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War latest: Ukraine publishes plan to recapture Crimea and expel Russians

A top Ukrainian official on Sunday outlined a series of steps that Kyiv would take if it reclaimed control of Crimea, including dismantling the strategic bridge that links the seized Black Sea peninsula to Russia.

Oleksy Danilov, the secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, published the plan as Ukraine's military prepares for a spring counteroffensive in hopes of making new gains.

Moscow annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and its future status will be a key feature in any negotiations on ending the war. The Kremlin wants Ukraine to recognise Russia’s sovereignty over Crimea as a condition for peace but Kyiv has ruled this out.

Mr Danilov suggested prosecuting Ukrainians who worked for the Moscow-appointed administration in Crimea, adding that some would face criminal charges and others would lose government pensions and be banned from public jobs.

All Russian citizens who moved to Crimea after 2014 should be expelled, and all real estate deals made under Russian rule nullified, he wrote on Facebook.

As part of the plan, he also called for dismantling the 12-mile bridge that Russia built to Crimea and which serves as a symbol of its conquest of the peninsula.

And Mr Danilov argued for renaming the city of Sevastopol, the main base for the Russian Black Sea Fleet. He said it could be called Object No. 6 before the Ukrainian parliament chooses another name.


05:11 PM

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Today's top stories included:

  • US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called for the immediate release of US journalist Evan Gershkovich in a phone call with Sergei Lavrov

  • Russian forces are injuring themselves due to poor handling of weapons and heavy drinking, according to the UK Ministry of Defence

  • Russia is setting sophisticated “traps” to ambush Ukrainian fighter jets, one of Kyiv's top pilots revealed

  • Ukrainian religious leader Metropolitan Pavel was placed under house arrest over alleged support for Russia

  • Ukraine said six civilians were killed and eight wounded in Russian shelling of Kostiantynivka in eastern Ukraine

  • Russia's presidency proves the "bankruptcy" of the UN Security Council, according to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, while the EU said it would guard against any Russian abuse of the role


04:25 PM

Blinken seeks immediate release of US journalist in call with Russia's Lavrov

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called for the immediate release of US journalist Evan Gershkovich during a telephone call with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Sunday, the US State Department said.

"Secretary Blinken conveyed the United States' grave concern over Russia's unacceptable detention of a US citizen journalist. The Secretary called for his immediate release," State Department principal deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel said in a statement that did not mention Mr Gershkovich by name.

Mr Gershkovich is the first US journalist to be arrested by Russia on espionage charges since the Cold War. Dozens of media leaders have called for his release.


03:46 PM

'Drunkenness and incompetence' killing Russian soldiers

Russian forces are injuring themselves due to poor handling of weapons and heavy drinking, according to the UK Ministry of Defence.

Russia has suffered up to 200,000 casualties since it invaded Ukraine more than a year ago, according to the ministry's morning intelligence update, and "a significant minority of these have been due to non-combat causes."

A Russian Telegram news channel recently reported that there have been an "extremely high" number of incidents, crimes and deaths linked to alcohol among Russian soldiers.

Poor weapon handling drills, road traffic accidents and climatic injuries such as hypothermia are also likely causing casualties, the MoD said.


03:04 PM

Russians 'setting traps' for last remaining Ukrainian fighter jets

Russia is setting sophisticated “traps” to ambush Ukrainian fighter jets, one of Kyiv's top pilots has revealed.

Major Vadym Voroshylov has told how every day it is becoming harder to keep the Russians at bay with the outdated soviet aircrafts as he pleaded for the West to send F-16 fighter jets.

Major Voroshylov, who in a rare break from the front line met with The Telegraph, warned: “The Russians change tactics all the time, so the war isn’t stable. They make traps. They will send up a Russian jet alone, tricking the Ukrainian pilot into thinking there is only one jet. Then, two or three more will appear either side of it, effectively swarming the Ukrainian aircraft.”

Read the full story from The Telegraph's Danielle Sheridan in Vinnitsa.


02:51 PM

Zelensky hails $15bn IMF loan

Ukrainian President Zelensky thanked the International Monetary Fund for approving a $15.6 billion loan to the country, saying it "will help us preserve social stability".

The loan, approved on Friday, is intended to support Ukraine's economy as it continues its fight against Russia.

