Sinking of warship a ‘big blow’ to Russian fleet, says Pentagon.Ukraine said that its forces struck the Moskva in a missile attack but Russia said the vessel was damaged by an explosion of ammunition on board, making no mention of an attack.
CIA warns desperate Putin poses nuclear threat
US cannot ‘take lightly’ threat Russia could use nuclear weapons, CIA chief says
Ukrainian parliament calls Russian army’s actions ‘genocide’
US weighing high-level official visit to Ukraine, says source
News in detail….
Russia said late on Thursday that the Moskva, the flagship missile cruiser of its Black Sea fleet, sank while being towed back to port. Ukraine said earlier in the day that its forces struck the Moskva in a missile attack but Russia said the vessel was damaged by an explosion of ammunition on board, making no mention of an attack.
1:23am: CIA warns desperate Putin poses nuclear threat
Russia’s setbacks in its invasion of Ukraine could lead President Vladimir Putin to resort to using a tactical or low-yield nuclear weapon, CIA director William Burns said Thursday.
“Given the potential desperation of President Putin and the Russian leadership, given the setbacks that they’ve faced so far, militarily, none of us can take lightly the threat posed by a potential resort to tactical nuclear weapons or low-yield nuclear weapons,” Burns said during a speech in Atlanta.
The Kremlin said it placed Russian nuclear forces on high alert shortly after the assault began February 24, but the United States has not seen “a lot of practical evidence” of actual deployments that would cause more worry, Burns added, speaking to students at Georgia Tech university.
“We’re obviously very concerned. I know President Biden is deeply concerned about avoiding a third world war, about avoiding a threshold in which, you know, nuclear conflict becomes possible,” said Burns.
11:50pm: Sinking of warship a ‘big blow’ to Russian fleet, says Pentagon
The sinking of the warship Moskva after it was engulfed in an inferno was a “big blow” to Russia’s naval strength in the Black Sea, the Pentagon said Thursday.
“This is a big blow to the Black Sea fleet, this is… a key part of their efforts to execute some sort of naval dominance in the Black Sea,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told CNN.
“This is going to have an effect on their capabilities.”
10:22pm: Russia says flagship Moskva cruiser of Black Sea fleet has sunk
Russia’s defence ministry said the missile cruiser Moskva, the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea fleet, sank as it was being towed back to port in stormy weather following an explosion and fire, according to Russian news agencies.
“While being towed … towards the destined port, the vessel lost its balance due to damage sustained in the hull as fire broke out after ammunition exploded. Given the choppy seas, the vessel sank,” state news agency TASS reported, quoted the defence ministry.
The ministry said earlier on Thursday that the Soviet-era ship had been badly damaged by the fire, which Ukraine said was the result of a missile strike.
8:47pm: ‘You wield the nuclear card and it scares the West’
According to Dmitry Medvedev, deputy chair of the Russian National Security Council and a former Russian president, if Finland and Sweden join NATO – perhaps in the next few weeks or months – the Baltics will no longer be a non-nuclear zone, noted FRANCE 24 international affairs commentator Douglas Herbert.
“He’s implying that there will be nuclear-armed weapons within range of […] the homes of ordinary people in Finland and Sweden,” Herbert said. “It’s bullying; it’s menacing. Russia is reading from its script, its playbook: You wield the nuclear card and it scares the West – it scares a lot of people.”
8:44pm: Rain in Donbas could favour Ukrainian army, US official says
Rainy weather in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region could favour the army in its fight against invading Russian forces, which are preparing an offensive in the region, a senior Pentagon official said Thursday.
Rain has battered Donbas for several days and is expected to continue, alongside warming temperatures.
“The fact that the ground is softer will make it harder for them to do anything off of paved highways,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
8:26pm: US cannot ‘take lightly’ threat Russia could use nuclear weapons, CIA chief says
The threat of Russia using tactical nuclear weapons in Ukraine cannot be taken lightly, but the CIA has not seen a lot of practical evidence to fuel those fears, CIA Director William Burns said on Thursday.
