Russia–Ukraine War (April 8): Russia Urges Western Countries to Stop Supplying Ukraine With Weapons

By Epoch Times Staff
Epoch Times Staff
Epoch Times Staff
April 8, 2022 Updated: April 9, 2022

The latest on the RussiaUkraine crisis, April 8. Click here for updates from April 7.

Russia Urges Western Countries to Stop Supplying Ukraine With Weapons

The Russian Foreign Ministry urged Western countries to stop supplying Ukraine with weapons in the wake of a missile attack on a train station in eastern Ukraine.

At least 52 were killed and dozens more wounded, Ukrainian authorities said.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused Russia’s military of deliberately attacking the station. Russia, in turn, blamed Ukraine, saying it doesn’t use the kind of missile that hit the station.

Zelenskyy told Ukrainians in his nightly video address Friday that efforts would be taken “to establish every minute of who did what, who gave what orders, where the missile came from, who transported it, who gave the command and how this strike was agreed to.”

The train station hit is in Ukrainian government-controlled territory in the Donbas. Russia’s Defense Ministry accused Ukraine of carrying out the attack. So did the region’s Moscow-backed separatists, who work closely with Russian regular troops.

The Russian Defense Ministry urged the international community to “objectively evaluate the crimes committed by Ukrainian units” and to stop supplying them with arms.

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Biden Signs Bills to End Normal Trade Relations, Oil Imports With Russia

President Joe Biden has signed a measure into law to end normal trade relations with Russia and signed a separate measure to codify the United States’ ban on Russian oil imports.

The House on Thursday passed the two bills by an overwhelming majority, with 420 voting in favor of suspending normal trade relations and only 3 opposing the bill. The Russian oil ban passed the House by slimmer margins, with 413 supporting the bill and 9 opposing it.

Earlier on Thursday, the Senate passed the bill to end normal trade relations with Russia and Belarus with a 100–0 vote. The bill to ban Russian imports of oil also was approved in a 100–0 vote.

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Ukrainian Officials: 67 Buried in Mass Grave

The Ukrainian prosecutor general’s office says approximately 67 bodies were buried in a mass grave near a church in Bucha, a northern Kyiv suburb where journalists and returning Ukrainians discovered scores of bodies on streets and elsewhere after Russian troops withdrew.

Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova said Friday that 18 bodies had been located so far, 16 with bullet wounds and two with bullet and shrapnel wounds. Two were women and the rest were men, she said.

“This means that they killed civilians, shot them,” Venediktova said, speaking as workers pulled corpses out under spitting rain. Black body bags were laid in rows in the mud.

The prosecutor general’s office is investigating the deaths, and other mass casualties involving civilians, as possible war crimes. Venediktova said the European Union is involved in the investigation and “we are coordinating our actions.”

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EU Chief Promises Speeded up Process for Ukraine to Seek Membership

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen pledged on Friday to offer Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy a speedier start to Ukraine’s bid to become a member of the European Union.

Handing Zelenskyy a questionnaire that will form a starting point for the E.U. to decide on membership for Kyiv, she said: “It will not as usual be a matter of years to form this opinion but I think a matter of weeks.” Zelenskyy said he would come back with answers in a week.

She underlined the sanctions put on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, saying: “Russia will descend into economic, financial, and technological decay, while Ukraine is marching towards the European future, this is what I see.”

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Russia Revokes Registration of Amnesty and Human Rights Watch

Russia’s justice ministry said on Friday it had revoked the registration of 15 foreign organizations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch (HRW).

The Russian units of the organizations, which also included the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, “were excluded due to the discovery of violations of the current legislation of the Russian Federation,” the ministry said in a statement.

The decision, which did not give details of any violations, was announced days after New York-based HRW said it had found “several cases of Russian military forces committing laws-of-war violations” in Ukraine.

Russia has repeatedly denied war crimes allegations by Ukraine and Western countries during its 6-week-long invasion of Ukraine and denies targeting civilians.

