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Latest Developments in Ukraine: Feb. 27

This photo taken on Feb. 25, 2023, shows an Orthodox icon near empty graves after the exhumation of bodies from mass graves dug during the Russian occupation of the town of Izyum, in Ukraine's Kharkiv region.
This photo taken on Feb. 25, 2023, shows an Orthodox icon near empty graves after the exhumation of bodies from mass graves dug during the Russian occupation of the town of Izyum, in Ukraine's Kharkiv region.

For full coverage of the crisis in Ukraine, visit Flashpoint Ukraine.

The latest developments in Russia's war on Ukraine. All times EST.

11:10 p.m.: Reuters reported that U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Central Asia Tuesday where he will visit and meet with officials from all five former Soviet republics following the first anniversary of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Blinken's visit to the capitals of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan is his first to the region as the Biden administration's top diplomat.

The trip comes just days after the February 24 anniversary of the invasion of Ukraine, which has tested Moscow's influence in a region that also includes Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan.

Leaders in the region have been emboldened to stand up to Russia by their new-found leverage as Moascow looks to their markets and trade routes in a bid to circumvent Western sanctions.

In Astana, Blinken will with meet with the five nations' foreign ministers individually and as a group, in what officials say is an effort to set out the benefits of U.S. cooperation to a region facing economic fallout from the conflict to the west.

"Our main goal is to show that the United States is a reliable partner, and we see the difficulties that these economies are facing – high food prices, high fuel prices, high unemployment, difficulty in exporting their goods, slow post-COVID recovery, and a large influx of migrants from Russia," Donald Lu, the State Department's top official for South and Central Asia, told reporters ahead of the trip.

Blinken will also meet Kazakhstan's President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, who was re-elected in a landslide in November and has pushed back publicly against territorial claims made by Russian President Vladimir Putin in Ukraine.

Russia and Kazakhstan share the world's longest continuous land border, prompting concern among some Kazakhs about the security of a country with the second-biggest ethnic Russian population among ex-Soviet republics after Ukraine.

Blinken will travel to Uzbekistan later on Tuesday to meet with President Shavkat Mirziyoyev.

10:50 p.m.: Lockheed Martin's mobile rocket launcher plant in Camden, Arkansas is gearing up to boost production of the HIMARS system after its success on the battlefield in Ukraine drove up demand from other nations, executives said on Monday, Reuters reported.

The High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) is now a widely recognized weapon after mobile phone camera footage of the war in Ukraine showed the launchers in action.

"When you have a combat proven system that is out there and in the news — daily — then that's driving that demand," said Jennifer McManus, the vice president for operations of Lockheed's missile business.

On an earnings call with investors Lockheed's CEO said "on HIMARS specifically, we've already met with our long lead supply chain to plan for increasing production to 96 of these units a year." Lockheed started 2022 with a HIMARS launcher production rate of 48 per year, but has since ramped up to 60 per year.

9:10 p.m.:

8:30 p.m.: Russian forces kept up their offensive in eastern Ukraine as they pressed to encircle the small mining city of Bakhmut, the scene of the toughest fighting in battlefields saturated by rain and an early spring thaw, Reuters reported.

The battle line ran from Kupiansk, site of a regional railroad junction, through Bakhmut and south to the Russian-occupied city of Shakhtarsk in the Donetsk region, Ukraine's military said early Tuesday.

7:00 p.m.: In a field hospital treating wounded from the bloody battle in Bakhmut, battered, exhausted soldiers are brought in on stretchers, laid out on gurneys as the medical team triages their injuries and sends them off for further treatment or back to the front to continue fighting. The Associated Press takes us inside the hospital, where a doctor says his team treats dozens of soldiers every day and barely has time to eat.

6:00 p.m.:

5:30 p.m.: The European Commission and Poland on February 27 announced a joint initiative to find Ukrainian children illegally taken by the Russian army from occupied territories.

"Since the start of the invasion, it is estimated that Russian forces have sent thousands of Ukrainian children to Russia. The abduction of Ukrainian children is a great social problem, a tragedy, and a crime," said Dana Spinant, deputy chief spokeswoman for the European Commission.

The initiative, which has the support of the United Nations, aims to collect evidence that will help them track down where in Russia these Ukrainian children were brought and to bring charges against those who abducted them.

On February 22, Ukrainian children were forced to participate in Russian President Vladimir Putin's propaganda concert in Moscow.

Independent Russian media outlet Important Stories reported that two of the children were from Mariupol. Their mother was killed by Russian shelling at the start of the war.

