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Russia Ukraine updates: Oligarch’s warning on pressuring Putin

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One of Russia’s richest men has warned the West its attempts to pressure Putin into a compromise him will fall flat.

It has been three weeks since Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered troops to invade Ukraine on February 24.

Since then, hundreds of people have been killed and thousands injured in countless missile and artillery strikes.

The Russians are continuing to face “stiff Ukrainian resistance” on the outskirts of Kharkiv, with frustrated Moscow troops ramping up attacks on residential areas of Kyiv.

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky has appealed to the US for more military help, while Mr Putin has taken aim at Western “scum” in a wild televised rant.

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Read on for the latest updates.

Russian oligarch’s warning over Putin compromise

Mikhail Fridman, the owner of Alpha Bank and one of Russia’s richest oligarchs, has warned the West its attempts to pressure Putin into a compromise via influencing powerful men around him will fall flat.

“If the people who are in charge in the EU believe that because of sanctions, I could approach Mr Putin and tell him to stop the war, and it will work, then I’m afraid we’re all in big trouble,“ Fridman told Bloomberg.

“That means those who are making this decision understand nothing about how Russia works. And that’s dangerous for the future.”

Mr Fridman said analysts have failed to appreciate the level of power the President holds over Russia, claiming the act of voicing dissent is nothing short of “suicide” within his inner circle.

“The power distance between Mr Putin and anybody else is like the distance between the Earth and the cosmos,” Fridman continued. “To say anything to Putin against the war, for anybody, would be kind of suicide.”

‘A self-evident breach of international humanitarian law’

The UK’s Foreign Office minister has made strong claims about the recent theatre bombing in Mariupol, declaring the attack “looks to be specific targeting of civilian infrastructure” and appears to be a ”self-evident breach of international humanitarian law”.

The theatre was said to be housing up to 1,000 civilians.

Speaking wth Good Morning Britain, James Cleverley said more information was needed on the specifics over who ordered the attack, insisting future intelligence will need to uncover “whether they are battlefield commanders, right up to the top of the organisation, can be held accountable once this war is concluded.”

“Ultimately it is for international courts and tribunals to make the formal decision but self-evidently, this is civilian infrastructure which we‘ve seen had the word ’kids’ painted in Russian outside of this building,” he said.

“This looks to be targeting, this looks to be specific targeting of civilian infrastructure and, as I say, that is a self-evident breach of international law and the law of armed conflict.”

It came as UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said there is “very strong evidence” of war crimes, following Joe Biden’s heated address earlier on Thursday.

“There’s very, very strong evidence that war crimes have been committed and that Vladimir Putin is behind them,” she said.

“It‘s ultimately a matter for the International Criminal Court to decide who is and isn’t a war criminal and for us to bring the evidence and the best thing we can do at the moment, which is what we’re doing.”

Zelensky’s fiery message to the West

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has told Germany’s government Russia is building new ‘Wall’ against freedom, declaring the Russian leader has plans beyond Ukraine as tensions with NATO build.

Zelensky received a standing ovation before giving video address to several German MPs, accusing Western leaders of not doing enough to deter Russia before the February invasion.

“It’s not a Berlin Wall — it is a Wall in central Europe between freedom and bondage and this Wall is growing bigger with every bomb,” he said, before declaring the West was preoccupied in the lead-up to the current conflict.

“All you cared about was the economy,” he continued.

“80 years after WWII, what is the value of historical responsibility? Tear down this wall, show leadership. Please help us to stop this wall,” the Ukrainian leader said, urging Berlin for more support as Russia’s campaign enters its fourth week.

Polish minister backs Biden’s ‘war criminal’ speech

Poland’s deputy foreign minister Marcin Przydacz has backed Joe Biden’s comments today, declaring Vladimir Putin a “war criminal” over the horrific bombing of Mariupol, where hundreds of thousands of residents have been held hostage.

Mariupol is continuing to evacuate, with leaders setting up a series of “humanitarian corridors” for civilians as Russia continues its campaign.

