Latest political developments
- Ukraine announces war crimes charges against a Russian soldier.
- Ukraine closes a gas pipeline carrying fuel from Russia.
- Russia discusses the idea of annexing Kherson.
War Day 77 Terrain Updates
- Zelensky says that the Ukrainian army pushed back the Russian troops from Kharkiv.
- A Russian rocket attack targets the area around Zaporizhzhia, host city of Mariupol evacuees.
- Dozens of airstrikes target the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, according to the combat regiment.
Ukraine’s top prosecutor unveiled plans for the first war crimes trial of a captured Russian soldier on Wednesday, as fighting raged in the east and south and the Kremlin considered the possibility of annexing a corner of the country he had seized at the start of the invasion.
Attorney General Iryna Venediktova said her office charged the sergeant. Vadin Shyshimarin, 21, in the murder of a 62-year-old unarmed civilian who was shot while riding a bicycle in February, four days after the war began.
Shyshimarin, who served in a tank unit, was accused of shooting through a car window at the man from the village of Chupakhivka in the northeast of the country. Venediktova said the soldier faced up to 15 years in prison. She did not say when the trial would begin.
Venediktova’s office said it investigated more than 10,700 alleged war crimes committed by Russian forces and identified more than 600 suspects.
Numerous alleged atrocities came to light last month after Moscow forces abandoned their bid to capture kyiv and withdrew from the capital, exposing mass graves and streets and yards littered with bodies in towns like Bucha. Residents recounted murders, arson, rape, torture and mutilation.
Natural gas supply cut off
Economically, Ukraine on Wednesday closed a pipeline that carries Russian natural gas to homes and industries in Western Europe, marking the first time since the start of the war that kyiv has disrupted the westward flow of one of Moscow’s most lucrative exports.
But the immediate effect of the power cut will likely be limited, in part because Russia can divert gas to another pipeline and because Europe relies on a variety of suppliers.
Meanwhile, a Kremlin-based politician in the southern region of Kherson, site of the first major Ukrainian city to fall in the war, said regional officials wanted Russian President Vladimir Putin to make Kherson a “proper region”. of Russia – that is, to annex it.
“The city of Kherson is Russia,” Kirill Stremousov, deputy head of the Moscow-installed Kherson regional administration, told Russian news agency RIA Novosti. He said regional officials wanted Russian President Vladimir Putin to make Kherson a “full-fledged region” of Russia.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said it would be up to “the people of the Kherson region” to make such a request, and that any decision to annex territory would have to be carefully assessed by experts for s ensure that its legal basis is “absolutely clear.”
Russia has repeatedly used annexation or recognition of breakaway republics as a tactic in recent years to win chunks of former Soviet republics Ukraine and Georgia. Russia annexed Crimea in 2014 after holding a referendum on the peninsula on whether it wanted to be part of Russia.
Kherson, a Black Sea port of about 300,000 people, provides access to fresh water for neighboring Crimea and is seen as a gateway to wider Russian control over southern Ukraine. It was captured at the start of the war, becoming the first major city in Ukraine to fall.
Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak scoffed at the idea of its annexation, tweeting: “The invaders can ask to join even Mars or Jupiter. The Ukrainian army will liberate Kherson no matter what word games they play .”
Ukraine reports gas siphoning
On the energy front, the Ukrainian gas pipeline operator said it had decided to halt Russian shipments through its hub in Novopskov, in a part of eastern Ukraine controlled by separatists backed by Moscow, due to the interference of the “occupying forces”, including the apparent siphoning off of gas. . He also complained of interference along the route last month.
The hub handles about a third of Russian gas transiting through Ukraine to Western Europe. But analysts said much of the gas could be redirected via another pipeline from Russia that runs through Ukraine, and preliminary data suggested this was already happening.
However, Europe also receives natural gas from other pipelines and other countries.
“We are losing a few percent of the overall European gas supply, if you also consider imports and domestic production,” said Tom Marzec-Manser, head of gas analysis at the gas news firm. the ICIS market. “So it’s not a huge cut in gas supply” for Europe.
Yet European gas futures have swung into the news, meaning consumers could face higher energy bills at a time when prices are already rising.
It was unclear whether Russia would take an immediate hit, as it has long-term contracts and other means of transporting the gas.
Russian forces pushed back near Kharkiv: Zelensky
On the battlefield, Ukrainian officials said a Russian rocket attack targeted an area around Zaporizhzhia, destroying unspecified infrastructure. There were no immediate reports of casualties.
The southeastern city has been a refuge for civilians fleeing the Russian siege in the devastated port city of Mariupol.
Russian troops continued to shell the steel plant which is the last stronghold of Ukrainian resistance in Mariupol, its defenders said. The Azov regiment said on social media on Wednesday that Russian forces had carried out 38 airstrikes in the past 24 hours on the grounds of the Azovstal steelworks.
The factory, with its network of tunnels and bunkers, housed hundreds of Ukrainian soldiers and civilians during a months-long siege. Dozens of civilians have been evacuated in recent days, but Ukrainian officials have said some may still be trapped there.
In his late-night address on Tuesday, President Volodymyr Zelensky suggested that the Ukrainian military gradually move Russian troops away from Kharkiv, the country’s second city and a key to Russia’s offensive in Donbass, the eastern industrial region which, according to the Kremlin, is its main objective. .
Zelensky said his troops drove Russian forces out of four villages near Kharkiv in the northeast of the country.
Ukraine targets Russian forces on Snake Island
Meanwhile, Britain’s Ministry of Defense said Ukraine was targeting Russian forces on Snake Island in the northwest Black Sea in a bid to disrupt Moscow’s attempts to expand its influence.
Russia sought to reinforce its garrison on Snake Island, while “Ukraine managed to strike Russian air defenses and resupply ships with Bayraktar drones,” the ministry said on Twitter. He said Russian supply ships had minimal protection after the Russian Navy withdrew to Crimea after losing the flagship of its Black Sea Fleet.
Satellite photos analyzed by The Associated Press show fighting there.
But the statement warned: “If Russia consolidates its position on [Snake] An island with strategic air defense and coastal defense cruise missiles, they could dominate the northwest of the Black Sea.”
Separately, Ukraine said it shot down a cruise missile targeting the Black Sea port city of Odessa on Wednesday.
Fears of protracted conflict
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Wednesday the time would come when there would be peace talks over Ukraine, but he did not see that time in the immediate future.
“This war will not last forever. There will be a time when peace negotiations will take place. I don’t see that in the immediate future. But I can say one thing: we will never give up,” said António Guterres.
US and NATO officials have expressed concern that Russia could dig into a protracted conflict as the war enters its third month with few signs of a decisive military victory for either side and no resolution in sight. .
The Atlantic Alliance is also waiting to see if Sweden and Finland, Russia’s two key Baltic Sea neighbors, would announce their intention to join NATO, a move the Kremlin would view as an affront.