Russia–Ukraine War (April 26): Blasts Heard in Russia’s Belgorod, Nearby Ammunition Depot on Fire: Governor

By Epoch Times Staff
Epoch Times Staff
Epoch Times Staff
April 26, 2022 Updated: April 27, 2022

The latest on the RussiaUkraine crisis, April 26. Click here for updates from April 25.

Blasts Heard in Russia’s Belgorod, Nearby Ammunition Depot on Fire: Governor

A series of blasts were heard in the early hours of Wednesday in the Russian city Belgorod near the Ukrainian border, regional governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said, and an ammunition depot in the province was on fire.

Gladkov said no civilians had been hurt by the fire which broke out at a facility near Staraya Nelidovka village. Russia this month accused Ukraine of attacking a fuel depot in Belgorod with helicopters and opening fire on several villages in the province.

The Belgorod province borders Ukraine‘s Luhansk, Sumy, and Kharkiv regions, all of which have seen heavy fighting since Russia invaded Ukraine two months ago.

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Kyiv Pulls Down Soviet-Era Monument Symbolizing Russian-Ukrainian Friendship

Ukrainian authorities on Tuesday dismantled a huge Soviet-era monument in the center of Kyiv meant to symbolize friendship between Russia and Ukraine, a response to Moscow’s invasion, according to the city’s mayor.

The eight-meter (27-foot) bronze statue depicted a Ukrainian and Russian worker on a plinth, holding aloft together a Soviet order of friendship. The statue was located underneath a giant titanium “People’s Friendship Arch,” erected in 1982 to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Soviet Union.

“We now see what this ‘friendship’ is—destruction of Ukrainian cities … killing tens of thousands of peaceful people. I am convinced such a monument has an entirely different meaning now,” Kyiv mayor Vitaly Klitschko said.

Workmen started by removing one of the two bronze heads, which fell to the ground with a hollow clang.

As a crane lifted the monument off its moorings and gradually lowered it to the ground, a crowd of around 100 people cheered and shouted “Glory to Ukraine” and other slogans.

Russia invaded Ukraine … Can we be friends with Russia? What do you think? This is our worst enemy, that is why the monument to Russian-Ukrainian friendship doesn’t make sense anymore,” said Serhiy Myrhorodsky, one of the designers.

“We should not have any relations with the nation of aggressors … no friendship, no relations, nothing,” said Diana, a young woman, who did not give her full name.

Klitschko said the arch would remain in place but be renamed the Arch of Freedom of the Ukrainian People.

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Blasts Heard in Russia‘s Belgorod: Regional Governor

A series of blasts were heard in the early hours of Wednesday in the Russian city Belgorod near the Ukrainian border, regional governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said in a Telegram message.

Gladkov said the authorities were trying to establish the location and cause of the explosions. Russia this month accused Ukraine of attacking a fuel depot in Belgorod with helicopters and opening fire on several villages in the province.

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US Offers $10 Million Reward for Information on Russian Intelligence Officers: State Department

The United States on Tuesday offered a reward of up to $10 million for information on six people it described as Russian military intelligence officers who had conducted cyberattacks affecting critical U.S. infrastructure.

The six officers work in a cyber-focused unit of Russia‘s Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) and were involved in a 2017 global malware attack that infected the computers of several private U.S. entities, including a hospital system, the U.S. State Department said.

The 2017 “NotPetya” cyberattack crippled parts of Ukraine‘s infrastructure and damaged computers in countries across the globe including France, Germany, Italy, and the United States, causing billions of dollars in estimated damage.

Russia denies any involvement in the incident.

A U.S. federal grand jury in 2020 indicted the six “Sandworm” unit officers on counts of conspiracy to conduct computer fraud and abuse, among other charges, the State Department said.

An award of up to $10 million would be rewarded for information leading to the “identification or location of any person who, while acting at the direction or under the control of a foreign government, participates in malicious cyber activities against U.S. critical infrastructure,” it added.