Children of War, a website created by the Ukrainian government, estimates that 16,221 children have been abducted by Russia since the start of the full-scale invasion.

5:15 p.m.: Russian forces fired at the Nikopol district and the town of Marhanets in Dnipropetrovsk Oblast with heavy artillery on February 27, wrote Governor Serhiy Lysak on Facebook. A dozen houses, cars, and a gas pipeline were damaged. According to Lysak, there were no casualties, The Kyiv Independent reports.

Ukrainian-held Nikopol is located across the Dnipro River from the city of Enerhodar, the home to Europe's largest nuclear power plant.

The plant has been under Russian occupation since March 2022, and Russian forces have repeatedly used the plant as a base to launch attacks on Ukrainian-controlled territory.

4:55 p.m.: In his nightly video address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy discussed new Russian attacks across Ukraine. Zelenskyy praised Ukrainian pilots and anti-aircraft gunners for downing 11 out of 14 drones, but he added, “we will be able to fully protect the sky when the aviation taboo in relations with our partners is lifted.” Zelenskyy said Ukraine needs the aviation component of air defense — modern combat aircraft — to protect the entire territory of our country from Russian terror.

The Ukrainian president also said that the situation in Bakhmut is getting more difficult as the enemy there is “destroying everything that can be used to protect our positions, to gain a foothold and ensure defense.”

Zelenskyy also spoke about his meeting in Kyiv with U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen. “We discussed the needs for reconstruction in Ukraine and the restoration of justice for our people and the entire free world, which means launching a real mechanism of compensation for the damage caused by this war ... compensation at the cost of Russian assets,” he noted.

4:35 p.m.: A planned concert by Slovenia's popular band Laibach in Ukraine next month has been cancelled after the group angered Ukrainians by remarks interpreted to suggest that Kyiv was a client state fighting a war for its Western masters. The iconic band known for using military-style imagery and totalitarian symbols, was due to perform in Ukraine’s capital Kyiv on March 31. The band has said the concert was meant to show support for the Ukrainian people during the war, but organizers said that their comments published in The Guardian have created “controversy” and discord, forcing the cancellation. Ukrainians apparently were angered by Laibach’s statement calling the war in Ukraine “a cynical proxy war for the geostrategic interests” of world powers, AP reports

4:07 p.m.: The U.S. undersecretary of state for arms control, Bonnie Jenkins, criticized Russia on Monday for suspending its participation in the last remaining nuclear weapons treaty but added Washington will try to work with Moscow to continue its implementation, AP reports.

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced last week that the country would revoke its participation in the New START treaty which obligated both Russia and the U.S. to commit to regular communications on the status of their nuclear arsenals, allow regular on-site inspections and abide by caps on the number of deployed and non-deployed warheads of each side.

“Russia is once again showing the world that it is not a responsible nuclear power,” Jenkins said at a session of the Conference on Disarmament, a United Nations-affiliated international forum.

Russia is not withdrawing from the treaty, which is in force until 2026, but Putin said Russia cannot accept U.S. inspections of its nuclear sites while Washington and its NATO allies seek Russia’s defeat in Ukraine. The Russian Foreign Ministry said the country would respect the treaty’s caps on nuclear weapons and continue notifying the U.S. about test launches of ballistic missiles.

3:30 p.m.: The U.S. welcomes the announcement by Saudi Arabia that it was providing $400 million in humanitarian aid for Ukraine, White House national security spokesman John Kirby said Monday.

Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud met Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and top Ukrainian officials in a surprise visit to Kyiv over the weekend. Zelenskyy thanked the government of Saudi Arabia for its tangible support for Ukraine in the face of Russia's ongoing armed aggression: "First of all, I want to thank you for supporting peace in Ukraine, our sovereignty and territorial integrity. This is very important for us and our people, our society."

3:15 p.m.: China has been "anything but an honest broker" in efforts to bring peace to Ukraine, and "very clearly" has taken Russia's side, U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price said Monday.

China has provided Russia with "diplomatic support, political support, with economic support, with rhetorical support," the spokesman told a news briefing, Reuters reports.

2:35 p.m.: Russian President Vladimir Putin awarded Steven Seagal, the American action-movie actor who also holds Russian citizenship, the Order of Friendship on Monday. The award was announced on the Russian government’s internet portal. The order recognizes people who, Russia considers, have contributed to the improvement of international relations. Seagal was a vocal supporter of Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and last year visited the Russian-held Ukrainian town of Olenivka where dozens of Ukrainian prisoners of war were reportedly killed in an attack for which Russia and Ukraine have blamed each other. Seagal was named in 2018 as a Russian Foreign Ministry humanitarian envoy to the United States and Japan, AP reports.

