More than 200 Ukrainians were subjected to extrajudicial detentions and forced disappearances in Kherson after Russian forces took control of the region in March, a Yale University research group said Friday. Half of the people seized “do not appear to have been released”, the Conflict Observatory said. Read our live blog for the latest developments in the war in Ukraine. All times are in Paris time (GMT + 1).
12:01pm: More than 400 Ukrainian children have been killed due to Russia’s invasion, prosecutor general says
At least 437 Ukrainian children have been killed as a result of Russia’s invasion, Ukraine’s prosecutor general’s office said on Saturday.
More than 837 children have also been injured in a tally officials said was “not final” because they were still verifying information from zones of active fighting, liberated areas and territory still occupied by Russian forces.
The eastern Donetsk region was the most affected, with 423 children killed or injured, the prosecutor’s office said.
The United Nations has said at least 16,295 civilians have been killed since Russia’s February 24 invasion, which Kyiv and Western leaders have denounced as an act of unprovoked aggression.
11:53am: Peace in Ukraine only possible if country’s 1991 borders are restored, top Zelensky aide says
Peace in Ukraine will “only” be possible if the country’s 1991 borders are restored, a senior aide to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Saturday.
“There will be peace when we destroy the Russian army in Ukraine and reach the borders of 1991,” Andriy Yermak, head of the presidential administration, wrote on the Telegram messaging app.
10:45am: Finland says NATO application due to ‘drastic change’ in security amid Ukraine war
Finland’s application to join NATO was the “natural step” to take following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Nordic country’s foreign minister told a conference in Bahrain on Saturday.
The decision to apply for NATO membership is “a result of the drastic change in our security environment”, Finland’s top diplomat Pekka Haavisto told the annual Manama Dialogue conference in Bahrain.
“Applying for NATO membership was… a natural step for us to take”, he added.
In 2004, Finland said it would take the so-called “NATO option”, in the event that its security environment “changes dramatically”, the foreign minister said.
“And what would be more dramatic for a change than the attack of your neighbour towards a country of 50 million people?” Haavisto asked.
Finland and Sweden dropped decades of military non-alignment and scrambled to become NATO members in May.
All 30 NATO member states except Hungary and Turkey have ratified Finland’s accession, which requires unanimous approval. Hungary has said it will support Finland’s bid.
On Friday, Finland unveiled a plan to increase security on its border with Russia, including a 200-kilometre (124-mile) fence.
7:56am: Most APEC members ‘strongly condemn’ war in Ukraine, summit statement says
Asia-Pacific leaders added their voices on Saturday to international pressure on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, issuing a summit statement saying “most” of them condemned the war.
The 21 members of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum issued a joint declaration after a day and a half of talks in Bangkok criticising the conflict and the global economic turmoil it has unleashed.
The summit communique was agreed by all APEC members, including Russia and China – which has refrained from public criticism of Moscow for the invasion – but includes a number of diplomatic fudges.
“Most members strongly condemned the war in Ukraine and stressed it is causing immense human suffering and exacerbating existing fragilities in the global economy,” it said.
“There were other views and different assessments of the situation and sanctions.”
Apart from substituting the name of the organisation, the statement was word-for-word the same as a G20 declaration issued Wednesday after a summit in Indonesia and reportedly the fruit of intense diplomatic haggling.
7:50am: More than 200 Ukrainians subject to detentions, disappearances in Kherson region, Yale research group says
Hundreds of Ukrainians were detained and forcibly disappeared in Kherson after Russia seized the province, in evidence of a planned campaign, a Yale University group researching war crimes said on Friday.
The Conflict Observatory, a research group under Yale University’s School of Public Health, said they documented 226 extrajudicial detentions and forced disappearances in Kherson. Around a quarter of that number were allegedly subjected to torture and four died in custody.
>> FRANCE 24 report: Kherson residents describe torture at the hands of Russians
Most of the detentions and disappearances were carried out by the Russian military and FSB security agency, and half of those seized “do not appear to have been released”, the Conflict Observatory said in a report.
It said men of military age, including civil servants, civil society leaders, teachers, law enforcement and journalists made up a large part of those detained and disappeared.
“These findings demonstrate a range of alarming allegations about treatment of detainees, including allegations of deaths in custody; the widespread use of torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment, pillage from detainees (and) sexual and gender-based violence,” the report said.
The pattern of those detained shows the campaign was “premeditated,” it added.
The report cited sources saying that after seizing Kherson in March, the Russians arrived with lists of names and licence plate numbers, targeting people they thought might resist their presence.
The report added that Crimean Tatars were also targeted and many accused of belonging to what Russia labels a Tatar “terrorist” group.
7:45am: Russia ‘looking for a short truce … to regain strength’, Zelensky says
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Friday dismissed the idea of a “short truce” with Russia, saying it would only make things worse.
“Russia is now looking for a short truce, a respite to regain strength. Someone may call this the war’s end, but such a respite will only worsen the situation,” the Ukrainian leader said in remarks broadcast at the Halifax International Security Forum.
“A truly real, long-lasting and honest peace can only be the result of the complete demolition of Russian aggression,” Zelensky said.
The White House said earlier in the day that only Zelensky can decide when to open peace talks with Russia, rejecting the notion that it was pressing Kyiv to negotiate an end to the nearly nine-month war sparked by Moscow’s February invasion.
General Mark Milley, the top US military officer, has however suggested in recent weeks that Kyiv could take advantage of battlefield victories over Moscow’s forces and open talks toward ending the conflict.
Milley said Wednesday that while Ukraine has achieved key successes, Moscow still controls some 20 percent of the country, and that it is unlikely Kyiv’s troops will force the Russians to quit the country soon.
7:40am: Two Russian fighter jets fly in ‘unsafe and unprofessional’ manner towards NATO ships in Baltic Sea, alliance says
NATO said Friday that two Russian fighter aircraft had conducted an “unsafe and unprofessional approach” towards alliance naval ships on routine operations in the Baltic Sea.
NATO’s maritime command said the jets flew over “the force at an altitude of 300 feet (91 metres) and a distance of 80 yards (73 metres)” on Thursday morning after the Russian pilots failed to respond to communications.
“NATO deemed the interaction unsafe and unprofessional since it was conducted in a known danger area, which was activated for air defence training, and due to the aircraft altitude and proximity,” a statement said.
“The interaction increased the risk of miscalculations, mistakes, and accidents.”
The statement said that NATO forces had “acted responsibly” in compliance with maritime regulations.
“NATO will respond appropriately to any interference with NATO’s lawful activity in the area that endangers the safety of our aircraft, ships or their crews. NATO does not seek confrontation and poses no threat,” it said.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and REUTERS)