“None of us can take lightly the threat posed by a potential resort to tactical nuclear weapons or low-yield nuclear weapons,” Burns said.
He spoke at Georgia Tech university of the “potential desperation” and setbacks now faced by Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose forces have suffered heavy losses and been forced to retreat from some parts of northern Ukraine after failing to capture Kyiv.
8:14pm: French embassy to return to Kyiv ‘very soon’
France will soon return its embassy to the capital Kyiv from the western city of Lviv, Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba in a phone call on Thursday.
“This redeployment will happen very soon and will allow France to underscore its support for Ukraine” against a “war unleashed by Russia”, the foreign ministry said in a statement.
The French embassy was moved to Lviv in early March as conditions on the ground worsened after Russia invaded Ukraine in late February.
France, however, continues to advise its nationals against returning to Ukraine, including the capital.
“We consider returning remains unthinkable for those French people who lived in Ukraine. The return of French compatriots today remains formally prohibited,” the French government noted on Tuesday, stressing that “the whole of Ukraine remains a war zone”.
France is providing support to Ukraine through military equipment, humanitarian aid and assistance for investigations of abuses allegedly committed by Russian forces against civilians.
8:12pm: Ukraine’s foreign minister urges Berlin for quick decision on arms deliveries
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba called on Germany to make a quick decision on weapons deliveries to Ukraine, saying Kyiv was counting on Berlin’s leading role in Europe.
The Ukrainian government has been frustrated by delays in delivery due to the approvals from several ministries required for consignments of arms exports, which have to be coordinated by the Federal Chancellery.
“I hope that [German Chancellor Olaf] Scholz will make a positive decision,” Kuleba told broadcaster ARD, according to the text of an interview released ahead of its publication on Thursday.
6:51pm: Russia seeks Brazil’s help at IMF, World Bank, G20
Russia has asked Brazil for support at the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the G20 group of top economies to help it counter crippling sanctions imposed by the West since it invaded Ukraine, according to a letter seen by Reuters.
Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov wrote to Economy Minister Paulo Guedes asking for Brazil’s “support to prevent political accusations and discrimination attempts in international financial institutions and multilateral fora”.
“Behind the scenes work is under way at the IMF and World Bank to limit or even expel Russia from the decision-making process,” Siluanov wrote.
5:59pm: US believes Russian warship still dealing with fire, defence official
The US believes the Russian warship Moskva is still dealing with a fire and the ship is believed to have experienced significant damage, a senior US defence official said on Thursday.
The warship, a Soviet-era missile cruiser, is still believed to be afloat and the United States is under the assumption that the cruiser is heading to Sevastopol, the official said.
“Our assessment is that she still appears to be battling a fire on board,” the official continued.
5:54pm: Ukraine rejects Moscow’s claim it struck Russian border region
Kyiv on Thursday rejected claims by Moscow that Ukrainian forces carried out attacks along the border between the countries, including a strike Russia said left seven injured.
Ukraine’s national security and defence council in a statement on social media instead accused Russia of staging “terror attacks” on its own territory to stir up “anti-Ukrainian hysteria” in the country. “There have been several terrorist attacks on the Russian border, in which the Russian leadership accuses Ukrainian sabotage and intelligence groups,” it added.
Russia had earlier accused Ukraine of sending helicopters to bomb a town in its southern Bryansk region after reporting eight people had been injured in shelling.
5:51pm: US began collecting intelligence on invasion plans last autumn, CIA chief says
US spy agencies began collecting “disturbing and detailed” intelligence on a plan last fall for a “major new invasion” of Ukraine by Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has “stewed” in grievance, ambition and insecurity, CIA Director William Burns said on Thursday.
Speaking at Georgia Tech university in his first public speech since taking the helm of the CIA last year, Burns also said that US intelligence has been “vital” to Ukraine’s fight against Russian forces. The “crimes” those forces committed in the Ukrainian town of Bucha “are horrific”, he said.
