Russian-Ukrainian War Update: What We Know About Day 17 of the Russian Invasion | Ukraine
Satellite images show Russian forces closing in on Kyiv, with the bulk of ground forces now about 25km from the center of the capital, according to the UK’s latest Defense Intelligence Report. They appear to be firing artillery towards residential areas. Air raid sirens were blaring in Kiev in the early hours of Saturday morning. Russian forces shelled towns across the country on Friday and appeared to be regrouping for a possible assault. Local media in Ukraine have reported that two oil depots near Kiev are on fire after Russian attacks, one in the town of Vasylkiv which also houses a large air base and has become a major Russian target.
Russia has warned that Moscow now sees arms deliveries to Ukraine as “legitimate targets” for the military. The comments of Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov risk raising fears of a possible escalation of the conflict in Ukraine.
The Russian army has suffered its biggest losses in decades, according to Volodymyr Zelenskiy. In his latest video address to the nation, Ukraine’s president said his country had reached a “strategic turning point” in the conflict and claimed that 31 Russian battalion tactical groups had been rendered incapacitated. He insisted that any negotiation with Russia must start with a ceasefire, accusing the West of insufficient involvement in the peace talks and urging Russia to respect the agreement authorizing the evacuations of the besieged port city of Mariupol.
Zelenskiy also accused Russia of hiring “murderers from Syria” after the Kremlin stepped up efforts to bring in reinforcements from the Middle East. The Syrian army has begun recruiting troops from its own ranks to fight alongside Russian forces in Ukraine, promising payments of $3,000 a month – a sum of up to 50 times a Syrian soldier’s monthly salary.
Belarus has denied plans to join the Russian invasion. The country’s Armed Forces Chief of Staff Viktor Gulevich said Belarus was not planning to go to war but was sending five Battalion Tactical Groups (BTGs) to its border with Ukraine on rotation to replace the forces already present. Belarus served as a staging post for Russian troops, missiles and aircraft.
EU leaders plan to collectively rearm and become self-sufficient in food, energy and military hardware in a statement after their meeting at Versailles that described Russia’s war as “a tectonic shift in European history”.
The UN Security Council met on Friday to discuss Moscow’s claims that the United States is funding “military biological activities” in Ukraine. Russian UN Ambassador Vasily Nebenzya has raised the terrifying specter of an “uncontrolled spread of biological agents from Ukraine” across Europe. The United States and Ukraine have categorically denied developing biological weapons inside the country.
The United States has warned of the possibility of chemical or biological weapons being used by Russia. Britain and the United States have expressed fears that Russia is laying the groundwork for using a chemical weapon in Ukraine and using its accusations of biological labs as a pretext. US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield said: “Russia has a history of falsely accusing other countries of the very violations that Russia itself is committing.”
Russian airstrikes hit three cities in Ukraine on Friday – including two in the west of the country – as the scope of its military offensive widened. The raids hit airfields in Lutsk and Ivano-Frankivsk, far from the main conflict zones, and residential buildings in the strategically important city of Dnipro.
Hundreds of thousands of civilians remain trapped and under fire from Ukrainian cities, but the situation in Mariupol is particularly dire. Ten days after Russia’s siege, its people have no access to electricity or mobile phone networks, and water and food are running out. 7,144 people were evacuated from four Ukrainian towns on Friday, Zelenskiy said in a televised address – a number far below the number who managed to leave on each of the previous two days. Zelenskiy accused Russia of refusing to allow people out of Mariupol and said Ukraine would try to deliver food and medicine there again on Saturday.
Ukraine fears Belarus could launch an invasion of Ukraine on Saturday after a meeting in Moscow between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko. Ukraine has accused Russia of firing on a Belarusian settlement near the border from Ukrainian airspace in an effort to drag Belarus into war.
A third Russian major general has been killed in Ukraine, Western officials have confirmed. Western intelligence estimates that around 20 top generals were involved in the invasion, implying a relatively high casualty rate.
Joe Biden has announced plans to ban the import of seafood, vodka and diamonds from Russia in retaliation for Putin’s war on Ukraine. Biden said the ban would be part of a move by the United States to revoke normal trade relations with Russia. The United States has also imposed sanctions on a group of Russia’s elite, including billionaire Viktor Vekselberg, three close to Putin’s spokesman and lawmakers.
Russia has decided to block Instagram after its parent company, Meta, said it would allow calls for violence against Putin and Russian soldiers involved in the invasion of Ukraine to appear on the social media platform. Russian prosecutors have demanded that access to Instagram be blocked as authorities move to recognize Meta as an “extremist organization”.
Deutsche Bank and Sony Pictures, have joined the exodus of Western companies from Russia. In a statement posted on its website, German Bank said it was “terminating our remaining business in Russia” and that “there will be no new business in Russia.”
The United States has accused Russia of violating nuclear security principles. On Friday, US Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said the United States was concerned about “Russia’s reckless actions and violations of nuclear security principles”, including the shutdown of parts supplies. seconded to nuclear facilities, concerns about the conditions of personnel and damage to nuclear research facilities.
Western intelligence agencies are investigating a cyberattack by unidentified hackers. The attack disrupted high-speed satellite internet access in Ukraine, coinciding with the Russian invasion, Reuters reported, citing three people with direct knowledge of the incident.
Ukraine accused Russia of violating international law today by kidnapping the mayor of Melitopol, a Ukrainian town that fell under Russian control during the invasion, reports Reuters. Ukrainian officials said the mayor of Melitopol Ivan Fedorov was kidnapped after being falsely accused of terrorism.