This Week Run-up Report on Russia Ukraine War As UN Secretary General Visits Kyiv suburbs of Bucha, Irpin and Borodianka in Ukraine.

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UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Thursday visited the Kyiv suburbs of Bucha, Irpin and Borodianka, where Russian troops allegedly committed atrocities, and called on Moscow to cooperate on an International Criminal Court (ICC) investigation into possible war crimes.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has told Russia’s Vladimir Putin that Ankara is prepared to do more to end the war in Ukraine after helping organise a Russian-US prisoner swap.

Erdogan’s office said Putin had “thanked” the Turkish leader for helping arrange Wednesday’s exchange of ex-Marine Trevor Reed for the former Russian pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko.

The swap took place in Turkey “under the coordination and supervision of the National Intelligence Organisation”, Erdogan’s office said in reference to Turkey’s MIT intelligence service.

Ankara is now “ready to take the initiative to end the war between Russia and Ukraine and to mediate a path to peace”.


Mayor of Bucha welcomes continued visits of international leaders

The mayor of Bucha has expressed gratitude that international leaders continue to visit Bucha.

The mayor stated that by doing so, international leaders are underlining the fact that this current war is a stuggle not only between Ukraine and Russia, but also the civilised world and Russia. He also thanked UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres after he stated that the crimes committed by Russia would be properly investigated.


Russia not allowing evacuations from Mariupol steel plant, local official says

Russia is not allowing wounded Ukrainian fighters to be evacuated from the besieged Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, according to the local governor.

Pavlo Kyrylenko, the Donetsk region’s governor, said Russia was also not allowing humanitarian corridors to be established to evacuate civilians in the region. But he said only 370,000 residents remain in Ukrainian-controlled parts of the Donetsk region compared to 1.67 million before Russia’s invasion.

Russia denies targeting civilians in the invasion.

Ukraine’s General Staff on Thursday said Russia’s offensive in the east picked up momentum, with several towns coming under intense attack.

The most intensive action was around Donetsk and close to Kharkiv, which lies outside the Donbas but is seen as key to Russia’s apparent bid to encircle Ukrainian troops there.


Ukraine has right to defend itself by attacking Russian bases, warehouses, presidential aide says

Ukrainian presidential aide Mykhailo Podolyak has stressed that his country has the right to defend itself by carrying out attacks on Russian military bases and warehouses.

“Russia has attacked and (is) killing civilians. Ukraine will defend itself in any way, including strikes on the warehouses and bases of the killers. The world recognises this right,” presidential aide Mykhailo Podolyak wrote on Twitter.

Russia denies targeting civilians in what it calls a “special military” operation in Ukraine.

Russia accuses OSCE of handing information to Western intelligence

Russia has accused the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) of handing information on the location of Russian and pro-Russian forces to Western and Ukrainian intelligence.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova made the allegation during a briefing with reporters but did not provide any evidence. She said investigators from the self-proclaimed breakaway Donetsk People’s Republic, which is backed by Russia, would provide additional proof.

The OSCE has a monitoring mission in eastern Ukraine, where Russian-backed separatists have been fighting the Ukrainian army


German parliament approves heavy arms deliveries to Ukraine

Germany’s Bundestag lower house of parliament has overwhelmingly approved a petition to support Ukraine by backing the delivery of weapons including heavy arms.

“Alongside the broad economic isolation and decoupling of Russia from international markets, the most important and effective means to stop the Russian invasion is to intensify and speed up the delivery of effective weapons and complex systems including heavy arms,” the petition read.

The petition was backed by both the three parties in the ruling coalition as well as the opposition conservatives, passing with 586 votes in favor, 100 against and seven abstentions, according to Bundestag Vice President Wolfgang Kubicki.

Germany has already sent about 2,500 anti-aircraft missiles, 900 bazookas, and millions of rounds of ammunition, hand grenades and mines to Ukraine, the dpa news agency reported. It now plans to give armored vehicles to Slovenia to replace Soviet-era tanks the country is sending to Ukraine and let Kyiv purchase mothballed self-propelled armored anti-aircraft guns from Germany.

German companies have also asked to send 88 Leopard tanks, 100 Marder armored vehicles and 100 howitzers to Ukraine.


Former US Marine lands in home country after Russia prisoner swap

Former US Marine Trevor Reed, who was detained in Russia and released in an unexpected prisoner swap between Russia and the US on Wednesday, has landed in his home country, according to Reed’s spokesperson.

The location where Reed landed was not immediately clear.

