Ukraine news – live: Moscow to take up UN Security Council presidency as Kyiv blasts ‘absurd’ move

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Russia will take up the monthly presidency of the 15-member UN Security Council from today, despite its invasion of Ukraine that has seen mass destruction across the country.

Kyiv has lashed out at the development which is in line with a rotation that has not changed despite Vladimir Putin’s aggression.

“As of 1 April, they’re taking the level of absurdity to a new level,” Sergiy Kyslytsya, the Ukrainian permanent representative said.

“The Security Council as it is designed is immobilised and incapable to address the issues of their primary responsibility, that is prevention of conflicts and then dealing with conflicts,” he told The Guardian.

Ukraine’s ambassador will stay away from the Security Council in April except in the case of an “issue of critical national security interest”.

Meanwhile, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said its executive board had approved a four-year $15.6bn loan programme for Ukraine.

The loan is a part of a global $115bn package to support the country’s economy as it battles Russia’s ongoing invasion.

Key points

  • Russia to take up UN Security Council presidency

  • IMF approves $15.6bn loan package for Ukraine

  • Civilian casualty figure of 8,400 'tip of the iceberg' says UN

  • Ukraine has endured 400 days of Putin’s invasion, says Zelensky

  • Wagner has lost ‘substantial manpower’ in Bakhmut fight

Russia to take up UN Security Council presidency

07:15 , Sravasti Dasgupta

Russia will take up the monthly presidency of the 15-member UN Security Council from Saturday, in line with a rotation that has been unaffected by the Ukraine war.

Ukraine has lashed out at the development as the Russian invasion in the country continues.

“As of 1 April, they’re taking the level of absurdity to a new level,” Sergiy Kyslytsya, the Ukrainian permanent representative was quoted as saying by The Guardian.

“The Security Council as it is designed is immobilised and incapable to address the issues of their primary responsibility, that is prevention of conflicts and then dealing with conflicts.”

Ukraine’s ambassador will stay away from the Security Council in April except in the case of an “issue of critical national security interest”.

While Ukraine is not a current Council member, it is often called to speak on issues related to the war.

FILE - Vassily Nebenzia, permanent representative of Russia to the United Nations, speaks during a meeting of the UN Security Council (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)
FILE - Vassily Nebenzia, permanent representative of Russia to the United Nations, speaks during a meeting of the UN Security Council (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Journal reporter's arrest threatens reporting from Russia

10:55 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

The arrest of a Wall Street Journal reporter on espionage charges in Russia has news organizations based outside the country weighing for the second time in a year whether the risks of reporting there during wartime are too great.

The Journal and other news outlets continued to press Friday for the release of Evan Gershkovich, He was taken into custody by Russian security officials a day earlier and accused of spying, charges the newspaper vehemently denies.

More than 30 press freedom groups and news organizations, including the Journal, The New York Times, BBC, The Associated Press, The New Yorker, Time and The Washington Post, signed a letter Friday to Anatoly I. Antonov, Russia’s ambassador to the U.S., expressing concern about “a significant escalation in your government’s anti-press actions.

Journal reporter's arrest threatens reporting from Russia

Russia clashes with US over tactical nukes for Belarus

10:33 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Russia and the U.S. clashed in the United Nations on Friday over Moscow’s plans to deploy tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, which neighboring Ukraine denounced as a desperate Kremlin attempt to avoid military defeat and “threaten the world with nuclear apocalypse.”

China, without naming Russia, made clear its opposition to the planned deployment.

Ukraine’s U.N. Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya called for the U.N. Security Council meeting following Russian President Vladimir Putin’s announcement on March 25 that his country plans to deploy tactical, comparatively short-range and small-yield nuclear weapons in Belarus.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko upped the ante just before the council meeting, saying Russia might also deploy strategic nuclear weapons in Belarus, which Russian forces have used as a staging ground for the war in Ukraine.

Russia clashes with US over tactical nukes for Belarus

What is the latest from Ukraine?

09:55 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

* The International Olympic Committee criticised Ukraine‘s decision not to allow Ukrainian athletes to take part in qualifying events for the 2024 Paris Olympics if they have to compete against Russians, saying on Saturday this will hurt only Ukrainian sport and its athletes.

* A $2.6 billion U.S. military aid package that could include air surveillance radars, anti-tank rockets and fuel trucks for Ukraine‘s fight against Russia is expected to be announced as soon as Monday, three U.S. officials said on Friday.

* A senior Ukrainian official on Friday ruled out any ceasefire in Russia‘s war on his country that would involve Russian forces remaining on territory they now occupy in Ukraine.

* Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Friday Russia faced “existential threats” to its security and development from “unfriendly states” as he presented President Vladimir Putin with an updated foreign policy doctrine.

* U.S. Secretary of State Blinken will push back on Russia‘s attempts to “weaponise energy” and rally support for a Ukrainian counteroffensive when he meets NATO foreign ministers in Brussels next week, an official said.

* Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said on Friday that Russia, which has decided to station tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, could if necessary put intercontinental nuclear missiles there too.

Away from home but not from war – the Ukrainian women forced to flee

09:30 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Nearly 8 million Ukrainians have fled their homeland since Russia launched a full-scale invasion of its neighbour on 24 February 2022. The majority of these refugees are women and children, as most Ukrainian men between the ages of 18 and 60 were ordered to stay and fight.

The following are accounts by women who have had their lives interrupted and been forced from their homes. They discuss how they think their country is coping as the war continues and what they think the future holds for them and for Ukraine.

Away from home but not from war – the Ukrainian women forced to flee

The harrowing discovery in Ukraine at the centre of The Independent’s new documentary

09:10 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

International correspondent Bel Trew recalls the moment which led to the making of her new documentary, The Body in the Woods, released on 1 March

There were bodies scattered everywhere. I remember a charred human spine and skull lying on the ground of an upturned burned-out car. Another decapitated body splayed on the ground next to an eviscerated street.

The curve of an arm, and a foot, in a kind of yin and yang shape, appearing through the soil of a mass grave. And everywhere around this was a frozen tableau of horror.

It was the beginning of April, a month into Vladimir Putin‘s illegal invasion of the country. Russian forces had just withdrawn from towns they occupied in the region west of the capital Kyiv. Without electricity, internet and mobile phone reception, the outside world had had no contact with the residents of these areas. It was the first time we had access since the start of the war. And when Moscow’s men finally pulled back, it felt like stumbling through a lucid nightmare.

The harrowing discovery in Ukraine at the centre of The Independent’s new documentary

Russia sends bombs as Ukraine marks grim Bucha anniversary

08:50 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Russia used its long-range arsenal to bombard anew several areas of Ukraine on Friday, killing at least two civilians and damaging homes as Ukrainians commemorated the anniversary of the liberation of Bucha.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that Bucha, a town near Kyiv, stands as a symbol of the atrocities the Russian military has committed since its full-scale invasion began in February 2022.

“We will never forgive,” Zelenskyy said in a post on his Telegram channel. “We will punish every perpetrator.”

The Kremlin’s forces occupied Bucha weeks after they invaded Ukraine and stayed for about a month. When Ukrainian troops retook the town, they encountered horrific scenes: bodies of women, young and old men, in civilian clothing, lying in the street where they had fallen or in yards and homes.

Russia sends bombs as Ukraine marks grim Bucha anniversary

Russia-Ukraine war: Will there be a spring counteroffensive?

08:30 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Europe’s biggest armed conflict since World War II is poised to enter a new phase in the coming weeks.

With no suggestion of a negotiated end to the 13 months of fighting between Russia and Ukraine, the Ukrainian defense minister said last week that a spring counteroffensive could begin as soon as April.

Kyiv faces a key tactical question: How can the Ukrainian military dislodge Kremlin forces from land they are occupying? Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is working hard to keep his troops, and the general public, motivated for a long fight.

Here’s a look at how the fighting has evolved and how the spring campaign might unfold:

Russia-Ukraine war: Will there be a spring counteroffensive?

Germany’s military gaps cannot be fully bridged by 2030, defence minister says

08:10 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Germany’s military cannot completely fill its existing gaps by 2030, Defence Minister Boris Pistorius was quoted as saying, as Berlin seeks to revamp its armed forces after Russia‘s invasion of Ukraine following decades of neglect.

“We all know that the existing gaps cannot be completely closed by 2030... It will take years. Everyone is aware of that,” Pistorius said in an interview with Welt am Sonntag newspaper published on Saturday.

Already worn down by decades of underinvestment since the end of the Cold War, the Bundeswehr is in even worse shape than a year ago given weapons and munitions donated to Ukraine have mostly not yet been replaced, say experts.

Pistorius rejected further arms deliveries to Ukraine from the Bundeswehr stocks beyond the announced commitments.

“To put it bluntly, like other nations, we have a limited inventory. As federal defence minister, I cannot give everything away,” he said.

The minister, who was appointed earlier this year, said increasing the defence budget to reach the NATO spending target of 2% of national output, from currently around 1.5%, was his highest priority.

“If that is then set in motion at the end of the (legislative) period, then I would be satisfied,” he added.

Germany is also planning a naval mission in the Indo-Pacific region next year and is intensifying its partnerships with key countries in the region, such as Japan, Australia, India, Indonesia, South Korea and Singapore, he said, saying Europe’s freedom of movement in seas there was “too challenged”.

Russia makes only ‘marginal gains’ in Donbas- Ministry of Defence

07:48 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Here is the latest defence intelligence update on the situation in Ukraine:

Moment Austria’s pro-Russia lawmakers walk out of Zelensky’s speech to parliament

07:00 , Eleanor Noyce

Lawmakers from the pro-Russia, far-right Freedom Party (FPO) walked out of the lower house of Austria’s parliament on Thursday 30 March during a speech by Volodymyr Zelensky.

The president of Ukraine addressed the chamber via video link, thanking Austria for its humanitarian aid and help with projects such as clearing land mines.

The FPO, however, had warned days before that it would hold some form of protest against Zelensky’s speech, claiming that it violated Austria’s neutrality.

Lawmakers who walked out left small placards on their desks featuring the party logo and either the words “space for neutrality” or “space for peace”.

Watch:

Moment Austria’s pro-Russia lawmakers walk out of Zelensky’s speech to parliament

Russia says Ukraine ceasefire would not achieve Moscow's goals

06:45 , Sravasti Dasgupta

Russia has said that a ceasefire in Ukraine would not enable it to achieve the goals of its “special military operation” at the moment.

“In terms of Ukraine, nothing is changing, the special military operation is continuing because today that is the only means in front of us to achieve our goals,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Friday.

His comments came after Russian ally and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko called for an immediate ceasefire, without preconditions, and for both Moscow and Kyiv to start negotiations on a lasting peace settlement.

Mr Peskov added that Russia had noted his comments and president Vladimir Putin would discuss it with the Belarusian leader next week.