Russia says it is conducting a “special military operation” to demilitarize and “denazify” Ukraine. The Kyiv government and its Western allies reject that as a false pretext for an unjustified invasion.

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Pentagon Says Russian Military Won’t Pick Up Phone

U.S. military leaders have had no communication with their counterparts in Moscow since the beginning of Russia’s offensive in Ukraine, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin again claimed at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Thursday.

While the Pentagon chief said he was “disappointed” by the apparent situation, he added, “It doesn’t mean we’ll stop reaching out to engage them. I think we have to have the ability to talk to the leadership.”

“[General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff] and I myself have frequently reached out to our counterparts in Russia to try to ensure that we maintain a dialogue. That’s in the last—since mid-February,” Austin told the senators.

“That’s not been very successful because the Russians have not responded,” he added.

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Kyiv Says, ‘We Won’t Agree to a ‘Minsk-3’ or ‘Budapest-2’

A temporary truce with Moscow is “meaningless” and will only lead to a further escalation, a member of the Ukrainian team negotiating with Russia in peace talks has stated.

“We won’t agree to a ‘Minsk-3’ or ‘Budapest-2’—it’s all pointless,” Mykhailo Podolyak, adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, said in an interview with RBK-Ukraine on Friday.

“In a historical perspective, even a short one, all these ‘minsks’ lead to great tragedies. None of these agreements will work without real mechanisms of preventing war,” he said, referring to the Minsk agreements, which were signed in 2014 and were meant to end the war in the Donbass region of Ukraine.

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UK Pledges More Military Equipment to Ukraine

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged another 100 million pounds ($130 million) in high-grade military equipment to Ukraine, saying Britain wants to help Ukraine defend itself.

Speaking Friday at a news conference with Germany Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Johnson said he would give Ukraine’s military more Starstreak anti-aircraft missiles, another 800 anti-tank missiles, and precision munitions capable of lingering in the sky until directed to their target.

He also promised more helmets, night vision, and body armor. The items were in addition to some 200,000 pieces of non-lethal military equipment from the UK that had already been promised.

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US Sending Patriot Missile System to Slovakia

Slovakia’s Defense Minister Jaroslav Nad says the United States will deploy a Patriot air defense system in his country next week.

Friday’s announcement came shortly after Slovakia donated its Soviet-era S-300 air defense system to Ukraine at its request. Nad previously said his country was willing to provide its S-300 long-range air defense missile system to Ukraine on condition it has a proper replacement.

Additionally, Germany and the Netherlands have agreed to send troops armed with Patriot missiles to Slovakia as part of a 2,100-strong force made up of soldiers from several NATO members states, including the United States. The force will form a battlegroup on Slovak territory to boost NATO defenses on the alliance’s eastern flank.

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Ruble on Mend, Russia Bank Cuts Interest Rate

Russia’s central bank says it’s lowering a key interest rate, and said more cuts could be on the way.

The decision indicates the bank thinks strict capital controls and other severe measures are stabilizing Russia’s currency and financial system despite intense pressure from Western sanctions over the war in Ukraine.

The bank said Friday it lowered its benchmark rate from 20 percent to 17 percent, effective Monday. It had raised the rate from 9.5 percent on Feb. 28—four days after the invasion—as a way to support the ruble’s plunging exchange rate.

The rate increase shows how the central bank has managed to stabilize key aspects of the economy with severe controls, artificially propping up the ruble to allow it to rebound to levels seen before the invasion of Ukraine—even as the West piles on more sanctions.

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Russia Kicks Out Dozens of Foreign Diplomats

In the latest round of the diplomatic showdown over Russia’s offensive in Ukraine, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Moscow issued a “strong protest” to Polish ambassador Krzysztof Krajewski over Poland’s expulsion of 45 Russian diplomats last month. Condemning, “Warsaw’s conscious desire to completely destroy bilateral relations,” Moscow in turn expelled 45 Polish embassy staff members.

