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Michael Novakhov - SharedNewsLinks℠

Grani.Ru: Scholz announced a ‘turning point’ in relations with Russia

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103353n
Olaf Scholz. CNN frame

nGerman Chancellor Olaf Scholz delivered a speech at an extraordinary meeting of the Bundestag on Russia’s attack on Ukraine. He called the Russian aggression a “turning point”, including in German policy.n

nThe chancellor confirmed that Germany would start supplying arms to Ukraine, as “Putin’s aggression left us no other choice.” On February 26, Scholz announced that Berlin would supply Ukraine with 1,000 anti-tank guns and 500 Stingers.n

nAccording to Scholz, sanctions against Russia in the event of continued aggression will increase, they “are not limited by any conceivable limits.”n

nThe chancellor said that Vladimir Putin wants to recreate the Russian Empire, and added that Europe cannot allow “this conflict between Putin and the free world to open old wounds and lead to new upheavals.” Scholz acknowledged that long-term security without Russia in Europe is impossible, but pointed out that “Putin will jeopardize that security for the foreseeable future.”n

nScholz announced that Germany would now spend on defense the equivalent of more than 2 percent of its GDP. This year, its federal budget will receive an additional 100 billion euros for “necessary investments and defense projects.” The military budget of the Bundeswehr for 2021 was 53 billion euros. Scholz assured that in matters of ensuring security within NATO, Germany fulfills its obligations without “ifs” and “buts.”n

nGermany will take measures to reduce dependence on Russian gas as soon as possible. In particular, two new terminals for receiving liquefied gas will be built.n

nGermany also closed its airspace to Russian aircraft. Now about 20 countries have joined the air blockade of Russia. As expected, such a decision will soon be taken by the entire EU.n

nBefore Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which began on February 24, Germany repeatedly stated that it would not supply weapons to Ukraine. On February 22, after Vladimir Putin announced his decision to recognize the “DPR” and “LPR”, the German government stopped the certification of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline .nn


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Ukrainian delegation arrives at Ukrainian-Belarusian border for talks with Russia

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The Ukrainian delegation has arrived in the area of the Ukrainian-Belarusian border to take part in talks with representatives of the Russian Federation.

According to Ukrinform, the Ukrainian President’s Office reported this on Telegram.

The delegation includes David Arakhamia, head of the Servant of the People faction, Oleksiy Reznikov, Minister of Defense of Ukraine, Mykhailo Podoliak, advisor to the Head of the President’s Office, Andriy Kostin, First Deputy Head of the Ukrainian Delegation to the Trilateral Contact Group, MP Rustem Umerov, and Deputy Foreign Minister Mykola Tochytskyi.

The President’s Office said the key issue of the talks would be an immediate ceasefire and the withdrawal of troops from Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced on February 27 that he had a call with Alexander Lukashenko. After the conversation, it was agreed that the Ukrainian delegation will meet with the Russian delegation without any preconditions on the Ukrainian-Belarusian border near the Prypiat River.

Lukashenko claimed responsibility for ensuring that “all planes, helicopters and missiles stationed on Belarusian territory remain on the ground at the time of the Ukrainian delegation’s travel, talks and return.”

On February 24, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the beginning of a Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Martial law was imposed in Ukraine and general mobilization was declared.


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Russian 5km-long column advances on Kyiv. Zelensky doesn’t expect much from talks with Russia

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Satellite images showed a 5-km long column moving towards Kyiv on Monday, Feb. 28 with thousands of infantry troops, tanks, self-propelled artillery, and fuel and logistical trucks, still 50km northwest of its target. In the city, weapons were being handed out to people to defend the city.

President Volodymyr Zelensky said he has little hope that the peace talks with Russia beginning on the Border with Belarus will resolve the conflict. With the massive Russian force on the move, Zelensky and Western intelligence watchers said Monday morning that the coming 24 hours would be xe2x80x9ccrucialxe2x80x9d to the conflict. On Sunday, President Vladimir Putin ordered Russian nuclear forces to go on combat readiness in response to Western sanctions and xe2x80x9caggression.xe2x80x9d

DEBKAfile sketches the situation on the different fronts of the Ukraine war:

1. The Russians paused their first attempt to take Kyiv after invading Ukraine last Thursday to await fresh supplies and fuel and meanwhile assemble a massive convoy for the operation.

2. West intelligence analysts donxe2x80x99t rate the chances of the far inferior Ukraine army sustaining its resistance for long.

3. After entering Ukrainexe2x80x99s second city of Kharkiv on Sunday, Russian troops pulled back during the day, there, too, to await heavy weapons reinforcements before going after an all-out offensive to seize the city.

4. In the southeast, the Russian army Sunday night mounted an offensive on Zabrozhia on the Dnieper, while continuing its assault to take Mariupol on the Azov Sea.

5. Ukrainian forces repelled the Russian attack on the southern city of Kherson.

6. Military analysts evaluate the Russian generalsxe2x80x99 objective as being to link the Russian forces occupying Zabrozhia and Mariupol for blockading Ukrainian army positions in the north and the west.

