Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday told his country's Victory Day parade on Moscow’s Red Square that “a real war” has been unleashed against Russia by the West's “untamed ambitions,” shortly after the Kremlin's forces rained cruise missiles on Ukrainian targets. “Today civilization is once again at a decisive turning point,” Putin said at Moscow’s annual commemorations celebrating the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II. “A real war has been unleashed against our Motherland.” Since Russia invaded its neighbor more than 14 months ago, Putin has repeatedly framed the war in Ukraine as a proxy conflict with the West. The Kremlin's official narrative of the war has painted a picture of an existential conflict with the West, which in Moscow’s view is merely using Ukraine as a tool to destroy Russia, re-write its history and crush its traditional values. That version of events has dominated Russian state media coverage of the war. In his speech, Putin insisted that the West’s “untamed ambitions, arrogance and impunity” are to blame for the conflict. Putin welcomed soldiers fighting in Ukraine who were present at the parade. “To Russia! To our brave armed forces! To Victory!” Putin concluded the speech. Also Read: War shadows Victory Day, Russia’s integral holiday Russia unleashed a barrage of cruise missiles on Ukraine overnight into Tuesday, hours before the start of the Moscow parade, which this year is taking place amid tight security measures. The Kremlin's forces launched 25 missiles overnight in a wave of attacks across Ukraine, the Ukrainian air force said, adding that air defense had successfully destroyed 23 of them. In a Telegram post, the air force said eight Kalibr cruise missiles were launched from carriers in the Black Sea toward the east and 17 from strategic aircraft. The barrage came as Moscow and other cities hosted military parades and other festivities marking Victory Day, Russia's biggest secular holiday that this year has been significantly overshadowed by the war in Ukraine. Russian media have counted 24 Russian cities that canceled May 9 military parades — the staple of celebrations across Russia — for the first time in years. The Immortal Regiment processions, in which crowds take to the streets holding portraits of relatives who died or served in World War II — another pillar of the holiday — have also been canceled in multiple cities. Also Read: Russia will defend its interests and work together for a peaceful future: Ambassador says on country’s Victory Day Regional officials blamed unspecified “security concerns.” Some speculated, however, that the reason behind canceling Immortal Regiment marches was the fact that Russians might bring portraits of relatives who died in Ukraine to those processions, illustrating the scale of Russia's losses in the drawn-out conflict. Moscow sought to project a show of force during its flagship parade on Red Square, with top-notch military equipment rumbling through it and leaders of ex-Soviet nations standing beside President Vladimir Putin. Initially, only one of them — Kyrgyz President Sadyr Zhaparov — was expected to attend, but at the last minute on Monday officials confirmed that leaders of Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan were heading to Moscow as well. Still, the parade looked more modest than usual: There were no military aircraft flying over Red Square, and fewer pieces of military equipment were displayed. For the first time in years, the parade ended in under an hour. The pared-down celebrations come after ambiguous official reports last week that two Ukrainian drones flew into the heart of Moscow under the cover of darkness and reached the Kremlin before being shot down. The Kremlin billed it as an attempt at Putin's life; Ukraine denied involvement.
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday visited command posts of the Kremlin’s forces fighting in Ukraine in an apparent effort to rally his troops as the war approaches its 14th month and Kyiv readies a possible counteroffensive with Western-supplied weapons. A video released by the Kremlin and broadcast by Russian state television showed Putin arriving by helicopter at the command post for Russian forces in the southern Kherson region and afterward flying to the headquarters of the Russian National Guard of the eastern Luhansk region Dressed in a dark suit, and in an apparent demonstration of authority, Putin appeared to chair the meetings with his military top brass. It was his second trip in two months to the Russian-occupied territories in the neighboring country. The locations of the military headquarters in the Kherson and Luhansk regions weren’t disclosed, so it wasn’t possible to assess how close they are to the front line. Also Read:G7 'committed to' intensifying sanctions against Russia, to support Ukraine 'for as long as it takes' Russia’s war in Ukraine has turned into a stalemate amid heavy fighting in the country’s east, particularly around the town of Bakhmut, which for 8½ months has been the stage for the war’s longest and bloodiest fight. In both locations, Putin congratulated the military on Orthodox Easter, which was celebrated Sunday and presented them with icons. Russia annexed the Kherson and Luhansk regions along with the Donetsk and Zaporizhzhia regions in September in a move that was rejected by much of the world as illegal. It was impossible to independently verify the authenticity of the video footage. Also Read: China protests US sanctioning of firms dealing with Russia Last month, Putin visited the Russian-held Sea of Azov port city of Mariupol, which was captured by Russian troops in May after two months of fierce fighting. Putin’s trips to the military headquarters come as Ukraine is preparing for a new counteroffensive to reclaim the occupied territories. Ukrainian officials have said they’re buying time by depleting Russian forces in the battle while Kyiv prepares a counteroffensive. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has argued that if Russia wins the Bakhmut battle, it could allow Putin to begin building international support for a deal that would require Ukraine to make unacceptable compromises to end the war. Oleksiy Danilov, the secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, told The Associated Press in an interview in Kyiv that Ukraine’s allies are helping the government to achieve the level of technical equipment necessary to launch the attack, delivering heavy armored vehicles and ammunition. He expressed confidence that Ukraine will be able to return all its occupied territories. “We will defeat Russia,” he said. “If you have a strong inner spirit, you will definitely win. And we always had it strong. This is something that always annoyed the Russians.”
