• Thu. Dec 1st, 2022

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Russia-Ukraine war: Germany announces military aid for Ukraine – as it happened – The Guardian

13.23

Kyiv officials claim to have found bodies of hundreds of murdered civilians

More than 900 civilian bodies have been discovered in the region surrounding Kyiv following the withdrawal of Russian forces — almost all of them shot dead, the Associated Press quotes local police as saying.

The number is double that announced by Ukrainian authorities almost two weeks ago and the presence of the gunshot wounds indicates many were “simply executed”, officers said.

Andriy Nebytov, the head of Kyiv’s regional police force, said the bodies were abandoned in the streets or given temporary burials. He cited police data indicating that 95% died from gunshot wounds, AP reports.

Consequently, we understand that under the [Russian] occupation, people were simply executed in the streets.

More bodies are being found every day, under rubble and in mass graves, he added.

The largest number of victims were found in Bucha; where there were more than 350.

According to Nebytov, utilities workers in Bucha gathered and buried bodies in the Kyiv suburb while it remained under Russian control. Russian troops, he added, were “tracking down” people who expressed strong pro-Ukraine views.

01.30

This blog is now closed. You can find our continuing rolling coverage here.

01.18

Ukraine’s armed forces has released its latest update on operations over the last day.

“The main efforts of the enemy are focused on the regrouping and strengthening of troops, continuing the partial blockade of the city of Kharkiv and its shelling with artillery,” it said.

The Ukrainian armed forces said it repelled 10 enemy attacks in the Donetsk and Luhansk territories in the last 24 hours, destroying three tanks, an armoured personnel carrier, two cars and three artillery systems. It said one Russian armoured personnel carrier was also captured.

It warned of an increased threat of missile strikes on Ukrainian defence and logistical infrastructure from Russian warships in the Black Sea armed with missiles.

“In the waters of the Sea of Azov, the enemy’s naval group continues to carry out tasks to block the port of Mariupol and provide fire support in the coastal direction,” it said.

The Armed Forces briefing reported “no significant changes” in the situation at Severodonetsk, where yesterday the head of its Civil Military Administration Oleksandr Striuk had reported heavy fire and the destruction of about 70% of the city. Only around 20,000 residents of the total 135,000 remain in the city, he said.

According to the Armed Forces statement on Saturday, shared on official Telegram channels, Russian activity has been most concentrated in the direction of Slobozhansky and Donetsk.

The briefing reported continued fighting in Slobozhansky, including Russian ground troops, airborne troops, and coastal troops of the Baltic and Northern fleets.

In Donetsk Russian forces were attempting to take control of the Luhansk settlements of Popasna – where the report said Ukrainian forces had been under constant fire, and Rubizhne, as well as to establish full control over Mariupol, it said. There was continued shelling “in most directions”.

Up to 22 battalions were at Izyum city, it said, noting the deployment of additional units. Izyum, a city on the Donetsk river and gateway to the Donbas, was the site of heavy fighting during the invasion, and the briefing flagged the possibility of intensified fighting there and in Barvinkove as Russia pushed towards Slovyansk. IT also warned of intensified hostilities in Avdiivka, about 130km north of Mariupol.

“The enemy is expected to continue fighting to reach the administrative borders of Kherson region and will try to resume the offensive,” it said.

23.58

AFP: Thousands of faithful attended the “Way of the Cross” prayer service, presided over by Pope Francis at Rome’s Colosseum on Friday, a ceremony overtaken by the war in Ukraine.

It was the first time the traditional event on Good Friday, which marks the day Jesus Christ died on the cross in the Christian calendar, was held at the Roman monument since 2019, due to the Covid pandemic.

The pope, who has repeatedly condemned the conflict in Ukraine, and has called for an Easter ceasefire, prayed that the “adversaries shake hands” and “taste mutual forgiveness”.

“Disarm the raised hand of brother against brother,” he said.

Among the families who were entrusted with carrying the crucifix at each of the 14 stations of the cross were two women, one Russian and one Ukrainian, who are life-long friends.

The women carried the cross during one portion of the Way of the Cross, the traditional procession that commemorates the 14 stations of Jesus’ suffering and death, from his condemnation to his burial.

Two women, one from Ukraine and the other from Russia, hold the Holy Cross as Pope Francis attends the Way of The Cross at the Colosseum on Good Friday, April 15, 2022 in Rome, Italy.
Two women, one from Ukraine and the other from Russia, hold the Holy Cross as Pope Francis attends the Way of The Cross at the Colosseum on Good Friday, April 15, 2022 in Rome, Italy. Photograph: Stefano Spaziani/UPI/REX/Shutterstock

But the Vatican’s initiative, intended as a gesture of reconciliation in the face of the war that began February 24, was not well received by Ukrainian officials.