FILE-Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting via video conference in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, Nov. 5, 2020. (AP)
FILE-Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting via video conference in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, Nov. 5, 2020. (AP)

Ukraine accuse Wimbledon of ‘immoral’ stance on Russian and Belarusian participation

06:30 , Eleanor Noyce

Ukraine’s foreign minister says Wimbledon’s decision to allow Russian and Belarusian players to compete at this year’s Championships is “immoral”.

Dmytro Kuleba called on the UK Government to deny players from the two countries visas following the invasion of Ukraine last year.

Wimbledon said players from the two countries must sign declarations of neutrality and must not express support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, while competitors who receive funding from the Russian or Belarusian states, including sponsorship from state owned or controlled companies, will remain barred.

Wimbledon moved to decline entries from Russian and Belarusian players to last year’s tournament, citing advice from the UK Government following the invasion of Ukraine, but its decision was criticised by the other three grand slams and both men’s and women’s professional tours.

Jamie Braidwood reports:

Ukraine accuse Wimbledon of ‘immoral’ stance on Russian participation

Ukraine unlikely to expel all Russian troops this year, says top US official

06:15 , Sravasti Dasgupta

Ukraine is unlikely to expel all Russian troops from its territory this year, a top US official has said.

In an interview with Defence One on Friday, General Mark Milley, the chairman of the US joint chief of staff, said: “I don’t think it’s likely to be done in the near term for this year.”

The general added that while Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky has stated that their objective is to “kick every Russian out”, the task remains “very difficult.”

“Zelensky has publicly stated many times that the Ukrainian objective is to kick every Russian out of Russian-occupied Ukraine. And that is a significant military task. Very, very difficult military task. You’re looking at a couple hundred thousand Russians who are still in Russian-occupied Ukraine. I’m not saying it can’t be done. I’m just saying it’s a very difficult task,” he said.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Aerial footage shows Ukrainian forces destroying Russian storage site near Bakhmut

06:00 , Eleanor Noyce

Footage published by the Ukrainian Armed Forces on Wednesday 29 March claims to show the destruction of a Russian weapons store in the devastated eastern city of Bakhmut.

A statement from the 30th Mechanised Brigade said that the “warehouse and the occupiers’ military equipment were destroyed with one shot”.

The city of Bakhmut has been a major Russian strategic objective since last summer, with waves of troops seeking to take the settlement in Ukraine’s Donetsk Oblast.

Vladimir Putin has likely lost tens of thousands of soldiers in the bitter battle, according to the Institute for the Study of War.

Watch:

Aerial footage shows Ukrainian forces destroying Russian storage site near Bakhmut

IMF approves $15.6bn loan package for Ukraine

05:45 , Sravasti Dasgupta

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) said its executive board had approved a four-year $15.6bn loan programme for Ukraine.

The loan is a part of a global $115bn package to support the country’s economy as it battles Russia’s 13-month-old invasion.

The IMF-supported programme will help maintain economic and financial stability, catalyse much needed financing from donors and partners and support Ukraine’s recovery in the post-war period, the body said.

Finland to join Nato as hold-out Turkey approves membership bid

05:30 , Eleanor Noyce

Finland is set to join Nato “in days” after Turkey’s parliament voted to ratify its membership bid, submitted in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Turkey was the last among Nato’s members to ratify the bid, after months of negotiations between Ankara and Helsinki. All 276 MPs present voted in favour.

“All 30 Nato allies have now ratified the accession protocol,” the alliance’s secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, said on Friday. “Finland will formally join our alliance in the coming days.”

Finland’s entrance into Nato is a significant moment. It shares an 830-mile border with Russia, and the two nations fought ferociously during the Second World War. Helsinki also possesses one of the most powerful arsenals in Western Europe.

Read the full story:

Finland to join Nato as hold-out Turkey approves membership bid

American detained in Russia a 'brave, committed' journalist

05:00 , Eleanor Noyce

In case you missed it...

Working as a journalist in Moscow seemed a natural fit for Evan Gershkovich, the son of immigrants from the Soviet Union who grew up speaking Russian at home in Princeton, N.J.

After he graduated in 2014 from Bowdoin College, one of the country’s most selective schools, however, “it took me awhile to figure out that journalism was the career for me,” he said in a 2020 interview on the school’s website.

Now Russia’s Federal Security Service says the 31-year-old American reporter for The Wall Street Journal has been arrested on charges of espionage. The FSB, the country’s top security agency and successor to the KGB, said Gershkovich was collecting information on an enterprise of the military-industrial complex.

The Journal denied the allegations and demanded his release.

Sarah Conly, a retired philosophy professor at Bowdoin, recalled that Gershkovich was unafraid to speak up while other students hung back.

Read more:

American detained in Russia a 'brave, committed' journalist

Civilian casualty figure of 8,400 ‘tip of the iceberg’ says UN

04:45 , Sravasti Dasgupta

Thirteen months since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the toll of civilian casualties in the war-torn country is only “the tip of the iceberg”, says the UN.

On Friday, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said: “Using the rigorous methodology of my office, our staff have verified more than 8,400 civilian deaths, and over 14,000 civilians wounded, since 24 February 2022.

“These figures are just the tip of the iceberg. Most of the casualties resulted from the Russian forces’ use of wide-impact explosive weaponry in residential neighbourhoods.”

 (Global Images Ukraine via Getty)
(Global Images Ukraine via Getty)

Why does Russia want tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus?

04:30 , Eleanor Noyce

The announcement by Russian President Vladimir Putin that he intends to deploy tactical nuclear weapons on the territory of Belarus appears to be another attempt to raise the stakes in the conflict in Ukraine.

It follows Putin’s warnings that Moscow is ready to use “all available means,” to fend off attacks on Russian territory, a reference to its nuclear arsenal.

A look at Putin’s statement and its implications:

Why does Russia want tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus?

In pictures: WSJ reporter Evan Gershkovich escorted from Russian court

04:00 , Eleanor Noyce

Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich is escorted by officers from the Lefortovsky court to a bus, in Moscow, Russia (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)
Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich is escorted by officers from the Lefortovsky court to a bus, in Moscow, Russia (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)
Reporter for the Wall Street Journal Evan Gershkovich is escorted by officers from the Lefortovsky court to a bus, in Moscow, Russia, (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)
Reporter for the Wall Street Journal Evan Gershkovich is escorted by officers from the Lefortovsky court to a bus, in Moscow, Russia, (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Takeaways from AP's interview with Ukraine's Zelenskyy

03:30 , Eleanor Noyce

In case you missed it...

A team of journalists from The Associated Press spent two days traveling by train with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy as he visited the southeastern city of Zaporizhzhia, which still faces regular shelling from Russian forces, and northern towns in the Sumy region that were liberated shortly after the war began a year ago.

The AP is the first news organisation to travel extensively with Zelenskyy since the war began. Here are some takeaways from an interview with Zelenskyy as he returned to Kyiv late Tuesday:

Takeaways from AP's interview with Ukraine's Zelenskyy

Putin could place strategic nuclear weapons in Belarus, Lukashenko says

03:00 , Eleanor Noyce

The president of Belarus has said that Russian strategic nuclear weapons might be deployed in his country along with part of Russia’s tactical nuclear arsenal.

Russian president Vladimir Putin said earlier this week his country intends to deploy tactical, comparatively short-range and small-yield nuclear weapons in Belarus, its neighbour and ally.

The statement from Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko on Friday about strategic nuclear weapons such as missile-borne warheads will pose an even greater threat if it comes to pass.

Mr Lukashenko spoke during his state-of-the-nation address amid escalating tensions over the conflict in Ukraine.

“Putin and I will decide and introduce here, if necessary, strategic weapons, and they must understand this, the scoundrels abroad, who today are trying to blow us up from inside and outside,” the Belarusian leader said.

“We will stop at nothing to protect our countries, our state and their peoples.”

Read the full story:

Putin could place strategic nuclear weapons in Belarus, Lukashenko says

Why did Russia invade Ukraine?

02:30 , Eleanor Noyce

Russia’s “special military operation” in Ukraine has been raging for one year now as the conflict continues to record devastating casualties and force the mass displacement of millions of blameless Ukrainians.

Vladimir Putin began the war by claiming Russia’s neighbour needed to be “demilitarised and de-Nazified”, a baseless pretext on which to launch a landgrab against an independent state that happens to have a Jewish president in Volodymyr Zelensky.

Ukraine has fought back courageously against Mr Putin’s warped bid to restore territory lost to Moscow with the collapse of the Soviet Union and has continued to defy the odds by defending itself against Russian onslaughts with the help of Western military aid.

Battle tanks from the US, Britain and Germany are now being supplied for the first time and Mr Zelensky toured London, Paris and Brussels in early February 2023 to request fighter jets be sent as well in order to counter the Russian aerial threat, a step the allies appear to have reservations about making, although Joe Biden has since visited Kyiv in a gesture of solidarity.

Much of the fighting has been concentrated around the key eastern city of Bakhmut of late, with bombardments and heavy artillery fire taking place as Russian forces ramp up a major new offensive with the one-year anniversary of the war looming.

Read more:

Here’s why Putin really invaded Ukraine

Russia sends bombs as Ukraine marks grim Bucha anniversary

02:00 , Eleanor Noyce

Russia used its long-range arsenal to bombard anew several areas of Ukraine on Friday, killing at least two civilians and damaging homes as Ukrainians commemorated the anniversary of the liberation of Bucha.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that Bucha, a town near Kyiv, stands as a symbol of the atrocities the Russian military has committed since its full-scale invasion began in February 2022.

“We will never forgive,” Zelenskyy said in a post on his Telegram channel. “We will punish every perpetrator.”

The Kremlin’s forces occupied Bucha weeks after they invaded Ukraine and stayed for about a month. When Ukrainian troops retook the town, they encountered horrific scenes: bodies of women, young and old men, in civilian clothing, lying in the street where they had fallen or in yards and homes.

Other bodies were found in a mass grave. Over weeks and months, hundreds of bodies were uncovered, including some of children.

Hanna Arhirova reports:

Russia sends bombs as Ukraine marks grim Bucha anniversary

Who is sending tanks to Ukraine?

01:30 , Eleanor Noyce

Tanks from Germany and the UK have arrived in Ukraine – with the country’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky having said such heavy weaponry is crucial to replenish his nation’s military hardware to fight off Russia’s invasion. Kyiv also wants them to try and recapture territory taken by Moscow’s forces.

Why does Ukraine want Germany’s Leopard 2 in particular?

The tank is regarded as one of the West’s best. German defence company Krauss-Maffei Wegmann has built more than 3,500 Leopard 2 tanks since beginning production in 1978.