7. Large Russian reserve contingents are on standby in neighboring Belarus and estimated ready to push into Ukraine from the north and the east.

Hopes for a successful peace conference on Monday faded when Moscow, ahead of its first round of negotiations with Ukraine, slapped down a demand to discuss a comprehensive accord, while Kyiv insisted first on a ceasefire and the withdrawal of the Russian invasion force.

On the battlefield meanwhile, our military analysts note that neither the Russians nor the Ukrainians are offering a clear picture of the state of play. Reports emanating from Western capitals depict the Russian army as having been forced to halt its advance by shortages of fuel and food for the soldiers. This overstates the case, much like the claim that the Russian army was totally halted in its tracks by bold Ukrainian resistance.

What is really happening, it seems, is that Russian tacticians are now prioritizing operations for cutting off and blockading Ukrainian units before major operations to capture of the countryxe2x80x99s main cities. They are intent now on weakening resistance to their advance and counting on Ukrainian forces to buckle before long against a hugely superior military force and resign themselves to guerilla operations.


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Live coverage: Peace talks reported between Russia, Ukraine | TheHill

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Peace talks reported between Russia, Ukraine

9:14 a.m.

Multiple media organizations are reporting that Ukraine and Russia will hold peace talks on the border of Ukraine and Belarus.xc2xa0

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy confirmed to Sky News that the two sides would hold the talks on the border of Ukraine and Belarus, where some of the Russian troops invading his country had been held.xc2xa0

Zelenskyy had refused to agree to an earlier request for talks in Belarus, arguing it was not neutral territory.xc2xa0

Sunday was the fourth day of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which has been slowed by fierce resistance from Ukrainian troops and private citizens.xc2xa0

Several cities including the capitol of Kyiv have been bombarded by Russia, and there has additionally been fighting in the streets.

Sky News, referring to a statement from Zelenskyy’s office, said the two delegations will meet “without preconditions” near the Pripyat River.

Earlier in the day, Zelenskyy had spoken with Belarus strongman leader Alexander Lukashenko, an ally of Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinCyber officials urge federal agencies to armor up for potential Russian attacks Rick Scott: Putin a ‘murderous thug,’ will ‘continue to try to swallow up more and more territory’ Biden says Putin is ‘producing the exact opposite effect that he intended’ MORE.

“Alexander Lukashenko has taken responsibility for ensuring that all planes, helicopters and missiles stationed on Belarusian territory remain on the ground during the Ukrainian delegation’s travel, talks and return,” the statement said, according to Sky News.xc2xa0

xe2x80x94 Ian Swanson


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And is this the final decision? Ukraine again agreed to participate in the negotiations in Gomel

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Yuri Voskresensky made a corresponding statement

President Lukashenko said that he managed to agree with Zelensky about the Russian-Ukrainian negotiation process.

Public figure Yuri Voskresensky noted that the Russian-Ukrainian negotiations will still take place today, but a little later. At the same time, Medinsky, an assistant to the President of Russia, said that Moscow was ready to negotiate with Ukraine in order to achieve peace at any time.

In addition, it became known that after a telephone conversation with Zelensky, Lukashenka called Vladimir Putin and suggested that the Russian delegation, which was in Gomel in the morning, be delayed to participate in peace talks. The President of Russia supported Lukashenka’s initiative. Accordingly, negotiations will take place today, but a little later.

Earlier we wrotexc2xa0 that in Spain, ignoring the morning events in Belarus, they said that Russia “should immediately return to the negotiating table.” Meanwhile, Ukraine has already changed its position on this issue twice.

We remind you that you can read the most interesting and important news of Armenia in a format convenient for you: onxc2xa0 Telegram xc2xa0and onxc2xa0 Facebook


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Ukraine Agrees To Hold Talks With Russia At Belarus Border; Putin Orders Russian Nuclear Deterrent Forces On Alert

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Ukraine’s state service of special communications and information protection said on Sunday that Russian troops have blown up a natural gas pipeline in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv. A mushroom-shaped explosion was shown in a video it posted on the Telegram messaging app. It was not immediately clear how important the pipeline was and whether the blast could disrupt gas shipments outside the city or the country. Despite the war, Ukraine continues to ship Russian natural gas to Europe. The United States, Canada, Britain, and Europe on Saturday agreed to block Russia’s access to the SWIFT international payment system as part of another round of sanctions against Moscow as it continues its assault against Ukraine.

Meanwhile, a bunch of Indian students arrived in Delhi from a war-torn country.

First Published:xc2xa0 IST


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The Kyiv Independent – News from Ukraine, Eastern Europe

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Sunday, February 2715:36n

n

BREAKING: Ukraine confirms peace talks with Russia today.

n

During a phone call with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, Zelensky agreed that the Ukrainian delegation would meet with the Russian delegation without preconditions on the Ukrainian-Belarusian border, near the Pripyat River.


