In case you missed this assessment from CIA director William Burns, here is a quick re-cap.
During a speech at Georgia Tech university in Atlanta on Thursday, Burns said Russia’s President Vladimir Putin may resort to using a tactical or low-yield nuclear weapon in light of military setbacks in the invasion of Ukraine.
Given the potential desperation of President Putin and the Russian leadership, given the setbacks that they’ve faced so far, militarily, none of us can take lightly the threat posed by a potential resort to tactical nuclear weapons or low-yield nuclear weapons.”
The Kremlin said it placed Russian nuclear forces on high alert shortly after the assault began on 24 February, but the United States has not seen “a lot of practical evidence” of actual deployments that would cause more worry, Burns added.
We’re obviously very concerned. I know President Biden is deeply concerned about avoiding a third world war, about avoiding a threshold in which, you know, nuclear conflict becomes possible.”
Meanwhile, former CIA Director David Petraeus has described Russia’s admission that its flagship has sunk as a “rare moment of truth”.
“I’m surprised that they admitted it,” he told the BBC, adding that the facts would have “come out” eventually.
French President Emmanuel Macron has pledged to deliver 24 fire trucks and ambulances as well as 50 tons of emergency equipment to Ukraine.
“To support Ukraine, our firefighters and rescue workers are sending 24 fire trucks and ambulances as well as 50 tons of emergency equipment. This is the second convoy in a month,” he said.
More than 6,500 alleged war crimes committed by Russian troops in Ukraine are under investigation, Ukraine’s prosecutor’s office has said.
A total of 6,673 cases have been reported and 198 children have been confirmed to have been killed, the office added.
Here are just some of the latest images to be sent to us over the newswires today.
Zelenskiy praises Ukraine’s bravery on 50th day of war
Ukraine’s President Zelenskiy has marked the 50th day of war, calling Russia’s invasion “absurd” and “suicidal” in his latest national address.
“We have withstood 50 days already. 50 days of Russian invasion, although the occupiers gave us a maximum of five,” he began.
I remember the first day of the invasion of the Russian Federation. I remember what I was told on February 24 … To put it mildly, no one was sure that we would withstand it. Everyone sympathised. Many of them advised me to flee the country. Advised to actually surrender to tyranny.
But they didn’t know us either. And they did not know how brave Ukrainians are, how much we value freedom. Our opportunity to live the way we want. Not the people who rule in such a way that their army sees toilets for the first time in their lives in the occupied territories and steals even ordinary household appliances.
Zelenskiy said Russian troops “are already repeating on our land what Europe saw only during World War II” while criticising the west’s severity of sanctions.
“50 days of our defence is an achievement. Achievement of millions of Ukrainians,” he added.
During the 50 days of this war, Ukraine became a hero for the whole free world. For those who have the courage to call a spade a spade. For those who are not poisoned by propaganda.
You have all become heroes. All Ukrainian men and women who withstood and do not give up. And who will win. Who will return peace to Ukraine. I’m sure of it.”
How important is the Moskva to the Kremlin?
The apparent attack on and sinking of the Black Sea fleet’s flagship – 50 days after Vladimir Putin launched his invasion of Ukraine – represents a symbolic blow to the Kremlin. The Moskva was the pride of its fleet and the most prestigious vessel involved in the war against Ukraine.
“The sinking of the Moskva, the flagship of the Black Sea Fleet, is not just a significant loss, it is emblematic of the shambolic Russian military campaign,” said Michael Kofman, research programme director and Russia expert at the US government-funded Center for Naval Analyses.
It has also dealt a blow to one of Russia’s main campaign objectives. The Moskva had been leading a substantial Russian naval presence in the Black Sea, threatening Ukraine’s southern coast and its key ports. This has been one of the main focuses of the Kremlin’s military efforts, and is aimed at cutting off Ukraine’s access to sea and creating a land bridge from the Crimean peninsula to the Russian border.
Commissioned in 1983, it was armed with 16 anti-ship Vulkan cruise missiles with a range of at least 440 miles (700km). According to reports, it was also carrying S-300 anti-air missiles, which are crucial to Russia’s air power over Crimea and Ukraine’s Kherson province, now occupied by Russian troops.
It is the most significant naval vessel to be sunk since the Argentinian cruiser General Belgrano was torpedoed by a British submarine, HMS Conqueror, in 1982. It is the first time Moscow has lost a cruiser since German planes sank the Chervona Ukraina (Red Ukraine) in 1941 at Sevastopol – the same Crimean naval base to which the Moskva was supposedly being towed when it sank.
The Moskva gained notoriety early in the war when the crew demanded the surrender of Ukrainian forces on Snake Island, prompting a riposte by radio from one of the border guards on the island: “Russian warship, go fuck yourself.”
The phrase instantly became synonymous with Ukrainian defiance, and is now a universal meme. The day before the Moskva was sunk, Zelenskiy unveiled a new postage stamp portraying the ship and the Ukrainian border guard with his middle finger raised.
Russia says Moskva warship has sunk after Ukraine claims missile strike
Russia’s Black Sea flagship missile cruiser, the Moskva, sunk while being towed to a port after an explosion, the Russian defence ministry has claimed. It comes after Ukraine on Wednesday said its military struck the Moskva with Neptune anti-ship cruise missiles, while distracting its crew with an aerial drone, causing it to start sinking and forcing the crew of 500 to abandon ship.
Russia’s defence ministry initially denied reports that it had sunk and claimed the fires had been extinguished. It said four Russian ships that had gone to the Moskva’s rescue were hampered by bad weather and by ammunition blowing up on board.
