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Ukraine-Russia war live: Putin’s forces pushed back in dozens of fierce battles in east as more warplanes hit

Ukraine-Russia war live: Putin’s forces pushed back in dozens of fierce battles in east as more warplanes hit

Ukrainian forces have repelled dozens of attacks across the 600-mile frontline over the past 24 hours, Kyiv has claimed, as well as shooting down multiple fighter jets.

The Ukrainian military said there had been Russian attacks in all five regions through which the frontline bisects. The largest concentration of attacks, however, was in Donetsk Oblast, notably around the Avdiivka area where Russia has made recent advances.

“The enemy continues active offensive actions in many areas of the front line. The situation is particularly tense in the Avdiivka and Zaporizhzhia sectors," Ukrainian military chief General Oleksandr Syrskyi said on the Telegram messaging app.

Ukraine has withdrawn from three towns this week around Avdiivka. They withdrew from the city itself on 17 February.

It comes as Ukraine’s military has claimed it shot down three more Russian Su-34 fighter-bombers overnight and into today, the latest successes it has reported against Moscow’s air force.

“After successful combat operations against an enemy aircraft in the night on 29 February, two more Russian aircraft were destroyed: Su-34 fighter-bombers in the Avdiivka and Mariupol sectors,” Army chief Oleksandr Syrskyi said on the Telegram messaging app.

Key Points

  • Navalny’s widow claims his 'body was abused’

  • Macron says putting Western troops on ground in Ukraine cannot be ruled out

  • North Korea has sent millions of artillery shells to Russia, South Korea says

  • Russia captures village near Avdiivka

Families of Ukrainians taken prisoner by Russia desperate for news: ‘Please do not forget them’

15:08 , Tom Watling

The loved ones of some of the thousands of people held incommunicado in Russian-occupied territory or Russia itself, speak to Bel Trew in Kyiv about their fears as the invasion enters its third year

Families of Ukrainians taken prisoner by Russia desperate for news

The Dutch government has spent $180M dealing with the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17

14:45 , Tom Watling

The Dutch government has spent more than 166 million euros ($180 million) dealing with the aftermath of the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine in 2014, from repatriating victims’ bodies to investigating and prosecuting some of those involved in the downing, according to an official report Thursday.

The Boeing 777 flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was shot down on July 17, 2014, using a Russian-made Buk missile fired from territory in eastern Ukraine controlled by separatist rebels. All 298 passengers and crew were killed, including 196 Dutch citizens.

The Dutch government has spent $180M dealing with the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17

Nuclear war, Nato and no mention of Navalny: Putin in rambling state of nation address

14:17 , Tom Watling

Vladimir Putin has spoke for more than two hours in a rambling state of the nation speech, during which he launched a series of nuclear threats against the West ahead of presidential elections in two weeks. But there was one name he would not say, Alexei Navalny, his most prominent critic.

Addressing legislators in Moscow, having turned up 15 minutes late, Putin began his speech by speaking of the “pride” he has in Russia’s seizure of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea, which happened a decade ago, and the subsequent capture of parts of eastern Ukraine.

Putin’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, launched two years ago, has caused hundreds of thousands of casualties among Russian troops according to US estimates, with much of the frontline in bloody stalemate, despite some recent pockets of adavances by Moscow’s troops.

Nuclear war, Nato and no mention of Navalny: Putin in rambling state of nation speech

European defence, foreign ministers to meet in Paris to discuss Ukraine, Moldova support, says French foreign ministry

14:04 , Tom Watling

European defence and foreign ministers will meet in Paris in coming days to discuss further support for Ukraine and Moldova, a French foreign ministry spokesperson said on Thursday.

He added that European states would discuss further concrete measures for Ukraine and how to defend countries being destabilised by Russia, notably Moldova.

Poland may ban Russian agricultural imports, says PM Tusk

13:20 , Tom Watling

Poland doesn’t rule out introducing a ban on agricultural products from Russia, the prime minister said on Thursday during a visit to Warsaw by his counterpart from Latvia, which has already implemented such a ban.

Like much of Europe, Poland has been gripped by protests in recent weeks as farmers demonstrate against European Union environmental regulations and what they say is unfair competition from Ukraine since the bloc waived duties on imports in 2022.

However, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said agricultural products from Russia and Belarus were also causing market distortions.

“Latvia decided to implement an embargo on the import of (agricultural) products from Russia,” Donald Tusk told a news conference. “We will analyse the case of Latvia, and I do not rule out that Poland will take an appropriate initiative.”

Tusk said the European Union needed to “seriously focus on better regulations when it comes to the import of cereals and food products from the east”.

Tusk is due to meet the farmers’ leaders later on Thursday.

Poland's Prime Minister Donald Tusk arrives at the V4 meeting in Prague, Czech Republic (Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)
Poland's Prime Minister Donald Tusk arrives at the V4 meeting in Prague, Czech Republic (Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Blow to Putin as Ukraine says it has shot down three more Russian warplanes

12:50 , Tom Watling

Ukraine’s military has said it has shot down three more Russian Su-34 fighter-bombers, the latest successes it has reported against Moscow’s air force.

“After successful combat operations against an enemy aircraft in the night on Feb. 29, two more Russian aircraft were destroyed: Su-34 fighter-bombers in the Avdiivka and Mariupol sectors,” Army chief Oleksandr Syrskyi said on the Telegram messaging app.

Russia, which began its full-scale invasion of Ukraine two years ago, did not immediately comment on Syrskyi’s remarks.

Blow to Putin as Ukraine says it has shot down three more Russian warplanes

Watch: Putin threatens West with nuclear weapons

12:20 , Tom Watling

Vladimir Putin has threatened to use nuclear weapons on the West.

