Overview:

  • Russian aerial assault kills two in Kharkiv region, wounds others
  • A good friend of Ukraine, Republican leader in Senate announces retirement
  • Foreign ministry sends warnings about “external interference” in Transnistria
  • Kremlin’s threshold for nuclear weapons tactics revealed, Financial Times says
  • Russians continue march along front lines in Donetsk

Bombs rain down on Kupyansk, killing two

Russian warplanes rained bombs on the Kharkiv region, killing two men in Kupyansk on Wednesday, including a priest, Ukrinform reported, citing the chief of the regional military administration.

At least one woman was injured, but more casualties could emerge as rescuers comb the pile of rubble that remains from apartment buildings and other civilian infrastructure in the area.

“The invaders hit the town of Kupyansk with guided aerial bombs, the administration chief Oleh Syniehubov wrote on Telegram.” The town’s central part was affected. Two men, 59 and 39, were killed as a result of enemy shelling, and a woman was injured. More people are presumed to remain under the rubble.”

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A local cafe and a church were destroyed, and a local pastor’s body was found under the rubble.

Mitch McConnel, Kyiv’s Republican ally, will step down from the Senate this year

The 82-year-old Republican leader in the US Senate, Mitch McConnell, made the surprise announcement on Wednesday that he would retire this year, leaving some question marks about future support in the upper chamber for aid to Ukraine.

The age of Sen. McConnell, who suffered a recent fall, inexplicably froze during an interview and was later checked out at a local hospital, has raised questions about his ability to serve, but he gave no advanced warning of Wednesday’s announcement.

Russian UAVs Again Enter NATO Airspace During Drone Attack on Ukraine
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Russian UAVs Again Enter NATO Airspace During Drone Attack on Ukraine

Ukrainian air defenses shot down 25 of 38 Russian Shaheds, while three drones again strayed into NATO member Romania.

His departure is concerning to those on Capitol Hill worried about former President Donald Trump’s influence on lawmakers. Indeed, Trump has called for McConnell’s ouster ever since December 2020, when the Kentucky senator affirmed that Democrat Joe Biden had rightfully won the presidential election.

For nearly four years, Trump has repeatedly lied about election fraud and faces several court cases related to that and his fomenting of an insurrection against the US Government on Jan. 6, 2021.

According to the Associated Press, McConnell foreshadowed his departure to a group of his top aides in January, just before his 82nd birthday, and told them his last priority was to see through the passage of the $60 billion supplemental aid package to Kyiv.

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McConnell said he was aware of the political implications of his departure, especially as regards pending aid to Ukraine.

“I have many faults, misunderstanding politics is not one of them,” he said.

Foreign Ministry pleads for a “peaceful resolution” in Moldovan separatist region

The Foreign Ministry of Ukraine on Wednesday warned that there should not be any “destructive external interference” in Moldova’s Russian-speaking separatist region of Transnistria, whose leaders earlier had appealed to Russia for “protection,” AFP reported.

There are concerns that Transnistria might be voting to join Russia this week - the first referendum of its kind since 2006 - which would likely create a new focus of conflict in Moscow’s war in neighboring Ukraine.

The Ministry called “for a peaceful resolution of economic, social and humanitarian issues between [the Moldovan capital] of Chisinau and [the separatist leaders] in Tiraspol without any destructive external interference."

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Meanwhile, the Russian Foreign Ministry told local news agencies that “protecting the interests of the residents of Transnistria, our compatriots, is one of our priorities.”

The measure supported by the separatist representatives “specifically used ‘zashchita’ (защита), a word that means both ‘defense’ and ‘protection’ in their request, likely to set conditions for the Kremlin to interpret ‘defense’ in a military sense if it so chooses,” analysts from the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) wrote.

Destruction of 20 percent of Russia’s ballistic submarines is one of Moscow’s criteria for use of nuclear weapons, leaked documents suggest

The Financial Times (FT) on Wednesday released a report examining leaked documents that suggest that Russia has examined different options for using tactical nuclear weapons in Ukraine. The writers concluded that Russia has a lower threshold for using such warheads “if the desired result can’t be achieved through conventional means.”

The FT report posited that the criteria for a nuclear response vary between “an enemy incursion on Russian territory” to more specific parameters, such as “the destruction of 20 percent of Russia’s strategic ballistic missile submarines.”

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Intelligence experts told the FT that, although the documents are more than a decade old, the policy described in them likely remains the same.

Operations: Donetsk region

As they have done for the past week, Moscow’s ground forces have slowly crept forward along fronts in the Donetsk region, facing less resistance than in previous months, the ISW reported.

Verified footage posted to social media on Wednesday shows Russian troops advancing west and northwest of Avdiivka and also recently advancing southeast of Orlivka (west of Avdiivka).

Additional geolocated imagery from Wednesday indicates that the Kremlin’s brigades recently advanced near windbreaks south of Stepove (northwest of Avdiivka). The Russian Ministry of Defense had claimed on Tuesday that elements of the Russian Central Grouping of Forces had seized Stepove.

Russian forces have found similar success around the city of Donetsk. Geolocated footage published on Wednesday indicates that elements of the Russian 5th Motorized Rifle Brigade with armored vehicle support recently advanced into the southern outskirts of Krasnohorivka (just west of the city).

 

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