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February 27, 2024
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Russia-Ukraine war live: Kremlin calls Nord Stream reports a distraction; EU will never accept Russian threats, says Von Der Leyen

Media reports on the Nord Stream attacks are a coordinated effort to divert attention, says Russia; Europe will never accept this threat to European security, says EU Commission president

Media reports on the Nord Stream pipelines attacks are a coordinated effort to divert attention and the Kremlin is perplexed how US officials can assume anything about the attacks without investigation, the Kremlin said on Wednesday.

“Obviously, the authors of the attack want to divert attention. Obviously, this is a coordinated stuffing in the media,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told the state RIA news agency.

It will be an “open road” for Russian troops to capture cities in Ukraine should they seize control of Bakhmut, Volodymyr Zelenskiy has warned in an interview with CNN. “This is tactical for us, we understand that after Bakhmut they could go further,” said Ukraine’s president. The Ukrainian deputy prime minister told regional media on Tuesday that fewer than 4,000 civilians, including 38 children, remained in Bakhmut. The city, the focus of fierce fighting in the Donbas region, had an estimated prewar population of about 70,000.

Russia has sustained “20,000 to 30,000 casualties’’ – killed and wounded – in trying to capture the city, western officials estimated at a briefing on Tuesday. While no firm figure was offered for Ukrainian losses, the official said it was “significantly less”. Ukraine’s defence of Bakhmut is forcing Russia to engage in a costly battle for a city that “isn’t intrinsically important operationally or strategically”, according to the US-based Institute for the Study of War.

Intelligence reviewed by US officials suggested a pro-Ukrainian group carried out the attack on the Nord Stream pipelines in 2022, the New York Times has reported. There was no evidence Zelenskiy or his top lieutenants were involved, or that the perpetrators were acting at the direction of any Ukrainian government officials, said the report, citing US officials.

Russia said media reports about Nord Stream underscored the need to answer Moscow’s questions about what happened. Foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said those responsible for leaks to the media wanted to divert the public’s attention and avoid a proper investigation.

Andriy Yermak, head of the Office of the Ukrainian Presidency, said 130 prisoners of war had been returned home in an exchange. Russia’s ministry of defence said 90 prisoners of war had been returned by Ukraine.

A court in Moscow has jailed a student activist for eight and a half years for social media posts criticising Russia’s war in Ukraine. Dmitry Ivanov was convicted on Tuesday of spreading false information about the Russian army, AP reported.

Ukraine has named the unarmed prisoner of war who appeared to have been shot dead by Russian soldiers, as the president delivered an overnight message resolving to “find the murderers”. In the graphic 12-second clip that first circulated on Telegram on Monday, a detained combatant, named by the Ukrainian military as Tymofiy Mykolayovych Shadura, is seen standing in a shallow trench smoking a cigarette before apparently being shot with automatic weapons.

Ukraine has started talks with partners on extending the Black Sea grain initiative aimed at ensuring Kyiv can keep shipping grain to global markets, a senior Ukrainian government source has said. The source said Ukraine had not held discussions with Russia, which blockaded Ukrainian Black Sea ports after its invasion last year, but that it was Kyiv’s understanding that its partners were talking to Moscow.

Belarus detained on Tuesday what it said was a Ukrainian “terrorist group” working with Kyiv’s intelligence services to carry out sabotage at a Belarusian airfield. Belarusian anti-government activists said last month they had blown up a sophisticated Russian military surveillance aircraft in a drone attack at an airfield near the Belarusian capital, Minsk, a claim disputed by Moscow and Minsk. Ukraine’s foreign ministry has denied Kyiv was involved.

China’s foreign minister, Qin Gang, has said China must strengthen its relationship with Russia in the face of continued hostility from the US. In a fiery press conference, his first appearance as foreign minister, Qin outlined China’s foreign policy agenda for the coming years, presenting its relationship with Russia as a beacon of strength and stability, and the US and its allies as a source of tension and conflict.

A 14-year-old Ukrainian girl who died after she was found unconscious on a beach in south Devon on Saturday has been named as Albina Yevko. The teenager was found on Dawlish town beach, near where she was living, on Saturday evening after a search involving a police helicopter and the coastguard.

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