BOSTON – Twenty-four hours after internet service was disconnected to Ukraine’s Black Sea port of Kherson, which Russian troops seized in early March, it has resumed but is now under Kremlin control, network analysts say.
“Someone must have activated a line from Crimea to Kherson,” said Doug Madory, director of internet analysis for Kentik Inc. He called the development “eerily similar” to what occurred after Russia annexed Crimea in 2014.
The London-based internet monitor Netblocks, like Madory, reported that the Kherson region’s traffic had been rerouted as of Sunday evening through Russia’s state-controlled Rostelecom after a day-long outage.
On Sunday, Ukrainian officials said internet and cellular communications were cut in a large area of the Kherson region and part of the Zaporizhzhia region and blamed Russia. They attributed the outages to breakages in fiber optic backbone cables and a power outage.
The Ukrainian State Service of Special Communication said the Kremlin had falsely claimed Ukraine’s government had ordered a shutdown.
In a statement, it called the outage “another enemy attempt to leave Ukrainians without access to the true information” and suggested Moscow was preparing to try to cement political control by introducing the Russian ruble as currency and staging a “possible fake referendum.”
KEY DEVELOPMENTS IN THE RUSSIA-UKRAINE WAR:
– Evacuation of civilians from Ukrainian steel plant begins
– Pelosi, in surprise Kyiv trip, vows unbending US support
– Jill Biden to meet Ukrainian refugees in Romania, Slovakia
BRUSSELS – Poland urged its European Union partners on Monday to unite and impose sweeping sanctions on Russia’s oil and natural gas sectors over the war in Ukraine, and not to cave in to pressure to pay for their gas in Russian rubles.
EU ministers are meeting in Brussels to discuss their response to Russia’s decision last week to cut gas supplies to Bulgaria and Poland. Energy giant Gazprom says the two countries failed to pay their bills in April.
“We will call for immediate sanctions on Russian oil and gas. This is the next, and urgent, and absolute step,” Polish Climate and Environment Minister Anna Moskwa said. “We already have coal. Now it’s time for oil, and (the) second step is for gas. The best option is take them all together.”
Russian energy giant Gazprom cut supplies to Bulgaria and Poland last week after President Vladimir Putin said that “unfriendly” countries must start paying for gas in rubles, Russia’s currency. Bulgaria and Poland have refused to do so, like most EU countries. More Gazprom bills are due May 20, and the bloc is wary that Russia might turn off more taps then.
The 27 nation EU imports around 40% of the gas it consumes from Russia. But some member countries, notably Hungary and Slovakia, are more heavily dependent on Russian supplies than others, and support for a gradual phasing in of an oil embargo is emerging.
The regional administration said it expects the repair work will be completed Wednesday.
Kursk regional Gov. Roman Starovoit said Sunday that the bridge was blown up by unidentified attackers and the Investigative Committee, Russia’s top state investigative agency, has launched a criminal probe into what it described as a “terrorist act.”
Officials didn’t specify the significance of the bridge for the war, but it sits on a key railway link used to ferry supplies to Russian troops fighting in eastern Ukraine.
Kristina Kvien, U.S. Embassy charge d’affaires, attended a news conference Monday in Lviv to highlight the diplomatic return.
In recent days, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited, promising diplomats would return.
He tweeted to say that it was “horrible” to witness the destruction, which he viewed with his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba.
Kofod also said that Denmark firmly supports the work to investigate and prosecute those responsible for killing civilians in those areas, referring to the International Criminal Court’s work in investigating possible war crimes.
Denmark’s Embassy in Kyiv reopened Monday after closing earlier in the war. Kofod said he hoisted the Danish flag on the building.
Odesa region Gov. Maksym Marchenko said that the Russians on Monday hit a bridge across the Dniester Estuary west of Odesa where the Dniester River flows into the Black Sea. The bridge already had been heavily damaged in two previous Russian missile strikes.
The bridge provides the only railway connection and the key highway link to areas west of Odesa. Its destruction cuts access to shipments of weapons and other cargo from neighboring Romania.
The attacks on the bridge followed a claim by a senior Russian military officer that Russia aims to take control of the entire south of Ukraine and build a land corridor to the separatist Transnistria region of Moldova, where tensions have recently escalated.
The region broke away after a short civil war in the early 1990s, and is unrecognized by most countries. An estimated 1,500 Russian soldiers are stationed there. Ukrainian and Western officials have voiced concern that Russia could use the region to open a new front in the war against Ukraine.
