Saturday, March 2

Russia-Ukraine war live: Olena Zelenska warns Ukraine in ‘mortal danger’ without foreign aid | Russia


Ukraine’s first lady warns that Ukrainians in ‘mortal danger’ without foreign aid

Ukraine’s first lady, Olena Zelenska, has warned that Ukrainians are in “mortal danger” of being left to die if western countries do not continue their financial support, in an interview with the BBC.

Zelenska made the remarks a day after Republican senators in the US blocked a key aid bill that would have provided more than $60bn worth of support to Ukraine.

Olena Zelenska, first lady of Ukraine. Photograph: Global Images Ukraine/Getty Images

Zelenska told the BBC the slowdown in aid represented a “mortal danger” for her country:

We really need the help. In simple words, we cannot get tired of this situation, because if we do, we die. And if the world gets tired, they will simply let us die.

It hurts us greatly to see the signs that the passionate willingness to help may fade. It is a matter of life for us. Therefore, it hurts to see that.

The White House has warned that US funds for Ukraine could soon run out, and Republicans have held up a deal to authorise more assistance.

The UK has also been urging politicians in Washington DC to agree on a deal for Ukraine. The UK foreign secretary, David Cameron, said on a visit to Washington this week that the US was the “linchpin” of the western coalition backing Ukraine’s fight against Russia.

Ukraine’s first lady, Olena Zelenska, has warned that Ukrainians are in “mortal danger” of being left to die if western countries do not continue their financial support, in an interview with the BBC.

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Zelenska made the remarks a day after Republican senators in the US blocked a key aid bill that would have provided more than $60bn worth of support to Ukraine.

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Zelenska told the BBC the slowdown in aid represented a “mortal danger” for her country:

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n

We really need the help. In simple words, we cannot get tired of this situation, because if we do, we die. And if the world gets tired, they will simply let us die.

n

It hurts us greatly to see the signs that the passionate willingness to help may fade. It is a matter of life for us. Therefore, it hurts to see that.

n

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The White House has warned that US funds for Ukraine could soon run out, and Republicans have held up a deal to authorise more assistance.

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The UK has also been urging politicians in Washington DC to agree on a deal for Ukraine. The UK foreign secretary, David Cameron, said on a visit to Washington this week that the US was the “linchpin” of the western coalition backing Ukraine’s fight against Russia.

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It is 10am in Kyiv and we are restarting our rolling coverage of the war in Ukraine.

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Ukraine says its forces have repelled 32 enemy attacks in the town of Avdiivka as Russian troops have been inching forward to try to cut supply lines. The head of the military administration in the town, less than 12km from the outskirts of the Moscow-held regional capital of Donetsk, said Russian forces were “pressing on the entire defensive line around the town”.

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In other recent developments:

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  • The Kremlin has said that the idea Russia would engage in peace talks with Ukraine on Kyiv’s terms in 2024 was unrealistic. It was responding to a media report that said Washington wanted such a scenario to unfold. The Kremlin spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, called the idea “absolutely unrealistic”.

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  • Russia has launched a wave of cruise missiles against Ukraine, killing at least one person and injuring six, as the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, warned of attacks by Moscow this winter on energy infrastructure. Ukrainian air defences shot down 14 of 19 missiles fired by Russia during a morning airstrike, Ukrainian officials said, including those heading for Kyiv.

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  • Vladimir Putin has said he will run for re-election in the March 2024 presidential poll, moving the longtime Russian leader a step closer to a fifth term in office. The announcement was widely expected, with Putin’s long-term spokesperson saying in a previous interview: “Putin will be re-elected next year with more than 90% of the vote.”

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  • The Ukrainian parliament has approved four bills necessary to start European Union accession talks, including one on national minorities’ rights, a critical demand from Hungary, which opposes Ukraine’s EU bid. The Ukrainian parliament’s website confirmed that President Volodymyr Zelenskiy signed all the bills into law.

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  • “We expect that Ukraine’s efforts will be duly appreciated by leaders of the European Union and the corresponding European promises to Ukraine will be fulfilled,” Zelenskiy said. Ukraine, he said, had “done everything expected of us” in taking on EU recommendations.