Chinese leader Xi Jinping is due to meet Vladimir Putin in Moscow in a political boost for the isolated Russian president after the International Criminal Court charged him with war crimes in Ukraine. Xi’s government gave no details of what the Chinese leader hoped to accomplish. Xi and Putin declared they had a “no limits friendship” before last February’s attack on Ukraine, but China has tried to portray itself as neutral. Beijing called last month for a cease-fire, but Washington said that would ratify the Kremlin’s battlefield gains. The Chinese government said Xi would visit Moscow from Monday to Wednesday but gave no indication when he departed. The Russian government said Xi was due to arrive at midday and meet later with Putin. China looks to Russia as a source of oil and gas for its energy-hungry economy and a partner in opposing what both see as American domination of global affairs. The meeting gives Putin and Xi a chance to show they have “powerful partners” at a time of strained relations with Washington, said Joseph Torigian, an expert in Chinese-Russian relations at American University in Washington. “China can signal that it could even do more to help Russia, and that if relations with the United States continue to deteriorate, they could do a lot more to enable Russia and help Russia in its war against Ukraine,” Torigian said. READ: How a warrant for Putin puts new spin on Xi visit to Russia Beijing’s relations with Washington, Europe and its neighbors are strained by disputes over technology, security, human rights and the ruling Communist Party’s treatment of Hong Kong and Muslim minorities. Some commentators have point to a possible parallel between Russia’s claims to Ukraine territory and Beijing’s claim to Taiwan. The Communist Party says the self-ruled island democracy, which split with China in 1949 after a civil war, is obliged to unite with the mainland, by force if necessary. Xi’s government has been stepping up efforts to intimidate the island by flying fighter jets nearby and firing missiles into the sea. China has stepped up purchases of Russian oil and gas, helping to top up the Kremlin’s revenue in the face of Western sanctions. Beijing appears largely to have complied with U.S. warnings not to give military support. This week’s meeting follows the ICC announcement Friday of charges that Putin is personally responsible for the abductions of thousands of children from Ukraine. Governments that recognize the court’s jurisdiction would be obligated to arrest Putin if he visits. Putin has yet to comment on the announcement, but the Kremlin rejected the move as “outrageous and unacceptable.” In a show of defiance, Putin over the weekend visited Crimea and the occupied Ukrainian port city of Mariupol to mark the ninth anniversary of Russia’s seizure of the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine. Russian news reports showed him chatting with Mariupol residents and visiting an art school and a children’s center in Sevastopol in Crimea. Xi said in an article published Monday in the Russian newspaper Russian Gazette that China has “actively promoted peace talks” but announced no initiatives. “My upcoming visit to Russia will be a journey of friendship, cooperation and peace,” Xi wrote, according to text released by the official Xinhua News Agency. “A reasonable way to resolve the crisis” can be found if “all parties embrace the vision of common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security,” Xi wrote. The trip follows the surprise announcement of a diplomatic thaw between Iran and Saudi Arabia following a meeting in Beijing, a diplomatic coup for Xi’s government. Xi wants to be seen as a global statesman who is “playing a constructive role” by talking about peace but is unlikely to press Putin to end the war, said Torigian. Beijing is worried about “potential Russian losses on the battlefield” but doesn’t want to be seen to “enable Russia’s aggression,” said Torigian. “They won’t spend political capital” on pressing Moscow to make peace, “especially if they don’t think it will get them anything,” he said.
Widespread Russian attacks continued in Ukraine following the International Criminal Court’s decision to issue an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russia’s commissioner for children’s rights. Ukraine was attacked by 16 Russian drones on Friday night, the Ukrainian Air Force said in the early hours of Saturday. Writing on Telegram, the air force command said that 11 out of 16 drones were shot down “in the central, western and eastern regions.” Among areas targeted were the capital, Kyiv, and the western Lviv province. The head of the Kyiv city administration, Serhii Popko, said Ukrainian air defenses shot down all drones heading for the Ukrainian capital, while Lviv regional Gov. Maksym Kozytskyi said Saturday that three of six drones were shot down, with the other three hitting a district bordering Poland. According to the Ukrainian Air Force, the attacks were carried out from the eastern coast of the Sea of Azov and Russia’s Bryansk province, which borders Ukraine. The Ukrainian military additionally said in its regular update Saturday morning that Russian forces over the previous 24 hours launched 34 airstrikes, one missile strike and 57 rounds of anti-aircraft fire. The Facebook update said that falling debris hit the southern Kherson province, damaging seven houses and a kindergarten. According to the Ukrainian statement, Russia is continuing to concentrate its efforts on offensive operations in Ukraine’s industrial east, focusing attacks on Lyman, Bakhmut, Avdiivka, Marinka and Shakhtarsk in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk province. Pavlo Kyrylenko, regional Gov. of the Donetsk province, said one person was killed and three wounded when 11 towns and villages in the province were shelled on Friday. Further west, Russian rockets hit a residential area overnight Friday in the city of Zaporizhzhia, the regional capital of the partially occupied province of the same name. No casualties were reported, but houses were damaged and a catering establishment destroyed, Anatoliy Kurtev of the Zaporizhzhia City Council said. Read more: International court issues an arrest warrant for Putin The International Criminal Court said Friday that it has issued an arrest warrant for Putin for war crimes, accusing him of personal responsibility for the abductions of children from Ukraine, together with Russia’s commissioner for children’s rights, Maria Lvova-Belova. It is the first time the global court has issued a warrant against a leader of one of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council. The move was immediately dismissed by Moscow — and welcomed by Ukraine as a major breakthrough. Its practical implications, however, could be limited as the chances of Putin facing trial at the ICC are highly unlikely because Moscow does not recognize the court’s jurisdiction or extradite its nationals. U.K. military officials said Saturday that Russia is likely to widen conscription. In its latest intelligence update, the U.K. defense ministry said that deputies in the Russian Duma, the lower house of Russia’s parliament, introduced a bill Monday to change the conscription age for men to 21-30, from the current 18-27. The ministry said that, at the moment, many men aged 18-21 claim exemption from military service because they are in higher education. The change would mean that they would eventually still have to serve. It said the law will likely be passed and come into force in January 2024.