In his State of the Nation Address on Thursday (29 February), the Russian President said: “They, Nato and America, are active in other parts of the world, of course, and they continue to lie there, to deceive.

“They are preparing to strike our territory and, using the best possible forces, the most effective forces to do so.

“They have to understand that we also have weapons, weapons that can defeat them on their own territory.

“Of course, all this is very dangerous because it could actually trigger the use of nuclear weapons. Do they not understand that?”

Watch: Putin threatens West with nuclear weapons

Russian court rejects appeal by American detained on treason charge

11:55 , Tom Watling

A Russian court on Thursday rejected an appeal by a Russian-American woman against her detention on a treason charge.

The FSB security service said last week that Ksenia Karelina had been detained on suspicion of raising funds for Ukraine‘s armed forces. The Los Angeles resident had been collecting funds for a Ukrainian organisation whose ultimate beneficiary was the Ukrainian army, the FSB said.

A Russian lawyers’ group, Pervy Otdel, said it had information that Karelina had donated just over $50 from her U.S. bank account on Feb. 24, 2022 - the day that Russia launched what it calls its “special military operation” in Ukraine - to a charity that sends aid to Ukraine.

Karelina’s lawyer had asked the court to lift her detention and replace it with house arrest, state news agency RIA said.

Pervy Otdel said Karelina was initially detained on Jan. 27 for alleged “petty hooliganism”, and the treason charge was filed later. It carries up to 20 years in prison under Russian law.

Several other Americans including former marine Paul Whelan and journalists Evan Gershkovich and Alsu Kurmasheva are also imprisoned in Russia.

Their supporters say Russia is using them to exert leverage on Washington and eventually to trade them for Russian prisoners in the United States. The Kremlin says the authorities are simply enforcing Russian laws.

Ukraine’s First Lady meets Queen

11:20 , Tom Watling

Ukrainian First Lady Olena Zelenska, the wife of Volodymyr Zelensky, has met Queen Camilla at Clarence House this morning.

The Queen was pictured in the Garden Room in her London residence.

The pair met previously in November 2022 at a Buckingham Palace reception.

Queen Camilla during a meeting with the First Lady of Ukraine, Olena Zelenska, at Clarence House in London (Yui Mok/PA Wire)
Queen Camilla during a meeting with the First Lady of Ukraine, Olena Zelenska, at Clarence House in London (Yui Mok/PA Wire)

Russian ‘whites only’ party in Sri Lanka sparks diplomatic tensions

11:00 , Tom Watling

A Russian business owner in Sri Lanka has apologised after a “white only” party coinciding with the second anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine sparked diplomatic tensions with Moscow.

Sarayka Lounge, a Russian restaurant bar in southern Sri Lanka’s Unawatuna, said it cancelled the party and disavowed any support for racist ideology.

The event, on 24 February, was advertised as the “White Opening Party” with specific face control and dress code requirements in the southern coastal town. The invitation specified a dress code of white attire and included the instruction, “Face control: White”.

Russian ‘whites only’ party in Sri Lanka sparks diplomatic tensions

Putin: Russia's economy will be one of world's four largest by purchasing power

10:30 , Tom Watling

President Vladimir Putin has said Russia’s economy will soon be among the world’s four largest in terms of purchasing power parity.

Boasting vast natural resources, Russia’s gross domestic product (GDP) rebounded sharply last year from a slump in 2022, but the growth relies heavily on state-funded arms and ammunition production for the war in Ukraine, masking problems that are hampering an improvement in Russians’ living standards.

Putin: Russia will boost troops stationed near new NATO members

10:02 , Tom Watling

Russia will need to strengthen its western military district now that Sweden and Finland have joined Nato, Vladimir Putin has said.

Finland has a long land border with northwest Russia. When they joined Nato last April, it more than doubled the alliance’s border with Russia.

Earlier this week, Putin declared the recreation of the Leningrad Military District (LMD), the sole focus of which will be the Baltic and Finnish border with Russia.

The Institute for the Study of War (ISW), a Washington-based thinktank and war tracker, said the move suggested Putin was “preparing for a potential future large-scale conventional war against Nato in the long term”.

Putin makes renewed threat of nuclear war

09:36 , Tom Watling

Vladimir Putin has issued a renewed threat of nuclear war.

“We too have weapons that can strike on their territory,” Putin said.

“Everything they use to threaten us, all this is a real threat of nuclear weapons being used, which spells the destruction of civilisation. Do they not understand this?”

Earlier during his speech, however, he played down the possibility of nuclear escalation.

Putin claims ‘absolute majority’ of Russian support the war in Ukraine

09:22 , Tom Watling

Vladimir Putin has begun his speech claiming the “absolute majority” of Russians support the war in Ukraine, which he terms a “special military operation”.

“Our heroes on the frontline, where it is the hardest, they know the whole country is with them.” Putin said.

He later described the Russian forces as “indestructible”.

Putin praises annexation of Crimea

09:18 , Tom Watling

Vladimir Putin says the annexation of Crimea is a “matter of pride”, a decade after it was announced.

Putin begins his parliamentary address

09:14 , Tom Watling

Vladimir Putin has begun his parliamentary address.

We will keep you updated on what he says as translations come through.

European leaders rule out sending troops to Ukraine after Macron suggestion – as Russia warns of war with Nato

08:58 , Tom Watling

Leaders across Europe have lined up to rule out putting troops on the ground in Ukraine after French president Emmanuel Macron announced he was open to the idea of sending soldiers to fight against Vladimir Putin’s forces – as the Kremlin warned of the “inevitability” of a direct war with Nato if such a move took place.