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  • European Union leaders are conscious of how “existential” financial aid is to Ukraine and will honour their commitments, a senior official said, less than a week before a summit where billions in aid for Kyiv hang in the balance. Ahead of the year’s final summit of EU leaders in Brussels, on 14 and 15 December, Hungary has threatened to veto a proposal for the bloc to grant €50bn in budget aid to Kyiv through 2027.

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  • The EU’s executive is due to approve next week a legal proposal on using proceeds from Russian assets frozen under sanctions, but doubts in France, Germany and Belgium mean Ukraine would not get the money anytime soon, officials and diplomatic sources said. The draft law is expected on 12 December.

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  • Zelenskiy has underscored Kyiv’s need for more air defences and the importance of EU unity in the run-up to a key summit next week. The Ukrainian leader said that during a call with Estonia’s prime minister, Kaja Kallas, the leaders “discussed the importance of maintaining EU political and financial support for Ukraine, as well as EU unity in light of the expected [European Council] summit decisions to open accession negotiations and provide €50bn in support.”

  • n

  • Ukraine’s farm ministry has raised its 2023 grain harvest forecast to 59.7m tonnes, saying the country had a “record grain yield”. The total grain and oilseed harvest is expected to reach 81.3m tonnes, the ministry added in a statement.

  • n

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Ukraine says its forces have repelled 32 enemy attacks in the town of Avdiivka, which is dominated by a vast coking plant, Reuters reports.

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The head of the military administration in the town, less than 12km from the outskirts of the Moscow-held regional capital of Donetsk, said Russian forces were “pressing on the entire defensive line around the town”.

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“Weather conditions prevent the occupiers from using their vehicles, so they resort to ‘human wave’ assaults, throwing more personnel into battles,” Vitaliy Barabash said.

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Moscow’s forces have been inching forward on the flanks to try to cut supply lines.

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A Ukrainian military spokesperson, Oleksandr Shtupun, said Russian forces had suffered heavy losses around the town.He told national television Russian forces had dropped about 450 bombs in the region and were bringing in reserves.

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The Russian defence ministry rarely mentions Avdiivka in its reports, but the war blog Rybar said on Friday that battles were raging by the coking plant and near Stepove village, north of the city. Rybar acknowledged that the front was all but unchanged.

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Key events

Russian police have put prominent Russian American journalist and author Masha Gessen on a wanted list after opening a criminal case against them on charges of spreading false information about the Russian army.

The independent Russian news outlet Mediazona was the first to report on Friday that Gessen’s profile has appeared on the online wanted list of Russia’s interior ministry, and the Associated Press was able to confirm that it was. It was not clear from the profile when exactly Gessen was added to the list.

Russian media reported last month that a criminal case against Gessen, an award-winning author and an outspoken critic of the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, was launched over an interview with the prominent Russian journalist Yury Dud, reports AP.

In the interview, which was released on YouTube in September 2022 and has since been viewed more than 6.5m times, the two among other things discussed atrocities by Russian armed forces in Bucha, a Ukrainian town near Kyiv that was briefly occupied by the Russian forces.

After Ukrainian troops retook it, they found the bodies of men, women and children on the streets, in yards and homes, and in mass graves, with some showing signs of torture. Russian officials have vehemently denied their forces were responsible and have prosecuted a number of Russian public figures for speaking out about Bucha, handing some lengthy prison terms.

Sean Ingle

Sean Ingle

Russian and Belarusian athletes will be allowed to compete at the Paris 2024 Olympics as long as they have not supported the war in Ukraine, the International Olympic Committee decided yesterday.

However, athletes who do qualify in individual sports will have to compete as “neutral” athletes – with no flags, emblems or anthems allowed. Russian and Belarusian teams will remain banned.

The controversial decision comes in defiance of Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, as well as more than 30 western countries – including Britain and the US – who had called for a complete ban.

Unsurprisingly, it was quickly criticised by Ukrainian athletes, including the Winter Olympic skeleton star Vladyslav Heraskevych, who questioned whether there would be any Russian or Belarusians in Paris who did not support the invasion of his country.

“To me this is madness, not something that is subject to common sense,” he said. The news also was greeted with anger in Russia, with the former sports minister Pavel Kolobkov saying: “This feels like some kind of handout … It was one thing when we performed on equal terms and competed on equal terms with other athletes. And it’s another thing when we are asked to participate under such humiliating conditions.”