Chinese President Xi Jinping’s plans to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow next week highlighted China’s aspirations for a greater role on the world stage. But they also revealed the perils of global diplomacy: Hours after Friday's announcement of the trip, an international arrest warrant was issued for Putin on war crimes charges, taking at least some wind out of the sails of China's big reveal. The flurry of developments — which followed China's brokering of an agreement between Saudi Arabia and Iran to resume diplomatic relations and its release of what it calls a “peace plan” for Ukraine — came as the Biden administration watches warily Beijing's moves to assert itself more forcefully in international affairs. U.S. President Joe Biden said Friday he believes the decision by the International Criminal Court in The Hague to charge Putin was “justified.” Speaking to reporters as he left the White House for his Delaware home, he said Putin “clearly committed war crimes.” While the U.S. does not recognize the court, Biden said it “makes a very strong point” to call out the Russian leader for his actions in ordering the invasion of Ukraine. Other U.S. officials privately expressed satisfaction that an international body had agreed with Washington’s assessment that Russia has committed war crimes and crimes against humanity in Ukraine. Also read: International court issues an arrest warrant for Putin Asked about the Xi-Putin meeting, Biden said, “Well, we’ll see when that meeting takes place.” The Biden administration believes China's desire to be seen as a broker for peace between Russia and Ukraine may be viewed more critically now that Putin is officially a war crime suspect, according to two U.S. officials. The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the matter publicly, said the administration hopes the warrants will help mobilize heretofore neutral countries to weigh in on the conflict. A look at the Xi-Putin meeting and how it may be affected by the warrant. WHAT IS THE SIGNIFICANCE OF XI MEETING WITH PUTIN? The visit to Russia will be Xi's first foreign trip since being elected to an unprecedented third term as China's president. It comes as Beijing and Moscow have intensified ties in steps that began shortly before Russia's invasion of Ukraine with a meeting between the two leaders in Beijing during last year's Winter Olympics at which they declared a “no limits” partnership. Since then, China has repeatedly sided with Russia in blocking international action against Moscow for the Ukraine conflict and, U.S. officials say, is considering supplying Russia with weapons to support the war. But it has also tried to cast itself in a more neutral role, offering a peace plan that was essentially ignored. The meeting in Moscow is likely to see the two sides recommit to their partnership, which both see as critical to countering what they consider undue and undeserved influence exerted by the U.S. and its Western allies. WHAT IS THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE ICC ARREST WARRANT ISSUED FOR PUTIN? In the immediate term, the ICC's warrant for Putin and one of his aides is unlikely to have a major impact on the meeting or China's position toward Russia. Neither China nor Russia — nor the United States or Ukraine — has ratified the ICC's founding treaty. The U.S., beginning with the Clinton administration, has refused to join the court, fearing that its broad mandate could result in the prosecution of American troops or officials. That means that none of the four countries formally recognizes the court's jurisdiction or is bound by its orders, although Ukraine has consented to allowing some ICC probes of crimes on its territory and the U.S. has cooperated with ICC investigations. In addition, it is highly unlikely that Putin would travel to a country that would be bound by obligations to the ICC. If he did, it is questionable whether that country would actually arrest him. There is precedent for those previously indicted, notably former Sudanese President Omar Bashir, to have visited ICC members without being detained. However, the stain of the arrest warrant could well work against China and Russia in the court of public opinion and Putin's international status may take a hit unless the charges are withdrawn or he is acquitted. WHAT IS THE VIEW FROM WASHINGTON? U.S. officials have not minced words when it comes to Xi's planned visit to Moscow. White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby called Beijing’s push for an immediate cease-fire in Ukraine a “ratification of Russian conquest” and warned that Russians could use a cease-fire to regroup their positions “so that they can restart attacks on Ukraine at a time of their choosing.” “We do not believe that this is a step towards a just, durable peace,” he said. Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan this week called on Xi to also speak with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and the Ukrainian leader has also expressed interest in talks with Xi. WHAT IS THE VIEW FROM KYIV? Speaking before the ICC warrant was unveiled, Ukrainian analysts cautioned against falling into a potential trap ahead of the Xi-Putin meeting. “We need to be aware that such peace talks are a trap for Ukraine and its diplomatic corps,” said Yurii Poita, who heads the Asia section at the Kyiv-based New Geopolitics Research Network. “Under such conditions, these peace talks won’t be directed toward peace,” said Nataliia Butyrska, a Ukrainian analyst on politics related to Eastern Asia. She said the visit reflects not so much China's desire for peace but its desire to play a major role in whatever post-conflict settlement may be reached. “China does not clearly distinguish between who is the aggressor and who is the victim. And when a country begins its peacekeeping activities or at least seeks to help the parties, not distinguishing this will affect objectivity,” Butyrska said. “From my perspective, China seeks to freeze the conflict.” WHAT IS THE VIEW FROM MOSCOW? Even if China stops short of providing military assistance to Russia as the U.S. and its allies fear, Moscow sees Xi's visit as a powerful signal of Chinese backing that challenges Western efforts to isolate Russia and deal crippling blows to its economy. Kremlin spokesman Yuri Ushakov noted that Putin and Xi have “very special friendly and trusting personal ties” and hailed Beijing’s peace plan. “We highly appreciate the restrained, well-balanced position of the Chinese leadership on this issue,” Ushakov said. Observers say that despite China’s posturing as a mediator, its refusal to condemn the Russian action leaves no doubt about where Beijing’s sympathy lies. “The Chinese peace plan is a fig leaf to push back against some Western criticism on support for Russia,” said