The war of words came as Russian forces expanded their takeover of a section on the eastern front line, further capitalising on Ukraine’s significant artillery disadvantage created by the depletion of Western supplies to the country over the last six months.

European leaders rule out sending troops to Ukraine as Russia warns of war with Nato

Ukraine repels Russian attacks but situation is difficult, top general says

08:35 , Tom Watling

Ukrainian forces have pushed back Russian troops from the village of Orlivka, west of Avdiivka, but the situation on the eastern front remains difficult, Ukrainian army chief Oleksandr Syrskyi has admitted

Orlivka is less than 2 kilometres northwest of Lastochkyne, which was recently occupied by Russian forces.

Russian forces last week captured the strategic eastern Ukrainian city of Avdiivka after a months-long assault and are pressing on several other areas along the front line, Ukrainian authorities say.

Ukraine‘s military said this week it had withdrawn from two more villages near Avdiivka, losing more territory as support from its Western allies runs short.

“The enemy continues active offensive actions in many areas of the front line. The situation is particularly tense in the Avdiivka and Zaporizhzhia sectors,” Gen Syrskyi said on the Telegram messaging app.

He said Russian assault units were trying to break through the Ukrainian defences and capture the settlements of Tonenke, Orlivka, Semenivka, Berdychi and Krasnohorivka.

Syrskyi, who visited troops on the eastern front, said some commanders had revealed certain shortcomings in their “situational awareness and assessment of the enemy”, which directly affected the sustainability of defence in certain areas.

“I took all measures to remedy the situation on the ground, with the allocation of additional ammunition and material resources, as well as the necessary reserves,” Syrskyi said.

The Ukrainian military and President Volodymyr Zelensky have repeatedly said that troops are lacking military equipment and ammunition needed to repel Russian attacks because of a shortage of military aid from Western allies.

Ukraine’s military chief Oleksandr Syrskyi visits positions near the frontline in eastern Ukraine (Telegram)
Ukraine’s military chief Oleksandr Syrskyi visits positions near the frontline in eastern Ukraine (Telegram)

Germany accused of ‘flagrant abuse of intelligence’ for revealing British help in Ukraine

08:07 , Tom Watling

German chancellor Olaf Scholz has been accused of a “flagrant abuse of intelligence” for divulging details of British aid for Ukrainian forces.

Mr Scholz said Germany will not be sending Kyiv Taurus, Berlin’s version of the Storm Shadow missile, pointing to a risk of his country becoming directly involved in the war, referring to the UK and French assistance to Ukraine.

On Monday, he said that German soldiers could not follow the lead of their British and French allies in “the way of target control and accompanying target control”.

Germany accused of ‘abuse of intelligence’ for revealing British help in Ukraine

Ukraine downs Russian fighter jet, Kyiv claims

07:38 , Tom Watling

Ukraine has downed another Russian fighter jet, the head of the Ukrainian Air Force has claimed.

“Today, February 29, is a date that occurs once every four years, but it is already a familiar day for Russians with the loss of another plane,” said Mykola Oleshchuk.

He said Ukraine shot down a Su-34 fighter jet in the eastern direction, without providing further details.

At least half a dozen Su-43s have been shot down in the past fortnight, according to claims made by Mr Oleshchuk.

David Cameron steps up pressure on Putin to free ‘heir’ to Alexei Navalny

07:17 , Tom Watling

David Cameron is to rachet up pressure on Vladimir Putin by meeting the wife of Russia’s most prominent opposition leader after Alexei Navalny for crunch Whitehall talks, The Independent can reveal.

In a marked escalation of political tensions between the UK and Russia, the foreign secretary will on Friday sit down with Evgenia Kara-Murza, whose Cambridge-educated husband, Vladimir Kara-Murza, is serving a 25-year sentence in a remote Siberian penal colony for spreading “false” information about the Russian army.

The high-level talks come as human rights figures warn the “heir to Navalny” is next on Putin’s hitlist.

David Cameron steps up pressure on Putin to free ‘heir’ to Alexei Navalny

Putin allies tell Macron: Any French troops you send to Ukraine will suffer fate of Napoleon's army

06:02 , Barney Davis

Vyacheslav Volodin, the chairman of the State Duma, the lower house of Russia’s parliament and a close Putin ally, said Macron appeared to see himself as Napoleon and warned him against following in the footsteps of the French emperor.

“To maintain his personal power, Macron could not think of anything better than to ignite a third world war. His initiatives are becoming dangerous for the citizens of France,” Volodin said on his official social media feed.

“Before making such statements, it would be right for Macron to remember how it ended for Napoleon and his soldiers, more than 600,000 of whom were left lying in the damp earth.”

Napoleon’s 1812 invasion of Russia made rapid progress initially and captured Moscow. But Russian tactics forced his Grande Armee into a long retreat and hundreds of thousands of his men died as a result of disease, starvation and cold.

French President Emmanuel Macron attends a press conference at the end of the meeting in support of Ukraine (EPA)
French President Emmanuel Macron attends a press conference at the end of the meeting in support of Ukraine (EPA)

A Russian court sentences the co-chair of a Nobel-winning rights group to 30 months in prison

05:01 , Barney Davis

A Moscow court on sentenced a veteran human rights advocate who spoke out against the war in Ukraine to two years and six months in prison. He was taken directly into custody from the courtroom.

Oleg Orlov, 70, was convicted of “repeatedly discrediting” the Russian army in an article he wrote denouncing the invasion of Ukraine. He has rejected the case against him as politically motivated.