There was no immediate Russian comment.

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Russia Suspending Gas Supplies to Poland, Bulgaria

Officials in Poland and Bulgaria say Russia is suspending their countries’ natural gas deliveries starting on Wednesday.

The governments of the two European countries said Tuesday that Russian energy giant Gazprom informed them it was halting gas supplies.

The suspensions would be the first since Russian President Vladimir Putin said last month that “unfriendly” foreign buyers would have to pay the state-owned Gazprom in rubles instead of other currencies.

Europe imports large amounts of Russian natural gas to heat homes, generate electricity, and fuel industry. The imports have continued despite the war in Ukraine.

Around 60 percent of imports are paid in euros, and the rest in dollars. Putin’s demand was apparently intended to help bolster the Russian currency amid the war in Ukraine.

European leaders said they would not comply, arguing the requirement for them to purchase rubles and then pay Gazprom violated the terms of contracts and their sanctions against Russia.

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Russia Warns Britain Over Provoking Ukraine

Russia warned Britain on Tuesday that if it continued to provoke Ukraine to strike targets in Russia then there would be an immediate “proportional response.”

Russia’s defense ministry cited statements from Britain’s armed forces minister James Heappey who told BBC radio that it was entirely legitimate for Ukraine to hunt targets in the depths of Russia to disrupt logistics and supply lines.

“We would like to underline that London’s direct provocation of the Kyiv regime into such actions, if such actions are carried out, will immediately lead to our proportional response,” Russia’s defense ministry said.

“As we have warned, the Russian Armed Forces are in round-the-clock readiness to launch retaliatory strikes with high-precision long-range weapons at decision-making centers in Kyiv.”

The defense ministry also said that if such Russian strikes were made it would not necessarily be a problem if representatives of a certain Western country were located at Ukraine’s decision-making centers.

Britain’s Heappey said it was completely legitimate for Ukraine to strike Russian logistics lines and fuel supplies and he acknowledged the weapons the international community was now providing had the range to be used in Russia.

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Kremlin Official Says Ukraine May Split Into Parts

A senior Kremlin official says that Ukraine may split into several parts.

Nikolai Patrushev, the secretary of the Russian Security Council, said in remarks published Tuesday that “the policies of the West and the Kyiv regime controlled by it would only be the breakup of Ukraine into several states.”

The statement comes as Russia says it has focused on expanding control over Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland called Donbass.

Last week, a senior Russian military officer said that along with taking control over Donbass, Russia also wants to overtake southern Ukraine, saying such a move would also open a land corridor between Russia and the separatist Trans-Dniester region of Moldova.

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US Defense Secretary: Russia’s Capability Weakened

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin says the war in Ukraine has already weakened Russia’s military capability.

Austin said after meeting allies and partners at the United States’ Ramstein Air Base in Germany on Tuesday that, since Russia began the invasion, its land forces have sustained “pretty substantial” casualties, as well as lost a lot of equipment and used a lot of precision-guided munitions.

He said that “they are, in fact, in terms of military capability, weaker than when they started, and … it’ll be harder for them to replace some of this capability as they go forward because of the sanctions and the trade restrictions that have been placed on them.”

Austin reiterated that “we would like to make sure, again, that they don’t have the same type of capability to bully their neighbors that we saw at the outset of this conflict.”

He criticized Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s warning that the threat of a nuclear conflict “should not be underestimated.”

Austin said that “it’s unhelpful and dangerous to rattle sabers and speculate about the use of nuclear weapons.”

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Blinken Calls for Continued Support of Ukraine in Senate Hearing

Secretary of State Antony Blinken is urging Congress to fully fund the Biden administration’s proposed budget for the State Department, telling lawmakers the spending is critical to ensuring that the war in Ukraine is a “strategic failure” for Russia and a message to other countries that might invade their neighbors.

Blinken told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday that the U.S.–led global response to Russia’s invasion had “underscored the power and purpose of American diplomacy.” He said the $60.4 billion budget proposal for the next fiscal year was needed to continue to rally partners and allies in the cause.