It is the first major conventional financing programme approved by the IMF for a country involved in a large-scale war.

Ukraine must meet certain conditions over the next two years, including steps to boost tax revenue, maintain exchange rate stability, preserve central bank independence and strengthen anti-corruption efforts.


02:20 PM

Ukrainian religious leader placed under house arrest

A leader of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church has been placed under house arrest while investigations are carried out into his alleged support of the Russian invasion.

Metropolitan Pavel was reportedly placed under 60 days of house arrest yesterday and ordered to wear an electronic bracelet.

He runs the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra, Ukraine's most important monastery.

His branch of the church was previously loyal to Moscow and the Ukrainian government accuses it of maintaining ties.

Sixty-one clergy have had criminal cases opened against them since the start of 2022 with seven found guilty.

Metropolitan Pavel attends court - Sergei CHUZAVKOV / AFP
Metropolitan Pavel attends court - Sergei CHUZAVKOV / AFP

01:34 PM

In pictures: The latest from Ukraine

A Ukrainian soldier in a snow-covered tank in Donetsk - Muhammed Enes Yildirim/Anadolu Agency
A Ukrainian soldier in a snow-covered tank in Donetsk - Muhammed Enes Yildirim/Anadolu Agency
Medics from the Da Vinci Wolves Battalion evacuate a lightly wounded Ukrainian serviceman near the front line of Bakhmut, Donetsk - Genya SAVILOV / AFP
Medics from the Da Vinci Wolves Battalion evacuate a lightly wounded Ukrainian serviceman near the front line of Bakhmut, Donetsk - Genya SAVILOV / AFP
A member of the mobile air defence group checks an M2 Browning machine gun atop a pick-up truck donated by volunteers, in Kyiv region - REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko
A member of the mobile air defence group checks an M2 Browning machine gun atop a pick-up truck donated by volunteers, in Kyiv region - REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko

12:42 PM

Cambridge student invents window replacements for Ukraine

Plastic windows designed by a Cambridge PhD student are helping to insulate bombed-out Ukrainian homes and protect the people living there.

Many Ukrainian homes have been damaged during the conflict, with windows broken or blown out. Residents often try to cover them with materials they have available but these typically offer poor insulation and don’t allow light through.

Harry Blakiston Houston’s Insulate Ukraine project replaces broken windows with specially-designed plastic ones that provide insulation similar to double glazing and also let in light.

The windows use triple-glazed polyethylene to trap warmth, they’re cost effective and can be quickly installed, according to the group.

Harry Blakiston Houston with his plastic windows - PA
Harry Blakiston Houston with his plastic windows - PA

12:12 PM

Wall Street Journal makes Evan Gershkovich's reporting free to read

The Wall Street Journal has made all of the reporting by its detained correspondent Evan Gershkovich free to read.

Mr Gershkovich was detained while reporting in Russia on Wednesday evening, accused of spying. He is the first American journalist to be detained by Russia on espionage charges since the Cold War.

The Wall Street Journal, US government and Mr Gershkovich's friends and colleagues vehemently deny the allegations against him.


11:52 AM

Inside the FSB prison where Evan Gershkovich is being held

Just a short metro ride from Russia’s FSB headquarters in central Moscow, Lefortovo Prison is where the Kremlin sends its most high-profile prisoners.

It is here that the American journalist Evan Gershkovich has been interned since he was arrested by Russian FSB security agents on Wednesday evening and accused of spying.

Designed to break inmates mentally and physically, people sent to Lefortovo spend 23 hours a day locked alone in a basic cell.

The Telegraph's James Kilner reports on conditions for prisoners there.


11:42 AM

Former detainee Brittney Griner pleads for US reporter's release

US basketball star Brittney Griner, who was freed from a Russian penal colony in a prisoner exchange last year, has urged the Biden administration to keep using "every tool possible" to win the release of a US reporter detained in Russia.

Ms Griner and her wife Cherelle said on Instagram that "our hearts are filled with great concern" for Evan Gershkovich, the journalist arrested by Russia's FSB security service last week in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg.

The Kremlin accuses Mr Gershkovich of spying. The White House has described the accusations as "ridiculous" and President Joe Biden has called on Moscow to release him.

The Griners said they were grateful for Biden's "deep commitment to rescue Americans" and called on their supporters to "encourage the administration to continue to use every tool possible to bring Evan and all wrongfully detained Americans home".

Evan Gershkovich - The Wall Street Journal via AP
Evan Gershkovich - The Wall Street Journal via AP

11:26 AM

Ukraine says six killed, eight wounded amid shelling in east

Six civilians were killed and eight wounded in Russian shelling of Kostiantynivka in eastern Ukraine on Sunday morning, a senior Ukrainian official said.

Kostiantynivka, home to about 70,000 people before the war, is 12.5 miles west of Bakhmut, the epicentre of fighting for at least eight months as Russian forces try to capture the city.

"Russians have carried out massive shelling of the town of Kostiantynivka," Andriy Yermak, head of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky's chief of staff, said on the Telegram messaging app.

He said 16 apartment buildings, eight private houses, a kindergarten and an administrative building were damaged.

Mr Yermak added photos showing the partial destruction of buildings and craters from explosions.


10:59 AM

Russian presidency proves 'bankruptcy' of UN Security Council, says Zelensky

Russia's presidency of the UN Security Council "is obviously absurd and destructive," Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said last night.

Russia assumed the rotating presidency of the council on Saturday, with the US saying there was no legal pathway to prevent it from happening, given that Russia is a permanent member.

"Yesterday, the Russian army killed another Ukrainian child – a five-month-old boy named Danylo... [in] one of the hundreds of artillery strikes that the terrorist state launches every day," Mr Zelensky said on Saturday night.

"And at the same time, Russia chairs the UN Security Council. It is hard to imagine something [so] evident that proves the complete bankruptcy of such institutions".

The presidency of the Security Council rotates between its 15 members on a monthly basis.


10:35 AM

Ukraine issues new sanctions

Ukraine issued another round of sanctions yesterday, newly targeting 650 people.

"These are officials of the aggressor state [Russia], its defense industry – hundreds of companies – and collaborators," Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his address on Saturday night.

"None of those who help terrorists, work for them, supply or manufacture weapons for terror – none will escape liability," he added.

Ukrainian sanctions typically involve freezing assets and banning entry to the country. The impact is often largely symbolic.


10:09 AM

Ukraine marks anniversary of Bucha massacre

Ukraine will continue to fight for its independence, the chief of the army said on Sunday, a year after the Bucha massacre was revealed.

"We will continue to fight for the independence of our nation," Valery Zaluzhny wrote on Telegram.

Addressing the Ukrainian people, President Zelensky added: "You have stopped the biggest force against humanity of our time. You have stopped a force that despises everything and wants to destroy everything that gives people meaning." He posted photos of areas around Kyiv that were liberated a year ago.

When Russian forces withdrew from Bucha, a commuter town northwest of Kyiv, on March 31st 2022, they left a trail of death and destruction in their wake.

Days later, journalists found the bodies of people in civilian clothing, some with their hands tied behind their backs, lying in the streets.

Prosecutors in Kyiv say that Russian forces killed some 1,400 civilians in the area.

Moscow has claimed atrocities carried out in Bucha were staged.

But Ukraine and its Western allies accuse Russian troops of carrying out war crimes, pointing to extensive footage and witness accounts.


09:56 AM

EU will guard against Russian abuse of Security Council presidency, says Borrell

The European Union will guard against any abuse during Russia's presidency of the United Nations Security Council this month, the bloc's foreign policy chief said.

Russia, one of the five permanent members of the council, on Saturday assumed its presidency as part of the monthly rotation between the 15 members.

"Despite being a permanent member of the Security Council, Russia continuously violates the very essence of the UN legal framework," EU foreign policy chief Joseph Borrell tweeted late on Saturday.

"The EU will stand against any abuse by (the) Russian presidency," he said.


09:43 AM

'Pervasive alcohol abuse' among Russian troops

Among the non-combat causes of casualties to Russian troops, commanders have likely identified "pervasive alcohol abuse" as particularly detrimental to combat effectiveness, according to the MoD morning update.

"However, with heavy drinking pervasive across much of Russian society, it has long been seen as a tacitly accepted part of military life, even on combat operations," it adds.