The prosecution demanded that he be sentenced to two years and 11 months in prison.

A Russian court sentences the co-chair of a Nobel-winning rights group to 30 months in prison

Navalny to be buried in Moscow on Friday amid protests

03:50 , Barney Davis

Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny’s funeral will be held in Moscow on Friday, his wife Yulia announced, but she said she was unsure if it would pass off peacefully and that plans for a civil memorial service had been blocked.

Navalny’s allies accused the Kremlin of thwarting their attempts to organise a separate civil memorial service in a hall which could have accommodated more people, and of blocking plans to bury Navalny a day earlier. The Kremlin has said it has nothing to do with such arrangements.

“Two people - Vladimir Putin and (Moscow Mayor) Sergei Sobyanin - are to blame for the fact that we have no place for a civil memorial service and farewell to Alexei,” Yulia, his wife, wrote on X.

“People in the Kremlin killed him, then mocked Alexei’s body, then mocked his mother, now they are mocking his memory.”

The Kremlin denies any involvement in Navalny’s Feb. 16 death at age 47 in an Arctic penal colony and his death certificate - according to his supporters - says he died of natural causes.

 (REUTERS)
(REUTERS)

Is it ethical to use Russia’s frozen assets to help Ukraine war effort?

02:50 , Barney Davis

US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen underscored the urgency of moving forward together with Western allies to unlock the value of frozen Russian sovereign assets to help Ukraine, but said the U.S. had no “preferred strategy” for how to do so.

Yellen, speaking at a news conference ahead of meetings with her G7 and G20 counterparts, said the U.S. and its allies were evaluating different options for some $285 billion in Russian assets immobilized in 2022 and the associated risks.

G7 leaders have asked for solutions to be presented in June.

Yellen acknowledged there were risks involved, but downplayed concerns raised by some in Europe that confiscating Russian assets would undermine the role of the U.S. dollar, euro or Japanese yen as important global reserve currencies.

“I believe the G7 should work together to explore the number of approaches that have been suggested for unlocking their economic values. One would be, of course, seizing the assets themselves, but there are other ideas, such as using them as collateral to borrow from global markets,” Yellen said.

Here’s what to know about Sweden’s bumpy road toward Nato

01:50 , Barney Davis

Here’s what to know about Sweden’s bumpy road toward Nato membership

Erdogan calls for ‘just and lasting solution’ to war in Ukraine

00:45 , Barney Davis

Turkey supports the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, stands for a just and lasting solution to the war in Ukraine, and is ready to host “peace talks” between Russia and Ukraine again.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan

“Türkiye’s support for Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty, security, and territorial integrity is well known to all. We are also making every effort to protect the rights and interests of our Crimean Tatar compatriots,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said.

According to him, diplomacy and dialogue should be given a chance for a “just and lasting solution” to the war in Ukraine, which began in February 2022.

“I’m of the opinion that joint efforts should be initiated, at least on determining general parameters of peace,” he added.

Zelensky proposes joint arms production with Balkans

Wednesday 28 February 2024 23:40 , Barney Davis

President Volodymyr Zelensky tried to drum up Balkan support for his vision of peace in Ukraine and promoted the idea of joint arms production at a two-day summit of southeastern European countries on Wednesday.

The summit in the Albanian capital Tirana comes as Kyiv is trying to improve its defensive capabilities to beat back Russian forces at a time of faltering U.S. support more than two years into Russia’s full-scale invasion.

“We are interested in co-production with you and all our partners,” Zelensky told top delegations from Albania, Bulgaria, Serbia, North Macedonia, Kosovo, Bosnia, Montenegro, Croatia, Moldova and Romania in his opening remarks.

“There are about 500 defence companies operating in Ukraine, each of them adds strength but it is not enough to win (against Russian President Vladimir) Putin. We see the problems with the supply of ammunition, which affects the situation on the battlefield.”

Zelensky proposed organising a Ukrainian-Balkans defence forum in Kyiv or a Balkan capital to nurture arms cooperation, repeating similar initiatives conducted last year with British and U.S. weapons companies.

Sri Lanka ends visas for hundreds of thousands of Russians staying there to avoid war

Wednesday 28 February 2024 22:30 , Barney Davis

Sri Lanka has told hundreds of thousands of Russians and some Ukrainians staying in the country to escape the war that they must leave in the next two weeks, immigration officers said.

The immigration controller issued a notice to the tourism ministry asking Russian and Ukrainian people staying on extended tourist visas to leave Sri Lanka within two weeks from 23 February.

Just over 288,000 Russians and nearly 20,000 Ukrainians have traveled to Sri Lanka in the last two years since the war began, according to official data.

Sri Lanka ends visas for hundreds of thousands of Russians avoiding war

Explosions reported in Poltava

Wednesday 28 February 2024 21:50 , Barney Davis

Ukraine’s public broadcaster, Ukrinform reported explosions during an air raid alert.

“The sounds of explosions were heard in the Myrhorod district of Poltava region,” reads the report, referring to local eyewitnesses.

Before that, an air raid alert was declared in Kyiv and a number of region, while the Air Force warned of an incoming missile flying toward Poltava region.

During the air alert in Poltava region, a number of explosions were reported.

Polish PM to meet protesting farmers

Wednesday 28 February 2024 20:30 , Athena Stavrou

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said on Wednesday he would meet protesting farmers’ leaders on Thursday, as demonstrations continued across the country.

Farmers across Europe have been protesting for weeks against constraints placed on them by EU regulations meant to tackle climate change, as well as rising costs and what they say is unfair competition from outside the EU, particularly Ukraine.

