Ukraine war: UN Secretary General visits site of atrocities ahead of Zelenskyy talks

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U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, center, reacts during his visit to Borodyanka, close to Kyiv, Ukraine, Thursday, 28 April 28, 2022.

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The UN Secretary General has been visiting the sites of atrocities near Kyiv on Thursday, before heading to the capital for talks with President Zelenskyy in the afternoon, as UN humanitarian teams plan an evacuation of civilians from Mariupol in coordination with the Red Cross.

Meanwhile President Putin warned on Wednesday that any outside interference in the conflict in Ukraine would be met with “swift and devastating response” — even as the UK foreign secretary urged Western allies to send more heavy weapons to Ukraine, including planes.

Follow our blog for the latest developments as they happen, or watch live video on the link above:

06:42

Thursday’s key points: 

    Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says Russia is using gas as a weapon against Europe, after state-owned Gazprom cut supplies to Poland and Bulgaria. Both countries though could be okay without Russian gas supplies for a few months — at least until winter.United Nations Secretary General António Guterres is in Ukraine, and set to hold talks with President Zelenskyy.The UN says its humanitarian office is mobilising an experienced team to coordinate the complex evacuation of civilians from Mariupol.Vladimir Putin warned against any outside intervention in the conflict in Ukraine, promising it would be met with a “swift and devastating” response.Finland and Sweden must prepare for increased Russian spy operations, cyber-attacks and attempts to influence politicians as they consider joining NATO, the Nordic nations’ intelligence chiefs have warned.British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss says Western allies should send tanks, planes and other heavy weapons to Ukraine. “Inaction would be the greatest provocation” she said — although a government spokesperson says there are “no plans” for Britain to send military jets to Ukraine.

13:31

Bulgarian PM wants to send military aid to Ukraine

Bulgaria’s Prime Minister Kiril Petkov says he hopes lawmakers will agree next week to send military assistance to Ukraine.

He made the comments on Thursday during a visit to the Ukrainian town of Borodianka. 

Petkov was due to meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv later Thursday. After viewing damage caused to Borodianka during the initial Russian advance, Petkov said “we cannot be indifferent. We cannot say that this is a Ukrainian problem, we cannot say some people are dying but we are not interested in that.”

He criticised the argument of some politicians in Bulgaria that denying military aid to Ukraine would bring about a faster peace.

Petkov said: “If this is the price of peace, if the Russian state continues to fire and no one can defend himself — is this the peace we want?”

(AP)

12:44

Russian cyber attacks aggressively targeting Ukranian society

Digital assaults by Russia against Ukraine have focused on data collection, with potentially chilling consequences, writes AP. 

On the eve of Russia’s invasion, Ukraine’s Ministry of Internal Affairs, which oversees the police, national guard and border patrol, was breached. 

Experts say this hack, alongside another on Ukraine’s automobile insurance database, gave Russia rich information on large swathes of Ukraine’s population, which it can use to locate and potentially target Ukrainians likely to resist their occupation. 

Auto insurance data is “fantastically useful information if you’re planning an occupation,” Jack Watling, a military analyst at the UK-based Royal United Services Institute.

“The idea was to kill or imprison these people at the early stages of occupation,” Victor Zhora, a senior Ukrainian cyber defence official, alleged. 

Serhii Demediuk, deputy secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, said to AP via email that personal data continues to be a priority for Russian hackers as they attempt more government network breaches: “Cyberwarfare is really in the hot phase nowadays.”

There is little doubt political targeting is a goal. Ukraine says Russian forces have killed and kidnapped local leaders where they grab territory.

(AP)

12:21

‘Deadly danger’ to Mariupol civilians, as UN attempts evacuation

Authorities are alarmed about the “danger” posed by near-apocalyptic conditions in the battered city of Mariupol, with the UN saying it is preparing an evacuation attempt.

On Telegram, Mariupol City Council warned on Thursday that “deadly epidemics may break out in the city due to the lack of centralised water supply and sewerage, the decomposition of thousands of corpses under the rubble, [and] a catastrophic shortage of drinking water and food.”

These medieval conditions were threatening to ravage the 100,000 remaining residents in Mariupol with diseases like cholera and dysentery, it said. The besieged port city was once home to some 450,000 people. 

These warnings come as the UN coordinator in Ukraine announced Thursday she was heading to the south of the country to help prepare an evacuation attempt in Mariupol, which is now almost entirely controlled by Russian forces.

“The invaders are not able to provide the remaining population with food, water and medicines — or are simply not interested in that,” read the city council’s Telegram post, citing Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boychenko. 

“Living conditions in the ruined Mariupol are now medieval,” it read. “An immediate and complete evacuation is needed.”

(AFP/AP)

12:05

Stop ‘trying our patience’, Russia FM warns west 

The Russian Foreign Ministry has warned the west that it must stop “trying our patience” over Ukrainian cross-border strikes. 

“We would like Kyiv and western capitals to take seriously the statement by the Russian ministry of defence that further provocation prompting Ukraine to strike against Russian facilities will be met with a harsh response from Russia,” said Maria Zakharova, spokeswoman for Russia’s foreign affairs ministry. 

