| Ukrainian Presidency says 40 soldiers killed | Biden condemns ‘unprovoked, unjustified’ attack on Ukraine | Partnership with a democratic Pakistan critical to

US interests: State Department | UN

chief to Putin: ‘Give peace a chance’

 

AGENCIES/NEWS DESK

KYIV/WASHINGTON/

UNITED NATIONS

 

Russia’s ground forces Thursday crossed into Ukraine from several directions, Ukraine’s border guard service said, hours after President Vladimir Putin announced the launch of a major offensive.

Russian tanks and other heavy equipment crossed the frontier in several northern regions, as well as from the Kremlin-annexed peninsula of Crimea in the south, the agency said. Ukraine suffered heavy casualties in its eight-year conflict with Russian-backed rebels in the separatist east, but has reported no fatalities along its southern border with Crimea for some years.

 

The Ukrainian Presidency said that more than 40 soldiers were killed since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began -- and a few dozen injured. Oleksiy Arestovych, an adviser in the President’s Office, said that in addition to the military casualties, “as far as I know, at the moment there are a few civilian deaths -- up to ten.”

 

Ukraine’s Ministry of Internal Affairs says it has reported 392 instances of shelling by Russian forces in Ukraine, a spokesperson for the ministry said Thursday.

Ukrainian Ambassador to the United States Oksana Markarova said Thursday that “all Ukrainians” will fight to protect their country in the face of a Russian invasion.

“The combat spirit of Ukrainian military is high,” Markarova said at a press conference in Washington, DC.

Markarova expressed thanks to US President Joe Biden “for the immediate statement which came minutes after (Russian President Vladimir) Putin’s decision to go on this offensive,” as well as other allies “who issued statements in support of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

“We value all the support. We hear all the support. It’s very important for us,” she said. “But it’s also time to act. And we call on the international community to act immediately.”

Asked by CNN whether she believed Russian President Vladimir Putin would have been deterred if the US had imposed stronger sanctions earlier, Markarova said, “we are where we are ... so let’s focus on the sanctions that the United States and other countries will impose right now.”

“This is what matters,” she said. “The actual deeds that we all together will do now is what matters.”

 

A video of a Russian military helicopter downed during fighting at Hostomel airport, near Kyiv, has been verified by the BBC, however the source of the video is unknown.

Ukrainian commander in chief Lieutenant General Valerii Zaluzhnyi has confirmed the military is fighting Russian forces for control of the airport in the Kyiv region, the Reuters news agency reports.

Hostomel is Ukraine’s most important international cargo airport, as well as a key military airbase.

 

Russian attacks included missiles fired from land, sea

Russian attacks on Ukraine that began at 9:30 p.m. ET last night have included “roughly more than 100 Russian-launched missiles of various types” in the “initial onslaught,” a senior US defense official said on Thursday.

The missiles included “short-range ballistic missiles” as the primary weapon, but the number also included “medium-range ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, surface-to-air missiles,” and “sea-launched missiles from the Black Sea,” the official said.

At least 75 fixed-wing heavy and medium bombers were part of the initial attack on Ukraine, the official said.

Russia initiated “some ground incursions” into Ukraine from Belarus, northwest of Kyiv, the official added.

So far, Russian targets in Ukraine have included “military and air defense” targets, meaning “barracks, ammunition warehouses, nearly ten airfields,” the official said.

Unprovoked and unjustified attack by Russian military forces

 

In a Twitter message, US President Joe Biden says he agreed with fellow G7 leaders “to move forward on devastating packages of sanctions and other economic measures to hold Russia to account.”

“We stand with the brave people of Ukraine,” he added.

 

US President also condemned Russia’s “unprovoked and unjustified attack by Russian military forces “ in a statement Wednesday evening following explosions in Ukraine. The US and allies are planning on Thursday to trigger the “full scale” of the sanctions that have been discussed over the last several weeks in response to the attack, according to a senior Biden administration official.

“President Putin has chosen a premeditated war that will bring a catastrophic loss of life and human suffering,” Biden said. “Russia alone is responsible for the death and destruction this attack will bring, and the United States and its Allies and partners will respond in a united and decisive way. The world will hold Russia accountable.”

The White House statement came in response to explosions across Ukraine, including in the capital of Kyiv. Shortly before the explosions began, Russian President Vladmir Putin announced a “special military operation” and called for Ukraine’s “demilitarization” in televised remarks.

An adviser for the interior minister of Ukraine, Anton Gerashchenko, said Russia’s “invasion has begun” with “missile strikes on Kyiv,” in an official WhatsApp group with journalists.

 

G7 leaders condemn Putin for attacking Ukraine

In a joint statement following a virtual meeting Thursday, the leaders of the G7 said Russian President Vladimir Putin has “re-introduced war to the European continent.”