“In my opinion the initial plan was to destroy the military infrastructure,” Mr Przydacz said via the BBC.

“The Kremlin believed the government of Ukraine will evaporate somehow. That was not the case. Ukrainians are very brave defending their land and their values, their democracy, the country they built, they‘ve been building for the last 30 years. So now Mr Putin decided to hit civilian infrastructure.

“And what‘s worse, I’ve seen a photo that’s around this theatre, it was written on the pavement that there are kids inside. It didn’t stop Mr Putin from bombing this and it’s really, as President Biden called him, this is the war criminal.”

Poland has accepted the bulk of Ukraine’s refugees, with over a million reportedly arriving in the first two weeks alone. The exodus is expected to continue until peace agreements are met, with several other European neighbouts such as Hungary told to prepare for more arrivals.

‘I don’t feel scared’: Russian journalist speaks out

The Russian journalist who bravely stormed onto a live TV news broadcast in protest against the war in Ukraine has given an interview where she admits she is worried for her childrens’ safety.

Marina Ovsyannikova, a mother of two who is an editor at state-controlled flagship station Channel 1, ran onto the set during a live bulletin earlier this week holding a sign in support of Ukraine that read “no war” and shouted slogans against Russia.

“Stop the war, don’t believe the propaganda, they are lying to you here,” the sign read.

The Kremlin described the act as “hooliganism”. According to the BBC, Ms Ovsyannikova pleaded not guilty to the charge of organising an unauthorised public event.

She could have faced either a fine, community service or up to 20 days in jail. At a hearing on Tuesday she was fined 30,000 roubles ($A390).

Speaking to CNN on Thursday, she said she did not know what would happen next.

“I don’t feel scared but at the moment of course I feel a huge burden of responsibility and I realise that my life has changed irrevocably,” she said.

“I don’t think there’s some sort of sad fate in store for me … but I’m hoping I don’t face criminal charges.”

Why did she do it?

“I wanted to show the majority of Russians are against the war … they are pacifists,” she told CNN.

“They hate war inside themselves. Everybody is scared, everybody is confused. Our life changed overnight.

“I don’t know yet what to do next, what my steps will be. At the moment my children are safe. Of course I fear for them very much but I hope they will be okay.”

One dead as Kyiv hit by strikes at dawn

At least one person has died and three have been left wounded after downed missile struck a residential building in the Ukranian capital at 5am this morning.

Several residents were evacuated from the building as emergency responders arrived to remove rubble. There are fears more may be trapped in the debris.

Kyiv has been subject to brutal attacks in recent days, with several civilian sites hit by Russian missiles. Footage of a bus being decimated by a Russian strike on Tuesday painted a grim picture of life on the ground in the capital, with a bystander narrowly escaping the blast as it rocked the street.

Russia has lost ‘7000 soldiers’: report

A US intelligence official has estimated the number of Russian troops killed during the war in Ukraine has topped 7000. They say a further 20,000 could be injured.

The number is enough to render units unable to carry out combat tasks.

The figures have been quoted to The New York Times by an American official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The Times notes that figures are “inexact” but that intelligence officials came to the figures by analysis of “the news media, Ukrainian figures (which tend to be high, with the latest at 13,500), Russian figures (which tend to be low, with the latest at 498), satellite imagery and careful perusal of video images of Russian tanks and troops that come under fire”.

There are more than 150,000 troops believed to have been stationed outside Ukraine before war broke out three weeks ago.

If correct, the estimated tally means Russia has suffered more casualties in three weeks than the US did across two decades in Afghanistan.

American international affairs and Russia expert Tom Nichols said it was “an astonishing amount of casualties”.

Pentagon officials say the damage sustained by Russia will impact the will of Russian troops.

It comes as the latest intelligence from the UK’s Ministry of Defence reveals Russian forces are likely resorting to using older weapons because the war is being drawn out longer than they expected or were prepared for.