“I have convened an agricultural summit in Warsaw for tomorrow ... I will meet with the leaders of all protesting groups,” he said during a press conference.

“We have a very important problem. We are the most pro-Ukrainian nation when it comes to aid, but we have the biggest problems in Europe resulting from the war.”

Poland Farmers Protest (Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)
Poland Farmers Protest (Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Imprisonment of Russian activist ‘politically motivated’, says Nobel committee

Wednesday 28 February 2024 19:30 , Athena Stavrou

The committee awarding the Nobel Peace Prize said it was “appalled” by the jail sentence imposed on Russian activist Oleg Orlov, a leader of the disbanded human rights centre Memorial who shared the prize in 2022.

“The sentence against Mr Orlov is politically motivated and provides another proof of the increasing disrespect for human rights and freedom of speech in today’s Russia,” Joergen Watne Frydnes, head of the committee, said in a statement on Wednesday.

Orlov was sentenced to two and a half years in prison on Tuesday for “discrediting the armed forces” by protesting against the war in Ukraine and accusing President Vladimir Putin of leading a descent into fascism.

“The Putin regime has for many years tried to silence the leadership of Memorial and other important civil society organizations in Russia, and they are now using the war on Ukraine as a pretext to finish the job,” said Watne Frydnes.

“It is important that they won’t succeed.”

 (REUTERS)
(REUTERS)

Armenia to boycott meetings of Russia-led alliance

Wednesday 28 February 2024 18:30 , Athena Stavrou

Armenia is set to boycott meetings of a Russian-led alliance after a “de facto freeze” of its membership, Russian state news agency TASS reported.

Armenia is a member of the CSTO, which also includes Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Belarus.

“The freezing of relations with the CSTO (Collective Security Treaty Organisation) means Armenia does not have a permanent representative to the CSTO and does not participate in events at the high and top levels,” TASS quoted Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan as saying during a parliament session.

Pashinyan has skipped several recent meetings of the bloc, amid a sharp downturn in relations with the alliance’s leading member, Russia.

Since coming to power in a 2018 revolution, Pashinyan has deepened Armenia’s ties with Europe and the United States, repeatedly drawing the ire of traditional ally Russia.

‘Immense frustration’ over delays releasing Chelsea Ukraine cash, says minister

Wednesday 28 February 2024 17:30 , Athena Stavrou

The UK Government has expressed “immense frustration” over delays in releasing funds from the sale of Chelsea Football Club to help Ukraine war victims.

Roman Abramovich sold Chelsea after he was sanctioned as part of the UK’s efforts to target Russian oligarchs following Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022.

Mr Abramovich pledged to divert all proceeds to a foundation to benefit victims of the war.

The Premier League club was sold in May 2022 for £2.5 billion – then the highest price paid for a sports team – although the House of Lords European Affairs Committee last month reported the cash was frozen in a UK bank account amid “disagreement” about where it should be spent.

Speaking in the Commons during a statement on Ukraine, SNP foreign affairs spokesman Brendan O’Hara pressed the Government to explain what was happening with frozen Russian assets.

Foreign Office minister Andrew Mitchel replied: “There is immense frustration that the Chelsea fund isn’t out and operating at this time.

“We are doing everything we can within significant and irritating levels of difficulty to get it deployed and we will do that as fast as we possibly can.”

Former Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich has been criticised for failing to donate money to Ukrainians (PA) (PA Archive)
Former Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich has been criticised for failing to donate money to Ukrainians (PA) (PA Archive)

Russia's Lavrov to visit Turkey

Wednesday 28 February 2024 17:03 , Athena Stavrou

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will visit Turkey on Friday and Saturday, his spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said, as the two countries prepare a visit to Turkey by President Vladimir Putin.

Lavrov will attend a forum and hold talks with his Turkish counterpart, Zakharova said.

Russia and Turkey have been preparing a Putin visit which the Kremlin said this week would take place after Russia’s presidential election in mid-March.

Moldovan breakaway region asked Russia for protection

Wednesday 28 February 2024 16:45 , Athena Stavrou

A Moscow-backed breakaway region in eastern Moldova has asked Russia for their help to protect their economy.

The region of Transnistria has been under the control of separatist authorities since a 1992 war with Moldova and is politically and economically supported by Russia.

They said on Wednesday that the Moldovan government was hurting their economy and pleaded with Russia for their protection.

Putin allies tell Macron French troops will ‘suffer fate of Napoleon’s army’ if sent to Ukraine

Wednesday 28 February 2024 16:06 , Athena Stavrou

Allies of Russian President Vladimir Putin warned French President Macron that troops he sent to Ukraine would meet the same end as Napoleon’s army.

Napoleon Bonaparte’s Grande Armee whose 1812 invasion of Russia notoriously ended in death and defeat.

It comes after Macron suggested on Monday that European nations could send troops to Ukraine, although he cautioned that there was no consensus at this stage.

Vyacheslav Volodin, the chairman of the State Duma, the lower house of Russia’s parliament and a close Putin ally, said Macron appeared to see himself as Napoleon and warned him against following in the footsteps of the French emperor.

“To maintain his personal power, Macron could not think of anything better than to ignite a third world war. His initiatives are becoming dangerous for the citizens of France,” Volodin said on his official social media feed.

“Before making such statements, it would be right for Macron to remember how it ended for Napoleon and his soldiers, more than 600,000 of whom were left lying in the damp earth.”

French President Emmanuel Macron attends a press conference at the end of the meeting in support of Ukraine (EPA)
French President Emmanuel Macron attends a press conference at the end of the meeting in support of Ukraine (EPA)

Russia captures village near Avdiivka

Wednesday 28 February 2024 15:42 , Athena Stavrou

Russian troops have captured the Ukrainian village of Stepove, about 11 km northwest of Avdiivka, the Russian Defence Ministry said on Monday.

