December 8, 2022

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Ukraine-Russia war latest news: 60 feared dead in school bombing, says Luhansk governor

Putin’s Wagner mercenaries throw grenades into houses in Ukraine

Around 60 people are feared dead in the Russian shelling of a school in the village of Bilohorivka in the Luhansk region, governor Serhiy Haidai said on Sunday.

He said that two people were confirmed dead while 30 others were rescued from the debris of the school, which was sheltering nearly 90 people at the time it was struck.

Local media reported that the two dead were children, though this has not been confirmed by officials.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky in a late-night address on Saturday said more than 300 civilians have been rescued from the Azovstal steel mill in the besieged port city of Mariupol after a week-long effort.

“This part of the Mariupol humanitarian operation is over,” Ukraine’s deputy prime minister Iryna Vereshchuk informed via Telegram messaging app.

The Soviet-era steel mill has become a symbol of resistance to the Russian effort to capture swathes of eastern and southern Ukraine in the four-month-long war.

Russian president Vladimir Putin had ordered the plant to be sealed off after declaring victory in Mariupol on 21 April.

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US and Russia swap prisoners in Turkey

The US and Russia swapped prisoners today, with former US Marine Trevor Reed released in exchange for Russian pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko.

“Today, we welcome home Trevor Reed and celebrate his return to the family that missed him dearly,” president Joe Biden said in a statement, noting their concerns about the 30-year-old’s health.

Mr Reed, from Texas, was on his way to be reunited with his family in the US, senior Biden administration officials said, after the exchange that took place in Turkey.

In 2019, Mr Reed was convicted in Russia of endangering the lives of two police officers while drunk on a visit to Moscow. The US has called his trial a “theater of the absurd.”

US officials said Mr Biden commuted the sentence of Mr Yaroshenko, a Russian pilot who was arrested by American special forces in Liberia in 2010 and convicted for conspiracy to smuggle cocaine into the US.

Russia had proposed a prisoner swap for Yaroshenko in July 2019 in exchange for the release of any American.

Lamiat Sabin27 April 2022 17:24

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Kazakhstan may punish Russian TV host over Ukraine comments

Kazakhstan may declare a prominent Russian television host persona non grata after he said the Central Asian nation could meet the same fate as Ukraine if it did not side decisively with Russia, a Kazakh official said.

Although it has not condemned Russia‘s invasion of Ukraine, Kazakhstan, an oil-rich former Soviet republic, has called for the crisis to be resolved in line with the United Nations charter, has sent humanitarian aid to Ukraine, and has said it will abide by Western sanctions against Moscow.

Tigran Keosayan – married to Margarita Simonyan, editor-in-chief of the Kremlin-backed media outlet RT – said on his YouTube show that Kazakhstan was being “ungrateful” and “sly” by failing to show its support for Russia.

Kazakh Foreign Ministry spokesperson Aibek Smadiyarov said Keosayan’s comments were “insulting” and lacked objectivity.

“Perhaps his statement reflects the views of some parts of the Russian public and political establishment, but it goes against the spirit and essence of the cooperation between our countries and the existing agreements between our leaders,” he added.

“I expect he will be included in the list of people who are not welcome in Kazakhstan.”

Lamiat Sabin27 April 2022 17:00

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Putin tells his MPs that sanctions aren’t damaging Russia

Vladimir Putin told his MPs today that the Russian rouble, banking system, transport sector and economy have largely withstood international sanctions imposed against Moscow.

The Kremlin is expecting GDP to shrink by between 8.8 and 12.4 per cent this year, according to a document seen by Reuters – which reported that this could show that sanctions are hitting the Russian economy.

Russian banknotes in this file picture from Siberia in December

(Alexey Malgavko/Reuters)

Addressing MPs in St Petersburg, Putin also vowed to come up with a response to attempts of other countries to make Russia a global pariah over its invasion of Ukraine.

The Russian president said all decisions on how Moscow would react in that situation have already been taken, and accused the West of pushing Ukraine into conflict with Russia.

Lamiat Sabin27 April 2022 16:40

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Russian forces use tear gas and stun grenades to break up pro-Ukraine rally in Kherson

Russian forces used tear gas and stun grenades to disperse a pro-Ukraine rally in the occupied city of Kherson today, Ukraine‘s Prosecutor General said, as Moscow tightened its grip over the southern Ukrainian region.