The tank weighs more than 60 tons, has a 120mm smoothbore gun and can hit targets at a distance of up to five km. It has a laser range finder that can measure distance to an object, meaning that aiming at moving targets while travelling over rough terrain becomes easier. Night vision capability also helps.

Some 20 nations operate the Leopard 2, which also makes it easier for Ukraine to manage maintenance and crew training.

My colleague Chris Stevenson reports:

Countries are sending more tanks to Ukraine to fight Putin’s forces – here’s why

Zelensky vows ‘never to forgive’ Russia over Bucha occupation on liberation anniversary

01:00 , Eleanor Noyce

President Volodymyr Zelensky has said Ukraine will never forgive Russian troops responsible for atrocities in Bucha, as the town near Kyiv marked the anniversary of its recapture after more than a month of occupation.

Ukrainian forces took back control of the towns of Bucha and Irpin to the northwest of Kyiv in late March last year as Russian invasion forces abandoned their attempt to seize the capital.

“Russian evil will collapse right here in Ukraine, and will never be able to rise again. Humanity will prevail,” Mr Zelensiy said, leading a ceremony at which the Ukrainian flag was raised in Bucha.

The president handed out medals to soldiers involved in recapturing the town, and relatives received medals on behalf of fallen soldiers who were awarded them posthumously.

Read more:

Zelensky vows ‘never to forgive’ Russia over Bucha on liberation anniversary

Orlando Bloom tells President Zelensky stoicism of Ukraine is ‘awe-inspiring’

Saturday 1 April 2023 00:30 , Eleanor Noyce

Orlando Bloom has praised the strength of the Ukrainian people as he met the country’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, and encouraged him to “go win” the war.

The British actor, 46, who is a Unicef Goodwill Ambassador, travelled to Kyiv in his first visit back to Ukraine since 2016.

In the meeting, Bloom told Mr Zelensky it is “remarkable to see how you are holding this country” and said it was a “real honour” to meet the Ukrainian president.

He said: “(It is) so encouraging in so many ways to see just the remarkably stoic nature of the people of Ukraine. And of course, your messaging that I think is reflected in their courage, and in their determination and in their perseverance and resilience.

“To see the children, to see in their eyes, it’s palpable the anxiety and yet, the strength of the Ukrainian people is something that is really awe-inspiring in truth and, of course, your messaging is the reason for that.”

Read the full story:

Orlando Bloom tells President Zelensky stoicism of Ukraine is ‘awe-inspiring’

TikTok propaganda labels fall flat in 'huge win' for Russia

Saturday 1 April 2023 00:00 , Martha Mchardy

A year ago, following Russia‘s invasion of Ukraine, TikTok started labeling accounts operated by Russian state propaganda agencies as a way to tell users they were being exposed to Kremlin disinformation.

An analysis a year later shows the policy has been applied inconsistently. It ignores dozens of accounts with millions of followers. Even when used, labels have little impact on Russia’s ability to exploit TikTok’s powerful algorithms as part of its effort to shape public opinion about the war.

Researchers at the Alliance for Securing Democracy, a bipartisan, transatlantic nonprofit operated by the German Marshall Fund that studies authoritarian disinformation, identified nearly 80 TikTok accounts operated by Russian state outlets like RT or Sputnik, or by individuals linked to them, including RT’s editor-in-chief.

More than a third of the accounts were unlabeled, despite a labeling policy announced by TikTok a year ago. The labels, which appear in bold immediately below an account’s name, read “Russia state-controlled media.” Clicking on the label brings up more information, including a description that “the government has control over the account’s editorial content.”

David Klepper reports:

TikTok propaganda labels fall flat in 'huge win' for Russia

In pictures: The aftermath of a missile attack in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine

Friday 31 March 2023 23:30 , Eleanor Noyce

Zaporizhzhia, like other frontline cities of Ukraine, due to the proximity of the front line, has been regularly shelled by Russian troops since the beginning of the full-scale invasion.

Over the past six months, missile attacks on residential buildings and infrastructure facilities have intensified in the city.

Fragment of residential building damaged by the blast wave after a missile attack on March 31, 2023 in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine (Global Images Ukraine via Getty)
Fragment of residential building damaged by the blast wave after a missile attack on March 31, 2023 in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine (Global Images Ukraine via Getty)
One of five residential building damaged by the blast wave after a missile attack on March 31, 2023 in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine (Global Images Ukraine via Getty)
One of five residential building damaged by the blast wave after a missile attack on March 31, 2023 in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine (Global Images Ukraine via Getty)
Cemetery hit by Russian missile on March 31, 2023 in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine (Global Images Ukraine via Getty)
Cemetery hit by Russian missile on March 31, 2023 in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine (Global Images Ukraine via Getty)
Rescuers work at a residential building damaged by the blast wave after a missile attack on March 31, 2023 in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine (Global Images Ukraine via Getty)
Rescuers work at a residential building damaged by the blast wave after a missile attack on March 31, 2023 in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine (Global Images Ukraine via Getty)

Ukraine accuse Wimbledon of ‘immoral’ stance on Russian and Belarusian participation

Friday 31 March 2023 23:00 , Martha Mchardy

Ukraine’s foreign minister says Wimbledon’s decision to allow Russian and Belarusian players to compete at this year’s Championships is “immoral”.

Dmytro Kuleba called on the UK Government to deny players from the two countries visas following the invasion of Ukraine last year.

Wimbledon said players from the two countries must sign declarations of neutrality and must not express support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, while competitors who receive funding from the Russian or Belarusian states, including sponsorship from state owned or controlled companies, will remain barred.

Jamie Braidwood reports:

Ukraine accuse Wimbledon of ‘immoral’ stance on Russian participation

Ukraine war passes 400 days as Russia suffers major losses in Bakhmut

Friday 31 March 2023 22:30 , Eleanor Noyce

The war in Ukraine has engulfed the European country for more than 400 days and tested the strength of Ukrainian resilience, president Volodymyr Zelensky said on Thursday.

“Four hundred days... Four hundred days of our defence against full-scale aggression. This is a colossal path that we have endured,” the war-time president said in his nightly address.

He added: “All together - everyone who fought and fights for Ukraine. Who took care and takes care about the state and Ukrainians. Who helped and helps our logistics. Who strengthened and strengthens Ukrainian resilience.”

“Ukraine went through the most terrifying days of that February. We survived this winter as well. There is a colossal effort behind these words.

“We passed last spring, which turned the tide of this war in favour of our defence,” he said.

Arpan Rai reports:

Ukraine war passes 400 days as Russia suffers major losses in Bakhmut

Estonian diplomat expelled from Moscow in tit for tat move

Friday 31 March 2023 22:00 , Martha Mchardy

Russia is expelling an Estonian diplomat from Moscow in a tit for tat move following a similar action by Tallinn, Estonia’s foreign ministry said Friday.

Earlier, the Russian Foreign Ministry had summoned Estonia’s charge d’affaires, who heads the European Union country’s mission in Moscow, to protest the expulsion this month of a Russian diplomat in Estonia and announce that an Estonian diplomat must leave Moscow.

The Russian ministry warned that Moscow will also take other retaliatory action in response to the “persistently provocative anti-Russian actions by the Estonian authorities.

”Estonia’s foreign ministry dismissed that charge as “ludicrous.” It said its diplomat has been given until April 5 to leave Russia, and added that the Estonian embassy in Moscow “will continue to operate and the staff will continue their work.”

On March 24, Tallinn said a Russian diplomat’s activities had violated international law, and gave the person five days to leave Estonia, according to the Baltic News Service.

The diplomat, who Estonian broadcaster ERR said was a consul in Tallinn, had allegedly engaged in activities undermining Estonia’s security and constitutional order, spreading propaganda that justifies Russia’s war in Ukraine and causing divisions in Estonian society, BNS said.

In January, the Estonian Foreign Ministry ordered Russia to reduce the size of its embassy staff in Tallinn by more than half, to achieve parity with the number of people working at the Estonian embassy in Moscow. A total of 13 Russian diplomats and eight technical staff were made to leave Estonia at that time.

Russia responded by telling Tallinn that Estonia’s ambassador to Russia had to leave.

Moscow prison for US reporter was used in Stalin's purges

Friday 31 March 2023 21:30 , Eleanor Noyce

Lefortovo prison, where American journalist Evan Gershkovich has been jailed on espionage charges, dates from the czarist era and has been a terrifying symbol of repression since Soviet times.

The inconspicuous, pale yellow complex in eastern Moscow was built as a military penitentiary in 1881 and was used for low-ranking convicts sentenced to relatively short terms. But it gained its notoriety after the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, when it became a top detention facility for the Soviet secret police.

Under Soviet leader Josef Stalin’s Great Terror of mass arrests in the 1930s, Lefortovo was one of the main pre-trial detention facilities for “enemies of the people,” equipped with torture chambers to extract confessions. Stalin’s sadistic secret police chief, Lavrentiy Beria, personally took part in some prisoner interrogations and executions in its basement.

Vasily Blyukher, one of the highest-ranking Red Army officers, was among those who died in 1938 after being tortured in Lefortovo.

After Stalin’s death in 1953, the prison continued to serve as the main detention facility for the KGB, which used it for espionage suspects and political dissidents.

Read the full story:

Moscow prison for US reporter was used in Stalin's purges

At least two killed after Russian bombardment on anniversary of liberation of Bucha - AP

Friday 31 March 2023 21:00 , Martha Mchardy

Russia has used its long-range arsenal to bombard several areas of Ukraine, killing at least two civilians and damaging homes as Ukrainians commemorate the anniversary of the liberation of Bucha.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Bucha, a town near Kyiv, stands as a symbol of the atrocities the Russian military has committed since its full-scale invasion began in February 2022.

“We will never forgive,” he said in a post on his Telegram channel.

“We will punish every perpetrator.”

Mr Zelensky attended an official ceremony in Bucha, where he was joined by the president of the Republic of Moldova and the prime ministers of Croatia, Slovakia and Slovenia.

The Kremlin’s forces occupied Bucha weeks after they invaded Ukraine and stayed for about a month.

Journal reporter's arrest threatens reporting from Russia

Friday 31 March 2023 20:30 , Eleanor Noyce

The arrest of a Wall Street Journal reporter on espionage charges in Russia has news organizations based outside the country weighing for the second time in a year whether the risks of reporting there during wartime are too great.

The Journal and other news outlets continued to press Friday for the release of Evan Gershkovich, He was taken into custody by Russian security officials a day earlier and accused of spying, charges the newspaper vehemently denies.

More than 30 press freedom groups and news organizations, including the Journal, The New York Times, BBC, The Associated Press, The New Yorker, Time and The Washington Post, signed a letter Friday to Anatoly I. Antonov, Russia’s ambassador to the U.S., expressing concern about “a significant escalation in your government’s anti-press actions.

