Russia-Ukraine war: Putin warns of ‘lightning fast’ retaliation if west intervenes; Mariupol commander makes urgent plea – live | Ukraine

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Putin warns of ‘lightning fast’ retaliation if West interferes in Ukraine

In an address to lawmakers in St Petersburg earlier today, Vladimir Putin warned any countries attempting to interfere in Ukraine would be met with a “lightning-fast” response from Moscow.

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The Russian president said the West wanted to cut Russia up into different pieces and accused it of pushing Ukraine into conflict with Russia, adding:

If someone intends to intervene into the ongoing events (in Ukraine) from the outside and creates unacceptable strategic threats for us, then they should know that our response to those strikes will be swift, lightning fast.

Russian troops would not hesitate to use the most modern weaponry, Putin said:

We have all the tools for this — ones that no one can brag about. And we won’t brag. We will use them if needed. And I want everyone to know this.

We have already taken all the decisions on this.

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Vladimir Putin gives a speech at a meeting of advisory council of the Russian parliament in St Petersburg.
Vladimir Putin gives a speech at a meeting of advisory council of the Russian parliament in St Petersburg. Photograph: Alexandr Demyanchuk/SPUTNIK/AFP/Getty Images

Ukraine’s losses from war reach $600 billion, Zelenskiy says

The total losses inflicted upon Ukraine from the war have reached $600 billion, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has said.

The president met with local and regional authorities on Wednesday to discuss Ukraine’s post war reconstruction. Zelenskiy said:

Preliminary estimates of Ukraine’s losses from this war reach $600 billion today. More than 32 million square meters of living space, more than 1,500 educational facilities and more than 350 medical facilities have been destroyed or damaged.

Economic entities suffered huge losses – hundreds of enterprises have been destroyed. About 2,500km of roads and almost 300 bridges have been ruined or damaged. And it’s not just statistics. This is Mariupol, this is Volnovakha, this is Okhtyrka, this is Chernihiv, this is Borodianka and dozens or dozens of our cities, towns and villages.”

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According to the president, more than 11.5 million Ukrainians have fled their homes due to the fighting, and about 5 million of them have gone abroad with 95% of migrants already wanting to return home.

Damage caused to Ukraine’s infrastructure as a result of the war has reached almost $90 billion, the country’s minister of infrastructure added.

Most of the damage has been inflicted on railway, road and bridge infrastructure, Oleksandr Kubrakov said.

Truss singled out China, which has refused to condemn the invasion of Ukraine, while increasing imports from Russia and commenting on “who should or shouldn’t be a Nato member”.

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Countries must play by the rules.

And that includes China…

China is not impervious. They will not continue to rise if they do not play by the rules.

China needs trade with the G7. We represent around half of the global economy. And we have choices.

We have shown with Russia the kind of choices that we’re prepared to make when international rules are violated.”

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Inaction would be the ‘greatest provocation’, Truss says

Truss detailed what the new west’s approach to international security could look like: military strength, economic security and deeper global alliances.

“Firstly, we need to strengthen our collective defence,” she said, admitting that “the world should have done more to deter the invasion” and vowing to “never make that same mistake again”.

Some argue we shouldn’t provide heavy weapons for fear of provoking something worse. But my view, is that inaction would be the greatest provocation. This is a time for courage not for caution.”

Truss said the G7 group of leading industrialised nations should act as an “economic Nato” defending collective prosperity, while the western military alliance must be prepared to open its doors to countries such as Finland and Sweden.

At the same time, the UK needed to build a series of strong partnerships with like-minded countries around the world in a “network of liberty”.

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In Europe, Finland and Sweden should, if they choose to join Nato, be integrated into the alliance “as soon as possible”, while states like Moldova and Georgia – which are not Nato members – should have the means to maintain their sovereignty and freedom.

Nato, which has traditionally been focused on the defence of Europe, needed to adopt a “global outlook”, working with allies like Japan and Australia to ensure the Pacific is protected and democracies like Taiwan are able to defend themselves.

We need a global Nato,” Truss said. “By that I don’t mean extending the membership to those from other regions. I mean that Nato must have a global outlook, ready to tackle global threats.”

Truss said they had to be prepared to stand up to “aggressors” who try to exploit their economic power as a “tool of foreign policy” to exert control and to coerce others.

Access to the global economy must depend on playing by the rules. There can be no more free passes.

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We are showing this with the Russia-Ukraine conflict – Russia’s pass has been rescinded.

The G7 should act as an economic Nato, collectively defending our prosperity. If the economy of a partner is being targeted by an aggressive regime we should act to support them. All for one and one for all.”

West must overhaul approach to international security: UK foreign secretary

The crisis in Ukraine must be the “catalyst for change” to overhaul the west’s approach to international security, the UK’s foreign secretary, Liz Truss, has said.