Local authorities say Russia appointed its own mayor of Kherson on Tuesday after its troops took over the administration headquarters in the regional capital, which was the first big urban centre to be seized after the Feb. 24 invasion.

Some residents have staged occasional anti-occupation rallies in Kherson and crowds gathered in the city centre again on Wednesday, the date Kyiv had said Russia planned to stage a referendum to create a breakaway region like those in eastern Ukraine.

“During a peaceful pro-Ukrainian rally on Freedom Square in the city of Kherson, servicemen of the Russian armed forces used tear gas and stun grenades against the civilian population,” the office of Ukraine‘s Prosecutor General said in a statement.

It said it was investigating the incident, and that at least four people were wounded.

Maryam Zakir-Hussain27 April 2022 16:09

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Vladimir Putin’s health under fresh scrutiny as video shows him ‘shaking uncontrollably’

A resurfaced video showning Vladimir Putin shaking uncontrollably has sparking fresh concerns about the Russian president’s health.

The footage shows him seemingly suffering hand and leg tremors as he welcomed Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko to a meeting in mid-February, just days before he launched his invasion of Ukraine. Mr Putin is seen holding one hand to his chest while the other is in a fist, sparking speculation online that he may have Parkinson’s disease.

My colleague Thomas Kingsley has more.

Maryam Zakir-Hussain27 April 2022 15:55

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Greece’s energy supplies secured as Gazprom cuts supplies to several EU countries

Greece’s energy supplies are secured and the country will make the next payment to Russian gas producer Gazprom at the end of May, the office of Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Wednesday.

The next payment to Gazprom will take place “in the last ten days of May”, Mr Mitsotakis’ office said in a statement.

Maryam Zakir-Hussain27 April 2022 15:50

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Putin vows that Russia’s ‘special military operation’ in Ukraine will be achieved

Russian President Vladimir Putin has vowed to Russia‘s parliament that the goals of the country’s military operation in Ukraine will be achieved.

Putin said in an address on Wednesday to both houses of parliament: “I want to emphasize again that all the tasks of the special military operation we are conducting in the Donbas and Ukraine, launched on Feb. 24, will be unconditionally fulfilled.”

That, he said, will “guarantee the security of the residents” of separatist regions in eastern Ukraine that Russia recognized as independent shortly before launching its military action in Ukraine, as well as Crimea – which Russia annexed in 2014 – “and our entire country in the historical perspective.”

Maryam Zakir-Hussain27 April 2022 15:31

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Which countries are most dependent on Russian gas imports?

Russia has announced that it is suspending gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria, branding the countries “unfriendly” for refusing to comply with its abrupt order that they pay in roubles, despite the contract the countries signed stipulating that payment be made in euros or dollars.

Poland currently receives about 40 per cent of its natural gas from Russian imports but insists it was prepared for this eventuality, whereas Bulgaria is even more exposed, relying on Russia for 77 per cent of its gas, although it says it has been actively seeking alternative suppliers in light of the war.

As for the rest of Europe, the countries most heavily dependent on Russia for gas are Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia and Moldova, which receive 100 per cent of their supply from Russian imports, writes Joe Sommerlad.

Maryam Zakir-Hussain27 April 2022 15:15

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Poland’s prime minister says they will ‘do everything’ to impose contractual fines on Russia following gas suspension

Poland will do everything to impose contractual fines on Russia after it stopped gas flows to the country, the country’s prime minister has said.

“We will do everything to charge Russia with contractual penalties, because this action in not legal and not contractual,” Mateusz Morawiecki told a news conference.

Maryam Zakir-Hussain27 April 2022 15:05

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Canada places sanctions on 203 individuals complicit in Russia’s attempt to annex Donbas

Canada is imposing sanctions on 203 individuals that it says are complicit in Russia‘s attempted annexation of certain areas of Donbas in eastern Ukraine.

Canada has now imposed sanctions on nearly 1,000 individuals and entities from Russia, Ukraine and Belarus since the invasion of Ukraine in late February, the government said in a statement.

Maryam Zakir-Hussain27 April 2022 14:53