Ukraine war news – latest: West warns against hasty claims after Nord Stream reports

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Berlin has warned against making premature accusations amid reports that intelligence reviewed by US officials indicated that a pro-Ukrainian group was behind last year’s attacks on the Nord Stream pipelines.

“It may just as well have been a false flag operation staged to blame Ukraine, an option brought up in the media reports as well,” German defence minister Boris Pistorius told broadcaster Deutschlandfunk.

Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg also attempted to temper speculation over the blast, saying: “There are ongoing national investigations and I think it’s right to wait until those are finalised before we say anything more about who was behind it.”

Meanwhile, Lord Richard Dannatt, the former chief of the general staff of the British armed forces, said Ukraine had turned Bakhmut into a meat grinder for some of Russia’s most capable personnel.

The comments coincided with military expert Pavlo Narozhniy telling Ukrainian NV Radio that Vladimir Putin’s losses in Bakhmut are between five and eight times greater than those of Kyiv.

Key points

  • Berlin warns against hasty accusations after Nord Stream reports

  • Bakhmut a ‘meat grinder’ for Putin's forces as Russian losses soar

  • Wagner boss claims mercenary group has full control of eastern Bakhmut

  • ‘Glory to the hero’: Ukraine vows to find killers of unarmed soldier Tymofiy Shadura

  • China accuses ‘invisible hand’ of stoking Ukraine war

  • Ukraine’s defence holding out in ‘utter hell’ of Bakhmut, says commander

Still unclear who carried out attack on Nord Stream pipelines, Nato chief says

12:15 , Emily Atkinson

It is still unclear who was responsible for the attack on the Nord Stream pipelines last year, as national investigations into the sabotage need to be concluded, Nato’s chief has said.

“What we do know is that there was an attack against the Nord Stream pipelines, but we have not been able to determine who was behind it,” Jens Stoltenberg said before a meeting with EU defence ministers in Stockholm.

“There are ongoing national investigations and I think it’s right to wait until those are finalised before we say anything more about who was behind it.”

The New York Times reported on Tuesday that new intelligence reviewed by US officials had indicated that a pro-Ukrainian group sabotaged the Nord Stream pipelines that carried natural gas from Russia to Europe.

Thousands of people in Ukraine have complex war-related injuries - WHO

11:45 , Emily Atkinson

Thousands of people in Ukraine have sustained complex injuries linked to the war and need rehabilitation services and equipment to help them, a senior World Health Organisation (WHO) official has said.

Attacks on healthcare facilities, fewer healthcare workers due to displacement and power shortages were all making it difficult for people to get care, Dr. Satish Mishra from the WHO’s regional office for Europe, told a media briefing.

Even before the war, in 2019, about half the population in Ukraine could have benefited from rehabilitation services for non-communicable conditions such as cardiovascular disease or diabetes, Dr Cathal Morgan, another WHO official said.

Since then, the Covid-19 pandemic and the war have significantly increased the need for rehab services, he added. “Hence the need for urgency.”

EU court annuls sanctions against mother of Putin ally

11:15 , Emily Atkinson

A top European Union court has granted a challenge to annul sanctions against the mother of Yevgeny Prigozhin, a close ally of president Vladimir Putin and the head of Russia’s Wagner mercenary group fighting in Ukraine.

The EU blacklisted Violetta Prigozhina saying business links with her son made her complicit in Russia’s aggression against its neighbour, a former Soviet republic that now wants to integrate with the West.

“The General Court annuls the restrictive measures applied to Ms Violetta Prigozhina, mother of Mr Yevgeniy Prigozhin, in the context of Russia’s war against Ukraine,” the bloc’s second highest court said.

Watch | The Body in the Woods | An Independent TV Original Documentary

10:42 , Emily Atkinson

It was a month into Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Russian forces had withdrawn from around Kyiv and in their wake Bel Trew and her team stumbled on a body by an abandoned Russian camp.

His hands were tied. He had been burned and shot in the back. Soldiers said he was a teenager.

As Bel tried to find out who he was and what had happened, she uncovered a nightmare world: a nation struggling to find thousands of its missing and to identify its dead.

The Body in the Woods by Bel Trew is streaming now on Independent TV and on your smart TV.

The Body in the Woods | An Independent TV Original Documentary

Latest images from Bakhmut

10:16 , Emily Atkinson

 (AP)
(AP)
 (AP)
(AP)

Bakhmut a ‘meat grinder’ for Putin's forces as Russian losses soar

09:31 , Emily Atkinson

Ukraine has turned Bakhmut into a meat grinder for some of Russia’s most capable personnel, military experts have said amid reports Moscow’s losses far outstrip Kyiv’s.

“It has achieved its aim as effectively being the anvil on which so many Russian lives have been broken,” Lord Richard Dannatt, the former chief of the general staff of the British armed forces, said on Sky News.

The comments came as military expert Pavlo Narozhniy told Ukrainian NV Radio that Vladimir Putin’s losses in Bakhmut are between five and eight times greater than Ukraine’s.

EU needs to prioritise existing funds for buying Ukraine shells, Borrell says

08:58 , Emily Atkinson

Existing European funds will need to be prioritised for procuring ammunition for Ukraine before any decision on fresh funds can be expected, the European Union’s top diplomat Josep Borrell said on Wednesday.

“The first thing to do is to use what we have. If member states are ready to provide more, I will be happy. But today let’s be realistic and pragmatic, and discuss about the things that can be adopted today,” Borrell said before a meeting with EU defence ministers in Stockholm.

Take old people and children out of ‘seized’ Bakhmut, Wagner chief tells Zelensky

08:22 , Emily Atkinson

Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin has urged president Volodymyr Zelensky to “take the old people and children” out of the razed Bakhmut after claiming full control of the eastern city.

 (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)
(Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Mr Prigozhin issued the warning in a video posted on his Telegram channel on Wednesday, in which he stood in front of a tank with explosions raging in the background.

Seoul 'approved Poland’s export of howitzers with South Korean parts to Ukraine’

07:50 , Emily Atkinson

South Korea’s government approved export licenses for Poland last year to provide Ukraine with Krab howitzers, which are built with South Korean components, a defence acquisition official in Seoul told Reuters.