5:50pm: Ukrainian parliament calls Russian army’s actions ‘genocide’
Ukraine’s parliament on Thursday backed a resolution recognising the actions of the Russian military in the country as “genocide”.
“The actions committed by the armed forces of Russia are not just a crime of aggression but pursue the goal of the systematic and consistent destruction of the Ukrainian people, their identity, and the deprivation of their right to self-determination and independent development,” said the text, which was approved by a majority of 363 lawmakers.
5:38pm: Putin tells Europe: You still need Russian gas but we’re turning east
President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday that Moscow would work to redirect its energy exports eastward as Europe tries to reduce its reliance, adding that European nations would not be able to ditch Russian gas immediately.
“The so-called partners from unfriendly countries concede that they won’t be able to make do without Russian energy resources, including without natural gas, for example,” Putin told a televised government meeting. “There is no rational replacement [for Russian gas] in Europe now.”
5:17pm: UK sanctions Chelsea Football Club director Tenenbaum
The British government said on Thursday it had sanctioned Chelsea Football Club director Eugene Tenenbaum in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Tenenbaum will be subject to an asset freeze as well as transport sanctions meaning that any ship or aircraft owned, chartered, controlled or operated by him could be detained if it enters Britain.
Britain also sanctioned David Davidovich, an associate of Chelsea owner Roman Ambramovich, saying he would be subject to an asset freeze and travel ban as well as transport sanctions. For both men it gave the reason for being sanctioned as their close association with Abramovich, who has already been sanctioned by Britain.
4:50pm: Canada to deploy military personnel to Poland to support Ukrainian refugees
Canada will deploy up to 150 military personnel to Poland to support Ukrainians fleeing Russia’s war and address a growing refugee crisis at Poland’s border with Ukraine, Defense Minister Anita Anand said on Thursday.
More than half of the more than 4.5 million who have left Ukraine since Russia’s February 24 invasion have gone to neighbouring Poland.
4:47pm: Crippling of Moskva warship a ‘serious blow’ to Russian military
The crippling of the Moskva is “quite a serious blow, I would say, to the morale of the Russian navy and the Russian armed forces in general”, FRANCE 24 chief international affairs editor Robert Parsons said on Thursday, reporting from Kyiv.
“All those Russian ships on the Black Sea now will know that they are in range of Ukrainian missile fire,” Parsons continued. “That is potentially a ground changer – and certainly will put in serious doubt the possibilities of a Russian amphibious attack against the city of Odesa in the south of Ukraine.”
4:40pm: Ukraine to play postponed World Cup qualifier against Scotland in June
Ukraine’s delayed World Cup qualification playoff semi-final against Scotland has been rescheduled for June 1, with the winners set to face Wales four days later for a place at this year’s tournament, UEFA said in a statement on Thursday.
The match was due to be played at Hampden Park in Glasgow on March 24 but was suspended following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine
4:30pm: Putin says Russian energy exports should be diverted to Africa, Latin America
Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday that Russian energy exports should be re-routed to Africa and Latin America in a push to diversify from supplies to the West.
He also said that construction of new oil and gas pipelines should be considered from the hydrocarbon fields in western and eastern Siberia.
3:59pm: Russia to tow crippled ‘Moskva’ warship back to port
Russia said the crew of its Black Sea fleet flagship was evacuated on Thursday and measures were being taken to tow the stricken ship back to port after an explosion of ammunition on board that Ukraine said was caused by a missile strike. Russia said a fire aboard the Moskva, a warship that would typically have 500 sailors on board, forced the crew to evacuate the vessel but made no mention of an attack.
3:30pm: Extra US military aid for Ukraine ahead of terrain shifting ‘dramatically’
US President Joe Biden approved $800 million in new military assistance for Ukraine on Wednesday “because Russian forces are shifting their tactics and so, too, is the US and its allies,” according to FRANCE 24 international affairs editor Douglas Herbert. “Until now the war has been fought […] mostly in northern Ukraine and in the towns north of Kyiv – the towns from which Russian forces, after being unable to enter the capital, had to retreat.”
