The UK Ministry of Defence says since the start of March 2023, Russia has likely launched at least 71 Iranian-designed Shahed series one-way attack uncrewed aerial vehicle (OWA-UAVS) against targets across Ukraine.
It says Russia is likely launching Shaheds from two axes: from Russia’s Krasnodar Krai in the east and from Bryansk Oblast in the north-east.
Ukraine will no longer resort to “dangerous” monetary financing to fund the war against Russia, its central bank governor, Andriy Pyshnyi, told the Financial Times in an interview published on Sunday.
The head of the National Bank of Ukraine said that it had “created huge risks for macro-financial stability” when the bank was last year forced to print billions of hryvnia to plug a budget shortfall, adding that an “open conflict” with the government over the issue had been resolved.
“It was a quick remedy, but very dangerous,” Pyshnyi told the newspaper.
Reactions continue on Vladimir Putin’s announcement Russia will station tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus.
“It’s a very significant move,” Nikolai Sokol, a senior fellow at the Vienna Center for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation, told Reuters.
“Russia had always been very proud that it had no nuclear weapons outside its territory. So, now, yes, they are changing that and it’s a big change.”
Putin did not specify when the weapons would be transferred to Belarus, which has borders with three Nato members – Poland, Lithuania and Latvia. He said Russia would complete the construction of a storage facility there by 1 July.
“This is part of Putin’s game to try to intimidate Nato … because there is no military utility from doing this in Belarus as Russia has so many of these weapons and forces inside Russia,” said Hans Kristensen, director of the nuclear information project at the Federation of American Scientists.
The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons called Putin’s announcement on an extremely dangerous escalation.
“In the context of the war in Ukraine, the likelihood of miscalculation or misinterpretation is extremely high. Sharing nuclear weapons makes the situation much worse and risks catastrophic humanitarian consequences,” it said on Twitter.
Hello and welcome back to our live coverage of the war in Ukraine. This is Christine Kearney to bring you up to speed with the latest developments.
The US – the world’s other nuclear superpower – has reacted cautiously to Russia’s deal to station tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus.
A senior US administration official says there are no signs Moscow plans to use its nuclear weapons.
Putin likened his plans to the US stationing its weapons in Europe and said that Russia would not be transferring control to Belarus. But this could be the first time since the mid-1990s that Russia were to base such weapons outside the country.
Hawkish Russian politicians and commentators have long-speculated about nuclear strikes, saying Russia has the right to defend itself with nuclear weapons if it is pushed beyond its limits.
“Tactical” nuclear weapons refer to those used for specific gains on a battlefield rather than those with the capacity to wipe out cities. It is unclear how many such weapons Russia has, given it is an area still shrouded in cold war secrecy.
Experts say the development is significant, since Russia had until now been proud that unlike the US, it did not deploy nuclear weapons outside its borders.
The senior US administration official noted that Russia and Belarus had been speaking about the transfer of nuclear weapons for some time.
“We have seen reports of Russia’s announcement and will continue to monitor this situation,” the US defence department’s press office said in a written statement.
“We have not seen any reason to adjust our own strategic nuclear posture nor any indications Russia is preparing to use a nuclear weapon. We remain committed to the collective defence of the Nato alliance.”
In other key developments shortly after 9am in the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv:
Ukraine’s deputy minister of defence Hanna Maliar went on Facebook to urge Ukrainians to not openly discuss details about the country’s upcoming offensive. “On live broadcasts, don’t ask experts questions [in the vein of] ‘how is the counter-offensive going?’, don’t write blogs or posts on this topic, and don’t discuss military plans of our army publicly at all. We have one strategic plan – to liberate all our territories. And as for the details – that’s simply a military secret,” Maliar wrote.
The head of the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency will visit Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant next week to assess the serious security situation there, the IAEA said. Rafael Grossi said in a statement that the nuclear safety and security dangers at the Russian-held plant were “all too obvious”.
Russia fired on a humanitarian aid delivery point in the city of Kherson on Saturday, injuring two civilians, according to the Ukrainian military. Oleksandr Prokudin, head of the Kherson regional military administration, said: “Russian occupiers continue shelling the places where civilians are provided with aid.”
The top commander of Ukraine’s military has said that his forces are pushing back against Russian troops in the long and grinding battle for the town of Bakhmut. Separately, Britain’s defence ministry said the months-long Russian assault on the city had stalled, mainly as a result of heavy troop losses. British military intelligence also said Russia appeared to be moving to a defensive strategy in eastern Ukraine, Associated Press reported.
Russian oil company Gazprom reduced gas exports to the EU through Ukraine by 15%, the Kyiv Independent reports. On 24 March, Gazprom recorded a gas transit flow of 42.5m cubic metres. A day later, the volume decreased to 36.2m cubic metres.
The US president, Joe Biden, and the Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau, have displayed a united front against authoritarian regimes as Biden visited the Canadian capital days after the leaders of China and Russia held a Moscow summit. Reuters reported that images of Biden and Trudeau standing side by side in Ottawa on Friday announcing agreements including on semiconductors and migration represented a counterpoint to the scene in Moscow days ago.
The Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, spoke by phone with Putin and thanked him for his “positive attitude” in extending the Black Sea grain deal, the Turkish presidency said on Saturday. It said the two leaders discussed steps to improve Turkish-Russian relations, and developments regarding the war in Ukraine, and that Erdoğan expressed the importance of ending the conflict through negotiations as soon as possible, Reuters reported.
More than 5,000 former criminals have been pardoned after finishing their contracts to fight in Russia’s Wagner mercenary group against Ukraine, the founder of Wagner, Yevgeny Prigozhin, said on Saturday. The Wagner group, originally staffed by battle-hardened veterans of the Russian armed forces, took on a much more prominent role in the Ukraine war after the Russian army suffered a series of humiliating defeats last year, Reuters reported.
The United Nations has said it is “deeply concerned” by what it said were summary executions of prisoners of war by both Russian and Ukrainian forces on the battlefield. A report from the UN’s office of the high commissioner for human rights said its monitors had documented dozens of the executions by both sides, that the actual number was likely higher and that they “may constitute war crimes”.
Police in Russia have placed a former speechwriter for Vladimir Putin on a wanted list of suspects, the latest step in a sweeping crackdown on dissent. The Associated Press reports that Abbas Gallyamov wrote speeches for Putin during the Russian leader’s 2008-12 stint as prime minister. Gallyamov later became an outspoken political consultant and analyst who was frequently quoted by Russian and foreign media. He has lived abroad in recent years.
Russia’s parliament speaker has proposed banning the activities of the international criminal court (ICC) after the court issued an arrest warrant for the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, accusing him of war crimes. Vyacheslav Volodin, an ally of Putin’s, said on Saturday that Russian legislation should be amended to prohibit any activity of the ICC in Russia and to punish any who gave “assistance and support” to the court.