The comments are the first confirmation that South Korea officially acquiesced to at least indirectly providing weapons components to Ukraine for its war against Russia.

Seoul officials have previously declined to comment on the Krabs, fuelling speculation over whether South Korea had formally agreed or was simply looking the other way.

The Defence Acquisition Program Administration’s (DAPA) technology control bureau reviewed and approved the transfer of the howitzer’s South Korean-made chassis, said Kim Hyoung-cheol, director of the Europe-Asia division of the International Cooperation Bureau.

“We reviewed all the documentation and possible issues inside DAPA... then we made decision to give out export license to Poland,” he told Reuters in an interview at DAPA headquarters on the outskirts of Seoul.

He later stressed that the government’s stance is to not transfer weapons systems to Ukraine.

Berlin warns against hasty accusations after Nord Stream reports

07:20 , Emily Atkinson

Berlin has warned against premature accusations after a report said intelligence reviewed by US officials indicated that a pro-Ukrainian group was behind last year’s attacks on the Nord Stream pipelines.

“It may just as well have been a false flag operation staged to blame Ukraine, an option brought up in the media reports as well,” German defence minister Boris Pistorius told broadcaster Deutschlandfunk.

“The likelihood for one or the other is equally high,” he added. Pistorius was speaking in Stockholm where EU defence ministers are meeting.

Ukraine denies involvement in Nord Stream pipelines sabotage

06:42 , Maroosha Muzaffar

Ukraine has denied any involvement in the Nord Stream pipelines sabotage after US media cited new intelligence that a pro-Ukrainian group may have been behind last year’s attack targetting Russia’s gas deliveries to Europe.

“Although I enjoy collecting amusing conspiracy theories about (the Ukrainian) government, I have to say: (Ukraine) has nothing to do with the Baltic Sea mishap and has no information about ‘pro-(Ukraine) sabotage groups,’” Mykhailo Podolyak, top adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, wrote on Twitter.

The New York Times had reported that the new intelligence was reviewed by US officials as well and suggested that a group loyal to Ukraine but acting independently were involved in the operation.

Russia says reports on Nord Stream attack ‘coordinated’ effort to divert attention

06:38 , Maroosha Muzaffar

Kremlim believes the media reports on the Nord Stream pipelines attacks are “a coordinated effort” to divert attention.

“Obviously, the authors of the attack want to divert attention. Obviously, this is a coordinated stuffing in the media,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the state RIA news agency.

“How can American officials assume anything without an investigation?”

Mr Peskov also said that Nord Stream shareholder countries should insist on an urgent, transparent investigation.

“We are still not allowed in the investigation. Only a few days ago we received notes about this from the Danes and Swedes,” Peskov said.

“This is not just strange. It smells like a monstrous crime.”

Wagner boss claims mercenary group has full control of eastern Bakhmut

06:14 , Maroosha Muzaffar

The Wagner group has taken full control of eastern Bakhmut, according to the mercenary group’s chief.

The new announcement on Monday by Yevgeny Prigozhin through a voice recording on Telegram has come days after he claimed ammunition promised by Moscow in February had not yet arrived.

“Units of the private military company Wagner have taken control of the eastern part of Bakhmut,” Prigozhin said in a voice recording on the Telegram messaging platform of his press service.

“Everything east of the Bakhmutka River is completely under the control of Wagner.”

Reuters was not able to independently verify the report.

‘Glory to the hero’: Ukraine vows to find killers of unarmed soldier Tymofiy Shadura

05:02 , Maroosha Muzaffar

Volodymyr Zelensky has vowed to “find the murderers” of an unarmed Ukrainian prisoner of war apparently shot dead by Russian forces. The man’s death was captured in graphic footage shared across social media.

Ukraine’s chief prosecutor announced a criminal investigation into the killing, and human rights chief Dmytro Lubinets said it was a violation of the Geneva Conventions.

The 12-second video, originally posted on Telegram before being shared on Twitter, shows the man in uniform with a Ukrainian insignia on his arm, standing and smoking a cigarette in a wooded area. The man says “Slava Ukraini!” – Glory to Ukraine – before multiple shots are fired. The man then slumps to the ground.

Read the full story by Kate Plummer here:

Ukraine vows to find who killed unarmed soldier Tymofiy Shadura

Who are the Wagner mercenaries and why are they so involved in Ukraine?

04:00 , Eleanor Noyce

Russian soldiers fighting in Ukraine have been supported on the battlefield by tens of thousands of mercenaries from a shadowy group led by a businessman and longtime affiliate of president Vladimir Putin.

The Wagner Group is a private military company under the control of Yevgeny Prigozhin that cut its teeth in deployments to Crimea and eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region in 2014 and has since dispatched troops to several conflicts in the Middle East and Africa, including the Syrian Civil War.

In Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Wagner has proved indispensable, but an apparent power struggle between the Kremlin and the outspoken Mr Prigozhin has led to the group having its wings clipped by Moscow.

Liam James reports:

All we know about shadowy Wagner group mercenaries helping Putin wage war on Ukraine

Ukrainian tennis star refuses handshake after beating Russian opponent

03:00 , Eleanor Noyce

Ukraine’s Marta Kostyuk refused to shake the hand of her Russian opponent, Varvara Gracheva, after securing her first WTA title in Texas.

Kostyuk secured her first senior tournament win at the ATX Open with a 6-3 7-5 victory over Gracheva.

The 20-year-old has been a vocal critic of Russian and Belarusian players being allowed to continue to play on the WTA Tour, and spoken previously of her disapproval of players who refuse to condemn the invasion of her country by Moscow.

After securing victory in Austin, Kostyuk shook the hand of the umpire but not her beaten opponent, twice walking past a beaten Gracheva for a handshake as the Russian headed directly to her chair.

The eighth seed dedicated her victory to “all the people who are fighting and dying” in the conflict.