Alexander Gabuev, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “The optics that it creates is that China has a peace plan, both parties of war endorsed it and were ready to explore the opportunities and then it was killed by the hostile West.” WHAT IS THE VIEW FROM BEIJING? Chinese officials have been boasting about their new-found clout in the international arena as their country's foreign policy has become increasingly assertive under Xi. In announcing the Xi visit, China's foreign ministry said Beijing's ties with Moscow are a significant world force. “As the world enters a new period of turbulence and change, as a permanent member of the UN Security Council and an important power, the significance and influence of China-Russia relations go far beyond the bilateral scope,” it said. It called the visit “a journey of friendship, further deepening mutual trust and understanding between China and Russia, and consolidating the political foundation and public opinion foundation of friendship between the two peoples for generations.” ___
The International Criminal Court said on Friday it issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin for war crimes because of his alleged involvement in abductions of children from Ukraine. The court said in a statement that Putin “is allegedly responsible for the war crime of unlawful deportation of (children) and that of unlawful transfer of (children) from occupied areas of Ukraine to the Russian Federation.” It also issued a warrant Friday for the arrest of Maria Alekseyevna Lvova-Belova, the Commissioner for Children’s Rights in the Office of the President of the Russian Federation, on similar allegations. The move was immediately dismissed by Moscow and welcomed by Ukraine as a major breakthrough. Its practical implications, though, could well be negligible. Even if the court has court has indicted world leaders before, it was the first time it issued a warrant against one of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council. The court’s president, Piotr Hofmanski, said in a video statement that while the ICC’s judges have issued the warrants, it will be up to the international community to enforce them. The court has no police force of its own to enforce warrants. “The ICC is doing its part of work as a court of law," he said. "The judges issued arrest warrants. The execution depends on international cooperation.” The chances of a trial of any Russians at the ICC remains extremely unlikely, as Moscow does not recognize the court’s jurisdiction— a position it vehemently reaffirmed on Friday. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov insisted that Russia doesn’t recognize the ICC and considers its decisions “legally void.” He added that Russia considers the court’s move “outrageous and unacceptable.” Peskov refused to comment when asked if Putin would avoid making trips to countries where he could be arrested on the ICC’s warrant. Ukrainian officials were jubilant. “The world changed," said presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak. Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said the “wheels of justice are turning," and added that "international criminals will be held accountable for stealing children and other international crimes.” Olga Lopatkina, a Ukrainian mother who struggled for months to reclaim her foster children who were deported to an institution ran by Russian loyalists, welcomed the news of the arrest warrant. “Good news!” she said in an exchange of messages with the Associated Press. “Everyone must be punished for their crimes.” Ukraine also is not a member of the international court, but it has granted it jurisdiction over its territory and ICC prosecutor Karim Khan has visited four times since opening an investigation a year ago. The ICC said its pre-trial chamber found “reasonable grounds to believe that each suspect bears responsibility for the war crime of unlawful deportation of population and that of unlawful transfer of population from occupied areas of Ukraine to the Russian Federation, in prejudice of Ukrainian children.” The court statement said that “there are reasonable grounds to believe that Mr. Putin bears individual criminal responsibility” for the child abductions “for having committed the acts directly, jointly with others and/or through others (and) for his failure to exercise control properly over civilian and military subordinates who committed the acts. After his most recent visit, in early March, ICC prosecutor Khan said he visited a care home for children two kilometers (just over a mile) from front lines in southern Ukraine. “The drawings pinned on the wall ... spoke to a context of love and support that was once there. But this home was empty, a result of alleged deportation of children from Ukraine to the Russian Federation or their unlawful transfer to other parts of the temporarily occupied territories,” he said in a statement. “As I noted to the United Nations Security Council last September, these alleged acts are being investigated by my Office as a priority. Children cannot be treated as the spoils of war.” And while Russia rejected the allegations and warrants of the court as null and void, others said the ICC action will have an important impact. “The ICC has made Putin a wanted man and taken its first step to end the impunity that has emboldened perpetrators in Russia’s war against Ukraine for far too long," said Balkees Jarrah, associate international justice director at Human Rights Watch. "The warrants send a clear message that giving orders to commit, or tolerating, serious crimes against civilians may lead to a prison cell in The Hague.” Prof. David Crane, who indicted Liberian President Charles Taylor 20 years ago for crimes in Sierra Leone, said dictators and tyrants around the world "are now on notice that those who commit international crimes will be held accountable to include heads of state.” Taylor was eventually detained and put on trial at a special court in the Netherlands. He was convicted and sentenced to 50 years' imprisonment. “This is an important day for justice and for the citizens of Ukraine,” Crane said in a written comment to the Associated Press Friday. On Thursday, a U.N.-backed inquiry cited Russian attacks against civilians in Ukraine, including systematic torture and killing in occupied regions, among potential issues that amount to war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity. The sweeping investigation also found crimes committed against Ukrainians on Russian territory, including deported Ukrainian children who were prevented from reuniting with their families, a “filtration” system aimed at singling out Ukrainians for detention, and torture and inhumane detention conditions. But on Friday, the ICC put the face of Putin on the child abduction allegations.
Drones that the Kremlin said were launched by Ukraine flew deep inside Russian territory, including one that got within 100 kilometers (60 miles) of Moscow, signaling breaches in Russian defenses as President Vladimir Putin ordered stepped-up protection at the border. Officials said the drones caused no injuries and did not inflict any significant damage, but the attacks on Monday night and Tuesday morning raised questions about Russian defense capabilities more than a year after the country's full-scale invasion of its neighbor. Ukrainian officials did not immediately take responsibility, but they similarly have avoided directly acknowledging responsibility for past strikes and sabotage while emphasizing Ukraine’s right to hit any target in Russia. Although Putin did not refer to any specific attacks in a speech in the Russian capital, his comments came hours after the drones targeted several areas in southern and western Russia. Authorities closed the airspace over St. Petersburg in response to what some reports said was a drone. Also Tuesday, several Russian television stations aired a missile attack warning that officials blamed on a hacking attack. Also Read: Flurry of drone strikes hits Russia as TV, radio are hacked The drone attacks targeted regions inside Russia along the border with Ukraine and deeper into the country, according to local Russian authorities. A drone fell near the village of Gubastovo, less than 100 kilometers (60 miles) from Moscow, Andrei Vorobyov, governor of the region surrounding the Russian capital, said in an online statement. The drone did not cause any damage, Vorobyov said, but it likely targeted “a civilian infrastructure object.” Pictures of the drone showed it was a small Ukrainian-made model with a reported range of up to 800 kilometers (nearly 500 miles) but no capacity to carry a large load of explosives. Russian forces early Tuesday shot down another Ukrainian drone over the Bryansk region, local Gov. Aleksandr Bogomaz said in a Telegram post. Three drones also targeted Russia’s Belgorod region on Monday night, with one flying through an apartment window in the capital, local authorities reported. Regional Gov. Vyacheslav Gladkov said the drones caused minor damage to buildings and cars. The Russian Defense Ministry said Ukraine used drones to attack facilities in the Krasnodar region and neighboring Adygea. It said the drones were brought down by electronic warfare assets, adding that one of them crashed into a field and another diverted from its flight path and missed a facility it was supposed to attack. Russia's state RIA Novosti news agency reported a fire at the oil facility, and some other Russian reports said that two drones exploded nearby. While Ukrainian drone strikes on the Russian border regions of Bryansk and Belgorod have become a regular occurrence, other strikes reflected a more ambitious effort. Some Russian commentators described the drone attacks as an attempt by Ukraine to showcase its capability to strike deep behind the lines, foment tensions in Russia and rally the Ukrainian public. Some Russian war bloggers described the raids as a possible rehearsal for a bigger, more ambitious attack. Andrei Medvedev, a commentator with Russian state television who serves as a deputy speaker of Moscow’s city legislature and runs a popular blog about the war, warned that the drone strikes could be a precursor to wider attacks within Russia that could accompany Ukraine’s attempt to launch a counteroffensive. “The strikes of exploding drones on targets behind our lines will be part of that offensive,” Medvedev said, adding that Ukraine could try to extend the range of its drones. Russia hawks urged strong retaliation. Igor Korotchenko, a retired Russian army colonel turned military commentator, called for a punishing strike on the Ukrainian presidential office in Kyiv. Another retired military officer, Viktor Alksnis, noted that the drone attacks marked the expansion of the conflict and criticized Putin for failing to deliver a strong response. Also on Tuesday, authorities reported that airspace around St. Petersburg, Russia's second-largest city, was temporarily closed, halting all departures and arrivals at the main airport, Pulkovo. Officials did not give a reason for the move, but some Russian reports claimed that it was triggered by an unidentified drone. The Russian Defense Ministry said it was conducting air defense drills in western Russia. Last year, Russian authorities repeatedly reported shooting down Ukrainian drones over annexed Crimea. In December, the Russian military said Ukraine used drones to hit two bases for long-range bombers deep inside Russian territory. Speaking at Russia’s main security agency, the FSB, Putin urged the service to tighten security on the Ukraine border. In another development that fueled tensions across Russia on Tuesday, an air raid alarm interrupted the programming of several TV channels and radio stations in several regions. Russia’s Emergency Ministry said in an online statement that the announcement was a hoax “resulting from a hacking of the servers of radio stations and TV channels in some regions of the country." Meanwhile, satellite photos analyzed by The Associated Press appeared to show a Russian warplane in Belarus that Belarusian guerrillas claimed to have targeted as largely intact. Tuesday’s high-resolution images from Planet Labs PBC and Maxar Technologies showed the Russian A-50 early warning and control aircraft after what Belarusian opposition activists described as an attack on the Machulishchy air base Sunday outside the Belarusian capital of Minsk. However, a discoloration could be seen on the aircraft's distinctive, circular rotodome above its fuselage that could be damage. That discoloration wasn't seen in earlier images of the aircraft at the air base. The Maxar image also showed what appeared to be vehicles near the airplane as well. Belarusian activists supporting Ukraine alleged that the aircraft was seriously damaged. Russian and Belarusian officials did not comment on the claims. In Ukraine, four people were killed and five others wounded Tuesday by renewed Russian shelling of the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson, regional Gov. Oleksandr Prokudin said in a Telegram. A 68-year-old man was also killed as Russian forces shelled Kupiansk, a town in Ukraine’s northeastern Kharkiv region, Gov. Oleh Syniehubov said. The fiercest fighting continued to be in eastern areas of Ukraine, where Russia wants control over all four of the provinces it illegally annexed in September. Ukrainian officials said Russian forces have deployed additional troops and equipment, including the latest T-90 battle tanks, in those areas. In a video address, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy thanked U.S. industrialists for supporting Ukraine and voiced hope for their support in rebuilding the country after the war. Zelenskyy noted that the country faces a “colossal task” to restore hundreds of thousands of damaged sites, including “whole cities, industries, productions."
President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin has congratulated President-elect of Bangladesh Mohammad Shahabuddin. In a congratulatory message to Mohammad Shahabuddin recently, the Russian President said, "Please accept my sincere congratulations on your election as the President of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh." President Putin said the two countries have been maintaining traditionally friendly relations. Read more: Russia a tested friend; no adverse impacts on existing relations: MoFA Spokesperson "I hope that your work during the presidential tenure will promote further development of constructive cooperation between Russia and Bangladesh in various fields," said the Russian President. He wished President-elect Shahabuddin success, sound health and well-being. The Russian Embassy in Dhaka shared the message with media on Tuesday.
Russian President Vladimir Putin suspended Moscow’s participation in the last remaining nuclear arms control pact with the United States, announcing the move Tuesday in a bitter speech in which he made clear he would not change his strategy in the war in Ukraine. Putin emphasized, however, that Russia isn’t withdrawing from the pact yet, and hours after his address the Foreign Ministry said Moscow would respect the treaty's caps on nuclear weapons. It also said Russia would continue to exchange information about test launches of ballistic missiles per earlier agreements with the United States. In his long-delayed state-of-the-nation address, Putin cast his country — and Ukraine — as victims of Western double-dealing and said it was Russia, not Ukraine, fighting for its very existence. “We aren’t fighting the Ukrainian people,” Putin said ahead of the war’s first anniversary Friday. “The Ukrainian people have become hostages of the Kyiv regime and its Western masters, which have effectively occupied the country.” The speech reiterated a litany of grievances he has frequently offered as justification for the widely condemned military campaign, while vowing no military letup. Along with limits on the number of nuclear weapons, the 2010 New START envisages broad inspections of nuclear sites. Putin said Russia should stand ready to resume nuclear weapons tests if the U.S. does so, a move that would end a global ban on such tests in place since the Cold War era. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres responded by calling for Russia and the United States to return to dialogue immediately because “a world without nuclear arms control is a far more dangerous and unstable one.” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken described Moscow’s decision to suspend participation in the treaty as “really unfortunate and very irresponsible." Read more: Biden in Poland: US, allies 'will never waver' in Ukraine “We’ll be watching carefully to see what Russia actually does,” he said while visiting Greece. China’s U.N. Ambassador Zhang Jun called on the U.S. and Russia to “continue to negotiate with each other in finding a good solution.” U.S. President Joe Biden, speaking in Poland a day after his surprise visit to Ukraine, did not mention the START suspension but blasted Putin for the invasion. He pledged continued support for Ukraine despite “hard and bitter days ahead.” “Democracies of the world will stand guard over freedom today, tomorrow and forever,” Biden said at Warsaw's landmark Royal Castle before a cheering crowd of Poles and Ukrainian refugees. Putin's announcement was the second time in recent days the Ukraine war showed it could spread into perilous new terrain, after Blinken told China over the weekend that it would be a “serious problem” if Beijing provided arms and ammunition to Russia. China and Russia have aligned their foreign policies to oppose Washington. Beijing has refused to condemn Russia’s invasion or atrocities against civilians in Ukraine, while strongly criticizing Western economic sanctions on Moscow. Late last year, Russia and China held joint naval drills. The deputy head of Ukraine’s intelligence service, Vadym Skibitskyi, told The Associated Press his agency hasn’t seen any signs so far that China is providing weapons to Moscow. Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022, and made a dash toward Kyiv, apparently expecting to overrun the capital quickly. But stiff resistance from Ukrainian forces — supported by Western weapons — turned back Moscow's troops. While Ukraine has reclaimed many areas initially seized by Russia, the sides have become bogged down elsewhere. The war has revived the divide between Russia and the West, reinvigorated the NATO alliance, and created the biggest threat to Putin's rule of more than two decades. In Tuesday's speech, Putin again offered his own version of recent history, discounting Ukraine's arguments that it needed Western help to thwart a Russian military takeover. He has repeatedly depicted NATO’s expansion to include countries close to Russia as an existential threat to his country. “It’s they who have started the war. And we are using force to end it,” he said before an audience of lawmakers, officials and soldiers, and broadcast on all state TV channels. Italian Premier Giorgia Meloni, who was in Ukraine on Tuesday, said she wished Putin had taken a different approach. “What we heard this morning was propaganda that we already know,” Meloni said in English. “He says (Russia) worked on diplomacy to avoid the conflict, but the truth is that there is somebody who is the invader and somebody who is defending itself.” Also meeting with Zelenskyy was the newly appointed chairman of the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee, who led a delegation for the first time since the start of the war and since Republicans won control of the House of Representatives. Chairman Mike McCaul and a handful of other GOP lawmakers said they had a productive meeting about what Zelenskyy needs for winning the war. He provided them with a list of weapons, including longer-range artillery and air-to-surface systems. The meeting comes as some hard-right Republicans are vowing to block future U.S. aid to Ukraine. “We have seen time and again the majority of Republicans and Democrats support our assistance to Ukraine,” McCaul said in a statement. “But the Biden administration needs to lay out their long-term strategy.” Putin denied any wrongdoing in Ukraine, even after Kremlin forces struck civilian targets, including hospitals, and are widely accused of war crimes. Zelenskyy cited fresh attacks on Ukrainian civilians Tuesday, and downplayed Putin’s speech. “I have not watched it, because during this time there were missile strikes on Kherson. Twenty-one people were wounded and six were killed,” he said. Putin also accused the West of taking aim at Russian culture, religion and values. He fired another broadside at Western gender policies that he described as efforts to destroy “traditional” values. And he said Western sanctions hadn’t “achieved anything and will not achieve anything.” He blasted Russian tycoons who kept their assets in the West and saw them confiscated or frozen as part of the sanctions. “Believe me, ordinary people had no sympathy for those who lost their yachts, palaces and other assets abroad,” Putin said. While Russia’s Constitution mandates that the president deliver the state-of-the-nation speech annually, Putin never gave one in 2022. Last year, the Kremlin also canceled two other big annual events — Putin’s news conference and a highly scripted phone-in marathon taking questions from the public. Reflecting the Kremlin's clampdown on free speech and press, it barred in-person coverage of the address by media from “unfriendly” countries, including the U.S., the U.K. and those in the European Union.
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday ordered his armed forces to observe a unilateral 36-hour cease-fire in Ukraine this weekend for the Orthodox Christmas holiday, the first such sweeping truce move in the nearly 11-month-old war. Kyiv indicated it wouldn’t follow suit. Putin did not appear to condition his cease-fire order on Ukraine’s acceptance, and it wasn’t clear whether hostilities would actually pause on the 1,100-kilometer (684-mile) front line or elsewhere. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy dismissed the Russian move as playing for time to regroup its invasion forces and prepare additional attacks. At various points during the war that began Feb. 24, Russian authorities have ordered limited, local truces to allow civilian evacuations or other humanitarian purposes. Thursday’s order was the first time Putin has directed his troops to observe a cease-fire throughout Ukraine. “Based on the fact that a large number of citizens professing Orthodoxy live in the combat areas, we call on the Ukrainian side to declare a cease-fire and give them the opportunity to attend services on Christmas Eve, as well as on the Day of the Nativity of Christ,” Putin’s order said. The order didn’t specify whether it would apply to both offensive and defensive operations. It wasn’t clear, for example, whether Russia would strike back if Ukraine kept fighting. Ukrainian officials from Zelenskky on down dismissed Putin’s moves. In his nightly video address, Zelenskyy stopped short of stating his forces would reject Putin’s request to suspend fighting, instead questioning the Russian leadership’s motives. “Now they want to use Christmas as a cover to stop the advance of our guys in the Donbas for a while and bring equipment, ammunition and mobilized people closer to our positions,” Zelenskyy said. “What will it give? Just another increase in the count of losses.” Zelenskyy claimed that since he unveiled a peace plan in November, almost 110,000 Russian soldiers have been killed, and he accused the Kremlin of planning the fighting pause “to continue the war with renewed vigor.” The most comprehensive recent Western estimate of Russia’s military losses was from a senior U.S. military official, who said in November that about 100,000 Russian soldiers had been killed or wounded. Russian authorities haven’t provided any recent figure for their military casualties. Zelenskyy adviser Mykhailo Podolyak tweeted that Russian forces “must leave the occupied territories — only then will it have a ‘temporary truce.’” Ukraine’s National Security Council chief Oleksiy Danilov told Ukrainian TV: “We will not negotiate any truces with them.” He also tweeted: “What does a bunch of little Kremlin devils have to do with the Christian holiday of Christmas? Who will believe an abomination that kills children, fires at maternity homes and tortures prisoners? A cease-fire? Lies and hypocrisy. We will bite you in the singing silence of the Ukrainian night.” U.S. President Joe Biden said it was “interesting” that Putin was ready to bomb hospitals, nurseries and churches on Christmas and New Year’s. “I think he’s trying to find some oxygen,” he said, without elaborating. State Department spokesman Ned Price said Washington had “little faith in the intentions behind this announcement,” adding that Kremlin officials ”have given us no reason to take anything that they offer at face value.” He said the truce order seems to be a ploy “to rest, refit, regroup, and ultimately re-attack.” U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric welcomed the move but said it “will not replace a just peace in line with the U.N. Charter and International law.” Putin acted after the Russian Orthodox Church head, Patriarch Kirill, proposed a truce from noon Friday through midnight Saturday Moscow time (0900 GMT Friday to 2100 GMT Saturday; 4 a.m. EST Friday to 3 p.m. EST Saturday). The Orthodox Church, which uses the Julian calendar, celebrates Christmas on Jan. 7. Kirill has previously called the war part of Russia’s “metaphysical struggle” to prevent a Western liberal ideological encroachment. Zelenskyy had proposed starting a path toward peace with a Russian troop withdrawal before Dec. 25, but Moscow rejected it. Political analyst Tatyana Stanovaya said the cease-fire order “fits well into Putin’s logic, in which Russia is acting on the right side of history and fighting for justice.” “In this war, Putin feels like a ‘good guy,’ doing good not only for himself and the ‘brotherly nations,’ but also for the world he’s freeing from the ‘hegemony’ of the United States,” Stanovaya, founder of the independent R.Politik think tank, wrote on Telegram. She also linked Putin’s move to Ukrainian forces’ recent strike on Makiivka that killed at least 89 Russian servicemen. “He really doesn’t want to get something like that for Christmas,” she said. “On the 8th of March (Women’s Day), (Ukraine’s) independence day, Christmas (Dec. 25) and the New Year, there were no cease-fires. Why should there be one now?” said Sophiia Romanovska, a 21-year-old student who fled Mariupol for Kyiv, peppering her comments with expletives. Putin issued the truce order after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan urged him in a phone call to implement a “unilateral cease-fire,” according to the Turkish president’s office. The Kremlin said Putin “reaffirmed Russia’s openness to a serious dialogue” with Ukrainian authorities. Erdogan told Zelenskyy later that Turkey was ready to mediate a “lasting peace.” Erdogan has made such offers frequently, helped broker a deal allowing Ukraine to export grain, and has facilitated prisoner swaps. Russia’s professed readiness for peace talks came with the usual conditions: that “Kyiv authorities fulfill the well-known and repeatedly stated demands and recognize new territorial realities,” the Kremlin said, referring to Moscow’s insistence that Ukraine recognize Crimea and other illegally seized territory as part of Russia. Previous attempts at peace talks have failed over Moscow’s territorial demands because Ukraine insists Russia withdraw from occupied areas. Coupled with talk of diplomacy were new pledges Thursday of military support for Ukraine. Zelenskyy called the pledges “really a great victory for our state.” Germany said it would match a U.S. announcement last month to supply Ukraine with a Patriot missile battery, the most advanced surface-to-air missile system the West has provided to Kyiv. Germany also said it would supply Marder armored personnel carriers, and France said it will discuss with Ukraine delivery of armored combat vehicles that can destroy tanks. U.S. officials said they will send Ukraine nearly $3 billion in military aid in a new package that will for the first time include several dozen Bradley fighting vehicles. The aim is to get as much aid to Ukrainian forces as possible before spring begins and fighting increases. An announcement was expected Friday, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the package’s details had not been announced. The Kremlin contends the West’s supply of weapons to Ukraine is prolonging the conflict. While more weapons arrive, the battlefield situation appears to have settled into a stalemate and war of attrition. As winter sets in, troop and equipment mobility is more limited. In the latest fighting, Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy head of the Ukrainian presidential office, said Thursday that Russian shelling killed at least five civilians and wounded eight in the previous 24 hours. An intense battle has left 60% of the eastern city of Bakhmut in ruins, Donetsk Gov. Pavlo Kyrylenko said. Ukrainian defenders appear to be holding the Russians back. Taking the city in the Donbas region, an expansive industrial area bordering Russia, would not only give Putin a major battlefield gain after months of setbacks but rupture Ukraine’s supply lines and allow Moscow’s forces to press toward key Ukrainian strongholds in Donetsk. In what appeared to be a move to entice more men to join the fight, the first convicts recruited for battle by the Wagner Group, a Russian private military contractor, received a promised government pardon after serving six months on the front line. A video released by Russia’ state RIA Novosti news agency showed Yevgeny Prigozhin, the Wagner Group’s millionaire owner, shaking hands with about 20 pardoned men.