2:05 p.m.: The Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Valery Zaluzhny discussed, in a phone call, with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley strengthening the capabilities of the air defense system of Ukraine. Zaluzhny spoke of the need to strengthen the capabilities of the air defense system of Ukraine, in particular, through the provision of multi-purpose combat aircraft F-16, Ukrinform reports.

1:25 p.m.: Russian forces were trying to encircle the small mining city of Bakhmut on Monday what would have given Moscow its first major prize in more than half a year. Following one of the bloodiest phases of the war so far, a relentless Russian assault that began over frozen ground is continuing as rain and an early spring thaw turned east Ukraine's battlefields to mud.

According to Reuters, the spring thaw, known as the rasputitsa, has a long history of ruining plans by armies to attack across the soil of Ukraine and western Russia, turning roads into rivers and fields into impenetrable bogs.

In the Donetsk region near the front, Ukrainian soldiers hunkered in muddy trenches once the frozen ground was softened by warmer weather.

"Both sides stay in their positions, because as you see, spring means mud. Thus, it is impossible to move forward," said Mykola, 59, commander of a Ukrainian front-line rocket launcher battery, watching a tablet screen for coordinates to fire.

Reuters reporters on the ground saw several military vehicles stuck in mud. In a trench, cut deeply out of the ground in a zigzag pattern, Volodymyr, a 25-year-old platoon commander, said his men were prepared to fight in any weather.

"When we're given a target, that means we have to destroy it," he said.

12:54 p.m.:

12:25 p.m.: In his meeting with U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen in Kyiv Monday, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy expressed appreciation for the assistance provided by the United States to Ukraine after the start of Russia's full-scale Russian invasion.

“We are extremely grateful to you for the support. The United States has been powerfully supporting us since the first days of this war not only with weapons, but also on the financial front. We really appreciate it,” Zelenskyy was quoted as saying on Ukraine's presidential website.

12:20 p.m.: U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen made a surprise visit in Kyiv Monday to reaffirm U.S. support for Ukraine and to promote U.S. economic aid that is bolstering Ukraine's war effort, Reuters reported.

Yellen met with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and other key government officials just days into the war's second year. She reiterated U.S. assurances delivered by President Joe Biden a week ago in Kyiv.

"America will stand with Ukraine as long as it takes," Yellen told Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal.

Speaking through an interpreter, Shmyhal said the two discussed further U.S. sanctions on Russia aimed at weakening its economy and military and "confiscating frozen Russian assets and putting them to the benefit of the recovery of Ukraine."

But Yellen told reporters in a phone briefing that there were still significant legal hurdles to fully seizing the $300 billion in Russian central bank assets frozen by sanctions.

Yellen also announced the transfer of the first $1.25 billion from the latest $9.9 billion tranche of economic and budget assistance from Washington.

In a private meeting with Zelenskyy late afternoon, Yellen welcomed Zelenskyy's actions to strengthen governance and address corruption - actions needed to ensure that U.S. economic aid is being spent responsibly.

Since the war began, the United States has given Ukraine more than $13 billion in economic and budget support funding, and the latest disbursement will push that to over $14 billion, with an additional $8.65 billion expected through Sept. 30.

11:50 a.m.: Russian attacks were reported in Khmelnytskyi, Kyiv, Donetsk, Kherson, Kharkiv, Sumy, Mykolaiv, Zaporizhzhia, Dnipropetrovsk and Luhansk Oblasts of Ukraine in the past 24 hours, The Kyiv Independent reports.

According to local authorities, three people were killed, and eight were wounded.

Russia launched 14 Iranian-made Shahed drones to attack Ukraine overnight on Feb. 27. Eleven of them were shot down, Ukraine's Air Force says. According to Kyiv’s military administration, Ukrainian air defenses downed nine drones over the Ukrainian capital alone.

10:32 a.m.:

11:10 a.m.: Ukraine's central bank will launch stress tests of commercial banks in April, more than a year after Russia began its full-scale invasion, Reuters reports.

Ukraine's economy shrank by about a third last year, but the country's banking system has survived the war, adjusted its operations and continued uninterrupted payments to companies and residents.

"We will start evaluating banks from April," Andriy Pyshnyi, the governor of the National Bank of Ukraine, wrote on Facebook.