Late on Thursday the ministry said in a statement: “The cruiser ship Moskva lost its stability when it was towed to the port because of the damage to the ship’s hull that it received during the fire from the detonation of ammunition. In stormy sea conditions, the ship sank.”
The claim of bad weather being a factor in the sinking was questioned by observers. Mark Hertling, the former commanding general of the United States Army Europe, told CNN: “As they were towing that ship in, that very wounded ship, into Sevastopol, they claim a storm sank it. Looking at the weather report outside of Sevastopol today the winds were about four miles an hour with 40 degree [4C] temperatures and a little bit of rain.”
Hello and welcome back to the Guardian’s live coverage of the war in Ukraine.
I’m Samantha Lock and I’ll be bringing you all the latest developments before my colleague Martin Belam takes the reins a little later on.
It is approaching 8am in Ukraine. Russia’s prized warship the Moskva has sunk. Ukraine claims it was thanks to the success of a missile strike. Moscow claims a fire on board and “stormy sea conditions” were to blame. An interesting military briefing with Vladimir Putin is sure to ensue.
Here is where the situation currently stands:
- Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, has praised his people’s bravery and resolve on the 50th day of war, calling Russia’s invasion “absurd” and “suicidal” in his latest national address. “We have withstood 50 days already. Fifty days of Russian invasion, although the occupiers gave us a maximum of five,” he said.
- The Russian flagship cruiser Moskva has sunk in the Black Sea off southern Ukraine, according to Russia’s defence ministry. Ukraine claims it was was hit by Ukrainian weaponry – the Neptune cruise missile, which Ukraine builds itself. Russia maintains that a fire on board and then “stormy sea conditions” while it was being towed to port were to blame. Russia only has three of this flagship class of warship, which have crews of almost 500 sailors, and the loss of the Moskva is a big blow. The former CIA director David Petraeus described Russia’s admission as a “rare moment of truth … I’m surprised that they admitted it,” he told the BBC.
- Vladimir Putin may resort to using a tactical or low-yield nuclear weapon in light of military setbacks in the invasion of Ukraine, the CIA director, William Burns, has said. During a speech in Atlanta, Burns said: “Given the potential desperation of President Putin and the Russian leadership … none of us can take lightly the threat posed by a potential resort to tactical nuclear weapons or low-yield nuclear weapons.” The Kremlin placed Russian nuclear forces on high alert shortly after the invasion of Ukraine began on 24 February.
- Rainy weather in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region could favour the Ukrainian military ahead of a planned Russian offensive, a senior Pentagon official has said. “The fact that the ground is softer will make it harder for them to do anything off of paved highways,” the official, who spoke under condition of anonymity, told AFP.
- Russia has asked Brazil for support in the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the G20 group of top economies to help it counter crippling sanctions, according to a letter seen by Reuters. On 30 March the Russian finance minister Anton Siluanov wrote asking for Brazil’s “support to prevent political accusations and discrimination attempts in international financial institutions and multilateral fora”. A Brazilian economy minister spokesperson indicated that Brazil would like Russia to remain part of discussions at multilateral organisations.
- At least 503 civilians, including 24 children, have been killed in Ukraine’s eastern Kharkiv region since Russia launched its invasion on 24 February, the region’s local governor has said. Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second city with a prewar population of about 1.5 million, is 40km (25 miles) from the Russian border.
- Russia’s deputy foreign minister Alexander Grushko said Moscow would take “security and defence measures that we will deem necessary” if Sweden and Finland join Nato. In an interview with the Russian state-owned news agency Tass, the minister said the membership in the military alliance would “seriously worsen the military situation” and lead to “the most undesirable consequences”. Finland and Sweden had earlier taken a major step towards joining Nato.
- Ukraine’s foreign ministry has appealed to the United Nations to facilitate the return of Ukrainian children who have been “illegally deported” to Russia. In a statement, the ministry said Russia had “engaged in state-organised kidnapping of children and destruction of the future of the Ukrainian nation”.
- France is planning to return its embassy to the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv. It had moved to the western city of Lviv in March as Russia invaded. The Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, has urged allies to resume their normal diplomatic presence in Ukraine.
- Turkey is still working on organising a meeting between Putin and Zelenskiy, said the Turkish foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu. The Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said the condition for a meeting between the Russian and Ukrainian presidents is a document ready for the two leaders to sign.
- The UK government has imposed sanctions on the Chelsea football club director Eugene Tenenbaum in an attempt to freeze up to £10bn of assets linked to the club’s Russian oligarch owner, Roman Abramovich. The UK said it was extending sanctions to Tenenbaum and David Davidovich, another close associate of Abramovich, because the oligarch had transferred billions of pounds of assets to the pair as Russia invaded Ukraine.
- Zelenskiy further urged European countries to give up Russian oil that provides “blood” money to Moscow, and appealed for more weapons to help Ukraine repel Russia’s invasion.
- A total of 2,557 people were evacuated from Ukrainian cities through humanitarian corridors on Thursday, deputy prime minister Iryna Vereshchuk said, with 289 of those from Mariupol. The head of the UN World Food Program, meanwhile, said people were being “starved to death” in the besieged city.
- Moody’s Investors Service has said that Russia “may be considered in default” if it fails to pay bonds in US dollars by 4 May. Russia paid two bonds in rubles this month after sanctions cut the country off from global financial systems and the US banned Moscow from making debt payments using dollars held in American banks. The payments in rubles “represent a change in payment terms” and may be considered a default, according to Moody’s. S&P Global Ratings has also declared Russia in default.
- A Russian legislator and two aides pushed a covert propaganda campaign aimed at winning US government support for Russia’s foreign policy agenda, including moves against Ukraine, according to a Justice Department indictment seen by the Associated Press.