Ukraine’s Interior Minister Denys Monastyrsky has said that even though there is no imminent risk of Russians marching on Kyiv, the capital would not let its guard down. Earlier, the supreme court of the Russian-backed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) sentenced to death two British and one Moroccan captured while fighting for Ukraine. Read about the day’s events as they unfolded on our liveblog. All times are Paris time (GMT+2).
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11:19pm: Ukraine’s Zelensky cites ‘positive’ military news in Zaporizhzhia region
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday reported “positive” news from the southeastern Zaporizhzhia region, where he said Ukraine’s forces were managing to thwart Russian troops.
In a video address, Zelensky also said Ukrainian forces were gradually advancing in the Kharkiv region, east of Kyiv, “liberating our land.”
10:10pm: Ukraine’s Interior Minister says Kyiv is in ‘no danger’ but prepared
Ukraine’s interior minister has said that even though there is no imminent risk of Russians marching on Kyiv, more than 100 days after Russia invaded, the capital would not let its guard down.
“There is no danger of an attack on Kyiv today,” Interior Minister Denys Monastyrsky said.
“There is no concentration of troops near the Belarusian border, but we understand that any scenarios are possible tomorrow,” he told AFP.
“Therefore, serious training is under way — preparation of the line of defence, training of troops who will remain” in Kyiv and around the city.
9:17pm: Moscow-backed Luhansk region in Ukraine to send ‘liberated’ grain to Russia
One of two breakaway eastern Ukrainian regions backed by Moscow has said it will soon start sending rail shipments to Russia of grain that its troops had “liberated”, Tass news agency reported.
Yuri Pronko, agricultural minister of the self-declared Luhansk People’s Republic, said that until now, the grain had been sent by truck in relatively small amounts.
“Tomorrow is a historical moment – the first wagons of grain will go to Russia, 50 wagons, more than 3,000 tonnes,” Tass cited him as saying.
8:28pm: Putin says ‘Made in Russia’ is not a remedy for sanctions
Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that producing goods locally to circumvent Western sanctions imposed on Moscow was not a cure-all and that Russia is looking for new trading partners.
8:15pm: Zelensky imposes sanctions on Putin and his allies
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has signed a decree imposing sanctions, including asset freezes and travel bans, on Russian President Vladimir Putin and dozens of other top Russian officials.
The sanctioned officials included Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov, Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu.
The sanctions, which were imposed in the fourth month of Russia’s February 24 invasion, appeared unlikely to have much practical impact beyond the symbolic.
5:43pm: Putin says Russia will not block off its oil wells amid row with the West
Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that Russian companies will not block off their oil wells despite the West’s efforts to lessen its dependence on energy supplies from Moscow.
4:13pm: Donbas region issues death sentences to captured British & Moroccan fighters
The supreme court of the Russian-backed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) has issued death sentences to two British men and one Moroccan who were captured while fighting for Ukraine, Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency reported.
The three men have said they will appeal the decision, Tass reported.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman says the UK will work with the Ukrainian authorities to try to secure the release of the two British citizens. The spokesman added that the UK has continually said prisoners of war should not be exploited for political purposes.
1:28pm: Zelensky calls for Russia to be expelled from the UN’s FAO
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has called for Russia to be expelled from the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation, as he says Moscow is to blame for the global grain crisis.
“There can’t be any discussion on prolonging Russia’s membership in the FAO,” Zelensky told delegates at a Paris meeting of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) by video link.
Active in 130 countries worldwide, the FAO’s mission is to “achieve food security for all”.
12:18pm: Kremlin says no more gas cuts to European customers expected
The Kremlin said on Thursday it does not expect Gazprom to cut gas supplies to any more European customers, adding that its scheme to make buyers pay for their gas in roubles was functioning as intended.
Gazprom has cut supplies to some European countries for refusing to make payments for Russian gas in roubles under a new scheme the Kremlin set up in response to Western sanctions.
12:10pm: Russia adds 9.5 billion dollars to emergency reserve fund
The Russian government added 551.4 billion roubles (9.5 billion dollars) to its emergency reserve fund on Thursday as the Kremlin steps up its stimulus package in a bid to protect the economy from the impact of Western sanctions and its actions in Ukraine.
“The funds will be used in part to implement measures aimed at ensuring the stability of economic development in the conditions of external constraints,” the government said in a statement announcing the cash injection. The reserves boost came from extra profits generated by Russia’s vital oil and gas exports, which are bringing in hundreds of millions of dollars a day to the budget despite Western sanctions.
12:05pm: Russian navy starts Baltic Sea drills amid Ukraine tensions
Dozens of Russian ships on Thursday took part in military exercises in the strategic Baltic Sea, after Sweden and Finland recently announced bids to join NATO.
Russia’s defence ministry said in a statement that ships of its Baltic fleet, will “perform training tasks for the defence of sea lanes and fleet bases”. It said that 60 ships and 40 aircraft were taking part in the manoeuvres which will also take place on land at training grounds in the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad.
The navy drills come amid heightened tensions between Moscow and NATO after Sweden and Finland submitted their bids to join the US-led alliance after the start of Russia’s military campaign in Ukraine. If their membership, currently blocked by Turkey, is approved, Russia would become the only non-NATO country on the Baltic Sea.
10:58am: Ukraine sees threat of pollution to water basins after Russian invasion
Russia’s invasion has posed a huge threat of pollution to Ukraine’s water basins, including the Sea of Azov, said.Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
In an address to a ministerial meeting of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Zelensky also underlined the need for green energy to replace Russian natural gas supplies following Russia’s invasion.