Mayor’s one-word response to Putin

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko is simply not having it. In a brief but poignant soundbite shared with Channel 7’s Chris Reason in Ukraine, Klitschko rejected claims by Russia that they are only targeting military sites.

“Bullshit,” he said, before apologising.

He has had a lot to say about Russian propaganda during the three weeks since Putin sent forces across the border.

“I feel so bad, as every Ukrainian citizen, because nobody feels safe right now in Ukraine,” Klitschko told Al Jazeera.

“The Russian propaganda … explains they target only military forces,” he said. “Today, we have pictures of (civilian) buildings where very peaceful people lived, was destroyed.”

“People died, many injured. Kyiv is not the first one. We have a lot of experience in the past couple of weeks with Russian aggression,” he said.

Kremlin furious over Biden’s ‘war criminal’ comment

US President Joe Biden’s decision to call Russian President Vladimir Putin a “war criminal” has enraged the Kremlin, with a spokesperson branding the comment “unforgivable”.

“We consider unacceptable and unforgivable such rhetoric of the head of the state, whose bombs killed hundreds of thousands of people around the world,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, according to Russian news agency Tass.

On Wednesday morning, US time, Mr Biden told reporters in Washington that he thinks Mr Putin “is a war criminal”, citing Russia’s attacks on “hospitals, maternity wards, apartment buildings” in Ukraine.

‘Ready to die’: Ukraine’s grim revelation about Russia

A senior adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky has claimed Ukrainian forces are beginning to strike back against Russian troops, with Moscow desperately trying to recruit more soldiers.

“The Ukrainian army is beginning a counterstrike on a number of active directions. This fact is drastically changing the dispositions of the sides,” adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said in a statement released on Telegram.

Mr Podolyak also claimed Russia was looking for soldiers who were willing to die in this conflict.

“The Russian administration is trying to find allies whose soldiers would be ready to die on the field,” he said.

Yesterday, the British Department of Defence revealed Russia was “increasingly seeking to generate additional troops to bolster and replace its personnel losses in Ukraine”.

“As a result of these losses, it is likely Russia is struggling to conduct offensive operations in the face of sustained Ukrainian resistance. Continued personnel losses will also make it difficult for Russia to secure occupied territory,” it said.

Russia is therefore calling upon forces from as far away as its Eastern Military District, Pacific Fleet and Armenia.

“It is also increasingly seeking to exploit irregular sources such as private military companies, Syrian and other mercenaries,” said the department.

Morrison: ‘Russia must pay the dearest price’

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has once again publicly condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, saying the country must “pay the dearest price” for the conflict.

His comments come after Mr Morrison spoke with Ukraine’s Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal yesterday.

“This is just an awful and illegal, unprovoked invasion by Russia into Ukraine,” the PM told reporters.

“And we must ensure that Russia pays the dearest price for doing this — not just to ensure justice for the Ukrainian people, but to ward off any others who want to go down that autocratic path and seek to threaten to coerce their neighbours.”

Mr Morrison said both Mr Shmyhal and Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelensky are “deeply grateful” for the support being received from Australia.

“I’ll be having a bit more to say in the next few days about additional support from the Australian government to be providing in this effort,” he said.

“The people of Ukraine … and their government and their leadership and President Zelenskyy have shown an enormous grit and courage, and they’re an inspiration.”

Satellite images show devastation across Ukraine

Satellite images taken from different parts of Ukraine have shown the damage and destruction inflicted by the ongoing missile attacks and shelling from Russian forces.

UN members call emergency meeting

The United Kingdom, United States, Albania, France, Norway and Ireland have requested an emergency UN Security Council meeting Thursday because of the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Ukraine, diplomatic sources said.

“Russia is committing war crimes and targeting civilians,” the British diplomatic mission to the UN said Wednesday on its Twitter account.

“Russia’s illegal war on Ukraine is a threat to us all.”

Zelensky says WWIII may have ‘already started’

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has warned that World War III may have already begun, following fears from the West that enforcing a no-fly zone over Ukraine could escalate the situation even further.