“As a response to Poland’s unfriendly actions to expel Russian diplomats, based on the principle of reciprocity, 45 employees of the Embassy of the Republic of Poland and the consulates general of the Republic of Poland in Irkutsk, Kaliningrad, and St. Petersburg have been declared ‘persona non grata,’” the foreign ministry said in a statement.

In a similar move, Russian authorities earlier on Friday declared two Bulgarian diplomats “persona non grata.”

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Azov Fighter Video Overshadows Zelenskyy’s Address to Greek Lawmakers

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s address to the Greek parliament on Thursday caused an outrage from opposition parties after a man who identified himself as an ethnic Greek member of Ukraine’s ultranationalist Azov battalion appeared on a video.

Zelenskyy spoke about the destruction of the Russian-besieged Ukrainian port of Mariupol—home to thousands of ethnic Greeks—and appealed to Athens for help.

During his speech, he showed a video with a message by a man who identified himself as a member of the Azov battalion, a far-right militia now part of Ukraine’s National Guard.

“I address you, as a Greek by origin. I am Mikhail, my grandfather fought against the Nazis … I participate in the defense of Ukraine through the Azov Battalion,” he said.

But the video caused a backlash on social media and an angry reaction from leftist parties.

Shortly after the speech, the head of the leftist Syriza party Alexis Tsipras said the incident was a provocation. “Solidarity with the Ukrainian people is a given. But the Nazis can not have a say in parliament,” he said on Twitter.

His tweet had won more than 3,900 likes by Thursday evening.

A Greek government spokesman responded that the message of a member of the Azov Battalion was “mistaken and inappropriate.”

Ukraine’s embassy in Athens said the Azov regiment, set up as a far-right group in 2014, has been reformed and integrated into the National Guard of Ukraine.

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Harry Potter Sales Skyrocket in Russia After Major Announcement

The entire Harry Potter book series has been banned for digital sale in Russia, after the copyright holder pulled the license without any explanation. One of Russia’s largest ebook sellers, LitRes, reported on Friday that sales for the series have gone up 48 times the usual rate since the announcement was made on Thursday, as Russians rushed to buy over 5,000 copies for a sum of over 1.7 million rubles.

While online sales are set to last until the end of Friday, April 8, LitRes has stated that anyone who had previously purchased a digital copy of the novels would be able to keep them indefinitely.

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Serbia Says It Was Blackmailed Over UN Vote

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has said that his country has been pressured under the threat of sanctions to back Russia’s suspension from the UN Human Rights Council.

Belgrade has close historical ties with Moscow but joined other Western nations this week in a vote against Russia in response to its ongoing military campaign in Ukraine. “Our initial decision was to abstain, but then we were subjected to countless and difficult pressure,” Vucic told RTS TV on Thursday.

“They said—do you know that a decision is being made whether Serbia will be exempted from the package of sanctions on [Russian] oil, and whether it will be able to import oil after May 15?” the president said. He compared the possible effect of sanctions on Serbia to “a nuclear strike.”

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Kremlin Hopes Operation in Ukraine Ends ‘in Coming Days’

Moscow hopes the Russian military operation in Ukraine might end in the near future, possibly “in the coming days,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Sky News on Thursday. Either the country’s troops will end it by achieving their military goals or Moscow and Kyiv will reach an agreement through negotiations, he added.

The prospect of a peace deal would largely depend on the “consistency” of Ukraine’s position and its willingness to agree to Russia’s terms, Peskov added. He particularly noted that those responsible for the crimes against civilians in the Donbass region should be brought to justice.

When asked about accusations leveled by Kyiv against Moscow over the alleged mass killings of civilians near Kyiv, Peskov asserted that such claims are nothing but a “bold fake.”

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Ukraine Claims Russian Missile Kills 50 Civilians at Train Station; Russia Denies Accusations

Ukrainian officials are raising the death toll from a missile strike on a packed train station in the eastern city of Kramatorsk, as local hospitals buckled under an influx of injured victims.