“He has put himself on the wrong side of history,” the leaders wrote.

 

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine “cannot go unpunished,” Spain PM says

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez on Thursday said Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will have “far-reaching consequences and cannot go unpunished.”

In a nationally-televised address in Madrid, he called on Russian President Vladimir Putin “to put an immediate end to the hostilities and revoke” Russia’s recognition of territories in Ukraine.

Sánchez said the “European Union and the rest of the allies of the union had already approved a first package of measures” against Russia and that the EU’s Council is to meet later Thursday “to define its answer to this flagrant violation of international law.”

He called for a coordinated and unified European response and said sanctions against Russia would be the most effective approach.

 

A Security Council resolution regarding the Russian attack on Ukraine is privately being discussed among United Nations Security Council member states, according to two UN diplomats.

UK Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador James Kariuki said that while member states were in discussion privately, timing of a formal discussion was unclear.

 

Kyiv mayor announces night curfew

 

Kyiv’s Mayor Vitali Klitschko has announced a curfew in the Ukrainian capital from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. local time, according to a statement shared on his official Facebook page.

“Public transport will not work during curfew. At the same time, metro stations will be available as shelters 24/7,” Klitschko wrote.

“We ask all Kyivites to return home on time. If you need to move around the city during the curfew, in particular, as employees of critical infrastructure companies, you must have identification documents,” he added.

There is fierce fighting around the site of the former nuclear power plant in Chernobyl.

Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhaylo Podolyak has said it is impossible to say if the site is safe.

Podolyak says: “After a fierce battle, we lost control of the Chernobyl site.”

A video, verified by the BBC, appears to show Russian tanks stationed outside the former nuclear power station.

Chernobyl was the site of one of the worst nuclear disasters in history, when one of its four reactors exploded in 1986.

 

Erdogan denounces Russia invasion as ‘heavy blow’ to peace

 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday denounced Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as a “heavy blow” to regional peace.

“We reject Russia’s military operation,” Erdogan said in a televised speech, calling it a “heavy blow to regional peace and stability”.

Erdogan, whose government has friendly ties with Russia and Ukraine, had positioned Turkey, a member of NATO, as a neutral mediator for a resolution to the crisis.

He expressed “sincere sadness” over the fact that the two countries “with which we have close political, economic and social ties” were confronting each other.

Erdogan earlier today chaired a security summit in the capital Ankara after Moscow launched an attack on its neighbour.

The summit concluded that Russia’s attack was “a violation of international law” and “unacceptable”, according to the presidency.

It also discussed measures that can be taken with Russia and on international platforms for an “end to the attack that threatens regional and global security”.

Turkey “will continue to support Ukraine’s political unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity”, it said.

In a separate statement, the foreign ministry urged Moscow to stop its “unjust and unlawful” invasion immediately. “We consider the military operation... unacceptable and reject it,” the ministry said.

“We call on the Russian Federation to stop this unjust and unlawful action as soon as possible.”

Erdogan, who stepped up diplomacy with phone calls to the Russian and Ukrainian leaders this week, said Turkey had no desire to abandon ties with either of the countries.

“We want this issue to be resolved without us having to choose between the two,” he said in comments published in local media on Wednesday.

 

 

US asks Imran Khan to play part in Russia-Ukraine conflict

 

The visit of Prime Minister Imran Khan to Moscow on a prescheduled bilateral visit attained greater significance, as the United States urged him to play his part in averting a “costly” and “destabilizing conflict, following Russia- Ukraine clash.

The United States said it has been in touch with Islamabad on the escalating crisis.

“We believe it’s the responsibility of every responsible country around the world to voice concern, to voice objection to what (President Vladimir) Putin appears to have in mind for Ukraine,” State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters in response to a question at his daily briefing on Wednesday.

PM Imran Khan arrived in Moscow Wednesday to meet President Putin and discuss a range of issues, including economic cooperation. His visit takes place hours after the US and a number of Western nations slapped Russia with new sanctions for its military deployment into parts of eastern Ukraine.

“We’ve communicated to Pakistan our position regarding Russia’s further renewed invasion of Ukraine, and we have briefed them on our efforts to pursue diplomacy over war,” the spokesman said, while underscoring United States’ “longstanding partnership and cooperation” with Pakistan.

“We view our partnership with a prosperous, with a democratic Pakistan as critical to U.S. interests.

“And we certainly hope, when it comes to those shared interests – the aversion of a costly conflict, the aversion of a destabilizing conflict, that every country around the world would make that point clearly in unambiguous language in their engagements with the Russian Federation,” Price added.

Speaking at the World Affairs Councils of America (WACA), a think-tank, Pakistan’s Ambassador Asad Majeed khan said that Pakistan and the U.S. are important allies and partners.  “Over the past one year, a healthy momentum had been generated in laying down a foundation for structured and institutionalized bilateral dialogue processes in a number of areas of mutual interest,” he added.