“We will, we have to continue to drive that diplomacy forward to seize what I believe are the strategic opportunities and address risks presented by Russia’s overreach, as countries reconsider their policies, priorities, their relationships,” Blinken said. “The budget request before you predated this crisis, but fully funding it is critical in my judgment to ensuring Russia’s war in Ukraine is a strategic failure for the Kremlin and serves as a powerful lesson to those who might consider following its path.”

Blinken did not name other nations that might be considering following Russia’s lead but his comment was seen as a veiled reference to China, which has sided with Russia in the Ukraine conflict and has made no secret of its desire to reunify the island of Taiwan with the mainland.

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Kremlin Says Gazprom Working on Implementing Rubles-for-Gas Scheme

The Kremlin on Tuesday said Gazprom was implementing the presidential decree on enforcing payment for gas supplies in rubles without providing further clarification, when asked about the European Commission’s guidance on Russia’s plan.

The European Commission has said that European companies will need to fulfill extra requirements, such as a statement they consider their contractual obligations to be complete once they have deposited non-Russian currencies.

“All the contacts with buyers of gas have been made via Gazprom, so Gazprom will publish information on the results of the talks,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told a daily conference call with reporters.

Gazprom declined to comment.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has demanded that countries he terms “unfriendly” agree to implement the scheme under which they would open accounts at Gazprombank and make payments in euros or dollars that would be converted into rubles.

Peskov has said payments for deliveries that took place after Putin’s decree took effect were expected in May.

Russia announced the plan after Moscow launched what it calls a special military operation in Ukraine on Feb. 24, prompting Western sanctions against Russia, including the freezing of a chunk of its gold and forex reserves.

Most European buyers of Russian gas initially rejected the ruble payment scheme.

Moscow, however, warned Europe it risked its gas supplies being cut unless it paid in rubles and several Russian gas buyers have since said they might be able to agree to Moscow’s demands.

Uniper, Germany’s main importer of Russian gas, said on Monday it would be possible to pay for future supplies without breaching European Union sanctions.

Hungary has said it planned to pay for Russian gas in euros through Gazprombank, which will convert the payment into rubles to meet the new requirement.

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Russian Seaborne Crude Exports Rise, Boosting Kremlin Oil Revenue by 25 Percent

Russia’s seaborne crude exports rose in the week of April 16–22, potentially serving to further bolster President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

Forty tankers loaded about 28 million barrels of oil from Russian export terminals in that week, according to vessel-tracking data and port agent reports collected and analyzed by Bloomberg.

That means that the average seaborne crude flow was 4 million barrels a day, marking a 25 percent increase against the week ended April 15.

One-fifth of the volume shipped from ports on the Black Sea and the Baltic and Arctic coasts is on tankers that do not display a final destination, although the majority are expected to be delivered to Asia, Bloomberg reported.

Read the full article here

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Kremlin Reacts to ‘Terrorist Attacks’ in Transnistria

The recent wave of attacks in Transnistria, which borders Ukraine, is “concerning,” the Kremlin said on Tuesday. The targets include a military site and a broadcasting facility.

“We are watching the situation very closely,” spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

Transnistria, officially known as the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic (PMR), was placed on a terror alert on Tuesday after several attacks.

On Monday, a government building in the region’s capital, Tiraspol, was shelled with rocket-propelled grenades, local officials said. Another attack hit a military site in Parkany. There were no casualties.

On Tuesday morning, two explosions occurred at a radio center in the village of Mayak.

The largely Russian-speaking Transnistria declared independence from Moldova during the breakup of the Soviet Union but has remained mostly unrecognized by the international community since then.

Peskov said that President Vladimir Putin does not plan on meeting with his Moldovan counterpart Maia Sandu at the moment.

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Russian Forces Hit Key Bridge in Ukraine

Ukrainian officials say the Russian military has hit a strategic bridge linking the southern Odesa region with neighboring Romania.