Read more:

Ukrainian tennis star refuses handshake after beating Russian opponent

Starmer stresses commitment to free Belarus in meeting with opposition leader

02:00 , Eleanor Noyce

Sir Keir Starmer and Belarus’s exiled opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya have discussed the need for western allies to confront the Kremlin-backed Belarusian regime.

The Labour leader “expressed his admiration for her bravery in the face of violence and oppression” and stressed his party’s “strong commitment to a free and democratic Belarus”, according to a readout of the meeting in London.

Ms Tsikhanouskaya ran against authoritarian leader Alexander Lukashenko – an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin – in Belarus’s 2020 disputed election before being pressured to leave the country.

Sophie Wingate reports:

Starmer stresses commitment to free Belarus in meeting with opposition leader

‘Glory to the hero’: Ukraine vows to find killers of unarmed soldier Tymofiy Shadura

01:00 , Eleanor Noyce

Ukraine has opened a criminal investigation to find the killers of an unarmed prisoner of war, after footage of the shooting emerged online.

President Volodymyr Zelensky vowed to “find the murderers” after a video showing an apparently unarmed man being gunned down by unseen shooters was circulated on social media.

The 12-second video seen by The Independent shows the man in uniform with a Ukrainian flag insignia on his arm standing and smoking a cigarette in a wooded area.

The man, who was named by the Ukrainian military as Tymofiy Shadura, who had been missing since 3 February, says “Slava Ukraini!” - or Glory to Ukraine – before multiple shots are fired. The man slumps to the ground as he appears to have been shot. A voice is heard saying “Die, b***h” in Russian.

Read the full story:

Ukraine vows to find who killed unarmed soldier Tymofiy Shadura

UK ammunition reserves fall to ‘dangerously low’ levels due to supply to Ukraine, say MPs

00:01 , Eleanor Noyce

Rebuilding Britain’s dwindling stockpile of munitions after the war in Ukraine could take at least a decade putting UK national security at risk, MPs have warned.

The Commons Defence Committee said the UK and other Nato allies have allowed their reserves of ammunition to fall to “dangerously low levels” as they seek to keep Kyiv supplied in its struggle against the Russian invader.

It said the way in which Western governments procure armaments is “not fit for purpose” and it urged the Ministry of Defence to draw up an action plan to cut the time needed to restore its stockpiles.

Gavin Cordon reports:

UK ammunition stockpile ‘dangerously low’ due to supply to Ukraine, say MPs

Vladimir Putin: What is driving Russian leader’s relentless assault on Ukraine?

Tuesday 7 March 2023 23:30 , Eleanor Noyce

From the start, Russia’s military action tended to be seen as an old-fashioned war launched by an old-fashioned autocrat. As such, it was as surprising as it was shocking to all those who believed such wars to be over, at least in Europe. The scenes that have dominated our television screens ever since have been tragically reminiscent of black-and-white newsreel showing battles for the very same cities during the Second World War.

But the supposedly old-fashioned autocrat who gave the orders for this war is a more complicated figure than many think.

He sold the invasion as a collective decision with his military chiefs, but it is the president alone who will have to answer to history, writes Mary Dejevsky:

What is driving Putin’s relentless war on Ukraine?

Ukraine’s forces say they are holding out in ‘utter hell’ of fight for eastern city of Bakhmut

Tuesday 7 March 2023 23:00 , Eleanor Noyce

Ukrainian has said its forces are holding out in the brutal fight for the eastern city of Bakhmut – as the head of the mercenary Wagner group complained that Russia‘s frontlines around the area could collapse without more ammunition from Moscow.

Russia is trying to encircle Bakhmut to secure what would be its first major gain in its invasion for more six months, at the culmination of some of the bloodiest fighting of the war during the winter months. Moscow sees the capture of the city in Donetsk as a stepping stone towards control of the wider Donbas – Ukraine‘s industrial heartland which encompasses the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.

The months of intense fighting, for Bakhmut particularly but also in other areas, has depleted both sides’ artillery reserves, with thousands of shells fired daily. Volodymyr Nazarenko, a Ukrainian commander in Bakhmut, said there had been no order to retreat from the city and “the defence is holding”, albeit in grim conditions.

Chris Stevenson reports:

Ukraine says it is holding out in ‘utter hell’ of fight for eastern city of Bakhmut

'Oh my daughter': Volunteer medic, 29, buried in Ukraine

Tuesday 7 March 2023 22:30 , Eleanor Noyce

As the mother’s cries of anguish pierced the cold morning air, mourners who had fought back tears could hold them no longer.

“Oh Yana, oh my daughter,” Olena Rikhlitska howled. “My baby, my little one.”

Her only child, 29-year-old Yana Rikhlitska, lay in a coffin before her, the younger woman’s blonde hair still in the tight braids she adopted when she voluntarily joined the Ukrainian army as a medic late last year.

Just over a week ago, Associated Press journalists filmed Yana Rikhlitska as she helped treat wounded soldiers in a field hospital outside Bakhmut, which Russian forces have pulverized during a three-sided assault to seize the city in eastern Ukraine.

A few days later she was dead. Rikhlitska and another medic were killed by shelling as they shuttled between the field hospital and the front line.

The Independent has the full story:

'Oh my daughter': Volunteer medic, 29, buried in Ukraine

Ukrainian refugees celebrate Purim in Berlin as war drags on

Tuesday 7 March 2023 22:00 , Eleanor Noyce

Hundreds of refugees from Ukraine celebrated the Jewish holiday of Purim in Berlin Tuesday dressed in colourful costumes and dancing to loud Israeli music.

They danced, drank and ate together with hundreds of other members of the German capital’s Chabad community that organized the party in a hotel. Many of the Ukrainian refugees at the Purim party were students and young children, among them dozens of orphans who fled from Odesa a year ago.

“A year ago these kids were sitting in the bunkers, rockets falling on them,” said Yehuda Teichtal, a Berlin rabbi and head of the local Chabad community who had helped their escape from the war in Ukraine.

“Now they’ve found a new home, are studying German, learn new skills, and also learn how to help themselves,” he added.

