Live: Drone strike hits west Ukraine as UN rights body debates war crimes probe

A Russian drone attack early on Monday left two people dead and three more wounded in the western Ukrainian city of Khmelnytskyi as the UN Human Rights Council convened in Geneva amid calls for unity in condemning Moscow and extending a probe into war crimes committed in Ukraine. Follow our live blog for all the latest developments. All times are Paris time (GMT+1).

11:55am: Russia ‘paying a great deal of attention’ to Chinese peace plan

A Chinese peace plan on Ukraine that urges both sides to agree to a gradual de-escalation should be analysed in detail, taking the interests of all sides into account, the Kremlin has said.

China, which declared a “no limits” alliance with Russia shortly before Moscow sent tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine a year ago, called for a comprehensive ceasefire in Ukraine on Friday, touting its own peace plan.

“We are paying a great deal of attention to the plan of our Chinese friends,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Monday. “Of course, the details need to be painstakingly analysed taking into account the interests of all the different sides. This is a very long and intense process.”

Peskov declined to comment on a US media report that China was considering transferring drones to Russia.

10:55am: Two killed in west Ukraine drone attack

The death toll from Russia’s early morning drone attack in Khmelnytskyi has risen to two, the mayor of the western Ukrainian city has said, adding that both victims were rescue workers.

“Unfortunately, we have another hospital death. Doctors failed to save the life of another hero – a rescuer,” Mayor Oleksandr Symchyshyn said in a social media post. Three other people were injured.

The Ukrainian armed forces said they shot down 11 out of 14 Iranian-made “Shaded” drones deployed by Moscow’s forces overnight. Nine were downed over the capital Kyiv, the head of the city’s military administration said, and there were no reported casualties or damage to infrastructure.

The official, Sergiy Popko, said Russian forces were trying “to exhaust our air defences”, adding that the attack had come in two separate waves.

10:45am: UN chief blames Russia for ‘most massive violations of human rights’

Respect for human rights has gone into reverse, UN chief Antonio Guterres has warned at the start of the UN Human Right Council’s annual session in Geneva, noting that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is “under assault from all sides” 75 years after its signing.

“Some governments chip away at it. Others use a wrecking ball,” Guterres said, singling out Russia’s actions since it invaded Ukraine a year ago.

The “Russian invasion of Ukraine has triggered the most massive violations of human rights” being witnessed in the world today, he added. “It has unleashed widespread death, destruction and displacement.”

9:40am: Turkey’s NATO talks with Sweden and Finland to resume on March 9

Turkey says talks with Sweden and Finland regarding their NATO membership bids will resume on March 9, after being suspended in January in the wake of a Koran-burning protest in Stockholm.

The Nordic countries applied last year to join the North Atlantic defence alliance after Russia invaded Ukraine, but Sweden in particular has faced unexpected objections from Turkey.

Ankara accuses Stockholm of harbouring what it considers members of terrorist groups, and has demanded their extradition as a step towards giving Sweden’s NATO membership its green light.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told a press conference in Ankara on Monday that Sweden was still not fulfilling its obligations under a memorandum signed at a NATO summit in Madrid last June, even though NATO’s secretary-general and other allies have said Stockholm has changed its legislation.

“Unfortunately, we have not seen satisfactory steps from Sweden on the implementation of the Madrid memorandum,” Cavusoglu said. “It is not possible for us to say ‘yes’ to Sweden’s NATO bid before we see these steps.”

9:35am: Drone attack kills one, injures four in western Ukraine

A Russian drone attack has killed one person and wounded four more in Khmelnytskyi in western Ukraine, the city’s mayor Oleksandr Symchyshyn has said.

Earlier, the Ukrainian armed forces said they had shot down 11 out of 14 drones launched by Moscow’s forces overnight.

8:05am: Russian influence looms over Macron’s Africa trip

French President Emmanuel Macron flies to Africa later today in a bid to counter Russian efforts to dislodge France from the continent, after Paris suffered a series of military and political setbacks in its former sphere of influence.

Macron will visit three African nations around the Congo basin as well as Angola, with the focus of the trip being ostensibly away from France’s troubled former colonies in the Sahel, where anti-French sentiment is on the rise.

Ahead of the trip, Macron is expected to spell out his new African policy in a speech and press conference at the Élysée palace, which FRANCE 24 will broadcast live at 5pm Paris time (GMT+1).

The tour comes just over a week after Burkina Faso booted out French troops and ended a military accord that allowed France to fight insurgents in the West African nation. France also withdrew its forces from Mali last year after the junta there started working with Russian military contractors.

Russia’s Wagner Group has also deployed in the Central African Republic, prompting fears of a domino effect in Paris at a time Western countries are trying to lobby the global south against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.

5:30am: Belarusian partisans say Russian military aircraft damaged near Minsk

A Russian A-50 surveillance military aircraft was damaged in a drone attack at an airfield near the Belarus capital of Minsk on Sunday, Belarus partisans and members of the exiled opposition said.

“Those were drones. The participants of the operation are Belarusian,” Aliaksandr Azarov, leader of Belarusian anti-government organization BYPOL, was quoted as saying on the organisation’s Telegram messaging app and on the Poland-based Belsat news channel.

“They are now safe, outside the country.”

Belsat is a Polish broadcaster focused on Belarusian news that Minsk has branded extremist. BYPOL, which includes former law enforcement officers who support opposition politicians, has been branded a terrorist organisation.

Franak Viacorka, an adviser to Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya said in a post on Twitter it was the most successful act of sabotage since the beginning of 2022.

Reuters was not able to independently verify the reports. There was no immediate response from the defence ministries of Russia and Belarus to a request for comment.

3:08am: Russia in firing line of top UN rights meet

Russia’s war in Ukraine looms large as the UN Human Rights Council meets Monday, with calls for unity in condemning Moscow and extending a probe into war crimes in the conflict.

Days after the United Nations General Assembly in New York voted overwhelmingly to demand Russia immediately withdraw from Ukraine, Moscow’s war is expected to dominate the opening of the top UN rights body’s main annual session in Geneva.

“We’re looking for this session to show, as the UN General Assembly showed … that the world stands side-by-side with Ukraine,” British ambassador Simon Manley said at an event Friday marking the one-year anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion.

The meeting, which is due to last a record six weeks, will be the first presided over by new UN rights chief Volker Turk, who kicks the session off early Monday.

UN chief Antonio Guterres will also address the council on the first day, while nearly 150 ministers and heads of state and government will speak, virtually or in person, during the four-day high-level segment.

Among them will be the top diplomats of the United States, China, Ukraine and Iran.

8:56pm: US, Poland and Germany may hold joint manoeuvres, minister says

Washington is in talks with Berlin and Warsaw to hold joint military manoeuvres in Poland in response to Russia‘s threat to the eastern border of the NATO alliance, German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius said Sunday.

Exercises were being “considered”, Pistorius told public broadcaster ARD, without confirming or adding any details “for now”.

Military manoeuvres in a country bordering Ukraine, invaded one year ago by Russia, would send a “very clear” signal to NATO allies “but also to (Russian President Vladimir) Putin”, he added.

NATO “is far from being as weak as (Putin) has believed for a long time”, said Pistorius.

© France Médias Monde graphic studio

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP & Reuters)

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