Oleksandr Kamyshin, the head of the state-run Ukrainian Railways, said the bridge across the Dniester Estuary where the Dniester River flows into the Black Sea was damaged in Tuesday’s missile attack by Russian forces. He said there were no injuries.

The strike has cut off the railway connection to areas of the Odesa region west of the estuary and Romania.

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European Union to Cut Russian Oil and Gas Imports to Zero by 2027

A senior European Union official said Tuesday that the bloc plans to cut Russian oil and gas imports to zero by the end of 2027, with his remarks coming as EU leaders continue to deliberate on moves to accelerate reducing the region’s dependence on Russian energy.

EU Economic Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni told Italian daily Il Messaggero in an interview published Tuesday that European Union aims to reduce its dependence on Russian oil and gas by two-thirds by the end of this year and phase it out completely by the end of 2027.

Gentiloni’s remarks provide more clarity around the timeline for the EU’s member states to wean themselves off Russian energy, with the EU’s prior statements on a phase-out of Russian fossil fuels expressed an aim of “well before 2030.”

His remarks also come a day after EU foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, said that there’s not yet sufficient support from the bloc’s member states to impose a complete embargo on Russian oil and gas imports.

Read the full article here 

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Turkey’s Erdogan Speaks With Putin, Urges Direct Talks With Zelenskyy

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to agree to direct talks with his Ukrainian counterpart.

The Turkish presidency said in a statement Tuesday that Erdogan proposed taking the “Istanbul process to the level of leaders, a crucial threshold in the Russia-Ukraine negotiations.” It sought to continue the “positive progress of the Istanbul talks” toward peace.

Ankara, which maintains close ties to both Kyiv and Moscow, has presented itself as a neutral broker in a bid to end the fighting.

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Poland Sanctions 50 Russian People, Entities

Poland’s government says it is imposing sanctions on 50 Russian entities and individuals over Russia’s war against Ukraine.

Interior Minister Mariusz Kaminski said Tuesday that the Polish measures come on top of European Union sanctions and target many Russian individuals and companies that do business in Poland.

Kaminski said the targeted companies will have their assets frozen and will be excluded from participation in public tenders, while Russian oligarchs on the list will be banned from entering Poland.

Gas giant Gazprom and Moshe Kantor, who owns a share of Poland’s state-owned chemicals group Azoty, are on the new list.

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Russia Expels Swedish Diplomats

Sweden’s foreign minister has decried as “unjustified and disproportionate” a decision by Russian authorities to expel several Swedish diplomats.

Ann Linde vowed in a social-media post that Sweden would respond “appropriately” to the expulsions announced Tuesday of four Swedish diplomats by Moscow. Separately, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said three diplomats “from the Swedish Embassy in Russia” would be expelled.

Swedish news agency TT reported that three of the diplomats were based in Moscow, where the embassy is located, and one in St. Petersburg.

Earlier this month, Sweden expelled three Russian diplomats.

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Ukrainian Officials: Death Toll Rises Amid Russian Offensive

Ukrainian officials were reporting more civilian deaths in various parts of eastern Ukraine as Russian forces stepped up attacks on Tuesday.

Luhansk governor Serhiy Haidai said three people died after Russian shells hit a residential building in the city of Popasna, which Russian forces have been trying to capture.

Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko of the neighboring Donetsk region said two people were killed and six others wounded in his region.

To the north in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, regional governor Oleh Synehubov said shelling of civilian areas killed three people and wounded seven more.

And further south, regional authorities in Zaporizhzhia said a missile strike killed at least one person and wounded another. Russian forces fired several missiles targeting one of the factories in the city of Zaporizhzhia, they said.

The U.N. human rights office said Tuesday it has counted 2,729 people killed and 3,111 injured in fighting since Russian forces invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24.

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US Defense Secretary Claims Ukraine Can Win War With Russia

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin kicked off defense talks with more than 40 countries on Tuesday by expressing confidence that Ukraine can prevail against Russia in the 2-month-old conflict.