Teichtal, wearing huge orange sunglasses and a glittery silver cap, danced with some of the refugee children in circles as Israeli singer Ishay Lapidot performed popular Purim songs on stage.

Read more:

Ukrainian refugees celebrate Purim in Berlin as war drags on

Sir Keir Starmer meets Belarus’s exiled opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya

Tuesday 7 March 2023 21:30 , Eleanor Noyce

Sir Keir Starmer and Belarus’s exiled opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya have discussed the need for western allies to confront the Kremlin-backed Belarusian regime.

The Labour leader “expressed his admiration for her bravery in the face of violence and oppression” and stressed his party’s “strong commitment to a free and democratic Belarus”, according to a readout of the meeting in London.

Ms Tsikhanouskaya ran against authoritarian leader Alexander Lukashenko - an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin - in Belarus’s 2020 disputed election before being pressured to leave the country.

Visiting Westminster, Ms Tsikhanouskaya said overthrowing Mr Lukashenko would accelerate victory for Ukraine against Russian forces.

Belarus was used as a launch point for the invasion of its southern neighbour by Mr Putin’s forces.

Labour’s readout of the meeting said: “The two leaders discussed the need for our allies to remain united in confronting the Putin-backed Belarusian regime and the need to increase support for the pro-democracy movements in Belarus and elsewhere.

“They agreed there can be no lasting peace in Europe without a free Belarus, and that defeating Putin must also mean bringing democracy to the Belarusian people.”

They will also work “to keep up the global pressure on Belarus and Russia through a co-ordinated, robust and effective sanctions regime”.

AstraZeneca doubled exports from Sweden to Russia after start of war – report

Tuesday 7 March 2023 21:00 , Eleanor Noyce

Anglo-Swedish drugs giant AstraZeneca nearly doubled its exports from Sweden to Russia after the Kremlin launched its full-scale attack on Ukraine, according to a report.

Sveriges Radio (SR) – the country’s public service broadcaster – said that the FTSE 100 company had exported 2.2 billion Swedish krona (£174 million) worth of chemicals to Russia from Sweden between March and December last year.

It is an increase from 1.2 billion krona (£95 million) in the same period in 2021, SR reported, citing sources.

AstraZeneca is therefore responsible for around a third of Sweden’s total exports to Russia, SR claimed.

Pharmaceutical companies are often excluded from international sanctions to ensure that life-saving medicines are not withdrawn from people who rely on them to survive.

August Graham has the full story:

AstraZeneca doubled exports from Sweden to Russia after start of war – report

Battle for Bakhmut takes centre stage in war in Ukraine

Tuesday 7 March 2023 20:30 , Eleanor Noyce

The six-month battle for the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut has been the longest and bloodiest fight of the war so far.

Little known outside Ukraine before the Russian invasion, Bakhmut has become a symbol of the country’s fortitude and perseverance in the face of the Kremlin’s onslaught.

The Ukrainian leadership vowed again this week to keep defending the city, but some observers have warned that holding on to it could be too dangerous and costly.

Here is a look at Bakhmut, the battle and its possible consequences.

Read the full story here:

Battle for Bakhmut takes center stage in war in Ukraine

UN rights chief cites 'communication' about issues in China

Tuesday 7 March 2023 20:00 , Eleanor Noyce

The new U.N. human rights chief said Tuesday that his office has opened “channels of communication” to help follow up on concerns about the rights of minorities in China, including Uyghur Muslims and Tibetans. But this fell short of activists’ hopes for a stronger message to Beijing.

High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk, in an address highly anticipated by rights advocates, didn’t detail how his office plans to follow up on a critical report on China’s western Xinjiang region published in August by his predecessor, Michelle Bachelet. That report cited possible “crimes against humanity” against Uyghurs and others in Xinjiang.

Türk noted that the U.N. rights office “documented grave concerns” like arbitrary detentions and family separations in China, and called for “concrete follow-up.” He also voiced concerns about the impact of the national security law in Hong Kong that fanned huge protests.

“Regarding China, we have opened up channels of communication with a range of actors to follow up on a variety of human rights issues, including the protection of minorities, such as for Tibetans, Uyghurs, and other groups,” Türk told the Human Rights Council‘s latest session.

It was his first presentation of the office’s annual report since he took office in October. It covered an array of concerns like pressure on women’s rights, discrimination, conflict and climate change, in a sweeping number of countries — from Afghanistan to Zambia.

The Independent has the full story:

UN rights chief cites 'communication' about issues in China

UK ammunition reserves fall to ‘dangerously low’ levels due to supply to Ukraine, say MPs

Tuesday 7 March 2023 19:30 , Eleanor Noyce

Rebuilding Britain’s dwindling stockpile of munitions after the war in Ukraine could take at least a decade putting UK national security at risk, MPs have warned.

The Commons Defence Committee said the UK and other Nato allies have allowed their reserves of ammunition to fall to “dangerously low levels” as they seek to keep Kyiv supplied in its struggle against the Russian invader.

It said the way in which Western governments procure armaments is “not fit for purpose” and it urged the Ministry of Defence to draw up an action plan to cut the time needed to restore its stockpiles.

My colleague Gavin Cordon has the full story:

UK ammunition stockpile ‘dangerously low’ due to supply to Ukraine, say MPs

Ukraine military identifies soldier seen in grisly war video

Tuesday 7 March 2023 19:00 , Eleanor Noyce

Ukraine’s military on Tuesday tentatively identified as one of its missing soldiers a man who appeared to be shot dead by Russian-speakers in a short video that circulated widely on Ukrainian social media and caused an uproar.

The country’s chief prosecutor announced a criminal investigation into the killing, and human rights chief Dmytro Lubinets argued that it was a violation of the Geneva Conventions.

Senior Ukrainian officials alleged, without providing further evidence, that the man was an unarmed prisoner of war killed by Russian soldiers.

The 30th Mechanized Brigade on its Facebook page named the man as Tymofii Shadura. The identification is based on preliminary information and is not final, it said.

