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Russia Ukraine News Highlights | Poor countries face economic ruin from simultaneous crises of food, energy and finance due to supply disruptions caused by Russia's invasion of Ukraine, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Wednesday. Russia is the world's top exporter of combined oil and gas, and Russia and Ukraine are both major producers of grain, together accounting for around a third of global exports. World commodity prices have hit records, hurting countries
In other major update, Russian troops, thwarted in their push toward Ukraine's capital, are now focusing on the eastern Donbas region, where Ukraine said Tuesday it was investigating a claim that a poisonous substance had been dropped on its troops. It was not clear what the substance might be, but Western officials warned that any use of chemical weapons by Russia would be a serious escalation of the already devastating war.
Russia invaded on Feb. 24, with the goal, according to Western officials, of taking Kyiv, the capital, toppling the government and installing a Moscow-friendly regime. In the six weeks since, the ground advance stalled and Russian forces lost potentially thousands of fighters and were accused of killing civilians and other atrocities.
Putin insisted Tuesday that his invasion aimed to protect people in parts of eastern Ukraine controlled by Moscow-backed rebels and to “ensure Russia’s own security.”
He said Russia “had no other choice” but to launch what he calls a “special military operation,” and vowed it would “continue until its full completion and the fulfillment of the tasks that have been set.”
For now, Putin's forces are gearing up for a major offensive in the Donbas, which has been torn by fighting between Russian-allied separatists and Ukrainian forces since 2014, and where Russia has recognized the separatists’ claims of independence. Military strategists say Moscow appears to hope that local support, logistics and the terrain in the region favor its larger, better-armed military, potentially allowing Russia to finally turn the tide in its favor.
In Mariupol, a strategic port city in the Donbas, a Ukrainian regiment defending a steel mill claimed a drone dropped a poisonous substance on the city. It indicated there were no serious injuries. The assertion by the Azov Regiment, a far-right group now part of the Ukrainian military, could not be independently verified.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that while experts try to determine what the substance might be, “The world must react now.” Evidence of “inhuman cruelty” toward women and children in Bucha and other suburbs of Kyiv continued to surface, he added, including of alleged rapes.
“Not all serial rapists reach the cruelty of Russian soldiers,” Zelenskyy said.
The claims came after a Russia-allied separatist official appeared to urge the use of chemical weapons, telling Russian state TV on Monday that separatist forces should seize the plant by first blocking all the exits. “And then we’ll use chemical troops to smoke them out of there,” the official, Eduard Basurin, said. He denied Tuesday that separatist forces had used chemical weapons in Mariupol.
Ukraine's Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said officials were investigating, and it was possible phosphorus munitions — which cause horrendous burns but are not classed as chemical weapons — had been used in Mariupol.
Much of the city has been leveled in weeks of pummeling by Russian troops. The mayor said Monday that the siege has left more than 10,000 civilians dead, their bodies “carpeted through the streets.” Mayor Vadym Boychenko said the death toll in Mariupol alone could surpass 20,000.
Zelenskyy adviser Mykhailo Podolyak acknowledged the challenges Ukrainian troops face in Mariupol. He said via Twitter that they remain blocked and are having issues with supplies, while Ukraine's president and generals “do everything possible (and impossible) to find a solution.”
“For more than 1.5 months our defenders protect the city from (Russian) troops, which are 10+ times larger," Podolyak tweeted. “They’re fighting under the bombs for each meter of the city. They make (Russia) pay an exorbitant price.”
British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said the use of chemical weapons “would be a callous escalation in this conflict,” while Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said it would be a “wholesale breach of international law.”
U.S. President Joe Biden for the first time referred to Russia’s invasion as a “genocide.” He was even blunter later Tuesday, repeating the term and saying: “It's become clearer and clearer that Putin is just trying to wipe out the idea of even being a Ukrainian.”
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said in a statement that the U.S. could not confirm the drone report. But he noted the administration’s persistent concerns “about Russia’s potential to use a variety of riot control agents, including tear gas mixed with chemical agents.”
Britain, meanwhile, has warned that Russia may resort to phosphorus bombs, which are banned in civilian areas under international law, in Mariupol.
Most armies use phosphorus munitions to illuminate targets or to produce smoke screens. Deliberately firing them into an enclosed space to expose people to fumes could breach the Chemical Weapons Convention, said Marc-Michael Blum, a former laboratory head at the Netherlands-based Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
“Once you start using the properties of white phosphorus, toxic properties, specifically and deliberately, then it becomes banned,” he said.
In Washington, a senior U.S. defense official said the Biden administration was preparing yet another package of military aid for Ukraine possibly totaling $750 million to be announced in the coming days. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss plans not yet publicly announced. Delivery is due to be completed this week of $800 million in military assistance approved by Biden a month ago.
In the face of stiff resistance by Ukrainian forces bolstered by Western weapons, Russian forces have increasingly relied on bombarding cities, flattening many urban areas and killing thousands. The war has driven more than 10 million Ukrainians from their homes — including nearly two-thirds of the country's children.
