A Russian soldier has pleaded guilty to shooting a 62-year-old man dead in the first war crimes trial to be held in Ukraine, reports suggest.
The murder took place on 28 February in the northeast Ukrainian village of Chupakhivka, on the fourth day of the Russian invasion.
Meanwhile, Russia deployed several thousand Chechen fighters to Mariupol and Luhansk in an effort to buckle Ukrainian resistance, the British ministry of defence said.
According to the latest British intelligence update, the Kremlin has begun making use of “auxillary personnel” to bolster its attempt to capture to key port city in a battle that has already inflicted costly losses amongst Russian forces.
“These [Chechen] forces likely consist of both individual volunteers and National Guard units, which are routinely dedicated to securing the rule of Chechen Republic Head, Ramazan Kadyrov.”
US embassy reopens in Ukraine after three months
The US embassy in Kyiv reopened today after a three-month closure.
The embassy was closed soon after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on 24 February.
“We are officially reopening operations,” spokesperson Daniel Langenkamp told Reuters shortly before the US flag was raised above the embassy.
He said a small number of diplomats would return initially to staff the mission.
Biden says US to support Finland and Sweden against Russia
Joe Biden said the US will support Finland and Sweden staying vigilant of any Russian threats to their shared security while the two countries’ Nato membership is being considered.
The US president said in a statement that he strongly supports Finland and Sweden’s applications to join the military alliance.
Mr Biden said their membership would “further strengthen our defence cooperation and benefit the entire Transatlantic Alliance.”
Russia says it will rebuild ‘freed’ territories in Ukraine
Russia said it will fund the rebuilding of areas it has destroyed during its invasion of Ukraine.
Russian deputy PM Marat Khusnullin said that the Kremlin will pay for damaged roads – that lead to Russia – to be repaired.
He claimed, according to Russian state news agency RIA, that Russia had “freed” the territories.
Khusnullin also said the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, the biggest in Europe by capacity that has been seized by Russian troops, will supply energy to Russia and to Ukraine if the latter pays for it, RIA reported.
Russia expels 85 French, Spanish and Italian diplomats
Russia is expelling 85 embassy staff from France, Spain and Italy in response to similar moves by those countries, it said today.
The Foreign Ministry said it was ordering out 34 diplomatic staff from France, 27 from Spain and 24 from Italy.
The three countries are among European nations that have collectively thrown out more than 300 Russians since Vladimir Putin launched his invasion of Ukraine on 24 February.
In many of the cases, the countries accused Russian diplomats of spying, which Moscow has denied.
Russia’s response has included sending home 45 Polish staff and 40 Germans last month. It has also announced retaliatory moves against Finland, Romania, Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Japan, among others.
Biden’s national security adviser speaks to Chinese diplomat
US president Joe Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan spoke to China’s top diplomat Yang Jiechi on the phone today.
The pair spoke about regional security issues, non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, the war in Ukraine, and specific issues related to US-China relations, the White House said in a statement.
Finland and Sweden to make joint purchases of weapons
Finland and Sweden will buy portable firearms and anti-tank weapons together, Finland’s defence ministry said.
It comes as the two Nordic countries handed in their applications to join the Western military alliance Nato, a move prompted by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The two countries will step up their cooperation in defence procurement by Finland joining an agreement to acquire anti-tank weapons from Swedish weapons maker Saab Dynamics, a subsidiary of Saab, the ministry said.
Finland’s defence minister Antti Kaikkonen also authorised preparations for joint purchase of small firearms including assault rifles, shotguns and arms for personal protection, the ministry said.
Commission to spend £254bn to cut EU off Russian energy
The European Commission has proposed a package of nearly €300 billion (£254bn) to enable the EU to wean itself off Russian energy amid the war in Ukraine.
The investment initiative, dubbed REPowerEU, is meant to help the 27 EU countries start depriving Russia – the EU’s main supplier of oil, natural gas and coal – of tens of billions in revenue, as well as strengthen EU climate policies.
“We are taking our ambition to yet another level to make sure that we become independent from Russian fossil fuels as quickly as possible,” European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said in Brussels when announcing the package.
Germany to give Czechs 15 tanks to help it arm Ukraine
Germany will give the Czech Republic 15 Leopard 2 tanks, the German defence ministry said, part of a "ring exchange" programme under which Berlin aims to help countries pass their stocks of Soviet weaponry to Ukraine to help it fight Russia.
The ministry said it would pay for the transaction and train the Czechs to use the Leopard 2 A4 tanks. The Czechs have existing stocks of old Soviet tanks with which Ukrainian soldiers are already familiar.
"The exchange is another good example of how we are helping Ukraine in its brave fight against Russian aggression," said Defence Minister Christine Lambert. "The Czechs deliver heavy weapons, and we fill the resulting holes with Leopard tanks."
Russia showcases new generation of laser weapons that can blind satellites ‘1,500km above earth'
Russia on Wednesday said it was using a new generation of powerful laser weapons in Ukraine to burn up drones, deploying some of Moscow's secret weapons to counter a flood of Western arms supplied to its former Soviet neighbour.
Little is known about the specifics of the new laser weapons. Putin mentioned one called Peresvet, named after a medieval Orthodox warrior monk Alexander Peresvet who perished in mortal combat.
Yury Borisov, the deputy prime minister in charge of military development, told a conference in Moscow that Peresvet was already being widely deployed and it could blind satellites up to 1,500 km above Earth.
He said, though, that there were already more powerful Russian systems than Peresvet that could burn up drones and other equipment. Borisov cited a test on Tuesday which he said had burned up a drone 5 km away within five seconds.
Ex-German chancellor stripped of his office over Putin 'lobbying'
Gerhard Schroeder's publicly funded office is to be closed and its remaining staff reallocated amid mounting dismay at the former Germanchancellor's refusal to distance himself from Russian president Vladimir Putin.
It is custom for all Germany's leaders to get a state-funded office when they leave government, but the three parties that make up current chancellor Olaf Scholz's governing coalition have agreed a parliamentary motion to close Mr Schroeder's office.
They have taken the decision after his refusal to condemn Mr Putin, whom he still calls a close personal friend despite Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
German finance minister Christian Lindner said it was unthinkable that "a former chancellor who is now openly doing lobby work for the criminal rule of Vladimir Putin is still given an office by taxpayers," in an interview with Welt TV.
German media has reported that Schroeder, 78, earns sums from jobs at Russian state-owned energy companies that dwarf the 400,000 euros the German state spends on the office.
"The budgetary committee observes that former Chancellor Schroeder no longer carries out any duties that result from his former office," the parties' joint motion read.
"The office will therefore be closed."
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