In a statement explaining its decision, the IOC said that only eight athletes from Russia and three Belarusians had so far qualified for Paris, out of more than 4,600 from around the world.

The IOC confirmed that athletes and coaches who actively support the war will not be able to compete in Paris. “Athletes who are contracted to the Russian or Belarusian military or national security agencies will not be eligible to be entered or to compete,” it added.

The Finnish supreme court has blocked the extradition of a Russian neo-Nazi group leader who fought in Ukraine, warning of the risk that he may be subject to demeaning conditions.

Jan Petrovsky, the head of the Rusich paramilitary group, was arrested in July at Lappeenranta airport, close to the border with Russia. He is subject to western sanctions and is wanted by Kyiv on terrorism charges.

The US sanctioned him for displaying “special cruelty” in the fighting in Ukraine’s Kharkiv region after Russia invaded.

However, the Financial Times reports that courts in Europe no longer extradite people to Ukraine over concerns they could be susceptible to inhuman treatment, which is precluded under the European convention on human rights.

Ukraine’s prosecutor general, Andriy Kostin, said he would continue to “explore the possibilities for arresting and extraditing” Petrovsky. He added that the Finnish court did “not assess his guilt, but only the conditions of his detention”.

“We are aware of the overall problem regarding the reluctance of some European countries to comply with [extradition] requests  …. and the perception  … that Ukraine, being in a state of war, may not be able to meet all international requirements regarding the conditions of detention,” Kostin said, according to the FT.

Russian opposition figures behind bars in penal colonies or in self-exile abroad vow they will still put up a fight against president Vladimir Putin as he seeks yet another term in office in an election in March.

“No one but us will step into this battle for the hearts and the minds of our fellow citizens. So we need to do it and win,” imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny said in an online statement.

Putin, 71, announced on Friday that he will run for president again, to pile another six years onto his two dozen in power. He could even run again in 2030.

The vote is scheduled for 15-17 March, with his victory all but assured. The vast majority of opposition figures are either imprisoned or have fled the country, almost all independent news outlets have been blocked, and any criticism has been muted by a slew of repressive laws adopted over the last decade, AP reports.

“Our task is to make sure that the issues we will be able to raise and bring into the public agenda in January, February, March stick — stick with Russians even after the election,” said Leonid Volkov, Navalny’s top strategist and chief of staff, who left Russia several years ago.

To that end, Volkov and his team launched a project called “Navalny’s Campaigning Machine.” The idea is simple — talk to as many Russians as possible, either by phone or online, and convince them “to turn against the candidates we hate: candidate Putin and candidate ‘War,’” as Navalny himself put it in an online post announcing the project in June.

In late October, the project already had about 170 volunteers making the calls, Volkov said, and was conducting a survey to figure out the specific grievances and needs of people in order to tailor talking points they would use in future phone calls.

Nearly two years after Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, the Russian economy has demonstrated surprising resilience in the face of an unprecedented avalanche of western sanctions, AFP reports.

But economists continue to warn that Russia’s wartime economy may be showing signs of overheating, while western leaders are hoping the sanctions will finally bite. A French diplomatic source expressed hope that the economic penalties would start to be felt in late 2024 or early 2025.

People walk through the Red Square in front of the St Basil Cathedral in Moscow, Russia.
People walk through the Red Square in front of the St Basil Cathedral in Moscow, Russia. Photograph: Yuri Kochetkov/EPA

Sanctions “are like a small puncture in a tire. It’s not immediate, but it works,” another European diplomatic source said. “It’s a marathon, not a sprint,” said Agathe Demarais, an analyst at the European Council on Foreign Relations.

She said the goal of the penalties was not to trigger the collapse of the world’s ninth-largest economy, which could have provoked a global crisis, nor to bring about regime change. “Their aim is to limit the capabilities of the Russian war machine,” said Demarais.

The EU has imposed 11 rounds of sanctions on Russia since its all-out invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, including hitting its key oil and gas exports. The 12th package of measures, including a ban on the import of Russian diamonds, is now in the works.

According to official figures, 49 percent of European exports to Russia and 58 percent of Russian imports are under sanctions. Even if Russia has become the most sanctioned country in the world, its economy has been dented but not devastated.