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The Man Behind Putin’s Military

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On February 25, barely 24 hours after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Russian forces reached Kyiv. Even accounting for Russiaxe2x80x99s vastly superior firepower, the speed of the military advance has been startling. But it also has highlighted something else: the extent to which the Kremlinxe2x80x99s entire pressure campaign on Ukraine has been driven by the Russia military. In contrast to many previous efforts by Moscow to achieve political goals in the Westxe2x80x94or to exact retribution on a perceived enemyxe2x80x94the Ukraine offensive has not been driven by the Federal Security Service (FSB), Russiaxe2x80x99s security agency, which has often drawn the lionxe2x80x99s share of Western attention. Instead, it has been shaped from the outset by old-fashioned military power projection: first by amassing an overwhelming force on the border and then, with the world watching, quickly and efficiently putting that force to use.

In giving the military such a decisive role, Putin is consolidating a dramatic shift that has occurred in the Kremlinxe2x80x99s security hierarchy over the past decade. Whereas in earlier years, the army was not involved in Russian policymaking and was kept subordinate to the security services, from whose ranks Putin himself came, in recent years, the army has taken on new importance, not only in Russiaxe2x80x99s interactions with neighboring countries but also in how policies are shaped. At the same time, the military has gained new public support at home. Previously regarded by many Russians as poorly run, underfunded, and backward, it is now equipped with a new generation of technology and supported by a military-industrial complex that has growing reach in Russian society. And with its newfound political clout, it has emerged as one of the most important institutions in Putinxe2x80x99s Russia.

Leading this transformation is one of the most ambitious members of Putinxe2x80x99s inner circle: Sergey Shoygu. Although he has received relatively little attention in the West, Shoygu is a longtime Kremlin insider who became the defense minister in 2012. Moreover, in contrast to the FSB, which has suffered a series of setbacks and embarrassments in recent years, Shoyguxe2x80x99s military has enjoyed almost unbroken success going back to the capture of Crimea in 2014 and the intervention in Syria a year later. Anyone seeking to understand why Putin was willing to unleash Russian troops, tanks, and planes in a hugely risky invasion of Ukraine must look first at the transformation of the Russian military under his powerful defense chief.xc2xa0

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Guns Without Power

For nearly two centuries, the Russian military, despite its importance in Russian society, was rarely involved in political decision-making. Under Soviet rule, the streets in some districts of Moscow and in other big cities were dominated by men in green uniforms. Military service in Russia traditionally conferred a degree of social prestige. In the later decades of the Soviet era, the Kremlin promoted a mythology about the armed forces shaped around Russiaxe2x80x99s heroic defeat of the Third Reich in World War II. Yet through most of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the military never enjoyed much of a voice in government. The last time the Russian military played an independent part in politics was probably in 1825, during the failed Decembrist revolt against the tsar in which several elite regiments tried to start a revolution. During the Soviet era, the government was wary of the danger of the military gaining too much power, and the KGB kept it under a watchful eye. xc2xa0

When he first came to power, Putin, a former KGB officer, stuck to Soviet tradition and promoted the security services above the army. His firstxc2xa0war, the one that began in Chechnya in 1999, was run by the FSB, the successor to the KGB. The war was presented as a counterterrorism operation, and the military was subordinated to the security service. Meanwhile, Putin continued to rely on the FSB for keeping his elites under control and suppressing dissent, both in the country and abroad.

nn

n In the past, Putin privileged the security services over the military.n

By contrast, the military enjoyed little prestige. During those early years of Putinxe2x80x99s rule, Russians remembered too well the failures in Afghanistan, as well as two messy and bloody wars in Chechnya that the army fought with outdated Soviet-era military equipment. The younger generation made every effort to avoid conscription. As a result, many Western analysts did not spend much time scrutinizing the Russian military: to understand Putin, it was assumed, one needed to fathom the inner workings of the security services. In 2012, however, Shoygu was appointed defense minister, and the fortunes of the military quietly began to change.

A veteran member of Russiaxe2x80x99s political elite, Shoygu has had a notably durable career among the highest echelons in Moscow. Arriving in the capital from Tuva, the region on the border with Mongolia, just in time for the breakup of the Soviet Union, he rapidly rose to prominence in the early 1990s as an all-around troubleshooter, becoming the minister of emergency situations, a cabinet-level positionxc2xa0that he himself invented.

In the 1990sxc2xa0and the following decade,xc2xa0he cultivated an image as a brave and energeticxc2xa0official who frequently visitedxc2xa0thexc2xa0sites of natural disastersxc2xa0and terrorist bombingsxc2xa0with an elite professional rescue team; he even led some rescue operations himself.xc2xa0At the time, it was highly unusual forxc2xa0a member of the post-Soviet elite to wear a field uniform and talk to victims of a flood in Siberiaxc2xa0or a bombing in Moscow, as Shoygu did. His rapid-response teamxe2x80x94spearheaded by an airborne unit of professional rescuers who were always readyxc2xa0to jump on a plane and go to any spot in the world where they might be neededxe2x80x94brought him popularity both in the Russian leadership and among ordinary Russians.