The Ukrainian military said on Tuesday it had withdrawn troops from Stepove and Sieverne, two villages that had a total pre-war population of fewer than 100 people.

Russia captured the town of Avdiivka earlier this month, its first major gain since taking Bakhmut last May.

Russian court sentences man to 10 years in treason case

Wednesday 28 February 2024 15:10 , Athena Stavrou

A Russian military court sentenced a man to 10 years in prison after finding him guilty of treason.

Vyacheslav Lyutor, from St Petersburg, had stood accused of attempted treason, cooperation with a foreign state and participation in a terrorist organisation, a Russian lawyers’ association said on Wednesday.

It did not say if the 33-year-old pleaded guilty.

Russia independent news outlet Mediazona reported the prosecution charged Lyutor, a bank employee, with collaborating with the Freedom of Russia Legion, a Ukraine-based paramilitary group of Russians who oppose Putin.

The prosecution alleged Lyutor was planning to leave Russia and go to fight for the Ukrainian army, Mediazona reported, citing a correspondent in the courtroom.

Russian authorities launched 70 treason cases in 2023, a record figure, according to Pervy Otdel. Russian independent media said that was more than over the previous 20 years combined.

David Lammy pledges support for Ukraine until it ‘prevails'

Wednesday 28 February 2024 14:40 , Athena Stavrou

The shadow foreign secretary has pledged that Britain will support Ukraine “until it prevails”.

David Lammy told the Commons: “Last week marks two years since the start of Putin’s full scale illegal invasion of Ukraine.

The bombed cities, the raped civilians and the children kidnapped to Russia show the barbarity of Putin’s rogue regime. Ukraine’s resilience in the face of hell is testament to their enormous courage.”

He added: “This war has to be a wake-up call to all of Europe, there is more we, along with our allies, must do together.”

The MP for Tottenham further stated: “More sanctions are welcome but enforcement remains the weak link. Last December an OFSI report showed that there had been zero enforcement measures for post-February 2022 sanction breaches in relation to Russia.”

 (PA Wire)
(PA Wire)

ICYMI: Sri Lanka ends visas for hundreds of thousands of Russians staying there to avoid war

Wednesday 28 February 2024 13:30 , Athena Stavrou

Sri Lanka has told hundreds of thousands of Russians and some Ukrainians staying in the country to escape the war that they must leave in the next two weeks, immigration officers said.

The immigration controller issued a notice to the tourism ministry asking Russian and Ukrainian people staying on extended tourist visas to leave Sri Lanka within two weeks from 23 February.

Just over 288,000 Russians and nearly 20,000 Ukrainians have traveled to Sri Lanka in the last two years since the war began, according to official data.

Read the full story here:

Sri Lanka ends visas for hundreds of thousands of Russians avoiding war

Wednesday 28 February 2024 13:00 , Athena Stavrou

Alexei Navalny’s wife urged the European Parliament to investigate money linked to Putin and his allies in the West.

“Putin is the leader of an organised criminal gang. This includes poisoners and assassins but they’re just puppets. The most important thing is the people close to Putin - his friends, associates and keepers of mafia money,” she said.

“You and all of us must fight the criminal gang. And the political innovation here is to apply the methods of fighting organised crime, not political competition. Not statements of concern but the search for mafia associates in your countries, for discreet lawyers and financiers who are helping Putin and his friends to hide money.”

 (AP)
(AP)

Watch: Wife of Alexei Navalny receives standing ovation at European Parliament

Wednesday 28 February 2024 12:30 , Athena Stavrou

Zelensky co-hosts summit in Albania

Wednesday 28 February 2024 11:52 , Athena Stavrou

President Zelensky has co-hosted a summit with the Albanian government to encourage further support for Kyiv from south-eastern European countries.

It comes as signs of fatigue grow as the war enters its third year.

Mr Zelensky arrived as part of an international tour that saw him in Saudi Arabia earlier on Tuesday to push for a peace plan and the return of prisoners of war from Russia.

The Ukrainian leader called Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama “Ukraine’s unwavering friend” in a message on X, adding the two would “discuss defence and political cooperation, support for the Peace Formula, and security agreements”.

“I will propose supporting Ukraine’s efforts to achieve just and lasting peace, as well as organizing the Global Peace Summit in Switzerland,” he said, referring to the summit.

Mr Zelensky and Mr Rama also signed a friendship and cooperation agreement “to strengthen our cooperation with Albania and Ukraine‘s position in the Balkans”.

The Ukrainian leader also awarded Mr Rama the “Yaroslav the Wise” medal for his contribution to Ukraine.

 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

Navalny’s widow claims his 'body was abused’

Wednesday 28 February 2024 11:00 , Athena Stavrou

While addressing the European Parliament on Wednesday, Alexei Navalny’s widow claimed he was tortured in prison and that his body was “abused”.

“Putin killed my husband,” Yulia Navalnaya said. “On his orders, Alexei was tortured for three years, he was staved in a tiny stone cell. Cut off from the outside world and denied visits, phone calls and then even letters.”

She added: “And then they killed him. Even after that, they abused his body.”

Navalny’s widow adressing the European Parliament

Wednesday 28 February 2024 10:53 , Athena Stavrou

Alexei Navalny’s widow is currently addressing the European Parliament as the Russian opposition leader’s funeral in confirmed.

Speaking to the parliament on Wednesday, Yulia Navalnaya said she was “not sure” whether her late husband’s funeral will be peaceful as she fears police will make arrests.

