Russia’s special operation in Ukraine aims to prevent Ukraine from joining NATO because this can provoke a war of nuclear states, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Sky News on Thursday.
The Russia-Ukraine conflict continued on Thursday as relevant parties were working to broker a peaceful solution. Following are the latest developments in the situation:
Danish Mercenary Confirms Ukrainian Forces are Killing Russian PoWs
A Danish ‘volunteer’ fighting in Ukraine has confirmed to local media that Ukrainian forces have been killing Russian forces.
The fighter said he spoke to some of the captured Russian PoWs before their execution. He said one of the troops was an 18-year-old Russian who worked as a computer programmer. “The following morning he was buried. These things follow you,” he said.
‘Jonas’ distanced himself from the war crimes, and insisted that he did not personally participate in the killings of captured Russian troops.
International laws of warfare to which both Russia and Ukraine are signatories prohibit the killing of captured combatants, and demands that they be treated humanely and be provided medical attention if required. The execution of prisoners of war is prohibited.
‘Jonas’ said he’s an experienced sniper with military training and experience in several conflicts around the world, and claims to have killed nearly 100 Russians during his time in Ukraine. “I did what I could. Let’s put it this way,” he said. The mercenary also said that his family back in Denmark was proud of him, and that his father was “happy to hear” that he would be travelling to Ukraine to fight.
The mercenary also spoke about the fallout from the Russian precision missile strike on the military base in western Ukraine in March, saying about half of the foreigners at the base chose to leave the country after the strike.
The U.S. sanctions Russian firm Alrosa, the world's largest diamond miner
The US adopted sanctions against the Russian miner Alrosa, the world's leading diamond miner, the Treasury Department announced Thursday.
"Today, the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control designated Alrosa, a Russian state-owned company and the world's largest diamond mining company, which is also responsible for 90 percent of Russia's diamond mining capacity," the department said in a statement.
Numerous countries condemned the military operation that Russia launched last February 24 to "demilitarize" and "denazify" Ukraine and activated several batteries of individual and sectoral sanctions aimed at inflicting the greatest possible damage to the Russian economy.
In addition to the expansion of individual sanctions, for the first time the restrictions include the partial disconnection of Russia from the SWIFT international banking transaction system, the immobilization of its Central Bank's international reserves and, in the case of countries such as the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia, the embargo on the import of Russian oil.
According to the Castellum.AI database, Russia is now the country that has been hit hardest by sanctions, ahead of Iran, Syria, North Korea and Venezuela. Since mid-February, more than 5,300 new restrictive measures have been activated in relation to Russia, in addition to the more than 2,750 already in force.
EU agrees on an embargo on Russian coal as part of a new sanctions package
EU officials have agreed on an embargo on coal from Russia as part of a new package of sanctions, Bloomberg reported, citing sources familiar with the subject.
"The EU has backed an embargo on Russian coal as part of the fifth package of sanctions," the agency wrote. It gave no other details.
Additional EU sanctions have not yet been published. Some media noted that the publication might take place on Friday.
Russia hopes to complete its special operation in Ukraine soon - Kremlin spokesman
Russian authorities hope the special operation in Ukraine will be completed in the near future, either through negotiations or by military means, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in an interview with Sky News.
"Our military is doing their best to end that operation. And we do hope that in coming days, in the foreseeable future, this operation will reach its goals, or we’ll finish it by negotiations between Russian and Ukrainian delegations," he said.
Speaking about de-escalation in the Kiev and Chernigov areas, Peskov said it was a goodwill gesture, intended to create favorable conditions for continuing negotiations.
Through its special operation, Russia is preventing a war of nuclear states - Kremlin
Russia’s special operation in Ukraine aims to prevent Ukraine from joining NATO, because this can provoke a war of nuclear states, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Sky News on Thursday.
"This whole story is about future. It’s about guaranteeing our future. Just imagine a situation when a member of NATO - Ukraine - thinking about returning Crimea, attacks Russia. It attacks Russian Crimea and is using Article 5 of the NATO Charter. NATO countries, possessing nukes, will have to defend Ukraine. It should be a third world war. And what is being done is to save us from any potential threat of such a war," he said.
When asked whether Russia viewed Finland or Sweden’s membership in NATo as an "existential threat," Peskov gave a negative answer. He also denied that those words can be used to describe Western sanctions against Russia.
Nationalists use Azovstal plant in Mariupol as fortified headquarters - head of Chechnya
Fighters from Chechnya continue the assault on the Azovstal Plant in Mariupol, which Ukrainian nationalists use as a fortified headquarters in this area, head of Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov said in his Telegram channel Thursday.
"All attention in Mariupol is glued to the events around Azovstal. The former plant is being used by the banderites as a headquarters in this area. The Nazis turned the plant into a true fortress with a bunker, after carrying out engineering works," he said.
PM Mishustin calls on developers to create Russian alternative to App Store, Google Play
App Store and Google Play may soon forbid downloading phone apps in Russia, therefore it is necessary to develop a domestic platform, Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin said, speaking before the State Duma Thursday.
