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Ukraine war latest: Ukraine shoots down another Russian A-50 aircraft over Azov Sea, Air Force says

by The Kyiv Independent news desk February 23, 2024 8:29 PM 9 min read
A Russian Beriev A-50 aircraft takes part in rehearsal for 2020 Victory Day parade in Moscow, on June 20, 2020. (Sefa Karacan/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
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Key developments on Feb. 23:

  • Air Force: Ukraine shoots down another Russian A-50 aircraft over Azov Sea
  • 'Without aid, Ukraine will lose war, with aid it will win,' US Senator Schumer says in Lviv
  • Zelensky: War with Russia is 'not a stalemate'
  • EU adopts 13th package of Russia sanctions
  • Parliament approves bill on conditions for demobilization of conscripts

The Ukrainian Air Force downed a rare Russian A-50 early warning and control aircraft over the Azov Sea on the evening of Feb. 23, Air Force Commander Mykola Oleshchuk reported.

Ukraine's military intelligence agency confirmed the aircraft had been downed as a result of a joint operation with the Air Force. The downing is "another serious blow" to Russia's military capabilities, the agency said.

Oleshchuk posted on Telegram at around at 8 p.m. local time (UTC+2) to thank "all those who ensured the result."

Russian state-owned news agency RIA Novosti reported minutes later that "an unidentified aircraft crashed in the Kanevskoy District in Krasnodar Krai."

A second report from RIA Novosti said that two aircraft had crashed in the area, causing a large fire to break out at the crash site. A third update at around 9 p.m. UTC+2 time claimed that there had in fact only been one aircraft involved in the crash.

Kanevskoy District is situated on the coast of the Azov Sea, 200 kilometers (124 miles) from the front line in Ukraine.

HUR later said that the aircraft was downed near the city of Yeysk, which is located around 50 kilometers (32 miles) north of Kanevskoy District and is home to a Russian military airfield.

According the agency, the plane was a modernized version of the Soviet-built jet.

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'Without aid, Ukraine will lose war, with aid it will win,' US Senator Schumer says in Lviv

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer warned that Ukraine is at risk of losing the war without American aid in a press conference attended by a Kyiv Independent reporter in Lviv on Feb. 23.

Schumer's visit along with several other Democratic senators, comes at a precarious time for Ukraine. Holdups in U.S. assistance continue to put a strain on Ukraine's defense capabilities, contributing to the loss of the key front-line city of Avdiivka.

After months of bipartisan negotiations, the Senate approved a $95 billion foreign aid bill that allocates $60 billion for Ukraine. Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson has thus far refused to put the bill to a vote in the House, instead calling a recess until the end of the month.

Many of the senators' comments were personally directed at Johnson. Schumer invited the speaker to Ukraine and implored him not "to let politics get in the way."

Schumer added that the failure to support Ukraine would hurt the standing of the U.S. in the world and increase the likelihood of further conflict in the future, which could potentially require American boots on the ground.

"If we let autocrats of the world succeed here, they will not stop. We will see greater trouble and conflict in Europe, with China, Iran, in the Middle East," Schumer said.

"If we turn our back on Ukraine, it has implications that will go on for a long time...(and) America will lose out," he said.

Senator Richard Blumenthal said the U.S. must "pay now, or pay later," adding that there is the possibility "our own men and women will be fighting and dying on the battlefields of Europe."

Senator Jack Reed said that aid is in Johnson's hands, and urged him to help give Ukrainians the tools needed to fight the Russian invasion.

"If we do not (send the necessary weapons), we will soon be asked to send young Americans because (Russia) will not stop with Ukraine," Reed said.

Despite the heroic effort that Ukraine has put up so far, the senators also said that the West must provide more military assistance, such as air defense, demining equipment, and long-range weapons, including equipment with the capability of striking the Kerch Bridge that connects occupied Crimea with Russia.

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Zelensky: War with Russia is 'not a stalemate'

Russia's war against Ukraine is not currently a stalemate, President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a front-line interview with U.S. media outlet Fox News that aired on Feb. 22.

Zelensky spoke with reporter Bret Baier near the front lines in Kharkiv Oblast, where artillery fire could be heard nearby. Fox News said it was the president's first interview on the front since the beginning of the full-scale war.

"It's not a stalemate," Zelensky told Baier, saying Ukrainian forces are preparing new operations and new offenses.

He specifically highlighted Ukraine's successes in targeting Russia's Black Sea Fleet.

"(Russia) will get some surprises," he said.