10:36am: Ukraine regains some territory in counter-offensive in Kherson area
Ukrainian troops have won back some territory from Russian forces in a counter-offensive in the Kherson area of southern Ukraine, according to the Ukrainian defence ministry.
It gave no details but said the Russian forces had “suffered losses in manpower and equipment”, mined territory as they were pushed back and erected barricades for the Ukrainian troops.
9:53am: Severodonetsk evacuation impossible, 10,000 civilians remain: mayor
Ukrainian forces still hold the industrial zone and adjacent areas in the city of Severodonetsk , and the situation is “difficult but manageable”, said Mayor Oleksandr Stryuk.
He said defence lines were holding despite intense Russian artillery fire but that it was now impossible to evacuate people from Severodonetsk. About 10,000 civilians remained in the city, which is now the main focus of Russia’s offensive in Ukraine.
9:30am: Western arms would end Severodonetsk fight in ‘2-3 days’
Long-range artillery supplied by the West would give Ukraine the firepower it needs to beat back Russian forces and capture Severodonetsk within days, a regional Ukrainian official said Thursday.
“As soon as we have long-range artillery to be able to conduct duels with Russian artillery, our special forces can clean up the city in two to three days,” Luhansk regional governor Serhiy Gaidai said in an interview distributed on his official social media channels.
9:02am: Russian forces shell Ukraine’s Severodonetsk, street fighting rages
Fighting raged on the streets of Severodonetsk in eastern Ukraine on Thursday and Russian forces were destroying “everything that can be used for defence”, the regional governor said.
Luhansk regional governor Serhiy Gaidai said Russia was shelling areas of the city that are still controlled by Ukraine but that Ukrainian forces would be able to “clean up” in the city once they received long-range artillery.
8:43am: Ukraine’s president says millions could starve because Russia is blockading ports
Millions of people could starve because of Russia’s blockade of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Thursday. Warning that the world was on the brink of a “terrible food crisis”, he said in a televised statement that Ukraine was unable to export wheat, corn, oil and other products and added: “Millions of people may starve if the Russian blockade of the Black Sea continues.”
8:13am: Russian forces targeting south of Izium: UK
Russian forces have increased their efforts to advance to the south of the town of Izium in eastern Ukraine, likely wanting to secure further options in the region, according to the latest British military update.
“Russia’s progress on the Izium axis had remained stalled since April, after Ukrainian forces made good use of the terrain to slow Russia’s advance,” Britain’s Ministry of Defence said.
“Russia likely seeks to regain momentum in this area in order to put further pressure on Severodonetsk, and to give it the option of advancing deeper into the Donetsk Oblast.”
6:18am: Ukrainian farmers fear grain could go to waste as exports blocked
If the war in Ukraine threatens a global food crisis, it is not so much for a lack of grain as an inability to export it. In the Dnipro region, the silos are full, the cubic meter price for agricultural warehouse storage has reached exorbitant rates and farmers no longer know where to store the harvest they were about to sell abroad when the war broke out. FRANCE 24’s Jean-Emile Jammine reports:
3:55am: ‘Fate of Donbas’ being decided in Severodonetsk, Zelensky says
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called Severodonetsk the “epicenter” of the battle for the Donbas.
“This is a very fierce battle, very hard, perhaps one of the most difficult of the entire war,” he said in his nightly video address, which was recorded in the street outside his office in Kyiv.
He said the Ukrainian army is defending its positions and inflicting real losses on the Russian forces.
“In many ways, it is there that the fate of our Donbas is being decided,” Zelensky said.
Luhansk Gov. Serhiy Haidai acknowledged the difficulties of battling Russian forces, saying, “Maybe we will have to retreat, but right now battles are ongoing in the city.”
“Everything the Russian army has – artillery, mortars, tanks, aviation – all of that, they’re using in Severodonetsk in order to wipe the city off the face of the Earth and capture it completely,” he said.
2:40am: Millions hurt as Ukraine war hikes prices, UN says
A UN report says the war in Ukraine is increasing the suffering of millions of people by escalating food and energy prices, coming on top of ills from a growing financial crisis, the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and climate change.
The report by the UN Global Crisis Response Group released Wednesday says the war “has exacerbated a global cost-of-living crisis unseen in at least a generation” and is undermining the UN goal of ending extreme poverty around the world by 2030.
The group was appointed by Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to assess the impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24.
Guterres says the report makes clear that “the war’s impact on food security, energy and finance is systemic, severe and speeding up.”
12:29am: Sanctions wiping out 15 years of economic gains in Russia, report finds
The damage will make it more costly for Russian president Vladimir Putin to continue the war, but sanctions do not work like “flipping a switch,” IIF economist Elina Ribakova told reporters.
In its latest analysis, IIF forecasts Russia’s economy will contract by 15 percent this year and another three percent in 2023.
The “economic warfare” is “unraveling its economy,” and the report authors note that “some of the most meaningful consequences have yet to be felt.”
IIF Executive Vice President Clay Lowery said gauging whether the penalties imposed on Russia are effective depends on what governments are trying to achieve.
“If success is damaging the economy… then it’s definitely some impact,” and that is likely to increase, he told reporters.
But sanctions do not have “a great track record” of driving big policy shifts, he said.
(FRANCE24 with REUTERS, AP and AFP)