital” for treatment.

Police have opened an investigation “which includes the participation of forensic police”, the source said, without giving further details.

Police put a security cordon around the embassy, which is in a leafy residential area in northern Madrid.

A man who lives in front of the embassy, who asked not to be identified, told AFP he had heard the explosion.

“I thought it was gunshot. It was not too loud,” he said.

Second ‘suspicious’ package

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba ordered the strengthening of security at all Ukrainian embassies, Ukraine’s foreign ministry spokesperson Oleg Nikolenko said on social media after the letter bomb went off.

Spain’s Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares spoke with the ambassador over the phone “to ask about the well-being of the Ukrainian worker who was injured,” the Spanish foreign ministry said in a statement.

Albares also contacted Kuleba by phone to express his “support and solidarity”, it added.

Later in the evening, a second “suspicious postal shipment” was intercepted at the headquarters of military equipment firm Instalaza in the northeastern city of Zaragoza, the interior ministry said.

Experts carried out a “controlled explosion” of the mailed item.

“Investigators are analysing the exploded device and checking if there are any links between this event and what happened this morning at the Ukrainian embassy in Madrid,” it added.

EU Chief Proposes Special Court ‘To Try Russia’s Crimes’

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen gives a media statement in Brussels, on October 18, 2021. YVES HERMAN / POOL / AFP

 

EU chief Ursula von der Leyen on Wednesday floated the idea of a “specialised court” to put Russia’s top officials on trial for the war in Ukraine.

“While continuing to support the International Criminal Court, we are proposing to set up a specialised court backed by the United Nations to investigate and prosecute Russia’s crime of aggression,” she said in a video statement.

READ ALSO: Fire Erupts At Oil Depot In Russian Region Bordering Ukraine

More to follow…

Fire Erupts At Oil Depot In Russian Region Bordering Ukraine

Fire is seen billowing from an oil depot in Bryansk, Russia.

 

An oil depot in Russia’s Bryansk region near the border with Ukraine was on fire Wednesday, according to the local governor.

“Reservoirs with oil products are on fire in the Surazhsky district. Fire and rescue teams are at the scene,” governor Alexander Bogomaz said on social media.

READ ALSO: EU Chief Proposes Special Court ‘To Try Russia’s Crimes’

The governor did not say what could have caused the fire.

Bogomaz said the fire engulfed an area of 1,800 square metres (19,000 square feet) and over 80 people were involved in putting it out.

He added that there were no reports of casualties.

Citing emergency services, state news agency TASS later reported that the fire had spread to an area of 4,000 square metres.

In October Russia said an oil depot was on fire after being bombed in Belgorod, which also borders Ukraine, shortly after complaining of an increase in artillery and missile strikes on its territory bordering Ukraine.

AFP

‘Little By Little’: Ukraine Grinds Away On Northeastern Front

A BM-21 ‘Grad’ multiple rocket launcher fires towards Russian positions on the front line near Bakhmut, Donetsk region, on November 27, 2022, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. (Photo by Anatolii STEPANOV / AFP)

 

The motivation to keep fighting the Russians is simple for Viking, a Ukrainian soldier near the northeastern frontlines as cold weather and artillery onslaughts bogs down both sides. He wants revenge.

“I can say that the hardest thing for me is the death of my friends. I had motivation before… but the anger, aggression and hatred reinforces it,” says Viking, the nom de guerre of the 26-year-old tank gunner.

But despite the heavy losses incurred by the Ukrainian military over nine months of fighting since the Russian invasion in February, Viking and others in his tank platoon remain confident they will win the war.

“We plan to push the Russians to the borders and even further,” he laughs.

His platoon took part in the breakthrough offensive in September that crushed the Russian’s northeastern flank, sending their troops in a desperate flight east over the Oskil River in Ukraine’s Kharkiv region.

And while the speed of the counter-offensive has since slowed after the Russian’s reformed their defensive lines, the Ukrainians say they continue to push even as the winter cold sets in — straining supply lines as road conditions and bad weather periodically affect combat.

“We pushed back the Russians, gained a foothold, and are advancing little by little,” explains Patriot, a 23-year-old member of the platoon camped in a bucolic meadow surrounded by pine trees near the front.