“Your resistance has brought inspiration to the free world,” Austin said, as he denounced Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as “indefensible.”

“Ukraine clearly believes that it can win, and so does everyone here.”

Austin is also vowing that Ukraine’s allies will “keep moving heaven and earth” to fulfill Kyiv’s defense requirements as the war enters a new phase.

He said “this gathering reflects the galvanized world” since Russia’s invasion, with more than 30 allies and partners joining the United States in sending security assistance to Ukraine and more than $5 billion worth of equipment committed.

Austin cautioned that “we have much more to do: Ukraine needs our help to win today, and they will still need our help when the war is over.”

He said of Ukraine: “We know, and you should know, that all of us have your back and that’s why we’re here today—to strengthen the arsenal of Ukrainian democracy.”

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Military Base Hit by ‘Terrorist Attack’ in Breakaway Region Near Ukraine: Leader

Starting Monday, a series of terrorist attacks hit the breakaway region of Transnistria, officially known as the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic (PMR), which borders Ukraine, its leader said on Tuesday. Transnistrian President Vadim Krasnoselsky placed the region on terrorist alert, RIA Novosti reported, citing the president’s website.

Two back-to-back explosions rocked a broadcasting center in the village of Mayak on Tuesday morning, the region’s interior ministry said. It added that no one was hurt, but the two biggest antennas, which were transmitting Russian radio stations, have been disabled.

Another incident occurred at a military site near the village of Parkany. Reports emerging Monday on social media said there had been two explosions.

Also on Monday, the State Security Ministry building in the region’s capital, Tiraspol, was shelled with rocket-propelled grenades, but also with no casualties, according to the Interior Ministry.

Meanwhile, Moldova’s president also convened an urgent security meeting on Tuesday after two blasts damaged a broadcasting center in the breakaway region of Transdniestria.

On Monday, the Moldovan government said the Tiraspol blasts were aimed at creating tensions in a region it had no control of.

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UN Chief Calls for Cease-Fire on Moscow Visit

U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres has called for a cease-fire in Ukraine at his meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

Guterres is visiting Moscow and is then scheduled to visit the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, this week.

“We are extremely interested in finding ways in order to create the conditions for effective dialog, create the conditions for a cease-fire as soon as possible, create the conditions for a peaceful solution,” Guterres said, speaking in televised comments at the start of the meeting.

Guterres also said he wanted to reduce the impact of fighting in Ukraine on food security in other parts of the world. Lavrov said they would discuss “the situation around Ukraine that acts as a catalyst for a great number of problems which had piled up over recent decades in the Euro-Atlantic region.”

Guterres is also expected to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin later Tuesday.

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UK: Ukraine City Kreminna Falls to Russia

The British Defense Ministry says Russian forces have taken the Ukrainian city of Kreminna.

Street-to-street fighting had been going on for days in the city in Ukraine’s Luhansk region, with civilian evacuations there made impossible by the war.

In a tweet early Tuesday, the British military said: “The city of Kreminna has reportedly fallen and heavy fighting is reported south of Izium as Russian forces attempt to advance towards the cities of Sloviansk and Kramatorsk from the north and east.”

There was no immediate response from the Ukrainian government. Russia claimed days earlier to have taken the city.

Kreminna is some 575 kilometers (355 miles) southeast of the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv.

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Ukraine Wants $2 Billion Per Month From US

Ukraine’s finance minister, Sergey Marchenko, has solicited at least $2 billion per month in emergency economic aid from the Biden administration. The official also revealed that Kyiv hopes to raise an additional $3 billion per month from other sources.

Speaking to the Washington Post, Marchenko said that Ukraine needs “to cover this gap right now to attract the necessary finance and win this war.”

