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Ukraine warns more shelling possible on Russia's Victory Day

Increased shelling warning

Officials from Ukraine’s national security council warned residents Friday against the increased risk of shelling on Sunday and Monday, coinciding with Russia’s Victory Day celebrations.

A Facebook post published on the profile of the Center for Counteracting Disinformation, under the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine, urged Ukrainians not to ignore air raid sirens.

“Since Russian troops cannot boast of any significant achievements on the front by Victory Day, the risk of massive shelling of Ukrainian cities these days is increasing,” the post said.

Separately on Friday, Kyiv’s mayor, Vitali Klitschko, said authorities will not be extending the curfew in Kyiv; one has already been introduced. But street patrols would be reinforced.

Moscow commemorates the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany in World War II on May 9 each year.

KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s deputy prime minister says 41 more Ukrainians have been released in a prisoner swap with Russia.

Iryna Vereshchuk wrote on Telegram that the 41 people who've been returned include 28 military personnel and 13 civilians.

MOSCOW — Russia has no intention of deploying tactical nuclear weapons in Ukraine, a foreign ministry spokesman said on Friday, a day after Moscow’s top diplomat in the U.S. chided Western officials for targeting it with “baseless” accusations.

“Russia firmly abides by the principle that there can be no victors in a nuclear war and it must not be unleashed,” Alexey Zaitsev said. He added that Russian nuclear doctrine does not envisage any scenarios for potential strikes which would apply to Moscow’s military goals in Ukraine.

Nevertheless, Zaitsev added that “any provocations whatsoever can be expected” from Ukraine and the West, and that Russia has to “be ready for any development in the media space and directly on the ground.”

His statement echoed remarks made by Russia’s ambassador in Washington on Thursday.

In an interview with Newsweek, Anatoly Antonov slammed what he called “a flurry of blatant misrepresentation of Russian officials’ statements on our country’s nuclear policy.” He accused top U.S. military leaders — including the Defense Secretary and Joint Chiefs of Staff — of falsely blaming Moscow for escalating nuclear tensions, calling their claims “baseless” and “part of a propaganda campaign against Russia in response to the steps taken to neutralize threats to our national security emanating from the Ukrainian territory.”

He also blamed the wider Western bloc for what he called its “irresponsible” handling of the situation in Ukraine, implying that NATO’s rhetoric and continuing support for Kyiv contributed to heightening nuclear tensions.

“The current generation of NATO politicians clearly does not take the nuclear threat seriously,” Antonov told Newsweek.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov and Russia’s parliament speaker Vyacheslav Volodin both asserted this week that Moscow would not use nuclear weapons first.

KHERSON, Ukraine — A Russian senator said Friday that Russia will remain “forever” in the southern Ukrainian region of Kherson, whose capital has been occupied by Moscow’s troops since early March.

Andrey Turchak from the ruling United Russia party visited Kherson on Friday, meeting with its Russian-appointed governor Volodymyr Saldo.

“I want to say once again - Russia is here forever. There should be no doubt about it,” Turchak is heard saying in a video published by Russia’s state RIA Novosti agency.

“We will live together, develop this rich region, rich in historical heritage, rich thanks to the people who live here,” he added.

When asked about the future formal status of the Kherson region, Turchak cautioned against “running too far ahead” and said that “in any case, the status is determined by the residents.”

BERLIN — German Chancellor Olaf Scholz says his country is providing Ukraine with “all the support we can give and also take responsibility for” in its war with Russia.

Speaking to business leaders in Hamburg on Friday, Scholz said Russia must not gain the upper hand in the conflict, which he described as a “war of destruction” waged by Moscow against Ukraine.

The German leader said that Russia’s position as a global power with a seat on the U.N. Security Council means that “if (Vladimir) Putin gets away with it then there’s a risk of international lawlessness.”

LONDON — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says he is still open to negotiations with Russia, but he repeated his position that Moscow must withdraw its forces to their pre-invasion positions.

Zelenskyy told a meeting at London’s Chatham House think-tank on Friday that “regaining the situation as of the 23rd of February” — the day before the invasion — is a prerequisite for talks.

He said “in that situation we will be able to start discussing things normally,” and Ukraine could use “diplomatic channels” to regain its territory.

The British government, a key ally of Ukraine, has said Russia must be driven from all of Ukraine, including Crimea, which Moscow seized from Ukraine in 2014.

Despite Russia’s intensified attack on Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region, Zelenskyy said there is still space for diplomacy. He said “not all the bridges are yet destroyed,” figuratively speaking.

Asked whether Russia would soon take full control of the besieged port city of Mariupol, Zelenskyy said: “Mariupol will never fall. I’m not talking about heroism or anything … There is nothing there to fall apart. It is already devastated.”

ROME — The European Union’s foreign affairs chief has voiced worry that Russia might expand its war in Ukraine to include Moldova, a small nation that borders southern Ukraine.

Josep Borrell, the top EU diplomat, was asked at a forum in Florence, Italy, on Friday if the European Union was concerned about what could happen to Moldova.

“Yes, we’re very much worried about what can happen,’’ Borrell said. “The temptation to expand the war and affect Moldova is a possibility,’’ Borrell said.

He cited recent explosions in the country as well as the presence of Russian troops. Last month, two explosions in a radio facility close to the border with Ukraine knocked out of service a pair of powerful broadcast antennas in Moldova’s separatist region of Transnistria, according to local police.

Transnistria is a narrow strip of land that has been under the control of separatist authorities since a 1992 war with Moldova. Russia bases some 1,500 troops in the breakaway region, describing them as peacekeepers.

GENEVA — The U.N.’s Food and Agricultural Organization is pointing to “anecdotal evidence” that Russian forces are stealing grain from Ukraine, at a time when the country’s ports have been all but unable to export following the Russian invasion.

Josef Schmidhuber, deputy director of FAO’s markets and trade division, told reporters at a U.N. briefing in Geneva that about 700,000 tons of grain had “disappeared” in Ukraine. He cautioned that there were no “statistics” about possible theft.

“There’s anecdotal evidence that Russian troops have destroyed storage capacity and that they are looting the storage grain that is available,” he said. “They are also stealing farm equipment.”

He pointed to “quite a bit of credibility” to footage shared on social media suggesting that “large amounts of grain all being trucked out of the country by Russia.”

Schmidhuber said that “to the best of my knowledge,” no grain was leaving Ukrainian ports.

“It’s an almost grotesque situation that we see at the moment in Ukraine: There are nearly 25 million tons of grain that could be exported, but they cannot leave the country simply because of the lack of infrastructure and the blockade of the ports,” he said.

LVIV, Ukraine — There are growing suggestions that Ukraine might try to widen its push to seize more territory from Russia outside of Kharkiv, its second-largest city.

Ukrainian chief of defense, Gen. Valerii Zaluzhnyi, said Thursday that a counteroffensive could begin to push Russian forces away from Kharkiv and Izyum, which has been a key node in Russia’s control of the area.

Ukraine in recent days has pushed Russia some 40 kilometers (25 miles) east of Kharkiv, which has been repeatedly struck by Russian shelling.

Further pushing the Russians away may spare the city from more artillery strikes, as well as force Moscow to divert troops from other areas of the front line to maintain its hold on territory there.



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