Pleasing the Public, Paying the Oligarchs

For Putin, Shoyguxe2x80x99s successful record and large public profile made him a natural ally, and he quickly found him useful to the Kremlin beyond his emergency missions. In 1999, Putin picked Shoygu to be one of the leaders ofxc2xa0his party, United Russia, giving him the opportunity to tour the country and build a political base. More surprising, however,xc2xa0wasxc2xa0Putinxe2x80x99s decision in 2012 to make Shoygu the minister of defense.xc2xa0An engineer byxc2xa0training, Shoygu had never served in the army, and hexc2xa0did not have a reputation among the military hierarchy.xc2xa0Nor did his blunt leadership style endear him to the old guard. xc2xa0

Consider Shoyguxe2x80x99s approach to uniforms. According to sources in the military, shortly after he became the defense minister, Shoygu was walking along the corridors of the general staff headquarters in Moscow on Arbat when he spotted a colonel in axc2xa0grayxc2xa0suit.xc2xa0According to thexc2xa0old tradition,xc2xa0the officers of the general staff wore suits, not military uniforms, but the practice irritated Shoygu, who felt that officers should dress for battle, not for the office. He confronted the colonel and told him to report for duty the following week in a regiment in Siberia. Only good connections saved the colonel, but everybody got the point: Shoygu was serious about uniforms and the suits had to go. Nor did he stop there. In 2017, Shoygu changed the armyxc2xa0dress uniformxc2xa0to make it resemblexc2xa0thexc2xa0Soviet uniform of 1945xe2x80x94known in the military as the winnerxe2x80x99s uniform. The new design became his uniform of choice when hexc2xa0inspected military parades on Red Square; it also, not coincidentally, made him look like Georgy Zhukov, Stalinxe2x80x99s vaunted field marshal during World War II. (In another potential nod to history, Zhukov is remembered not only as the Soviet Unionxe2x80x99s most successful and ruthless commander but also as the man who helped get rid of Lavrenty Beria, Stalinxe2x80x99s much-feared chief of the secret police, after Stalinxe2x80x99s death).

Far more important, though, is Shoyguxe2x80x99s approach to military strategy and battle readiness. He has embraced high-tech innovation, forming a cyber-command and merging the air force and the space force into the new Russian Aerospace Forces. He has also increased salaries for the officersxe2x80x99 corps. At the same time, he has made it almost impossible for Russian youth to avoid army service. Yet above all were two early military successes, which sealed Shoyguxe2x80x99s reputation with the Kremlin and helped give the military new status within the government.xc2xa0

nn

n Shoygu showed that the military could succeed where the FSB had failed.n

Shoyguxe2x80x99s first military success, notably, came in Ukraine. In 2014, when the Euromaidan revolution erupted in Kyiv against Viktor Yanukovych, Ukrainexe2x80x99s Russian-backed president, Putinxe2x80x99s first instrument of choice was the security services. As per usual practice, Putin dispatched the FSB to Kyiv, where it was supposed to help local forces quash the uprising. But the FSB failed to stop the protesters or prevent Yanukovych from fleeing the capital. As a result, Putin turned to the military, and under Shoyguxe2x80x99s command, Crimea was swiftly and efficiently annexed. Shoygu had demonstrated that the military could succeed where the FSB had failed.

Soon after, Shoygu had another opportunity to show the militaryxe2x80x99s strengthxe2x80x94this time, in a conflict much farther away. In the initial phase of the Syrian civil war, Russiaxe2x80x99s ally, the Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, seemed to be rapidly losing ground, and Putinxe2x80x99s diplomats were not making much progress in saving the regime. Once again, the army came to the rescue, carrying out a decisive military intervention in September 2015. At a relatively low cost to the Russian troops themselves, the military quickly turned around the course of the war, putting Assad back on track to survive and ultimately triumph. It almost looked like Shoyguxe2x80x99s old rapid-response airborne rescue unit had rushed inxe2x80x94although now, it was fixing Putinxe2x80x99s political problems rather than helping people on the ground.

So successful and popular was the Syrian intervention that in 2019, the Russian army arranged a huge traveling exhibition of tanks, guns, and other military hardware seized from Syria. It was transported by train to 60 different stops across the country from Moscow to Vladivostok, including Crimea; at many stops, it was met by jubilant crowds.xc2xa0In the wake of the successes in Crimea and Syria, popular support for the military grew.