During his visit to Washington last week, Marchenko met with a number of senior U.S. officials, warning them that absent the requested financial support, Ukraine would likely not be able to cope with the humanitarian crisis brought on by Russia’s military offensive. A total of $5 billion per month is needed to cover Ukraine’s immediate needs in April, May, and June, the minister explained. In addition to that, Kyiv is expected to request another tranche down the road to help Ukraine recover from all the damage incurred.

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Moscow Blames West for Stalled Ukraine Talks

There is a belief in Moscow that Washington, London, and other Western capitals—not Kyiv—are the real decision-makers when it comes to Ukraine, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov explained on Monday. He said that, on advice from the U.S. and UK, Kyiv’s negotiators backtracked on the tentative understanding reached last month in Istanbul.

Ukrainian and Russian negotiators met face-to-face in Turkey at the end of March. Russia then took Ukraine’s outline, put it together in a “contractual” format and sent it to Kyiv, only to get back “radically different” ideas in what was a “huge step back,” Lavrov said in the interview with “The Great Game,” a political talk show on Russia’s Channel One.

“We know for sure that neither the U.S. nor the UK—which is trying in every possible way to compensate for its current lonely status after leaving the EU—advised [Ukrainian President Volodymyr] Zelensky to speed up the negotiations, but to harden his position each time,” Lavrov said. The backtracking after Istanbul, he added, “was taken on the advice of our American or British colleagues. Maybe the Poles and the Balts played some role here.”

Meanwhile, Western leaders—such as U.K. PM Boris Johnson and EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell— have made statements to the effect that Russia “must be defeated” and that the conflict needs to be resolved “on the field of battle,” while sending weapons to Kyiv, Lavrov noted.

“These weapons will be a legitimate target for the Russian Armed Forces,” the foreign minister said. “Warehouses, including in the west of Ukraine, have become such a target more than once. How else? NATO is essentially going to war with Russia through a proxy and arming that proxy. In war, as in war.”

While “casting spells” against a third World War, the West is fueling the conflict with weapons and hoping to have Ukraine “fight Russia to the last man” in order to bleed Moscow, Lavrov said.

“You know, goodwill is not unlimited,” he added. “If it is not reciprocated, then this does not contribute to the negotiation process. As before, many of us are convinced—as I have already mentioned—that the real position of Ukraine is determined in Washington, London, and other Western capitals,” he said, noting that some political scientists have said that talks should be held with NATO, and not Zelenskyy.

Lavrov also offered a prediction how the conflict will end. “As in any situation where armed forces are used, everything will end with a treaty,” he said. “But its parameters will be determined by the stage of hostilities at which this treaty becomes a reality.”

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White Helmets Instructors Deployed to Ukraine, Moscow Claims

Ukrainian authorities and their foreign handlers are planning false-flag attacks involving weapons of mass destruction, Russia’s deputy permanent representative to the U.N., Dmitry Polyansky said on Monday. For that purpose, instructors of the notorious Syria-based White Helmets group have already been deployed to Ukraine, the official told reporters.

The diplomat effectively reiterated the allegations raised over the weekend by the head of the Russian Radiation, Chemical, and Biological Protection Force, Lieutenant General Igor Kirillov, who said the supposed plans harbored by the Kyiv regime include “three scenarios,” ranging from a false-flag attack on civilians to “tactical” small-scale use of WMDs and open deployment of such weaponry on the battlefield.

To facilitate the allegedly looming false-flag attack, overseas “handlers” of the Kyiv authorities have sent “instructors” of the notorious White Helmets group to Ukraine, Polyansky stated.

“There is a well-known model in which such provocations [involving chemical weapons] are used in other parts of the world. First, a so-called chemical incident is organized. Then pro-Western non-governmental organizations, especially the infamous White Helmets, stationed nearby, quickly arrive on the scene and collect, in violation of all the norms of the non-proliferation regime, questionable ‘evidence’, and then feed this story to the Western media. We all know this technology,” Polyansky said.

The White Helmets group, co-founded by late British mercenary and presumed ex-intelligence officer James Le Mesurier, rose to international notoriety amid the years-long conflict in Syria.

