War in Ukraine: Thursday’s Five Key Events You Need to Know About

Russia suspends offensive before resumption of assault

Moscow is only temporarily easing its offensive against Ukraine and is likely preparing for a new offensive, analysts say.

According to the Institute for the Study of War, on Wednesday Russian troops did not declare or evaluate territorial gains in Ukraine “for the first time in 133 days of war.”

A think tank in Washington suggested that Moscow could take an “operational pause” that would not entail a “complete cessation of active hostilities.”

“Russian forces are likely to be limited to relatively small offensives as they attempt to set the stage for larger offensives and rebuild the combat power needed to carry out these more ambitious undertakings,” the institute said in a statement.

However, the slowdown in the offensive does not mean that Russia does not continue the bombing of Ukraine. Shelling continued in eastern Ukraine, where at least nine civilians were killed and six were injured in a day, Ukrainian officials say.

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2Lithuania Showcases ‘Crowdfunded’ Military Drone It’s Donating To Ukraine

On Wednesday, Lithuania showed off a crowdfunded Turkish-made military drone it plans to send to Ukraine to help the war-torn country fight a Russian invasion.

“This weapon will be sent to Ukraine immediately after it is presented to the public,” Lithuanian Defense Minister Arvydas Anusauskas said at a press conference at the northern air base of the Baltic state in Siauliai.

Lithuanians collected 5.9 million euros in three days to buy a drone for Ukraine. However, inspired by the act of generosity, Turkish manufacturer Bayraktar has announced that it is donating it instead.

Part of the funds then went to equip the drone, while the rest went to fund humanitarian aid for Ukraine.

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3. Meeting of the Presidents of Poland and Lithuania in a strategically important place

The presidents of NATO member countries Poland and Lithuania met on Thursday in a strategic corridor and expressed their support that allied forces can fully protect the area.

The Svilk Pass is a 70-kilometer corridor between Poland and Lithuania that separates Belarus from the Kaliningrad exclave, home to the Russian Baltic Fleet and missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads.

Concerns have been raised about NATO’s ability to defend the Suwalki Pass, and Polish President Andrzej Duda and Lithuanian Gitanas Nausėda said they were there to show how safe it was.

“This is a very sensitive area, and the aggressor’s gaze could potentially be directed here,” Nausėda said in Shiplishki from the Polish side.

“We decided to come to this place … to show that it is safe … just because of what you can see here today: the daily, calm, but full of vigilance service of Polish, Lithuanian and other NATO troops,” said Duda from Poland.

At the urging of Poland and the Baltic states, NATO leaders decided at last week’s summit in Madrid that the size of allied troops in Eastern Europe would be significantly increased. In the Suwalki Gorge, battalions numbering hundreds of people will be reinforced to brigades of many thousands.

Nauseda said the two countries are increasing their defense spending to around 2.5% of their gross domestic product.

Putin to Ukraine: Russia has barely begun to act

As Russia’s hostilities in Ukraine enter their fifth month, Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday warned Kyiv to quickly accept Moscow’s terms or brace for the worst, adding ominously that Russia had barely begun its actions.

Speaking at a meeting with leaders of the Kremlin-controlled parliament, Putin accused Western allies of fueling the fighting, saying “the West wants to fight us to the last Ukrainian.”

“This is a tragedy for the Ukrainian people, but it looks like everything is going in that direction,” he added.

“Everyone should know that, by and large, we haven’t even started anything seriously yet,” Putin said in a threatening note.

He said Russia remains ready to start negotiations on a cessation of hostilities, adding that “those who refuse to do so should know that the longer this goes on, the harder it will be for them to make a deal with us.”

“We hear that they want to defeat us on the battlefield,” Putin said. “Let them try.”

Earlier in the conflict, the Kremlin demanded that Kyiv recognize Russian sovereignty over the Crimean peninsula, which it annexed from Ukraine in 2014, and recognize the independence of Moscow-backed breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine. Moscow also said it expects Ukraine to come to terms with the current situation on the ground, citing other land gains it has received since Russian troops entered Ukraine on Feb. 24.

After failing to capture Kyiv and other major cities in northeastern Ukraine early in the campaign, the Russian military turned its attention to Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland, Donbass, where Moscow-backed separatists have been fighting Ukrainian forces since 2014.

Earlier this week, the Russian military took control of the Luhansk region, one of the two regions that make up the Donbass, and is preparing to advance into the second region, the Donetsk region.

5. Brittney Griner: American basketball star pleads guilty to drug possession in Russia

Brittney Griner pleaded guilty to drug possession and smuggling during her trial in Moscow, but said she had no intention of committing the crime.

According to court records, the imprisoned American basketball star said she acted unintentionally because she packed in a hurry.

Griner was detained in February at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport after hemp oil cans were allegedly found in her luggage.

She faces up to 10 years in prison if found guilty of large-scale drug trafficking.

The trial of the two-time Olympian began last week amid growing calls for Washington to secure her freedom nearly five months after her arrest.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov warned on Thursday that “the attempts by the American side to raise a fuss in public … do not contribute to a practical settlement of the issues.”

The White House said U.S. President Joe Biden called Griner’s wife on Wednesday to reassure her that he was doing everything possible to secure the athlete’s release as soon as possible.

The two spoke after Biden read Griner’s letter, in which she said she feared she would never return home.

The United States may have little leverage with Moscow due to heightened tensions over Russia’s war in Ukraine.

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