Shadura has been missing for just over a month amid bitter fighting in the Bakhmut area of eastern Ukraine, the post said. The city has been a combat hot spot as the war extends into its second year.

Read more:

Labour MP accuses the government of rendering “meaningless” any safe, legal route from Afghanistan, making comparisons to Ukraine

Tuesday 7 March 2023 18:33 , Eleanor Noyce

A Labour MP has accused the government of having rendered “meaningless” any safe and legal route from Afghanistan, making comparisons to the “safe, legal” routes available from Ukraine.

Barry Gardiner, MP for Brent North, told the Commons: “The Home Secretary will be aware that the bulk of the 500,000 people that she refers to have come here through safe and legal routes are from Ukraine and from Hong Kong. But with respect to Afghanistan, she will also know that in the whole of the last year, since the new safe route was put in place, only 22 individuals from Afghanistan have been accepted through that route - 22.

“Is it any surprise to the Home Secretary that last year 8,500 Afghans made the small boat crossing to the UK?”

Conservative MPs could be heard shouting “from France”.

Mr Gardiner continued: “Having rendered meaningless any safe and legal route from Afghanistan, where does the Home Secretary believe she derives the moral authority to criminalise those 8,500 people simply because of their mode of travel?”

Home Secretary Suella Braverman said the UK had received 20,000 people from Afghanistan, adding: “I’m very proud of Britain’s track record. That is one amongst many safe routes within which people have come to the UK.”

Ukraine says 130 PoWs returned from Russian custody

Tuesday 7 March 2023 16:50 , Emily Atkinson

Kyiv said 130 Ukrainian service personnel had been released from Russian custody.

It comes after Moscow said that 90 Russian prisoners of war were returned from Ukraine after talks.

Watch: The Body in the Woods | An Independent TV Original Documentary

Tuesday 7 March 2023 16:15 , Emily Atkinson

It was a month into Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Russian forces had withdrawn from around Kyiv and in their wake Bel Trew and her team stumbled on a body by an abandoned Russian camp.

His hands were tied. He had been burned and shot in the back. Soldiers said he was a teenager.

As Bel tried to find out who he was and what had happened, she uncovered a nightmare world: a nation struggling to find thousands of its missing and to identify its dead.

The Body in the Woods by Bel Trew is streaming now on Independent TV and on your smart TV.

The Body in the Woods | An Independent TV Original Documentary

US intelligence suggests pro-Ukrainian group sabotaged Nord Stream pipelines

Tuesday 7 March 2023 15:48 , Emily Atkinson

New intelligence reviewed by US officials suggests that a pro-Ukrainian group carried out the attack on the Nord Stream pipelines last year, the New York Times reports.

There was no evidence that president Volodymyr Zelensky or his top lieutenants in Ukraine were involved in the operation, or that the perpetrators were acting at the direction of any Ukrainian government officials, the newspaper reported, citing US officials.

Russia says 90 prisoners of war returned from Ukraine

Tuesday 7 March 2023 15:15 , Emily Atkinson

The Russian defence ministry said on Tuesday that 90 Russian prisoners of war have been returned from Ukraine after talks, RIA news agency reported.

Thousands of people in Ukraine have complex war-related injuries - WHO

Tuesday 7 March 2023 14:45 , Emily Atkinson

Thousands of people in Ukraine have sustained complex injuries linked to the war and need rehabilitation services and equipment to help them, a senior World Health Organisation (WHO) official has said.

Attacks on healthcare facilities, fewer healthcare workers due to displacement and power shortages were all making it difficult for people to get care, Dr. Satish Mishra from the WHO’s regional office for Europe, told a media briefing.

Even before the war, in 2019, about half the population in Ukraine could have benefited from rehabilitation services for non-communicable conditions such as cardiovascular disease or diabetes, Dr Cathal Morgan, another WHO official said.

Since then, the Covid-19 pandemic and the war have significantly increased the need for rehab services, he added. “Hence the need for urgency.”

In pictures: Russian T-90 battle tank fire in Donetsk

Tuesday 7 March 2023 14:20 , Emily Atkinson

 (EPA)
(EPA)
 (EPA)
(EPA)

Lithuania calls for permanent presence of German troops

Tuesday 7 March 2023 13:50 , Emily Atkinson

Lithuania’s defence minister Arvydas Anusauskas said on Tuesday he wants a permanent presence of a German military brigade on Lithuanian soil in order to help ensure the Baltic country’s security.

Ukrainian tennis star refuses handshake after beating Russian opponent

Tuesday 7 March 2023 13:20 , Emily Atkinson

Ukraine’s Marta Kostyuk refused to shake the hand of her Russian opponent, Varvara Gracheva, after securing her first WTA title in Texas.

Kostyuk secured her first senior tournament win at the ATX Open with a 6-3 7-5 victory over Gracheva.

The 20-year-old has been a vocal critic of Russian and Belarusian players being allowed to continue to play on the WTA Tour, and spoken previously of her disapproval of players who refuse to condemn the invasion of her country by Moscow.

Harry Latham-Coyle reports:

Ukraine tennis player refuses to shake Russian opponent’s hand after win

Decision on permanent troop deployment to Lithuania ‘up to Nato’, Germany says

Tuesday 7 March 2023 12:50 , Emily Atkinson

A decision on a permanent deployment of a German brigade to Lithuania will be “up to Nato”, German defence minister Boris Pistorius has said.

“This not down to who wants what - or who wants to provide what - but rather up to Nato,” Pistorius told reporters as he visited drills of hundreds of German troops at Pabrade training ground in Lithuania.

Since 2017, Germany has led an international battalion with some 1,500 troops in Lithuania as part of a Nato effort to deter Russia from attacking the Baltic region, seen as one of the weakest spots in the alliance’s eastern flank.

Berlin also has a brigade of some 3,000 to 5,000 troops on standby in Germany with the ability to deploy to Lithuania within 10 days if needed.

But the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have been calling for bigger and permanent Nato deployments to defend their territories since Russia invaded Ukraine.

Poland says it will send 10 more Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine this week

Tuesday 7 March 2023 12:25 , Emily Atkinson

A further 10 Leopard 2 tanks from Poland will be sent to Ukraine this week, the Polish defence minister said on Tuesday.

