UPDATE 07:00 Blinken talked with Kuleba about preparing the counter-offensive
US Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken had a telephone conversation with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba. The two – according to a note from Washington – “discussed the ongoing preparations for the counteroffensive” in Kiev, including “how the contributions of international partners can support its success”. Blinken also noted that Ukraine’s sovereignty is “vital for peace and security in Europe” and reaffirmed the commitment of the United States and President Joe Biden.
UPDATE 06:00 Rome armored for Zelensky’s arrival: no-fly zones and snipers
Rome is armored for the arrival of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. The Rome Police Headquarters has launched a safety plan that also includes a no-fly zone and a ban on drones. The use of sniper teams, helicopters and snipers is foreseen.
Also, an increase in controls is expected in train stations, airports and on the main roads and highways. Also, starting tomorrow, a task force will be established in the operations room of the police headquarters, in the area reserved for the management of major events, where all public order and safety services will be coordinated.
There will be about a thousand law enforcement officers on the ground. According to what was learned, the security device also provides for the use of special departments that will support the staff that already accompanies the Ukrainian president during his travels and meetings with President Sergio Mattarella, Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and Pope Francis.
UPDATE 05:00 The deputy of the Russian Duma, Vodolatski, was injured in Lugansk
The First Vice-Chairman of the Inter-Ethnic Affairs Committee of the Russian Duma, Viktor Vodolatsky, was injured following the shelling of Lugansk in Donbass by the armed forces of Ukraine. This was reported by the Russian news agency Tass. “Following the rocket attack on the city of Lugansk – reports the Russian press agency citing the representative of the Luhansk People’s Republic – six children and State Duma deputy Viktor Vodolatski were injured”, the news says.
FT: Ukrainian counter-offensive takes shape with first territorial victories around Bahmut
The Russian Defense Ministry said on Friday that Ukraine had launched a counter-offensive, pointing to the intensification of attacks in eastern Ukraine over the past 48 hours.
The ministry said Friday that Ukraine had launched 26 assaults along a nearly 100-kilometer stretch of the front line near Bahmut and the neighboring town of Soledar, involving more than 1,000 soldiers and up to 40 tanks. The Russian ministry admitted that Russian troops had withdrawn to “more advantageous” positions in some locations, but said it had prevented Ukrainian forces from making progress, reports the Financial Times.
Kiev has denied that a major counter-offensive is underway, saying it is still conducting defensive operations in an area that has seen the heaviest fighting in recent months.
“What is happening now? Enemy troops are advancing in the east in several directions. We are defending ourselves,” said Ukraine’s deputy defense minister, Hanna Maliar. “Defense measures include not only defense in the proper sense, but also counterattacks.”
She added that Russian forces were pushed back more than a kilometer and a half from positions on the southern flank near Bahmut, marking Ukraine’s most significant territorial victory around the city in recent months.
The IAEA will present the Zaporozhye agreement to the UN this month
The head of the UN nuclear watchdog plans to present an agreement with Russia and Ukraine on safeguarding the Zaporozhye nuclear power plant to the UN Security Council this month. This move indicates that a deal could be close to being agreed between the two sides.
The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Grossi, has been trying for months to reach an agreement to reduce the risk of a catastrophic nuclear accident caused by military activity at the plant, which is the largest in Europe.
The plant has been occupied by Russia for more than a year and has been subjected to numerous attacks.
Given that Ukraine is preparing a counteroffensive in the area, there is a risk that the fighting near the plant and its six reactors will intensify.
Others said Ukraine, which has long opposed the plan, now supports it, while Russia’s position is less clear.
At least 480 children killed by Russia, says Ukraine
At least 480 children were killed by the invading army, announced the Ukrainian General Prosecutor’s Office.
Another 968 have been injured since the start of the war, he added.
The office has provided regular updates on alleged war crimes committed by Russian forces since Vladimir Putin launched his invasion.
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