Regional governor Pavlo Kyrylenko claimed the death toll rose to 50 from an earlier reported 39 as some of the several dozen wounded had died after being taken to hospital or medical centers.

He said the station was hit by a Tochka U short-range ballistic missile that contained cluster munitions, which explode in mid-air, spraying small lethal bomblets over a wider area.

Reuters was unable to verify what happened in Kramatorsk.

The use of cluster munitions is banned under a 2008 convention. Russia has not signed the convention but has previously denied using such munitions in Ukraine.

Ukrainian officials immediately claimed the strike involved a Russian missile, either an Iskander or a Tochka U. The Russian defence ministry was quoted by RIA news agency as saying the missiles said to have struck the station were used only by Ukraine‘s military and that Russia’s armed forces had no targets assigned in Kramatorsk on Friday.

The Russian military added that images shared by witnesses show debris from a Tochka U missile, a weapon system that “only the Ukrainian forces use,” according to the statement.

Kyrylenko published a photograph online showing several bodies on the ground beside piles of suitcases and other luggage. Armed police wearing flak jackets stood beside them.

Another photo showed rescue services tackling what appeared to be a fire, with a pall of grey smoke rising into the air.

Reuters could not immediately verify the photos.

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Fox News Reporter Benjamin Hall Reveals He Lost Body Parts in Ukraine

Wounded Fox News reporter Benjamin Hall revealed that he suffered severe injuries during a deadly attack in Ukraine last month that left two other Fox colleagues dead.

“To sum it up, I’ve lost half a leg on one side and a foot on the other,” Hall wrote on Twitter before deleting the post. “One hand is being put together, one eye is no longer working, and my hearing is blown.”

Hall added that he felt “pretty damn lucky to be here” and said those who helped him get out of Ukraine are “amazing.” It’s not clear why Hall deleted the Twitter post, which also included a photo of him in a hospital bed.

A vehicle that Hall was traveling in was hit by gunfire near Kyiv in March, officials previously said. Longtime Fox photojournalist and cameraman Pierre Zakrzewski and Oleksandra “Sasha” Kuvshynova, a 24-year-old Ukrainian journalist who was working for the network, were killed in the incident.

Read the full article here

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Europe Adopts ‘Substantial’ Fifth Round of Sanctions Against Russia, Blocks Import of Coal

European Union countries adopted an embargo on Russian coal and the closing of the bloc’s ports to Russian vessels as part of a fifth round of sanctions following allegations of Russian soldiers executing civilians in Ukraine.

The French EU Council presidency said in a series of tweets on April 8 that the latest “very substantial package” include “sanctions against oligarchs, Russian propaganda actors, members of the security and military apparatus and entities in the industrial and technological sector linked to the Russian aggression against Ukraine.”

Assets of several Russian banks, including VTB, will be frozen. Coal imports are banned along with an embargo on arms and ammunition. There will be a ban on exports to Russia, including high-tech goods, worth 10 billion euros ($10.9 billion), including advanced semiconductors, jet fuel, software, and high-end electronics.

Read the full article here 

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Slovakia Says It Has Given S-300 Air Defence System to Ukraine

Prime Minister Eduard Heger says Slovakia has donated its Soviet-era S-300 air defense system to Ukraine.

The comments from Heger came as he was visiting the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv with top EU officials ahead of a planned meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Friday.

Zelenskyy mentioned S-300s by name when he spoke to U.S. lawmakers by video last month, appealing for defense systems that would allow Ukraine to “close the skies” to Russian warplanes and missiles.

NATO members Bulgaria, Slovakia, and Greece have the S-300s, which can fire missiles hundreds of miles and knock out cruise missiles as well as warplanes.

Slovakia previously said it was willing to give its S-300 to Ukraine on condition that it has a proper replacement.