READ ALSO: ‘We Cannot Be Broken’: Zelensky Vows On Anniversary Of Stalin Famine

‘A lot of shelling’ 

“There is a lot of shelling. In the last month, I heard about 100 to 200 attacks,” he tells AFP, during a trip to their position organised by the Ukrainian military.

Nearby, a 44-year-old mechanic from the unit, who asked not to be named, labours away on the engine of a Russian tank the platoon had captured during September’s counter-offensive and is now using against its former owners.

“The condition of Russian equipment is very bad. Everything was covered in diesel and dirty,” he says of the tank when they first found it.

“It is almost ready,” he adds.

After nine months in the field, the unit’s Soviet-era hardware reflects the greater dynamics at play in the war — one tank was provided by the Ukrainian military, another was taken from the Russians, and a third donated by Poland.

The ammunition required to fight is supplied in part by Russian stocks captured on the battlefield.

“It’s the Russian lend-lease act,” jokes another member of the team who goes by the call sign Agronome, in reference to a US deal to supply weapons to Ukraine.

The tank platoon’s fight is part of a larger push by the Ukrainian military in the northeast that is hoping to capture a key highway supplying the Russian occupied cities of Severodonetsk and Lysychansk.

The two cities were captured by Russian forces following a brutal summer campaign in Donbas, with both sides believed to have lost large numbers of troops.

‘Don’t feel the cold’ 

The loss of the cities would add only further humiliation and stymie Russian President Vladimir Putin’s stated goals of capturing the Donbas region, after suffering repeated setbacks triggered by Ukrainian thrusts in both the northeast and the south in Kherson.

“On this part of the frontline we are in charge of holding our position and sometimes launching counter-offensives,” says Roman, a member of the overall tank battalion operating in the area.

“The situation is completely under control and we are ready for new and sometimes unexpected challenges.”

Analysts predict that the tempo of fighting may surge again soon as colder conditions allow for fresh assaults along the frontline.

“Temperatures are forecast to drop across Ukraine over the next week, which will likely freeze the ground and expedite the pace of fighting as mobility increases for both sides,” according to a recent assessment by US-based think tank The Institute for the Study of War.

As for the fighters on the ground, the dropping temperatures matter little when compared to Russia’s artillery barrages.

“When we know we can get hit at any moment, the adrenaline keeps us warm,” says Patriot. “We don’t feel the cold.”

AFP

I Share Your Pain, Putin Tells Mothers Of Soldiers Killed In Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting with members of the Russian government via teleconference in Moscow on March 10, 2022. Mikhail Klimentyev / SPUTNIK / AFP
In this file photo, Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting with members of the Russian government via teleconference in Moscow on March 10, 2022. Mikhail Klimentyev / SPUTNIK / AFP

 

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday told a group of mothers whose sons are fighting in Ukraine that he shares the pain of those who have lost family members in the conflict.

The meeting took place ahead of Mother’s Day, which Russia will mark on Sunday, and amid mounting anger from Russian soldiers’ families after a chaotic military draft.

“I want you to know: I personally and the entire leadership of the country share this pain,” Putin told the women at his residence near Moscow.

“We understand that nothing can replace the loss of a son, a child,” he said in his opening remarks which lasted just a few minutes.

“I do not dare say any formal, standard things related to expressing condolences,” he said.

He added that some news reports about Moscow’s offensive in Ukraine could not be trusted.

“There is a lot of fake news, deceit, and lies,” he said.

Putin, who has introduced legislation that effectively bans any public criticism of the offensive in Ukraine, told the women they should be wary of what they read on the internet.

“It is clear that life is more complex than what is shown on our TV screens or even on the internet, nothing can be trusted there,” he said.

Earlier on Friday, Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the rest of the discussion would be shown “depending on the conversation.”

State television aired images of the Russian leader sitting at a table with 17 mothers, in the first such meeting since Putin sent troops to Ukraine on February 24.

“I completely understand that for you, and for many other women in Russia whose sons are currently in fighting zones, this will not be a festive time,” the 70-year-old said, referring to Mother’s Day.

Videos of Russian mothers and relatives concerned about men fighting in Ukraine have in recent months flooded Russian social media.

AFP

Ukraine Battles To Reconnect Millions In The Cold And Dark

 

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.

‘Scariest day’

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.

‘Shutdowns’

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.”