Moscow's retreat from cities and towns around Kyiv led to the discovery of large numbers of apparently massacred civilians, prompting widespread condemnation and accusations of war crimes.
More than 720 people were killed in Kyiv suburbs that had been occupied by Russian troops and over 200 were considered missing, the Interior Ministry said early Wednesday.
In Bucha alone, Mayor Anatoliy Fedoruk said 403 bodies had been found and the toll could rise as minesweepers comb the area.
Ukraine’s prosecutor-general’s office said Tuesday it was also looking into events in the Brovary district, which lies to the northeast.
It said the bodies of six civilians were found with gunshot wounds in a basement in the village of Shevchenkove and Russian forces were believed to be responsible.
Prosecutors are also investigating allegations that Russian forces fired on a convoy of civilians trying to leave by car from the village of Peremoha in the Brovary district, killing four people including a 13-year-old boy. In another attack near Bucha, five people were killed including two children when a car was fired upon, prosecutors said.
Putin falsely claimed Tuesday that Ukraine's accusation that hundreds of civilians were killed by Russian troops in the town of Bucha were “fake.” Associated Press journalists saw dozens of bodies in and around the town, some of whom had their hands bound and appeared to have been shot at close range.
Speaking at the Vostochny space launch facility in Russia's far east, in his first known foray outside Moscow since the war began, Putin also said the West would fail to isolate Russia and its economy has withstood a “blitz” of sanctions.
Addressing the pace of the campaign, he said Moscow was proceeding “calmly and rhythmically” to “achieve the planned goals while minimizing the losses.”The Russian defense ministry said Tuesday that it used used air- and sea-launched missiles to destroy an ammunition depot and airplane hangar at Starokostiantyniv in the western Khmelnytskyi region and an ammunition depot near Kyiv.
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Russia-Ukraine Crisis LIVE | Russia closes in on last holdout in Ukrainian port, prepares for new offensive
More than 1,000 Ukrainian marines have surrendered in the port of Mariupol, Russia's defence ministry said on Wednesday, signalling that it had moved closer to capturing the ruined city, its main strategic target in eastern Ukraine.
Taking the Azovstal industrial district, where the marines have been holed up, would give the Russians full control of Mariupol, Ukraine's main Sea of Azov port, and reinforce a southern land corridor before an expected new offensive in the country's east.
Surrounded and bombarded by Russian troops for weeks and the focus of some of the fiercest fighting in the war, Mariupol would be the first major city to fall since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24. (Reuters)
Russia-Ukraine Crisis LIVE | Poor countries face food, energy, finance crises due to Ukraine war, UN chief says
Poor countries face economic ruin from simultaneous crises of food, energy and finance due to supply disruptions caused by Russia's invasion of Ukraine, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Wednesday.
Russia is the world's top exporter of combined oil and gas, and Russia and Ukraine are both major producers of grain, together accounting for around a third of global exports. World commodity prices have hit records, hurting countries that rely on imports.
"The war is supercharging a three-dimensional crisis - food, energy and finance - that is pummeling some of the world's most vulnerable people, countries and economies," Guterres told reporters, releasing a report by a crisis task force he created shortly after Russia's invasion began on Feb 24. "We are now facing a perfect storm that threatens to devastate the economies of many developing countries," Guterres said. (Reuters)
Russia-Ukraine Crisis LIVE | IMF, World Bank, WFP and WTO urge coordinated action on food security
The World Bank, International Monetary Fund, United Nations World Food Program and World Trade Organization on Wednesday called for urgent, coordinated action on food security, and urged countries to avoid export bans on food or fertilizer.
In a joint statement, the leaders of the four institutions warned that the war in Ukraine was adding to existing pressures from the COVID-19 crisis, climate change and increased fragility and conflict, threatening millions of people worldwide.
Sharply higher prices for staples and supply shortages were fueling pressure on households, they said. The threat is greatest to the poorest countries, but vulnerability was also increasing rapidly in middle-income countries, which host the majority of the world's poor. (Reuters)
Russia-Ukraine Crisis LIVE | Germany irritated by Ukraine's snub of a presidential visit
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Wednesday criticized a diplomatic snub by Ukraine for his country's president and defended Berlin's record on delivering weapons to Kyiv amid tensions that have flared at a delicate moment in German policymaking on the war.
President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Germany's largely ceremonial head of state, had hoped to travel to Ukraine on Wednesday with his Polish and Baltic counterparts. But he said Tuesday that his presence "apparently ... wasn't wanted in Kyiv." The German newspaper Bild quoted an unidentified Ukrainian diplomat as saying that Steinmeier was not welcome at the moment, pointing to his close relations with Russia in the past.
Ukraine's ambassador to Germany later said the government would be glad to welcome Scholz who, unlike Steinmeier, sets government policy. But the snub to Steinmeier may make that more difficult. (AP)
Russia-Ukraine Crisis LIVE | Villagers in Ukraine left with mine-riddled forest after Russian retreat
Residents in Lubianka, a village northwest of Kyiv, are trying to rebuild their lives all while Ukrainian soldiers remove mines from a nearby forest where Russian troops had set up camp. The village, which has less than 3,000 residents, was occupied as soon as Russia's invasion of Ukraine began.
