Moscow and Kiev both claim to kill hundreds of each other's troops in the fight for the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut as heavy battles continue to rage in the city on the 383rd day of the conflict.
Monday, March 13, 2023
Russia does not object to another extension of the Black Sea Grain Initiative "but only for 60 days," the country's deputy foreign minister has said.
The deal was set to complete its second term on March 18.
Sergey Vershinin's remarks came in a statement following a Russian delegation meeting with UN Conference on Trade and Development Secretary-General Rebeca Grynspan and UN Under-Secret ary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths.
"Our further stance will be determined upon the tangible progress on normalisation of our agricultural exports, not in words, but in deeds," Vershinin said.
"It includes bank payments, transport logistics, insurance, 'unfreezing' of financial activities and ammonia supplies via the 'Tolyatti-Odessa' pipeline."
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1811 GMT — Russia extending grain deal for 60 days 'contradicts' agreement: Kiev
Ukraine's infrastructure minister has said Russia's decision to extend the grain deal for 60 days went against the agreement, but did not reject Moscow's proposal.
"(The grain) agreement involves at least 120 days of extension, therefore Russia's position to extend the deal only for 60 days contradicts the document signed by Türkiye and the UN," Oleksandr Kubrakov said on Twitter.
"We're waiting for the official position of the UN and Türkiye as the guarantors of the initiative," he added.
1632 GMT — Ukrainian soldiers wrap up Leopard 2A4 tank training in Spain
Dozens of Ukrainian soldiers have wrapped up a four-week training in Spain on how to operate the Leopard 2A4 battle tank, of which Madrid is set to deliver six mothballed units to Kiev this spring.
A total of 40 tank crew members and 15 mechanical specialists underwent training on their use at a military base in the northeastern city of Zaragoza, Spain's armed forces said in a statement.
"It has been intense," Spanish trainer Captain Contreras – who identified himself only by his rank and surname – told reporters, who were allowed access to the drills for the first time.
Contreras said the Ukrainians would be returning home "with a very acceptable knowledge" of the Leopards.
1612 GMT — Biden wants $886 billion defence budget
President Joe Biden's biggest peacetime US defence budget request of $886 billion includes a 5.2 percent pay raise for troops and the largest allocation on record for research and development, with Russia's war on Ukraine spurring demand for more spending on munitions.
Biden's request earmarks $842 billion for the Pentagon and $44 billion for defence-related programmes at the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Department of Energy and other agencies.
The total amount of the 2024 budget proposal is $28 billion more than last year's $858 billion.
1553 GMT — EU renews sanctions against Russian individuals, entities
The EU Council has renewed for another six months the sanctions imposed on 1,473 Russian individuals and 205 entities for "undermining or threatening the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence" of Ukraine.
Many of them are "targeted in response to Russia's ongoing unjustified and unprovoked" war which began on February 24, 2022, the council said in a statement.
The sanctions are extended until September 15.
1548 GMT — Russia fires rockets on Ukraine's Sumy and Donetsk regions
At least two people have been killed and four injured during rocket attacks in Ukraine's Sumy and Donetsk regions, amid an air raid alert earlier in the day in most of the country's northern and eastern regions.
"In Sumy Oblast, the Russians shelled the village of Znob-Novhorodske. A rocket attack was carried out in the area of the local vocational and agricultural lyceum.
"One civilian was killed, four people were injured," head of the Ukrainian Presidential Office Andriy Yermak said on Telegram.
Yermak later said that two rockets were fired at a school in the city of Avdiivka in the Donetsk region, as a result of which a local resident was confirmed to have been killed.
Arms imports into Europe nearly doubled in 2022 as countries rushed to bolster their arsenals after Russia's incursion into Ukraine pic.twitter.com/yRvA4EnXhQ— TRT World Now (@TRTWorldNow) March 13, 2023
0836 GMT — China's Xi plans Russia visit as soon as next week
Chinese President Xi Jinping is planning to travel to Russia to meet with his counterpart, Vladimir Putin, as soon as next week, people familiar with the matter said, which would be sooner than previously expected.
Plans for a visit come as China has been offering to broker peace in Ukraine, an effort that has been met with scepticism in the West given China's diplomatic support for Russia.
Russia's Tass news agency reported on January 30 that Putin had invited Xi to visit in the spring. The Wall Street Journal reported last month that a visit to Moscow could take place in April or early May.
0814 GMT — Situation in Ukraine's Bakhmut 'very difficult'
“The situation in Bakhmut is difficult, very difficult. The enemy is fighting for every meter, and the closer we are to the city center, the harder the battles,” Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of the Wagner paramilitary group said in a Telegram message.
Prigozhin said Ukraine is deploying “endless reserves” but they are gaining ground despite the resistance.
“We are moving forward and will continue to move forward and we will not shame the glory of Russian weapons," he added.
0734 GMT — Russia's Patrushev doubts pro-Ukrainian group blew up Nord Stream
One of Putin's top allies said that he doubts that the Nord Stream pipelines were blown up by a pro-Ukrainian group, and said that Moscow still does not know who exactly was behind it, Interfax reported.
Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev said on Monday that Ukraine had gained nothing from the destruction of the pipelines.
German and United States media have reported that the US intelligence community believes that a pro-Ukrainian group was behind the September explosions that badly damaged the pipelines.
Russia has called the incident a terrorist attack, and suggested that Western countries were behind it.
0630 GMT — HRW sounds alarm on children from Ukraine orphanages
Russia-Ukraine war has had "devastating" consequences for children in residential institutions, with thousands transferred to occupied territories or to Russia, Human Rights Watch said.
In a report released on Monday, the watchdog also said the war highlighted the urgent need for reform in Ukraine, which had over 105,000 children in institutions before the conflict, the largest number in Europe after Russia.
"This brutal war has starkly shown the need to end the perils faced by children who were institutionalised," said Bill Van Esveld, associate children's rights director at the New York-based organisation.
"Returning children who were illegally taken by Russian forces should be an international priority," he added.
0130 GMT — Georgia urges Zelenskyy not to interfere in internal affairs
Georgian's Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili has called on Zelenskyy to not interfere in the political situation in Georgia, after a wave of protests hit the country last week.
"When a person who is at war... responds to the destructive action of several thousand people here in Georgia, this is direct evidence that this person is involved, motivated to make something happen here too, to change," Garibashvili said in an interview with the Georgian IMEDI television.
During the protests against a "foreign agents" law that critics said signalled an authoritarian shift in Georgia, Zelenskyy thanked protesters for waving the Ukrainian flag, saying it showed respect and wished the country a "democratic success".
The Georgian parliament on Friday dropped the bill, which opponents said was inspired by a 2012 Russian law that has been used extensively to crack down on dissent for the past decade and which had threatened to harm Georgia's bid for closer ties with Europe.
2343 GMT — Zelenskyy: Ukraine seeks 'spiritual independence'
Ukraine's punitive actions against a branch of the Orthodox church linked to Russia are part of a drive to achieve "spiritual independence," Zelenskyy has said.
Zelenskyy and other Ukrainian authorities have accused the long-established Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) of undermining Ukrainian unity and collaborating with Moscow.
Authorities ordered the church last Friday to leave its base in the 980-year-old Pechersk Lavra monastery complex, prompting Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill to ask Pope Francis and other religious leaders to help stop the crackdown.
"One more step towards strengthening our spiritual independence was taken this week," Zelenskyy said, without referring directly to the order.
Ukrainians, he said, had reacted positively.
"We will continue this movement," he said. "We will not allow the terrorist state any opportunity to manipulate the spiritual life of our people, to destroy Ukrainian shrines - our Lavras - or to steal values from them."
Russian forces suffered more than 1,100 dead in less than a week of fighting in Bakhmut – Ukraine's President Zelenskyy pic.twitter.com/yW1pgTiAzz— TRT World Now (@TRTWorldNow) March 12, 2023
2320 GMT — Fuelled by Ukraine, European arms imports double in 2022
Arms imports into Europe almost doubled in 2022, driven by massive shipments to Ukraine, which has become the world's third-largest destination, researchers have said.
With a 93 percent jump compared to the year before, imports have also increased due to accelerating military spending by European states including Poland and Norway, said the report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).
And the rate of imports is expected to accelerate further, it said.
"The invasion has really caused a significant surge in demand for arms in Europe, which will have further effect and most likely will lead to increased arms imports by European states," Pieter Wezeman, a senior researcher at SIPRI, told AFP.
Ukraine was until last year a negligible importer of arms.
2228 GMT — Kiev honours soldier shot after saying "glory to Ukraine
Zelenskyy bestowed posthumously the honour of "Hero of Ukraine" on a soldier who defiantly said "glory to Ukraine" before being seen to be shot dead in a video posted on social media.
Ukraine's military, on its Telegram channel, had earlier confirmed the identity of the soldier as Oleksandr Matsievskiy, a sniper with a unit from the northern region of Chernihiv.
"Today, I have bestowed the title of Hero of Ukraine on soldier Oleskandr Matsievskiy," Zelenskyy said.
"A man that all Ukrainians will know. A man who will be forever remembered. For his bravery, for his confidence in Ukraine and for his 'glory to Ukraine'."
1958 GMT — Wagner chief sets out ambitions for an 'army with an ideology'
The head of Russia's Wagner mercenary force has said in an interview published over the weekend that he had ambitions to turn his private military company into an "army with an ideology" that would fight for justice in Russia.
Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin's fighters - some of them convicts - have spearheaded the assault in eastern Ukraine for months, focusing their efforts on the small city of Bakhmut, which Russia calls Artyomovsk and sees as a useful stepping stone to seize bigger cities like Kramatorsk and Sloviansk.
"After the capture of Artyomovsk (Bakhmut), we will begin to reboot," Prigozhin said in a clip posted on Telegram channels associated with Wagner. "In particular, we will start recruiting new people from the regions."
"The Wagner private military group must turn from just a private, the best, army in the world which is capable of defending the state, into an army with an ideology. And that ideology is the struggle for justice."
For our live updates from Sunday (March 12), click here.