- Sputnik International, 1920, 25.02.2022
Russia's Special Operation in Ukraine
On February 24, 2022 Russia launched a special military operation in Ukraine, aiming to liberate the Donbass region where the people's republics of Donetsk and Lugansk had been living under regular attacks from Kiev's forces.
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LIVE UPDATES: Pentagon Official Says US Cannot Confirm Which Forces Struck Mariupol Theater

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday that the ongoing military operation in Ukraine is successful and is going according to plan.
The United States, NATO and other partner nations have increased shipments of military, economic and humanitarian aid to Ukraine, as well as performed force posture changes on the alliance's eastern flank in recent weeks.
That followed Russia launching a special military operation in Ukraine on 24 February in response to calls from the Donetsk and Lugansk people's republics for protection against intensifying attacks by Ukrainian troops.

The Russian Defence Ministry said the special operation, which targets Ukrainian military infrastructure only, aims to "demilitarize and denazify" Ukraine, adding that the civilian population is not in danger.
In turn, Western nations have imposed numerous sanctions on Russia.
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Table of contents
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19:01 GMT 17.03.2022
Blinken: US in Close Contact With Ukrainian Leaders, Other Nations Engaging in Diplomacy
The United States is in close contact with Ukrainian authorities and international partners who are engaged in diplomatic efforts to resolve the Ukraine conflict, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Thursday.
"We are in close contact as I said with Ukraine’s leaders, including in my case Foreign Minister [Dmytro] Kuleba. We are in close contact with other countries that have in one way or another been engaging in diplomacy," Blinken said.
The United States wants Russia to make meaningful efforts to deescalate and engage in good-faith talks on the Ukraine crisis, Blinken added.
"We are looking to see Russia take meaningful actions to deescalate, to stop the violence that it’s perpetrating in Ukraine and to engage in good-faith talks," Blinken said.
18:49 GMT 17.03.2022
Blinken Says Russia May Send Officials to Ukraine to Run Local Governments
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the Biden administration expects Russia to send officials to Ukraine to serve as local government officials.
"Moscow may bring in officials from Russia to serve as local government officials and surge what they describe as economic support," Blinken said during a press conference.
Blinken said this would be an attempt to make Ukrainians dependent on Moscow.
18:24 GMT 17.03.2022
Blinken: US Experts are in Process of Documenting and Evaluating Potentioal War Crimes in Ukraine
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Thursday that he believes war crimes have been committed in Ukraine.
"Yesterday, President Biden said that in his opinion war crimes have been committed in Ukraine," Blinken said during a press conference. "Personally, I agree, intentionally targeting civilians is a war crime."
The State Department is in the process of documenting potential war crimes in Ukraine, Blinken added.
When asked about reports of the casualty, the State Secretary confirmed that a US citizen was killed in Ukraine.
"I don’t have any more details for you than that," Blinken added.
The United States will continue to increase costs on Russia until Moscow ends its military operation in Ukraine, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken highlighted.
"We’ll continue to increase the costs on Russia until it ends this war of choice," Blinken told journalists.
Blinken added that US President Joe Biden will make clear to his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, during their upcoming phone call that Beijing will face consequences for supporting the Russian operation in Ukraine.
"We believe China in particular has a responsibility to use its influence on President [Vladimir] Putin and to defend the International rules and principles that it professes to support," Blinken said. "Instead it appears that China is moving in the opposite direction by refusing to condemn this aggression while seeking to portraying itself as a neutral arbiter and we are concerned that they are considering directly assisting Russia with military equipment to use in Ukraine. President Biden will be speaking with President Xi tomorrow and will make clear that China will bear responsibility for any actions it takes to support Russia’s aggression and we will not hesitate to impose costs."
18:14 GMT 17.03.2022
US Cannot Confirm Which Forces Struck Mariupol Theater, Senior Defense Official Says
The United States cannot confirm which force struck a drama theater building in Mariupol, a senior US defense official said on Thursday.
On Wednesday, Ukraine claimed that a Russian airstrike leveled a drama theater that was allegedly being used as a bomb shelter. The allegations were dismissed by the Russian Defenсe Ministry.
"We couldn't confirm those accounts yesterday, can't confirm them today," the official said when asked about the conflicting accounts.
18:09 GMT 17.03.2022
German FM: Strengthening of NATO Eastern Flank in Compliance With NATO-Russia Founding Act
NATO is strengthening its eastern flank in compliance with conditions of the NATO-Russia founding act, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said on Thursday.
"We need to station more troops there [in the eastern flank], however, this is explicitly on the basis of the NATO-Russia basic act because it has made clear again and again that the voluntary commitments that were part of this agreement take place within the framework of a security environment and the breach of this is something that Russia has carried out, which means that we see ourselves in a position that we must reinforce our strengths there," Baerbock said during her joint press conference with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
17:48 GMT 17.03.2022
Spain to Take in 1,000 Ukrainian Refugees From Moldova
Spain will host 1,000 people fleeing from Ukraine currently in Moldova, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said on Thursday.
“Yesterday, [Spanish] Minister of Foreign Affairs [Jose Manuel Albares] was in Moldova. We will transport 1,000 Ukrainian refugees who are currently in Moldova to Spain," he told reporters after a meeting with Romanian President Klaus Iohannis.
Spain has so far provided 4,500 Ukrainian refugees with temporary protection, allowing them to obtain a residence permit with the right to work. However, the total number of Ukrainian refugees who have arrived in Spain since Russia began its special military operation in Ukraine is unclear.
Refugee centers have been opened in Madrid, Barcelona and Alicante.
17:34 GMT 17.03.2022
Pentagon Says Does Not Have Information on Three US Mercinaries Killed in Ukraine, Spokesperson Tells Sputnik
The US government does not have any information about the three US mercenaries who were reportedly killed in Ukraine, a Defense Department spokesperson told Sputnik on Thursday.
"We don't have any information on this," the Defense Department spokesperson said.
Earlier in the day, the militia of the Donetsk People's Republic (DNR) reported that three US mercenaries were killed during clashes in Mar’inka.
A flag of the US state of Tennessee was found in the backpack of one of the mercenaries. Personal items found on the scene made it possible to identify the three individuals - Capt. Michael Hawker, Lt. Logan Shrum and Lt. Cruz Toblin, the DPR militia said.
17:33 GMT 17.03.2022
Germany to Offer Full Integration to Ukrainian Refugees
Germany will offer full integration to refugees from Ukraine, Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Thursday, adding that no one considers their arrival to be short-term.