“Four (tanks) are already in Ukraine, another 10 will go to Ukraine this week,” Mariusz Blaszczak told a news conference. Poland had promised to send 14 Leopard 2 tanks in total.

Ukraine vows to find killers of unarmed prisoner of war

Tuesday 7 March 2023 12:00 , Emily Atkinson

Ukraine has opened a criminal investigation to find the killers of an unarmed prisoner of war, after footage of the shooting emerged online.

President Volodymyr Zelensky vowed to “find the murderers” after a video showing an apparently unarmed man being gunned down by unseen shooters was circulated on social media.

The 12-second video seen by The Independent shows the unidentified man in uniform with a Ukrainian flag insignia on his arm standing and smoking a cigarette in a wooded area.

Kate Plummer has more:

Ukraine vows to find killers of unarmed prisoner of war

Belarus won’t be ‘dragged into conflict’, says Lukashenko

Tuesday 7 March 2023 11:32 , Emily Atkinson

Alexander Lukashenko, who is a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin and allowed Putin to use Belarus as a launchpad to invade Ukraine last February, repeated his position that Belarus would not be “dragged into” the conflict.

“If you think that by throwing down this challenge, you will drag us into a war tomorrow, which is already raging across over Europe today, you are mistaken,” Belta quoted Lukashenko as saying in comments directed at Kyiv and Washington.

He has previously said Belarus would only enter the war directly if its territory came under attack from Ukraine.

Capture of Bakhmut will allow further offensives in Ukraine, Russia warns

Tuesday 7 March 2023 10:46 , Emily Atkinson

Russia’s seizure of Bakhmut would allow Vladimir Putin’s forces to mount further offensive operations, Moscow has warned.

Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu said that despite the ramping of Western arms deliveries to Kyiv, Russia’s advance on the embattled eastern city would not change course.

Moscow’s forces have been waging an intense campaign for months to seize control of the small city in what would become their first significant territorial advance since last summer.

 (Russian Defence Ministry Press Service)
(Russian Defence Ministry Press Service)

“The liberation of Artemovsk continues,” Shoigu told broadcasters, using the old Soviet-era name for Bakhmut.

“The city is an important hub for defending Ukrainian troops in the Donbas. Taking it under control will allow further offensive actions to be conducted deep into Ukraine‘s defensive lines,” Shoigu said.

Belarus detains 'terrorist' behind attempted sabotage at air field base

Tuesday 7 March 2023 10:37 , Emily Atkinson

Belarus has detained what it said was a “terrorist” working with Ukrainian and U.S. intelligence services over attempted sabotage at a Belarusian air field, the Belta news agency reported, citing president Alexander Lukashenko.

Belarusian anti-government activists said last month they had blown up a sophisticated Russian military surveillance aircraft in a drone attack at an airfield near the Belarusian capital Minsk, a claim disputed by Moscow and Minsk.

“The Security Service of Ukraine, the leadership of the CIA, behind closed doors, are carrying out an operation against the Republic of Belarus. A terrorist was trained,” Belta quoted Lukashenko as saying.

Lukashenko said the aircraft had suffered only superficial damage in the attack, which was carried out using a “small drone”, it reported.

The suspect detained over the attack against the Beriev A-50 surveillance plane is a dual Russian-Ukrainian national, Belta also cited Lukashenko as saying.

‘Invisible hand’ stoking Ukraine conflict belongs to US, says Kremlin

Tuesday 7 March 2023 09:53 , Emily Atkinson

The Kremlin said on Tuesday that the United States was driving the Ukraine conflict and welcomed China’s growing diplomacy.

Asked about comments by Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang that an “invisible hand” was driving the conflict, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Tuesday that the hand belonged to the United States.

China warns US to stop suppression or risk ‘conflict’

Tuesday 7 March 2023 09:38 , Emily Atkinson

The United States should change its “distorted” attitude towards China or “conflict and confrontation” will follow, China’s foreign minister said on Tuesday, while defending its stance on the war in Ukraine and defending its close ties with Russia.

The US had been engaging in suppression and containment of China rather than engaging in fair, rule-based competition, foreign minister Qin Gang told a news conference on the sidelines of an annual parliament meeting in Beijing.

“The United States’ perception and views of China are seriously distorted,” said Qin, a trusted aide to president Xi Jinping and until recently China’s ambassador in Washington.

“It regards China as its primary rival and the most consequential geopolitical challenge. This is like the first button in the shirt being put wrong.”

Nationwide air raid alert declared

Tuesday 7 March 2023 08:45 , Emily Atkinson

An air alert has been issued across Ukraine, a map shows.

Live updates on Ukraine’s air alerts can be seen here:

Ukrainian troops told ‘not to withdraw’ from Bakhmut

Tuesday 7 March 2023 08:20 , Emily Atkinson

President Volodymyr Zelensky said he discussed Bakhmut with top commanders on Monday night, who instructed Ukraine “not to withdraw” and instead to strengthen the city’s defences.

“The command unanimously supported this position. There were no other positions. I told the commander-in-chief to find the appropriate forces to help our guys in Bakhmut,” Zelensky said in his nightly address.

It comes after the head of Russia’s Wagner mercenary force, which has led the Bakhmut assault, said on Monday he needed the regular army to supply him with more ammunition if he was to win the battle.

Latest pictures from frontline in Bakhmut

Tuesday 7 March 2023 07:55 , Emily Atkinson

Ukrainian servicemen fire a 2S5 Giatsint-S self-propelled howitzer towards Russian troops outside the frontline town of Bakhmut.

 (REUTERS)
(REUTERS)
 (REUTERS)
(REUTERS)

Ukraine investigates alleged Russian shooting of prisoner of war

Tuesday 7 March 2023 07:30 , Emily Atkinson

Ukraine launched a criminal investigation into what it said was Russia’s “brutal and brazen shooting of an unarmed person” depicted in a video spread on social media, the country’s top prosecutor said on Monday.