Meanwhile, Shoygu began to enjoy a bigger military budget and a growing profile in the Kremlin. In fact, the successes in Crimea and Syria had another important consequence: it brought the oligarchs closer to the military and helped jump-start a new Russian military-industrial complex. Paradoxically, this effect was driven by the Western sanctions imposed on Russiaxe2x80x99s elite following the annexation of Crimea. Because of these penalties, many oligarchs were losing money and contracts in the West; to compensate, the Russian statexc2xa0rushed to help them by providing their companies with hugexc2xa0military contracts. For example, before the sanctions were imposed, Siemens, the German company, provided engines for the Russian navy; today, the Ural Mining and Metallurgical Company, a Russian firm, holds that contract. Buttressed by this combination of rising popular support and powerful ties among the Russian elite, the military had emerged by 2017 as one of the most powerful institutions in Russia.

Headlong to Kyiv

Over the past year, as Putin began to plan his campaign in Ukraine, it was clear that he was no longer going to look to the FSB for leadership. Instead, Shoygu and the newly revamped army would lead the way. Notably, when the Russian Security Council met on the eve of the invasion, the army seemed much closer to Putin than his intelligence officials did. After Putin announced his decision to recognize the self-proclaimed republics of Donetsk and Luhansk, the chief of foreign intelligence struggled for words, and the FSB director and the foreign minister acted as if they were automatons following commands. By contrast, Shoygu, having spent much of the past decade building up the military into a powerful political force, sounded confident and ready to lead Russia headlong into battle.

In the weeks leading up to Russiaxe2x80x99s invasion, many analysts doubted that Putin would actually launch such a large-scale war of choice. But the militarization of Russian society and the remaking of the military under Shoygu provided Putin with an overwhelming temptation, one that could not be slowed by intelligence misgivings or diplomatic considerations. And now that the assault is violently under way, the full implications of the Kremlinxe2x80x99s new military strategy are becoming clear. Not only is the campaign being shaped by an army that has openly embraced warxe2x80x94the bigger, the better. It is also being led by Shoygu, a man who has so far experienced only successes and who lacks the proper military training to understand that a battlefield victory, no matter how impressive, can sometimes lead to an even larger political defeat.


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Ukraine accuses Russia of ‘war crimes’ targeting civilians as fighting enters Kharkiv

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By Tim Lister, Ivana Kottasovxc3xa1, Julia Hollingsworth and Laura Smith-Spark, CNN

Ukraine has accused Russia of committing xe2x80x9cwar crimesxe2x80x9d in an attempt to weaken its countryxe2x80x99s resistance, as Ukrainian forces engage in fierce fighting with Russian troops in multiple cities across the country.

nn

In the capital, Kyiv, residents awoke Sunday to find the city still firmly under Ukrainian control, despite two massive explosions some 30 kilometers, or about 18 miles, south of the city lighting up the sky overnight.

Fighting has broken out on the streets of Kharkiv, Ukrainexe2x80x99s second largest city, after Russian forces entered the city, Oleh Synehubov, the head of the Kharkiv Regional State Administration, said Sunday. xe2x80x9cDo not leave your shelters!xe2x80x9d he posted on Facebook, warning civilians not to go out on the streets. Ukrainian forces had managed to deter the Russians for the past three days.

Russiaxe2x80x99s unprovoked assault on Ukraine is now entering its fourth day. But despite being far better equipped, Russia has failed to take control of key cities, as ordinary Ukrainians and reservists join efforts to defend their homes and families.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Sunday accused Russian troops of targeting civilians, including children, and called for an international investigation into the conflict.

The Russian Ministry of Defense has previously said it is targeting only military infrastructure, saying in a statement: xe2x80x9cThe Armed Forces of the Russian Federation do not strike cities and towns, they take all measures to save the lives of civilians.xe2x80x9d

But Zelensky rejected this, saying: xe2x80x9cThey lied when they said they would not target civilian population. Since the first hours of the invasion, Russian troops have been hitting civilian infrastructure.xe2x80x9d

Ukraine is xe2x80x9cdocumenting their crimes,xe2x80x9d he said, adding: xe2x80x9cThis is terror.xe2x80x9d

In another video message, Zelensky said he would be willing to hold talks with Russia but rejected the Russian proposal for a meeting to be held in Belarus, pointing out that Russian military actions are being launched from the country.

xe2x80x9cOf course we want peace and want to meet. We want to end the war. Warsaw, Bratislava, Istanbul and Baku were offered to Russia. Any other cities are fine with us as long as there are no missiles flying from this country,xe2x80x9d Zelensky said, addressing Belarus directly.

According to the Kremlin, a Russian delegation has arrived in Belarus for notional talks, Russian state news agency RIA-Novosti reported Sunday.

Russian offensive failing, Ukrainian PM says

On Saturday, Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said Russiaxe2x80x99s offensive was failing and it was now deliberately attacking civilian infrastructure, including kindergartens, residential blocks and xe2x80x9cbuses with childrenxe2x80x9d xe2x80x94 actions he labeled as xe2x80x9cwar crimes.xe2x80x9d

xe2x80x9cFor these crimes, the Russian command will surely see military tribunal,xe2x80x9d Shmyhal said at a press conference Saturday. xe2x80x9cThe enemy will surely be punished for killing Ukrainian children.xe2x80x9d Russia has previously maintained it is not targeting civilian areas.

xe2x80x9cThe Russian government doesnxe2x80x99t understand they are not fighting only with the government, in fact they are fighting against the entire Ukrainian people,xe2x80x9d he added.

