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Russia-Ukraine war: List of key events, day 754

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Russia-Ukraine war: List of key events, day 754

As the war enters its 754th day, these are the main developments.

Here is the situation on Tuesday, March 19, 2024.

Fighting

  • Ukrainian air defence systems shot down 17 out of 22 Russian Shahed drones that targeted nine Ukrainian regions. The attack triggered a fire in a residential building in the central city of Kryvyi Rih, but emergency services were able to evacuate residents and disable the drone’s payload before it blew up. Russia also fired seven missiles at northeastern Ukraine, including the Sumy region.
  • Authorities said the intensity of ground and air attacks on the Sumy region had increased since the start of the year. The regional government said the area had been struck more than 3,000 times, compared with a total of some 8,000 strikes in 2023. The number of aerial bomb attacks had tripled and Russian saboteurs were highly active, officials said.
  • Vyacheslav Gladkov, the governor of Russia’s Belgorod region, said four people were killed after Ukrainian shelling hit a house in the village of Nikolskoye.
  • Ukrainian Presidential aide Mykhailo Podolyak told the Reuters news agency that Russian President Vladimir Putin planned to escalate the war after the Russian leader suggested a “security zone” be established in Ukraine’s Kharkiv region to “protect” Russian territory.

Politics and diplomacy

  • China, India and North Korea congratulated Putin on securing a further six-year term after the Kremlin said the long-time leader got 87 percent of the vote. The election, which was also organised in four Ukrainian territories that Russia partly occupies and claims to have annexed, was condemned by Ukraine and its European allies as “illegal” and “undemocratic”.
Russian President Vladimir Putin at an event to mark 10 years since Russia invaded and annexed Crimea from Ukraine in a move condemned as illegal by the international community [Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP]
  • Putin appeared briefly in front of a flag-waving crowd at an open-air concert on Red Square to mark the 10th anniversary of Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine. The annexation of the Black Sea peninsula has been condemned as illegal by most countries at the United Nations.
  • Russia’s state news agency TASS reported the Federal Security Service (FSB) detained a 24-year-old Russian woman in Crimea who was allegedly attempting to sabotage rail infrastructure bringing military equipment to the front line in Ukraine.
  • US Senator Lindsey Graham visited Kyiv and met Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. The two discussed the $60bn military aid package for Ukraine that is being held up by Republicans in the United States Congress. Zelenskyy said the package’s approval was “critically important”. Graham suggested that aid in the form of a no-interest loan might get more support.

Weapons

  • South Korea’s Defence Minister Shin Won-sik told reporters that North Korea had shipped about 7,000 containers of weapons to Russia for use in Ukraine since the transfers began last July. Some had been sent by sea and others by rail as a result of UN sanctions on both countries, Shin added.
  • The Council of the European Union ratified an agreement to increase the EU’s support for Ukraine’s Armed Forces by 5 billion euros ($5.44 billion) through a dedicated assistance fund.
  • During a visit to Warsaw, Germany’s Defence Minister Boris Pistorius said Germany and Poland planned to work jointly on producing more ammunition for Ukraine. He did not go into detail.
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European nations with Patriots hesitate to give their missile systems to Ukraine

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European nations with Patriots hesitate to give their missile systems to Ukraine

BRUSSELS (AP) — European Union countries possessing Patriot air defense systems appeared hesitant on Monday to give any to Ukraine, which is desperately seeking at least seven of the missile batteries to help fend off Russian air attacks.

Russia’s air force is vastly more powerful than Ukraine’s, but sophisticated missile systems provided by Kyiv’s Western partners can pose a major threat to Russian aviation as the Kremlin’s forces slowly push forward along the roughly 1,000-kilometer (620-mile) front line in the war.

Dutch Foreign Minister Hanke Bruins Slot said the Netherlands is “looking at every kind of possibility at the moment” and is offering financial support to a German initiative to help Ukraine bolster its air defenses and to buy more drones.

Asked at a meeting of European Union foreign and defense ministers why the Netherlands is reluctant to send some of its Patriot systems, Slot said: “We are looking again if we can deplete our store of what we still have, but that will be difficult.”

Last week, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said that the military organization “has mapped out existing capabilities across the alliance and there are systems that can be made available to Ukraine.” He did not name the countries that possess Patriots.

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The Patriot is a guided missile system that can target aircraft, cruise missiles and shorter-range ballistic missiles. Each battery consists of a truck-mounted launching system with eight launchers that can hold up to four missile interceptors each, a ground radar, a control station and a generator.

A key advantage of the U.S.-made systems, apart from their effectiveness, is that Ukrainian troops are already trained to use them.

But Patriots take a long time to make — as long as two years, some estimates suggest — so countries are reluctant to give them up and leave themselves exposed. Germany had 12, but it is supplying three to Ukraine. Poland, which borders Ukraine, has two and needs them for its own defenses.

Asked whether his country would provide any, Swedish Defense Minister Pål Jonson said: “I don’t exclude that possibility, but right now we’re focused on financial contributions.” He said Sweden would send other systems that could “relieve some of the pressure” on the need for Patriots.

Jonson also noted that more U.S. deliveries of air defense systems might come, after the U.S. House of Representatives passed a package over the weekend of $61 billion in support, including $13.8 billion for Ukraine to buy weapons.

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Questioned about whether Spain might step up with Patriots, Foreign Minister José Manuel Albares said that his country “will make its decisions based on the power it has in its hands to support Ukraine.”

“I don’t think we’re helping anyone if we hear all the time what it is that’s being given, when it’s being given and how it’s getting in,” he told reporters at the meeting in Luxembourg.

NATO keeps track of the stocks of weapons held by its 32 member countries to ensure that they are able to execute the organization’s defense plans in times of need.