The 12-second video, which rapidly amassed shares on Twitter, shows an apparently unarmed man in a uniform with a Ukrainian flag insignia on his arm standing and smoking a cigarette in a wooded area.

The man says “Slava Ukraini!” - or Glory to Ukraine - before multiple shots are heard coming from an unseen shooter or shooters. The man slumps to the ground as bullets appear to hit his body. A voice is heard saying “Die, bitch” in Russian.

The “Glory to Ukraine“ phrase and the response “Heroyam Slava”, or “Glory to the Heroes”, has been a hallmark of post-Soviet Ukraine, but it has taken on special significance as a common greeting in public life since the start of the war. It has also served to rally international support for Ukraine.

Andriy Kostin, Ukraine‘s prosecutor general, said on Telegram that Ukraine‘s security service had registered the shooting as a criminal case under a part of the country’s criminal code that covers violations of war laws and customs.

“Even the war has its own laws,” he said, adding that prosecutors from his office would lead the case. “There are rules of international law systematically ignored by the Russian criminal regime. But sooner or later, there will be punishment.”

ICYMI: Putin’s troops ‘left to fight with shovels’ as Russia suffers ammunition shortage

Tuesday 7 March 2023 06:58 , Andy Gregory

Russian troops are likely using shovels for "hand-to-hand" combat in Ukraine because of an ammunition shortage, UK intelligence has said.

In an update on the war, the UK’s Ministry of Defence claimed Vladimir Putin’s troops were ordered to attack a Ukrainian position armed just with “firearms and shovels” late last month.

My colleague Lucy Skoulding has more details here:

Putin’s troops ‘left to fight with shovels’ as Russia suffers ammunition shortage

Ukraine probing shooting of unarmed man it says was prisoner of war

Tuesday 7 March 2023 06:46 , Arpan Rai

Ukraine’s top prosecutor confirmed a criminal investigation into what he called the “brutal and brazen shooting of an unarmed person” seen in a video shared on social media, as the official accused Russia of ignoring the laws of war.

Andriy Yermak, the head of Ukraine’s presidential office, said the man was a Ukrainian prisoner of war and that the incident was part of a “deliberate policy of terror” by Russia.

“The murder of a captive is the latest Russian war crime,” Mr Yermak said, and added that “for every such war crime there will be retribution.”

In the 12-second video widely shared on Twitter, an apparently unarmed man in uniform with a Ukrainian flag insignia on his arm standing smoking in a wooded area.

The man says, “Glory to Ukraine.” Multiple shots are heard coming from an unseen shooter or shooters, and the man slumps to the ground as bullets appear to hit his body. A voice is heard saying “Die, b***h,” in Russian.

Reuters was not immediately able to verify the authenticity, date or location of the video, which is of poor quality.

Moscow has not responded to reports about the video.

Muddy conditions likely hampering Ukraine’s resupply in Bakhmut – MoD

Tuesday 7 March 2023 06:32 , Arpan Rai

British intelligence has said that the Ukrainian defence of Bakhmut continues to degrade forces on both sides with the conditions of spring hampering the battle for mining city in eastern sector.

“Over the weekend, Ukrainian forces likely stabilised their defensive perimeter following previous Russian advances into the north of the town,” the British defence ministry said.

It added: “A Russian strike destroyed a bridge over the only paved supply road into Bakhmut still under Ukrainian control around 2 March. Muddy conditions are likely hampering Ukrainian resupply efforts as they increasingly resort to using unpaved tracks.”

Additionally, the ministry said that the public disagreements between the Wagner group and Russian ministry of defence over the allocation of munitions spilling out in open “highlight the difficulty in sustaining the high levels of personnel and ammunition required to advance with their current tactics”.

China accuses ‘invisible hand’ of stoking Ukraine war

Tuesday 7 March 2023 06:14 , Arpan Rai

Chinese foreign minister Qin Gang has said an “invisible hand” is pushing for the escalation of war in Ukraine after Russia invaded the country last year, but the official did not take names.

The “invisible hand” is “using the Ukraine crisis to serve certain geopolitical agendas”, Mr Qin said, as he reiterated China’s call for dialogue.

China has fiercely defended its stance on Ukraine, even as west has criticised Beijing’s decision to not call Russia the aggressor after the Soviet nation invaded Kyiv last year.

Beijing has also vehemently denied accusations from Washington that it has been considering providing lethal weapons to Russia.

But China must advance its relations with Russia as the world becomes more turbulent, Mr Qin said.

Watch: Putin’s gymnast ‘lover’ says Russian president is ‘ideal man’ in resurfaced clip

Tuesday 7 March 2023 06:01 , Andy Gregory

Ukrainian generals tell Zelensky not to withdraw from Bakhmut

Tuesday 7 March 2023 05:45 , Arpan Rai

Volodymyr Zelensky has said that he has been told by his commanders to not withdraw from Bakhmut and that no part of Ukraine can be abandoned.

“Today at the staff meeting, I directly asked both Khortytsia commander, general Syrskyi, and commander-in-chief Zaluzhny about their view of the further defense operation in the Bakhmut sector,” he said in his nightly address, with options of “either withdrawal or continuation of defence and reinforcement of the city.”

“Both generals replied: do not withdraw and reinforce. And this opinion was unanimously backed by the staff,” he said, adding that there were “no other opinions”.

“I told the commander-in-chief to find the appropriate forces to help the guys in Bakhmut,” he said.

“There is no part of Ukraine about which one can say that it can be abandoned. There is no Ukrainian trench in which the resilience and heroism of our warriors would be disregarded,” Mr Zelensky said.

UK ammunition reserves fall to ‘dangerously low’ levels due to supply to Ukraine, say MPs

Tuesday 7 March 2023 05:18 , Arpan Rai

Rebuilding Britain’s dwindling stockpile of munitions after the war in Ukraine could take at least a decade putting UK national security at risk, MPs have warned.

The Commons Defence Committee said the UK and other Nato allies have allowed their reserves of ammunition to fall to “dangerously low levels” as they seek to keep Kyiv supplied in its struggle against the Russian invader.