 

UN chief to Putin: Stop the war in Ukraine now, ‘ give peace a chance’

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres Wednesday implored Russian President Vladimir Putin to stop the war in Ukraine ‘in the name of humanity’, after the Russian leader announced a military operation in eastern part of Ukraine.

“President Putin, stop your troops from attacking Ukraine, give peace a chance,” the UN chief  urged at an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council, the 15-member body’s second late night session this week.

The televised announcement came as the Council members were calling for de-escalation of the conflict. The Council met in a hastily arranged session hours after Russia said that rebels in eastern Ukraine had asked Moscow for military assistance, an announcement that Western diplomats said was a clear indication that Moscow was laying the groundwork for war.

“If indeed an operation is being prepared, I have only one thing to say from the bottom of my heart: President Putin, stop your troops from attacking Ukraine. Give peace a chance. Too many people have already died,” the UN chief told the council.

“It is too late to call for de-escalation,” Ukraine’s UN Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya said as he repeatedly said that President Putin had called to war. He asked Russia’s Ambassador Vasily Nebenzya, who is the president of the Security Council for the month of February,  to give up his position.

After Ukrainian ambassador’ remarks, Nebenzya said it was not a “war” that President Putin had declared but a “special military operation in the Donbass.”

“For you those living in Donbass are simply pawns in a geopolitical game focused on weakening Russia,” he told Security Council members, denying that Russia had conducted false flags operations in the Donbass.

During his main speech, which preceded the one from the Ukrainian ambassador, Nebenzya said, “We don’t know all the details today” about the special military operation in eastern Ukraine.

Meanwhile, a Western diplomat said that a resolution is in the works that would declare that Russia is violating the U.N. Charter, international law, and a 2015 council resolution on Ukraine. The resolution would also urge Russia to come back into compliance immediately, he said, but the move is bound to fail.

The resolution will not be adopted by the council as Russia is a veto power - along with the United States, France, Britain and China - but it gives Washington and its allies a chance to show that Moscow is internationally isolated over its actions on Ukraine.

“We work on the resolution in the Security Council. I hope we can move to action in the next hours or days, ... and if we cannot succeed in the Security Council we’ll go right away to the General Assembly,”  the diplomat added.

Tensions have been building over US accusations that Russia has deployed more than 150,000 troops near Ukraine’s borders and is ready to invade. Russia has denied it wants to invade Ukraine and accuses Washington and its allies of hysteria.

President  Putin has recognised the independence of two Moscow-backed separatist regions of eastern Ukraine and has ordered the deployment of Russian troops there to “keep the peace”. Washington and its allies have responded with a series of sanctions.

“The draft will make it very clear that Russia is not in compliance with the UN charter, that Russia is not in compliance with international law, with resolution 2202 that endorses the Minsk agreement,” the diplomat said.

“We will certainly urge Russia to get back to compliance immediately,” the diplomat said. “We don’t believe this would jeopardize the possibility to resume talks and negotiations as soon as possible.”

The moves at the United Nations appear set to mirror what happened in 2014 after Russia occupied Ukraine’s Crimea region.

The Security Council voted on a US-drafted resolution opposing a referendum on the status of Crimea and urging countries not to recognise it. It received 13 votes in favour, China abstained, and Russia cast a veto.

The 193-member UN General Assembly then adopted a resolution declaring the referendum invalid. It received 100 votes in favour, 11 against and 58 abstentions, while two dozen countries didn’t vote.

Earlier Wednesday, diplomats from dozens of countries took the floor at the U.N. General Assembly to deplore Russia’s actions toward the country and plead for diplomacy.

Russia and ally Syria defended Moscow’s moves.

Echoing a narrative being broadcast to Russians at home, Russian Ambassador Nebenzia portrayed his country as responding to the plight of beleaguered people in the breakaway areas. Russia claims Ukraine is engaging in violence and oppression, which Ukraine denies.

“We urge you today to focus on reining in Kyiv,” Nebenzia said.

Syria accused the West of using the assembly to pressure Moscow.

“The Ukrainian crisis was created by the Western states, led by the United States, to divide people and to undermine Russian security,” Ambassador Bassam al-Sabbagh said.

Meeting a day after Western powers and some other countries imposed new sanctions on Russia, the 193-member General Assembly didn’t take any collective action. But the comments from nearly 70 nations, with more scheduled for Monday, represented the broadest forum of global sentiment since the crisis dramatically escalated this week.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba implored countries to use tough economic sanctions, strong messages and “active diplomacy” to get Russia to back off. A lackluster response would jeopardize not only Ukraine but the concept of international law and global security, he warned.

“We need to use this last chance for action and stop Russia where it is,” Kuleba said.