"This is a different migration compared to what we have seen in recent years. We are talking about a large number of children and women, the elderly. Many men did not leave Ukraine because they are liable for military service... Will many decide to return or, in view of the great destruction, new ones will arrive, and men will join their families in Poland, Germany, the United Kingdom... and find initial perspectives in their own lives ... We must not repeat the mistake that at the beginning of such a development the emphasis would be on that it is temporary. From the very beginning, we must proceed from the fact that a perspective for integration is created - in kindergartens, schools, on the labor market," Scholz told a press conference in Berlin.
17:23 GMT 17.03.2022
The Moscow Kremlin. - Sputnik International, 1920, 17.03.2022
US House Finance Committee Passes 5 Bills to Sanction Russia, Support Ukraine
17:02 GMT 17.03.2022
Macron Says He Plans to Speak With Putin in Near Future
French President Emmanuel Macron said on Thursday that he plans to speak with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the near future to discuss the situation in Ukraine.
"I will have a phone conversation with him very soon," Macron told a press conference.
The French president also said that he always "made a distinction between Vladimir Putin and the Russian people."
"And I want to praise the courage of dissidents, opposition figures, some of your colleagues [journalists], intellectuals, artists. I think it would be a mistake to mix everything up," Macron added.
When asked about Poroshenko’s suggestion to visit Kiev, the French president sayd that he will visit the city only if such a trip is useful.
"I heard the words of the former president [of Ukraine], Petro Poroshenko, I treat them with friendship and respect. And like I said, I'm not ruling anything out. But I think it's my responsibility to act in a useful way," Macron told reporters.
The French president mentioned that he visited Moscow and Kiev in early February where there still was a "chance for peace."

