Ukraine war: Drone strikes, military drills and concert cancellations

Putin orders border restrictions after drone attacks

Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered officials to tighten control of the border with Ukraine after a spate of drone attacks on Tuesday.

A flurry of drone attacks on Monday night and Tuesday morning targeted regions inside Russia along the border with Ukraine and deeper into the country, according to local Russian authorities. 

While Putin didn’t refer to any specific attacks in a speech in the Russian capital, his comments came hours after drone attacks targeted several areas in southern and western Russia.

A drone fell near the village of Gubastovo, 100 kilometres from Moscow, Andrei Vorobyov, governor of the region surrounding the Russian capital, said in an online statement. Russian authorities closed the airspace over St. Petersburg in response to the series of events.

Russian forces early Tuesday shot down a Ukrainian drone over the Bryansk region, local Governor Aleksandr Bogomaz said in a Telegram post. He said there were no casualties.

Ukrainian officials didn’t immediately claim responsibility for the attacks, but they similarly avoided directly acknowledging responsibility for previous strikes and sabotage.

The Russian Defense Ministry said that Ukraine used drones to attack facilities in the Krasnodar region and neighbouring Adygea. It said the drones were brought down by electronic warfare assets, adding that one of them crashed into a field and another diverted from its designated flight path and missed an infrastructure facility it was supposed to attack.

Also Tuesday, several Russian television stations aired a missile attack warning that officials blamed on a hacking attack.

Ukrainian military intensifies drills as Russia pushes to capture Donbas

The Ukrainian military has increased its daily military exercises in Kupiansk, as Russian forces have intensified the push to capture the industrial region of Donbas.

The step-up, combining reserve tank and the infantry assault units, is an effort to increase synchronization and speed to halt Russian offensives in the northeastern front, said Colonel Petro Skyba, commander of the 3rd Separate Tank Iron Brigade.

Gruelling artillery battles have increased in recent weeks in the vicinity of Kupiansk, a strategic town on the eastern edge of Kharkiv province by the banks of the Oskil River.

Russia ramped up attacks earlier in February after deploying three major divisions to the area. Fighting is focused northeast of Kupiansk, where Kremlin troops have gone on the offensive with marginal territorial gains. Ukrainian fortifications have so far deterred major advances, Ukrainian senior military officials said.

“The enemy is constantly increasing its efforts, but our troops are also increasing their efforts there, making timely replacements and holding the defence,” said Brig. Gen. Dmytro Krasylnkov, head of the Kharkiv military administration.

Victory in Kupiansk is believed to be a determinant of the next phase of the conflict. If Russia succeeds in pushing Ukrainian forces west of the river, it would clear the path for a significant offensive farther south where the administrative borders of Luhansk and Donestk meet.

Similarly, if the Ukrainian defence holds up, it could reveal Russian vulnerabilities and enable a counteroffensive.

Despite the risks, the Ukrainian defence line is constantly supported by the local civilians, who have refused to leave the town despite frequent Russian bombardments.

Offering Ukrainian servicemen a place to rest is common, said Olena Klymko, a civilian whose house suffered damage due to a Russian missile.

“How can we say no?” she asked. “They are out there fighting for us.”

Russian artist’s concert cancelled in Taiwan

The National Taiwan Symphony Orchestra on Tuesday cancelled a concert by Russian soprano Anna Netrebko, who has been criticised since the war in Ukraine began over her past support for President Vladimir Putin.

The orchestra did not give a precise reason for this cancellation, simply explaining that it had discussions with the singer’s representatives because of “concerns within Taiwanese society.”

Taiwan’s culture ministry said it supports the concert’s cancellation, telling Central News Agency that “there is no room for vagueness about Taiwan’s attitude to the war.”

Netrebko had been among the first Russian artists singled out after the start of the invasion of Ukraine, for not having clearly denounced the war.

The prestigious Metropolitan Opera in New York, of which she was the star, then dropped her for an indefinite period. She then announced that she was temporarily withdrawing from the opera scene.

In March 2022, Netrebko finally condemned “expressly the war against Ukraine”, which led to her being dropped from performances in Russia. 

Despite this stance, her upcoming concert in Taipei drew criticism in Taiwan, where Ukraine enjoys massive public support.

The issue is sensitive amongst the Taiwanese population as the Russian offence against Ukrainian territory has heightened fears that China will carry out its threats to take control of Taiwan. 

Slovenian band’s concert cancelled in Ukraine following controversial statement

A planned concert by Slovenia’s popular band Laibach in Ukraine next month has been cancelled after the group angered Ukrainians with controversial remarks.

Ukrainians were angered by Laibach’s statement to the Guardian newspaper that called the war “a cynical proxy war for the geostrategic interests” of world powers.

Slovenia’s STA news agency said many Ukrainians posting on Facebook compared Laibach’s statement to Russian state propaganda that portrays the invasion as a conflict with NATO.

The iconic band, known for using military-style imagery and totalitarian symbols, had been due to perform in Ukraine’s capital at the end of March.

The band said the concert aimed to show support for the Ukrainian people during the war, but organisers said its remarks caused “controversy” and discord, forcing the cancellation.

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