It said the way in which Western governments procure armaments is “not fit for purpose” and it urged the Ministry of Defence to draw up an action plan to cut the time needed to restore its stockpiles.

Read the full story here:

UK ammunition stockpile ‘dangerously low’ due to supply to Ukraine, say MPs

How shadowy Wagner Group mercenaries support Russian soldiers in Ukraine conflict

Tuesday 7 March 2023 04:59 , Andy Gregory

Our international correspondent Borzou Daragahi reports:

The planes started moving in late December 2021 and early January 2022. Onboard the secretive military aircraft from Libya were hundreds of hardened mercenaries of the Wagner Group, the shadowy umbrella of private military contractor firms linked to Vladimir Putin’s ally Yevgeny Prigozhin.

Their destination was the same place where the so-called “little green men” first came to international prominence in 2014: Ukraine.

Experts closely following the movements and actions of the Wagner complex for years say the military contractors – who include former and active-duty Russian, Ukrainian, Belarusian and Serbian soldiers – have been on the ground in Ukraine for months, their presence confirmed in news reports and hinted at in cryptic social media posts by accounts associated with the mercenary group.

But many questions remain about their role in the Ukraine conflict.

“They are skilled at counterinsurgency, and Ukraine is the birthplace of the group,” said Ruslan Trad, a specialist on the Wagner Group who has traced its movements in the Middle East and Africa. “They are very good at tracking resistance. But I doubt they will participate in direct fighting,” he told The Independent.

That has not been borne out by subsequent events, with Wagner fighters frequently in the thick of it all along the frontline, most recently in the entrenched, months-long warfare around the old Donbas mining town of Bakhmut, seen as a crucial strategic target by Moscow.

How shadowy Wagner mercenaries support Russian soldiers in Ukraine conflict

Wagner chief says denied access to Russian military command

Tuesday 7 March 2023 04:49 , Arpan Rai

Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin has accused the Kremlin of denying his representative access to the headquarters of Russia’s military command for Ukraine and said that he was still not getting enough munitions despite repeated public complaints.

“On 5 March, I wrote a letter to the commander of the SMO (special military operation) grouping about the urgent need to allocate ammunition. On 6 March, at 8 am my representative at the headquarters had his pass cancelled and was denied access,” he said via his press service on Telegram.

He added that his representative had been spurned by the army’s top brass a day after he urgently requested ammunition supplies.

The Russian defence ministry has not responded to the private militia leader.

Moscow’s warfare on Ukraine has been commanded personally by Russia’s top general, chief of the general staff Valery Gerasimov.

Control of Bakhmut is of ‘symbolic’ rather than ‘strategic’ value, says US defence chief

Tuesday 7 March 2023 03:52 , Andy Gregory

Control of Bakhmut is more of “symbolic” than “strategic” value, the US defence secretary has said.

Speaking to reporters in the Middle East on Monday, Lloyd Austin said he would not predict when or if Ukrainian troops might leave Bakhmut, but that should it fall that “won’t necessarily mean that the Russians have changed the tide of this fight”.

“I think it is more of a symbolic value than it is strategic and operational value,” Mr Austin said.

Wagner chief says knocking on all doors for ammunition

Tuesday 7 March 2023 03:28 , Arpan Rai

Russia’s Wagner mercenary force chief Yevgeny Prigozhin reiterated his desperate plea to regular army, seeking to supply his forces with more ammunition and reinforcements along with covering support if his private army has to win the war against Ukraine.

“I’m knocking on all doors and sounding the alarm about ammunition and reinforcements, as well as the need to cover our flanks,” he said in a statement yesterday released by his press service.

“If everyone is coordinated, without ambition, screw-ups and tantrums, and carries out this work, then we will block the armed forces of Ukraine. If not, then everyone will be s*****d,” the Wagner chief warned.

Wagner group, comprising strongly of prison convicts released from Russia’s prisons to fight the grinding war in Ukraine, is leading the Bakhmut assault but has faced hiccups this week.

The appeal from him comes amid signs of a deepening rift between him and the Russian defence ministry whom he has bitterly criticised for months and accused of deliberately starving his men of ammunition, an allegation it has rejected.

Bakhmut defence ‘yielding great results’, says Zelensky

Tuesday 7 March 2023 02:41 , Andy Gregory

Volodymyr Zelensky has said that Bakhmut is “yielding one of the greatest results” of Russia’s war.

Speaking in his nightly address, the president said: “Bakhmut has yielded and is yielding one of the greatest results during this war, during the entire battle for Donbas And I thank every soldier who is fighting in this most difficult area. Who is fighting for all parts of our country, in all directions.

“We are defending and will continue to defend every part of Ukraine. When the time comes, we will liberate every city and village of our country. And we will hold the occupier accountable for every shot against Ukraine, for every meanness against Ukrainians.

“If we can do it legally, then we will do it legally. If we can do it with weapons, then we will do it with weapons.

“Due to our unity, due to our determination, due to the fact that we value the whole of Ukraine and every Ukrainian, we know exactly the outcome of this war. We have known it since the first days of the war.”

Watch: 'Scared' kitten rescued from shelled building by Ukrainian crew

Tuesday 7 March 2023 01:34 , Andy Gregory

Zelensky pledges to ‘find the murderers’ of ‘prisoner of war’ in viral clip

Tuesday 7 March 2023 00:38 , Andy Gregory

Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelensky has condemned an unverified video on social medai he claims showed Russian occupiers brutally killing an unarmed Ukrainian soldier.

In his nightly address, the president referred to viral footage which appeared to show the individual hailing Ukraine before being shot by a Russian-speaker, saying: “I want us all in unity to respond to his words, ‘Glory to the hero. Glory to the heroes. Glory to Ukraine.’ And we will find the murderers.”

The head of Ukraine’s presidential office, Andriy Yermak, said the man was a Ukrainian prisoner of war and that the incident was part of a “deliberate policy of terror” by Russia.

“The murder of a captive is the latest Russian war crime,” Mr Yermak tweeted. “For every such war crime there will be retribution.”