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Ukraine updates: Putin marks Crimea takeover anniversary

Published February 27, 2024last updated February 27, 2024

The Russian president has praised the country's special forces in remarks marking the capture of Crimea's parliament 10 years ago. Ukraine says its drone production now matches that of Russia. DW has the latest.

 Russian flag waving in the courtyard of the parliament building in Simferopol, Crimea, on March 18 2014
Russia marks the takeover of Crimea's parliament, seen here, on February 27, 2014, as Special Forces DayImage: Vasily Maximov/AFP via Getty Images
Skip next section What you need to know

What you need to know

Russian President Vladimir Putin has vowed to boost the striking power of Russia's Special Operations Forces as he marked the 10th anniversary of the seizure of government buildings in Crimea.

His Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, deplored the 2014 Russian occupation of the Crimean peninsula, which Moscow later illegally annexed, saying the current war "all began in Crimea."

Meanwhile, a Ukraine government official says his country has now caught up with Russia regarding both the number and quality of combat drones it produces.

Here's a look at the latest developments in Russia's war in Ukraine on Tuesday, February 27.

Skip next section Navalny's lawyer briefly detained in Moscow
February 27, 2024

Navalny's lawyer briefly detained in Moscow

A lawyer who represented the late Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny and accompanied Navalny's mother last week as she appealed to authorities for the return of his body has been arrested in Moscow, according to Russian news media.

The detention of Vasily Dubkov was reported by the Novaya Gazeta Europe newspaper and the independent news outlet SOTA.

The reason for the detention was "violation of public order," Novaya Gazeta Europe said, citing sources.

Later, Dubkov told independent news outlet Verstka that he had been released. Verstka said he did not comment on the reason for his detention but said it was an obstruction of his activity as a lawyer.

Russian officials are yet to comment on the reported arrest.

Skip next section Zelenskyy visits Saudi Arabia to discuss peace, POW swaps with Russia
February 27, 2024

Zelenskyy visits Saudi Arabia to discuss peace, POW swaps with Russia

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy arrived in Saudi Arabia on a working visit to meet Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

In a post on X, formerly Twitter, Zelenskyy wrote that the main topics of discussion would be Kyiv's peace formula framework for ending the Russian invasion, as well as the return of prisoners and deportees.

Saudi Arabia has previously acted as a mediator in prisoner swaps between Ukraine and Russia. 

"We will also discuss promising areas of economic cooperation and Saudi Arabia's involvement in Ukraine's reconstruction", the Ukrainian president said.

Ukraine has held several multilateral meetings to discuss the peace formula with representatives from dozens of countries. Kyiv says it hopes to hold a Peace Summit in Switzerland this spring.

The Saudi state news agency confirmed in a statement that Zelenskyy had arrived in the kingdom.

Skip next section Germany's Scholz, Pistorius rule out sending troops to Ukraine
February 27, 2024

Germany's Scholz, Pistorius rule out sending troops to Ukraine

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has said no ground troops will be sent to Ukraine by European or NATO states, a statement backed up by his defense minister, Boris Pistorius.

The two men were responding to comments made by French President Emmanuel Macron following an aid conference in Paris on Monday, where he suggested that the possibility of direct Western military intervention in Ukraine should not be ruled out.

"Once again, in a very good debate, it was discussed that what was agreed from the outset among ourselves and with each other also applies to the future, namely that there will be no ground troops, no soldiers on Ukrainian soil sent there by European countries or NATO states," Scholz said on the sidelines of an event.

Pistorius told a news conference with his Austrian counterpart, Klaudia Tanner, that "boots on the ground is not an option for the Federal Republic of Germany."

The Kremlin warned on Tuesday that Russia and NATO would inevitably become embroiled in a conflict if European members of NATO sent troops to fight in Ukraine.

Skip next section Ukraine welcomes talk of Western boots on the ground
February 27, 2024

Ukraine welcomes talk of Western boots on the ground

Senior Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak has welcomed hints made by French President Emmanuel Macron at possible direct military intervention by Western countries to help fight off the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

In a written statement, Podolyak said raising the possibility "shows, firstly, an absolute awareness of the risks posed to Europe by a militaristic, aggressive Russia."

The Kremlin, however, warned against the idea that European NATO members could send troops to fight in Ukraine, saying it would make conflict between Russia and the Western military alliance unavoidable.

Asked about Macron's comments, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, "The very fact of discussing the possibility of sending certain contingents to Ukraine from NATO countries is a very important new element."  

If this did occur, he said, "we would need to talk not about the probability, but about the inevitability" of a direct conflict between Russia and NATO.

So far, Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic, Spain and soon-NATO-member Sweden have all said they are not considering sending troops to Ukraine at present. Hungary's foreign minister said his country would not send weapons or troops, saying the war in Ukraine must be finished and not expanded. And the UK has said it is planning no large-scale deployment of troops beyond the small number that are already supporting Ukrainian forces.

In his comments on Monday, Macron made it clear that there was no consensus among European countries on the issue.

