The European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, has announced a fresh round of proposed sanctions on Russia designed “to make the Kremlin pay” for escalating the conflict in Ukraine. The proposed eighth package of “biting” sanctions includes a cap on the price of Russian oil and further curbs on hi-tech trade.
Politicians across Europe have warned that the suspected sabotaging of the two Nord Stream pipelines could herald a new stage of hybrid warfare targeting vulnerable energy infrastructure in order to undermine support of Ukraine. Norway’s prime minister, Jonas Gahr Støre, said his country would step up its military presence at Norwegian installations after the country became Europe’s largest supplier of natural gas.
A report drawn up by an international working group on sanctions concluded Russia should now be declared a “state sponsor of terrorism” and had reached the legal definition of a terrorist state under US and Canadian law. The head of the Office of the Ukrainian Presidency, Andriy Yermak, called for sweeping American and European sanctions in light of the report, after Ukraine accused Russia of sabotage of the Nord Stream pipelines under the Baltic Sea.
Moscow is poised to formally annex Russian-occupied regions after so-called referendums that have been denounced by the west. The Russian-installed leaders of the Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions in Ukraine have formally asked President Vladimir Putin to annex the occupied territories into Russia. Russia’s foreign ministry said action would be taken soon to meet the “aspirations” of four occupied Ukrainian regions to become part of Russia. Once annexed, Russia’s leadership has said it will consider attacks on the Russian-controlled areas as a direct attack on Russia.
President Volodymyr Zelenskiy says Ukraine will “act to protect our people” in Russian-occupied regions after what he described as “an imitation of referendums”. Ukraine’s foreign ministry said Kyiv and its allies “condemn such actions of Russia and consider them null and worthless”.
Britain’s prime minister, Liz Truss, told Zelenskiy in a phone call that the UK would never recognize Russian attempts to annex parts of Ukraine, Downing Street said. The EU’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, also denounced the “illegal referenda and their falsified outcome” in Ukraine.
Israel has strengthened its hitherto cautious stance on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, saying it will “not accept the results of the referendum in the eastern districts” of the occupied country. Tuesday night’s statement from the Israeli foreign ministry, which also said it “recognizes the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine”, has been received as an unprecedented show of support for Ukraine, and a rare Israeli rebuke to Moscow.
Gas prices have risen on fears that Russia could halt supplies to Europe through Ukraine, adding to turmoil caused by damage to the Nord Stream pipelines. The statement came after the discovery of leaks on the two Nord Stream gas pipelines near the Danish island of Bornholm in a suspected act of sabotage.
The Kremlin dismissed claims that Russia was behind the attack on the Nord Stream gas pipelinesdescribing them as “quite predictable and also predictably stupid”. In a call with reporters, the Kremlin spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, said the incident needed to be investigated and that the timings for the repair of the damaged pipelines were not clear.
Authorities in the Russian region of North Ossetia, which borders Georgia, are reportedly putting in place travel restrictions to prevent people fleeing to Georgia to avoid conscription. The report by the Moscow Times cites the head of the region, Sergey Menyaylo, as saying that more than 20,000 people had entered Georgia through the section of the border in just the past two days.
The US embassy in Moscow has issued a security alert and urged American citizens to leave Russia immediately. In a statement on its website, it warned that dual Russian-US nationals may be called up as part of the Russian government’s mobilization. US citizens should not travel to Russia and that those residing or traveling in the country should depart Russia immediately while limited commercial travel options remain, it said.
The governments of Romania, Bulgaria and Poland are urging any citizens that remain in the Russian Federation to leave urgently. That may be in anticipation of border crossings becoming much more difficult as routes out close and more people flee forced mobilization in Russia.
Russian authorities say they are establishing checkpoints at some of the country’s borders to forcibly mobilize Russian men seeking to avoid mobilization by fleeing the country. Social media footage shows military vehicles moving toward the border, reportedly to establish the mobilization checkpoint.
Russia is mounting a more substantive defense than previously as Ukraine attempts to press forward “on at least two axes east”, according to the UK’s Ministry of Defence. Heavy fighting continued in the Kherson region, where the Russian force on the right bank of the Dnipro remained vulnerable, it said in its latest intelligence update.
Ukrainian authorities say they have identified five Russian soldiers who allegedly shot at civilian cars in the Kyiv region during the first days of the war. The Russian soldiers are charged with killing five people, and injuring a further six, who were trying to flee Hostomel on 25 February, a day after Russia invaded.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism