Ukrainian forces demobilize Russian tanks near Donetsk frontline
Ukraine has rejected claims by Vladimir Putin that “saboteurs” are carrying out a “terrorist act” in the Russian region of Bryansk.
Kremlin officials are claiming that its forces are battling a Ukrainian “sabotage group” alleged to have infiltrated Russian territory and taken hostages, with Mr. Putin saying to be receiving updates on the situation.
But Mykhailo Podolyak, a presidential aide to Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelensky, rejected Russia’s claims as “a classic deliberate provocation” by Moscow.
It came as war crimes investigators alleged that new evidence suggested that a network of at least 20 torture chambers uncovered in Ukraine’s recently liberated Kherson region was “planned and directly financed by the Russian state”.
Funding a network of such facilities was part of a Russian state plan to “subjugate, re-educate or kill Ukrainian civic leaders and ordinary dissenters”, investigators from the UK-backed Mobile Justice Team said on Thursday.
At least 1,000 torture chamber survivors have submitted evidence to investigators and more than 400 people had been reported as missing from Kherson, it said, accusing different Russian security agencies – including the FSB – of operating the torture facilities.
Kherson torture chambers were planned and financed by Russia, war crimes investigators allege
A network of at least 20 torture chambers uncovered in recently liberated Kherson was “planned and directly financed by the Russian State,” war crimes investigators have alleged.
The Mobile Justice Team, funded by Britain, the EU and the US, has been working with Ukrainian war crimes prosecutors across Ukraine and in Kherson since the city was reclaimed from Russian forces in November after more than eight months of occupation.
“New evidence collected from recently liberated Kherson reveals torture chambers were planned and directly financed by the Russian State,” the team established by British lawyer Wayne Jordash said in a statement.
Witnesses described the use of electric shock torture and waterboarding by Russian forces. At least 1,000 torture chamber survivors have submitted evidence to investigators and more than 400 people have been reported as missing from Kherson, it said.
Funding a network of torture facilities was part of a Russian state plan to “subjugate, re-educate or kill Ukrainian civic leaders and ordinary dissenters,” the team said.
Torture centers were operated by different Russian security agencies, including the Russian Federal Security Services (FSB), local Kherson FSB and the Russian Prison Service, it said.
Andy Gregory2 March 2023 10:14
Kyiv rejects Russia’s claims of ‘sabotage group’ in Bryansk
Ukraine has rejected Moscow’s claims of “sabotage” in the Russian region of Bryansk.
Vladimir Putin claimed on Thursday that a Ukrainian sabotage group had knowingly fired at civilians on Thursday, in what he called a “terrorist act”, following claims by Kremlin officials that hostages had been taken in the region.
But Ukrainian officials denied any responsibility and rejected the validity of Russia’s claims, with presidential aide Mykhailo Podolyak describing the allegations as a “classic deliberate provocation” by Moscow.
My colleague William Mata has more in this report:
Andy Gregory2 March 2023 12:42
Russia will not be the first to test a nuclear device, says the deputy foreign minister
Russia will not move first to test a nuclear device, Moscow’s deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov has said, following the Kremlin’s suspension of the New START nuclear arms control treaty with the United States.
Addressing reporters at the Russian mission in Geneva after a disarmament conference, Mr. Ryabkov said Moscow would not carry out tests if Washington also refrained, but that Russia still had to prepare for the worst.
Mr. Ryabkov also accused the United States of providing intelligence on the location of strategic sites inside Russia to Ukraine, for it to attack them with drones.
In December, Russia’s Engels air base near the city of Saratov, home to part of its nuclear-capable strategic bomber fleet and at least 600 km from Ukrainian territory, was hit by drone attacks. Ukraine did not claim responsibility for the attacks, but celebrated them.
Andy Gregory2 March 2023 12:24
G20 meeting fails to agree joint statement due to Ukraine differences
A meeting of G20 foreign ministers in Delhi has ended without a joint statement because of “divergences” of opinion on the conflict in Ukraine, host nation India has said.
Addressing a media briefing at the end of the two-day gathering, Indian foreign minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said a “chair’s summary” would be issued rather than a communique agreed by all nations gathered “because there were differences on the Ukraine issue which we could not reconcile”.
US secretary of state Antony Blinken blamed Russia for derailing the meeting and urged the G20 to call on Moscow to withdraw its forces from Ukraine.
My colleague Shweta Sharma reports from New Delhi:
Andy Gregory2 March 2023 11:56
Russian central bank to extend capital controls on foreign currency withdrawals
Russia’s central bank will extend capital controls on cash withdrawals of foreign currency and transfers abroad, its governor Elvira Nabiullina has announced.
Ms. Nabiullina told a press conference outside Moscow that the economy needs significant additional resources at the moment.
Andy Gregory2 March 2023 11:24
Kremlin claims Russian troops fighting Ukrainian ‘sabotage group’ in Bryansk
The Kremlin has claimed that measures are being taken to destroy “Ukrainian terrorists” who had mounted a cross-border attack and were reported by Russian officials to have taken hostages.
State news cited Russian officials as claiming that Russian forces were battling a Ukrainian sabotage group which had infiltrated the Bryansk region, which borders Ukraine.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said President Vladimir Putin was receiving regular updates from security agencies and defense minister Sergei Shoigu about the situation.
Mr Peskov denied reports that Mr Putin planned to hold an emergency Security Council meeting on Thursday, but said he would hold a meeting of the council on Friday when it convenes regularly.
Andy Gregory2 March 2023 10:58
Claims of Ukrainian sabotage attack in Russia are ‘deliberate provocation’, says Zelensky aide
Reports of a sabotage attack by Ukrainian forces in Russia’s Bryansk region are a “deliberate provocation”, a senior adviser to Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky has said.
“The story about [a] Ukrainian sabotage group in RF [Russian Federation] is a classic deliberate provocation,” Mykhailo Podolyak wrote on Twitter.
“RF wants to scare its people to justify the attack on another country & the growing poverty after the year of war.”
Andy Gregory2 March 2023 10:56
Germany’s Scholz urges China not to arm Russia
Germany’s chancellor Olaf Scholz has urged China not to send weapons to help Russia fight its war in Ukraine and has pleaded with Beijing to exert pressure on Moscow to pull back its troops.
In a speech to the German parliament, Mr Scholz said it was disappointing that Beijing had refrained from condemning the Russian invasion – although he welcomed its efforts towards nuclear de-escalation.
China has denied any intention to arm Russia and one of its senior diplomats told the United Nations on February 23 that “sending weapons will not bring peace” but add “fuel to the fire”.
Global divisions have reared their head at a series of G20 meetings in India which descended into wrangling over the war. Germany has said it planned to counter Russian “propaganda” at this week’s talks, while Russia has accused Western countries of turning the event into a “farce”.
“My message to Beijing is clear: use your influence in Moscow to urge the withdrawal of Russian troops,” Mr Scholz said, to resounding applause from fellow politicians. “And don’t deliver any weapons to the aggressor Russia.”
Andy Gregory2 March 2023 10:54
Moscow ‘not contemplating’ use of nuclear weapons, says top Russian diplomat
Moscow is “not contemplating” using a nuclear weapon and doing so would make no sense militarily, a top Russian diplomat has said.
Russia does not intend to use nuclear weapons over the situation in Ukraine, First Deputy Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the UN Dmitry Polyansky said in an interview with the Maverick News portal aired on Wednesday.
“First and foremost, we have a nuclear doctrine,” Russia’s first deputy permanent representative to the UN, Dmitry Polyansky, told the Maverick News channel. “And it is said that we will not use this nuclear weapon first, it can be used only if there is an existential threat to Russia.”
He added: “This is something that we are not contemplating in terms of the situation in Ukraine.”
Andy Gregory2 March 2023 09:56
Three killed as Russian missile hits five-storey building in Zaporizhzhia, police say
A Russian missile has hit a five-storey building in the Ukrainian city of Zaporizhzhia, killing three people and wounding at least four, police have said.
Eleven people have been rescued from the part of the building that collapsed, the state emergency service said in a statement.
Andy Gregory2 March 2023 09:28