Reed, who was arrested in Russia in 2019 on charges of fighting with police, was released in exchange for Russian pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko, who was serving a drug trafficking sentence in the US.


Russia says it destroyed two ammunition depots in Ukraine 

Russia’s defence ministry has said its missiles struck four Ukrainian military targets overnight, destroying two missile and ammunition depots near the settlements of Barvinkove and Ivanivka in eastern Ukraine.

It said Russian forces had also downed a Ukrainian Su-24 aircraft near Luhansk.


Russian critics of Ukraine war face severe repression

Radical groups in Russia are targeting government critics and opponents of the war in Ukraine. Pro-Putin youths have been active in Moscow, patrolling the streets with the letter “Z” – a sign of support for the Ukraine invasion – taped on their clothes.

“We support the Russian army, which is liberating Ukraine from fascists,” explained a pro-Putin youth. But he declined to provide details on the size of his group and denied they were in the pay of the government.


Guterres arrives in Borodianka in Kyiv region

UN Secretary-General Guterres has arrived in Borodianka, in the Kyiv region, where Russian soldiers are alleged to have committed war crimes.

While the reports of Russian atrocities in the Kyiv satellite towns of Bucha and Irpin have drawn widespread condemnations, Ukrainian President Zelensky has said the situation in Borodianka was “much more disastrous” than in Bucha.

Guterres, during his first visit to the war-scarred country since Russia invaded on February 24, is also set to visit Irpin and Bucha ahead of talks with Zelensky later Thursday.


Biden set to pledge support for Ukraine against ‘Russia’s brutal war’

US President Joe Biden is set to deliver remarks later today on US “support for Ukrainians defending their country and their freedom against Russia’s brutal war,” the White House said.

Biden’s address comes a day after Russian President Putin warned of lightning-fast retaliation if countries interfere in Ukraine. Addressing lawmakers in St Petersburg on Wednesday, Putin warned that, “If someone intends to intervene in the ongoing events from the outside, and create strategic threats for Russia that are unacceptable to us, they should know that our retaliatory strikes will be lightning-fast.”


Russia’s Black Sea fleet retains ability to strike Ukraine: UK

Russia’s Black Sea fleet retains the ability to strike Ukrainian and coastal targets, despite the loss of its landing ship Saratov and the cruiser Moskva, according to Britain’s defence ministry.

About 20 Russian Navy vessels, including submarines, are in the Black Sea operational zone, the ministry said on Twitter..

“The Bosphorus Strait remains closed to all non-Turkish warships, rendering Russia unable to replace its lost cruiser Moskva in the Black Sea,” it added in the regular bulletin.

Guterres arrives in Ukraine to try to ‘secure evacuations’

Following his trip to Moscow earlier this week, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has arrived in Ukraine, where he is expected to push for humanitarian corridors and work on coordinated approach to try to evacuate Ukrainian fighters and civilians sheltering in Mariupol’s besieged Azovstal steel plant.

In a tweet shortly after he arrived, Guterres said his team would “continue our work to expand humanitarian support” to Ukraine and “secure the evacuation of civilians from conflict zones”.

The EU responds to Russia cutting off gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria

The European Union warned Russia on Wednesday it would not bend to “blackmail” over its support for Kyiv, after the Kremlin cut off gas supplies to Bulgaria and Poland.


Canada lawmakers vote unanimously to label Russia’s acts in Ukraine as ‘genocide’

Canadian lawmakers voted unanimously on Wednesday to call Russia‘s attacks in Ukraine a “genocide”, with members of parliament saying there was “ample evidence of systemic and massive war crimes against humanity” being committed by Moscow.

The Canadian House of Commons’ motion said war crimes by Russia include mass atrocities, systematic instances of willful killing of Ukrainian civilians, the desecration of corpses, forcible transfer of Ukrainian children, torture, physical harm, mental harm, and rape.

Earlier this month, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said it was “absolutely right” for more and more people to describe Russia’s actions in Ukraine as genocide, supporting an accusation made by U.S. President Joe Biden a day earlier.


At UN, Amal Clooney pushes for Ukraine war crimes justice

Human rights lawyer Amal Clooney urged countries at the United Nations on Wednesday to focus on international justice for war crimes in Ukraine so evidence does not sit in storage – as it has done for victims of Islamic State (ISIS) in Iraq and Syria.

“Ukraine is, today, a slaughterhouse. Right in the heart of Europe,” Clooney told an informal U.N. Security Council meeting on accountability in Ukraine, organized by France and Albania.