Speaking at Mansion House in London on Wednesday evening, Truss described Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, as a “desperate rogue operator with no interest in international norms” and called upon the west to “dig deep” into its weapons inventories.

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Faced with appalling barbarism and war crimes, which we’d hoped had been consigned to history, the free world has united behind Ukraine in its brave fight for freedom and self-determination.

Those who think they can win through oppression, coercion or invasion are being proved wrong by this new stand on global security – one that not only seeks to deter, but also ensures that aggressors fail.

We cannot be complacent – the fate of Ukraine hangs in the balance.

But let’s be clear – if Putin succeeds there will be untold further misery across Europe and terrible consequences across the globe. We would never feel safe again.

So we must be prepared for the long haul. We’ve got to double down on our support for Ukraine. And we must also follow through on the unity shown in the crisis. We must reboot, recast and remodel our approach.”

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We must learn the lessons from Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine. This has to be a catalyst for change to protect the free world.

We need a new approach based on military strength, economic security and deeper alliances.

My speech tonight 👇https://t.co/BSZh2jLBQa

— Liz Truss (@trussliz) April 27, 2022

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Truss said recent events over the past months must be “a catalyst for wider change”.

Now we need a new approach, one that melds hard security and economic security, one that builds stronger global alliances and where free nations are more assertive and self-confident, one that recognises geopolitics is back.”

In the short term, the foreign secretary suggested the west should be “digging deep into our inventories [and] ramping up production” of heavy weapons, tanks and planes while sanctions against Russia

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needed to go further to include cutting off oil and gas imports “once and for all”.

We are doubling down.

We will keep going further and faster to push Russia out of the whole of Ukraine.

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And this has to be a catalyst for wider change …

The war in Ukraine is our war – it is everyone’s war because Ukraine’s victory is a strategic imperative for all of us.”

Today so far

  • Two American volunteers fighting in Ukraine were reportedly wounded by artillery fire near the city of Orikhiv in the Zaporizhzhia region. US army veterans Manus McCaffrey and Paul Gray were working together as a team targeting Russian tanks with Javelin anti-tank systems when they were injured, according to reports.
  • The United Nations secretary general, António Guterres, has arrived in Ukraine after meeting with Putin and his foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, in Moscow. Guterres will meet with the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, on Thursday, a UN spokesperson said.
  • A woman was killed in the Russian shelling of a hospital in the east Ukrainian city of Sievierodonetsk today, the regional governor, Serhiy Gaidai, said. The hospital was one of only two still operational in the area, he said, alongside video footage showing caved-in brick walls, broken hospital beds, and glass and rubble inside a building.
  • A former head of the Polish army has accused Boris Johnson of “tempting evil” by revealing that Ukrainian soldiers were being trained in Poland in how to use British anti-aircraft missiles before returning with them to Ukraine. Gen Waldemar Skrzypczak complained that a loose-lipped PM had revealed too much to the Russians and that his remarks risked the safety of the soldiers involved.
  • A former US marine held in a Russian jail has been released in exchange for a Russian citizen held in US detention. US President Joe Biden said negotiations for the release of Trevor Reed, 30, “required difficult decisions that I do not take lightly”.
  • US secretary of state Antony Blinken told Congress today that the US is working on reopening its embassy in Ukraine. “I think this will play out over the next few weeks,” he said.Blinken also added there there are “very credible reports” that Russians have been “booby-trapping things like peoples’ washing machines and toys so that when people are able to return home and go about their lives, they’re killed or injured”.
  • The US government is providing $670m in food assistance to combat food insecurity due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the US government announced today. The money will come from the agriculture department and the US Agency for International Development (USAID).
  • The Kremlin is planning to hold “referendums” in Donetsk and Luhansk in eastern Ukraine about joining Russia, according to the Latvia-based news outlet Meduza. Ukrainian officials had previously warned that Russia was planning to conduct such sham referendums in the near future as a way to force men in the region to be drafted for military mobilization.

– Lauren Aratani Léonie Chao-Fong

‘People here will simply die’: Ukrainian commander makes plea for Mariupol evacuation – video

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Ukrainian commander makes urgent plea for Mariupol evacuation – video

A Ukrainian marine commander in the besieged city of Mariupol has made a plea for the evacuation of troops and civilians holed up in the Azovstal steel plant: “I have appealed to all world leaders, I have appealed to world diplomats, I have appealed to Pope Francis, I have shouted at the top of my voice, asking for us to be extracted.”

In a video posted online on Wednesday, Serhiy Volyna, commander of Ukraine’s 36th marine brigade forces in Mariupol, urged the international community to help evacuate Ukrainian fighters and hundreds of civilians trapped in the plant.

Where is Transnistria and why is it being drawn into Ukraine war?

Guardian staff and agencies:

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Where is Transnistria and what is its status?

