The Russian Volunteer Corps, a group of anti-Kremlin fighters, claimed responsibility for an attack on their country on Thursday. The claim comes after Russia’s federal police force said that “armed Ukrainian nationalists” had entered Bryansk after unconfirmed reports suggested that Russian civilians were being held hostage while others were shot. Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, called the Russian report a “classic deliberate provocation.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken briefly met Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on the sidelines of the Group of 20 meeting of foreign ministers in New Delhi. It is their first face-to-face encounter since Russia’s war on Ukraine.
Here’s the latest on the war and its ripple effects across the globe.
- The Russian Volunteer Corps called itself a “liberation army that came to its own land” and urged Russians to “take up arms and fight Putin’s bloody regime” in a video posted to social media. It also said that the Russian claim that Ukrainians entered Bryansk was “a lie of the Kremlin propagandists.”
- Blinken and Lavrov’s encounter lasted less than 10 minutes, in which Blinken urged Russia to reverse its decision to suspend cooperation in the New START nuclear arms treaty, and to accept a U.S. proposal for the release of American citizen Paul Whelan, said a senior State Department official familiar with the discussion.
- Russia’s war on Ukraine is expected to dominate the agenda at the G-20 meeting. The talks come amid high tensions between the United States and China, with White House officials warning that Beijing may step in to aid Russia’s war effort in Ukraine.
- Ukrainian authorities will exhume a newly discovered burial ground in Bucha, the area near Kyiv where alleged atrocities last spring set off worldwide outrage last year and were criticized by world leaders as evidence of Russian war crimes. The exhumation is set for Wednesday afternoon local time. Officials had thought they reached a final death count in August — 458 bodies — but the exhumation is set to raise that figure.
- Russian forces are making advances in Bakhmut, the besieged city in eastern Ukraine, where fighting has intensified, Ukrainian military officials and the ISW said Wednesday. Geolocated footage from Wednesday showed Russian forces had advanced on the southern limits of the city, the ISW said. Analysts say capturing the city would be a largely symbolic victory for Russia.
- A Russian strike in Zaporizhzhia killed two people overnight, Anatoly Kurtev, the city’s acting mayor, said on Telegram. He added that people were trapped under the rubble of a five-story residential building that was damaged in the strike, and the injured were being evacuated.
- Russia is probably trying to further constrain the International Atomic Energy Agency’s presence at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in Ukraine, the Institute for the Study of Warthink tank said Wednesday. In early February, the nuclear watchdog agency was forced to delay a rotation of personnel at the plant over security reasons. Later that month, dozens of detonations occurred near the plant, the ISW said.
- German Chancellor Olaf Scholz urged Beijing not to supply weapons to “the aggressor” and to use its sway with Moscow to “push for the withdrawal of Russian troops.” Scholz said it was disappointing that China had not yet condemned the war. He made the remarks Thursday in a speech to Germany’s parliament to mark one year since he declared to the body that the war was a “turning point” for the world.
- Proposed amendments to Russian wartime censorship laws could further outlaw dissident speech, including a plan to make it illegal to criticize “volunteer formations” such as the Kremlin-tied Wagner mercenary group. The amendments were proposed Wednesday in the Russian parliament and face a vote this month. Lawmakers proposed a penalty of up to 15 years in prison for anyone found guilty.
- Ukraine’s share in exports from European Union countries reached prewar levels in December, according to Eurostat, the bloc’s statistics agency, for the first time since Russia’s invasion began over a year ago.
- President Biden signed an executive order extending a “national emergency” over the war in Ukraine on Wednesday. The order said that Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its invasion of Ukraine “continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States.”
From our correspondents
A girl drew an antiwar picture in school. Russia detained her father. The father of a 12-year-old Russian girl is facing criminal charges and a possible three-year sentence for an antiwar illustration she made in her elementary school art class. The girl has been temporarily placed in an orphanage — the latest example of families getting caught up in the Kremlin’s crackdown on criticism of the war, Francesca Ebel reports.
Students had been asked to make patriotic drawings to celebrate soldiers fighting on the front lines. Instead, Masha Moskalyova drew a woman standing in front of a Ukrainian flag, shielding a child from Russian missiles, with the words “no to war.”
Kate Brady contributed reporting.