Pickup trucks and tourniquets bound for Ukraine’s battlefield are stuck in the miles-long line at the border with Poland, leaving components to build drones facing weeks of delays.

Ukrainian charities and companies supplying the war-torn country’s military have told of growing concerns as Polish truck drivers show no sign of ending a border blockade that has been in place since 6 November – creating lines that stretch for more than 19 miles and last up to three weeks in freezing temperatures.

The Polish protesters argue that Ukrainian truckers are in effect putting their livelihoods at stake by undercutting them after the EU relaxed limits on the number of Ukrainian drivers able to operate in Poland.

While drones will make it to the frontline, they are being delayed by two to three weeks, according Oleksandr Zadorozhnyi, the operational director of the Kolo foundation, which helps the Ukrainian army with battlefield tech, including drones and communications equipment.

About 200 pickup trucks needed to transport ammunition and evacuate the wounded from the frontline are blocked at the border because “deliveries have practically stopped”, said Ivan Poberzhniak, the head of procurement and logistics for Come Back Alive, Ukraine’s largest charitable organisation providing the military with equipment. “The pickup trucks are easy targets for Russia, so it’s impossible to deliver enough of them even normally,” he said.

The protesters insist they’re not stopping military transports or humanitarian aid into Ukraine. “Aid for the military passes through without having to wait at all,” said Waldemar Jaszczur, a protest organiser. He said Ukrainian truckers have been providing unauthorised transport services across Europe. They are asking “glaringly low prices” — 35% lower than what Polish truckers charge — and are “driving us out of the market”, he said.

A man waves from his truck roof in a long queue of trucks on a road surrounded by snow
A truck driver from Ukraine waves from his truck roof while waiting in a long queue to cross the Polish-Ukrainian border at the Dorohusk-Jagodzin crossing, in Okopy, Poland earlier this week. Photograph: Kuba Stężycki/Reuters

A deal to provide further US assistance to Ukraine by the end of the year appears to be increasingly out of reach for president Joe Biden.

The impasse is deepening in Congress despite warnings from the White House about the consequences of inaction. Republicans insist on pairing the funding with America’s immigration and border policies, with historic numbers of migrants arriving at the southern border.

After the Democratic president said this week that he was willing to “make significant compromises on the border”, Republicans swiftly revived demands that they had earlier set aside, hardening their positions and attempting to shift the negotiations to the right, according to a person familiar with the talks quoted by Associated Press.

Biden is facing the prospect of a cornerstone of his foreign policy — repelling Russia’s Vladimir Putin from taking over Ukraine — crumbling as US support for funding the war wanes, especially among Republicans. The White House says a failure to approve more aid by year’s end could have catastrophic consequences for Ukraine and its ability to fight.

To preserve US support, the Biden administration has quietly engaged in Senate talks on border policy in recent weeks, providing assistance to the small group of senators trying to reach a deal and communicating what policy changes it would find acceptable.

Ukraine’s first lady warns that Ukrainians in ‘mortal danger’ without foreign aid

Ukraine’s first lady, Olena Zelenska, has warned that Ukrainians are in “mortal danger” of being left to die if western countries do not continue their financial support, in an interview with the BBC.

Zelenska made the remarks a day after Republican senators in the US blocked a key aid bill that would have provided more than $60bn worth of support to Ukraine.

Olena Zelenska speaks at a podium
Olena Zelenska, first lady of Ukraine. Photograph: Global Images Ukraine/Getty Images

Zelenska told the BBC the slowdown in aid represented a “mortal danger” for her country:

We really need the help. In simple words, we cannot get tired of this situation, because if we do, we die. And if the world gets tired, they will simply let us die.

It hurts us greatly to see the signs that the passionate willingness to help may fade. It is a matter of life for us. Therefore, it hurts to see that.

The White House has warned that US funds for Ukraine could soon run out, and Republicans have held up a deal to authorise more assistance.

The UK has also been urging politicians in Washington DC to agree on a deal for Ukraine. The UK foreign secretary, David Cameron, said on a visit to Washington this week that the US was the “linchpin” of the western coalition backing Ukraine’s fight against Russia.