“The terrain is now going to shift dramatically, and the types of terrain and battlefields that the war is now going to be waged on in the east is really open terrain,” Herbert continued. “As we speak, the Russian forces – the depleted Russian forces – are having to replenish their equipment, to regroup, re-array and redeploy, preparing essentially for what is expected to be a massive, massive and extremely brutal, assault on western Ukraine. And [the Ukrainians] want to be ready for it.”
3:28pm: US prepares cracks down on evading Russian sanctions
The US is preparing new efforts to crack down on sanctions evasion by Russia, President Joe Biden’s National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said on Thursday.
“Where our focus will be over the course of the coming days is on evasion,” Sullivan said in an interview at the Economic Club of Washington, a nonprofit forum for global leaders. “I think we’ll have some announcements in the next week or two that identify targets that are trying to facilitate that evasion both inside Russia and beyond,” Sullivan said, without giving details.
3:25pm: What is the legal definition of ‘genocide’?
Washington and Kyiv are accusing Russia of genocide in Ukraine, but the ultimate war crime has a strict legal definition and has rarely been proven in court ever since it was cemented in international law after the Holocaust.
The 1949 Geneva Convention defines it as an “intentional effort to completely or partially destroy a group based on its nationality, ethnicity, race or religion”, as FRANCE 24’s James André explains.
3:17pm: EU payment in roubles for Russian gas would ‘breach’ sanctions regime
Payment for Russian gas in roubles by European Union buyers – as demanded by President Vladimir Putin – would break the EU’s sanctions regime against Moscow, according to an internal European Commission note.
Putin has warned Europe it risks having gas supplies cut unless it pays in the Russian currency as he seeks retaliation over Western sanctions for Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
“This mechanism would lead to a breach of the existing EU restrictive measures adopted in respect of Russia, its government, the Central Bank of Russia, and their proxies,” said the internal note, seen by Reuters.
3:16pm: Russia warns Finland, Sweden of ‘undesirable consequences’ if they join NATO
Russia will be forced to take new security measures if Sweden and Finland join NATO, Moscow’s deputy foreign minister Alexander Grushko said on Thursday, according to Russia’s TASS news agency.
Membership in the military alliance will lead to “the most undesirable consequences”, Grushko was quoted as saying.
3:15pm: Strains in German coalition as junior partners turn on Scholz
Frustration is growing among German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s junior coalition partners over what they say are shortcomings in his leadership on Ukraine, an internal rift that risks undermining Western unity against Russia.
After a dramatic policy pivot at the start of the crisis, when Scholz halted the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project with Russia days before its invasion of Ukraine and then vowed a big jump in defence spending, his coalition partners accuse him of dithering.
“I have the impression that Mr Scholz is not aware of the serious damage he is doing to Germany’s reputation in Central Europe, in Eastern Europe, basically in the whole of Europe,” Anton Hofreiter, the Green chairman of the German parliament’s Europe committee, told Reuters.
2:24 pm: Ukraine claims sinking of Russian flagship, prompting Kremlin denials
Ukraine said Thursday its forces sank the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea fleet in a missile attack but Moscow said the vessel was merely damaged, making no mention of an assault.
The loss of the ship would be a major military and symbolic defeat for Russia as its troops regroup for a renewed offensive in eastern Ukraine after retreating from much of the north, including the capital. Russia said a fire aboard the Moskva, a warship that would typically have 500 sailors on board, forced the entire crew to evacuate the vessel. It later said the fire had been contained and that the ship would be towed to port with its guided missile launchers intact.
2:22 pm: Kyiv says 30 people returned to Ukraine in Russia prisoner swap
Ukraine said Thursday that 30 prisoners of war were being returned to the country as part of the most recent exchange of captives with Russia, following an order from President Volodymyr Zelensky.
“Five officers and 17 servicemen were exchanged. Also eight civilians, including one woman, were released. In total, 30 of our citizens are going home today,” Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said in a statement on social media.
