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Russia-Ukraine war live: Putin rules out attacks on Nato countries


Russia will not attack Nato countries, Putin says

Russia has no designs on any Nato country and will not attack Poland, the Baltic states or the Czech Republic but if the west supplies F-16 fighters to Ukraine then they will be shot down by Russian forces, president Vladimir Putin said late on Wednesday, reports news agency Reuters.

Speaking to Russian air force pilots, Putin said the US-led military alliance had expanded eastwards towards Russia since the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union but that Moscow had no plans to attack a Nato state.

“We have no aggressive intentions towards these states,” Putin said, according to a Kremlin transcript released on Thursday.

“The idea that we will attack some other country – Poland, the Baltic States, and the Czechs are also being scared – is complete nonsense. It’s just drivel.”

The Kremlin, which accuses the US of fighting against Russia by supporting Ukraine with money, weapons and intelligence, says relations with Washington have probably never been worse, reports Reuters.

Asked about F-16 fighters which the west has promised to send to Ukraine, Putin said such aircraft would not change the situation in Ukraine. “If they supply F-16s, and they are talking about this and are apparently training pilots, this will not change the situation on the battlefield,” Putin said.

Russian president Vladimir Putin said late on Wednesday that Russia has no designs on any Nato country. Photograph: Sergei Karpukhin/AP

“And we will destroy the aircraft just as we destroy today tanks, armoured vehicles and other equipment, including multiple rocket launchers.”
Putin said that F-16 could also carry nuclear weapons.

“Of course, if they will be used from airfields in third countries, they become for us legitimate targets, wherever they might be located,” Putin said.

Putin’s remarks followed comments earlier in the day by Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba that the aircraft should arrive in Ukraine in the coming months.

Ukraine, now more than two years into a full-fledged war against Russia, has sought F-16s for many months.

Belgium, Denmark, Norway and the Netherlands are among countries which have pledged to donate F-16s. A coalition of countries has promised to help train Ukrainian pilots in their use.

Key events

Here are some of the latest images on the newswires:

Polish prime minister Donald Tusk (R) welcomes Ukrainian prime minister Denys Shmyhal (L) during their meeting in Warsaw on Friday. Photograph: Marcin Obara/EPA
A rescuer works outside a residential building damaged as a result of Russian strikes in Kharkiv on Wednesday. Photograph: Sergey Bobok/AFP/Getty Images
A man lays flowers to mourn victims of a terrorist attack near the Crocus city hall in Moscow, Russia, on Friday. Photograph: Xinhua/REX/Shutterstock
Rescuers work at the site of residential buildings damaged during a Russian drone strike in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, on Friday. Photograph: Reuters

The Kremlin said on Thursday complete silence was needed when it came to discussions about possible prisoner exchanges involving Evan Gershkovich, a Wall Street Journal reporter arrested in Russia a year ago on suspicion of espionage, reports Reuters.

Gershkovich, 32, became the first US journalist arrested on spying charges in Russia since the cold war when he was detained by the Federal Security Service (FSB) on 29 March.

The FSB, the main successor to the Soviet-era KGB, said Gershkovich had been trying to obtain military secrets.

Wall Street Journal journalist Evan Gershkovich attending a court hearing of the Moscow city court on Tuesday. Photograph: Moscow City Court Press Service/EPA

The reporter, the Wall Street Journal and the US government all deny he is a spy.

Reuters reports that when asked about when a court would hear Gershkovich’s case or whether there would be a prisoner exchange, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters: “We do not have information about the court – it is not our prerogative.”

“As for exchange matters, we have repeatedly stressed that there are certain contacts, but they must be carried out in absolute silence,” Peskov said, adding that public remarks were a hindrance.

Gershkovich has now spent almost a year at Moscow’s high-security Lefortovo prison, which is closely associated with the FSB, and his detention has been extended to 30 June.

Security measures in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv will be tightened after a spate of Russian ballistic missile attacks and threats of escalation, a city official said on Thursday, according to Reuters.

Russia staged concerted airstrikes on Ukraine’s energy system last week in what Moscow said was part of a series of “revenge” strikes in response to Kyiv’s bombardment of Russian regions.

Moscow has since increased its use of ballistic missiles, which are much faster than regular cruise missiles and harder to shoot down, to attack Ukrainian cities.

Reuters reports that Serhiy Popko, head of Kyiv’s military administration, said a city defence council would review the staging of public events and enhance security around large gatherings.

He said the decision had been made because of Russian statements and Russian forces’ use of missiles that reach their target within minutes of being fired.

He added that Russian agents “and other enemy elements” could be attempting to infiltrate the city.

“I ask Kyivans to remain calm. Do not panic. We are using preventive measures so that Kyiv and its residents are reliably defended,” he said on Telegram.