Russian troops are facing a determined and highly-motivated Ukrainian resistance, resulting in significantly slower progress than Kremlin military planners had first anticipated, according to an assessment issued by Britainxe2x80x99s Ministry of Defence late Saturday.

xe2x80x9cIntensive exchanges of rocket artillery overnight have been followed by heavy fighting between Russian and Ukrainian forces in Kharkiv,xe2x80x9d another British assessment said Sunday. After encountering strong resistance in Chernihiv, Russian forces were now bypassing the area to prioritize xe2x80x9cthe encirclement and isolation of Kyiv,xe2x80x9d it added.

Russia is facing unexpected difficulties supplying its forces, and is experiencing heavier losses in personnel, armor and aircraft than expected, two senior United States officials with direct knowledge told CNN.

Ukrainian Maj. Gen. Borys Kremenetsky told reporters Saturday that Ukraine had captured around 200 Russian soldiers, some of whom were just 19 years old. They were not trained at all and were badly equipped, he said. CNN has not been able to independently verify this.

Russia has yet to establish air supremacy over Ukraine, one US official said, as the Ukrainian Air Force and air defense systems fight for control of the airspace. Without uncontested control of the skies, it becomes more difficult for an army on the move to see and strike targets from the air.

So far these challenges have prevented the quick overthrow of major Ukrainian cities, including the capital, which US officials were concerned could play out in a matter of days. The city of Kharkiv near Ukrainexe2x80x99s border with Russia also has not fallen to invading forces xe2x80x94 despite officials worrying that could happen on the first night of an invasion.

A NATO official agreed that Russian forces were having problems.

xe2x80x9cThey lack diesel, they are proceeding way too slow and morale is obviously an issue,xe2x80x9d said the official.

Asked whether Russians are likely to intensify their efforts, the official said they have no choice. xe2x80x9cThey are way behind schedule,xe2x80x9d the official said. xe2x80x9cThis is getting out of hand for them, every additional day is very painful.xe2x80x9d

But the Russians on Sunday countered reports of its military stalling, claiming the cities of Kherson and Berdyansk xe2x80x9cwere completely blockedxe2x80x9d by Russian forces, and the city of Henichesk and the Chornobayivka airfield near Kherson, also known as Chernobayevka, had both been brought under control.

Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, the Russian Ministry of Defense spokesperson, said a Ukrainian anti-aircraft missile regiment surrendered in the Kharkiv region and 471 Ukrainian servicemen were captured.

CNN could not immediately verify those claims.

Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said on Sunday that checkpoints would be set up across the country to to detect Russian troops and make their movements more difficult. This, he said, was xe2x80x9ca necessary safety measure that will save many lives.xe2x80x9d

Accusations of war crimes

Concerns are now growing that Russia may look to deploy indiscriminate battlefield weaponry in civilian areas in an attempt to decisively crush Ukrainian forces.

A CNN team spotted a Russian thermobaric multiple rockets launcher south of Belgorod, Russia, near the Ukrainian border early Saturday afternoon.

Thermobaric weapons have been used in Chechnya, with horrifying consequences, according to Human Rights Watch, and their use has been condemned by number of non-governmental organizations.

There is no evidence that thermobaric weapons have been used in the conflict in Ukraine.

Though Russia has claimed it is not targeting civilian infrastructure, an increasing body of evidence on the ground suggests otherwise.

Ukraine has reported multiple civilian deaths, including a 6-year-old boy who died in heavy gunfire in a western district of Kyiv Saturday evening, according to a local hospital.

A woman was killed after a nine-story residential building in the eastern city of Kharkiv was hit by xe2x80x9cenemy artilleryxe2x80x9d on Saturday night, according to Ukrainexe2x80x99s State Emergency Service.

And on Saturday, a large residential apartment block in the west of Kyiv was struck by what a Ukrainian government minister described as a Russian missile, as residents across the city were forced to seek shelter after a terrifying night punctuated by gunfire and explosions.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said late Saturday that the United Nations xe2x80x9creports at least 240 civilian casualties, including at least 64 people killedxe2x80x9d in the fighting in Ukraine. Damage to civilian infrastructure has deprived hundreds of thousands of people of access to electricity or water, the statement added.

A defiant Ukraine

As the battle continues, a defiant Zelensky has released a series of videos urging citizens to defend their country.