Clooney recalled a 2017 Security Council vote to approve a measure she helped lobby for – the creation of a UN team to collect, preserve and store evidence of possible international crimes committed by Islamic State in Iraq. It was the same year her son and daughter with U.S. actor George Clooney were born.

“My children are now almost 5, and so far most of the evidence collected by the UN is in storage – because there is no international court to put ISIS on trial,” she said.

The International Criminal Court (ICC), which handles war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide and crimes of aggression, has no jurisdiction because Iraq and Syria are not members.

Clooney is part of an international legal task force advising Ukraine on securing accountability for Ukrainian victims in national jurisdictions and working with the Hague-based ICC.

ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan opened an investigation into Ukraine a week after Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion.


‘Ramp up’ military production to help Ukraine, urges UK foreign minister

Ukraine’s fate is hanging in the balance and its allies must brace for the long haul and “ramp up” military production including tanks and planes to help, Britain’s foreign minister said on Wednesday.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss also warned that China must play by international rules or be punished and that it was vital to send the right message to “aggressors” watching closely the response to Russia’s invasion.

“We cannot be complacent — the fate of Ukraine remains in the balance,” she told diplomats and business leaders in London, deploring the “failure” of global security structures that should have prevented the war.

A victory for Russian President Vladimir Putin would have “terrible consequences across the globe”, and more, heavier, weapons should be sent to Ukraine despite the risk of escalating the conflict.

“We must be prepared for the long haul and double down on our support for Ukraine.

“Heavy weapons, tanks, aeroplanes — digging deep into our inventories, ramping up production. We need to do all of this.

“Inaction would be the greatest provocation.”


Ukraine war ‘screams’ need to reject Russian energy, says US

US Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm says Russia’s war on Ukraine “screams” that the world needs to stop importing oil and gas from Russia and instead move toward other forms of energy.

At an international forum on offshore wind energy in Atlantic City, Granholm said the US as well as its energy industries “are on a war footing”. She called for a rapid acceleration of renewable energy including offshore wind power.

Her comments were echoed by Kadri Simson, the European Commissioner for energy, who noted that Europe recently committed itself to a large-scale move away from Russian fossil fuel imports, and considers wind energy an important part of that transition.


EU to suspend tariffs on Ukraine imports for one year

The European Commission has proposed a one-year suspension of import duties on all Ukrainian goods not covered by an existing free trade deal to help the country’s economy.

The measures will apply in particular to fruit and vegetables, subject to minimum price requirements, agricultural products facing quotas, and certain industrial goods, tariffs on which were only due to be phased out by the end of 2022.


Transnistria says shots fired at village housing Russian arms depot

The interior ministry of Transnistria, a Moscow-backed separatist region of Moldova bordering Ukraine, says shots were fired at a village housing a Russian arms depot after drones flew over from Ukraine.

This comes after the unrecognised region reported a series of explosions that it called “terrorist attacks”, raising fears of a spillover from the war in Ukraine.

“Last night, several drones were noticed in the sky over the village of Kolbasna,” the Transnistrian interior ministry said on its website. “The drones were launched onto the territory of Transnistria from Ukraine.”

Kolbasna, known as Cobasna in Romanian, is located around 2 kilometres (1.25 miles) from the Ukrainian border. It houses a stockpile of some 20,000 tonnes of munitions that date back to the Soviet era, guarded by Russian troops.

The region has reported explosions on Monday and Tuesday hitting the security ministry, a military unit and a Russian-owned radio tower.


Ploughing Ukraine’s fields in bulletproof vests and helmets

Agriculture is a vital sector in a country sometimes referred to as the “breadbasket of Europe”. But farming in areas near the frontline has become a high-risk profession. Farmers ploughing fields in the Zaporizhzhia region, in bulletproof vests and helmets.

Yuri, a farmer in Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia region, wearing a helmet and bulletproof vest.
Yuri, a farmer in Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia region, wearing a helmet and bulletproof vest. © Reuters


Putin warns of ‘lightening response’ to Ukraine interference

The Russian president has threatened a quick-fire military response if any other country intervenes in Ukraine.

Speaking to lawmakers, Putin said that “if anyone sets out to intervene in the current events from the outside and creates unacceptable threats for us that are strategic in nature, they should know that our response… will be lightning-fast”.

The Russian leader said that the military would not hesitate to use the most modern weaponry.

“We have all the tools for this, that no one else can boast of having. We won’t boast about it: we’ll use them, if needed. And I want everyone to know that,” Putin said.

Putin has frequently touted Russia’s development of modern weaponry, including hypersonic missiles and the new Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile that was successfully tested earlier this month.

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