'Bloody packages' containing animal eyes sent to Ukrainian embassies

Forces of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic fire a self-propelled mortar 2S4 'Tulip' not far from Bakhmut, Donetsk region, Ukraine - ALESSANDRO GUERRA
Forces of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic fire a self-propelled mortar 2S4 'Tulip' not far from Bakhmut, Donetsk region, Ukraine - ALESSANDRO GUERRA

Ukrainian embassies in seven European countries received “bloody parcels” containing animal eyes, in what Kyiv yesterday described as an intimidation campaign.

“We have reason to believe that a well-planned campaign of terror and intimidation of Ukrainian embassies and consulates is taking place,” said Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s foreign minister.

Ukrainian authorities would not be intimidated, he added.

“We will continue to work effectively for the victory of Ukraine,” Mr Kuleba said.

Ukraine has been locked in a brutal war with Russia since Vladmir Putin launched his illegal invasion in February.

The gruesome packages were delivered to embassies in Hungary, the Netherlands, Poland, Croatia, Spain and Italy, said Oleh Nikolenko, a foreign ministry spokesman.

Consulates in Naples, Italy, Brino in the Czech Republic and Krakow in Poland also got the parcels, which were soaked in a red liquid with a distinctive colour and smell and arrived after letter bombs were posted to addresses in Spain including Ukraine's embassy in Madrid.

“We are studying the meaning of this message,” Mr Nikolenko said, as Ukraine stepped up security at all its embassies and consulates.

Mr Nikoleno said there were unconfirmed reports that the embassy in Kazakhstan was warned of an attack with explosives, while the entrance to the Ukrainian ambassador to the Vatican’s residence in Rome was vandalised.

Andrii Yurash, the ambassador, said the consulate in Naples received letters containing fish eyes.

He said the doorway and stairs of his apartment building were smeared with animal excrement on Thursday, leaving an “unpleasant smell”.

Spanish police cordoned off the area surrounding the Ukrainian embassy in the Spanish capital after it too received a parcel with animal eyes, Ukraine’s foreign ministry said on Friday.

A letter bomb hurt an employee at the embassy when it exploded on Wednesday.

Six letter bombs were sent this week to targets in Spain, including Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, the Defence Minister, an arms manufacturer, an air base, a European satellite centre and the US Embassy to Madrid.

The embassy in the United States received a letter containing an article that was critical about Ukraine.

The letter, like most of the others, originated from one European country, Mr Nikolenko said.

In Poland, police spokesman Sylwester Marczak said a package had “raised concern” but the danger was “quickly eliminated.”

Czech police used an X-ray scan to check the package in Bruno but found no explosives. They said later that animal tissue had been found and was sent for laboratory tests.

03:00 PM

Today's main events

Today’s live blog is closing. Here is a roundup of the day’s main events:

  • Several Ukrainian embassies abroad have received "bloody packages" containing animal eyes.

  • The Kremlin rejected US President Joe Biden's terms for Ukraine talks with Russian leader Vladimir Putin, saying Moscow's offensive will continue.

  • Russia tested a new missile defence system rocket, the defence ministry said.

  • Three people were killed and seven wounded in Russian shelling of the southern Ukrainian region of Kherson over the past 24 hours.

  • Zaporizhzhia was targeted with another missile strike.

  • As many as 13,000 Ukrainian troops have been killed since Russia's invasion in February, a senior adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky has said.

  • Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin on Friday offered a "brutally honest" assessment of Europe's capabilities in the wake of Russia's war on Ukraine, stating bluntly that "we're not strong enough" to stand up to Moscow alone.

  • The Archbishop of Canterbury said there must be "no way we force peace" in Ukraine. Justin Welby added that he does not think the West has "taken on board" that the conflict in Ukraine could go on "for a very long time".

02:44 PM

Ukraine bans religious organisations with links to Russia

Ukraine on Friday banned the activities of religious organisations "affiliated with centres of influence" in Russia and said it would examine the links between the Ukrainian and Russian Orthodox churches.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky signed a decree enacting a National Security and Defense Council decision to impose personal sanctions against representatives of religious organisations associated with Russia.

