Kyiv and Moscow will hold peace talks at the border with Belarus, Volodymyr Zelensky today confirmed – as Vladimir Putin ordered the forces operating Russia’s nuclear deterrent to be on alert amid simmering tensions with the West.
The Ukrainian President’s office said the two delegations will meet ‘without preconditions’ near the Pripyat River, to the north of Chernobyl, in a deal brokered in a phone call with Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko.
‘Alexander Lukashenko has taken responsibility for ensuring that all planes, helicopters and missiles stationed on Belarusian territory remain on the ground during the Ukrainian delegation’s travel, talks and return,’ the statement said.
It came as Putin declared in a televised addressed that he had ordered troops operating the nuclear deterrent onto a ‘special regime of duty’ in light of ‘aggressive statements’ from NATO leaders and ‘unfriendly economic actions’.
Meanwhile, Ukraine filed a lawsuit against Russia at the Hague, with Mr Zelensky requesting that the UN International Court of Justice orders Russia to stop its attack against Ukraine and starts trials soon.
Earlier today, in a speech to mark Russia’s special forces day, Putin thanked soldiers for ‘heroically fulfilling their military duty’ in Ukraine, before parroting his propaganda line that his armies are providing assistance to the ‘people’s republics of Donbas’ – referring to two rebel-held areas in eastern Ukraine that Russia recognised as independent states ahead of its invasion.
‘I want to thank the command, the personnel of the special operations forces, veterans of the special forces units for their loyalty to the oath, for their impeccable service in the name of the people of Russia and our great motherland,’ he said.
Russian forces stormed Ukraine’s second largest city of Kharkiv today after failing in their overnight efforts to seize control of the capital city of Kyiv.
However reports in Ukraine suggest troops have managed to successfully repel the Russian advance on Kharkiv, which is close to the Russian border, with one British reporter on the ground confirming that the city remains under Ukrainian control despite this morning’s attack.
Oleh Sinehubov, head of the Kharkiv regional administration, today said Ukrainian troops had managed to reclaim the city. In a post on Telegram, he said: ‘Control over Kharkiv is completely ours!
‘The armed forces, the national police, and the defence forces are working and the city is being completely cleansed of the enemy.’
Kharkiv’s defence came as Ukraine’s Ministry of Defence today claimed Ukrainian troops had killed or injured more than 4,300 Russian soldiers in the first three days of fighting. Russia has not released an updates on its military losses.
The Kremlin has so far not declared any fatalities from the fighting, although the head of the Dagestan regional government recently offered his condolences to the family of a slain paratrooper, in what may have been a case of veering off the official script.
UK Armed Forces minister James Heappey has insisted Putin’s ‘days are numbered’ if he fails in Ukraine, with his campaign falling ‘well behind’ its planned timeline.
Mr Heappey, a former major in the Rifles, said Putin’s forces had been unable to capture key cities in the first few days of fighting as intended and had left pockets of ‘well-armed’ Ukrainians to the rear of their front line.
A picture is emerging of a haphazard and disorganised invasion effort, with armoured columns running out of fuel or getting lost, and some having to advance without air cover.
Mr Heappey wrote in the Telegraph: ‘After three days of intense fighting, spurred by dogged Ukrainian resistance, Russia is well behind its planned timeline.
‘Progress to Kyiv has been much slower than they’d expected, they were unable to take key cities early and now must try to bypass them.
‘This leaves pockets of well-armed and well-trained Ukrainians to the rear of the Russian front line, exposing a vulnerable logistics tail – an omen for what awaits Putin.’
At the same time, Ukrainians are volunteering in their droves, with ‘long queues’ at recruitment centres, the minister wrote.
Meanwhile, footage from the town of Koryukivka, near the Russian border, showed hundreds of locals massing on a road to block the advance of a Russian tank column.
Mr Heappey believes that if Putin fails and ordinary Russians realise ‘how little he cares for them … [his] days as president will surely be numbered and so too will those of the kleptocratic elite that surround him,’ he wrote.
‘He’ll lose power and he won’t get to choose his successor.’
This is an excerpt from Daily Mail.
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