Day 370 of the Invasion of Ukraine: St Petersburg Closes its Skies to Flights due to 'Unknown Object'

Ukraine | February 28, 2023, Tuesday // 12:06|  views

Day 370 of the invasion of Ukraine. Summary of key events in the last 24 hours:

  • Hacker attack forced Russian media to issue a false aerial alert
  • Stoltenberg: Ukraine will join NATO in the long run
  • St Petersburg closes its skies to flights due to 'unknown object'
  • Peskov assured that Putin remains open to contacts with Macron and Scholz
  • Moscow: The US is preparing a provocation with "toxic chemicals" in Ukraine
  • USA: China has sided with Russia and is not an "honest mediator" for peace in Ukraine
  • Zelensky again called for the delivery of combat aircraft
  • Russia surrounds Bakhmut, according to Zelensky, it is "increasingly difficult" there
  • Peskov: We will not resume participation in START until Washington listens to Moscow
  • ISW: Putin is trying to blame the West for threatening Russia's existence
  • Putin and Xi have declared a new cold war, writes a British politician
  • A third of Ukrainian refugees in the EU want to return home
  • Algeria discussed strengthening defense ties with Russia, the president will visit Moscow

Hacker attack forced Russian media to issue a false aerial alert

A hacker attack has forced several Russian local media to issue a false alarm today, calling for people to seek hiding from an upcoming missile attack, said the Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations, quoted by Reuters.

"As a result of a hacker attack against radio and television servers in some regions of the country, information was circulated to declare air alarm," the ministry said in a statement. "This information is false and it do not respond to reality," the statement added.

Among the regions where false information was spread is Crimea - a peninsula, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014, RIA Novosti reported.

An image of a man running from a flying rocket, with the inscription: "Everyone to the hiding immediately!", appeared on a local television.

The sound of strong sirens sounded on radio stations and a message was heard: "Attention, attention! A warning of air alarm was issued! Everyone should be directed to shelters immediately! Attention, attention! Missile threat!".

Russian state media have quoted local officials, according to which Ukraine is behind the attack. So far, there is no official comment from Kyiv.

Stoltenberg: Ukraine will join NATO in the long run

"Ukraine will become a NATO member in the long run," said Alliance leader Jens Stoltenberg, but stressed that the immediate future was to remain an independent state.

"NATO allies have agreed that Ukraine will become a member of our alliance, but at the same time it is a long-term perspective," Stoltenberg told reporters during his visit to the Finnish capital Helsinki.

St Petersburg closes its skies to flights due to 'unknown object'

The airspace over St. Petersburg is closed to aircraft, report Russian media and channels in "Telegram".

It has only been officially confirmed that "Pulkovo" airport no longer accepts planes - this is what "Kommersant" writes, quoting a message from the local government. Later, the St. Petersburg media "Fontanka" reported that the Russian Ministry of Defense had transmitted to "Pulkovo" information about an "unmarked object sighted".

However, the reason was not disclosed by the authorities in the first 40 minutes after the announcement. In recent months, airports in Russia have come under drone attacks believed to be done by Ukraine, but such actions usually target military sites.

Data from the flight tracking platform Flightradar24 shows that the airport is actually not accepting incoming flights, the departures have been suspended. This regime was first in effect for an hour, now it is expected to last until 15:00 p.m. Bulgarian time. There are currently no civilian flights in the sky, and those from Moscow to St. Petersburg are circling or returning.

According to the popular publication Baza, a plan has been activated in the city for cases of illegal crossing of the border and the appearance of "unknown objects" in the airspace.

REN TV also talked about such an object, citing an "anonymous source" to report that "there are military planes in the sky looking for the offender". This media and Baza are talking about closed airspace within a radius of 200 sq km.

Санкт Петербург затвори небето си за полети заради

Peskov assured that Putin remains open to contacts with Macron and Scholz

Russian President Vladimir Putin remains open to contacts with his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said this in an interview with "Izvestia" newspaper.

Dmitry Peskov said that President Putin has always been and remains open to any contacts that can help Russia achieve its goals in one way or another - preferably through negotiations, but when this is impossible - through military means. From Peskov's words, it became clear that President Macron and Chancellor Scholz have not sought contact with Putin recently.

Indeed, we heard many statements in which Mr. Macron and Mr. Scholz said that they would continue to communicate with Putin to find a way out of the situation. However, there have been no initiatives lately.”

