The Russian military has said that some of its troops were killed and some were wounded in Ukraine, admitting for the first time that it had suffered casualties since the Russian invasion, reported REUTERS citing Russian military sources.
Russian Defence Ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov said “there are dead and wounded among our comrades”, without offering any numbers, but added that Russia’s losses were “many times” fewer than those of Ukraine’s forces.
It is the first time Russian military officials have mentioned casualties on their side.
Ukraine has claimed that its forces killed 8,000 Russian troops, including a four star Army General who couldn’t be identified due to third degree burns on bodies.
Maj Gen Konashenkov also said that since the start of the attack on Thursday, the Russian military have hit 1,067 Ukrainian military facilities, including 27 command posts and communication centres, 38 air defence missile systems and 56 radar stations.
Ukrainian military said in a statement that it had destroyed more than 500 armored vehicles, 350 T-72 tanks, and shot down more than 50 Ka-52 attack helicopters. Russia army also abandoned a number of armored vehicles and tanks when it ran of fuel.
The European Union’s chief executive has said the 27-nation bloc will close its airspace to Russian airlines, fund supplies of weapons to Ukraine and ban some pro-Kremlin media outlets in response to Russia’s invasion.
European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said that “for the first time ever, the European Union will finance the purchase and delivery of weapons and other equipment to a country that is under attack”.
Ms von der Leyen added that “we are shutting down the EU airspace for Russians. We are proposing a prohibition on all Russian-owned, Russian-registered or Russian-controlled aircraft. These aircraft will no more be able to land in, take off or overfly the territory of the EU”.
She also said the EU will ban “the Kremlin’s media machine. The state-owned Russia Today and Sputnik, as well as their subsidiaries, will no longer be able to spread their lies to justify Putin’s war and to sow division in our union”.
Ms von der Leyen added that the EU will also target Belarus president Alexander Lukashenko for supporting Russia’s widespread military campaign in Ukraine. “We will hit Lukashenko’s regime with a new package of sanctions,” she said.
Earlier on Sunday the office of Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy announced Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet for talks at a venue on the Belarusian border with Ukraine.
The talks, the first since Russia unleashed a full scale invasion of Ukraine last week, would be held without preconditions and are the result of a phone call between him and the Belarusian president, Mr Zelenskiy said.
“We agreed that the Ukrainian delegation would meet with the Russian delegation without preconditions on the Ukrainian-Belarusian border, near the Pripyat River,” he said in a statement.
It comes as Russian president Vladimir Putin has ordered Russian nuclear deterrent forces on alert amid tensions with the West over his invasion of Ukraine.
Speaking at a meeting with his top officials, Mr Putin asserted that leading Nato powers had made “aggressive statements” along with the West imposing hard-hitting financial sanctions against Russia, including the president himself.
Mr Putin ordered the Russian defence minister and the chief of the military’s General Staff to put the nuclear deterrent forces in a “special regime of combat duty”.
Meanwhile, Russian military vehicles pushed into Ukraine’s second-largest city on Sunday and explosions rocked oil and gas installations on a fourth day of fighting in the country.
Russian soldiers and armoured vehicles were seen in different parts of the northeastern city of Kharkiv and firing could be heard, a witness said. A burning tank was visible in a video posted by the government.
Russian troops blew up a natural gas pipeline in Kharkiv before daybreak, a Ukrainian state agency said, sending a burning cloud up into the darkness.
“The Russian enemy’s light vehicles have broken into Kharkiv, including the city centre,” regional governor Oleh Sinegubov said. “Ukraine’s armed forces are destroying the enemy. We ask civilians not to go out.”
Ireland has closed its airspace to all Russian aircraft, while Finland and Sweden followed suit as a co-ordinated European-wide ban could be on the offing, an official said.
Ukraine has filed a suit against Russia at the highest UN court in The Hague for disputes between states, resident Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Sunday.
It was unclear on precisely what grounds the case was being brought to the International Court of Justice (ICJ). A court official could not immediately be reached for comment.
The court does not have automatic jurisdiction in cases involving the two nations and Kyiv would have to base its claim on a UN treaty in order to give the court authority to hear the matter.
Ukraine has in the past sought to involve another court in The Hague, the International Criminal Court (ICC), which handles war crimes.
Ukrainian forces were holding off Russian troops advancing on the capital Kyiv, Mr Zelenskiy said. But shelling hit civilian infrastructure and targets including ambulances, he said.
More than 368,000 refugees, mainly women and children, have poured into neighbouring countries, clogging railways, roads and borders since Russian president Vladimir Putin unleashed what he called a special military operation on Thursday.
Ignoring weeks of frantic diplomacy and sanctions threats by Western nations seeking to avoid war, Mr Putin has justified the invasion saying “neo-Nazis” rule Ukraine and threaten Russia’s security – a charge Kyiv and Western governments say is baseless propaganda.
The Kremlin sent a diplomatic delegation to neighbouring Belarus offering talks, but Ukraine rejected the offer, saying Belarus had been complicit in the invasion. Ukraine was happy to hold talks elsewhere, Mr Zelenskiy said.
Russian missiles found their mark overnight, including a strike that set an oil terminal ablaze in Vasylkiv, southwest of Kyiv, the town’s mayor said. Blasts sent huge flames and billowing black smoke into the night sky, online posts showed.
“The enemy wants to destroy everything,” said the mayor, Natalia Balasinovich.
Ukraine’s gas pipeline operator said the transit of Russian gas via Ukraine, vital for Europe’s energy needs, was going on as normal. Kremlin-controlled energy giant Gazprom also said gas exports via Ukraine continued normally.
Russian-backed separatists in the eastern province of Luhansk said a Ukrainian missile had blown up an oil terminal in the town of Rovenky.
Reuters witnesses in Kyiv reported occasional blasts and gunfire through the night, then three blasts after air raid sirens went off shortly before 9am local time. Ukrainian leaders were defiant.
“We have withstood and are successfully repelling enemy attacks. The fighting goes on,” Mr Zelenskiy said in a video message from the streets of Kyiv posted on his social media.
A US defence official on Saturday said Ukraine’s forces were putting up “viable” resistance to Russia’s air, land and sea advance.
Meanwhile, a fresh round of sanctions on Russia to bar some banks from the Swift system have been vowed in a joint declaration by the European Commission, France, Germany, Italy, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and United States.
The group also said they would prevent the Russian Central Bank using its reserves to undermine the effect of existing sanctions, which have been announced in waves by international governments since the invasion of Ukraine this week.
It followed mounting public pressure to do more to assist Ukraine and push back against Russia, on a day when thousands of people demonstrated against the invasion in cities across Europe.
“We stand with the Ukrainian government and the Ukrainian people in their heroic efforts to resist Russia’s invasion,” read the surprise joint declaration, released just before midnight in Brussels. “We will hold Russia to account and collectively ensure that this war is a strategic failure for Putin.”
In the statement, the group vowed to set up a “transatlantic taskforce” to hunt down the assets of sanctioned individuals and freeze them.
It also committed to take new measures “on additional Russian officials and elites close to the Russian government, as well as their families, and their enablers to identify and freeze the assets they hold in our jurisdictions”.
They declared they would work together to counter hybrid war tactics from Russia, including disinformation.
In a statement, European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen accused the Russian army of “barbaric actions”.
“The European Union and its partners are working to cripple Putin’s ability to finance his war machine,” Ms von der Leyen said.
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