 (Sky News)
(Sky News)

Ukraine facing ammunition shortages, head of UK Armed Forces says

Wednesday 28 February 2024 10:20 , Athena Stavrou

Ukraine is facing ammunition shortages that could last for “several months”, according to the head of the UK Armed Forces claimed.

Admiral Sir Tony Radakin reportedly told a conference in London on Tuesday that NATO allies were discussing how to strengthen support for the country as the war enters it’s third year.

With US aid held up in Congress, Mr Radakin said Ukraine’s army “was struggling in terms of its ammunition and its stockpiles”.

“I think that’s the predicament that’s likely to last for at least the next few months,” Radakin said, according to The Guardian.

Navalny’s widow set to address European Parliament

Wednesday 28 February 2024 09:40 , Athena Stavrou

The widow of Putin’s biggest political foe Alexei Navalny is due to address the European Parliament this morning.

Yulia Navalnaya is expected to speak about her late husband’s death on February 16 in a Russian prison and urge the parliament to support political prisoners in Russia.

The address is expected to begin at around 10am.

 (Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)
(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Navalny’s funeral to be held on Friday

Wednesday 28 February 2024 09:36 , Athena Stavrou

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s funeral and farewell ceremony will be held on Friday, Navalny‘s spokesperson Kira Yarmysh said on the X social network.

The funeral will be held at the Borisovskoye cemetery after a farewell ceremony at a church in the Maryino district of Moscow, she said.

 (Moscow City Court)
(Moscow City Court)

Pictures: Zelensky arrives in Albania

Wednesday 28 February 2024 09:05 , Athena Stavrou

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky arrived in the Albanian capital of Tirana, Albanian Foreign Minister Igli Hasani said on Wednesday.

 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)
 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

EU should consider 'using frozen Russian asset profits for Ukraine’s military’

Wednesday 28 February 2024 08:41 , Athena Stavrou

The European Commission President said that the EU should consider using profits from frozen Russian assets to fund Ukraine’s war effort.

Ursula von der Leyen said that it was “time to start a conversation” about the controversial policy on Wednesday.

“It is time to start a conversation about using the windfall profits of frozen Russian assets to jointly purchase military equipment for Ukraine,” she told the European Parliament in a speech urging the EU to do more on defence policy.

“There could be no stronger symbol and no greater use for that money than to make Ukraine and all of Europe a safer place to live.”

 (@vonderleyen via X via REUTERS)
(@vonderleyen via X via REUTERS)

Ukraine ‘struggling’ to hold defensive positions near city of Avdiivka

Wednesday 28 February 2024 08:09 , Holly Evans

Military analysts have said that Russian forces are maintaining a “high tempo of operations” around the city of Avdiivka, which was captured after months of heavy fighting.

Putin’s troops are hoping to prevent the Ukrainian army from regrouping and building defensive lines, and have increased the size of their assault groups, the Institute for the Study of War said.

In a blow to Zelensky’s forces, they have also withdrawn from the villages of Stepove and Severne as Moscow focuses its attention to the settlements around the city.

Ukrainian soldiers defending their position near Avdiivka in the Donetsk region (EPA)
Ukrainian soldiers defending their position near Avdiivka in the Donetsk region (EPA)

Zelensky visits Albania in latest trip to boost solidarity

Wednesday 28 February 2024 07:44 , Holly Evans

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky arrived in the Albanian capital of Tirana, Albanian Foreign Minister Igli Hasani said on Wednesday.

“A pivotal moment for fostering bilateral ties, and standing in solidarity with Ukraine in its heroic fight against Russia’s aggression,” Hasani wrote on the X social network.

North Korea has already sent millions of artillery rounds to Russia, warns South Korea

Wednesday 28 February 2024 07:20 , Holly Evans

North Korea has shipped as many as 6,700 containers with potentially millions of rounds of artillery shells to Russia since talks between Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un in September last year, Seoul says.

South Korea’s defence minister said the exact contents of the containers could not be known, but that they likely contained either three million 152mm artillery shells or 500,000 122mm rounds.

“It could possibly be a mix of the two, and you can say that at least several million shells have been sent,” Shin Won-sik said.

Read the full article here

North Korea has already sent millions of artillery shells to Russia, says South Korea

Wednesday 28 February 2024 22:00 , Barney Davis

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire on Wednesday publicly challenged U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen’s view that it would be legal to monetise some $300 billion in frozen Russian assets, revealing deep divisions in the G7.

Le Maire rejected the US position and said France was convinced there was no sufficient basis in international law to proceed, and further work was required.

Yellen told reporters there was “a strong international law, economic and moral case” for deriving value from the Russian assets, either seizing them outright or using them as collateral, and the “countermeasures theory” justified such action under international law.

Le Maire, asked specifically about the countermeasures theory, said he disagreed.

“We don’t think this legal basis is sufficient,” he said. He said broad international consensus was needed.

“This legal basis must be accepted not only by the European countries, not only by the G7 countries, but by all the member states of the world community, and I mean by all the member states of the G20. We should not add any kind of division among the G20 countries,” he said.

Putin 'more powerful than Stalin' and Europe 'at war', says UK MP

Wednesday 28 February 2024 05:00 , Alexander Butler

A UK MP says Vladimir Putin is “now more powerful than Stalin” and “Europe is at war”.

Speaking during an urgent question on the UK’s aid to Ukraine in the House of Commons, Tobias Ellwood said it was “very clear” that the Ukraine war would “move out further”.

“Putin is now more powerful than Stalin, trying to emulate what Stalin did in eastern Europe.

“Can we agree that Europe is at war? This affects us, this affects our economy and security.”