“Russia is sending the message that journalism within your borders is criminalized and that foreign correspondents seeking to report from Russia do not enjoy the benefits of the rule of law,” they said.

A reporter for The New York Times who was temporarily in Moscow, Valerie Hopkins, left after Gershkovich’s arrest, the newspaper said.

David Bauder reports:

Journal reporter's arrest threatens reporting from Russia

In pictures: Ukrainians mark anniversary of Bucha liberation from Russia occupation

Friday 31 March 2023 20:00 , Martha Mchardy

Ukrainian servicemen hold the huge national flag before it raises to the flagpole during a ceremony marking the first anniversary of the retreat of Russian troops from the Ukrainian town of Bucha (AFP via Getty Images)
Ukrainian servicemen hold the huge national flag before it raises to the flagpole during a ceremony marking the first anniversary of the retreat of Russian troops from the Ukrainian town of Bucha (AFP via Getty Images)
Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal, head of Ukraine's Presidential Office Andriy Yermak and Ukrainian Parliament Speaker Ruslan Stefanchuk attend a ceremony to mark the first anniversary of liberation the town of Bucha, amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine (REUTERS)
Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal, head of Ukraine's Presidential Office Andriy Yermak and Ukrainian Parliament Speaker Ruslan Stefanchuk attend a ceremony to mark the first anniversary of liberation the town of Bucha, amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine (REUTERS)
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (L)  awards a National Guard serviceman following a ceremony to raise the State Flag of Ukraine near the city of Bucha, outskirts of Kyiv (EPA)
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (L) awards a National Guard serviceman following a ceremony to raise the State Flag of Ukraine near the city of Bucha, outskirts of Kyiv (EPA)
Slovenia's Prime Minister Robert Golob, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, Moldovan President Maia Sandu, Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic and Slovakian Prime Minister Eduard Heger attend a commemorative ceremony marking the first anniversary of liberation the town of Bucha (via REUTERS)
Slovenia's Prime Minister Robert Golob, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, Moldovan President Maia Sandu, Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic and Slovakian Prime Minister Eduard Heger attend a commemorative ceremony marking the first anniversary of liberation the town of Bucha (via REUTERS)

Finland to join Nato as hold-out Turkey approves membership bid

Friday 31 March 2023 19:00 , Martha Mchardy

Finald is set to join Nato “in days” after Turkey’s parliament voted to ratify its membership bid, submitted in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Turkey was the last among Nato’s members to ratify the bid, after months of negotiations between Ankara and Helsinki. All 276 MPs present voted in favour.

“All 30 Nato allies have now ratified the accession protocol,” the alliance’s secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, said on Friday. “Finland will formally join our alliance in the coming days.”

Borzou Daragahi reports:

Finland to join Nato as hold-out Turkey approves membership bid

IMF approves $15.6 billion loan for Ukraine

Friday 31 March 2023 18:00 , Eleanor Noyce

The International Monetary Fund’s executive board has approved a four-year $15.6 billion financing package for Ukraine, it confirmed on Friday.

The loan marks Ukraine’s largest since Russia’s invasion in February 2022, alongside the first IMF-approved package to a country involved in an active conflict.

Ukrainian Orthodox Church members block entrance to church at compound of Kyiv Pechersk Lavra monastery

Friday 31 March 2023 17:00 , Martha Mchardy

Believers of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church accused of being linked to Moscow, block an entrance to a church at a compound of the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra monastery (REUTERS)
Believers of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church accused of being linked to Moscow, block an entrance to a church at a compound of the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra monastery (REUTERS)
Believers of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church accused of being linked to Moscow, block an entrance to a church at a compound of the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra monastery (REUTERS)
Believers of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church accused of being linked to Moscow, block an entrance to a church at a compound of the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra monastery (REUTERS)
A supporter of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine argues with believers of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, accused of being linked to Moscow, while they block an entrance to a church at a compound of the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra monastery (REUTERS)
A supporter of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine argues with believers of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, accused of being linked to Moscow, while they block an entrance to a church at a compound of the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra monastery (REUTERS)
A protestor against the Ukrainian Orthodox Church accused of being linked to Moscow, shouts slogans outside a church at a compound of the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra monastery (REUTERS)
A protestor against the Ukrainian Orthodox Church accused of being linked to Moscow, shouts slogans outside a church at a compound of the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra monastery (REUTERS)
Ukrainian activists argue with believers of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church who block a door of a building to not let Ukrainian officials to enter (Getty Images)
Ukrainian activists argue with believers of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church who block a door of a building to not let Ukrainian officials to enter (Getty Images)

EU may need to reintroduce tariffs on Ukrainian grain, PMs say

Friday 31 March 2023 16:10 , Martha Mchardy

Tariffs on Ukrainian agricultural imports may need to be reintroduced if an influx of products that is pushing down prices in European Union markets cannot be stopped by other means, the prime ministers of five eastern states said on Friday.

In a letter to European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen published on a Polish government website, the prime ministers of Poland, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and Slovakia said that the scale of the increase of products including grains oilseeds, eggs, poultry and sugar had been “unprecedented”.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Ukraine, one of the world’s largest grain exporters, had its Black Sea ports blocked following Russia’s February 2022 invasion and found alternative shipping routes through European Union states Poland and Romania.

Logistical bottlenecks mean large quantities of Ukrainian grains, which are cheaper than those produced in the EU, have ended up in central European states, hitting prices and sales of local farmers.

In the letter the prime ministers called for a variety of measures to limit market distortions caused by Ukrainian imports, but said that if these were not successful tariffs and tariff quotas should be reintroduced.

“Let’s support Ukraine, but let’s do it wisely and, above all, let’s put the interest of the country and Polish farmers in the first place,” Polish prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on Twitter.

Among the measures proposed in the letter was a joint solution between the EU and the World Food Program to ensure Ukrainian grain does not end up in EU markets.

They reiterated calls for more funds to help farmers and for faster development of transport infrastructure to help with the transport of goods from Ukraine.

They also called for changes to laws on agricultural imports that would help regulate the volume and direction of the inflow of agricultural products.

Biden to Russia on detained US journalist: 'Let him go'

Friday 31 March 2023 15:40 , Martha Mchardy

President Joe Biden on Friday urged Russia to release Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich after the country’s security service arrested him on espionage charges — allegations that the newspaper denies.“Let him go,” Biden told reporters at the White House on Friday morning when asked about his message to Russia on the arrest of Gershkovich.

Reporter for the Wall Street Journal Evan Gershkovich is escorted by officers from the Lefortovsky court (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)
Reporter for the Wall Street Journal Evan Gershkovich is escorted by officers from the Lefortovsky court (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Russia’s Federal Security Service has accused Gershkovich, a U.S. citizen, of trying to obtain classified information. It is the first time an American journalist has been detained on accusations of spying since the Cold War. The Journal has said it “vehemently denies” the charges.The Biden administration said Thursday that it was working to secure consular access to Gershkovich. Asked Friday morning whether he would expel Russian diplomats or journalists in the U.S., Biden responded: “That’s not the plan right now.”Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House press secretary, called the targeting of U.S. citizens in Russia “unacceptable” and that the administration condemns the detention of Gershkovich “in the strongest terms.”The Biden administration has also warned U.S. citizens not to travel to Russia, and for Americans in the country now to depart immediately.

Ukraine looks to block athletes from competing with Russians

Friday 31 March 2023 15:10 , Martha Mchardy

The Ukrainian government is looking to block its athletes from sports competitions, particularly qualifying events for next year’s Paris Olympics, which readmit Russian athletes.

The International Olympic Committee recommended Tuesday that sports federations allow Russians and Belarusians to compete as neutral athletes without national symbols. Ukraine wanted to continue the full exclusion, which had been in place in most sports since shortly after last year’s Russian invasion.

Government minister Oleh Nemchinov said Thursday that a decision had been taken only to enter events with no Russians involved, according to public broadcaster Suspilne.

Read the full story:

Ukraine looks to block athletes from competing with Russians

Russia might put strategic nukes in Belarus, leader says

Friday 31 March 2023 14:40 , Martha Mchardy

The president of Belarus says Russian strategic nuclear weapons might be deployed in his country along with part of Russia’s tactical nuclear arsenal.

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced this week that his country intended to deploy tactical, comparatively short-range and small-yield nuclear weapons in Belarus, its neighbour and ally.

The statement from Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko about strategic nuclear weapons such as missile-borne warheads would pose an even greater threat if it comes to pass.

Lukashenko spoke during his state-of-the-nation address on Friday, amid escalating tensions over the conflict in Ukraine and contentions that Western powers want to ruin Russia and Belarus.

Read the full story here:

Russia might put strategic nukes in Belarus, leader says

Players from Russia and Belarus cleared to compete at Wimbledon this year

Friday 31 March 2023 14:10 , Martha Mchardy

Russian and Belarusian players will be allowed to compete at Wimbledon this year, the All England Club has announced.

Athletes from the two countries must sign declarations of neutrality and must not express support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, while players who receive funding from the Russian or Belarusian states, including sponsorship from state owned or controlled companies, will remain barred.

The same conditions will apply for the other British grass-court tournaments including Queen’s, reversing the decision made by the All England Club and Lawn Tennis Association 12 months ago.

Eleanor Crooks reports:

Players from Russia and Belarus cleared to compete at Wimbledon this year

Russia sends bombs as Ukraine marks grim Bucha anniversary

Friday 31 March 2023 13:40 , Martha Mchardy

Russia used its long-range arsenal to bombard anew several areas of Ukraine on Friday, killing at least two civilians and damaging homes as Ukrainians commemorated the anniversary of the liberation of Bucha.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that Bucha, a town near Kyiv, stands as a symbol of the atrocities the Russian military has committed since its full-scale invasion began in February 2022.

“We will never forgive,” Zelenskyy said in a post on his Telegram channel. “We will punish every perpetrator.”

Hanna Arhirova reports:

Russia sends bombs as Ukraine marks grim Bucha anniversary

In pictures: Bucha one year on after liberation from Russian occupation

Friday 31 March 2023 13:10 , Martha Mchardy

Ukrainians are marking the first anniversary of the liberation of the town of Bucha from Russian occupation on Friday, with President Volodymyr Zelenskiy saying Kyiv would never forgive those responsible for alleged atrocities there.

