13/5/2023–|Last updated: 13/5/202302:11 PM (Mecca time)
The Ukrainian Air Force announced that it shot down 17 of the 21 drones that were fired at Ukrainian territory in a Russian night air attack in the west of the country, noting that the drones were suicide “witness” models, and that some of them managed to hit infrastructure facilities.
This comes while the British Ministry of Defense said today that the past four days witnessed a “bad order” withdrawal of Russian forces from their positions in the southern wing of operations in Bakhmut, eastern Ukraine.
The ministry said in its daily intelligence bulletin that the withdrawal enabled the Ukrainian forces to regain at least a kilometer of territory, and that “the recovered area has some tactical importance because it was a Russian starting point on the western side of the Donets-Donbass channel, which represents the front line in some areas of the strip.”
Russian media also said that the city of Donetsk witnessed violent bombing of Ukraine on Friday, and published pictures showing that residential neighborhoods in the Kievsky district, south of the city, were bombed.
And the Russian authorities announced that two explosions occurred in the city of Luhansk in eastern Ukraine, and the Russian administration of the region annexed by Russia accused the Ukrainian army of firing missiles at the city, which is located about 100 km from the front.
Videos of thick clouds of smoke circulated on social networks, while it was reported that industrial facilities were on fire, without reports of injuries.
On the other hand, two pilots were killed when a Russian military helicopter crashed over the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014.
Russian news agencies quoted the Defense Ministry as saying that the Mi-28 helicopter was completing a scheduled training flight in the Dzankoy region on Friday when it suffered a mechanical failure.
Russia’s Tass news agency also quoted emergency services as saying that another helicopter had crashed in the Russian region of Bryansk, which borders Ukraine. Tass quoted an official as saying that initial information indicated that a fire broke out in the helicopter’s engine before it crashed.
Zelensky and the Pope
Politically, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky arrived in Italy on Saturday for talks with government officials and Pope Francesco, who said in late April that the Holy See was involved in a peace mission to end the war with Russia.
Zelensky arrived at the Ciampino military airport, where he was received by Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Taiani.
Zelensky’s account on Twitter stated, “In Rome today… I will meet Italian President Sergio Mattarella, Prime Minister Georgia Meloni and the Pope,” putting it within the framework of “an important visit that brings us closer to Ukraine’s victory.”
Taiani also welcomed via Twitter the Ukrainian guest on a visit “during which we will renew our commitment alongside the Ukrainian people in defending freedom and democracy.”-
Zelinsky’s visit coincides with tight security measures in Rome, including police patrols and the deployment of security personnel at major intersections. The authorities also issued orders to prevent unauthorized drones from flying over the capital, and deployed a number of snipers on the roofs of buildings.-
The meeting with the Pope will be the most important item in Zelensky’s visit, and he had met the Pope in the Vatican in 2020 and the two have held several phone conversations since the start of the Russian war on Ukraine on February 24, 2022.
Zelensky is expected to meet separately with President Sergio Mattarella and Prime Minister Georgia Meloni before heading to the Vatican. He is also expected to be a guest on a popular Italian TV talk show before heading to Germany.
Meloni Zelensky met with Kiev last February to confirm Italy’s continued support for his country, although some of its allies, most notably former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, have long-term relations with Moscow.
Today, Germany announced the provision of a $3 billion military aid package to Ukraine, the largest since the start of the Russian war on the country, and pledged to increase support for Kiev as long as necessary.
The German Ministry of Defense said – in a statement – that the package will include 30 Leopard 1 tanks, 15 Gibbard anti-aircraft tanks, 200 reconnaissance drones, and 4 additional Iris-T anti-aircraft systems.
Documentation of damages
On the other hand, the United States is making efforts to support attempts to document the damages incurred by Ukraine as a result of the war, in the hope that it will be used after the end of the war to seek compensation, according to a letter seen by Agence France-Presse.
The United Nations General Assembly, in a non-binding vote last October, endorsed the idea of creating an “international record” documenting the damage across Ukraine from the war waged by Russia.
Earlier this year, the Council of Europe’s secretary general, Marija Bejenovic Boric, suggested that the Strasbourg-based council take over the registry.
Council members plan to hold a meeting Tuesday in the Icelandic capital, Reykjavik, to discuss the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
In a message addressed to the meeting, US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas Greenfield expressed Washington’s willingness to provide funding for the emerging registry, and to be an “associate member” of it.
“As President Biden has stated, the United States is committed to holding Russia accountable for its war of aggression against Ukraine,” Greenfield wrote in a letter to Buric.
“Creating a registry documenting the damage caused by Russia’s brutal war is a critical step in this effort,” she added.
The World Bank estimated in March that Ukraine needed $411 billion for reconstruction. The United States also promised in March to support and fund another international effort to establish a special tribunal to try Russia’s war crime in Ukraine.