According to Ukraine’s state emergency service, at least eight people were killed in a drone strike in the Kyiv region on Wednesday. The strike hit a residential building in the town of Rzhyshchiv, which is about 50 miles southeast of the capital of Kyiv. The statement read, “As of 18:00 (6:00 p.m.), 8 people died, 7 people were injured and 1 person was rescued.” Four people are likely to be under the rubble.
Police and emergency services evacuated more than 200 people after the strike. Andrii Niebytov, the Kyiv region police chief, previously said that a drone had struck a dormitory building.
Ukraine’s State Emergency Service reported that at least one person was killed and 34 were injured by missile strikes in Zaporizhzhia on Wednesday. Among the injured are three children. The strikes caused significant damage to civilian infrastructure, according to the Ukrainian prosecutor’s office. Mykhailo Podolyak, a senior Ukrainian official and adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky, previously said the strikes deliberately targeted civilians.
According to Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, the risk of a nuclear conflict is now at its highest level in decades. He said during a discussion on the platform of the Valdai discussion club, “I would not like to indulge in a discussion whether the probability of a nuclear conflict is high today, but in any case it is higher than anything that we have seen over the past decades, let’s put it this way.” Ryabkov reiterated that Moscow is not departing “from the key provisions, doctrinal and political ones.” He said non-nuclear states, especially those not aligned with the United States, should “more loudly to call to order politicians in the Western capitals, including Washington, who have absolutely lost their sense of reality.”
President Vladimir Putin suspended his country’s participation in the New START nuclear arms reduction treaty with the United States during his much-delayed annual State of the Nation Address to the Federal Assembly last month.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said it was distressing to see the aftermath of Russian bombardment in Donbas. He said, “I have just returned from the Donbas. It is distressing to see the consequences of the Russian bombardment. The situation is very difficult, but we are doing everything possible to protect our people.” Zelensky added that he had spoken with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron about the situation in Donbas.
Ukrainian President Zelensky Visits Donbas Region
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky made an unannounced visit to the eastern Donbas region on Wednesday. He expressed his distress at the aftermath of Russian bombardments, which have caused terrible suffering and ruin in the cities of Donbas. Zelensky also highlighted the constant threat of shelling and the almost hourly air-alert siren in Kramatorsk. He emphasized that the terrorist state cannot be stopped by anything other than one thing – Ukraine’s victory.
Zelensky visited injured soldiers to pay tribute and thanked the doctors and nurses for their efforts. He also marked the beginning of Ramadan and remembered the Crimean Tatars, who are currently under Russian occupation. He hoped that the power of prayer in this holy month would help cleanse Ukraine of Russian godless evil.
Meanwhile, the Ukrainian military’s General Staff reported that the offensive capacity of Russian forces in and around Bakhmut is diminishing, but the fiercest fighting is ongoing in the southern and northern parts of Bakhmut. The Russian Federation continues its armed aggression against Ukraine, focusing its main efforts on attempts to completely seize Donetsk and Luhansk regions within the administrative borders. Russian forces are continuing to expend large numbers of men trying to re-take the city.
Zelensky felt there was hope in every eastern Ukrainian city that was not under occupation, and it was an honor to support those closest to the front. He presented state awards to soldiers and thanked them for their bravery and resilience. He emphasized that Ukraine is preserving itself thanks to such heroes, thanks to each and every one of them who is fighting against Russian evil.
In conclusion, Zelensky’s visit to the Donbas region highlights the ongoing conflict between Ukraine and Russia. The Ukrainian military’s General Staff reports that the offensive capacity of Russian forces in and around Bakhmut is diminishing, but the fiercest fighting is ongoing in the southern and northern parts of Bakhmut. Zelensky’s visit to injured soldiers and his tribute to the Crimean Tatars show his support for those affected by the conflict.
The Ukrainian military has reported that Russian forces have been increasing their military presence near the border, with a significant amount of manpower, weapons, and military equipment. The Ukrainian military has been repelling numerous enemy attacks around the clock in the areas of Bakhmut, Bohdanivka, and Predtechyne. Moscow’s armies are reportedly on the defensive in some areas in the southern part of Ukraine, conducting defensive actions in the Zaporizhzhia and Kherson directions. Areas near the contact line have come under fire.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has stated that any European country that is a party to the International Criminal Court (ICC) should arrest Russian President Vladimir Putin if he visits. Blinken said in response to a question from Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham at a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing, “I think that anyone who is a party to the court and has obligations should fulfill their obligations.” Blinken did not say whether the US authorities would turn the Russian president over to the ICC if he were to come to this country, noting that the US is not a party to the court. Putin has scarcely left Russia in recent years, and he has not traveled to the US since 2015.