On Tuesday, the head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, Bishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, denounced an “inappropriate, premature and ambiguous idea, which does not take into account the context of Russia’s military aggression”.

For his part, the Ukrainian ambassador to the Holy See said he “shared the general concern”.

In a sign of the sensitivity of the issue, the Ukrainian media boycotted the broadcast of the ceremony, while the Vatican had added commentary in Ukrainian and Russian for the broadcast.

In the crowd at the event, Anastasia Goncharova, an 18-year-old tourist from Kyiv, said “I don’t think it’s a really good idea because we are no longer brother nations. They are killing our children, they are raping our children, stealing our house. It’s disgusting”

In the end the two Russian and Ukrainian friends did carry the crucifix together. A contemplative silence replaced an original text for the occasion, which was intended to deal more specifically with the war in Ukraine.

Most of those attending welcomed the Vatican’s Russia-Ukraine initiative.

“It is the cross, and therefore the pain of these two peoples, but also hope, because we believe that after the war there will be peace. It is very beautiful,” said Bethouart.

The traditional Way of the Cross at the Colosseum by Pope Francis on the Friday of Holy Week. Messages of Peace during the Holy Father’s message. In Rome, Italy, April 15, 2022
The traditional Way of the Cross at the Colosseum by Pope Francis on the Friday of Holy Week. Messages of Peace during the Holy Father’s message. In Rome, Italy, April 15, 2022 Photograph: Riccardo Fabi/NurPhoto/REX/Shutterstock

22.53

More air raid sirens across Ukraine reported in the last hour, in the capital Kyiv, as well as in the central and western regions of the country including Rivne, Lviv, Ivano-Frankivsk, Volyn, Khmelnytsky, Vinnytsia, Zhytomyr.

22.23

The Associated Press fact-checking unit has assessed some videos flying around purporting to be the destruction of the Moskva. Upshot: they’re not.

The clips, which some have claimed shows missiles striking the Russian warship, is actually 2013 footage of a Norwegian Navy test missile strike.

Following the destruction of the Moskva – which Ukraine claims they hit with anti-ship missiles but Russia says was a victim of bad weather and an on-board fire – social media users shared images and videos out of context to claim they showed the aftermath of an attack.

One such widely-shared video showed a large warship exploding, sending a plume of thick, dark smoke into the air.

A Twitter user shared it on Thursday, calling it “a video of the explosion of a Russian cruiser after being hit by a Ukrainian missile,” another post claimed the footage was from “yesterday in Ukraine.”

However, the footage was actually taken about nine years ago off the coast of Norway, and shows a Naval Strike Missile being tested on a decommissioned Norwegian ship during a military exercise, according to reports at the time from military.com, the British news agency South West News Service and others, which all used the same footage.

CNN also aired a June 2013 report about the exercise, using the footage and crediting it to the Norwegian navy.

A reverse image search using frames from the clip shows that the same video has been circulating online for years, predating the current war between Russia and Ukraine.

21.48

In the last hour, air raid sirens have gone off across multiple cities in central, eastern, and southern Ukraine, including: Dnipropetrovsk, Kryvyi Rih, Zaporizhzhia, Cherkasy, Donetsk, Odesa, Kharkiv, Poltava and Mykolaiv, according to official Ukrainian Telegram channels.

21.14

US confirms Ukrainian missiles sunk the Moskva – reports

US media is reporting senior US defence officials confirming the Russian warship, Moskva, was destroyed by Ukrainian missile strikes.

The Moskva was destroyed in the black Sea earlier this week. Ukraine says it hit the ship with two Neptune anti-ship missiles, and is bracing for revenge attacks. Russia’s defence ministry said a fire onboard and “stormy sea conditions” were to blame (although Russian state TV presenters are not unanimously toeing that line). On Friday senior US defence officials confirmed Ukraine’s version of events, according to the Washington Post and New York Times.

In the CNN interview Zelenskiy was also asked about the Moskva, but was circumspect in his response.

“We know that it does not exist anymore. For us it is a strong weapon against our country so its sinking is not a tragedy for us,” Zelenskiy said.

He said “history will tell” what happened to it.

There is very little information about the fate of the 510 personnel on board the Moskva, a significant and well known flagship of Russia’s fleet. Moscow has given not details or released photos.