Russia 'unable' to protect high-value aircraft and Ukraine a constant 'threat', MoD says

Wednesday 28 February 2024 04:00 , Alexander Butler

Russia has shown a repeated “inability” to protect its high-value aircraft and Ukraine’s defences “continue to pose a threat”, the UK defence ministry has said.

It referenced the downing of two Russian A-50 aircraft by Ukraine in as many months - specialist spy planes which are estimated to cost nearly £300m each.

The MoD pointed out that there was a “remote” chance that an A-50 shot down four days ago was hit by Russia itself.

'We are not on the cusp of war with Russia'

Wednesday 28 February 2024 03:00 , Alexander Butler

The head of the UK armed forces has insisted “Britain is secure” and “we are not on the cusp of war with Russia”.

Admiral Sir Tony Radakin used a public speech today to stress that “we are not about to be invaded” and no one in the Ministry of Defence is talking about conscription.

“Britain is safe. We are safe because we are part of NATO... and also because we are a responsible nuclear power,” he said.

Russia's information war will peak in the 'coming weeks', Ukraine warns

Wednesday 28 February 2024 02:00 , Alexander Butler

Russia’s information war will peak in the “coming weeks”, the Ukrainian intelligence department has warned.

Late last year, Ukraine reported Moscow had launched the Maidan-3 special operation which aimed to spread anti-Ukrainian messages online.

In a Telegram post today, it said the plan had cost $1.5bn and was “the most expensive action of the Russian special services in history”.

“During the coming weeks, the enemy will make every effort to spread narratives destructive to global security and attempts to incite conflicts - both inside Ukraine and in other parts of the world, where there is effective support of Ukraine,” it said.

Ukraine names new head of anti-corruption watchdog

Wednesday 28 February 2024 01:00 , Alexander Butler

Ukraine has approved the new head of a state watchdog responsible for crafting anti-corruption policy, officials said.

Fighting graft is a top priority for Ukraine as it seeks membership in the European Union, and authorities have stepped up their crackdown during the war with Russia.

Viktor Pavluschyk, a former investigator, will serve a four-year term heading the National Agency on Corruption Prevention (NACP) after winning an internationally supervised recruitment competition.

NACP formulates Ukraine’s anti-corruption agenda and monitors public servants for illicit gains, working closely with Kyiv’s anti-graft law enforcement agencies.

Ukraine’s Zelensky says he is in Saudi Arabia on working visit

Wednesday 28 February 2024 00:01 , Alexander Butler

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy arrived in Saudi Arabia on a working visit on Tuesday to meet Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, according to a statement posted on his Telegram account.

Zelenskiy wrote that the primary topics of discussion would be Kyiv’s Peace Formula framework for ending Russia’s invasion, as well as the return of captives and deported people.

The Saudi state news agency confirmed in a statement that Zelenskiy had arrived in the kingdom.

Ukraine warns delays in Western aid supplies ‘costing lives and territory’

Tuesday 27 February 2024 23:00 , Alexander Butler

Ukraine warns delays in Western aid supplies ‘costing lives and territory’

Watch: Zelensky warns Ukraine will not exist if Russia wins war

Tuesday 27 February 2024 22:00 , Alexander Butler

Zelensky warns Ukraine will not exist if Russia wins war

Sri Lanka ends visas for hundreds of thousands of Russians staying there to avoid war

Tuesday 27 February 2024 21:00 , Alexander Butler

Sri Lanka ends visas for hundreds of thousands of Russians avoiding war

Macron says putting Western troops on ground in Ukraine cannot be ruled out

Tuesday 27 February 2024 19:00 , Alexander Butler

Macron says putting Western troops on ground in Ukraine cannot be ruled out

Putin had Alexei Navalny killed to stop prisoner swap, ally claims

Tuesday 27 February 2024 18:00 , Alexander Butler

Putin had Alexei Navalny killed to stop prisoner swap, ally claims

Families of Ukrainians taken prisoner by Russia desperate for news: ‘Please do not forget them’

Tuesday 27 February 2024 17:00 , Alexander Butler

Families of Ukrainians taken prisoner by Russia desperate for news

Russia says its forces capture second Ukrainian village near Avdiivka in two days

Tuesday 27 February 2024 14:08 , Tom Watling

Russia has claimed its forces have made further progress in eastern Ukraine by taking control of the village of Severne near Avdiivka, a Ukrainian town it captured earlier this month.

In a statement, the Kremlin’s defence ministry said its forces captured Severne, “occupied more advantageous lines and positions” and struck concentrations of Ukrainian manpower and equipment near three other settlements.

The Independent could not independently verify the battlefield claims but DeepState, a Ukrainian war tracker, has suggested the town is now under Russian occupation.

Ukraine’s southern military commander Oleksandr Tarnavskyi said on Tuesday that they had stablilised the defensive line in Tonenko roughly a mile behind Severne. He did not mention the status of Severne itself.

If confirmed, it is the third town Russia has captured in the Avdiivka direction in the past 10 days and the second in just two days. Yesterday, Ukraine announced it was withdrawing from nearby Lastochkyne.

German Vice-Chancellor to France: Send Ukraine weapons, not soldiers

Tuesday 27 February 2024 13:31 , Tom Watling

German Vice-Chancellor Robert Habeck has rejected French suggestions that Ukraine could be supported with a deployment of Western troops.

“German soldiers are not going to Ukraine,” he told a news conference.

“I’m glad if France is considering how to support Ukraine more strongly, but if I can make a suggestion, then send more weapons,” he added. “Do what you can do now and give Ukraine the ammunition and tanks that can be sent right now.”