The predominantly Russian-speaking region wedged between the Dniester River and the Ukraine border seceded from Moldova after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

In 1992, the separatists fought a war with Moldova’s pro-western government, which ended in hundreds of deaths and the intervention of the Russian army on the rebels’ side.

In a 2006 referendum that was not recognised by the international community, 97.1% of voters backed joining Russia, dealing a blow to Moldova’s hopes of following Romania and other ex-communist eastern European states into the EU.

Transnistria is controlled by pro-Russian separatists and permanently hosts 1,500 Russian troops as well as a large arms depot.

How closely tied are Transnistria and Russia?

Transnistria still uses the Cyrillic alphabet and has its own currency (the Transnistrian ruble), security forces and passport, although most of its estimated 465,000 residents have dual or triple Moldovan, Russian or Ukrainian nationality.

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The majority of the population is Russian-speaking, while the rest of Moldova is dominated by Romanian speakers.

Moscow props up Transnistria’s economy, supplying free gas and keeping troops stationed there, in effect creating a Russian satellite on the borders of the EU.

Transnistria is also awash with Soviet symbols.

Its flag is emblazoned with a hammer and sickle, a huge statue of Lenin looms over the centre of its main city, Tiraspol, and a bust of the Bolshevik leader sits outside the town hall, or House of Soviets.

What does Russia say?

Russian president Vladimir Putin’s spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, on Tuesday told journalists that he was “concerned” about the news that came out of Transnistria, while the leader of the self-proclaimed republic in Donetsk, Denis Pushilin, told RIA Novosti that Moscow should “take into account what is happening in Transnistria” when planning the next stage of its military campaign.

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What does Moldova say?

Moldova’s president, Maia Sandu, has made clear her opposition to Transnistria’s secession.

She wants Russian troops stationed along Transnistria’s frontier with Moldova to be replaced with an observer mission from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, a proposal rejected by Moscow.

After a meeting of her security council this week, Sandu said certain unnamed “forces inside Transnistria” were in “favour of war” and were interested in destabilising the situation in the region.

Western war aims are growing. But how much more will Nato commit to Ukraine?

Dan Sabbagh

Dan Sabbagh

Step by step, the west’s war aims are expanding. What began as an effort to supply “defensive weapons” to Ukraine has evolved into an attempt to provide heavier weaponry. This week Germany and the UK agreed to supply armoured anti-aircraft artillery vehicles to keep Russia’s air force at bay.

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On Monday Lloyd Austin, the US defence secretary, said the west’s goal was to “weaken Russia” to the point where it could no longer invade or threaten its neighbours.

A day later the British junior defence minister James Heappey said it would be “completely legitimate” for Ukraine to use western weapons to strike inside Russia if need be.

These are different, more specific, statements, compared with some of the broad-brush rhetoric used in the early phase of the war when Russian forces were menacing Kyiv, and Ukraine’s crisis seemed existential.

“Vladimir Putin’s act of aggression must fail and be seen to fail,” Boris Johnson wrote in March. It was a generalised observation by the British prime minister that tactfully avoided spelling out any specific outcome.

Yet the language has toughened as the conflict has stalled. On the ground Russia’s well-telegraphed assault on the Donbas is still only gradually unfolding, with the gain of a handful of villages near Izyum, where the attempt to envelop Ukraine’s forces continues without any sign of a breakthrough, hindered by rainy weather, strong resistance and command and control problems

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US secretary of state Antony Blinken told Congress today that the US is working on reopening its embassy in Ukraine. “I think this will play out over the next few weeks,” he said.

Blinken also added there there are “very credible reports” that Russians have been “booby-trapping things like peoples’ washing machines and toys so that when people are able to return home and go about their lives, they’re killed or injured”.

Blinken: “There are very credible reports” that the Russians have been “booby trapping things like peoples’ washing machines and toys so that when people are able to return home and go about their lives, they’re killed or injured as a result of these booby traps.”

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— John Hudson (@John_Hudson) April 27, 2022

Blinken in his and defense secretary Lloyd Austin’s meeting with Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Sunday told the Ukrainian president that the US was working on getting its diplomats back into the country. On Wednesday, the state department said that diplomats had traveled from Poland to Lviv in western Ukraine.

A report from Microsoft says that state-supported Russian hackers have conducted “relentless and destructive” cyber-attacks in Ukraine, destroying the data of governmental and infrastructure organizations. Microsoft said that it has observed nearly 40 attacks, “targeting hundreds of systems”.

“The attacks have not only degraded the systems of institutions in Ukraine but have also sought to disrupt people’s access to reliable information and critical life services on which civilians depend, and have attempted to shake confidence in the country’s leadership. We have also observed limited espionage attack activity involving other Nato member states, and some disinformation activity,” Microsoft said in its report.

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