Macron: Deployment of ground troops to Ukraine is an option

Skip next section Ukraine's drone production matches Russia's: minister
February 27, 2024

Ukraine's drone production matches Russia's: minister

Ukraine's minister of strategic industries said his country is producing drones that are a match for the Iranian-made Shahed drones used by Russia during its invasion.

Speaking on Ukrainian television, Oleksandr Kamyshin said the Ukrainian drones were the equal of Shaheds "both in terms of the size of the explosive devices and in terms of range and other technical parameters." 

"This year we are in no way behind Russia in the production of these drones," he added.

Kamyshin said Ukraine was also using other types of drone in its fight against Russian invaders, including for attacks far inside Russia's borders.

"What explodes in Russia — that comes from us," said the minister.

Ukraine has been boosting its domestic arms production amid concerns that military assistance from Western allies might be faltering.  

A look at Ukraine's use of drones

Skip next section Russia jails veteran human rights activist Oleg Orlov
February 27, 2024

Russia jails veteran human rights activist Oleg Orlov

Human rights campaigner Oleg Orlov photographed while attending a hearing in Moscow in 2023
Oleg Orlov has been jailed for 2 1/2 years for 'discrediting Russia's armed forces'Image: Tatyana Makeyeva/REUTERS

A Moscow court has sentenced 70-year-old human rights activist Oleg Orlov to 2 1/2 years in prison, having found him guilty of discreting Russia's armed forces.

The verdict came after a retrial requested by the prosecution, which opposed an earlier verdict that imposed only a fine on Orlov.

Orlov is a long-time member of the Russian rights group Memorial, which won a share of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2022.

The group has been banned and dissolved in Russia itself. 

Orlov was convicted of "repeatedly discrediting" the Russian army in an article he wrote denouncing the invasion of Ukraine. 

The prosecution reportedly said that Orlov was motivated in writing the article by hostility "against traditional Russian spiritual, moral and patriotic values."  

Russia introduced a series of laws starting in 2022 making it an offense to make statements seen as derogatory about Russian armed forces. They have since been used to quash any criticism of Moscow's Ukraine invasion.

Skip next section Macron says deploying ground troops in Ukraine an option
February 27, 2024

Macron says deploying ground troops in Ukraine an option

French President Emmanuel Macron has said he is not ruling out the deployment of French ground troops in Ukraine.

Speaking after hosting a Ukraine aid conference in Paris on Monday, Macron said, "There is no consensus today on officially deploying ground troops, but nothing can be ruled out in the dynamic."

"We will do everything necessary to ensure that Russia cannot win this war," he said. "We are convinced that the defeat of Russia is indispensable to security and stability in Europe." 

Macron's remarks were seconded on Tuesday by French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal, who said, "You can't rule anything out in a war."

He told broadcaster RTL there was "no consensus" on any "official" deployment of ground troops.

"But no dynamic can be ruled out. We will do whatever it takes to ensure that Russia cannot win this war," he said, in an almost word-for-word repetition of Macron's statement.

Macron not ruling out sending troops to Ukraine

Skip next section 'It all began in Crimea,' Zelenskyy says
February 27, 2024

'It all began in Crimea,' Zelenskyy says

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said Russia's occupation of Crimea 10 years ago carried the seeds of Moscow's current invasion of his country and stressed that the peninsula must return to Ukraine.

"It all began in Crimea — this Russian revanchism, this Russian war," Zelenskyy said in a video address on Monday as Ukraine commemorated a 2014 rally by Crimean Tatars against the Russian occupation.

 "It is precisely there, in Crimea, that Russian evil must suffer a decisive defeat," he said.

The recapture of all territories occupied by Russia, including Crimea, is one of Ukraine's declared war aims as it fights against Moscow's invading troops.

Crimea was declared a part of Russian territory on March 18, 2014, after its gradual occupation by Russian special forces without national insignia on their uniforms who were called the "little green men" at the time.

The annexation remains illegal under international law, with few countries, including Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Syria, Afghanistan and North Korea, recognizing Russian sovereignty over the peninsula. 

Skip next section Putin vows to boost his Special Operations Forces
February 27, 2024

Putin vows to boost his Special Operations Forces

Russian President Vladimir Putin has promised to make his country's Special Operations Forces more mobile and capable in a video to mark the 10th anniversary of the takeover of Crimea's parliament by Russian forces.

Russia's Special Operations Forces, a part of the Russian Armed Forces, are units that remain in a constant state of combat readiness and perform specific tasks.  

In addition to their participation in the occupation of Crimea, they have been involved in Russia's interventions in Syria in the past decade and in Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.

"We will continue to strengthen the Special Operations Forces, increase their mobility and striking potential, and arm them with new-generation weapons and equipment," Putin said in his message.

He said they had shown the ability during Moscow's invasion of Ukraine to carry out "assigned tasks with honor, act boldly, competently, and decisively."

Russia has been celebrating Special Operations Forces Day on February 27 since 2015, when Putin declared a holiday on the first anniversary of the takeover in Ukraine's Crimea.

tj/sms (AP, AFP, Reuters, DPA)