"Using this opportunity, I would like to make a call: guys, developers, programmers, IT folks - let us make our own ecosystem. We have everything for that. There are elements of this ecosystem that need to be perfected. We must make our own online store, because App Store and Google Play may practically prohibit us from downloading apps soon," Mishustin said.
The Ministry of Digital Development and Russia’s leading companies are already working on an alternative store for Android, which should be launched in mid-2022.
The Prime Minister also underscored that Russia provided IT specialists with every opportunity to work inside the country.
"Do not fear anything; do not believe anyone in this regard. Everything is going to be alight here, everything will be reliable, and you will be able to calmly work for your country, your company, earn good salaries and live here comfortably," Mishustin promised.
Russia to check info about Ukrainian nationalists killing captive Russians - investigators
The head of the Russian Investigative Committee, Alexander Bastrykin, has ordered an inquiry into Dutch mercenary's report about Ukrainian nationalists killing captive Russian soldiers, the committee's press service said in a statement.
"The chair of the Russian Investigative Committee tasked the agency’s main department to verify information about the killing of Russian captives by Ukrainian nationalists," the document says.
"According to our information, a Danish citizen participating in the combat actions as a mercenary supporting Ukraine, told the media that he witnessed the killing of captive Russian soldiers by the Ukrainian military," the committee said.
The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) suspends Russia from Human Rights Council. On Thursday, the UNGA adopted a resolution to suspend the Russian's membership in the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council. The draft resolution obtained 93 "yes" votes and 24 "no" votes from the 193-member General Assembly. A total of 58 countries abstained.
Eighteen countries did not participate in the voting. China voted against the move pushed by the United States. A two-thirds majority of voting members - abstentions do not count - can suspend a country from the 47-member council. As a member of the Geneva-based council, Russia was in its second year of a three-year term.
The Lviv City in western Ukraine started to construct a container town for people who fled conflict-affected areas. After being completed, the settlement comprising 70 containers with furniture, electricity and heat would accommodate up to 350 people, Mayor Andriy Sadovyi said Thursday.
Over 1,000 civilians have been evacuated from Mariupol with assistance from the Red Cross. This international organization has led a convoy of buses and private cars with civilians to enable them to leave Mariupol to Ukraine's southern city of Zaporizhzhia safely.
Zelensky sparks controversy among Greek parliamentarians. During a video conference with Greek lawmakers held on Thursday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky appeared accompanied by two neo-Nazis from the Mariupol's Azov Battalion.
Their presence generated discomfort among the members of the Greek parliament, many of whom left the Chamber in sign of protest. Others remained in the meeting, but avoided applause or other forms of approval.
For example, Nasos Iliopulos, the spokesperson of the Coalition of the Radical Left–Progressive Alliance (SYRIZA), said that their presence was an “extremely dangerous and insulting” affront to Greek democracy.
The European Realistic Disobedience Front (MeRA25) stated that "is in solidarity with the Ukrainian people, not with the Nazi Azov battalion. What happened today in the Greek parliament is unacceptable, it is reprehensible, it is an absolute humiliation, and it took place with the complete loss of face and indulgence by the speaker and the government.”
Outlet Sputnik recalled that the Azov Regiment was formed as a volunteer militia and integrated into the Ukrainian National Guard in 2014. "It is one of the most notorious fighting units in the country, with many fighters known for openly neo-Nazi leanings and for war crimes including murder, torture and mass looting."
Negotiations for a ceasefire in Ukraine stall. Russian Foreign Affairs Minister Sergey Lavrov said that "the Kyiv regime is controlled by Washington and its allies, which push President Volodymyr Zelensky to continue military actions."
He also stated that the Ukrainian side presented on Wednesday a draft agreement that abandons "very important points" agreed upon at the March 29 meeting in Istanbul. "The Ukrainians clearly formulated that future security guarantees to Ukraine would not extend to Crimea and Sevastopol. In yesterday's draft, that clear statement is absent," Lavrov explained.
Kyiv would also have modified the clause in which it was established that any military exercise in its territory with the participation of foreign contingents could only be held with the agreement of "all the guarantor countries, including Russia." Lavrov said. The new Ukrainian proposal modifies that by opening the possibility for Kyiv to hold maneuvers "with the approval of the majority of the guarantor countries, without any allusion to Russia," he added.
Meanwhile, the Russian Army is preparing to launch the final offensive in Donbas in "three or four days," according to the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces.
Russia says the U.S. has withdrawn from the bilateral dialogue on cybersecurity. On Thusday, the Russian Security Council Vice Secretary Oleg Khramov announced that his country received a notification from the US indicating that Washington was withdrawing from the dialogue on cybersecurity, thus closing a channel of communication initiated after the summit of Presidents Vladimir Putin and Joe Biden held in Geneve in June 2021.
From that event, both countries began to cooperate and exchanged lists of critical information infrastructures that required to be protected. Now, however, those efforts will disappear.