Mr Zelensky's decree additionally provided for examining the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, one of two Orthodox bodies in Ukraine following a schism that in 2019 resulted in the establishment of one with independence from the Russian church.

Ukrainian officials suspect the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is promoting pro-Russian views and that some priests may be actively collaborating with Russia.

Moscow Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, has justified Russia's war in Ukraine as part of a "metaphysical struggle" to prevent a liberal ideological encroachment from the West.

02:28 PM

Russia 'outraged' by France backing war crimes tribunal

Russia's foreign ministry said on Friday that it was "outraged" by a statement from the French foreign ministry that supported plans to create a tribunal on possible crimes committed by Russia in Ukraine.

In a statement, Moscow's foreign ministry criticised the plans, which would see the European Union set up a special court to investigate and prosecute possible Russian war crimes.

"We demand that French diplomats, who are so attentive to human rights issues, not divide people into 'right' and 'wrong', 'ours' and 'not ours'," the foreign ministry said.

02:20 PM

Ukraine: The Latest

Listen back to the latest episode of our daily Ukraine podcast below:

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01:43 PM

Germany to send seven additional Gepard tanks to Ukraine

Germany is preparing to deliver seven Gepard tanks to Ukraine, adding to the 30 air-defence tanks that are already being used to fight against the Russian army, according to a German government website.

According to Spiegel magazine, which first reported the number of additional tanks, the seven Gepards, which were initially destined for the scrap pile, should arrive in Ukraine in Spring 2023 and are currently being repaired by Munich-based arms manufacturer Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW).

The government did not say when it planned to deliver the tanks, which it said have come from manufacturers' stocks and whose deliveries in some cases depend on repair measures or production still being ongoing.

KMW was not immediately available for comment.

The German government also aims to send more ammunition for the Gepards along with the additional tanks, Spiegel reported.

01:09 PM

Scholz urges Putin to withdraw troops for 'diplomatic' end

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Friday pressed Russia's President Vladimir Putin to seek a diplomatic solution to end his war in Ukraine, including troop withdrawals, Berlin said following a call between the two.

"The chancellor urged the Russian president to come as quickly as possible to a diplomatic solution including the withdrawal of Russian troops," according to the German leader's spokesman Steffen Hebestreit.

During the one-hour call, Mr Scholz "condemned in particular the Russian airstrikes against civilian infrastructure in Ukraine and stressed Germany's determination to support Ukraine in ensuring the defence capability against Russian aggression".

The leaders also discussed the issue of global food security, which is under pressure because of the war.

They also agreed to "remain in contact", said Hebestreit.

Mr Scholz and Putin have been in regular phone contact through the war.

The previous call between them took place in September and lasted 90 minutes, with Mr Scholz then also urging Putin to "come to a diplomatic solution as possible, based on a ceasefire".

12:40 PM

Russia facing weapons shortage, MOD reports

The Russian army cannot restart “effective large-scale offensive ground operations” in Ukraine because it is facing a shortage of weapons and ammunition, the Ministry of Defence said.

Russia’s retreat to the other side of the Dnipro River has allowed Ukrainians to hit Russia’s logistics and communications lines, which has made the shortage worse.

Those supply lines have had to be pulled back out of range of Ukrainian artillery, which has increased delays.

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11:57 AM

Ukrainian embassies receive 'bloody packages' containing animal eyes

Several Ukrainian embassies abroad have received "bloody packages" containing animal eyes, Ukraine's foreign ministry said on Friday, after a series of letter bombs were sent to sites in Spain including Ukraine's embassy in Madrid.

The packages, soaked in a liquid with a distinctive colour and smell, were sent to Kyiv's embassies in Hungary, the Netherlands, Poland, Croatia and Italy, to general consulates in Naples and Krakow, and the consulate in Brno, spokesperson Oleg Nikolenko wrote on Facebook.