Speaking to NBC News’ Lester Holt, Mr Zelensky said WWIII “may have already started”.

“Nobody knows whether it may have already started. And what is the possibility of this war if Ukraine will fall, in case Ukraine will? It’s very hard to say,” the Ukrainian President said.

“And we’ve seen this 80 years ago, when the second World War had started … nobody would be able to predict when the full scale war would start.”

Mr Zelensky’s comments come after he urged Mr Biden to become the “leader of the free world” and impose even more sanctions on Russia.

Mr Biden then announced an $800 million military assistance package, however, the US and its allies have said going as far to enforce a no-fly zone over the Ukraine could result in an all out war.

Russia ‘only pretending to negotiate’

France’s foreign minister has accused Russia of “only pretending to negotiate” over the ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

Speaking to French newspaper Le Parisien, Jean-Yves Le Drian said Moscow is engaging in a “dramatic process of long-lasting brutality”.

“There is only one emergency: the ceasefire, the ceasefire, the ceasefire. … It is only on this basis that you can negotiate, because you don’t negotiate with a gun on your head,” he said.

“If chemical or bacteriological attacks took place in Ukraine, we’d know who would be solely responsible for them. It would be Russia.”

Mr Le Drian warned the use of such weapons would constitute an “intolerable escalation” and would force “massive and radical” sanctions against the country.

Russia being forced to use older weapons

The latest intelligence from the UK’s Ministry of Defence has revealed Russian forces are likely resorting to the use of older weapons due to the length of the ongoing conflict.

“Given the delays in achieving their objectives and failure to control Ukrainian airspace, Russia has probably expended far more stand-off air launched weapons than originally planned,” the ministry said.

“As a result, it is likely Russia is resorting to the use of older, less precise weapons.”

However, the ministry warned these weapons could result in even more civilian casualties due to the weapons being less military effective.

The latest reports from the UN indicate at least 1900 civilian casualties, including 727 deaths, though the true number is likely “significantly greater”.

Putin’s wild rant to ‘scum’ West

Russian President Vladimir Putin has issued a furious warning to the West and oligarchs, telling all “traitors” he will “spit them out like a midge”.

In a wild televised address from the Kremlin, the Russian leader claimed Western nations would use “those who earn their money here, but live over there” to divide society.

“I do not judge those with villas in Miami or the French Riviera. Or who can’t get by without oysters or foie gras or so-called ‘gender freedoms’,” Mr Putin said.

“The problem is they mentally exist there, and not here, with our people, with Russia. The West will try to bet on the so-called fifth column, on traitors … to divide our society. to provoke civil confrontation … to strive to achieve its aim. And there is one aim – the destruction of Russia.”

He insisted the military operation was going to plan in Ukraine, despite his troops being held off outside of Kyiv.

Mr Putin went on to claim the West have been attempting to have “global dominance” and have been using the conflict to impose tough sanctions because “they just don’t want a strong and sovereign Russia”.

“Any people, and especially the Russian people, will always be able to distinguish the true patriots from the scum and the traitors, and just to spit them out like a midge that accidentally flew into their mouths,” he said.

Heartbreaking message written on bombed theatre

Satellite images taken of the theatre in Mariupol before it was bombed by Russian forces show a short message was written beside building before the attack.

Hundreds of people were sheltering inside the The Donetsk Regional Theatre of Drama when it was bombed.

Images before the attack shows the Russian word for “children” painted on the ground either side of the building in huge, white letters.

The number of people killed in the attack is not yet known, with Ukraine’s foreign ministry saying many people were trapped inside.

Russia, which has been accused of ramping up attacks on civilians, has denied bombing the theatre.

Russia’s defence ministry has instead blamed the attack on the Azov Battalion, a far-right Ukrainian militia.

Russia still stalled outside Kyiv

Russian forces have not made “any significant advances” towards the capital of Kyiv, a US defence official told reporters.