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Western Supply Lines in Ukraine Destroyed: Russia

Russian troops have destroyed six traction substations—units that power the railways—which are being used for delivery of “foreign weapons and military hardware to the Ukrainian forces in the Donbass,” Defense Ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov announced on Monday.

He added that the stations were located at the Krasnoye, Zdolbunov, Zhmerinka, Berdichev, Kovel, and Korosten railway hubs, all in western Ukraine.

According to Konashenkov, 27 military targets were also destroyed by airstrikes, including four command centers.

Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said last month that pushing Ukrainian troops from the territory of the Donbass republics had become Moscow’s top priority at this stage of the campaign.

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Humanitarian Corridor for Civilians From Mariupol Sabotaged by Kyiv: Russia

A new attempt to set up a humanitarian corridor to evacuate civilians allegedly trapped at the besieged Azovstal steel mill in Mariupol has failed, the Russian military admitted late on Monday. Moscow and Kyiv have blamed one another for the evacuation attempt yielding no result.

“The Kyiv authorities today again cynically disrupted this humanitarian operation. As of April 25, 2022, at 8pm (MSK), no one has used the proposed humanitarian corridor,” Colonel General Mikhail Mizintsev, the head of Russia’s National Defense Management Center, said in a statement.

“Such absolutely illogical and inconsistent behavior of the Kyiv authorities once again confirms their blatant indifference to the fate of individual people—to the citizens of their own country,” he stressed.

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Germany to Supply Gepard Anti-aircraft Systems to Ukraine

Germany will officially approve the delivery of Gepard anti-aircraft systems to Ukraine, a senior lawmaker from one of the ruling coalition parties said on Tuesday.

Johannes Vogel, of the liberal Free Democrats, confirmed a report in daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung that Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht is set to offer the weapons at Tuesday’s meeting with allies at the United States’ Ramstein Air Base in Germany.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who has faced criticism at home and abroad for his government’s failure to deliver heavy weapons to Ukraine, has pledged the delivery of anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons from German military stocks, which he described however as “defensive weapons.”

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Britain Says Russia Tries to Encircle Ukraine Positions in East

Russia is probably attempting to encircle heavily fortified Ukrainian positions in the country’s east, the British military said in an update on Tuesday.

Reports say the city of Kreminna has fallen, with heavy fighting in the south of the city of Izium, as Russian forces try to advance towards the cities of Sloviansk and Kramatorsk, Britain’s defense ministry said on Twitter.

“Ukrainian forces have been preparing defenses in Zaporizhzhia in preparation for a potential Russian attack from the south,” it added in the regular bulletin.

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Russia Should Launch Next Phase of Ukraine Campaign, Separatist Leader Says

The Russian-backed separatist leader of the Ukrainian breakaway region of Donetsk said on Tuesday that Moscow should launch the next stage of its military campaign in Ukraine after reaching the region’s frontiers.

Denis Pushilin, the leader of Donetsk People’s Republic, said on a Russian talk show broadcast online that the next phase of Russia’s military intervention was crucial following security incidents outside the region.

He cited blasts that hit the Moldovan breakaway region of Transdniestria bordering Ukraine on Monday, as well as Russian allegations of shelling of its border regions by Ukrainian forces.

“The pace at which the (military) operation reaches our borders is important to us in order to launch its next phase, which is needed after what we witnessed in Transdniestria and Russia’s border regions,” RIA news agency quoted Pushilin as saying.

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Norway to Allocate $44 Million to British-led Ukraine Weapons Procurement

Norway will allocate 400 million crowns ($43.7 million) to a British-led initiative for buying weapons for Ukraine, the Norwegian prime minister said on Tuesday.

Norway may also make additional direct shipments of weapons to Ukraine on top of those it has already made, Jonas Gahr Støre told parliament.