Graves of unidentified people killed by Russian soldiers during occupation of the Bucha town, are seen at the town's cemetery before the first anniversary of its liberation (REUTERS)
Graves of unidentified people killed by Russian soldiers during occupation of the Bucha town, are seen at the town's cemetery before the first anniversary of its liberation (REUTERS)
Civilian cars and military vehicle destroyed amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, are seen in front of the apartment buildings in the town of Bucha, before the first anniversary of its liberation (REUTERS)
Civilian cars and military vehicle destroyed amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, are seen in front of the apartment buildings in the town of Bucha, before the first anniversary of its liberation (REUTERS)
A local resident carries a collected scrap metal on a bicycle near civilian cars and military vehicle destroyed amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, are seen in the town of Bucha, before the first anniversary of its liberation, outside Kyiv, (REUTERS)
A local resident carries a collected scrap metal on a bicycle near civilian cars and military vehicle destroyed amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, are seen in the town of Bucha, before the first anniversary of its liberation, outside Kyiv, (REUTERS)

Russia's Lavrov: Russia ready to respond to 'existential threats

Friday 31 March 2023 12:44 , Martha Mchardy

Foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said on Friday that Russia faced “existential threats” to its security and development from “unfriendly states” as he presented president Vladimir Putin with an updated foreign policy doctrine.

Mr Lavrov told a televised meeting of the Kremlin’s Security Council that the new concept would outline how Russia could take “symmetrical and asymmetric measures in response to unfriendly actions against Russia”, referring to “unprecedented pressure” being placed on Russia by its Western foes.

Watch: Moment Austria's pro-Russia lawmakers walk out of Zelensky's speech

Friday 31 March 2023 12:40 , Martha Mchardy

American detained in Russia a 'brave, committed' journalist

Friday 31 March 2023 12:10 , Martha Mchardy

Working as a journalist in Moscow seemed a natural fit for Evan Gershkovich, the son of immigrants from the Soviet Union who grew up speaking Russian at home in Princeton, N.J.

After he graduated in 2014 from Bowdoin College, one of the country’s most selective schools, however, “it took me a while to figure out that journalism was the career for me,” he said in a 2020 interview on the school’s website.

Now Russia’s Federal Security Service says the 31-year-old American reporter for The Wall Street Journal has been arrested on charges of espionage. The FSB, the country’s top security agency and successor to the KGB, said Gershkovich was collecting information on an enterprise of the military-industrial complex.

The Journal denied the allegations and demanded his release.

Read the full story:

American detained in Russia a 'brave, committed' journalist

Belarus' Lukashenko says he does not fear sanctions over Russian nuclear weapons

Friday 31 March 2023 11:57 , Martha Mchardy

Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko said on Friday he does not fear the possibility of fresh Western sanctions against his country over the deployment of Russian tactical nuclear weapons to Belarus.

In an hours-long televised address to the nation, Lukashenko said Minsk was prepared to defend its sovereignty through any means necessary, including nuclear.

He also said Belarus had deployed a special forces contingent to its southern border with Ukraine “to prevent provocations.”

Kremlin: Trump indictment an ‘internal’ matter for the US

Friday 31 March 2023 11:54 , Martha Mchardy

Donald Trump’s indictment is an “internal” matter for the US, the Kremlin says.

Russia will not comment on the indictment of former US President Donald Trump, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said on Friday during a regular call with journalists, CNN reported.

The Kremlin said the indictment is an “internal” matter for the United States and not a matter for Russia.

“I do not think that this is a topic for any of our comments. These are internal American processes that we do not consider it necessary to comment on in any way,” Mr Peskov said.

Norway wealth fund still unable to divest from Russia, government says

Friday 31 March 2023 11:50 , Martha Mchardy

Norway’s $1.3 trillion wealth fund, one of the world’s largest investors, is still unable to divest its holdings in Russia, which the government decided it must do after the invasion of Ukraine, the Norwegian finance ministry said on Friday.

At the time of the invasion in February last year, the fund’s Russian assets consisted of shares in 47 companies and some government bonds, which had been valued at a combined 25 billion Norwegian crowns ($2.40 billion) at the end of 2021.

“The market for trading in Russian financial instruments is still subject to comprehensive sanctions and has not been normalised as of March 2023,” the Norwegian finance ministry said in a policy document.

“Hence, divestment cannot be executed for the time being.”

Transcript of AP interview with Volodymyr Zelensky

Friday 31 March 2023 11:40 , Martha Mchardy

AP Executive Editor Julie Pace interviewed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy as Zelenskyy visited the southeastern city of Zaporizhzhia, which still faces regular shelling from Russian forces, and northern towns in the Sumy region that were liberated shortly after the war began a year ago.

Zelenskyy spoke to the AP aboard a train shuttling him across Ukraine to cities near some of the fiercest fighting and others where his country’s forces have successfully repelled Russia’s invasion. Zelenskyy rarely travels with journalists, and the president’s office said AP’s two-night train trip with him was the most extensive since the war began.

Read the full transcript here:

Transcript of AP interview with Volodymyr Zelenskyy

U.N. human rights chief decries 'shockingly routine' abuses in Ukraine war

Friday 31 March 2023 11:32 , Martha Mchardy

The United Nations Human Rights chief Volker Turk deplored on Friday how grave human rights violations were “shockingly routine” in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and said the number of civilian casualties was far higher than official figures.

Addressing the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, Mr Turk said Ukraine was a nation “struggling to survive” in the face of Russia’s invasion.

“After 13 months of the Russian Federation’s war against Ukraine, severe violations of human rights and international humanitarian law have become shockingly routine,” he said.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk (' KEYSTONE / SALVATORE DI NOLFI)
U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk (' KEYSTONE / SALVATORE DI NOLFI)

“People across the country face massive suffering and loss, deprivation, displacement and destruction.”

Fighting is still raging in eastern and southern Ukraine, where Russian forces hold swathes of territory captured after they invaded in February last year.

Russia has repeatedly denied accusations that its forces have committed atrocities.

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has verified more than 8,400 civilian deaths and more than 14,000 civilians wounded.

“These figures are just the tip of the iceberg,” Turk said. “Most of the casualties resulted from Russian forces’ use of wide-impact explosive weaponry in residential neighbourhoods.”

The U.N. Human Rights Council is the only body made up of governments to protect human rights worldwide. It does not have legally binding powers but its debates can spur investigations that feed evidence to national and international courts.

The Council next week is expected to adopt a resolution to extend and deepen the mandate of a U.N. investigative body set up to probe possible atrocities in Ukraine.

Ukrainian authorities, who have called for the establishment of a special tribunal to prosecute the Russian political and military leadership over the invasion, have said the investigative body was essential to holding Russia accountable.

Russia says Ukraine ceasefire now would not achieve Moscow's goals

Friday 31 March 2023 11:20 , Martha Mchardy

The Kremlin said on Friday that it had noted a call by Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko for an immediate ceasefire in Ukraine on Friday and would discuss it with him, but that it could not at the moment achieve the goals of its “special military operation” in this way.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said president Vladimir Putin would discuss Lukashenko’s call for negotiations next week, but added that some elements of a peace plan proposed by China were unworkable because Ukraine was following Western orders not to negotiate with Moscow.

Belarus detains Russian dad convicted in antiwar art case

Friday 31 March 2023 11:10 , Martha Mchardy

Authorities in Belarus said Thursday they have detained a fugitive single father who escaped house arrest in neighbouring Russia shortly before he was convicted of discrediting the army and sentenced to prison following his daughter’s antiwar sketch at school.

Alexei Moskalyov was taken into custody in the Minsk region of Belarus, according to Natalya Sakharchuk, a spokeswoman for the country’s Interior Ministry. Her comments were reported by Russian state news agency RIA-Novosti and the Sputnik Belarus news site, saying he was being held “upon request of the Russian police.”

Moskalyov, 54, drew international attention this week in a case that underscored the scale of the Kremlin’s crackdown on dissent when he was convicted and sentenced to two years in prison. He wasn’t in the courtroom in his hometown of Yefremov for the verdict Tuesday because he had fled his apartment, where he was under house arrest, just the day before.

Read the full story:

Belarus detains Russian dad convicted in antiwar art case

Russia to exercise all its rights as U.N. Security Council president - Kremlin

Friday 31 March 2023 11:04 , Martha Mchardy

The Kremlin said on Friday that Russia plans to exercise all its rights at the United Nations as it takes over the rotating presidency of the Security Council in April.

The United States on Thursday urged Russia to “conduct itself professionally” when it assumes the role, saying there was no means to block Moscow from the post.

Kremlin: Foreign journalists can carry on working in Russia

Friday 31 March 2023 11:03 , Martha Mchardy

The Kremlin said on Friday that all accredited foreign journalists could continue to work in Russia, a day after the country’s FSB security service said it had arrested a Wall Street Journal reporter on espionage charges.

The Kremlin said reporter Evan Gershkovich had been carrying out espionage “under the cover” of journalism. Russia has presented no evidence to support the charges - the first such case against an American reporter since the end of the Cold War - which have been denied by the WSJ.

Watch: Aerial footage of Ukrainian forces destroying Russian storage site near Bakhmut

Friday 31 March 2023 10:48 , Martha Mchardy

Ukraine war passes 400 days as Russia suffers major losses in Bakhmut

Friday 31 March 2023 10:40 , Martha Mchardy

The war in Ukraine has engulfed the European country for more than 400 days and tested the strength of Ukrainian resilience, president Volodymyr Zelensky said on Thursday.

“Four hundred days... Four hundred days of our defence against full-scale aggression. This is a colossal path that we have endured,” the war-time president said in his nightly address.

He added: “All together - everyone who fought and fights for Ukraine. Who took care and takes care about the state and Ukrainians. Who helped and helps our logistics. Who strengthened and strengthens Ukrainian resilience.”

“Ukraine went through the most terrifying days of that February. We survived this winter as well. There is a colossal effort behind these words.

“We passed last spring, which turned the tide of this war in favour of our defence,” he said.

Arpan Rai reports:

Ukraine war passes 400 days as Russia suffers major losses in Bakhmut

Latest: Destruction in Kharkiv amid Russia’s attack of Ukraine

Friday 31 March 2023 10:10 , Martha Mchardy

At least nine Russian missiles have destroyed homes and vehicles in the northeastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, according to the regional governor.

Three civilians were injured in the blasts that hit the area late last night, said Oleh Sinegubov this morning.

The missiles were launched from the southern Russian region of Belgorod, just across the border to the north of Kharkiv, said the governor.

A woman stands next to a residential house destroyed by a Russian missile strike, amid Russia's attack of Ukraine, in Kharkiv (REUTERS)
A woman stands next to a residential house destroyed by a Russian missile strike, amid Russia's attack of Ukraine, in Kharkiv (REUTERS)
A local resident stands next to a building destroyed by a Russian missile strike, amid Russia's attack of Ukraine, in Kharkiv (REUTERS)
A local resident stands next to a building destroyed by a Russian missile strike, amid Russia's attack of Ukraine, in Kharkiv (REUTERS)
Women walk past a building destroyed by a Russian missile strike, amid Russia's attack of Ukraine, in Kharkiv (REUTERS)
Women walk past a building destroyed by a Russian missile strike, amid Russia's attack of Ukraine, in Kharkiv (REUTERS)

Lukashenko says Russian nuclear deployment is safeguard for Belarus

Friday 31 March 2023 10:03 , Martha Mchardy

Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko said on Friday that Russia’s plans to deploy tactical nuclear weapons on the territory of his country were a chance to safeguard Belarus from Western threats.

