Friday, 18 November 2022 05:25

What to know after Day 268 of Russia-Ukraine war

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WESTERN PERSPECTIVE

Russian missiles and shells hit Ukrainian positions in several regions and there was no let up in heavy fighting in Donetsk in the east, the Ukrainian military said on Thursday night as Moscow's occupying forces appeared more active.

FIGHTING

* Russia pounded gas production facilities and a major missile factory in new missile strikes on critical infrastructure in Ukraine, Ukrainian officials said.

* Investigators in Ukraine's recently liberated southern region of Kherson have uncovered 63 bodies with signs of torture after Russian forces left, Ukraine's interior minister was quoted as saying. A Ukrainian human rights investigator released a video of what he said was a Russian torture chamber.

* Under rainy skies, Ukrainian-controlled Kherson's central square was a frenetic melee of humanitarian aid queues and patriotic celebration tinged with uncertainty. Hundreds of residents switched the Russian SIM cards in their phones for local ones.

MH17

* Dutch judges convicted three men of murder for their role in the 2014 shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 over Ukraine, and sentenced them to life in prison. A fourth man was acquitted.

* Russia rejected what it called a "scandalous" ruling and said the proceedings had not been impartial.

* Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese welcomed the Dutch court's ruling. Thirty-eight Australians were among the 298 passengers and crew killed in the incident.

GRAIN DEAL

* A deal aimed at easing global food shortages by facilitating Ukraine's agricultural exports from its southern Black Sea ports was extended for 120 days.

* The Kremlin said it had been given assurances by the United Nations that work will be finalised on removing barriers to Russia's exports of agricultural productsand fertilisers.

DIPLOMACY

* Russia is not considering using nuclear weapons, the Kremlin said. President Vladimir Putin has said Russia will defend its territory with all available means, including its nuclear weapons, if attacked. Russian officials say the West has repeatedly misinterpreted Kremlin statements.

* U.S. Central Intelligence Agency Director William Burns and Putin's spy chief discussed "sensitive" questions when they met this week in Turkey, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said.

* The U.N. nuclear watchdog's 35-nation Board of Governors passed its third resolution calling on Russia to end all actions at Ukrainian nuclear facilities, diplomats said.

* The U.S. government plans to issue guidance in coming days on a Russian oil price cap taking effect on Dec. 5.

RUSSIAN PERSPECTIVE

The decision taken on Thursday by a Dutch court on the MH17 plane crash was absolutely political, the Russian Foreign Ministry has insisted in a statement. Earlier in the day, judges found three people guilty of downing the Malaysian passenger jet over Ukraine in 2014.

A court in The Hague found two Russian nationals – Igor Girkin and Sergey Dubinsky – as well as a Ukrainian citizen Leonid Kharchenko guilty of downing the commercial flight. All the three were sentenced to life in prison in absentia. They are also liable for more than €16 million in compensation to the victims’ families.  

The Dutch court was “under unprecedented pressure” during the hearings, the Russian Foreign Ministry stated, commenting on the verdict. “There can be no talk of objectivity and impartiality under such circumstances,” it added, pointing to attempts by Dutch “politicians, prosecutors and media to impose a politically motivated verdict” in this case. 

Moscow has made it clear that, in accordance with the country's constitution, it will not be extraditing its citizens.

The court’s decision was based on the conclusions of Dutch prosecutors, which, in turn, were built upon the accounts of anonymous witnesses and evidence presented by the Ukrainian Security Service, which is “an interested party” in the case, the ministry argued. Arguments presented by the Russian side, including data declassified by the Russian Defense Ministry were discarded, it added.

The court was “under unprecedented pressure” during the hearings, the Russian Foreign Ministry stated, commenting on the verdict. “There can be no talk of objectivity and impartiality under such circumstances,” it added, pointing to attempts by the Dutch “politicians, prosecutors and media to impose a politically motivated verdict” in this case.

The Russian military earlier published documents that a missile bearing a similar serial number to the one that was found at the MH17 crash site had previously been handed over to Ukraine. 

The fact that Kiev failed to close the airspace over the conflict zone before the tragedy did not receive a proper legal assessment either, the Russian Foreign Ministry argued. 

“We deeply regret the fact that The Hague District Court disregarded the principle of impartiality of justice in favor of the current political situation,” the ministry’s statement read.

On Thursday, the Dutch court ruled that Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was shot down by a Russian-made Buk air-defense missile from a field near the town of Pervomayskoe. Once a town in eastern Ukraine, Pervomayskoe became part of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) after the region declared independence from Ukraine in 2014. The DPR joined Russia following a referendum this autumn.

At the time of the tragedy, Pervomayskoe was controlled by the DPR militias, according to the verdict.

While the three men were found guilty, the court acquitted the fourth suspect, a Russian national identified as Oleg Pulatov. There was not enough evidence to prove that Pulatov was either involved in transporting the Buk system or firing the missile, the judges ruled.

The court verdict came more than eight years after the tragedy. The Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777 was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur when it was shot down over Donetsk Region on July 17, 2014.

Moscow and Kiev traded blame over the incident in the wake of the tragedy. A Joint Investigation Team that was tasked with investigating the crash included officials from Australia, Belgium, Malaysia, the Netherlands, and Ukraine but not Russia. 

Russia’s Alamaz Antey, the producer of the Buk system, released its own analysis of the incident. The company concluded that the plane was shot down by an older version of the Buk missile, which was not used by Russia but remained in service in the Ukrainian military.

 

Reuters/RT