Officials armed reservists with 18,000 guns and ammunition in Kyiv alone, and Ukrainian TV has broadcast instructions for making Molotov cocktails. Ukrainian males ages 18 to 60 are banned from leaving the country.

xe2x80x9cEach Ukrainian should keep one thing in mind: if you can stop and destroy the occupiers xe2x80x94 do it. Everyone who can come back to Ukraine xe2x80x94 come back to defend Ukraine,xe2x80x9d Zelensky said in a video message Saturday.

xe2x80x9cWe have withstood and successfully repelled enemy attacks. Fighting continues in different cities and regions of our country,xe2x80x9d he said, adding that the capital Kyiv and key towns around it were still under Ukrainian control. xe2x80x9cWe have ruined their plans. They have no advantage over us.xe2x80x9d

In a statement Sunday, Zelensky called on citizens of the world to join the fight against the xe2x80x9cRussian war criminals.xe2x80x9d

xe2x80x9cThis is not just Russiaxe2x80x99s invasion of Ukraine. This is the beginning of a war against Europe, against European structures, against democracy, against basic human rights, against a global order of law, rules and peaceful coexistence,xe2x80x9d he said.

At the same time, thousands of Ukrainians are fleeing for their lives. More than 150,000 people have fled Ukraine, most of them to Poland, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said Saturday.

The Polish border guard said Saturday that 100,000 people have entered Poland from Ukraine since the invasion began Thursday.

Controlling the narrative in Russia

At home, the Kremlin appears to be in damage control, attempting to limit information about the difficulties its forces are facing in Ukraine.

Social media platform Twitter said Saturday it is being restricted inside Russia and is working to address the issue.

According to the assessment issued by Britainxe2x80x99s Defense Ministry late Saturday, the Russian government has reportedly restricted access to a number of social media platforms in a xe2x80x9cprobable attempt to conceal details regarding the situation in Ukraine from their own people.xe2x80x9d

Russiaxe2x80x99s media regulator told 10 news outlets that it would restrict access to their publications unless they stopped spreading xe2x80x9cfalse informationxe2x80x9d xe2x80x94 including the shelling of Ukrainian cities and the death of civilians caused by the Russian armed forces.

Opposition to the war is also being restricted in the country. More than 2,600 people have been detained in Russia after taking part in anti-war protests, according to independent protest monitoring site OVD-Info. At least 1,370 of them were detained in protests in Moscow, according to the same site.

The-CNN-Wire
xe2x84xa2 & xc2xa9 2022 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.

CNNxe2x80x99s Tim Lister and Ivana Kottasova reported from Kyiv. CNNxe2x80x99s Victoria Butenko, Nathan Hodge, Josh Campbell, Jonny Hallam, Jim Sciutto, Oren Liebermann, Mia Alberti, Olena Mankovska, Anna Chernova, Vasco Cotovio, Frederik Pleitgen, Ruba Alhenawi and Olga Voitovich contributed to this report.


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Vladimir Putin’s war: Casualties mount as Kyiv braces for more Russian attacks

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In the UK, Boris Johnson announced there will be personal sanctions against Putin as Russian troops continued their assault on the capital.

The Prime Minister told Nato leaders in a virtual meeting that the UK would echo measures announced by the EU to target the Russian president and his foreign minister Sergei Lavrov.

Also, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps revealed he has extended a flight ban meaning xe2x80x9cno Russian private jet can fly in UK airspace, or touchdown xe2x80x93 effective immediatelyxe2x80x9d.

He tweeted: xe2x80x9cPutinxe2x80x99s actions are unlawful and anyone benefitting from Russiaxe2x80x99s aggression in Ukraine is not welcome here. Ixe2x80x99ve strengthened our ban in the UK.xe2x80x9d

Elsewhere Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told EU leaders xe2x80x9cthis might be the last time you see me alivexe2x80x9d during a video conference call, according to reports.

EU sources briefed on the call revealed his words to several news outlets.

Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson, who participated in the video conference call, told the TT news agency that when the EU leaders said goodbye to Zelensky they knew they might not see him again.

It came as Moscow forces advanced towards Kyiv. Nato general secretary Jens Stoltenberg said leaders have agreed to send rapid response troops to protect allies near Russia and Ukraine.

Thousands of troops, backed by air and naval support, will be deployed by US president Joe Biden and his Nato counterparts to protect allies near Russia and Ukraine in response to the invasion.

UK Chief of Defence Intelligence, Lieutenant General Sir Jim Hockenhull said: xe2x80x9cRussian forces continue to advance on two axes towards Kyiv. Their objective is to encircle the capital, to secure control of the population and change the regime.xe2x80x9d

The Russian forces advancing on Kyiv remain xe2x80x9cmore than 50km from the centre of the cityxe2x80x9d, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has said.

But some had already entered northern suburbs of the city, according to local defence sources. Gunfire was heard near the government quarter.

After a barrage of air strikes in the early hours, ground forces were reported to be advancing, with xe2x80x9csaboteursxe2x80x9d three miles north of the city centre.

Early Friday morning, fear spread through Kyiv as sirens warned residents in the city of 2.8 million to rush to air raid shelters.

Shortly before 10am local time, Ukrainian defence sources said Russian forces were in the Obolon district, some six miles from the parliament building.

Ukrainexe2x80x99s defence ministry urged locals to make Molotov cocktails to target the advancing troops.