"There are enough questions that need answers: the mission of systemically important banks..., the role of state-owned banks, issues of NPLs (non-performing loans) which resulted from the war, support for the military industry, lending to MSMEs (micro, small and medium-sized enterprises), the availability of financial services, "he added.

The central bank has said Ukraine's banking system is operationally stable, liquid and profitable thanks to reforms and efforts to clean up of the sector in previous years.

The stress tests are intended to ensure Ukrainian banks are better prepared for future shocks and set a timeframe for banks to replenish their capital. They should also give an indication of how long it will take to recover from the consequences of the war.

Ukraine has 67 commercial banks, with the state controlling about 50% of the banking system.

10:32 a.m.:

10:11 a.m.: In an interview with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Georgian Service, Latvian President Egils Levits said since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine one year ago, the three Baltic nations - Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia - have been among the loudest nations worldwide to condemn Moscow’s unprovoked aggression and among the first to provide Kyiv with support. Levits added that Latvia had repeatedly tried to dispel illusions of the West of a post-Cold War democratic Russia.

“This naivety was born because, after the Cold War, the West has not paid enough attention to the internal processes in Russia. Had they looked more closely at what happened to Russia and better analyzed [it], then, of course, they would have discovered that it was an illusion that they had, the dream of a democratic Russia,” he said.

Levits cited examples of Russia’s expansionism in the 21st century that foretold its wider territorial aspirations, from its aggression in Georgia in 2008 to its annexation of Crimea in 2014. “But the reaction from the rest of Europe was relatively weak, and this led Russians to conclude, 'Oh, the West, Western countries, the West is weak. So, we can go further,'” he said.

Levits remarked he is “glad that it seems that the West has really concluded what is Russia’s character, what is Russia, and has developed a strategy how to deal with it.”

9:37 a.m.: Moscow-installed occupying authorities in Kherson Oblast's towns of Oleshky and Skadovsk prepare to "escape" to Russian-occupied Crimea, fearing a Ukrainian counteroffensive, the General Staff of Ukraine's Armed Forces reported in a Facebook update Monday. Local collaborators started to leave the region for the Crimean cities of Bakhchysarai, Simferopol, and Kerch on Feb. 21, according to the Ukrainian military.

The Kyiv Independent cited Monday’s General Staff report saying that on Feb. 24, Russian proxies in Kherson Oblast announced a so-called evacuation for "all interested." Oleshky is located on the eastern bank of the Dnipro River, 23 kilometers across from liberated Kherson city, while Skadovsk lies on the Black Sea, much closer to Crimea.

Ukraine liberated the southern regional capital of Kherson and its surrounding areas amid a long-anticipated counteroffensive in November. However, Kherson Oblast's settlements located on the east bank of the Dnipro River are still occupied by Russian troops.

Ukraine's upcoming spring counteroffensive will focus on driving "a wedge into the Russian front in the south between Crimea and mainland Russia," Vadym Skibitsky, deputy head of Ukrainian military intelligence, said in an interview with German media, Deutsche Welle reported.

The ultimate goal of the announced counteroffensive, according to Skibitsky, is "to liberate all the occupied territories of Ukraine, including Crimea."

9:05 a.m.: China said Monday it strives for dialogue and peace for Ukraine despite U.S. reports that Beijing might be considering weapons supplies to Russia, Reuters reported.

China, which declared a "no limits" alliance with Russia shortly before the invasion a year ago, has declined to castigate the onslaught and last week it published a 12-point plan calling for a ceasefire and gradual de-escalation by both sides.

Kyiv struck a receptive tone on some aspects of the plan but reiterated there could be no peace without a total Russian withdrawal - a non-starter for Moscow.

"I really want (victory) to happen this year. For this we have everything – motivation, confidence, friends, diplomacy," Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a post on the Telegram messaging app Monday.

China's Foreign Ministry said it had kept contact with all sides in the crisis including Kyiv. "The core is to call for peace and promote dialog and promote a political solution to the crisis," Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning told a news briefing in Beijing.

According to Reuters, China's proposals have not satisfied Ukraine's NATO military alliance supporters, who say they are trying to dissuade Beijing from supplying lethal aid for Russia, possibly including "kamikaze" drones.

8:40 a.m.:

8:37 a.m.: The Ukrainian military repelled 81 Russian attacks over the past 24 hours in northeastern and eastern Ukraine, the General Staff of Ukraine's Armed Forces reported in its morning update on Feb. 27.