11:45 AM

Bear Grylls visits Zelensky

Bear Grylls visited Ukraine on Thursday, meeting President Volodymyr Zelensky. He wrote on Twitter:

"This week I had the privilege to travel to Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, and spend time with President Zelensky. It has been an experience for me like no other.

"As the country goes into winter, and with their infrastructure under attack, survival for millions of people is a very real daily struggle. Through this special programme the world will see a side of President Zelensky that has never been shown before.

"What I wanted to ask was how he was really coping… I got so much more. The programme is coming soon. Thank you @ZelenskyyUa for your hospitality in such a difficult time. Stay Strong."

Bear Grylls visited President Volodymyr Zelensky - Twitter
Bear Grylls visited President Volodymyr Zelensky - Twitter

11:18 AM

Around 13,000 Ukrainian troops killed since February

As many as 13,000 Ukrainian troops have been killed since Russia's invasion in February, a senior adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky has said.

"We have official estimates from the General Staff... And they range from 10,000... to 13,000 dead," Mykhailo Podolyak told Ukraine's Channel 24 on Thursday.

Mr Zelensky would make the official data public "when the right moment comes", he added.

In June, as Russian forces battled to take full control of the easternmost Lugansk region, Mr Zelensky said Ukraine was losing "60 to 100 soldiers per day, killed in action, and around 500 people wounded in action".

10:51 AM

Three killed in Russian artillery attacks on Kherson region

Three people were killed and seven wounded in Russian shelling of the southern Ukrainian region of Kherson over the past 24 hours, the regional governor said on Friday.

Governor Yaroslav Yanushevych wrote on the Telegram messaging app that Russian troops had bombarded the city of Kherson and other parts of the region 42 times in the same period.

A volunteer puts wood on a fire to cook hot meals for residents in Kherson city center - Chris McGrath/Getty Images
A volunteer puts wood on a fire to cook hot meals for residents in Kherson city center - Chris McGrath/Getty Images

The city of Kherson was liberated by Ukrainian forces in mid-November after months of Russian occupation but has been under fire since then from Russian troops who retreated to the opposite side of the River Dnipro.

The city has also suffered problems with its power supply. Mr Yanushevych said on Thursday that power had been lost again after recently being restored.

10:24 AM

Kremlin rejects Biden terms for Ukraine talks

The Kremlin on Friday rejected US President Joe Biden's terms for Ukraine talks with Russian leader Vladimir Putin, saying Moscow's offensive will continue.

"What did President Biden say in fact? He said that negotiations are possible only after Putin leaves Ukraine," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters, adding Moscow was "certainly" not ready to accept the conditions.

"The special military operation is continuing," Peskov said, using the Kremlin term for the assault on Ukraine.

09:50 AM

West must understand conflict could go on 'for a very long time'

Justin Welby said he does not think the West has "taken on board" that the conflict in Ukraine could go on "for a very long time".

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme:

"I don't think that the West in general has taken on board and has been led to take on board that this could go on for a very long time.

"We don't want it to - we hope and pray it doesn't, but that's not within our gift. And this is hugely important, that this takeover does not succeed. It's extremely complex, much too complex to unpack the whole thing in a brief interview, but it must not succeed.

"The West needs, the people of the West need, to realise that the cost of this war, in inflation, in all kinds of difficulties - and there's much suffering in our own country, in the UK, through that - the costs of this are not short term, we need to be really tough about this."

09:24 AM

Missile strike hits Zaporizhzhia

Zaporizhzhia was targeted with another missile strike on Thursday night.

"Its purpose was to destroy the industrial and energy infrastructure of the regional centre," the local military administration said.

The missile strike - NEXTA
The missile strike - NEXTA

08:56 AM

Archbishop of Canterbury says there is 'no way we force peace'

The Archbishop of Canterbury has said there must be "no way we force peace" in Ukraine.

Justin Welby added that the need for support is going to be "very long term".

Asked what he learned from his visit to the war-torn country, he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme:

"First of all, the need for solidarity and support for Ukraine.

"And secondly, that there must be no way in which we force peace on Ukraine or they're put under pressure. Third, that the need for support is going to be very long term."