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Biden, Macron Agree in Call to Rapidly Hold Detailed Discussion on Ukraine War: Elysee

French President Emmanuel Macron, who was re-elected on Sunday, and his U.S. counterpart Joe Biden agreed in a congratulatory phone call on Monday to “rapidly” hold more detailed discussions on global issues, including the war in Ukraine, the Elysee said.

According to a readout after the call, Macron and Biden agreed to intensify their dialogue on “major global issues … And in particular on global issues related to the war in Ukraine such as food security.”

“Biden conveyed his readiness to continue working closely with President Macron on our shared global priorities,” the White House said in a separate statement.

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UK Dismisses Lavrov’s ‘Bravado,’ Says No Imminent Threat of Escalation in Ukraine

Britain’s armed forces minister played down comments by Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov on the possible use of nuclear weapons in the Ukraine-Russia conflict, dismissing them as “bravado.”

Earlier Lavrov told the world not to underestimate the considerable risks of nuclear conflict, and said NATO’s supply of weapons to Ukraine “in essence” meant that the Western alliance was engaged in a proxy war with Russia.

“Lavrov’s trademark over the course of 15 years or so that he has been the Russian foreign secretary has been that sort of bravado. I don’t think that right now there is an imminent threat of escalation,” James Heappey told BBC Television.

“What the West is doing to support its allies in Ukraine is very well calibrated.”

Asked about the possibility of Russia using a tactical nuclear weapon, Heappey claimed he thought there was a “vanishingly small” possibility of that sort of escalation. He claimed that while NATO had been reinforcing its eastern flank, it was not providing military aid.

Heappey said it was completely legitimate for Ukraine to strike Russian logistics lines and fuel supplies and he acknowledged the weapons the international community was now providing had the range to be used in Russia.

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Russia’s Lavrov: Do Not Underestimate Threat of Nuclear War

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned the West on Monday not to underestimate the elevated risks of nuclear conflict over Ukraine and said he viewed NATO as being “in essence” engaged in a proxy war with Russia by supplying Kyiv with weaponry.

Lavrov, in a wide-ranging interview broadcast on state television, also said that the core of any agreement to end the conflict in Ukraine would depend largely on the military situation on the ground.

Lavrov had been asked about the importance of avoiding World War III and whether the current situation was comparable to the Cuban missile crisis in 1962, a low point in U.S.–Soviet relations.

Russia, Lavrov said, was doing a lot to uphold the principle of striving to prevent nuclear war at all costs.

“This is our key position on which we base everything. The risks now are considerable,” Lavrov said.

“I would not want to elevate those risks artificially. Many would like that. The danger is serious, real. And we must not underestimate it.”

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US State Dept Backs Ammunition Sale for Ukraine: Statement

The U.S. State Department on Monday said it supported the approval of a possible sale of $165 million worth of ammunition to Ukraine to help the country defend itself against Russia’s ongoing invasion.

The Ukrainian government had asked to buy various rounds of so-called non-standard ammunition, the department said in a statement, referring to ammunition that does not adhere to NATO standards.

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4 Die, 9 Wounded From Russia’s Shelling of Kharkiv: Governor

Four people died and nine were wounded as a result of Russia‘s shelling in the Kharkiv region on Monday, Oleh Synegubov, the region’s governor told Ukraine‘s public broadcaster.

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Kyiv Wants UN to Seek Mariupol Evacuation

Ukraine’s foreign minister on Monday urged the U.N. chief to press Russia for an evacuation of the besieged port of Mariupol, calling it something the world body is capable of achieving.

Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told The Associated Press in an interview he was concerned that by visiting Moscow on Tuesday before traveling to Kyiv, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres could be vulnerable to falling into a Kremlin “trap” in the war.

Kuleba said Guterres “should focus primarily on one issue: evacuation of Mariupol.

An estimated 100,000 people are trapped in the seaside city while a contingent of Ukrainian fighters hold out against Russian forces in a steel mill where hundreds of civilians also are taking shelter.

Tom Ozimek, Katabella Roberts, The Associated Press, and Reuters contributed to this report.