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Chairman of Russia’s Rusal Calls for Investigation of Bucha Killings

The chairman of Russian aluminum giant Rusal called on Thursday for an impartial investigation into the killing of civilians in the Ukrainian town of Bucha, which he described as a crime, and urged an end to the “fratricidal” conflict.

While the statement from Chairman Bernard Zonneveld, a Dutch national, did not touch on who was to blame for the deaths of civilians in the town, it is unusual for a large Russian company to comment publicly on the conflict.

Ukraine and several Western governments have accused Moscow of war crimes after the bodies of civilians shot at close range were found in the town of Bucha following a Russian withdrawal.

The Kremlin denies its forces were responsible for the deaths and said on Tuesday that Western allegations Russian forces committed war crimes were a “monstrous forgery.”

Zonneveld said he was shocked by reports from the town.

“We support an objective and impartial investigation of this crime and call for severe punishment for the perpetrators,” he said.

“We all wish an early end to this fratricidal conflict, which destroys lives, families, and entire cities,” he said. “And we want those responsible for such crimes to be punished appropriately.”

Rusal founder Oleg Deripaska last month said his personal opinion was that the conflict in Ukraine was “madness” which would bring shame on generations to come.

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EU Ambassador to Ukraine Returns to Kyiv

The European Union has returned its ambassador to Ukraine to the capital, Kyiv, in a move that underscores the improved security situation there and the 27-nation bloc’s commitment to the beleaguered country.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell made the announcement Friday during a visit to Kyiv where he joined EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen for talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Borrell said the ambassador’s return would help ensure that the EU and Ukraine’s government can work together more directly and closely.

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Food Prices Rise at Fastest Pace on Record Amid War-Related Disruptions

Food prices across the world rose at their fastest pace on record in March, according to a UN agency that pointed to conflict-related export disruptions from Ukraine as a key factor behind the inflationary pain.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) said that its food price index made a “giant leap” in March, rising 13 percent over the month to 159.3 points, an all-time high.

Record surges were also noted in several food sub-categories, with prices of vegetable oil, cereals, and meat vaulting to unprecedented levels.

Read the full article here 

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UK Sees Russian Forces Redeploying in the East

Britain’s Defense Ministry has assessed that at least some of the Russian forces who had pulled out from northern Ukraine will be transferred to the eastern Donbas region to continue fighting.

In a daily update, the ministry claims that many of these forces will require significant replenishment before being ready to deploy farther east, with any mass redeployment from the north likely to take at least a week minimum.

It claims Russian shelling of cities in the east and south continues and Russian forces have advanced farther south from the strategically important city of Izium, which remains under their control.

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Russia Acknowledges Significant Troop Losses

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has acknowledged that Russia has suffered “significant losses of troops” during its military operation in Ukraine.

Peskov said: “Yes, we have significant losses of troops and it is a huge tragedy for us.”

Speaking in an exclusive interview with British broadcaster Sky on Thursday, Peskov also hinted that the operation might be over “in the foreseeable future.” He said that Russian forces were “doing their best to bring an end to that operation.”

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Finland to Return Seized Art Works to Russia

Finland will return to Russia some Russian art works seized by Finnish customs, the country’s foreign ministry said on Friday.

Finnish customs had stopped three shipments of art works worth around 42 million euros ($46 million) to check whether they were classed as luxury goods and were therefore subject to economic sanctions.

Exceptions for cultural artefacts in the European Union sanction rules will become effective on April 9, after which the foreign ministry will grant customs officials permission to release the art works, the ministry said.

The paintings, statues and antiques had been on loan from Russian museums in Italy and Japan.

Russian Culture Minister Olga Lyubimova earlier said the paintings would return to Russia at the weekend.

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First Bushmaster Vehicle Is Headed to Ukraine

The first of 20 Bushmaster armored vehicles has left Australia for Ukraine, one week after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy specifically requested the Australian-manufactured four-wheel drives.

A Boeing C-17 Globemaster transport jet that can carry four Bushmasters left the east coast city of Brisbane for Europe on Friday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.