Pressed on whether he meant, in some cases, war is the right course, he said: "Peace is always better than war. But there are times when justice demands that there is the defeat of what we call, the Archbishop of York and I called when it started, an evil invasion. And I don't regret saying that.

"Ukraine is the victim here, we can't slip back to a 1938 Czechoslovakia, sort of people far away of whom we know little situation. There has to be real resilience."

08:26 AM

Ukraine war shows Europe 'not strong enough'

Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin on Friday offered a "brutally honest" assessment of Europe's capabilities in the wake of Russia's war on Ukraine, stating bluntly that "we're not strong enough" to stand up to Moscow alone.

Visiting Australia, the leader of the pending Nato member said Vladimir Putin's invasion and occupation of neighbouring Ukraine had exposed both European weaknesses and strategic blunders in dealing with Russia.

"I must be very honest, brutally honest with you, Europe isn't strong enough right now. We would be in trouble without the United States," she told Sydney's Lowy Institute think tank.

Marin insisted Ukraine must be given "whatever it takes" to win the war, adding that the United States had been pivotal in supplying Kyiv with the weapons, finance and humanitarian aid necessary to blunt Russia's advance.

"We have to make sure that we are also building those capabilities when it comes to European defence, the European defence industry, and making sure that we could cope in different kinds of situations," she said.

08:02 AM

Watch: Ukraine troops have fun with U.S howitzer as sprits remain high on frontline

Ukrainian soldiers on the frontline have been seen firing a US-made howitzer as others rated their shots. With each round fired a group of men can be seen holding up a rating on a card, in a mock competition style.

07:28 AM

Russia tests new missile-defence system rocket

Russia on Friday tested a new missile defence system rocket, the defence ministry said.

The missile was launched from the Sary Shagan testing range in Kazakhstan, the defence ministry said. Other than saying the test was successful, the ministry gave few other details.

Firemen extinguish a fire inside a residential building that was hit by a missile in Kyiv - Pierre Crom/Getty Images
Firemen extinguish a fire inside a residential building that was hit by a missile in Kyiv - Pierre Crom/Getty Images

07:02 AM

Biden and Macron vow unity on Ukraine

Joe Biden used the first state visit of his presidency to demonstrate unity with France's Emmanuel Macron on Ukraine.

At a lavish White House dinner, the leaders vowed to continue robust support and to back Kyiv during the winter months.

Mr Biden, has so far resisted talking to Russian President Vladimir Putin since the invasion was launched in February, said he would be willing to sit down with Mr Putin.

Mr Macron said he would continue to talk to Mr Putin to "try to prevent escalation and to get some very concrete results" such as the safety of nuclear plants.

The two leaders said in a joint statement they were committed to holding Russia to account "for widely documented atrocities and war crimes, committed both by its regular armed forces and by its proxies." Russia denies committing war crimes.

07:01 AM

US planning to sell more missiles to Finland

Joe Biden's government approved a USD$380 million sale of missiles to Finland, the second arms-sale deal with the Nordic nation this week.

It comes as Finland, a direct neighbour of Russia, seeks to join NATO.

The US State Department approved the possible sale of high-powered equipment including Stinger anti-aircraft shoulder-fired missiles.

The deal still needs to be signed off by Congress.

07:00 AM

Zelensky to name and shame Ukrainian church figures who are aiding Russia

Some religious figures inside Ukraine are accused of spying for Russia and manipulating victims of war into turning against their own people.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is threatening to name and shame Orthodox Church insiders he alleges are behind "subversive activities".

Mr Zelensky said overnight his government is working on laws to protect the country's "spiritual independence" and stop Russian-linked worshippers who on their own home soil are allegedly threatening Ukrainians' sovereignty.

"Unfortunately even Russian terror and full-scale war did not convince some figures that it is worth overcoming the temptation of evil," he said.

Confirming in a video address that security forces would probe church activities, Mr Zelensky said his government may ban some religious activities including at one of Kyiv's most sacred sites.

"We will never allow anyone to build an empire inside the Ukrainian soul," he said.