“Advisors from Western countries staying in Ukraine’s decision-making centres will not necessarily be a problem for Russia’s response measures,” she added in her Thursday press briefing, which was directed particularly at the UK. 

“We do not advise you to continue trying our patience.” 

Zakharova cited comments by the UK armed forces minister James Heappey, who said on Tuesday it would be “entirely legitimate” for Ukraine to strike targets inside Russia. 

This was seen by Russia as a call for Ukraine to take action, she said. 

Heappey was “effectively calling for Kyiv to use weapons provided by NATO countries,” according to Zakharova.

11:32

UN Secretary General visits site of atrocities in Bucha

UN Secretary General António Guterres called on Moscow on Thursday to “agree to cooperate” with the International Criminal Court (ICC) investigation into possible war crimes perpetrated in Ukraine.

He made the comments during a visit to the suburb of Bucha, which has become a symbol of the atrocities committed since the start of the Russian invasion.

“When we see this horrible site, I see how important it is to have a full investigation and to establish accountability,” Mr Guterres said. “I call on Russia to agree to cooperate with the ICC,” he added.

The Ukrainians accuse the Russians of having massacred civilians in Bucha, Borodianka, and other suburbs of Kyiv that Russian troops occupied in March before withdrawing.

For his first visit to Ukraine since the start of the conflict on 24 February, Mr Guterres visited Bucha and Borodianka on Thursday morning.

“I imagine my family in one of these now destroyed and blackened houses,” he said earlier in front of ruined dwellings in Borodianka. “I see my granddaughters running in panic. War is nonsense in the 21st century, no war is acceptable in the 21st century,” he added.

Before returning to Kyiv where he was to meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in the afternoon, Mr Guterres continued his visit to Irpin, where the fighting between Russian and Ukrainian forces was particularly bloody.

“Everyone should always remember one thing: in any war, it is always the civilians who pay the highest price,” he said, in front of a partially destroyed apartment building. by the bombings.

(AFP)

10:53

NATO: Finland and Sweden ‘could join quite quickly’

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg says that Finland and Sweden would be embraced with open arms should they decide to join the 30-nation military organization and could join quite quickly.

Stoltenberg’s remarks Thursday come as public support in Finland and Sweden for NATO membership grows in response to Russia’s war on Ukraine. Media speculation in the two countries suggests the two might apply in mid-May.

Stoltenberg says that “it’s their decision. But if they decide to apply, Finland and Sweden will be warmly welcomed, and I expect that process to go quickly.”

He gave no precise time frame, but did say that the two could expect some protection should Russia try to intimidate them from the time they apply until they formally join.

Stoltenberg says he’s “confident that there are ways to bridge that interim period in a way which is good enough and works for both Finland and Sweden.”

NATO’s collective security guarantee ensures that all member countries must come to the aid of any ally under attack. Stoltenberg added that many NATO allies have now pledged or provided a total of at least $8 billion in military support to Ukraine.

(AP)

10:52

Russian forces intensify attack on Mariupol steel mill

Satellite photos show Russian fire is intensifying on a steel mill that is the last Ukrainian-held area in the city of Mariupol.

The images by Planet Labs PBC shot Wednesday show that concentrated attacks have greatly damaged a central facility at the Azovstal steelworks.

An estimated 1,000 civilians are sheltering along with about 2,000 Ukrainian fighters in the steelworks, a massive Soviet-era complex with a warren of underground facilities built to withstand airstrikes.

Mariupol, a strategic port city on the Sea of Azov, is viewed as crucial for the Russians in the war.

The new images come as UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres visits Ukraine and plans to speak to Ukraine’s president about his efforts to negotiate with Moscow for a corridor for people to leave the besieged area.

(AP)

10:20

IAEA chief wants access to Europe’s largest nuclear power station

The International Atomic Energy Agency’s director-general says the level of safety at Europe’s largest nuclear plant, currently under Russian occupation in Ukraine, is like a “red light blinking” as his organization tries in vain to get access for work including repairs.

Grossi said that the IAEA needs access to the Zaporizhzhia plant in southern Ukraine so its inspectors can, among other things, reestablish connections with the Vienna-based headquarters of the UN agency. And for that, both Russia and Ukraine need to help.

The plant requires repairs, “and all of this is not happening. So the situation as I have described it, and I would repeat it today, is not sustainable as it is,” Grossi said. “So this is a pending issue. This is a red light blinking.”

(AP)

10:18

Russia increasing the pace of eastern offensive 

Ukraine’s General Staff says Russia is increasing the pace of its offensive in the east of the country, the goal of which is to take full control of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions and have a land corridor to Crimea.

The Russian forces “are exerting intense fire” in almost all directions, the General Staff said in their Thursday morning update, with the “greatest activity observed in Slobozhanske and Donetsk directions.”

Strikes on Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city, continue, the update said, and more forces have been moved to the city of Izyum. In the Donetsk direction, the Russian troops are focusing on encircling the Ukrainian forces.

Over the past 24 hours, the Ukrainian forces have repelled six attacks in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, the General Staff said.

(AP)

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