The 20 Bushmasters cost 50 million in Australian dollars, which is $37 million in U.S. dollars.

The vehicles are in addition to $116 million in Australian dollars ($87 million in U.S. dollars) in military and humanitarian aid previously committed to Ukraine.

Zelenskyy requested Bushmasters when he made a video address to the Australian Parliament on March 31.

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More Funds Proposed for Ukrainian Defense

European Council president Charles Michel says the bloc’s top diplomat has proposed adding an additional 500 million euros ($544 million) to Ukraine under the “European Peace Facility,” the fund which has been used for the first time during the war to deliver defensive lethal weapons to a third country.

The EU has previously agreed to spend 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion) on military supplies for Ukrainian forces in an unprecedented step of collectively supplying weapons to a country under attack.

EU countries and NATO have so far excluded the option of a direct military intervention in Ukraine.

“Once swiftly approved this will bring to 1.5 billion the EU support already provided for military equipment for Ukraine,” Michel said in a message posted on Twitter in which he thanked EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell.

The proposal needs to be approved by the 27 EU countries. The EU said the instrument should help Ukraine’s armed forces “defend the country’s territorial integrity and sovereignty” and protect the civilian population.

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UK Sanctions Russian President Vladimir Putin’s Daughters

Britain added Vladimir Putin’s daughters to its sanctions list on Friday, mirroring moves by the United States, in what it said was an effort to target the lifestyles of those in the Russian president’s inner circle.

An update to Britain’s sanctions list announced asset freezes on Putin’s adult daughters Katerina Tikhonova and Maria Vorontsova, and Sergeyevna Vinokurova, the daughter of foreign minister Sergei Lavrov. All three were sanctioned by the United States earlier this week.

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Regional Governor Claims Ukrainian Defences Holding in Luhansk Region

The governor of Ukraine’s eastern region of Luhansk claimed on Friday Russia was accumulating forces in eastern Ukraine but had not broken through Ukrainian defences.

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UK Outlines Hardline New Approach to Russia

“The age of engagement with Russia is over,” UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss declared during a Wednesday night speech at a dinner in Brussels, wherein she urged her counterparts in the US-led military alliance to adopt “a new approach to security in Europe based on resilience, defense, and deterrence.”

She went on to assert that Russia’s military offensive in Ukraine had rendered the NATO-Russia Founding Act of 1997 to be “dead,” telling envoys of the US-led military alliance to spurn “false comfort” and prepare for more friction with Moscow.

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Ukraine to Evacuate Trapped Civilians

Ukraine said it aimed to establish up to 10 humanitarian corridors to evacuate trapped civilians on Friday, but civilians trying to flee besieged Mariupol will have to use private vehicles.

The 10 planned safe corridors announced by Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk were all in southern and eastern Ukraine.

Ukrainian officials say Russian forces have been regrouping for a new offensive, and that Moscow plans to seize as much territory as it can in the eastern part of Ukraine known as Donbas bordering Russia.

Vereshchuk said 4,676 civilians had been evacuated from Ukrainian towns and cities on Thursday.

Multiple attempts to agree safe passage for buses to take supplies to Mariupol and bring out civilians have failed, with each side blaming the other.

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Japan Expels Eight Russian Diplomats

Japan expelled eight Russian diplomats on Friday, in a rare move it said was in response to Russia’s actions in Ukraine.

The step comes after European Union nations, including France and Germany, said this week they would expel Russian diplomats. Russia denies targeting civilians in the conflict in Ukraine, where it says it has launched a “special operation.”

Several trade officials were among the diplomats expelled by Japan, but not the Russian ambassador, Mikhail Galuzin, said foreign ministry officials, who declined to give further details.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said Friday that Moscow must be held accountable for “war crimes” in Ukraine and pointed to a “critical moment” now in efforts to get Russia’s government to end its invasion of Ukraine.

He said Japan will also ban imports of Russian lumber, vodka and other goods, and will prohibit new Japanese investment in Russia. It will also step up sanctions against Russian banks and freeze assets of about 400 more individuals and groups.