Kremlin says questions about the missing after concert attack are for investigators

The Kremlin, asked on Thursday about reports that dozens of people remain missing after the attack on a Moscow concert hall that killed at least 143, said that the question was best addressed to investigators, reports Reuters.

Russian Telegram channel Baza, which is close to the security services, reported on Wednesday that 95 people remain missing since the attack last Friday.

Ukraine’s foreign minister has arrived in New Delhi on for a two-day visit to boost bilateral ties and cooperation with India, which considers Russia a time-tested ally from the cold war-era.

The Associated Press (AP) reports that Dmytro Kuleba will meet with his Indian counterpart Subrahmanyam Jaishankar on Friday, as well as the deputy national security adviser, according to India’s Foreign Ministry.

On Thursday, Kuleba will pay his respects to Indian independence leader Mahatma Gandhi at the Rajghat memorial site.

His visit comes a week after Indian prime minister Narendra Modi spoke to Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy and Russian president Vladmir Putin, whom India has so far avoided criticising over the war in Ukraine. Instead, New Delhi has stressed the need for diplomacy and dialogue on ending the war and has expressed its willingness to contribute to peace efforts.

Putin’s spy chief visited North Korea, Russian intelligence service says

Russian president Vladimir Putin’s foreign intelligence chief paid a visit to North Korea this week to deepen bilateral cooperation between Moscow and Pyongyang and discuss broader regional security, Russia’s spy service said on Thursday according to Reuters.

Sergei Naryshkin, the head the SVR, Russia’s foreign intelligence service, visited Pyongyang on March 25-27, the SVR said. North Korea’s KCNA state media first reported the visit, said Reuters.

Naryshkin met North Korean minister of state security Ri Chang Dae, the SVR said. “They discussed topical issues of the development of the international situation, ensuring regional security, and deepening Russian-North Korean cooperation in the face of attempts to increase pressure from external forces,” the SVR was quoted as saying by Russian state news agency Tass.

KCNA said the two sides discussed further boosting cooperation to deal with the “ever-growing spying and plotting moves by the hostile forces”.

Putin has deepened ties with North Korea since the 2022 invasion of Ukraine, and the US and its allies have condemned what they say have been significant North Korean missile deliveries to Russia to help its war effort.

Both Russia and North Korea have repeatedly dismissed the criticism.

Moscow says it will develop ties with whatever countries it wants and that its cooperation with Pyongyang does not contravene international agreements.

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Russia will not attack Nato countries, Putin says

Russia has no designs on any Nato country and will not attack Poland, the Baltic states or the Czech Republic but if the west supplies F-16 fighters to Ukraine then they will be shot down by Russian forces, president Vladimir Putin said late on Wednesday, reports news agency Reuters.

Speaking to Russian air force pilots, Putin said the US-led military alliance had expanded eastwards towards Russia since the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union but that Moscow had no plans to attack a Nato state.

“We have no aggressive intentions towards these states,” Putin said, according to a Kremlin transcript released on Thursday.

“The idea that we will attack some other country – Poland, the Baltic States, and the Czechs are also being scared – is complete nonsense. It’s just drivel.”

The Kremlin, which accuses the US of fighting against Russia by supporting Ukraine with money, weapons and intelligence, says relations with Washington have probably never been worse, reports Reuters.

Asked about F-16 fighters which the west has promised to send to Ukraine, Putin said such aircraft would not change the situation in Ukraine. “If they supply F-16s, and they are talking about this and are apparently training pilots, this will not change the situation on the battlefield,” Putin said.

Russian president Vladimir Putin said late on Wednesday that Russia has no designs on any Nato country. Photograph: Sergei Karpukhin/AP

“And we will destroy the aircraft just as we destroy today tanks, armoured vehicles and other equipment, including multiple rocket launchers.”
Putin said that F-16 could also carry nuclear weapons.

“Of course, if they will be used from airfields in third countries, they become for us legitimate targets, wherever they might be located,” Putin said.

Putin’s remarks followed comments earlier in the day by Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba that the aircraft should arrive in Ukraine in the coming months.

Ukraine, now more than two years into a full-fledged war against Russia, has sought F-16s for many months.

Belgium, Denmark, Norway and the Netherlands are among countries which have pledged to donate F-16s. A coalition of countries has promised to help train Ukrainian pilots in their use.

Opening summary

It has gone 10am in Kyiv and 11am in Moscow. This is our latest Guardian blog covering all the latest developments over the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

Overnight, Ukrainian forces shot down 26 out of 28 attack drones launched by Russia, Kyiv’s military said on Thursday.

The Iranian-made drones were destroyed over parts of eastern, southern and southeastern Ukraine, the air force added.