Zelensky also said that Russian battlefield losses outweigh Ukrainian casualties.

"The ratio is one to five," he said. "Meaning one soldier killed in action equals five Russian soldiers killed in action."

The interview aired shortly before the second anniversary of the full-scale invasion, amid a months-long delay in U.S. funding to Ukraine that has called into question the sustainability of Western support for Kyiv's war effort.

The effects of the delays have been felt on the battlefield, with Russia recently winning its first significant victory in months when Ukrainian troops withdrew from Avdiivka on Feb. 17. U.S. President Joe Biden went so far as to blame the fall of Avdiivka on Congress' failure to approve funding.

"Will Ukrainians survive without Congress' support? Of course. But not all of us," Zelensky said in the interview.

He again urged Western partners to provide long-range weapons to help Ukrainian troops counter Russian manpower and air superiority.

"If the partners have those systems, why not be providing them to Ukraine?"

The interview aired two weeks after former Fox News host and far-right commentator Tucker Carlson released an interview with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Zelensky appealed to the Western audience, warning that a Russian victory would be "a tragedy for all of us."

"(Putin) will never stop," Zelensky said. "He will go through Eastern Europe because he wants it. That's his goal."

Zelensky said it was crucial for Ukrainian troops to "be more quick" and "lose all the bureaucracy" going forward.

"Time is money. In our case, it's not money, it's people's lives."

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EU adopts 13th package of Russia sanctions

The Council of the EU has adopted the 13th package of sanctions against Russia over its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the Council said in a statement on Feb. 23.

The package targets an additional 106 individuals and 88 entities involved in Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. The list includes companies from India, Sri Lanka, China, Serbia, Kazakhstan, Thailand, and Turkey, according to the statement.

"As we reach the sad mark of two years since (Russian President) Vladimir Putin launched the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the European Union keeps up the pressure on Russia," said the European Union's top diplomat Josep Borrell.

"Today, we are further tightening the restrictive measures against Russia’s military and defense sector, targeting further entities in third countries that supply equipment as well as those responsible for the illegal deportation and military re-education of Ukrainian children."

The Council designated another 27 companies as those directly supporting Russia’s military and industrial complex. They will be subjected to tighter export restrictions regarding dual-use goods and technologies as well as other products that might contribute to the technological development of Russia’s military sector.

Some of these entities are based in third countries and have been used to circumvent trade restrictions, while others are Russian companies involved in the development, manufacturing, and supply of electronics for Russia’s military and industrial complex.

Export restrictions will also be imposed on components used to develop and produce drones and goods that enhance Russian industrial capabilities, like electrical transformers.

The 13th sanctions package also targets those involved in North Korea's weapons supply to Russia.

Over 2,000 people and companies have been sanctioned by the EU  for "actions undermining or threatening the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine" since the start of Russia's full-scale invasion on Feb. 24, 2022.

Ahead of the second anniversary of the all-out war, Kyiv's allies have reiterated their support and announced new aid packages for Ukraine.

The EU, the U.K., Canada, and the U.S. have also announced additional sanctions against Russia and entities in third countries that help Moscow circumvent previous restrictions and sustain its war machine.

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Parliament approves bill on conditions for demobilization of conscripts

Ukraine's parliament approved a bill on Feb. 23 that changes the conditions for demobilization of conscripts, lawmaker Yaroslav Zhelezniak said.

President Volodymyr Zelensky submitted the bill on Feb. 22. According to the proposal, conscripts whose term of service expired during martial law and whose military service was extended beyond the established period are released from service to the reserve "within the terms determined by the presidential decree."

The parliament's National Security and Defense Committee added a provision to the bill that allows conscripts to "postpone further mobilization for 12 months," lawmaker Oleksiy Honcharenko said on Telegram after the committee approved the changes earlier on Feb. 23.

The bill was passed with 319 votes for and none against, Zhelezniak said.

The parliament on Feb. 7 supported a different, broader bill containing major reforms in conscription and military service in the first reading.

The updated bill sets out "transparent rules for the mobilization process, as well as necessary regulation of the rights of military personnel and conscripts."

The bill also specifies clear terms of service for the period of martial law, service exemption for people with all levels of disability, as well as a two-month reprieve for volunteers before the start of service to "resolve personal issues and prepare for mobilization."

More than 4,000 amendments to the bill have been submitted since its passing in the first reading.

Zelensky has previously said that mobilization reforms must include provisions relating to military rotation and demobilization to provide relief to long-serving front-line troops.

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