A victim, hand bounds behind his back, killed by Russian troops lies in the street in Bucha, Ukraine, April 3, 2022 (Reuters)
Wednesday’s Coverage: Ukrainians Reclaim More Villages Near Kharkiv
Source: Institute for the Study of War
UPDATE 1642 GMT:
The UN’s refugee agency UNHCR says the number of Ukrainians who have fled abroad because of the Russian invasion has passed six million.
Another eight million are internally displaced.
Ukraine had a pre-war population about 44 million.
UPDATE 1632 GMT:
Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk says “very difficult negotiations” continue to evacuate seriously wounded fighters from the besieged Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol in southern Ukraine.
The Zelenskiy Government has proposed exchanging the injured fighters for Russian prisoners of war.
Vereshchuk wrote on Telegram:
To be clear: we are currently negotiating only about 38 severely wounded (bedridden) fighters. We work step by step. We will exchange 38, then we will move on.
There are currently no talks on the exchange of 500 or 600 people, which is being reported by some media outlets.
UPDATE 1622 GMT:
The UN Human Rights Council has passed a resolution, by 33-2 with 12 abstentions, to investigate possible war crimes by Russian troops in Ukraine.
The special session on Thursday considered “the deteriorating human rights situation in Ukraine stemming from the Russian aggression”. Only China and Eritrea voted against the resolution.
From Ukraine Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba:
I welcome the adoption of the @UN_HRC resolution reinforcing inquiry into Russia’s war crimes in the recently liberated Ukrainian territories and in Mariupol. Perpetrators of these barbaric crimes will be brought to justice.
— Dmytro Kuleba (@DmytroKuleba) May 12, 2022
UPDATE 1554 GMT:
A Russian ship, with grain stolen from Ukraine, is reportedly in the Syrian port of Latakia — near Russia’s major naval and airbase in the country — after being turned away from at least one Mediterranean port.
The Matros Pozynich left Sevastopol in Russian-occupied Crimea on April 28, turning off its transponder.
Researchers and Ukrainian officials say the vessel is one of three ships involved in the movement of stolen grain.
Russia, whose military intervention prevented Bashar al-Assad’s fall from power in 2015, maintains its naval base at Tartous on the Mediterranean coast. Its Hmeimim airbase has been the center of the sustained bombing campaign that has killed thousands of civilians as well as reducing the opposition’s hold on parts of Syria.
UPDATE 1211 GMT:
Russia’s Foreign Ministry has gone further in Moscow’s fist-shaking over Finnish accession to NATO:
Finland joining NATO is a radical change in the country’s foreign policy. Russia will be forced to take retaliatory steps, both of a military-technical and other nature, in order to stop threats to its national security arising.
UPDATE 1207 GMT:
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg says, “Should Finland decide to apply, they would be warmly welcomed into NATO, and the accession process would be smooth and swift.”
He hailed Finland as one of NATO’s “closest partners, a mature democracy, a member of the European Union, and an important contributor to Euro-Atlantic security”.
UPDATE 0944 GMT:
The European Commission said that Ukraine’s suspension of Russia gas from a pipeline in a Russian proxy area (see Original Entry) will not be a threat to European Union countries.
A Commission spokesperson said, “While these developments may have an impact on part of the gas transit to the EU, they do not bring about any immediate security of supply issue for the EU,” noting that Ukraine’s step was a result of actions by Russia.
The EU’s Energy Commissioner will have talks today with Ukraine’s Energy Minister.
UPDATE 0939 GMT:
UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet has confirmed the recovery of 1,000 bodies near Kyiv in recent weeks, verifying the assessment of possible Russian war crimes.
Bachelet told the Geneva-based Human Rights Council, “The scale of unlawful killings, including indicia of summary executions in areas to the north of Kyiv, is shocking.”
The Council will decide today whether to authorize an official investigation into the events in the Kyiv region and others in February and March.
UPDATE 0932 GMT:
Finland President Sauli Niinistö has spoken with Ukraine counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskiy about Finnish moves towards NATO membership.
Had a phone conversation with President of Finland @niinisto. Commended the readiness of 🇫🇮 to apply for NATO membership. We also discussed Ukraine's European integration. And 🇺🇦 – 🇫🇮 defense interaction.
— Володимир Зеленський (@ZelenskyyUa) May 12, 2022
I spoke with President @ZelenskyyUa and reiterated Finland's firm support for Ukraine. I informed him of Finland's steps towards NATO membership and he expressed his full support for it. pic.twitter.com/AubTdsDq9I
— Sauli Niinistö (@niinisto) May 12, 2022
UPDATE 0819 GMT:
The Swedish newspaper Expressen reports that Sweden will apply to join NATO on Monday.
The Government will convene a special meeting on Monday to make the formal decision, then the application will be submitted barring an unexpected development, said Expressen’s sources.
The process is being coordinated with Finland’s move to NATO accession, beginning with a press release this morning from Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin and President Sauli Niinistö favoring an application “without delay”.
Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde responded:
Important message today from 🇫🇮 President @niinisto & PM @MarinSanna on @NATO membership. 🇫🇮 is 🇸🇪 closest security & defence partner, and we need to take 🇫🇮 assessments into account. 🇸🇪 will decide after the report from the security policy consultations has been presented.
