(NEW YORK) — Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “special military operation” into neighboring Ukraine began on Feb. 24, with Russian forces invading from Belarus, to the north, and Russia, to the east. Ukrainian troops have offered “stiff resistance,” according to U.S. officials.
The Russian military earlier this month launched a full-scale ground offensive in eastern Ukraine’s disputed Donbas region, as it attempts to capture the strategic port city of Mariupol and secure a coastal corridor to the Moscow-annexed Crimean Peninsula.
Here’s how the news is developing. All times Eastern:
Apr 28, 8:00 am
Russia retains ability to strike Ukrainian coastal targets, UK says
The Russian Navy still has the ability to strike coastal targets in Ukraine, even after the “embarrassing losses” of two warships, according to the U.K. Ministry of Defense.
In an intelligence update posted Thursday, the ministry said approximately 20 Russian naval vessels, including submarines, are currently in the “Black Sea operational zone.” But the ministry said Russia isn’t able to replace the missile cruiser Moskva because the Bosphorus strait remains closed to all non-Turkish warships.
The Moskva, the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea fleet, sunk in the Black Sea earlier this month while being towed to port after a fire onboard, according to the Russian Ministry of Defense. Ukrainian officials, however, claimed that ship was struck by Ukrainian missiles, which the Russian defense ministry has denied.
Russia also lost the landing ship Saratov, which was destroyed by explosions and fire on March 24.
Apr 28, 6:48 am
Separatist forces arrest over 100 captured Ukrainian troops in Donetsk
Russia-backed separatist forces in eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk Oblast claimed Thursday that they have arrested more than 100 captured Ukrainian troops suspected of being involved in crimes.
“Facts of involvement in crimes have been brought to light following investigators’ works. There are already more than 100 people who have been arrested by investigators,” Yury Sirovatko, justice minister of the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic, told Russian state-owned television channel Rossiya 24 on Thursday.
Sirovatko on Wednesday told Channel One, a Russian state-controlled TV channel, that there are about 2,600 captured Ukrainian servicemen in the region.
Apr 28, 5:01 am
Russia accuses Ukraine of war crimes
Russia on Thursday accused Ukraine of committing war crimes by indiscriminately attacking civilian areas in Ukrainian cities.
The Russian Ministry of Defense claimed that the Ukrainian Armed Forces “launched a massive attack” using ballistic missiles and multiple rocket launchers on residential areas of Kherson in southern Ukraine late Wednesday.
“The indiscriminate missile attack launched by the nationalists targeted kindergartens, schools and various social facilities in residential areas near Ushakova avenue,” the ministry said in a statement Thursday. “Russian air defense units have repelled the attack of the Ukrainian troops launched at the residential districts of Kherson.”
The ministry also claimed that Ukrainian troops had launched indiscriminate attacks on residential areas of Izyum in eastern Ukraine.
“The Kyiv nationalist regime’s indiscriminate attacks on residential areas of Izyum and Kherson are a war crime and a gross violation of international humanitarian law,” the ministry added.
Ukraine did not immediately respond to the allegations.
Apr 28, 4:55 am
Putin ramps up nuclear threats, as US weapons head to Ukraine
Russian President Vladimir Putin hinted at the possibility of nuclear warfare during his Wednesday address to the council of legislators.
“If someone from outside moves to interfere in the current developments, they should know that they will indeed create strategic threats to Russia, which are unacceptable to us, and they should know that our response to encounter assaults will be instant, it will be quick,” Putin said, according to Russian state media.
Putin claimed Russia’s response to strategic threats from outside Ukraine would be “immediate.”
“We have all the tools to do it, tools that others can’t boast of at the moment, but as for us, we won’t be boasting,” Putin said.
Putin said that Russia is prepared to use those “tools” if “the need arises,” adding that he “would like everyone to be aware of it.” A nuclear attack has been on the table since the onset of the “special military operation” in Ukraine, Putin said. He had ordered his nuclear forces to be put on high alert on Feb 27.
Putin’s remarks came as Pentagon press secretary John Kirby announced that “more than half” of the 90 howitzers the U.S. agreed to send to Ukraine were now in the country, adding that around 50 Ukrainian troops have already been trained to operate the weapons.
“We finished up earlier this week, the first tranche of more than 50 trainers that are going to go in and train their teammates,” Kirby said during a press briefing on Wednesday, a moment later adding, “But there was another tranche of more than 50 that we’re going to go through training in the same location outside Ukraine.”
The U.S. Department of Defense on Wednesday tweeted pictures of more howitzers “bound for Ukraine” that were being loaded onto US Air Force aircraft. Additional training opportunities on Howitzers and other weapons systems were also being explored, Kirby said.
As U.S. weapons head to Ukraine, Russia is increasing the pace of its offensive in almost all directions, the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said on Thursday.
The U.S. is considering the legal aspects of officially listing Russia as a state-sponsor of terrorism, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken told lawmakers on Wednesday. Officials said they haven’t yet determined whether Russia’s actions meet the legal standard required for the designation, Blinken said.
The designation, called for by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, would further cripple Russia’s trade potential, including bans on defense exports and limits on foreign aid.
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