Peskov added that France and Germany are indirectly involved in the conflict on the side of Ukraine, which calls into question their role as mediators.

"Then how can you count on mediation potential? No way! This potential simply disappears".

Moscow: The US is preparing a provocation with "toxic chemicals" in Ukraine

The US is planning a provocation in Ukraine with the use of toxic chemicals, the Russian Ministry of Defense announced today, Reuters reported.

The agency cited former US ambassador to Russia John Sullivan, who on February 22, stated at a conference of an influential American non-governmental organization that "Russian troops plan to use chemical weapons in the area of the special military operation", reported TASS.

"We view this information as an intention by the US and its accomplices to carry out a provocation with the use of toxic chemicals," Lt. Gen. Igor Kirilov, commander of the Russian Federation's radiation, chemical and biological defense forces, said at today's briefing.

Kirilov indicated that Russia "will find and punish the real culprits."

USA: China has sided with Russia and is not an "honest mediator" for peace in Ukraine

China has been "anything but an honest broker" in its efforts to bring peace to Ukraine and "quite obviously" sided with Russia, US State Department spokesman Ned Price said, quoted by Reuters.

China has provided Russia with "diplomatic support, political support, economic support, rhetorical support," Price said at a press conference, BTA notes.

The head of Ukraine's military intelligence, Kirill Budanov, meanwhile, rejected claims that China was considering supplying Russia with weapons and told US media that he had not seen "signs that such things are even being discussed," AFP reported.

Senior US officials said on Sunday they were "confident" China was considering providing arms to Moscow amid a diplomatic pressure campaign to dissuade it from doing so.

Zelensky again called for the delivery of combat aircraft

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky believes that his country will be able to defend itself against Russian drone attacks only if it receives fighter jets from its Western partners. After another series of Russian attacks, electricity has been restored to most of the country. In Kyiv, American Finance Minister Janet Yellen announced the first tranche of another package of financial and economic aid for Ukraine.

The situation on the front line near Bakhmut in Ukraine is becoming more and more complicated, warned President Volodymyr Zelensky in his traditional evening video address. He reiterated that Ukraine needs modern fighter jets to protect the skies from Russian attacks by Iranian drones.

"Air defense is complete when there are modern aircraft. Our pilots and anti-aircraft units are doing an excellent job. But we will be able to fully protect our skies when our partners give up the aviation taboo," Zelensky said. He thanked United States Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, who announced during her surprise visit to Kyiv the provision of the first 1 billion and 250 million dollars of the next tranche of financial and economic assistance from Washington.

The total value of the aid package is close to 10 billion dollars.

After the talks in the Ukrainian capital, Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said that the two discussed the tightening of US sanctions against Russia, as well as the seizure of frozen Russian assets and their use for the needs of Ukraine's reconstruction.

According to Yellen, however, there are still significant legal obstacles to the full seizure of the Russian Central Bank's 0 billion in assets frozen by sanctions.

And in Geneva, Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba announced on the sidelines of the 52nd session of the UN Human Rights Council that work on creating a special international tribunal for war crimes and aggression by Russia continues.

Russia surrounds Bakhmut, according to Zelensky, it is "increasingly difficult" there

Russia is continuing its efforts to encircle the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, after last week it managed to take positions northwest of it and narrowed the corridor through which the military defending it can evacuate.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky confirmed that the situation in the city is becoming "increasingly difficult". "The enemy is constantly destroying everything that can be used to protect our fortification and defense positions. Our soldiers who defend the area around Bakhmut are real heroes," added Zelensky in his traditional address.

And the commander of the Ukrainian ground forces, Oleksandr Syrskyi, said this morning that the situation around Bakhmut was "extremely tense". "Despite significant losses, the enemy threw the most prepared assault units of ‘Wagner’, who are trying to break through the siege and surround the city."

The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) also points to claims by Russian sources that PMC Wagner, Russia's most prominent private army, has taken more territory north of Bakhmut.

The aim of Russian forces is to cut supply lines and force Ukrainian forces to surrender - the first major success in over a year. For this purpose, they need access to the road to the west (the only direction around the city, which is in the hands of Ukraine) - to Chasiv Yar.

Русия обкръжава Бахмут, според Зеленски там е

Mud complicates combat

According to military analyst Oleg Zhdanov, only the southern part of Bakhmut is still under Ukrainian control. Yesterday, Moscow announced that an ammunition depot near the city had been destroyed.

