US warns of Russian annexation plans in east Ukraine

The US warned Moscow plans to formally annex parts of eastern Ukraine, specifically the regions of Luhansk and Donetsk after Russia failed to take the Ukrainian capital Kyiv.  Michael Carpenter, US ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), said, “Russia plans to engineer referenda upon joining sometime in mid-May.”  He added Russia also has a similar plan for the Kherson region. Carpenter told reporters in Washington the US believes “the reports are highly credible.”  The new focus sees Russia shifting to capitalizing on existing territorial gains in the east while pounding the southern port city of Odesa.

The Mariupol city council said on Facebook that evacuations would continue Tuesday.  “With the support of the UN and the Red Cross, the evacuation of civilians has been agreed for tomorrow,” the city council wrote, adding that the attempt to start the latest round of evacuations will begin at 7:00 a.m.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said more than one million people had been taken to Russia from Ukraine since the war began.  It included 11,550 people, including 1,847 children, in the past day, “without the participation of the Ukrainian authorities,” state-owned news agency TASS quoted Defence Ministry official Mikhail Mizintsev as saying.  He added they “were evacuated to the territory of the Russian Federation from the dangerous regions” of Donetsk, Luhansk, and other parts of Ukraine.  In an interview on Monday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told Greek state TV ERT a million Ukrainians have been “illegally taken to Russia, or other places, against their will.”

The war in Ukraine would have a lasting negative impact on the Russian military ability to deploy a conventional military force, the UK Ministry of Defence said. “Russia’s military is now significantly weaker, both materially and conceptually,” it said in its latest military intelligence update.  It points to Russia’s defense budget doubling between 2005 and 2018, but the country still failing to dominate Ukraine.  “Failures in strategic planning and operational execution have left it unable to translate numerical strength into a decisive advantage,” the update stated.

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