The official said troops are “generally stalled” in the north, northwest and east of the city, with troops still 30 kilometres away from the city centre.

“The bottom line is they haven’t made any appreciable progress coming to the east,” they said.

They added Ukrainians are “trying to develop lines of communication to the south and with some success”, with Chernihiv and Mariupol still isolated.

‘War criminal’: Putin and Biden’s war of words

President Joe Biden has branded Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin a “war criminal” over his bloody invasion of neighbouring Ukraine.

“I think he is a war criminal,” Mr Biden told reporters on Wednesday US time.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Biden was “speaking from his heart” after seeing images on television of “barbaric actions by a brutal dictator through his invasion of a foreign country.”

“The President’s remarks speak for themselves,” she said.

Mr Biden initially answered “no” when asked if he thought Mr Putin was a war criminal, but immediately came back to the reporters to clarify what had been asked before giving his answer.

Mr Putin ordered a large scale invasion of Ukraine three weeks ago, saying Russia wants to force the disarmament of Ukraine’s military and topple the pro-Western government.

Ukraine’s military, backed by heavy flow of Western weapons, has fought back, largely stalling the Russian advance. Russian troops have turned increasingly to bombardments of civilians, prompting three million Ukrainians to become refugees.

Fears hundreds dead in ‘horror’ Russian attack

It’s feared hundreds of Ukrainians may have died in a single attack after Russian bombs destroyed a theatre in the besieged city of Mariupol where scores of people were sheltering.

It comes hours after 10 people were killed in the northern city of Chernihiv queuing for bread outside a grocery store when they were struck by artillery.

Early on Thursday Australia time, the Mariupol city council said the Drama Theatre in the centre of the city had been bombed.

Local politicians said the theatre had been used as a place of shelter for potentially hundreds – maybe thousands – of people who have been under bombardment from Russian

forces for weeks. There is no word yet on casualties.

The city council said a Russian plane had “purposefully and cynically” bombed the building, reported CNN.

“It is still impossible to estimate the scale of this horrific and inhumane act, because the city continues to shell residential areas.

“It is known that after the bombing, the central part of the Drama Theatre was destroyed, and the entrance to the bomb shelter in the building was destroyed,” the council said on its Telegram channel.

“It is impossible to find words that could describe the level of cruelty and cynicism with which the Russian occupiers are destroying the civilian population of the Ukrainian city by the sea. Women, children, and the elderly remain in the enemy’s sights. These are completely unarmed peaceful people,” it said.

“We will never forgive and never forget,” it added.

In another reported incident near the city, Ukraine armed forces have said a convoy of civilians escaping Mariupol was hit by Russian rockets. It’s not clear of any injuries.

Mariupol, in southern Ukraine, lies in a strategically important area for Russia. Capturing it would help give Moscow a land route from the Russian mainland to the annexed region of Crimea over which it has wielded power since 2014.

It’s estimated some 300,000 people remain in Mariupol with food and medical supplies running low.

– Benedict Brooke

Zelensky urges Biden to be ‘leader of peace’

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine told President Joe Biden Wednesday that being the leader of the free world also means being “the leader of peace.”

In a sombre address to the US Congress appealing for more military help to fight off the Russian invasion, Zelensky said this war is not just about his country but about “the values of Europe and the world.”

“I am addressing President Biden. You are the leader of the nation, of your great nation. I wish you to be the leader of the world. Being the leader of the world means to be the leader of peace,” Zelensky said, switching to English for the final passage of his speech.

He made yet another impassioned appeal for the United States and its allies to create a no-fly zone to protect his country from Russian air attacks.

“I have a dream, these words are known to each of you today I can say. I have a need, I need to protect our sky. I need your decision, your help,” he asked in a virtual speech to the US Congress.

“Is this a lot to ask for, to create a no-fly zone over Ukraine, to save people? Is this too much to ask,” pleaded Zelensky, so that “Russia would not be able to terrorise our free cities.

– with AFP

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