Ukrainian War: Russia’s New Defenses in the Northeast, Polish Waterway Opened, ‘War Crimes’ Tribunal

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1. Russia double after Ukraine advance

Russian troops set up a new defensive line in northeastern Ukraine as troops from Kyiv continue their offensive.

In a daily intelligence update, the UK Ministry of Defense (MoD) said the line was likely to be between the Oskil River and Svatove, around 150 kilometers from Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city.

“Russia probably considers maintaining control of this area important because it passes through one of the few major resupply routes that Russia still controls from the Belgorod region of Russia,” the Defense Ministry said. .

“Russia will likely attempt to mount a stubborn defense of this area, but it is unclear whether Russian frontline forces have sufficient reserves or adequate morale to withstand another concerted Ukrainian assault,” he said. he adds.

The new defensive position of Russian forces comes after a swift Ukrainian counter-offensive, which ripped a hole in the former frontline of the war, allowing Kyiv to retake large swaths of land in the northeastern region of Kharkiv , on the border with Russia.

Ukraine continues to push deeper into territory once held by Russia, having launched the offensive a week ago.

Kharkiv was captured by Russia early in the war and has remained in Russian hands ever since.

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2. Izium Mass Graves: EU Presidency Wants War Crimes Tribunal

The Czech Republic, which currently holds the rotating EU presidency, on Saturday called for the creation of an international war crimes tribunal, following the discovery of hundreds of tortured bodies in Ukraine.

About 450 graves have been discovered on the outskirts of Izium, a town in eastern Ukraine recaptured from Russian forces last week.

Almost all the bodies showed signs of violent death, while some of those exhumed from the mass graves were found with ropes around their necks, according to Ukrainian authorities.

“In the 21st century, such attacks on the civilian population are unthinkable and heinous,” Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavsky said on Twitter. “We must not ignore it. We are for the punishment of all war criminals.”

The minister called for the rapid creation of a special international tribunal to investigate this “crime of aggression” and “prosecute” those responsible.

Russia has denied committing war crimes and targeting civilians in Ukraine.

The Czech Republic, a former communist country, has hosted around 400,000 Ukrainian refugees and provided around 150 million euros in military aid to Kyiv since the war began in February.

3. Poland opens new waterway to break dependence on Russia

Polish leaders on Saturday celebrated the opening of a new – albeit unfinished – canal which they say will mean their ships will no longer have to get permission from Russia to sail from the Baltic Sea to ports. of the Vistula Lagoon.

The event was timed to mark 83 years since the Soviet invasion of Poland during World War II. It was intended to symbolically demonstrate that Moscow’s right to the economy and development of the region, bordering the Russian-controlled enclave of Kaliningrad, had come to an end.

The government says the waterway gives Poland full sovereignty in the northeast region, which needs investment and economic development.

“The idea was to open this waterway and no longer have to ask permission from a country that is not a friend and whose authorities do not hesitate to attack and subjugate others,” the president said. Polish Andrzej Duda.

He said the investment will bear fruit through the increase in the value of the land around it, through the development of cities and ports on the lagoon through increased trade, business and tourism.

The canal, built at a cost of almost 2 billion zlotys (419 euros), crosses the tip of the Vistula, east of Gdansk, to allow ships to sail from the Baltic Sea to Elblag and small ports in the lagoon — without needing permission to cross the Russian Strait of Pilawa. It also shortens the route from the Baltic to Elblag by about 100 kilometers.

However, freighters cannot use the passage until the approach to Elblag harbor is deepened to 5 meters. The works are expected to cost 100 million zlotys (20 euros), although there has been some controversy in Poland over the cost of the project.

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4. Ukraine receives 1.5 billion euros in new US financial aid

Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal on Saturday thanked the United States for its support after Ukraine received an additional 1.5 billion euros in international financial assistance.

“Ukrainian state budget received $1.5 billion grant. This is the latest tranche of US$4.5 billion in aid from the @WorldBank Trust Fund,” said tweeted Shmyhal.

He said the funds would be used to reimburse budget expenditures for pension payments and social assistance programs.

Along with financial aid to keep the Ukrainian state afloat, the United States – along with its Western allies – has provided Kyiv with billions in military assistance.

Since January 2021, the United States has committed more than $13.5 billion in security assistance to Ukraine, according to the country’s Department of Defense.

The equipment provided by the United States changed as the Russian invasion continued. Originally the United States. provided anti-armour and anti-aircraft ammunition, including Javelin and Stinger systems.

After the Ukrainian army pushed the Russians out of Kyiv and Russia focused on eastern Ukraine, that changed to artillery pieces and other crew-served weapons.

5. ‘Every minute is too long’: Biden meets families of American captives

US President Joe Biden met with family members of basketball genius Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan on Friday, in his first face-to-face meeting with their loved ones.

In a statement after the meetings, which were held separately, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Biden stressed to the families his “ongoing commitment” to bringing the couple “home in safe”.

“He [Biden] asked about the well-being of Elizabeth and Cherelle and their respective families during this painful time,” said Jean-Pierre. “The President appreciated the opportunity to learn more about Brittney and Paul from those who love them most, and acknowledged that every minute they are detained is a minute too long.

Negotiations between Russia and the United States remain stalled and have not achieved any breakthrough.

Earlier Friday, John Kirby, spokesman for the National Security Council, said Russia had failed to respond to what he called a substantial and serious offer from the United States to secure Griner’s release and Whelan.

“The president is not going to let go,” Kirby told reporters. “He is confident that this will remain at the forefront of his mind and that of his team, and they will continue to work as hard as they can.”

Griner has been detained in Russia since February on drug-related charges. She was recently sentenced last month to nine years in prison.

Whelan is serving a 16-year sentence on espionage-related charges that he and his family say are false. United States. The government says the two were wrongfully detained in political matters.

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