2:19 pm: Russia accuses Ukraine of shelling border town, injuring residents
The governor of Russia’s southern Bryansk region on Thursday accused the Ukrainian army of shelling a Russian town about 10 kilometres (six miles) from their joint border, injuring civilians.
“Today the Ukrainian Armed Forces fired at the town of Klimovo. As a result of the shelling, two residential buildings were damaged and some of the residents are injured,” governor Alexander Bogomaz said on Telegram.
He added that emergency services were working at the scene and residents receiving “medical care”.
2:17 pm: War in Ukraine raising risks for Middle East, World Bank warns
The war in Ukraine has “multiplied risks” for the Middle East and North Africa’s poorer countries by raising food and energy prices, the World Bank said Thursday, warning of potential social unrest.
In its latest update to its MENA growth forecast, the development lender said inflationary pressures set off by Covid-19 “are likely to be exacerbated” by Russia’s invasion. “The threat of Covid-19 variants remains and the war in Ukraine has multiplied risks, particularly for the poor,” the World Bank’s MENA vice president, Ferid Belhaj, said in the report, titled “Reality Check”.
1:07 pm: Calling Russian actions in Ukraine ‘genocide’ complicates peace efforts, Macron says
French President Emmanuel Macron said Thursday that using the word “genocide” to describe Russia’s actions in Ukraine would be an escalation that would complicate efforts for a peace deal.
“Words have meaning and it is necessary to be careful because my role is to help bring peace, or at least to stop this war,” Macron said in an interview with France Bleu radio, adding that he wanted to avoid verbal escalations.
US President Joe Biden said Tuesday that “evidence is mounting” that Russia is committing “genocide“, sparking angry denials from the Kremlin.
11:06 am: Russia already has nuclear weapons in the Baltic region, says Lithuania
Russia already has nuclear weapons in the Baltic region, Lithuanian Defence Minister Arvydas Anusauskas said on Thursday.
Anusauskas told Lithuania’s BNS wire that nuclear weapons have been deployed in Russia’s Kaliningrad exclave on the Baltic Sea since before the current crisis.
“The current Russian threats look quite strange, when we know that, even without the present security situation, they keep the weapon 100 km from Lithuania’s border,” the minister was quoted by the wire on Thursday.
“Nuclear weapons have always been kept in Kaliningrad … the international community, the countries in the region, are perfectly aware of this … They use it as a threat,” he was quoted.
9:42 am: Russia warns NATO over Sweden and Finland membership
Russia on Thursday warned NATO that if Sweden and Finland joined the military alliance then Russia would have to bolster its defences and that there could be no more talk of a “nuclear free” Baltic.
“There can be no more talk of any nuclear-free status for the Baltic – the balance must be restored,” said Dmitry Medvedev, deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council.
“Until today, Russia has not taken such measures and was not going to,” Medvedev said.
9:39 am: Irish foreign minister to visit Kyiv
Irish foreign and defence minister Simon Coveney is to travel to Kyiv on Thursday, his office said, where he will meet his two Ukrainian counterparts.
Coveney’s visit is the first by a foreign minister from a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council to Kyiv since Russia’s invasion began.
His talks with Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov will focus on “how Ireland can continue to provide political, security and humanitarian support to Ukraine,” a statement said.
The ministers will also discuss how Ireland can “assist Ukraine in its application for EU candidate status, take forward further EU sanctions on Russia and hold Russia to account for its brutal and unjustified invasion.”
9:23 am: Ukrainian towns Kramatorsk, Kostiantynivka likely to be Russian targets, UK says
The Ukrainian towns of Kramatorsk and Kostiantynivka are likely to be targeted by Russia for levels of violence seen in other urban centres since Moscow invaded Ukraine in late February, British military intelligence said on Thursday.
In an update on the war, Britain’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) said that “widespread missile and artillery strikes and efforts to concentrate forces for an offensive” showed a reversion to traditional Russian military doctrine.