Fewer than 6,000 people remain in Bakhmut, from a pre-war population of over 70,000, according to Ukraine. The town is now closed to volunteers and residents are urged to evacuate.

"Reuters" notes that the fighting is complicated by the weather - warming accelerates the thawing of the ground. We are referring to the so-called rasputitsa - the phenomenon due to which (and due to the rains) in the spring and autumn the roads turn into rivers of mud.

The agency writes about observed units of combat equipment stuck in the mud.

Русия обкръжава Бахмут, според Зеленски там е

The Ukrainian army says that Russian forces continue to operate on four - apart from Bakhmut - main lines in Donbas and neighboring Kharkiv Oblast: Lyman, Kupiansk, Avdiivka and Shakhtar. In the last hours, Kyiv forces have repulsed 60 attacks at various points.

Peskov: We will not resume participation in START until Washington listens to Moscow

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in comments published today that Russia will not resume participation in the START nuclear arms control treaty until Washington listens to Moscow's position, Reuters reported.

In an interview with "Izvestia" newspaper, Peskov also stated that NATO, "as a single bloc, no longer acts as our conditional opponent, but as an enemy."

The Kremlin spokesman also said that the restoration of the USSR is impossible, but there are various modern forms of integration, TASS reported. He recalled the words of the head of state, Vladimir Putin, that a person who does not regret the collapse of the Soviet Union does not have a heart, and a person who wants to restore the USSR does not have a brain. "It seems to me that this is perhaps the most comprehensive explanation of the possible attitude towards those who talk about recreating the USSR. This is impossible," said Peskov.

Last night, several people commemorated the anniversary of the death of Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov in Moscow, despite the risk of being arrested, DPA reported. Flowers were placed on the bridge near the Kremlin where Nemtsov was shot eight years ago. Police officers patrolled around the place of the memorial plaque, BTA points out.

"Nemtsov's example inspires thousands of Russians to stop being afraid and make their homeland free," Kremlin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who is in exile abroad, wrote on Twitter.

ISW: Putin is trying to blame the West for threatening Russia's existence

Russian authorities are promoting rhetoric that gives the false impression that Russia's war in Ukraine is vital to the continued existence of the Russian Federation, according to the latest report by experts at the Institute for the Study of War (ISW).

In an interview with Rossiya 1 on February 26, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned that he did not know whether "the Russian people could survive in their present form" if the West managed to "destroy the Russian Federation and establish control over its parts."

Putin began setting the stage for this information campaign in his speech to the Federal Assembly on February 21, accusing the collective West of using the war in Ukraine to threaten Russia's existence. Similar statements were made by the Deputy Chairman of the Russian Security Council, Dmitry Medvedev.

"Both Putin and Medvedev have used rhetoric in their statements that portrays the war in Ukraine as existential for the continued survival of post-Soviet Russia, which is likely an attempt to portray the war as more threatening to Russia and the West than it actually is", the experts write.

Putin is likely hoping to create an information backdrop to accuse Ukraine and the West of threatening Russia's survival amid Moscow's military failures and Western support for Ukrainians on the battlefield.

"Putin's language is designed to drum up support for the war in Russia and stoke Western fear of the instability that would follow a Russian collapse to limit support for Ukraine and persuade the West to force Kyiv to accept Russian demands," it concludes ISW.

Putin and Xi have declared a new cold war, writes a British politician

The presidents of Russia and China, Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping, have declared a new cold war. Such an opinion was expressed in a joint article in the newspaper "Daily Telegraph" by the chairman of the British parliamentary defense committee, Tobias Ellwood, and the military expert from the United Kingdom, Colonel Hamish de Bretton-Gordon.

The material states that the initiator of the new confrontation is the "Russia-China axis", which, in their words, has gone from "openly taking advantage of the weak points" in the international standards established by the West to "destroying them".

"The British government must recognize that we are in a new cold war. This will allow us to look in a new and clearer way at our defense doctrine, the protection of our commercial interests and our cooperation with like-minded countries. So we will be able to once again begin to resolutely stand up for the principles and values we believe in," the article said.

According to its authors, the world is now experiencing a turning point in global politics and is entering a period that may turn out to be even more complex than that of the second half of the last century.

"Our world is dividing into two spheres of influence, and dozens of countries will sooner or later be forced to choose a side," Ellwood and de Bretton-Gordon write.

