Saturday, March 2, 2024

Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 102: Moscow says many Europeans to face poverty because of anti-Russia sanctions

Russia, wary of NATO’s eastward expansion, began a military campaign in Ukraine on February 24 after the Western-leaning Kiev government turned a deaf ear to Moscow’s calls for its neighbor to maintain its neutrality. In the middle of the mayhem, Moscow and Kiev are trying to hammer out a peaceful solution to the conflict. Follow the latest about the Russia-Ukraine conflict here:

Finland, Sweden should stop ‘wasting NATO’s time’ over bid: Turkey

Ankara’s demands regarding Finland and Sweden joining NATO remain unchanged and negotiations on the issue are pointless, an adviser to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has told Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter in an email interview.

“It is not right that Finland and Sweden are wasting NATO’s time at this critical moment,” Fahrettin Altun was cited as writing.

On 18 May, Stockholm and Helsinki submitted their NATO membership applications to Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, arguing that the move had been prompted by a dramatic shift in the security situation in Europe triggered by the Ukrainian crisis.

However, a membership bid must be unanimously approved and Turkey – a member of the bloc – has objected. Ankara refused to agree to the two countries’ bid because of their open support for the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, and Kurdish YPG militia, which are deemed terrorist organisations by Ankara.

Altun, head of media and communications for the Turkish president, highlighted Turkey’s contributions and commitment to the security of its allies. He underscored in his interview for the Swedish outlet that his country expects more from Finland and Sweden than just words.

“Before this application, they may have thought, ‘Turkey will be convinced anyway’ or ‘Turkey will not object’. However, … Turkey will protect its interests at all costs,” he emphasised.

Altun went on to claim that NATO membership is not a right, but a privilege, and that what happens next “depends on the Swedish government”.

Turkey’s government had previously laid out specific demands for Stockholm and Helsinki to meet before it would back down from its opposition to their NATO membership bid.

Thus, Ankara urged the countries to change their laws to ensure a halt to their support for the PKK and other groups, prohibit them from organising any events on their territory, extradite those sought by Turkey on terrorism charges, support Ankara’s military and counter-terrorism operations, and lift all arms exports restrictions.

“Sweden needs to make a concrete and permanent policy change on terrorism. Extradition of terrorists to Turkey and preventing terrorist organisations from operating on Swedish soil are indispensable,” argued Altun.

When questioned on the results of negotiations with the Swedish and Finnish delegations in Ankara last week, Altun stated there was no difference between “what we say to them and what we say in public.”

West “must understand” giving heavy weapons isn’t one-time situation: Ukrainian deputy DM

Western allies “must understand” that providing heavy weaponry to Ukraine “is not a one-time aid” but has to be continued until “victory,” Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said on Sunday.

“Weapons have already begun to arrive, but it is not enough to give a very strong rebuff to the Russian army,” Maliar stated.

“We will always need support, given that we have already entered a protracted war. The West must understand that this is not a one-time aid, but to a victory,” she added.

“Our fighters are really prepared, our army is really prepared. But this motivation and training are not enough to overcome Russia without weapons,” she said, adding, “Therefore, we openly ask the question that we need the help of the Western world, especially in weapons. And first of all, we are talking about air defense and heavy weapons.”

“Kyiv is constantly under threat,” Maliar said, adding, “We need to understand that the war is in a hot phase, and Kyiv remains the main goal of the Russian Federation.”

Spain ready to supply Ukraine with heavy weapons

Spain is preparing a delivery of heavy weapons to Ukraine, including anti-aircraft missiles and about 40 Leopard A4 tanks, and is also planning to train Ukrainian troops, El Pais newspaper reported on Sunday, citing government sources.

Madrid wants to train Ukrainian military to use the Leopard A4 tanks, with the first stage of training being in Latvia, which already hosts about six Leopard 2E tanks and 500 Spanish soldiers, the report said. The second phase is set to take place in Spain.

The Spanish defense ministry is now completing its deliveries of Shorad Aspide short-range anti-aircraft missiles to Kiev and intends to restore and supply about 40 heavy tanks to Ukraine, according to the report.

El Pais noted that, with this step, Spain is ready to carry out a “quantum leap,” since the country did not deliver heavy weaponry to Ukraine, previously providing light weapons, munitions and personal protective equipment.

In April, Madrid sent 200 tonnes of munition, military hardware and transport vehicles to Ukraine. Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares stated then the country was not considering a transfer of heavy weapons to Ukraine.

Greece possibly sent ‘tremendous amount’ of weapons to Ukraine

The Greek government has possibly delivered or is intending to deliver a “tremendous amount” of weapons to Ukraine, including over 120 armored vehicles, 15,000 munitions and more than three million cartridges and other armament, the Greek news portal reported on Sunday, citing own sources.

The list of weapons for Ukraine from the country’s stockpiles includes 122 armoured vehicles, 15,000 munitions, 2,100 missile projectiles, 20,000 Kalashnikov rifles, 3.2 million cartridges, 60 man-portable air-defence systems, 17,000 artillery projectiles and 1,100 anti-tank projectiles, the news portal added.

Six Greek C-130 cargo planes, 10 Canadian and five New Zealand’s aircraft are involved in the delivery scheme, according to the report.

The news portal also accused the Greek authorities of concealing the details of weapons supplies to Kiev.

On 27 February, Athens supplied Ukraine with 40 tonnes of “defence equipment” via the territory of Poland. Since then, the Greek government has repeatedly stated that it will no longer be sending new weaponry to Kiev not to undermine its own defensive capabilities. The announcements of new shipments of Greek heavy weapons to Kiev have drawn harsh criticism from the opposition, which has accused Athens of undermining national security and hiding details of deals from the population.