The Zaporizhzhia region’s governor said on Telegram that two women had been wounded when debris struck a residential neighbourhood in the regional capital, while prosecutors in the eastern Kharkiv region said a restaurant, a store and offices were damaged by debris from three drones.

Meanwhile, it was reported that Russia has no designs on any Nato country and will not attack Poland, the Baltic states or the Czech Republic, president Vladimir Putin said late on Wednesday. He said if the west supplies F-16 fighters to Ukraine then they will be shot down by Russian forces.

More on that in a moment, but first, here are the other latest developments:

  • The US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, will discuss support for Ukraine during talks in Paris next week with the French president, Emmanuel Macron, the US state department has announced. After Paris, Blinken will head to Brussels for talks of Nato foreign ministers ahead of the alliance’s 75th anniversary summit in Washington in July. Blinken will also hold a three-way meeting in Brussels with EU leaders and the Armenian prime minister, Nikol Pashinyan, who wants to branch out from Armenia’s alliance with Russia.

  • Ukraine downed 26 Russian drones over Wednesday night, Mykola Oleshchuk, the head of Ukraine’s air force, said on Thursday morning. “The enemy launched a missile airstrike against Ukraine using three Kh-22 cruise missiles and an Kh-31P anti-radar missile (from the Black Sea), an S-300 anti-aircraft guided missile (Donetsk) and 28 attack UAVs of the Shahed-136/131 type. Twenty-six attack UAVs of the Shahed-136/131 type were destroyed within Odesa, Kharkiv, Dnipropetrovsk and Zaporizhzhia regions,” he said on Telegram, without providing details on the missile strikes.

  • Russia has bombed the north-eastern city of Kharkiv, killing at least one civilian and wounding 16 others, according to authorities. The airstrikes caused widespread damage, hitting several residential buildings and damaging the city’s institute for emergency surgery.

  • Volodymyr Zelenskiy, Ukraine’s president, condemned the attack as “Russian terror” and Volodymyr Tymoshko, head of the Kharkiv regional police, said Moscow might have used a new type of guided bomb, which he described as the UMPB D-30. “This is something between a guided aerial bomb which they [the Russians] have used recently, and a missile. It’s a flying bomb so to say.” The regional governor, Oleh Synehubov, said: “It seems that the Russians decided to test their modified bombs on the residents of the houses.”

  • After the attack on Kharkiv, Zelenskiy urged Ukraine’s allies to speed up deliveries of warplanes and air defence systems. “There are no rational explanations for why Patriots, which are plentiful around the world, are still not covering the skies of Kharkiv and other cities.”

  • Russian has formed a “Dnipro River flotilla” in occupied Kherson that is likely to be susceptible to attacks by Ukraine’s uncrewed surface vehicles (USVs), or drone boats, according to an intelligence update from the UK Ministry of Defence.

  • Vladimir Putin has reportedly told Russian military pilots that the supply of F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine will not alter the situation on the battlefield. But they can carry nuclear weapons and Moscow would have to take account of that in its military planning, the Russian president was quoted as saying. Earlier on Wednesday, the Ukrainian foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, said the jets should arrive in Ukraine in the coming months.

  • A Ukrainian spy chief has hinted at a secretive assassination campaign “possibly” run by Ukraine’s SBU spy agency to take out Ukrainian citizens collaborating with Russia. In a televised interview with Ukraine’s national broadcaster ICTV, the head of the SBU, Vasyl Malyuk, said Ukrainian spies had targeted “very many” people responsible for war crimes and attacks against Ukrainian citizens. “Officially, we will not admit to this. But at the same time I can offer some details.”

  • The SBU has detained two alleged agents of Russia’s intelligence agency accused of passing the location of sensitive military targets to enemy forces. “As a result of a special operation, two [Russian] FSB agents were detained in Kyiv and Odesa,” the SBU said in a statement. “Both criminals were detained red-handed while spying on potential targets for the occupiers.” One of the suspects photographed a thermal power station, ostensibly to help Russia with its bombardment of Ukrainian energy infrastructure. Both were charged with collaboration and face life in prison.

  • A Russian court has sentenced Lucy Shtein, a member of feminist group Pussy Riot and a former municipal deputy in Moscow, to six years in prison in absentia for anti-war social media posts, Reuters reported the court’s press service as saying on Wednesday. Shtein, 27, in March 2022 posted on X accusing Russian soldiers of “bombing foreign cities and killing people”. Shtein fled house arrest in Moscow to live in Iceland soon after the invasion, and reportedly has Icelandic citizenship.

  • Samsung has said it will stop supporting the Russian payment card Mir on its mobile payment service from 3 April – a result of anti-war sanctions. The US treasury has announced sanctions on Russia’s national payment card system, the central bank-owned entity that operates Mir.



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