Thousands of Russian soldiers occupied the pine forest, digging trenches and carving out positions from which, residents say, they shelled towns near Ukraine's capital.
Residents gathered at the medical clinic in the village centre said it was dangerous for them to stray from their homes during the occupation. Russian soldiers ordered them all to stay inside, but even from basements residents could hear the sound of missiles flying above them.
"They were shooting, shelling...we were saved by the forest, if not for the forest we would be destroyed," said 43-year-old Oleh Onopriienko, who listed off the names of devastated towns surrounding Kyiv such as Irpin and Hostomel. Inside the forest, local members of the Territorial Defense Force and Ukraine's military cleared the fields of mines and other unexplored ordnance. (Reuters)
Russia-Ukraine Crisis LIVE | Russia says US, NATO weapon transports in Ukraine are legitimate targets
Russia will view US and NATO vehicles transporting weapons on Ukrainian territory as legitimate military targets, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told the TASS news agency in an interview on Wednesday. Any attempts by the West to inflict significant damage on Russia's military or its separatist allies in Ukraine will be "harshly suppressed," he added.
"We are warning that US-NATO weapons transports across Ukrainian territory will be considered by us as legal military targets," TASS quoted Ryabkov as saying.
"We are making the Americans and other Westerners understand that attempts to slow down our special operation, to inflict maximum damage on Russian contingents and formations of the DPR and LPR (Donetsk and Luhansk People's republics) will be harshly suppressed," he said. (Reuters)
Russia Ukraine News LIVE Updates | European rights experts find "clear patterns" of Russian war crimes in Ukraine
A mission of experts set up by Organization for Security and Cooperation and Europe (OSCE) nations has found evidence of war crimes and crimes against humanity by Russia in Ukraine, an initial report by the mission said on Wednesday.
The mission was set up last month by 45 of the OSCE's 57 participating countries to look into possible offences, including war crimes in Ukraine, and to pass on information to bodies such as international tribunals. Russia opposed it.
"The mission found clear patterns of IHL (international humanitarian law) violations by the Russian forces," the report said, citing failures to take necessary precautions, act proportionately or spare sites like schools and hospitals. (Reuters)
Russia Ukraine News LIVE Updates | Ukraine war to result in 1.3% lower GDP growth for India, says World Bank official
Russia's war in Ukraine is likely to result in a significant 1.3 per cent lower GDP growth for India and 2.3 percentage point lower income growth, a top World Bank official has said, even as the lending agency observed that India is emerging strongly from the COVID-19 crisis.
Russia Ukraine News LIVE Updates | After weeks of bombardment, 1,000 Ukraine marines surrender in Mariupol, says Russia
More than 1,000 Ukrainian marines have surrendered in the port of Mariupol, Russia's defence ministry said on Wednesday of its main strategic target in the eastern Donbas region, which has been reduced to ruins but is not yet under Russian control. If the Russians take the Azovstal industrial district, where the marines have been holed up, they would be in full control of Mariupol, Ukraine's main Sea of Azov port, allowing Russia to reinforce a land corridor between separatist-held eastern areas and the Crimea region that it seized and annexed in 2014. Surrounded and bombarded by Russian troops for weeks and the focus of some of the fiercest fighting of the war, Mariupol would be the first major city to fall since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24. Russia's defence ministry said that 1,026 marines had surrendered, including 162 officers. "In the town of Mariupol, near the Ilyich Iron and Steel Works, as a result of successful offensives by Russian armed forces and Donetsk People's Republic militia units, 1,026 Ukrainian soldiers of the 36th Marine Brigade voluntarily laid down arms and surrendered," the ministry said in a statement. Ukraine's general staff said Russian forces were proceeding with attacks on Azovstal and the port, but a defence ministry spokesman said he had no information about any surrender.
Russia Ukraine News LIVE Updates | Russia recovery from sanctions will take 'years': Officials
Russia will take "many years" to rebuild its economy if Western sanctions over Ukraine remain in place for a long time, the head of the audit chamber and former finance minister said Wednesday. "If sanctions remain at the current level, it will take about two years of reconstruction, no less," Alexei Kudrin said. "Then we will have to rebuild for many years, because what we are talking about is replacing a whole series of imported products," he was quoted by Russian news agencies as saying. Kudrin also said that already soaring inflation could be as high as 20 percent by the end of the year. President Vladimir Putin says Russia's economy has managed to weather the barrage of unprecedented sanctions imposed since he sent troops to Ukraine on February 24. But economists believe that the worst economic impact of the sanctions is still to come and expect Russia, which has relied heavily on imports of manufacturing equipment and consumer goods, to plunge into a deep recession. "One of the main risks today is the contraction of the economy due to logistical restrictions on the one hand and the lack of liquidity on the other," Deputy Prime Minister Andrei Belousov told Russia's upper house of parliament, the Federation Council.