As President Putin pursued his bloody war, deaths were escalating with at least 137 Ukrainian military personnel and civilians while 450 Russian troops were reported to have been killed.

Ukrainian forces were reported to be putting up strong resistance, inflicting heavy losses on the Russian army, but then being hit by overwhelming attacks.

Western officials said Ukrainians were xe2x80x9cadmirablyxe2x80x9d fighting for their country and had been able to keep Russian forces at bay in some urban areas.

But they fear if the Russian army does not meet its invasion timescales as the Ukrainians fight back, Putin will begin to use xe2x80x9cindiscriminate violencexe2x80x9d.

The Russian president could deploy his devastating thermobaric bombs, launching a barrage of explosive warheads on the opposing army.

Russian military claimed it has taken control of the key strategic airport just outside Kyiv.

Taking possession of the Antonov airport in Hostomel, which has a long runway allowing the landing of heavy-lift transport planes, would mean Russia can airlift troops directly to Kyivxe2x80x99s outskirts. The claims from Russia could not be verified.

Earlier, defence sources said Russian forces had seized two Ukrainian military vehicles and some uniforms and were heading toward the city to try to infiltrate it.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Kyiv xe2x80x9ccould well be under siegexe2x80x9d in what US officials believe is part of Putinxe2x80x99s plan to topple President Volodymyr Zelensky and install a xe2x80x9cpuppetxe2x80x9d government.

The Ukrainian military reported significant fighting near Ivankiv, about 40 miles north-west of Kyiv.

xe2x80x9cThe hardest day will be today. The enemyxe2x80x99s plan is to break through with tank columns from the side of Ivankiv and Chernihiv to Kyiv,xe2x80x9d said Interior Ministry adviser Anton Gerashchenko.

Mr Zelensky said he understood Russian troops were coming for him but vowed to stay in the city. xe2x80x9c(The) enemy has marked me down as the number one target,xe2x80x9d he said in a video message. xe2x80x9cMy family is the number two target. They want to destroy Ukraine politically by destroying the head of state. I will stay in the capital. My family is also in Ukraine.xe2x80x9d

However, if Russians are forced into street-by-street fighting in urban areas their air superiority will be less of an advantage than fighting in open ground.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace told LBC Radio: xe2x80x9cItxe2x80x99s one thing to drive down a road in a tank, itxe2x80x99s a very different thing to try to take a town or a city, itxe2x80x99s incredibly hard.

xe2x80x9cThatxe2x80x99s where you get blown up, people use everything from small missiles to tank traps. So I think there will be a sense of xe2x80x98let them come into the cities and then whack themxe2x80x99.xe2x80x9d

In other developments:

  • Boris Johnson spoke to President Zelensky and stressed that the Russian invasion must ultimately fail.
  • Russiaxe2x80x99s military forces have hit dozens of civilian sites, Ukrainexe2x80x99s Interior Ministry said.
  • More Russian tanks were moving from annexed Crimea into the south of Ukraine.
  • Ukrainexe2x80x99s Defence Force called for all civilians to join a mass mobilisation regardless of age.
  • Mr Wallace said the Russian army had not achieved its aims on the first day of the full invasion yesterday, with special forces having reportedly failed to capture Antonov Airport near the town of Hostomel, 20 miles from Kyiv.
  • He told Sky News: xe2x80x9cRussia lost more than 450 army personnel on the first day of full -cale war with Ukraine. Our assessment as of this morning is that Russia has not taken any of its major objectives.xe2x80x9d
  • Britain would like to cut off Russia from the SWIFT global interbank payments system and will continue to lobby reluctant allies to take that step, Mr Wallace made clear.

Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov on Friday repeated the false claims the Ukrainian government had been committing genocide and banning its population from speaking Russian.

He told reporters: xe2x80x9cIn the West everything is looked at through your own interests. When youxe2x80x99re not happy with something then you raise your voice but when millions and millions of people in Ukraine are having their rights to the language removed you are not voicing any discontent.xe2x80x9d

Tens of thousands of people were fleeing Ukrainian cities, with queues at the border with Poland. Russian troops launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine on Thursday, attacking from Belarus in the north, Russia in the east and annexed Crimea in the south.

Missiles targeted sites in and close to the capital at around 4am local time Friday, with other cities also coming under air attack.

Ukrainian air defence fire was aimed at missiles targeting the capital. Ukrainian Interior Ministry advisor Mr Gerashchenko said: xe2x80x9cAir defences of Kyiv shot down missiles fired by the invaders.xe2x80x9d

He claimed a Russian war plane was shot down in the Darnytskyi district, near a house.

These claims could not be confirmed.

The UN Security Council was to vote today on a draft resolution that would condemn Russiaxe2x80x99s invasion and require Moscowxe2x80x99s immediate withdrawal.

However, Moscow can veto the measure.

Putin falsely says Russia is carrying out xe2x80x9ca special military operationxe2x80x9d to stop the Ukrainian government committing genocide xe2x80x94 a claim the West rejects.


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