In a scheduled address to the nation, Lukashenko said the West was building up its military forces in Poland, on Belarus’ borders, and planning to invade and destroy it.

Belarus' Lukashenko: Need talks over Ukraine conflict immediately

Friday 31 March 2023 09:47 , Martha Mchardy

Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko on Friday called for an immediate ceasefire in Ukraine and for talks to start on a lasting peace settlement.

In a scheduled address to the nation, Lukashenko said there should be no preconditions for a ceasefire. He warned Ukraine against launching an anticipated counter-offensive, saying it would make negotiations between Moscow and Kyiv impossible.

US: Russia seeks arms-for-food deal with North Korea

Friday 31 March 2023 09:40 , Martha Mchardy

The White House on Thursday said it has new evidence that Russia is looking again to North Korea for weapons to fuel the war in Ukraine, this time in a deal that would provide Pyongyang with needed food and other commodities in return.It’s the latest accusation that Russia, desperate for weaponry and restricted by sanctions and export controls, is turning to “rogue” nations to help it continue to prosecute the 13-month-old war.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, center right, and North Korea’s leader Kim Jong (AP)
Russian President Vladimir Putin, center right, and North Korea’s leader Kim Jong (AP)

“As part of this proposed deal, Russia would receive over two dozen kinds of weapons and munitions from Pyongyang,” White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said.

“We also understand that Russia is seeking to send a delegation to North Korea and that Russia is offering North Korea food in exchange for munitions.”

The administration has previously declassified intelligence to present evidence that Iran sold hundreds of attack drones to Russia over the summer and that the Wagner Group, a private Russian military company, has taken delivery of arms from North Korea to help bolster its forces as they fight side-by-side with Russian troops in Ukraine.

Experts believe the food situation in North Korea is the worst it has been under Kim Jong Un’s 11-year rule, but they still say they see no signs of imminent famine or mass deaths. Kim vowed to strengthen state control over agriculture and take a spate of other steps to increase grain production, North Korean state media reported earlier this month.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said last month that U.S. intelligence suggested China was considering providing arms and ammunition to Russia, though White House officials have said they have yet to see evidence of Beijing following through with weapons delivery.

The publicizing of Russia’s efforts to get weapons from North Korea is just the latest example of the Biden administration loosening restrictions on intelligence findings and making them public over the course of the grinding war in Ukraine.

The administration has said it has sought to disseminate the intelligence findings so allies and the public remain clear-eyed about Moscow’s intent and Russian President Vladimir Putin thinks twice about his actions.

North Korea, an outlier on the global stage, has sought to enhance relations with Russia since its invasion of Ukraine brought an avalanche of sanctions from the West and broad international condemnation.

Any arms deal with Russia would be a violation of U.N. resolutions that ban North Korea from exporting to or importing weapons from other countries.

North Korea is the only nation aside from Russia and Syria to recognize the independence of Russia-backed separatist territories, Donetsk and Luhansk, in eastern Ukraine.

Ballerinas from Kyiv City ballet perform on stage in York

Friday 31 March 2023 09:10 , Martha Mchardy

Ballerinas from Kyiv City ballet perform on stage during the opening night gala performance at York Theatre Royal in York, Britain, March 30, 2023 (REUTERS)
Ballerinas from Kyiv City ballet perform on stage during the opening night gala performance at York Theatre Royal in York, Britain, March 30, 2023 (REUTERS)
A ballerina from Kyiv City ballet performs on stage during the dress rehearsal for the opening night gala performance at York Theatre Royal in York (REUTERS)
A ballerina from Kyiv City ballet performs on stage during the dress rehearsal for the opening night gala performance at York Theatre Royal in York (REUTERS)
A ballerina from Kyiv City ballet performs on stage during the dress rehearsal for the opening night gala performance at York Theatre Royal in York (REUTERS)
A ballerina from Kyiv City ballet performs on stage during the dress rehearsal for the opening night gala performance at York Theatre Royal in York (REUTERS)
A ballerina from Kyiv City ballet performs on stage during the opening night gala performance at York Theatre Royal in York (REUTERS)
A ballerina from Kyiv City ballet performs on stage during the opening night gala performance at York Theatre Royal in York (REUTERS)
A ballerina from Kyiv City ballet performs on stage during the opening night gala performance at York Theatre Royal in York (REUTERS)
A ballerina from Kyiv City ballet performs on stage during the opening night gala performance at York Theatre Royal in York (REUTERS)

UAE cancels license for Russia's sanctioned MTS bank branch

Friday 31 March 2023 08:53 , Martha Mchardy

The United Arab Emirates Central Bank said on Friday it will cancel the license for a branch of Russia’s MTS bank, which it approved to operate last year and which was made subject of British and US sanctions in February.

Operations at the bank, which is licensed in the emirate of Abu Dhabi, will be wound down within six months under central bank supervision, it said.

“This decision comes after considering the available options regarding the new status of the MTS Bank, and taking into account the sanctions risks associated with the bank after the designation,” the statement said.

During the winding down process the branch will not be allowed to open new accounts or conduct transactions apart from clearing prior obligations, for which purpose alone it will be allowed to use the central bank’s payment systems, it said.

MTS Bank is a fintech unit of Russia’s largest mobile operator Mobile TeleSystems.

Bucha a ‘symbol of atrocities’: Ukraine marks anniversary of liberation of city

Friday 31 March 2023 08:44 , Martha Mchardy

Ukrainians were marking the first anniversary of the liberation of the town of Bucha from Russian occupation on Friday, with President Volodymyr Zelenskiy saying Kyiv would never forgive those responsible for alleged atrocities there.

Ukrainian forces recaptured the small towns of Bucha and Irpin to the northwest of Kyiv in late March last year as Russian invasion forces abandoned an attempt to seize the capital.

International investigators are now collecting evidence in those towns and other places where Ukraine says Russian troops committed large-scale atrocities. Russia denies the allegations.

After Ukraine took back control of Bucha, harrowing images of dead bodies lying in the street were beamed across the world.

Russia’s occupation of the town lasted 33 days, resulting in more than 1,400 deaths, including 37 children, Kyiv said.

“More than 175 people were found in mass graves and torture chambers. 9,000 Russian war crimes. 365 days since it is a free Ukrainian city once again,” Zelenskiy said.

“A symbol of the atrocities of the occupying country’s army. We will never forgive. We will punish every perpetrator,” he wrote on social media.

Bucha, a leafy suburb that is now a regular port of call for visiting foreign leaders, was expected to hold commemorative events to mark the anniversary later on Friday.

Fighting is still raging in the east and south of Ukraine, where Russian forces hold swathes of territory captured after they invaded in February 2022.

For places like Bucha hundreds of miles from the fighting, the war is still felt with regular air raid sirens telling residents to take cover from air strikes that have caused sweeping power outages.

Residents in Bucha told Reuters this week of the deep psychological wounds left by the occupation and said it would take generations to get over it.

Some buildings remain battered in the town and a scrapyard is full of cars and military vehicles destroyed during last year’s fighting.

“We should understand that it’s easy to rebuild walls, but it’s much harder to rebuild a wounded soul,” said Andriy Holovin, a priest at a Ukrainian Orthodox parish.

Boston auction of signed Zelenskyy painting to help Ukraine

Friday 31 March 2023 08:40 , Martha Mchardy

An original painting of Volodymyr Zelenskyy signed by the Ukrainian president is being sold at auction, and proceeds from the sale will be used to benefit the nation’s people suffering during its war with Russia.

Bidding on the 40-by-24-inch (101.5-by-61-centimeter) painting by American artist Oleg Jones starts at $50,000, and the goal is to sell it for at least $100,000, Bobby Livingston, executive vice president of auctioneer RR Auction in Boston, said Thursday.

The painting features an image of Zelenskyy against the background of Ukraine‘s blue and yellow flag. Several raised stars in the upper left of the piece form a heart around the gold trident from the nation’s coat of arms.

The acrylic paints are coated in resin sprinkled with glass dust, giving it a sparkling effect.

It is signed, in English, “Zelenskyy, Glory to Ukraine.” It’s also signed by the artist.

Read the full story:

Boston auction of signed Zelenskyy painting to help Ukraine

In pictures: Explosions reported in Zaporizhzhia district, Ukraine

Friday 31 March 2023 08:35 , Martha Mchardy

Two explosions were reported in the southern Ukrainian city of Zaporizhzhia just after midnight local time on Friday, local monitoring groups have said.

The head of a Russian-installed governing council in occupied parts of the Zaporizhzhia region also reported explosions.

Members of the Ukrainian State Emergency Service clear the rubble at the building which was destroyed as a result of Russian strike in Zaporizhzhia (AP)
Members of the Ukrainian State Emergency Service clear the rubble at the building which was destroyed as a result of Russian strike in Zaporizhzhia (AP)
Members of the Ukrainian State Emergency Service clear the rubble at the building which was destroyed as a result of Russian strike in Zaporizhzhia district, Ukraine, Friday, March 31, 2023 (AP)
Members of the Ukrainian State Emergency Service clear the rubble at the building which was destroyed as a result of Russian strike in Zaporizhzhia district, Ukraine, Friday, March 31, 2023 (AP)
Members of the Ukrainian State Emergency Service clear the rubble at the building which was destroyed as a result of Russian strike in Zaporizhzhia district, Ukraine, Friday, March 31, 2023. (AP)
Members of the Ukrainian State Emergency Service clear the rubble at the building which was destroyed as a result of Russian strike in Zaporizhzhia district, Ukraine, Friday, March 31, 2023. (AP)
Members of the Ukrainian State Emergency Service clear the rubble at the building which was destroyed as a result of Russian strike in Zaporizhzhia district, Ukraine, Friday, March 31, 2023 (AP)
Members of the Ukrainian State Emergency Service clear the rubble at the building which was destroyed as a result of Russian strike in Zaporizhzhia district, Ukraine, Friday, March 31, 2023 (AP)

