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LONDON — As Russia’s invasion of Ukraine enters its 10th week, the Kremlin’s Ministry of Defense said its forces had practiced nuclear-capable missile strikes on the Baltic coast in Kaliningrad, near European Union members Lithuania and Poland. Meanwhile in Ukraine, Russia announced a three-day ceasefire in the besieged city of Mariupol to allow civilians to safely evacuate.
Russia’s Defense Ministry announced on Wednesday that its forces had delivered “mock missile strikes with the crews of Iskander operational-tactical missile systems.” More than 100 servicemen reportedly took part in the exercise.
The Kremlin has announced a three-day ceasefire at the Azovstal steel plant in the port city of Mariupol in order to allow civilians to evacuate the plant. However, Ukrainian officials alleged that Russia is “trying to destroy” the remaining soldiers in the steel plant, claiming Kremlin-led forces had “resumed the offensive” to seize the plant.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman denied that troops are storming the steel plant. Asked during a press conference on Thursday whether soldiers had broken into Azovstal, Dmitry Peskov said, “You were witnesses, the president gave the order to refrain from an assault. No other orders were announced and the (humanitarian) corridors are working today.”
EU pledges support for Moldova
The EU has pledged to “considerably increase” its military support to Moldova, said Charles Michel, president of the European Council. It comes after a series of explosions occurred in the Russian-backed separatist region of Transnistria in Moldova.
“We plan this year to considerably increase our support to Moldova by delivering additional military equipment to its armed forces,” Michel said alongside Moldovan President Maia Sandu. “The EU stands in full solidarity with your country, Moldova. It is our European duty to help and support your country and to increase our support for your stability, security and territorial integrity.”
He added: “We will continue to deepen our partnership with you to bring your country even closer to the EU."
Transnistria is a 248-mile narrow strip of land in Moldova that borders Ukraine and has a population of 470,000. The region is more or less equally divided between Ukrainians, Russians and Moldovans, a former Moldovan ambassador to the U.S. told the Swiss outlet L’Illustré. Russians, however, occupy the “highest positions in the administration and form the military and economic elite,” the ambassador said.