According to The Kyiv Independent, Ukraine repelled attacks near Kupiansk in eastern Kharkiv Oblast as well as Lyman, Bakhmut, Adviika, and Shakhtarsk in Donetsk Oblast, where, according to the General Staff, Russia is concentrating its main offensive efforts.

Russian troops reportedly carried out five missile attacks and 13 airstrikes against Ukraine, including two hits on civilian infrastructure with Iranian-made Shahed-136 drones.

In total, Russia launched 14 drones to attack Ukrainian cities overnight on Feb. 27, but Ukrainian air defense shot down 11 of them, Ukraine's Air Force reported. During the night, explosions were reported in Khmelnytskyi Oblast and Kyiv.

Russia also launched more than 50 attacks using multiple launch rocket systems, inflicting casualties among the civilian population and damage to civilian facilities, the Ukrainian military said.

According to the report, Russian forces targeted multiple settlements in Chernihiv, Sumy, Kharkiv, Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia, and Kherson Oblasts using artillery, mortars, and drones.

Over the past 24 hours, Ukraine's Air Force conducted four strikes on Russian temporary bases, the General Staff wrote, adding that the Ukrainian military also shot down a Russian Su-25 aircraft over Donetsk Oblast.

8:05 a.m.: Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine has triggered “the most massive violations of human rights” in the world today, the head of the United Nations said Monday. The Russian invasion “has unleashed widespread death, destruction and displacement,” U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a speech to the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva.

7:30 a.m.: Belarusian anti-government activists said Sunday they had blown up a sophisticated Russian military surveillance aircraft in a drone attack at an airfield near the Belarusian capital Minsk. Neither Russia nor Belarus confirmed the claim, Reuters reported.

"They were drones (that carried out the attack). The participants of the operation are Belarusians," Aliaksandr Azarov, leader of Belarusian anti-government organization BYPOL, was quoted as saying on the organization's Telegram messaging app and on the Poland-based Belsat news channel.

Azarov did not provide immediate evidence to back his assertion.

The plane - a Beriev A-50 aircraft - has the NATO reporting name of Mainstay and is an airborne early warning aircraft with command-and-control capabilities and the ability to track up to 60 targets at a time.

6 a.m.:

5:25 a.m.: China hailed its "all-weather and comprehensive" strategic partnership with Belarus on Monday, the day before a state visit by President Alexander Lukashenko to Beijing.

Lukashenko, who is visiting at the invitation of Chinese leader Xi Jinping, is a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin and has backed Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.

Agence France-Presse reported that Lukashenko's three-day visit comes after China last week released a position paper on the conflict, reiterating its insistence it is a neutral party and calling for dialogue between the two sides.

"Since the establishment of diplomatic relations 31 years ago, the political mutual trust between (China and Belarus) has been continuously strengthened," Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said Monday at a regular press briefing.

"China looks forward to working with Belarus to take this visit as an opportunity to promote all-round cooperation between the two countries for further development."

4:35 a.m.:

4 a.m.: The United Nations Human Rights chief Volker Turk warned on Monday that human rights gains made in recent decades were being reined back and even reversed, citing Russia's "senseless" invasion of Ukraine as a current example of oppression.

"Much of the progress made over decades is being reined back and even reversed in some parts...," High Commissioner Turk said in a speech on the opening day of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva attended by more than 100 ministers and heads of state, Reuters reported.

He called for countries to work to overcome their differences and create a "new world-wide consensus on human rights".

3:30 a.m.: Reuters added context to the reports that Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Monday that talks with Sweden and Finland regarding their NATO membership bids would resume on March 9, after being suspended in January in the wake of a Koran-burning protest in Stockholm.

Turkey had previously canceled a trilateral mechanism with Sweden and Finland on their applications to join NATO after Rasmus Paludan, leader of the Danish far-right political party Hard Line, burned a copy of the Koran outside the Turkish embassy in Stockholm in January.

"My colleagues will attend the meeting that will be held on March 9," Cavusoglu told a press conference in Ankara, adding that the meeting would be held in Brussels.

But he said Sweden was still not fulfilling its obligations under the memorandum signed at a NATO summit in Madrid last June, even though NATO's secretary-general and other allies have said Stockholm has changed its legislation.

"Unfortunately, we have not seen satisfactory steps from Sweden on the implementation of the Madrid memorandum," Cavusoglu said. "It is not possible for us to say "yes" to Sweden's NATO bid before we see these steps."

Sweden and Finland applied last year to join the North Atlantic defense alliance after Russia invaded Ukraine, but Sweden in particular has faced unexpected objections from Turkey.

