world news Russian President Vladimir Putin would be crossing a “very important line” if he were to order the use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg warned on Thursday, with Russia set to hold nuclear exercises in the coming days. Earlier, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan defended Ankara’s booming trade ties with Moscow during a meeting with Putin in Kazakhstan, resisting Western pressure to comply with sanctions against Russia. Follow FRANCE 24’s live blog for all the latest developments. All times are Paris time (GMT+2).
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9:48pm: Women in eastern Ukraine recount ordeal of giving birth during wartimeWhile filming in the Donbas region and the nearby town of Izium on Thursday, FRANCE 24’s Catherine Norris Trent met women who recounted the ordeals of giving birth and keeping their children safe in a war zone.
“They spoke of tank fire, artillery hitting their homes. One woman told us that her 10-year-old son told them he could hear a bomb dropping and they all ran for shelter, and then, they said cluster munitions went off in their garden,” Norris Trent reports. “You can just see what kind of a struggle it’s been for them to survive.”
8:55pm: Russia begins evacuating civilians from Ukraine’s KhersonThe Russian-installed governor of Ukraine’s southern Kherson region has urged residents to take their children and leave for safety, in one of the starkest signs yet that Moscow is losing its grip on territory it claims to have annexed.
Russia’s TASS news agency reported a first group of civilians fleeing from Kherson was expected to arrive in Russia’s Rostov region as soon as Friday.
“Every day, the cities of Kherson region are subjected to missile attacks,” Russian-installed Kherson administration chief Vladimir Saldo said in a video message.
“As such, the leadership of Kherson administration has decided to provide Kherson families with the option to travel to other regions of the Russian Federation to rest and study,” he said.
6:55pm: Russia steps up drone attacks deep in Ukrainian territoryUkrainian authorities say Russia carried out three successful strikes to the west of Kyiv overnight using Iranian-made drones, damaging parts of critical infrastructure.
FRANCE 24’s correspondent Gulliver Cragg has more on the new threat faced by Ukrainian forces as well as civilians.
© France 24 6:15pm: NATO to monitor upcoming Russian nuclear exerciseRussian President Vladimir Putin would be crossing a “very important line” if he were to order the use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg warned Thursday, as both the military alliance and Russia are due to hold nuclear exercises in the next few days.
NATO is holding its exercise, dubbed “Steadfast Noon,” next week. The long-planned manoeuvres are conducted around the same time every year and run for about one week. They involve fighter jets capable of carrying nuclear warheads, but do not involve any live bombs.
Russia usually holds its own manoeuvres around the same time, and NATO is expecting Moscow’s exercise of its nuclear forces sometime this month. Stoltenberg said NATO will “closely monitor” what Russia is up to.
“We have monitored Russian nuclear forces for decades and of course we will continue to monitor them very closely and we will stay vigilant – also when they now start a new exercise,” Stoltenberg told reporters.
Asked what NATO would do if Russia launched a nuclear attack, Stoltenberg said: “We will not go into exactly how we will respond, but of course this will fundamentally change the nature of the conflict. It will mean that a very important line has been crossed.”
He added that “even any use of a smaller nuclear weapon will be a very serious thing, fundamentally changing the nature of the war in Ukraine, and of course that would have consequences”.
Stoltenberg’s remarks came after a meeting of NATO’s secretive Nuclear Planning Group, which was held among defence ministers in Brussels, as concerns deepen over Putin’s insistence that he will use any means necessary to defend what he views as Russian territory.
5:05pm: Russia slams ‘unacceptable’ Macron comment on Caucasus roleRussia’s foreign ministry has slammed as “unacceptable” a comment by French President Emmanuel Macron that Moscow was “destabilising” the peace process between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
“We consider Emmanuel Macron’s statements that Russia is allegedly using the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict to destabilise the South Caucasus outrageous, absolutely unacceptable,” Russia’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Telegram.
Macron accused Russia of “destabilising” and “seeking to create disorder” in the Caucasus in comments to French television Wednesday.
The criticism came a week after he held talks with Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev – arch foes who rarely meet face-to-face.
4:45pm: Ukrainian forces hope for breakthrough in DonbasWhile Ukraine’s army has pushed back Russian forces in the Kharkiv and Kherson regions, there has been no such progress in the Donbas, where government troops have been battling Moscow-backed separatist militants for almost 10 years.
Kyiv’s troops are now hoping new weapons provided by the West could help secure the breakthough that has eluded them since 2014. FRANCE 24’s Fraser Jackson has the story.
4:05pm: Iran drone sales to Russia would violate UN resolution, says FranceAny sale of Iranian drones to Russia would be a violation of the United Nations Security Council resolution that endorsed the 2015 nuclear accord between Iran and world powers, France’s foreign ministry has said.
The ministry added that it was coordinating with its EU partners on how to respond.
Three drones operated by Russian forces attacked the small town of Makariv, west of Ukraine’s capital, early on Thursday, with officials saying that critical infrastructure facilities were struck by what they said were Iranian-made suicide drones.