Last week, the ICC issued an arrest warrant against Putin for his role in a vast Kremlin-wide effort to forcibly deport Ukrainian children into Russia. A report released in mid-February from the US State Department-backed Conflict Observatory by the Yale Humanitarian Research Lab found that more than 6,000 children have been in Russian custody at some point during the course of the war, ranging in age from mere months old to 17. The report identified 43 facilities that are a part of the vast network where the children were sent, stretching from one end of Russia to the other, including Russian-occupied Crimea, the eastern Pacific Coast, and Siberia. The primary purpose of the camps appears to be political reeducation, with at least 32 of the facilities identified in the report engaged in systematic re-education efforts that expose children from Ukraine to Russia-centric academic, cultural, patriotic, and in two cases, specifically military education.
Sweden’s parliament has formally approved the country’s accession to NATO on Wednesday, according to a statement from the government. The Nordic country requested to join the military alliance alongside its neighbor Finland.
Sweden’s NATO bid stalled by Turkey and Hungary
Sweden’s bid to join NATO has been stalled by Turkey and Hungary, both of which have yet to ratify the country’s membership. While Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan announced last week that his parliament would begin ratifying Finland’s NATO bid, and Hungary’s ruling party said it would also approve Finland’s accession, neither country has begun the process for Sweden. Erdogan has said Turkey will not change its approach to Sweden unless “positive steps” are taken. The country has accused Sweden of harboring members of terror groups, something Sweden denies.
The Biden administration stopped short of accusing Russia of a missile strike targeting civilians in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, but said it “certainly” is consistent with previous such attacks. CNN has reported at least one person was killed and 32 injured Wednesday, with a senior Ukrainian official calling it “a specific deliberate strike at a residential building.”
“It certainly could be” targeted at civilians,” National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications John Kirby told CNN’s Kate Bolduan.
“It’s obviously right out of the Russian playbook to target civilian infrastructure and to show no regard for avoiding the targeting of civilians. So it absolutely could be,” Kirby said, adding that the US does not yet have “tactile information specifically about that strike.”
Kirby also discussed news that the US is expediting the shipment of Patriot missile systems and Abrams to Ukraine. While he said there has “always” been a sense of urgency, he said the Ukrainians are reacting “well” to training and that the accelerated delivery is a “good thing.” He reiterated that there is “no change” to the US policy on sending F-16 jets at this time.
“The weeks and months ahead are going to be critical. We want to make sure that the Ukrainians have everything that they need in order to be successful,” he said.
The focus of the next weeks, Kirby said, are the “Four A’s”: armor, artillery, air defense, and ammunition, pointing to “more open terrain, combined arms warfare” ahead.
Pressed by Bolduan on the possibility of China arming Ukraine, Kirby said there is “no indication they are moving in that direction or have made a decision in that regard.”
He said he is “not aware” of any plans by China’s President Xi Jinping to speak with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky but reiterated the US hope that such a conversation will take place.
The House Foreign Affairs Committee will hold an oversight hearing on US aid to Ukraine on Thursday, according to a statement from the committee’s chair, Rep. Gregory Meeks. The hearing will focus on the Biden administration’s efforts to support Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression, including the recent escalation of violence in eastern Ukraine and the ongoing Russian military buildup along the border. The hearing will also examine the effectiveness of US assistance to Ukraine, including military aid, economic assistance, and diplomatic support.
“As Russia continues its aggression against Ukraine, it is critical that the United States stand with our Ukrainian partners and provide the necessary support to help them defend their sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Meeks said in the statement. “This hearing will provide an opportunity to examine the Biden administration’s efforts to support Ukraine and ensure that US assistance is being effectively utilized to help Ukraine defend itself against Russian aggression.”
Mike McCaul, the chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, has announced that he will hold a hearing next Wednesday on “Oversight, Transparency, and Accountability of Ukraine Assistance,” according to the committee’s announcement on Wednesday.
The hearing will feature testimony from the acting inspector generals from the State Department, Defense Department, and the US Agency for International Development. The Republican-led House is expected to increase scrutiny on the billions of dollars in US assistance to Ukraine.
Despite ongoing projects from the Office of Inspector General related to oversight of US assistance to Ukraine, the inspectors general have not announced any instances of misuse of US provided funds or weapons.
Background: On Monday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced the 34th drawdown of arms and equipment for Ukraine valued at $350 million. Since Russia’s full-scale invasion began more than one year ago, the US has committed more than $32 billion in Presidential Drawdown funds to aid Ukraine.
Stay tuned for updates on the hearing and its outcomes.