The Guardian’s Luke Harding in Kyiv and Andrew Roth reported yesterday:

An article published by the Tass state-run news agency initially claimed the “entire crew” had been evacuated. It was later edited to remove the word “entire”. One unconfirmed Ukrainian report said 14 sailors including the chief of Moskva’s medical service were taken to the Crimean port of Sevastopol. The fate of the other 494 was unknown, it said. If they are confirmed to have drowned it would amount to the largest number of deaths of Russian servicemen in a single incident since the second world war.

Anton Gerashchenko, a Ukrainian interior ministry adviser who has a popular Telegram channel, posted a photo of the Moskva’s captain, Anton Kuprin. Kuprin was killed during the explosion and fire on the ship, Gerashchenko claimed.

It was Kuprin who gave the order for the Moskva to shell Snake Island in the Black Sea during the first hours of Moscow’s invasion. Its Ukrainian defenders refused to surrender and said: “Russian warship ‘go fuck yourself’” – a slogan that has become a national meme.

21.03

Zelenskiy has spoken to CNN, saying the world should be prepared for the possibility that Russia decides to use nuclear or chemical weapons against Ukraine.

He said the Russians could do it because Putin did not value the lives of the people.

“We should think not be afraid, not be afraid but be ready. But that is not a question for Ukraine, not only for Ukraine but for all the world, I think,” he said.

US officials have warned of the potential for Putin to use nuclear weapons in the conflict.

“Given the potential desperation of President Putin and the Russian leadership, given the setbacks that they’ve faced so far militarily, none of us can take lightly the threat posed by a potential resort to tactical nuclear weapons or low yield nuclear weapons,” CIA Director Bill Burn said on Thursday.

Zelenskiy also said his information was that about 2,500-3,000 Ukrainian military personnel had been killed, and Russia’s military had lost about 19,000-20,000. He said about 10,000 Ukrainian soldiers were injured, some seriously.

20.11

Ukraine PM to visit Washington – report

Ukraine’s prime minister Denys Shmyhal and top finance officials will visit Washington next week, according to a Reuters report, citing unnamed sources familiar with the situation.

The delegation, also including finance minister Serhiy Marchenko, and central bank governor Kyrylo Shevchenko, will be there at the same time as the spring meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, it said.

Shmyhal, Marchenko and Shevchenko are expected to have bilateral meetings with finance officials from Group of Seven countries and others, the report said, and would take part in a World Bank-hosted roundtable on the Ukraine conflict on Thursday.

The event will be the first chance for key Ukrainian officials to meet in person with a host of financial officials from advanced economies since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on 24 February.

Thursday’s meeting will be more of a roundtable than a donors conference, although both the IMF and World Bank have set up separate accounts to be able to process and relay donations, and additional pledges are expected to be announced next week.

It will give officials a chance to discuss the physical devastation and economic consequences of the war, as well as the continued functioning of Ukraine’s banking and financial sector.

“Without support now, there will be no reconstruction in the future,” one of the sources said.

The World Bank had no immediate comment on the event.

19.26

Germany to give a billion Euros in military aid

Hello, this is Helen Davidson to take you through the next few hours of developments.

The German government says it plans to release more than a billion euros in military aid for Ukraine.

On Friday the country’s finance minister, Christian Lindner, confirmed the government had decided to increase its international aid in the defence sector to €2bn, with the largest portion going to Ukraine as military aid. The funds must mainly be used by Ukraine for military equipment purchases, the Associated Press reported.

It follows pressure from Ukraine – where president Zelenskiy again today pushed for more weapons from supportive states – and criticism from other EU governments for Germany’s apparent lack of weapons support to Kyiv.

Diplomatic feathers were ruffled earlier in the week after Kyiv rejected a proposed visit by Germany’s president Frank-Walter Steinmeier, a former foreign minister who recently acknowledged “errors” in a too conciliatory stance toward Moscow in the past, the AP reported.

The Ukrainian presidency instead said it wanted to welcome Chancellor Olaf Scholz to Kyiv, but the chancellor indicated he had no plans to visit anytime soon, despite coming under pressure from Ukrainian and opposition figures to follow in the footsteps of several other world leaders, including British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and EU chief Ursula von der Leyen.