In an interview with an Italian news channel, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov claimed that Ukraine could still have Nazi elements even if some figures, including President Volodymry Zelenskyy, were Jewish. “Hitler also had Jewish origins, so it doesn’t mean anything,” he said, according to an Italian translation.
“Lavrov could not help hiding the deeply rooted antisemitism of the Russian elites,” Kuleba said in a tweet Monday. “His heinous remarks are offensive to President Zelenskyy, Ukraine, Israel, and the Jewish people. More broadly, they demonstrate that today’s Russia is full of hatred towards other nations.”
MOSCOW – The Russian military says 69 people who came out of the the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol on Sunday chose to be evacuated to Ukraine-controlled territories, while 57 others who left the plant and the surrounding areas asked to stay in the areas under Russian control.
The Russian Defense Ministry said Monday that on Saturday, 21 people left the plant and 25 more left their homes in the neighboring areas; all of them “voluntarily decided to stay” in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic run by Russia-backed separatists. The Ministry said that on May 1, 80 more people left the plant, of which 11 “remained in the Donetsk Republic.”
It said 69 others decided to “leave for the territory controlled by the Kyiv regime.”
The Ukrainian authorities have not yet confirmed this data, and it could not be independently verified.
COPENHAGEN, Denmark – Latvia’s Foreign Ministry on Monday said it “strongly urges” its nationals against visiting Transnistria and to leave if they are currently there.
The ministry in Riga was taking into account the existing regional security threats and the Moldovan parliament’s recent decision to extend the state of emergency throughout the country for 60 days, the Baltic News Service reported.
ATHENS, Greece – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says that half a million Ukrainians have been “illegally taken to Russia, or other places, against their will.”
Speaking to Greek state TV ERT, Zelenskyy said the remaining civilians in the Azovstal factory in the city of Mariupol are afraid to board buses because they believe they will be taken to Russia.
The United Nations has begun evacuating civilians from the factory.
Zelenskyy said U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres assured him that those evacuated would end up in an area controlled by the government of Ukraine.
“We want to believe this,” the Ukrainian leader said.
WARSAW, Poland – A top-level U.S. congressional delegation led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was in Warsaw on Monday to express gratitude to Poland for its humanitarian and other support for Ukraine.
Pelosi and a half dozen U.S. lawmakers met with President Andrzej Duda and Polish lawmakers in Warsaw. The visit followed a weekend visit to Kyiv where they met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, pledging to support his country until it defeats Russia.
She said that during their meeting the members of her delegation “expressed America’s deep gratitude to the Polish government and Polish people for opening their hearts and homes to Ukrainian refugees, and we reaffirmed our nation’s pledge to continue supporting Poland’s humanitarian efforts.”
COPENHAGEN, Denmark – A Finnish nuclear energy company said Monday it has decided to terminate with immediate effect a contract with Russian state nuclear energy corporation Rosatom for the delivery of a nuclear power plant, in part due to the war in Ukraine “which has worsened the risks for the project.”
The company, Fennovoima, also cited “significant delays and inability to deliver the project” for terminating the deal to build the northern Finland Hanhikivi Nuclear Power Plant.
It was proposed to house a Russian-designed pressurized water reactor, with a capacity of 1200 MW and the nuclear power plant was to generate approximately 10% of Finland’s electricity needs, the company said.
In April 2021, the company announced that construction was to begin in 2023 and commercial operation would start in 2029.
In a statement, Fennovoimas’s CEO Joachim Specht said the decision “is estimated to have a significant employee impact in Fennovoima and is expected to impact also the supply chain companies.”
MOSCOW – The Russian military says its forces have struck dozens of Ukrainian military targets in the east.
Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said Monday that Russian warplanes fired precision guided missiles to hit 38 Ukrainian targets, including concentrations of troops and weapons, over the last 24 hours. He said that a Russian air strike also destroyed an ammunition depot near Chervone in the Zaporizhzhia region.
Konashenkov said that a Ukrainian MiG-29 fighter jet was downed near the eastern town of Slovyansk.
The announcements couldn’t be independently confirmed.
The General Staff of the Ukrainian armed forces said Monday that several Russian battalions had been sent from Mariupol to the town of Popasna in the eastern Luhansk region. Popasna has been one of the epicenters of fighting in the east as the Russian military has sought to break through the Ukrainian defenses there in a bid to encircle Ukrainian forces in the east.
The Ukrainian General Staff also said that the Russians were also trying to press their attacks from Izyum to the towns of Slovyansk and Barvinkove. Ukrainian military analyst Oleh Zhdanov told The Associated Press that the redeployment of forces from Mariupol to the frontline in the east reflect their failure to make any gains there.