The MoD added that Ukraine’s continued defence of Mariupol was currently tying down significant numbers of Russian troops and equipment.
9:07 am: Ukraine says restarting civilian evacuations
Ukraine said Thursday it was reopening humanitarian corridors allowing for the evacuation of civilians from war-scarred regions after a day-long pause that Kyiv attributed to Russian violations.
Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said in a statement on social media that nine routes in the east and south of the country would be operating a day after they were shut because routes, she had said, were “too dangerous”.
“Humanitarian corridors in the Lugansk region will be run under the condition of cessation of shelling by the occupying forces,” Vereshchuk said Thursday.
8:22 am: Ukraine wants as many security guarantors as possible
Ukraine wants as many countries as possible to act as security guarantors, but Russia does not want their number to increase, a Ukrainian negotiator in peace talks with Russia, presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak, said on Thursday in televised comments.
5:10 am: Expert team works to clear Kyiv region of landmines
Our colleagues at France 2 meet the team working to defuse thousands of undetonated explosives across a broad swath of territory around the Ukrainian capital:
2:40 am: US weighing high-level official visit to Ukraine, says source
Senior US officials are weighing whether to send a top cabinet level official to Kyiv as a high profile representative in a show of solidarity with Ukraine, a source familiar with the situation said on Wednesday.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken or Defense Secretary Austin Lloyd are potential candidates to pay a surprise visit to Kyiv, the source said.
President Joe Biden is unlikely to make the trip, the source said.
No final decision has been made on sending an official, the source said. The discussions were first reported by Politico.
Other Western leaders, including British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, have made trips to Ukraine in show of support following Russia’s invasion in February.
Meanwhile, Western governments are sending more military aid to bolster Ukraine’s defence against a major offensive expected by Russia in eastern and southern Ukraine.
1:42 am: Zelensky calls for European embargo on Russian oil
“First of all, we need an oil embargo, and Europe’s clear readiness to give up all Russian energy. The European Union must stop sponsoring Russia’s military machine,” the Ukrainian president said, calling for Western countries to step up sanctions against Russia.
1:05 am: Russia says flagship of Black Sea fleet badly damaged by blast
Russia on Thursday said the flagship of its Black Sea fleet was seriously damaged and its crew evacuated following a fire that caused an explosion, as a Ukrainian official said the vessel had been hit by missiles.
The incident on the Moskva missile cruiser occurred after ammunition on board blew up, Interfax news agency quoted the Russian defence ministry as saying.
“As the result of a fire on the Moskva missile cruiser, ammunition detonated,” it said in a statement.
Maksym Marchenko, governor of the region around the Black Sea port of Odesa, said in an online post that the 12,500 tonne ship was hit by two missiles, without providing evidence.
“Neptune missiles guarding the Black Sea caused very serious damage,” he said in an online post.
Rob Parsons, FRANCE 24’s Chief International Affairs Editor, provides more details below.
12:45 am: US gives Ukraine $800 million more in military aid, adds heavy weapons
US President Joe Biden announced an additional $800 million in military assistance to Ukraine on Wednesday, expanding the scope of the systems provided to include heavy artillery ahead of a wider Russian assault expected in eastern Ukraine.
The package, which brings the total military aid since Russian forces invaded in February to more than $2.5 billion, includes artillery systems, artillery rounds, armoured personnel carriers and unmanned coastal defence boats, Biden said in a statement after a phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Biden said he had also approved the transfer of additional helicopters, saying equipment provided to Ukraine “has been critical” as it confronts the invasion.
“We cannot rest now. As I assured President Zelensky, the American people will continue to stand with the brave Ukrainian people in their fight for freedom,” Biden said in a written statement.
The new package includes 11 Mi-17 helicopters that had been earmarked for Afghanistan before the US-backed government collapsed last year. It also includes 18 155mm howitzers, along with 40,000 artillery rounds, counter-artillery radars, 200 armoured personnel carriers and 300 additional “Switchblade” drones.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and REUTERS)