Russian troops press on town of Avdiivka

Ukraine says its forces have repelled 32 enemy attacks in the town of Avdiivka, which is dominated by a vast coking plant, Reuters reports.

The head of the military administration in the town, less than 12km from the outskirts of the Moscow-held regional capital of Donetsk, said Russian forces were “pressing on the entire defensive line around the town”.

Ukrainian soldiers walk through Avdiivka, Ukraine.
Ukrainian soldiers walk through Avdiivka, Ukraine. Photograph: Getty Images

“Weather conditions prevent the occupiers from using their vehicles, so they resort to ‘human wave’ assaults, throwing more personnel into battles,” Vitaliy Barabash said.

Moscow’s forces have been inching forward on the flanks to try to cut supply lines.

A Ukrainian military spokesperson, Oleksandr Shtupun, said Russian forces had suffered heavy losses around the town.He told national television Russian forces had dropped about 450 bombs in the region and were bringing in reserves.

The Russian defence ministry rarely mentions Avdiivka in its reports, but the war blog Rybar said on Friday that battles were raging by the coking plant and near Stepove village, north of the city. Rybar acknowledged that the front was all but unchanged.

Opening summary

It is 10am in Kyiv and we are restarting our rolling coverage of the war in Ukraine.

Ukraine says its forces have repelled 32 enemy attacks in the town of Avdiivka as Russian troops have been inching forward to try to cut supply lines. The head of the military administration in the town, less than 12km from the outskirts of the Moscow-held regional capital of Donetsk, said Russian forces were “pressing on the entire defensive line around the town”.

In other recent developments:

  • The Kremlin has said that the idea Russia would engage in peace talks with Ukraine on Kyiv’s terms in 2024 was unrealistic. It was responding to a media report that said Washington wanted such a scenario to unfold. The Kremlin spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, called the idea “absolutely unrealistic”.

  • Russia has launched a wave of cruise missiles against Ukraine, killing at least one person and injuring six, as the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, warned of attacks by Moscow this winter on energy infrastructure. Ukrainian air defences shot down 14 of 19 missiles fired by Russia during a morning airstrike, Ukrainian officials said, including those heading for Kyiv.

  • Vladimir Putin has said he will run for re-election in the March 2024 presidential poll, moving the longtime Russian leader a step closer to a fifth term in office. The announcement was widely expected, with Putin’s long-term spokesperson saying in a previous interview: “Putin will be re-elected next year with more than 90% of the vote.”

  • The Ukrainian parliament has approved four bills necessary to start European Union accession talks, including one on national minorities’ rights, a critical demand from Hungary, which opposes Ukraine’s EU bid. The Ukrainian parliament’s website confirmed that President Volodymyr Zelenskiy signed all the bills into law.

  • “We expect that Ukraine’s efforts will be duly appreciated by leaders of the European Union and the corresponding European promises to Ukraine will be fulfilled,” Zelenskiy said. Ukraine, he said, had “done everything expected of us” in taking on EU recommendations.

  • European Union leaders are conscious of how “existential” financial aid is to Ukraine and will honour their commitments, a senior official said, less than a week before a summit where billions in aid for Kyiv hang in the balance. Ahead of the year’s final summit of EU leaders in Brussels, on 14 and 15 December, Hungary has threatened to veto a proposal for the bloc to grant €50bn in budget aid to Kyiv through 2027.

  • The EU’s executive is due to approve next week a legal proposal on using proceeds from Russian assets frozen under sanctions, but doubts in France, Germany and Belgium mean Ukraine would not get the money anytime soon, officials and diplomatic sources said. The draft law is expected on 12 December.

  • Zelenskiy has underscored Kyiv’s need for more air defences and the importance of EU unity in the run-up to a key summit next week. The Ukrainian leader said that during a call with Estonia’s prime minister, Kaja Kallas, the leaders “discussed the importance of maintaining EU political and financial support for Ukraine, as well as EU unity in light of the expected [European Council] summit decisions to open accession negotiations and provide €50bn in support.”

  • Ukraine’s farm ministry has raised its 2023 grain harvest forecast to 59.7m tonnes, saying the country had a “record grain yield”. The total grain and oilseed harvest is expected to reach 81.3m tonnes, the ministry added in a statement.


www.theguardian.com

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