Moment when a Russian plane crashes into a US drone
Slovakia will send its 13-man fleet of MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine, becoming the second NATO member after Poland to heed President Volodymyr Zelensky’s pleas for aircraft to help Kiev repel the Russian invasion.
Prime Minister Eduard Heger announced his government’s unanimous decision on Friday to send the grounded fleet of Soviet-era jets just hours after Poland’s Andrzej Duda announced plans to send four jets within days, and there will be more to follow.
The Kremlin replied on Friday that the fighter jets would be destroyed and would make no difference to the course of the conflict.
It came as Moscow announced that Chinese President Xi Jinping has accepted an invitation from Vladimir Putin to pay a state visit to Russia on Monday.
China and Russia concluded a borderless partnership in February 2022, just weeks before the invasion of Ukraine, and Beijing recently offered to broker peace in the war.
Meanwhile, according to the Pentagon, Russia was likely trying to retrieve debris from the US surveillance drone it allegedly intercepted over the Black Sea.
Breaking: ICC issues Putin’s arrest warrant for war crimes in Ukraine
The International Criminal Court (ICC) has issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin, accusing him of responsibility for war crimes committed in Ukraine.
Moscow has repeatedly denied allegations that it committed atrocities since the invasion last February.
The announcement comes hours after a UN-backed investigation found that Russian attacks on civilians in Ukraine — including systematic torture and murder in occupied territories — amount to war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity.
My colleague Tara Cobham has our breaking report, which you can refresh for updates:
Andy GregoryMarch 17, 2023 3:23 PM
Hungary’s parliament is expected to vote on NATO’s bids in two weeks
Hungary’s parliament is expected to vote on March 31 to ratify Finland and Sweden’s bids to join NATO, Viktor Orban’s ruling Fidesz party has told Reuters.
While most member states have given the green light to the applications, Turkey and Hungary have yet to ratify them, and Finnish President Sauli Niinisto is meeting with his Turkish counterpart today – hoping Ankara can reverse its opposition.
Andy GregoryMarch 17, 2023 3:03 PM
The White House says it is very concerned about China’s role as a peacemaker in Ukraine
The United States is deeply concerned that China could position itself as a peacemaker in the war in Ukraine by promoting a ceasefire, the White House said.
A ceasefire right now would not lead to a just and lasting peace between Ukraine and Russia, White House national security spokesman John Kirby told reporters.
Andy GregoryMarch 17, 2023 2:31 PM
Russian politician shares video of Crimea schoolchildren learning to load guns in class
Footage shared by Vladimir Konstantinov, a Russian politician, shows schoolchildren learning how to use guns and engage in hand-to-hand combat in a classroom in Russian-occupied Crimea, my colleague reports Holly Patrick.
Schoolchildren in Crimea learn how to load guns in the classroom
Kindergarten students were among “more than 60 people engaged in martial arts [and] drill training,” said the Speaker of the Parliament of the Republic of Crimea. “In the institution, an electronic shooting range was set up for conducting shooting lessons,” he added.
Russia is reportedly rolling out basic military courses in secondary schools later this year.
Andy GregoryMarch 17, 2023 2:03 PM
Finland’s president visits Ankara – raising hopes for an agreement on NATO membership
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is meeting with his Finnish counterpart in Ankara today, raising hopes that Turkey could finally approve Finland’s bid to join NATO.
Erdogan suggested on Wednesday that his country could soon agree to Finland’s application to join NATO, following earlier comments from Turkish officials that Finland joining ahead of Sweden was a more likely outcome.
Asked by reporters if the Turkish parliament could ratify Finland’s membership after the visit of Finnish President Sauli Niinisto: “God willing, if it is best… Whatever the process, it will work. We will do our part. We will keep our promise.”
Niinisto arrived in Turkey on Thursday and toured areas hit by a magnitude 7.8 earthquake last month that killed more than 52,000 people in Turkey and Syria.
“I have known Erdogan for a long time. I’m sure he has important messages,” Niinisto said on Thursday while visiting Kahramanmaras, one of the provinces worst hit by the Feb. 6 earthquake.
Before leaving Helsinki, Mr Niinisto said Turkish officials had requested his presence in Ankara to announce Turkey’s decision on the Finnish bid. He also stressed his support for Sweden’s swift admission and said he had a “good talk” with Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson prior to his trip to Turkey.
Andy GregoryMarch 17, 2023 1:36 PM
The Chinese foreign minister rarely calls the Ukrainian counterpart
My colleague Alisha Rahman Sarkar has more on the news that China’s foreign minister made a rare phone call with his Ukrainian counterpart ahead of Xi Jinping’s state visit to Russia.
Qin Gang told Dmytro Kuleba that Beijing was concerned about the war in Europe getting out of hand and urged talks with Russia about a solution, according to China’s foreign ministry.
Andy GregoryMarch 17, 2023 1:03 PM
Ukrainian soldiers sent to defend Bakhmut ‘fear being sent to their deaths’
Ukrainian soldiers fighting in Bakhmut fear “being sent to their deaths” amid relentless pressure from Russian troops to take the city, my colleague Martha MacHardy reports.
It is said that Vladimir Putin’s forces are two or three times the size of the Ukrainians on the Bakhmut front, where an estimated 20,000 to 30,000 troops are currently fighting.
“If they take us to Bakhmut, I already know that I will be sent to death,” a Ukrainian soldier named Volodymyr told the Kiev independent.
The 54-year-old, an infantryman from the 93rd Mechanized Brigade, said he had trouble eating after months of fighting. “[The Russians] keep shooting at us, but we have no artillery,’ he said. “So we have nothing to fall back on them with. I don’t know if I will return or not. We just get killed.”
Andy GregoryMarch 17, 2023 12:29 PM
Warplane deliveries show NATO members increasing ‘direct involvement’ in war, Kremlin says
The Kremlin has described the fighter jets pledged by Poland and Slovakia as another example of NATO members “raising the level of their direct involvement in the conflict”.
“The equipment deliveries will of course not affect the outcome of the special military operation in any way, but it may bring more misfortune to Ukraine and the Ukrainian people,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.
Andy GregoryMar 17, 2023 12:01
Kremlin accuses Kiev of ‘illegally attacking’ Ukrainian Orthodox Church
The Kremlin has accused Ukraine of “illegally attacking” the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) after officials in Kiev ordered the church to leave the 980-year-old monastic complex in the capital where it is located.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and other Ukrainian leaders have accused the long-established Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) — which accepted the authority of the Moscow Patriarch until last year’s invasion — of undermining Ukrainian unity and cooperation with Russia.
“With these illegal attacks on the Church, the Kiev regime is once again showing its character, the character we are fighting against, the character we must stop through the [military] operation taking place,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.
Since October, Ukraine’s security service has conducted searches of UOC churches, imposed sanctions on bishops and moneylenders, and opened criminal cases against dozens of clergy.
Andy GregoryMarch 17, 2023 11:29 am
What is China’s peace proposal to end the war in Ukraine?
China has offered a 12-point peace proposal to end the war in Ukraine, and Chinese President Xi Jinping will visit Moscow next week.
Beijing foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said Xi’s visit to Russia – his first in nearly four years – was partly to promote “peace”.
My colleague Matt Mathers has this report on the contents of China’s peace proposal:
Andy GregoryMarch 17, 2023 11:02 AM