The Russian military is still struggling to uproot the last remaining Ukrainian pocket of resistance at the giant Azovstal steel mill in Mariupol. The U.N. is set to coordinate an effort Monday to evacuate civilians sheltering at the plant.
The office of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Monday that at least three people were killed and another three, including a child, were wounded in the eastern Luhansk region over the last 24 hours. It said that four people were wounded in the shelling in another eastern region of Donetsk.
The regional administration in the Zaporizhzhia region further west said that at least two people died and another four were wounded in the Russian shelling of the town of Orikhiv.
BERLIN – Germany says it would be able to cope if supplies of Russian oil were cut off due to an embargo or a decision by Moscow.
Economy Minister Robert Habeck said that Russian oil now accounts for 12% of total imports, down from 35% before the war, and most of it goes to the Schwedt refinery near Berlin.
Habeck acknowledged that losing those supplies could result in a “bumpy” situation for the capital and surrounding region, with price hikes and shortages, but that wouldn’t result in Germany “slipping into an oil crisis.”
He said the issue of an oil embargo would be discussed at an EU energy ministers meeting in Brussels, attended by also India. Still, he added that “other countries aren’t so far yet and I think that needs to be respected.”
COPENHAGEN, Denmark – Denmark has summoned Russia’s Ambassador in Copenhagen on Monday to explain the violation by a Russian military reconnaissance plane of Danish airspace last week.
The plane, an AN-30 propeller plane, first briefly entered the Danish airspace late April 29 east of the Danish Baltic Island of Bornholm before flying into Swedish airspace.
Denmark’s Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod said Monday on Twitter that it was “extremely worrying in the current situation.”
Over the weekend, Swedish Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist said the violation was “unacceptable” and “unprofessional.”
“Hitler also had Jewish origins, so it doesn’t mean anything,” he said, according to an Italian translation.
In a statement Monday, Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid called the remarks “unforgivable and scandalous and a horrible historical error.”
“The Jews did not murder themselves in the Holocaust,” Lapid said. “The lowest level of racism against Jews is to blame Jews themselves for antisemitism.”
Israel’s Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem called the remarks “absurd, delusional, dangerous and deserving of condemnation.”
The stern reaction stands in contrast to Israel’s position on the war in Ukraine, where it has tried to maintain a semblance of neutrality. It relies on Russia for security coordination in Syria and has been measured in its criticism of Russia’s invasion. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has also tried mediating between the two countries, though the efforts appear to have stalled.
COPENHAGEN, Denmark – Denmark will become the first Nordic country to reopen its diplomatic mission in Kyiv, meaning Danes “can have a direct cooperation by having our embassy and ambassador in the heart of the Ukrainian capital,” Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod said Monday.
Kofod said the improved security situation meant that Ambassador Ole Egberg Mikkelsen and his staff can return to Kyiv, where their embassy reopens Monday.
However, Kofod who had traveled to the Ukrainian capital for the reopening of the embassy, told Danish media that “this is not a normal situation” as he spoke of the overall circumstances in Ukraine. Denmark, he added, still advises against all travel to the country where there “is a fierce war.”
ISTANBUL – Turkey’s president says the war in Ukraine shouldn’t negatively affect the tourism season.
After prayers marking the beginning of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that Russian President Vladimir Putin is “very sensitive” about Turkey’s need for tourism revenue and has already pledged to give his support.
Turkey suffers from skyrocketing inflation and needs tourists’ foreign currencies. Erdogan added Saudi tourists would also be arriving following his visit to Saudi Arabia last week.
In an interview with Greek state broadcaster ERT, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Russian tourism brought revenue to neighboring Greece and Turkey and called this “blood money.” Zelenskyy pointed to a double standard where Turkey acted as a meditator between Ukraine and Russia while preparing destinations for Russian tourists.
Erdogan said he’ll speak with Russian President Vladimir Putin this week to discuss speeding up evacuations from the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol and to find a way for grain exports from Ukraine and Russia.
The comment Monday came as part of a daily briefing on Twitter the British Defense Ministry has offered about the ongoing war in Ukraine. The British military believes Russia committed over 120 so-called “battalion tactical groups” into the war since February, which represents 65% of all of Moscow’s combat strength.
The ministry said, “It is likely that more than a quarter of these units have now been rendered combat ineffective.”
Combat ineffective is a term that refers to a military’s ability to wage war. Losing soldiers to wounds and death, as well as having equipment damaged or destroyed, affects that.
The British military said that some of Russia’s most elite forces, like the VDV Airborne, “have suffered the highest levels of attrition.”
It added: “It will probably take years for Russia to reconstitute these forces.”
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