Ankara accuses Stockholm of harboring what it considers members of terrorist groups, and has demanded their extradition as a step towards giving Sweden's NATO membership its green light.

The United States and other NATO countries are hoping that the two Nordic countries become members of the alliance at a NATO summit due to be held in July 11 in Lithuania's capital Vilnius.

While Ankara has signaled it could approve Finland, it has given no assurances that it will give Sweden's bid the green light by then.

3:15 a.m.: China has always maintained communication with all sides in the Russia-Ukraine conflict, including Kyiv, a foreign ministry spokesperson told a regular news briefing on Monday.

Reuters reported that Mao Ning was answering a question on Ukraine's Volodymyr Zelenskyy saying he would welcome talks with China.

In another question on Zelenskyy saying that he planned to speak to China President Xi Jinping, Mao said "China's position on the Ukraine crisis is consistent and very clear."

"The core is to call for peace and promote dialog and promote a political solution to the crisis. We have always maintained communication with the sides involved including Ukraine," Mao said.

Zelenskyy said on Friday he plans to meet Xi but did not say when such a meeting might take place.

2:40 a.m.: Agence France-Presse reported that Turkey has said that talks over Sweden’s and Finland’s NATO bid have been planned for March 9.

2:15 a.m.:

1:45 a.m.: Russia's war in Ukraine looms large as the UN Human Rights Council meets Monday, with calls for unity in condemning Moscow and extending a probe into war crimes in the conflict.

Days after the United Nations General Assembly in New York voted overwhelmingly to demand Russia immediately withdraw from Ukraine, Moscow's war is expected to dominate the opening of the top UN rights body's main annual session in Geneva.

"We're looking for this session to show, as the UN General Assembly showed... that the world stands side-by-side with Ukraine," British ambassador Simon Manley said at an event Friday marking the one-year anniversary of Russia's full-scale invasion.

The meeting, which is due to last a record six weeks, will be the first presided over by new UN rights chief Volker Turk, who kicks the session off early Monday.

Agence France-Presse had the full report.

1:20 a.m.:

12:40 a.m.: Russia's former president and an ally of President Vladimir Putin said in remarks published on Monday that the continued arms supply to Kyiv risks a global nuclear catastrophe, reiterating his threat of nuclear war over Ukraine, according to Reuters.

Dmitry Medvedev's apocalyptic rhetoric has been seen as an attempt to deter the U.S-led NATO military alliance and Kyiv's Western allies from getting even more involved in the year-old war that has dealt Moscow setbacks on the battlefield.

The latest comments by Medvedev, who serves as deputy chairman of Putin's powerful security council, follow Putin's nuclear warning last week and his Sunday remarks casting Moscow's confrontation with the West as an existential battle for the survival of Russia and the Russian people.

"Of course, the pumping in of weapons can continue .... and prevent any possibility of reviving negotiations," Medvedev said in remarks published in the daily Izvestia.

"Our enemies are doing just that, not wanting to understand that their goals will certainly lead to a total fiasco. Loss for everyone. A collapse. Apocalypse. Where you forget for centuries about your former life, until the rubble ceases to emit radiation."

12:01 a.m.: Belarus's exiled opposition said Sunday that partisans had destroyed a Russian plane at an airstrip near the capital Minsk, according to Agence France-Presse.

"Partisans... confirmed a successful special operation to blow up a rare Russian plane at the airfield in Machulishchy near Minsk," tweeted Franak Viacorka, a close adviser of opposition figurehead Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya.

"This is the most successful diversion since the beginning of 2022," he added.

The two Belarusians who carried out the operation had used drones, he said, adding that they had already left the country and were safe.

Viacorka did not say what kind of Russian plane had been targeted but said it was worth 330 million euros. According to news media close to the opposition, it was an A-50 surveillance plane.

"I am proud of all Belarusians who continue to resist the Russian hybrid occupation of Belarus & fight for the freedom of Ukraine," Tsikhanouskaya wrote on Twitter in response to the news.

AFP reported that it was not possible to independently verify the operation and the Russian army has for the moment made no statement.

Belarus, Russia's only ally in Europe against Kyiv, has not taken a direct role in Moscow's attack on Ukraine, but did allow territory to be used by Russian forces for their 2022 invasion.

Kyiv says Russia has also used Belarusian air strips as a base from which to launch strikes on Ukraine.

In recent months, Belarus and Russia have held a series of military operations and Ukraine has expressed fears that Minsk will enter the conflict.

Some information in this report came from Agence France-Presse and Reuters.

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