19.05

Catch up

  • The captain of the Russian warship Moskva was killed during the attack that sank it, Ukraine claimed. Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to Kyiv’s ministry of internal affairs, said Anton Kuprin died during an explosion and fire onboard the ship.
  • Ukraine is now bracing for revenge attacks for its hand in sinking the Moskva. Western intelligence corroborates Ukraine’s account that two of its missiles sunk the warship, though Russia has provided an alternative explanation. Russian strikes targeted the factory near Kyiv where the Ukrainian missiles used to sink the flagship are made.
  • More than 900 civilian bodies have been discovered in the region surrounding Kyiv after the withdrawal of Russian forces, local police said. Almost all of them were shot dead, indicating execution during the Russian occupation, it was claimed. Their number was far greater than previously thought. In Kharkiv, officials also said that 10 people, including baby were killed and 35 wounded following Russian air strikes.
  • The Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, recently made a direct appeal to his US counterpart, Joe Biden, for Washington to designate Russia a “state sponsor of terrorism. The Washington Post first reported the news. It would be a rare and radical sanction. But Zelenskiy has been firm in putting pressure on the west to assist in Ukraine’s resistance to Russia’s invasion.
  • In his latest address, Zelenskiy once again pushed for more weapons, and more sanctions – so the war could end sooner. Zelenskiy also spoke about a return to “normal life” in some parts of the country – or efforts to regain normality amid the tragedy. In parts of Ukraine, Zelenskiy noted that four-fifths of Ukranian enterprises have returned to work in safe areas.
  • Sweden and Finland said they were deliberating Nato membership. Tytti Tuppurainen, Finland’s minister for European affairs, said: “The people of Finland seem to have already made up their mind”. She added the decision was “highly likely” but “not made yet” pending discussions in parliament.
  • Outgunned, outnumbered and surrounded by Russian forces, one of Europe’s biggest metallurgical plants has become Mariupol’s redoubt. The factory is “an enormous space” in which the Russians “simply can’t find” Ukrainian forces, Oleh Zhdanov – a military analyst based in Kyiv – told Reuters.
  • Russia threatened to intensify its attacks on Kyiv if Ukrainian forces carry out any operations on Russian territory. A spokesperson for Moscow’s defence ministry said: “The number and scale of missile strikes against targets in Kyiv will increase in response to the Kyiv nationalist regime committing any attacks of a terrorist nature or sabotage on Russian territory.”
  • Russia designated journalist and Youtuber Yury Dud and political analyst Ekaterina Schulmann as “foreign agents” today, a continuation of Russia’s crackdown on those critical of the Russian government within the country. Dud and Schulmann have both been publicly critical of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

– Maanvi Singh, Gloria Oladipo, Kevin Rawlinson

18.18

In his latest address, Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelenskiy once again pushed for more weapons, and more sanctions – so the war could end sooner.

He said:

If someone says: year or years, I answer: you can make the war much shorter. The more and the sooner we get all the weapons we have requested, the stronger our position will be and the sooner peace will come. The more and the sooner we get the financial support we have requested, the sooner there will be peace. The sooner the democratic world recognizes that the oil embargo against Russia and the complete blockade of its banking sector are necessary steps towards peace, the sooner the war will end.

So the number one task is to speed up the restoration of peace.

Zelenskiy also spoke about a return to “normal life” in some parts of the country – or efforts to regain normality amid the tragedy.

The restoration of normal life in those areas and districts where the occupiers were expelled continues. The amount of work is really huge. 918 settlements of different scales, but equally important for us, for Ukraine, have already been de-occupied.

We carry out demining. We restore the supply of electricity, water and gas. We restore the work of the police, post office, state and local authorities.

Humanitarian headquarters have started working on the territory of 338 liberated settlements. We are resuming the provision of regular and emergency medical care, the work of educational institutions – where it is really possible. In total, on this day, Russian troops have destroyed or damaged 1,018 educational institutions across our country.

Restoration of roads and railways has begun. In particular, from tomorrow the railway connection with Chernihiv and Nizhyn will be restored. Trains are already running between the cities of the Sumy region.

The teams of Ukravtodor and Ukrzaliznytsia work quite efficiently, and I am grateful to them for this speed. For giving people back a sense of normal life, which the occupiers tried to destroy forever.

In parts of Ukraine, Zelenskiy noted that four-fifths of Ukranian enterprises have returned to work in safe areas.

Transport networks are being rebuilt. Good performance is shown in trade and services. And all this is also the fulfillment of the national task of accelerating the restoration of peace.

That is why I am grateful to everyone who keeps jobs, who employs our people, who helps businesses adapt to these difficult conditions and gives Ukraine the necessary economic strength to live.

No matter what, in all cities and communities where there are no occupiers and hostilities, it is necessary to restore the economy to the maximum.

And finally. The important words that hope always wins even under seemingly insurmountable circumstances.

This Saturday, the Jewish community celebrates Passover. Holiday of liberation. Holiday of life. I sincerely wish all those who celebrate in Ukraine and in the world peace, good and the inevitable defeat of any evil that threatens freedom and life on earth.