In pictures: One year ago, scenes of horror emerged from Ukraine’s Bucha

Friday 31 March 2023 08:10 , Martha Mchardy

Ira Gavriluk holds her cat as she walks past the corpses of her husband and her brother, who were killed in Bucha (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)
Ira Gavriluk holds her cat as she walks past the corpses of her husband and her brother, who were killed in Bucha (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)
Bodies lie in a mass grave in Bucha, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, April 3, 2022 (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)
Bodies lie in a mass grave in Bucha, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, April 3, 2022 (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)
A family walks amid destroyed Russian tanks in Bucha, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, Wednesday, April 6, 2022 (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)
A family walks amid destroyed Russian tanks in Bucha, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, Wednesday, April 6, 2022 (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)
The body of a man who was killed with his hands tied behind his back lies on the ground in Bucha, Ukraine (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)
The body of a man who was killed with his hands tied behind his back lies on the ground in Bucha, Ukraine (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)
A dog stands next to the body of an elderly woman killed at the entrance of her house in Bucha (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)
A dog stands next to the body of an elderly woman killed at the entrance of her house in Bucha (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)
A dog passes near another dog that was killed in the courtyard of a house in Bucha (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)
A dog passes near another dog that was killed in the courtyard of a house in Bucha (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)
Municipal workers remove the body of a man in a house in Bucha, Ukraine (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)
Municipal workers remove the body of a man in a house in Bucha, Ukraine (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)
Nadiya Trubchaninova, 70, cries while holding the coffin of her son Vadym, 48, who was killed by Russian soldiers (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)
Nadiya Trubchaninova, 70, cries while holding the coffin of her son Vadym, 48, who was killed by Russian soldiers (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)
A Ukrainian serviceman uses a piece of wood to check if the body of a man dressed in civilian clothing is booby-trapped with explosive devices, in the formerly Russian-occupied Kyiv suburb of Bucha (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)
A Ukrainian serviceman uses a piece of wood to check if the body of a man dressed in civilian clothing is booby-trapped with explosive devices, in the formerly Russian-occupied Kyiv suburb of Bucha (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)
Valentyna Nechyporenko, 77, mourns at the grave of her 47-year-old son Ruslan, during his funeral (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)
Valentyna Nechyporenko, 77, mourns at the grave of her 47-year-old son Ruslan, during his funeral (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Latest: Destruction in Kharkiv amid Russia’s attack of Ukraine

Friday 31 March 2023 07:40 , Martha Mchardy

A local resident walks next to his destroyed car at a site of a residential area hit by a Russian missile strike, amid Russia's attack of Ukraine, in Kharkiv, Ukraine March 31, 2023 (REUTERS)
A local resident walks next to his destroyed car at a site of a residential area hit by a Russian missile strike, amid Russia's attack of Ukraine, in Kharkiv, Ukraine March 31, 2023 (REUTERS)

A year to Bucha massacre: ‘Bodies of people in civilian clothing were scattered’

Friday 31 March 2023 07:10 , Arpan Rai

The cratered roads have been repaved and the damaged houses are gradually being repaired. But the scenes that emerged from this town near Kyiv a year ago, after it was retaken from Russian forces, have indelibly linked its name to the savagery of war.

On the northwestern fringes of the Ukrainian capital, Bucha had been occupied by Russian troops for about a month, taken as they swept toward Kyiv at the start of the invasion of Ukraine that began in late February 2022. When they withdrew, they left behind scenes of horror.

Bodies of civilians lay where they had fallen, beside their bicycles, in their cars, on the sides of roads, in yards, buildings and homes.

Read the full story here:

1 year ago, scenes of horror emerged from Ukraine's Bucha

Journalist Evan Gershkovich detained in Russia ‘brave, committed’

Friday 31 March 2023 07:03 , Arpan Rai

Russia’s Federal Security Service says the 31-year-old American reporter Evan Gershkovich for The Wall Street Journal has been arrested on charges of espionage. The FSB, the country’s top security agency and successor to the KGB, said Gershkovich was collecting information on an enterprise of the military-industrial complex.

Friends and colleagues were shocked by the news and took to social media to describe him as a committed journalist, dismissing the allegations as bogus and ridiculous.

“Journalism is not a crime,” they posted.

Henry Foy, the Financial Times’ European diplomatic correspondent based in Brussels, tweeted: “Evan is an exemplary foreign correspondent, a brilliant reporter and a wonderful, kind-hearted friend.”

Joshua Yaffa, a Russia-Ukraine reporter for The New Yorker, posted: “Evan was not unaware or naïve about the risks. It’s not like he was in Russia because no one bothered to tell him it was dangerous. He is a brave, committed, professional journalist who traveled to Russia to report on stories of import and interest.”

Read the full story here:

American detained in Russia a 'brave, committed' journalist

Belarus detains Russian dad convicted in antiwar art case

Friday 31 March 2023 06:00 , Eleanor Noyce

Authorities in Belarus said Thursday they have detained a fugitive single father who escaped house arrest in neighboring Russia shortly before he was convicted of discrediting the army and sentenced to prison following his daughter’s antiwar sketch at school.

Alexei Moskalyov was taken into custody in the Minsk region of Belarus, according to Natalya Sakharchuk, a spokeswoman for the country’s Interior Ministry. Her comments were reported by Russian state news agency RIA-Novosti and the Sputnik Belarus news site, saying he was being held “upon request of the Russian police.”

Moskalyov, 54, drew international attention this week in a case that underscored the scale of the Kremlin’s crackdown on dissent when he was convicted and sentenced to two years in prison. He wasn’t in the courtroom in his hometown of Yefremov for the verdict Tuesday because he had fled his apartment, where he was under house arrest, just the day before.

Moskalyov was charged over social media posts criticizing the invasion under a law adopted shortly after the February 2022 invasion of Ukraine. During his one-day trial, which concluded Monday, he insisted he had nothing to do with the posts.

Read more:

Belarus detains Russian dad convicted in antiwar art case

Ukrainian soldiers finish Patriot missile training

Friday 31 March 2023 05:47 , Arpan Rai

Sixty-five of Ukrainian soldiers have completed their training on Patriot air defence systems in Oklahoma’s Fort Sill and returned to Europe, Pentagon spokesperson Patrick Ryder has said.

“Just this week, 65 Ukrainian air defenders completed Patriot training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and have now arrived back in Europe,” the top official said.

He added that the newly trained Ukrainian soldiers will return to existing air defence units and are expected to share with fellow soldiers what they’ve learned about using the Patriot system.

“The United States, Germany and the Netherlands have all pledged Patriot systems to Ukraine,” Mr Ryder said.

Transcript of AP interview with Volodymyr Zelenskyy

Friday 31 March 2023 05:00 , Eleanor Noyce

AP Executive Editor Julie Pace interviewed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy as Zelenskyy visited the southeastern city of Zaporizhzhia, which still faces regular shelling from Russian forces, and northern towns in the Sumy region that were liberated shortly after the war began a year ago.

Zelenskyy spoke to the AP aboard a train shuttling him across Ukraine to cities near some of the fiercest fighting and others where his country’s forces have successfully repelled Russia’s invasion. Zelenskyy rarely travels with journalists, and the president’s office said AP’s two-night train trip with him was the most extensive since the war began.

Read the full transcript below:

Transcript of AP interview with Volodymyr Zelenskyy

Wagner has lost ‘substantial manpower’ in Bakhmut fight

Friday 31 March 2023 04:26 , Arpan Rai

Russia’s onslaught on Bakhmut can turn bleak as Wagner group and conventional Russian forces have likely lost manpower in their ongoing fight in the salt mining city, analysts say.

“Western officials reported that Wagner Group and conventional Russian forces have likely lost a substantial amount of manpower in the Bakhmut area, which will further constrain Russia’s offensive on Bakhmut,” the US-based Institute for the Study of War said in its latest analysis.

The think-tank monitoring the war referenced a statement by the US chairman of the joint chief of staff general Mark Milley who said that the Wagner Group has around 6,000 professional personnel and 20,000 to 30,000 recruits, mostly convicts, fighting in the Bakhmut area.

This is lower than the number mentioned by the national security council spokesperson John Kirby in December where he said that the Wagner Group had 50,000 personnel in Ukraine including 10,000 contractors and 40,000 convict recruits.

“It is likely that the difference between Kirby’s 50,000 figure in Ukraine and Milley’s 26,000 to 36,000 figure in the Bakhmut area is the result of casualties from Wagner’s attritional offensive on Bakhmut,” the ISW said.

It added: “Kirby reported on 17 February that the Wagner Group had suffered 30,000 casualties, with 9,000 dead, in operations in Ukraine.

“The Wagner Group may lose thousands more convict recruits in the upcoming weeks as convicts finish their six-month military contracts, and the Wagner leadership appears for now to be allowing pre-pardoned convicts to return from the frontlines to Russia at the conclusion of those contracts,” the ISW said.

Scuffles at Kyiv monastery over alleged Russian ties

Friday 31 March 2023 04:00 , Katy Clifton

Scuffles broke out outside a Kyiv monastery on Thursday after a Ukrainian branch of the Orthodox Church that the government says has ties with Russia defied an eviction order.

Tensions over the presence of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) at the 980-year-old Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra monastery have risen since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February last year.

Kyiv accuses the UOC of maintaining ties with the Russian Orthodox Church, which has supported Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. The UOC says it broke all links with the Russian Church in May 2022.

Hours after a deadline to leave the monastery passed at midnight on Wednesday, members of the UOC refused entry to representatives of a government commission who wanted to inspect buildings in the gold-domed monastery’s sprawling complex.

Shortly afterward, scuffles broke out in which a Reuters reporter was hit and shoved by an unidentified man and another reporter was pushed away by a cleric as she tried to approach him. No one was hurt.

Ukraine has endured 400 days of Putin’s invasion, says Zelensky

Friday 31 March 2023 03:52 , Arpan Rai

Volodymyr Zelensky has lauded Ukrainian strength faced against 400 days of Russia’s full-scale invasion in his nightly address.

“Four hundred days... Four hundred days of our defence against full-scale aggression. This is a colossal path that we have endured . All together - everyone who fought and fights for Ukraine. Who took care and takes care about the state and Ukrainians. Who helped and helps our logistics. Who strengthened and strengthens Ukrainian resilience,” Mr Zelensky said.

He added: “Ukraine went through the most terrifying days of that February. We survived this winter as well. There is a colossal effort behind these words...”

“We passed last spring, which turned the tide of this war in favour of our defence,” he siad.

“Last summer and autumn, we proved that the spring liberation of our northern regions was no accident. The battle for Kyiv, Chernihiv and Sumy regions... The return of the territories of our Kharkiv region, the return of Kherson, the defence of Bakhmut and Donbas in general - this is the heroism of Ukrainians that the world will not forget,” Mr Zelensky said.

Trump claims ‘ignorant and foolish’ DeSantis comments about Putin could lead to nuclear war

Friday 31 March 2023 03:00 , Eleanor Noyce

In his latest campaign video posted to Truth Social, Donald Trump again took aim at Ron DeSantis, this time slamming him for his recent remarks on Russia which took a tougher stance regarding Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine.

The former president sought to tie the Florida governor to remarks made in the past by Senator Mitt Romney and even the late Senator John McCain.

“Calling Russia a gas station with a bunch of nuclear weapons, or calling Putin, quote, ‘an authoritarian gas station attendant with some legacy of nuclear weapons from the old Soviet Union’ is exactly the kind of simple-minded thinking that has produced decades of failed diplomacy and ultimately war,” said the former president.