— Ann Linde (@AnnLinde) May 12, 2022
Vladimir Putin’s surrogate, former President Dmitry Medvedev, fumed about the “conduct of exercises by the countries of the Alliance near our borders [which] increase the likelihood of a direct and open conflict between NATO and Russia”.
He chided, “Such a conflict always has the risk of turning into a full-fledged nuclear war. This will be a catastrophic scenario for everyone.”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said of the Finnish and Swedish accessions, “Everything will depend on how this expansion process of NATO expansion plays out, the extent to which military infrastructure moves closer to our borders.”
UPDATE 0700 GMT:
The Ukrainian military has claimed the recapture of another town near Kharkiv in northeast Ukraine.
The General Staff said Pytomnyk, north of Kharkiv and about halfway to the Russian border, had been liberated.
The operational report reiterated, “The occupying forces moved to the defense in order to slow down the pace of the offensive of our troops.”
Both the Ukrainian military and Western intelligence services say Russia is diverting forces from its offensive in eastern Ukraine to check the Ukrainian advance near Kharkiv, the country’s second-largest city.
Ukrainian officials say the city is no longer in range of Russian artillery.
Meanwhile, the Ukraine Defense Ministry says its forces have destroyed pontoon bridges used by the Russians in the Donbas offensive in the east.
Moscow’s forces were using the bridges to cross the Siverskyi Donets river in the eastern Luhansk region.
The Ministry published photos of destroyed Russian tanks and other armored vehicles in the village of Bilohorivka, near the Ukrainian-held city of Lysychansk.
Luhansk govenor Serhiy Haidai said Bilohorivka is a “fortress” which is “holding back a great number” of Russian troops.
ORIGINAL ENTRY: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has said there is little prospect of negotiations with Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, given the mass killings and atrocities by Russian forces across the country.
Speaking by videolink with students at Paris’s Institute of Political Studies, Zelenskiy said Ukraine is “ready to conduct these negotiations, these talks, as long as it is not too late”. However, he added:
With each new Bucha, with each new Mariupol, with each new city where there are dozens of dead people, cases of rape, with each new atrocity, the desire and the possibility to negotiate disappears, as well as the possibility of resolving this issue in a diplomatic manner.
Zelenskiy also indicated that Russian forces would have to withdraw from areas that it seized during the invasion, and that there would have to be intent for a resolution over Crimea — occupied by Russia since 2014 — and the Russian proxy areas in Donetsk and Luhansk in eastern Ukraine.
The war will end for the Ukrainian people only when we get back what’s ours. We do not need too much, because everything needs to be watched, we need only what’s ours. We want to return peace to our state.
We want to get our land back, because our history is tied with it, it is respect for international law.
Once we recoup all that is ours, we will finish this.
The last significant discussions between Ukraine and Russia were in Turkey at the end of March.
The Ukrainians presented a 15-page proposal. There would be a 15-year consultation over Crimea. Ukraine would not join NATO; however, its security would be guaranteed by countries such as the US, UK, France, and Turkey.
The Kremlin has made no substantial reply, instead insisting that Kyiv is not serious about negotiations.
Since the Turkey meeting, evidence of Russian war crimes has mounted. It includes the mass killing of hundreds of civilians in towns near Kyiv, such as Bucha, and in other parts of Ukraine.
The Russians have also waged 11 weeks of bombardment and siege of Mariupol in southern Ukraine, reportedly killing more than 21,000 people.
Despite the shelling, bombing, and attempt at starvation, Russian forces have been unable to overrun the last site of resistance, the Azovstal steel works. The last women and children sheltering in the complex were finally evacuated last week; however, about 1,000 fighters are refusing to surrender.
Zelenskiy proposed on Wednesday that wounded defenders, estimated at more than 500, be allowed to leave in return for the release of Russian prisoners of war.
Finland, Sweden On Verge of Joining NATO
Finland is expected to announce its intention to join NATO on Thursday, and Sweden is likely to follow in the coming days, according to diplomats and officials.
Five diplomats and officials said NATO countries expected a quick granting of membership, with an increased troop presence in the regionduring a one-year ratification period.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson visited both countries on Wednesday, signing mutual security agreements.
Finland and Sweden would join Norway, Denmark, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia as Nordic members of NATO.
Asked on Wednesday if Finland’s accession to NATO would provoke Russia, President Sauli Niinisto addressed Vladimir Putin, “My response would be that you caused this. Look at the mirror.”
Ukraine to Divert Russian Gas to Europe
Ukraine announced on Wednesday that it is diverting Russia gas to Europe which runs through Russian proxy areas in the east of the country.
GTSOU, the operator of Ukraine’s gas system, said it stopped shipments via the Sokhranivka route, invoking the “force majeure” of a situation beyond its control.
GTSOU CEO Sergiy Makogon said Russian occupiers are taking gas moving through Ukraine and sending it to the Russia proxy areas in Donetsk and Luhansk.
GTSOU also said operations have stopped at the Novopskov gas compressor station due to “the interference of the occupying forces in technical processes”.
Ukrainian officials said they were looking to divert the gas through other pipelines. However, Russia’s Gazprom declared that it is “technologically impossible” to shift all volumes to the Sudzha interconnection point further west in Ukraine.
The German Economy Ministry said it is considering the announcement, “taking the necessary precautions and preparing for various scenarios”.
About 1/3 of Europe’s gas come from Russia. While European Union members are discussing a proposal to cut off Russian oil by the end of 2022, no timetable has been set for gas supplies.