(NEW YORK) — Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “special military operation” in neighboring Ukraine began Feb. 24, with Russian forces invading from Belarus in the north and Russia in the east. Ukrainian troops offered “fierce resistance”, according to US officials.
Earlier this month, the Russian military launched a large-scale ground offensive in the disputed Donbass region of eastern Ukraine as it attempts to capture the strategic port city of Mariupol and securing a coastal corridor to the Crimean peninsula annexed to Moscow.
Here’s how the news evolves. All times Eastern:
April 28, 8:00 a.m.
Russia retains ability to strike Ukrainian coastal targets, UK says
The Russian Navy still has the ability to strike coastal targets in Ukraine, even after the “embarrassing losses” of two warships, according to the UK Ministry of Defence.
In an intelligence update released Thursday, the ministry said about 20 Russian Navy vessels, including submarines, were currently in the “Black Sea Operational Zone”. But the ministry said Russia was unable to replace the Moskva missile cruiser because the Bosphorus Strait remains closed to all non-Turkish warships.
The Moskva, flagship of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, sank in the Black Sea earlier this month while being towed to port after a fire on board, according to the Russian Defense Ministry. Ukrainian officials, however, claimed that the ship had been hit by Ukrainian missiles, which the Russian Defense Ministry denied.
Russia also lost the landing ship Saratov, which was destroyed by explosions and fire on March 24.
April 28, 6:48 a.m.
Separatist forces arrest over 100 captured Ukrainian soldiers in Donetsk
Russian-backed separatist forces in eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk Oblast said on Thursday they had arrested more than 100 captured Ukrainian soldiers suspected of involvement in crimes.
“Facts of involvement in crimes have been brought to light following the work of investigators. There are already more than 100 people who have been arrested by investigators,” Yury Sirovatko, justice minister of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, told Russian state broadcaster Rossiya 24 on Thursday.
Sirovatko told Channel One, a Russian state-run television channel, on Wednesday that there were around 2,600 captured Ukrainian servicemen in the area.
April 28, 5:01 a.m.
Russia accuses Ukraine of war crimes
Russia on Thursday accused Ukraine of committing war crimes by indiscriminately attacking civilian areas in Ukrainian cities.
The Russian Defense Ministry said Ukrainian armed forces “launched a massive attack” using ballistic missiles and multiple rocket launchers on residential areas of Kherson in southern Ukraine on Wednesday night.
“The indiscriminate missile attack launched by the nationalists targeted kindergartens, schools and various social facilities in residential areas near Ushakova Avenue,” the ministry said in a statement on Thursday. “Russian air defense units repelled the attack of Ukrainian troops launched on the residential areas of Kherson.”
The ministry also claimed that Ukrainian troops launched indiscriminate attacks on residential areas in Izyum, eastern Ukraine.
“The indiscriminate attacks by the nationalist regime in Kyiv on the residential areas of Izyum and Kherson are a war crime and a flagrant violation of international humanitarian law,” the ministry added.
Ukraine did not immediately respond to the allegations.
April 28, 4:55 a.m.
Putin Steps Up Nuclear Threats As US Weapons Head To Ukraine
Russian President Vladimir Putin raised the possibility of nuclear war during his Wednesday speech to the council of lawmakers.
“If someone from the outside moves to interfere in current developments, they must know that they will indeed create strategic threats against Russia, which is unacceptable to us, and they must know that our response to aggression will be instant, it will be quick,” Putin said, according to Russian state media.
Putin claimed that Russia’s response to strategic threats from outside Ukraine would be “immediate”.
“We have all the tools to do it, tools that others can’t brag about right now, but we won’t brag about it,” Putin said.
Putin said Russia is ready to use these “tools” if “the need arises”, adding that he “would like everyone to be aware of them”. A nuclear attack has been on the table since the start of the “special military operation” in Ukraine, Putin said. He had ordered his nuclear forces to be put on alert on February 27.
Putin’s remarks came as Pentagon press secretary John Kirby announced that “more than half” of the 90 howitzers the US had agreed to send to Ukraine were now in the country, adding that about 50 Ukrainian soldiers had already been trained to operate the weapons.
“We finished earlier this week, the first installment of over 50 coaches who are going to come in and train their teammates,” Kirby said during a press briefing on Wednesday, adding a moment later, “But there was a another installment over more than 50 that we will be training at the same place outside of Ukraine.
The US Department of Defense on Wednesday tweeted pictures of other howitzers “bound for Ukraine” being loaded onto US Air Force planes. Additional training opportunities on howitzers and other weapon systems were also being explored, Kirby said.
As US weapons head towards Ukraine, Russia is stepping up the pace of its offensive in almost every direction, the General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces said Thursday.
The United States is reviewing the legal aspects of officially listing Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken told lawmakers on Wednesday. Officials said they have not yet determined whether Russia’s actions meet the legal standard required for designation, Blinken said.
The designation, called for by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, would further cripple Russia’s trade potential, including by banning defense exports and limiting foreign aid.
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