"I'm not ruling out anything, but I'll do it [visit Kiev] when it's useful," Macron added.
16:49 GMT 17.03.2022
Lithuanian Parliament Approves Boosting Defense Budget to 2.52% of GDP
Lithuanian lawmakers unanimously decided to increase the funding of the Defense Ministry to 2.52% of GDP in the wake of Russia’s operation in Ukraine, the parliament said on Thursday.
In early March, Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte said that the cabinet offered the parliament to consider increasing the defence spending beyond 2.5% of GDP amid Russia’s special operation in Ukraine.
“The @LRSeimas [parliament] has unanimously approved increasing this year’s national defence funding to 2.52 percent of GDP,” the parliament tweeted.
The parliamentary meeting, broadcast by the LRT state broadcaster, was attended by 123 lawmakers.
According to the defense ministry, the budget will amount to 297.99 million euros (around $330.2 million) this year. Defence Minister Arvydas Anusauskas said that the funding will be used to purchase American combat drones, helicopters, communications equipment, bulletproof vests, medical equipment and means to enhance cybersecurity.
Last week, the Lithuanian government agreed to allocate an additional 40.43 million euros to the defence ministry to provide for the deployment of NATO troops in the country.
16:48 GMT 17.03.2022
Zelensky to Address Italian Parliament on Tuesday
Volodymyr Zelensky will speak in the Italian parliament on Friday, an Italian news agency cited parliamentary sources as saying on Thursday.
Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi and lawmakers from both chambers will meet informally to listen to Zelensky in a virtual setting.
Zelensky has addressed the US Congress, the Parliament of Canada and Germany’s Bundestag in in a bid to bolster support for his war efforts and secure more military assistance.
16:33 GMT 17.03.2022
Russian Defence Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov gives a briefing on the military operation in Ukraine at the Russian National Defence Management Centre, in Moscow - Sputnik International, 1920, 17.03.2022
Russia's Special Operation in Ukraine
Russian Forces Seize Two More Donbass Settlements, Russian MoD Says
16:09 GMT 17.03.2022
Pentagon: US Supports Russia-Ukraine Ceasefire Talks, Wants to See Negotiated Settlement
he United States backs Russia-Ukraine ceasefire talks and wants to see a negotiated settlement of the conflict, Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said on Thursday.
"Their [Russia-Ukraine] ceasefire talks are going on and, of course, we support that and we want to see a negotiated settlement," Kirby told Bloomberg in an interview.

Kirby added that nobody wants to see the conflict between Russia and Ukraine to escalate beyond the territory of Ukraine.
16:09 GMT 17.03.2022
Biden Says Actions by Russian Troops in Ukraine 'Inhumane'
US President Joe Biden said on Thursday that Russia's spacial military operation in Ukraine is inhumane.
"[Russian President Vladimir] Putin's brutality and what he's doing, what his troops are doing in Ukraine is just inhumane," Biden said during a virtual meeting with the Taoiseach of Ireland Michael Martin.
15:59 GMT 17.03.2022
IMF: Conflict in Ukraine to Have Relatively Small Impact on China
The Ukraine conflict will not have a major impact on China unless the global economy is significantly affected, International Monetary Fund (IMF) spokesman Gerry Rice told reporters on Thursday.
"The immediate impact of the conflict is likely to be relatively small. The higher oil prices could affect domestic consumption and investment going forward but price caps will limit the impact overall," Rice told a press briefing.
Beijing may face serious consequences in the event of global economic ramifications, he added.
"However, China would be affected if trade partner growth were to slow significantly, serious supply side disruptions were to emerge, or global financial markets were more severely impacted," Rice said.
The International Monetary Fund logo is seen inside its headquarters at the end of the IMF/World Bank annual meetings in Washington, U.S., October 9, 2016 - Sputnik International, 1920, 17.03.2022
Fed's Faster Pace of Interest Rate Hikes Raises Risks for States Relying on Dollar - IMF
15:18 GMT 17.03.2022
UK Freezes Tax Cooperation With Russia and Belarus Amid Ukraine Crisis
"The UK is freezing tax cooperation with Russia and Belarus by suspending all exchange of tax information with them," Lucy Frazer, Financial Secretary to the Treasury, said in a written statement to parliament.
"The suspension of tax information exchange will ensure the UK is not supplying Russia and Belarus with information that could lead to an increased tax benefit or yield for them."
15:15 GMT 17.03.2022
Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers Decides to Suspend All Ties With Belarus Due to Situation Around Ukraine
Bratislava is willing to discuss providing Ukraine with the S-300 air defense system if Slovakia is offered a replacement or security assurances, Defense Minister Jaroslav Nad said on Thursday.
"Yes, should there be a proper replacement or that we have a capability guarantee for a certain period of time, then we would be willing to discuss the future of the S-300 system," Nad said at a joint press briefing with US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.
15:08 GMT 17.03.2022
Defense Secretary Says US Working With Partners to Further Strengthen Ukraine's Capabilities
The United States is urgently working with its allies and the Ukrainian military to further boost Ukraine’s capabilities, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said on Thursday.
“We are working urgently with our partners and the Ukrainian armed forces to further strengthen their capabilities to defend themselves,” Austin said.
He also said that Washington "sent additional US forces to reenforce our NATO allies and we have more on call ready to go if NATO activates its response forces."
15:07 GMT 17.03.2022
Russian MoD Releases Video Showing Destruction of Ukrainian 152mm Howitzers
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