“And where is that war going? Those such as Mitt Romney and Ron DeSantis, very much alike, who insist on arrogantly treating Russia as deeply inferior to the other nations of the world with no history or culture or pride, are not only ignorant and foolish, but their attitude makes it impossible to negotiate peace. Absolutely impossible,” he continued.

Oliver O’Connell reports:

Trump claims ‘ignorant’ DeSantis remarks about Putin could lead to nuclear war

ICYMI: Russia to stop warning US before carrying out missile tests

Friday 31 March 2023 02:00 , Katy Clifton

Russia will no longer tell the US before carrying out missile tests, a senior Kremlin diplomat said on Wednesday, signalling an end to a decades-long practice that has eased the threat of nuclear escalation.

Sergei Ryabkov, Russian deputy foreign minister, said in remarks carried by Russian news agencies that Moscow had halted all information exchanges with Washington after recently withdrawing from the last remaining nuclear arms pact with the US.

The two nations have exchanged advance warnings about test launches for decades, along with information about the current state of their nuclear forces.

Read more below:

Russia to stop warning US before carrying out missile tests

Zelensky painting up for auction

Friday 31 March 2023 01:00 , Katy Clifton

An original painting of Volodymyr Zelensky signed by the Ukrainian president is being sold at auction, and proceeds from the sale will be used to benefit the nation’s people suffering during its war with Russia.Bidding on the 40-by-24-inch painting by American artist Oleg Jones starts at $50,000, and the goal is to sell it for at least $100,000, Bobby Livingston, executive vice president of auctioneer RR Auction in Boston, said Thursday.The painting features an image of Zelenskyy against the background of Ukraine‘s blue and yellow flag. Several raised stars in the upper left of the piece form a heart around the gold trident from the nation’s coat of arms.

Inside Zelenskyy’s efforts to buoy a nation

Friday 31 March 2023 00:01 , Katy Clifton

The caravan of unmarked vehicles tears across the muddy grass next to the playground. On the merry-go-round, the children stop swinging and spinning. The curious — parents and other residents of this southeastern town — gather around. Car doors swing open, and heavily armed security guards in battlefield fatigues spill out.

And just like that, he is among them: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, wartime leader and his country’s chief morale officer.

This week, Zelenskyy shuttled across the country on a 48-hour train trip to rally soldiers who are battling Russian forces — and, just as important, to buoy the communities often caught in the crossfire.

Read more below:

Ukraine by rail: Inside Zelenskyy's efforts to buoy a nation

Putin calls up 147,000 Russians for spring conscription

Thursday 30 March 2023 23:00 , Eleanor Noyce

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed an annual decree outlining how many citizens should be enlisted to fight as part of its spring conscription campaign.

The decree states that 147,000 Russian citizens should be drafted for military service, Tass news agency reports.

In September 2022, Putin previously signed an order calling for the conscription of 120,000 people as part of its autumn campaign.

At present, all men between the ages of 18 and 27 are required to carry out one year’s military service or the equivalent training if in higher education.

Blinken compares Bosnia Serb leader to Putin

Thursday 30 March 2023 21:00 , Eleanor Noyce

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has compared the policies of the Bosnia Serb separatist leader to those of Russian President Vladimir Putin following his moves to curb dissent and LGBTQ rights.

Blinken tweeted late Wednesday that “Milorad Dodik’s attacks on basic rights and freedoms in Republika Srpska show he is on President Putin’s authoritarian path.”

Republika Srpska is the name for the half of Bosnia that is dominated by the country’s Serbs. Dodik is the entity’s president and leading politician who has repeatedly advocated for the breakup of Bosnia and clashed with Western officials in the Balkan country.

Earlier this month, Dodik’s government faced criticism from the U.S. and the European Union for pushing forward with a law to recriminalize libel and insult offences, which was seen as an attack on the freedom of expression and independent media.

Dodik also announced a law in the upcoming months to prohibit access for LGBTQ activists to kindergartens, schools and universities. This came only days after a group of hooligans attacked LGBTQ activists and journalists in Banja Luka, Republika Srpska’s administrative centre.

Read more:

Blinken compares Bosnia Serb leader to Putin

NATO, US forces join Romania-led Black Sea military drills

Thursday 30 March 2023 20:00 , Eleanor Noyce

Romania’s navy led multinational military drills in the Black Sea region Thursday that brought together U.S. and NATO troops as the 30-nation alliance looks to boost security on its southeastern flank amid Russia’s war in Ukraine.

The sea and air exercises are part of a series of drills known as Sea Shield 2023 that involve some 3,400 military personnel from 12 NATO member countries and some partner nations.

Romania’s navy said Thursday’s drills in the Mahmudia region of the Danube Delta, which flows into the Black Sea, would demonstrate how the combined forces would “neutralize an enemy air landing” in an area adjacent to such a waterway.

More than 30 naval ships, 14 aircraft and 15 “fast intervention” boats and other patrol vessels are taking part in Sea Shield 2023, which started March 20 and runs until April 2. Anti-explosive divers have participated in drills, as have chemical, biological, and nuclear defence specialists.

In response to Russia’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine, NATO bolstered its presence on Europe’s eastern flank by sending additional multinational battlegroups to alliance members Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria, and Slovakia.

Read more:

NATO, US forces join Romania-led Black Sea military drills

White House says Russia looking to trade food for North Korean munitions

Thursday 30 March 2023 19:21 , Eleanor Noyce

The White House said Russia is “actively seeking” to acquire North Korean-made munitions for use against Ukraine and has offered to trade Pyongyang food in exchange for the weapons.

National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby told reporters on Thursday that Russia’s quest for North Korean munitions is a consequence of the American and European sanctions that have been imposed on Moscow since Russian forces began invading Ukraine last year.

In January, the White House claimed that Russia’s Wagner Group had received trainloads of arms from North Korea last year.

Mr Kirby said the Biden Administration remains “concerned” that Pyongyang will provide further support for Russia’s war in Ukraine, and said a private arms dealer has been trying to broker a secret agreement between the two countries.

Andrew Feinberg reports:

White House says Russia looking to trade food for North Korean munitions

Finland says Russia spy operations weakened in Nordic nation

Thursday 30 March 2023 19:00 , Eleanor Noyce

Expulsions of Russian intelligence officers and visa refusals have substantially weakened Moscow’s intelligence operations in neighboring Finland in the past year, the Finnish Security and Intelligence Service said Thursday.

The intelligence agency, known by the abbreviation SUPO, said in a statement that Russian intelligence has been “squeezed” in the Nordic country because of the agency’s ability to compromise spy operations in 2022.

“The Russian intelligence station (in Finland) shrank to about half of its former size last year,” SUPO Director Antti Pelttari said, adding that the main reason for the decline were expulsions of suspected spies and visa refusals on the advice of his agency.

The falling number of intelligence officers and restrictions on travel across the Russian-Finland border amid Moscow‘s war in Ukraine have significantly undermined operating conditions for Russian spies in Finland, SUPO said.

It noted that operations under diplomatic cover have traditionally been the main instrument of Russian intelligence abroad, and Moscow was seeking to use, among other methods, cyberespionge to make up for the shortfall in human intelligence.

Read more:

Finland says Russia spy operations weakened in Nordic nation

Wall Street Journal reporter seen for first time since being arrested in Russia

Thursday 30 March 2023 18:00 , Eleanor Noyce

New footage has captured a Wall Street Journal reporter seen for the first time since being arrested in Russia.

Journalist Evan Gershkovich was arrested in Yekaterinburg on spying charges, according to Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) – the successor to the KGB.

He was brought to Moscow where a court at a closed hearing ordered him held in pre-trial detention until 29 May. The TASS state news agency said he pleaded not guilty. The authorities released no evidence publicly and the case is said to have been marked “top secret”.

The arrest is the most serious public move against an international journalist since Russia invaded Ukraine in February last year. Espionage charges against someone from an American news outlet have not been seen since the end of the Cold War – with the detention coming amid a bitter war of words between Moscow and Washington over the Ukraine war. If convicted, Mr Gershkovich could face up to 20 years in prison.

The Wall Street Journal said in a statement it was “deeply concerned” for Mr Gershkovich’s safety and that it “vehemently denies the allegations from the FSB and seeks the immediate release of our trusted and dedicated reporter”.

Watch here:

Read the full story here:

Russia arrests Wall Street Journal reporter on ‘espionage’ charges

White House releases statement on Wall Street Journal reporter arrested in Russia

Thursday 30 March 2023 17:32 , Eleanor Noyce

The White House has released a statement following the arrest of a Wall Street Journal journalist in Russia.

Evan Gershkovich was arrested in Yekaterinburg on spying charges, according to Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) – the successor to the KGB.

He was brought to Moscow where a court at a closed hearing ordered him held in pre-trial detention until 29 May. The TASS state news agency said he pleaded not guilty. The authorities released no evidence publicly and the case is said to have been marked “top secret”.

A newly-released statement from White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre reads:

“We are deeply concerned by the troubling reports that Evan Gershkovich, an American citizen, has been detained in Russia.

“Last night, White House and State Department Officials spoke with Mr. Gershkovich’s employer, the Wall Street Journal. The Administration has also been in contact with his family.

“Furthermore, the State Department has been in direct touch with the Russian government on this matter, including actively working to secure consular access to Mr. Gershkovich.

“The targeting of American citizens by the Russian government is unacceptable. We condemn the detention of Mr. Gershkovich in the strongest terms.

“We also condemn the Russian government’s continued targeting and repression of journalists and freedom of the press.

“I want to strongly reiterate that Americans should heed the U.S. government’s warning to not travel to Russia. U.S. citizens residing or travelling in Russia should depart immediately, as the State Department continues to advise.”

King Charles praises Germany’s generosity in hosting millions of Ukrainian refugees

Thursday 30 March 2023 17:00 , Eleanor Noyce

King Charles III has praised Germany for showing “extraordinary hospitality” in hosting more than one million refugees from Ukraine since the outbreak of war.

In the first state banquet speech of his reign on Wednesday evening (29 March), Charles also pledged to “strengthen the connections” between the UK and Germany after arriving in Berlin.

“I did want to pay a particular tribute to Germany’s extraordinary hospitality in hosting over one million Ukrainian refugees,” the King said.

“This, it seems to me, so powerfully demonstrates the generosity and spirit of the German people.”

Watch:

King Charles praises Germany’s generosity in hosting millions of Ukrainian refugees

“I’m praying for you”, King Charles tells Ukrainians during historic Bundestag address

Thursday 30 March 2023 16:30 , Eleanor Noyce

The King has told Ukrainians “I’m praying for you” after condemning the “unimaginable suffering” caused by President Vladimir