But Stoltenberg said on Friday that if dropping below the guidelines is “the only way NATO allies are able to provide Ukraine with the weapons they need to defend themself, well that’s a risk we have to take.”

Beyond providing new Patriot batteries, Stoltenberg said that it’s also important for countries to ensure that the batteries they do send are well maintained, have spare parts and plenty of interceptor missiles.

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In a separate development at Monday’s meeting, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis expressed concern about possible Russian sabotage against facilities in Europe being used to train Ukrainian troops.

Two German-Russian men were arrested in Germany last week on suspicion of espionage, one of them accused of agreeing to carry out attacks on potential targets including U.S. military facilities, prosecutors said.

“We are witnessing very similar events in our region, not just in Lithuania but also in Latvia and Estonia as well,” Landsbergis told reporters.

“There seems to be a coordinated action against the European countries that is coming from Russia,” he said. “We have to find a way to deal with the threat … because Russia is fighting not just against Ukraine but the West as well.”

___

Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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Hezbollah claims to shoot down Israeli drone over Lebanon

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Hezbollah claims to shoot down Israeli drone over Lebanon

The Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah is claiming to have shot down an Israeli drone that was on a combat mission, a report says. 

Hezbollah said in a statement that the drone, which was “waging its attacks on our steadfast people,” was brought down in the Al Aishiyeh area of southern Lebanon near the country’s border with Israel, according to Reuters. 

It reportedly described the drone as a Hermes 450 made by Israel-based weapons manufacturer Elbit Systems. 

“A surface-to-air missile was launched at a remote manned aircraft of the air force that was operating in the skies of Lebanon, as a result the vehicle was hit and fell in Lebanese territory,” the Israeli Defense Forces later said in a statement. “The incident is being investigated.” 

AGITATOR BEHIND ‘DEATH TO AMERICA’ CHANTS IN CHICAGO CONTRIBUTES TO IRAN STATE TV, HEZBOLLAH-LINKED CHANNEL 

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Hezbollah members salute and raise the group’s yellow flags during the funeral of fallen fighters who were killed in an Israeli strike on their vehicles, in Shehabiya in south Lebanon on April 17. (AFP via Getty Images)

More than 240 Hezbollah fighters have been killed in cross-border skirmishes with Israel since the Oct. 7 surprise attack by Hamas that launched the ongoing war in Gaza, Reuters reports. 

On the Israeli side, 18 people, including soldiers and civilians, have died, it added. 

The reported downing of the drone comes as the head of Israel’s military intelligence directorate has resigned for failing to prevent the Oct. 7 massacre. 

ISRAELI MILITARY INTELLIGENCE CHIEF RESIGNS OVER FAILURE TO PREVENT DEADLIEST ATTACK IN ISRAEL’S HISTORY 

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Israeli shelling in Lebanon

Lebanese villagers pass by a building which was destroyed by Israeli shelling, in Kfar Kila, on Thursday, April 18, 2024.  (AP/Mohammed Zaatari)

“In coordination with the Chief of the General Staff, the Head of the Intelligence Directorate, MG Aharon Haliva, has requested to end his position, following his leadership responsibility as the Head of the Intelligence Directorate for the events of October 7,” the IDF wrote on X. 

“The Chief of the General Staff thanked Major General Aharon Haliva for his 38 years of service in the IDF, during which he made significant contributions to the security of the State of Israel as both a combat soldier and commander,” it added. 

Israeli airstrike in Lebanon

Smoke rises on the Lebanese side of the border between Israel and Lebanon after an Israeli airstrike on April 10. (Reuters/Ayal Margolin/TPX Images Of The Day)

 

In a resignation letter quoted by The Associated Press, Haliva wrote, “The intelligence directorate under my command did not live up to the task we were entrusted with. I carry that black day with me ever since, day after day, night after night. I will carry the horrible pain of the war with me forever.” 

Fox News’ Lawrence Richard contributed to this report. 

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Period poverty still a problem within the EU despite tax breaks

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Period poverty still a problem within the EU despite tax breaks

In some countries, costs remain high for women despite tax breaks with many not being able to buy their product of choice.

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Approximately half of the EU menstruates or will do it at some point of their lives. But that does not mean access to menstrual products is guaranteed.

There is no official EU data on how many women suffer menstrual poverty, but Belgian NGO Bruzelle believes that in Belgium one in fifteen people cannot buy their choice of product.

“At some point, you have to choose between a basic necessity and buying menstrual products. So at some point, you have to choose between eating or buying a menstrual product,” explains Verónica Martínez of Bruzelle.

“When you get to that point, you’re really in a situation of menstrual insecurity. And add two other factors that make the situation even worse, which are the lack of menstrual information and the lack of safe, well-adapted places to change in complete safety,” she adds.

Since 2022, the EU allows member states to sell menstrual products without VAT. For now, Ireland is the only one taking advantage of this.

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Most states have reduced taxes between 5 to 10%. But in others taxes remain high, such as Hungary (27%) or Sweden and Denmark, both at 25%.

One of the options to alleviate the cost of menstrual products is using reusable ones.

Free menstrual cups in Catalonia

Catalonia recently started giving out a menstrual cup, a pad or a pair of period underwear to fight menstrual poverty.

“Menstruation still has lots of taboos and stigma in society. This is why this is a universal action. We need to change the way society has been dealing with menstruation as a private issue, as something that it’s not spoken about, because this means these stigmas have also implications on women’s health and well-being,” explains the Minister of Equality and Feminism of the Government of Catalonia, Tània verge.

According to the Catalan government, 23% of women in the region are reusing single use products and 44% can’t afford their first choice.

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