They consider Putin's decision to announce Russia's temporary suspension of its participation in the Strategic Offensive Arms Limitation Treaty, also known as New START, particularly dangerous.

"This means that after 50 years of reducing nuclear arsenals, we may be on the verge of a new arms race," the authors point out, noting that the nuclear threat from countries such as China, Iran and North Korea is also growing.

Therefore, according to Ellwood and de Bretton-Gordon, it is even more urgent to find a solution to the Ukrainian conflict.

The nature of this new confrontation will depend, according to them, on how decisively the West will be able to act.

"We need to revive our statecraft from the old Cold War and not be afraid of Putin's talk of deploying tactical nuclear weapons. That is what has cost us valuable time while we slowly gather the necessary courage to provide Ukraine with serious equipment such as missiles and tanks."

Algeria discussed strengthening defense ties with Russia, the president will visit Moscow

Algeria and Russia discussed today the strengthening of their defense cooperation. This happened during a visit to the North African country by the Secretary of the Security Council of the Russian Federation Nikolai Patrushev, reported AFP, referring to the Algerian Ministry of Defense.

The high-ranking Russian representative, accompanied by a large delegation, discussed with the chief of the general staff of the Algerian armed forces Said Chengriha "the state of defense cooperation between the armies of the two countries and the means of its strengthening", the communiqué reads.

This visit "represents for us an expression of the firm and frank will shown by both sides to further strengthen the strategic and historical partnership that characterizes their bilateral relations, especially in the field of defense cooperation," said the top Algerian military official.

Patrushev confirmed, according to the statement, that Russia was working to "further strengthen" its relations with Algeria.

The Secretary of the Security Council of the Russian Federation was also received by Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune.

In an interview he gave to Rossiyskaya Gazeta during his visit, Patrushev said that the "strategy of suffocating inconvenient countries" which he believes the West is now resorting to is essentially a revival of the old methods of colonialism. TASS.

"The strategy implemented by the West to suffocate inconvenient countries is nothing different from a revival of the old methods of colonialism, which collapsed in the middle of the 20th century, including thanks to the efforts of the Soviet Union. The Algerian people were one of the first to reject the shackles of colonialism, and set a successful example of the struggle for freedom. Algerians understand like no one else that whatever form colonialism takes, it always brings evil," commented Patrushev.

He reminded that not long ago it was another anniversary of the first French nuclear tests on Algerian soil (in February 1960 - TASS note). “Hundreds of thousands of Algerians are still suffering from the consequences of dozens of nuclear tests. I think that we should remind the international community about these and other similar topics, since there is no statute of limitations for such crimes,” noted Patrushev.

According to him, it is the policy of the West that has made Africa and the Middle East one of the most unstable and "hot spots" in the world.

"The consequences of the West's gross interference in the internal affairs of the region are still visible today. In North Africa and the Middle East, the hotbeds of tension created by it remain, for example, such as Libya, Yemen, Iraq, Syria and other countries. This, in turn, contributes to the spread of terrorism, weapons and drugs there," Patrushev summarized.

Moscow is an important supplier of weapons to Algeria, the largest country in Africa.

Algerian President Tebbounei s due to pay a state visit to Russia in May.

The two countries have a long-standing privileged relationship. In 2021, trade between Russia and Algeria reached billion despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

A third of Ukrainian refugees in the EU want to return home

One in three Ukrainian refugees feel part of a community in their host country, but the same number would like to return home, according to a new study published by the EU's Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA).

"As the war drags on, we must put in place effective long-term measures to enable host societies and displaced persons to adapt to the upheavals resulting from this war," said FRA Director Michael O'Flaherty.

14,685 Ukrainian refugees living in ten EU countries (Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Spain) responded to the agency's online survey in the period August-September 2022.

Although almost half of them reported feeling depressed, 61% said they felt optimistic about the future since arriving in their host country.

Yet, with only a third of those surveyed in paid employment, 79% say they face financial difficulties.

Language is the main obstacle to finding a job: A quarter say they don't speak the language of the country they live in, and 41% say they know it, but poorly.

Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine last February created the biggest refugee crisis seen on the continent since World War II.

According to data from the UN Refugee Agency, over 8 million Ukrainian refugees have fled to another European country since the beginning of the war, and about 4.8 million have applied for inclusion in a temporary protection scheme in an EU country.


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