Reduction of Russian fossil fuel imports is a difficult choice for resource-poor Japan. Russia accounts for about 11 percent of Japanese coal imports.

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UK Says Russian Forces Have Fully Withdrawn From Northern Ukraine

Russian forces have now fully withdrawn from northern Ukraine to Belarus and Russia, British military intelligence said on Friday.

At least some of these Russian forces will be transferred to eastern Ukraine to fight in the Donbas, the U.K. Ministry of Defence said on Twitter. The forces will require replenishment before being deployed further east, with any mass redeployment from the north likely to take at least a week, the ministry added.

The ministry said Russian shelling of cities in the east and south continues and Russian forces have advanced further south from the city of Izium, which remains under their control.

The Epoch Times could not immediately verify the report.

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US Speeds Entry for Ukrainians as More Reach Mexico Border

The United States has sharply increased the number of Ukrainians admitted to the country at the Mexican border as even more refugees fleeing the Russian invasion follow the same circuitous route.

A government recreation center in the Mexican border city of Tijuana grew to about 1,000 refugees Thursday, according to city officials. A canopy under which children played soccer only two days earlier was packed with people in rows of chairs and lined with bunk beds.

Tijuana has suddenly become a final stop for Ukrainians seeking refuge in the United States, where they are drawn by friends and families ready to host them and are convinced the U.S. will be a more suitable haven than Europe.

Word has spread rapidly on social media that a loose volunteer coalition, largely from Slavic churches in the western United States, is guiding hundreds of refugees daily from the Tijuana airport to temporary shelters, where they wait two to four days for U.S. officials to admit them on humanitarian parole. In less than two weeks, volunteers worked with U.S. and Mexican officials to build a remarkably efficient and expanding network to provide food, security, transportation, and shelter.

U.S. officials began funneling Ukrainians Wednesday to a pedestrian crossing in San Diego that is temporarily closed to the public, hoping to process 578 people a day there with 24 officers, said Enrique Lucero, the city of Tijuana’s director of migrant affairs.

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Sanctions on Russia’s Shipbuilding, Mining

The Biden administration on Thursday announced it is levying sanctions against Russia’s largest military shipbuilding and diamond mining companies.

The move blocks their access to the U.S. financial system as the United States looks to exact more economic pain on President Vladimir Putin for the invasion of Ukraine.

Alrosa is the world’s largest diamond mining company and accounts for about 90 percent of Russia’s diamond mining capacity, according to the U.S. Treasury Department.

Alrosa generated over $4.2 billion in revenue in 2021. Diamonds are one of Russia’s top 10 non-energy exports by value.

The State Department also said it was blacklisting the United Shipbuilding Corporation, as well as its subsidiaries and board members.

The moves against the two state-owned companies come a day after the U.S. announced it was targeting the two adult daughters of President Vladimir Putin, two of Russia’s largest banks, and banning new American investment in Russia.

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Zelenskyy Says Situation in 2nd Ukraine Town ‘More Dreadful’ Than Bucha

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on the Thursday that the situation in the town of Borodyanka was “significantly more dreadful” than in nearby Bucha.

Local officials have said more than 300 people were killed by Russian forces in Bucha, around 22 miles northwest of the capital Kyiv, and around 50 of them were executed.

Moscow has denied targeting civilians and says images of bodies in Bucha were staged by the Ukrainian government to justify more sanctions against Moscow and derail peace negotiations.

“The work to clear the rubble in Borodyanka has begun … It’s significantly more dreadful there. Even more victims from the Russian occupiers,” Zelenskyy said in a video posted on the Telegram messaging service.

The town is about 15 miles from Bucha.

He did not provide any further detail or evidence that Russia was responsible for civilian deaths in the town.

Joseph Lord, Jack Phillips, Tom Ozimek, Naveen Athrappully, The Associated Press, and Reuters contributed to this report.