Mayor’s aide: Shortage of drinking water in Mariupol “critical”

The shortage of drinking water in Mariupol is now at a critical level, according to an adviser to the mayor.

Petro Andrushenko said people had to register to receive drinking water and can only get it every two days.

The damage to Mariupol during more than two months of bombardment was so severe that most basic services, such as electricity, gas and piped water, are yet to be restored by the Russian-backed local authorities.

Andrushenko added: “The amount of water was small before, but now it has decreased altogether. It is necessary to register in the queue … In the future, the temperature will rise, the water level will fall, and the water will be less.”

Andrushenko, who is not in Mariupol, claimed that the water being provided by the occupying authorities is “very conditional drinking water. Without boiling, it cannot be consumed in normal life at all, and there is no place to boil, that is, only on the [outside] fire. In fact, people use it as it is. This is a double threat at once.”

Andrushenko repeated his warnings of epidemics due to the high level of garbage and the number of corpses buried in shallow graves throughout the city.

“It is difficult to say [what kind of epidemic],” he said.

“We expect cholera [or] any viral epidemic related to the gastrointestinal tract. As a result of unsanitary conditions, this can happen. The worst thing is that such a basic thing as dysentery in the current conditions and with the dysfunctional medical system, lack of drugs, lack of laboratories and everything we are used to, lack of vaccines in Mariupol … Even dysentery can kill tens of thousands,” he added.

So far there have been no confirmed reports of dysentery or other epidemic diseases in Mariupol.

Austria calls for intermediate EU membership for Ukraine

Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer has called for an intermediate stage between cooperation and full membership of the European Union for countries like Ukraine and Moldova.

The so-called “preparatory space” would allow countries to reach the standards of the European Union, similar to the European Economic Area (EEA) or the European Free Trade Agreement (EFTA), Nehammer said.

“We are united by the same goal, we all want a strong, independent and economically successful Ukraine,” Nehammer added in a statement issued by the chancellor’s office.

Pope Francis appeals to government leaders on Ukraine: “Please do not bring humanity to ruin”

Pope Francis renewed his appeal to government leaders on Sunday to seek a diplomatic solution to end the war in Ukraine.

“While the fury of death and destruction continues and conflicting positions spread, fueling an escalation that is increasingly dangerous for everyone, I renew an appeal to national leaders: Please do not bring humanity to ruin, do not bring humanity to ruin,” the Pope said after his Regina Coeli prayer on Pentecost, appearing at a window of the papal apartments overlooking St. Peter’s Square.

“Carry out real negotiations, concrete talks for a ceasefire and for a sustainable solution. Listen to the desperate cry of the people who are suffering – we see it every day in the media – respect human life, stop the macabre destruction of cities and villages everywhere,” he added.

On Saturday, the Pontiff told a child from Ukraine that he wants to visit Ukraine and will be discussing a possible trip with Ukrainian officials.

The Pope made an appeal on Wednesday to lift the blockade of wheat exports from Ukraine.

Moscow missile attack on Kyiv ‘act of terrorism’

Mykhailo Podolyak, Ukrainian presidential adviser, has called Moscow’s missile attack on Kyiv an “act of terrorism” and demanded new sanctions on Russia.

Podolyak also called for Ukraine to be supplied with heavy weapons to defend its territory from Russian attacks.

“Today’s missile attacks on Kiev have only one aim; to kill as many Ukrainians as possible,” he tweeted.

Russia ‘destroyed’ tanks sent by European countries

Russia’s defence ministry claims Russian strikes destroyed tanks and other armoured vehicles on the outskirts of Kyiv that had been provided to Ukraine by European countries.

The ministry’s statement came after the Ukrainian capital was rocked by several explosions early on Sunday.

If US delivers long-range missiles to Ukraine, Russia might hit earlier unaffected targets: Putin

Severodonetsk split in half between Ukrainian and Russian forces: Governor

Serhiy Gaidai, the governor of the Luhansk region where Severodonetsk is located, says control of the city is split in half between Ukrainian and Russian forces.

“It had been a difficult situation, the Russians controlled 70 percent of the city, but over the past two days they have been pushed back,” Gaidai stated on Ukrainian television.

“The city is now, more or less, divided in half,” he added.

France in talks with UAE to replace Russian oil supplies

Bruno Le Maire, France’s finance minister, stated Paris is in talks with the United Arab Emirates to replace Russian oil purchases, which will stop after the imposition of a European Union ban on Russian crude.

“There are discussions with the United Arab Emirates. We have to find an alternative to Russian oil,” Le Maire told Europe 1 radio.

Russian missile flew ‘critically low’ over nuclear plant: Ukraine power operator

Energoatom, Ukraine’s state-run nuclear power operator, announced a Russian cruise missile flew “critically low” over a major nuclear power plant.

“It’s probable that was the missile that was fired in the direction of Kyiv,” the operator of the Pivdennoukrainska plant, also called the South Ukraine Nuclear Plant, said in a post on the Telegram messaging app.

Moscow claims West does not allow Ukraine to conduct negotiations with Russia

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov claimed the West does not allow Ukraine to conduct talks with Russia.

Lavrov accused the West, led by the UK and the US, of turning Ukraine into an instrument of restraining and exhausting Russia.

He said in an interview with the public broadcaster of the Republika Srpska, RTRS, that the West forbade Ukraine to continue negotiations with Russia which had accepted Ukrainian proposals two months ago as a basis for developing a resolution.

They forced Ukraine to tighten its stance against Russia, he added.

Referring to economic sanctions on his country, Lavrov argued that the penalties backfired and are harming the West more than Russia.

“Russia subsequently turned to its own forces and reliable partners,” Lavrov said, adding that his country, previously imported a large volume of agricultural products that have turned it into the largest agricultural country in the world.

People of Europe face inflation and degradation of quality of life because of the anti-Russian sanctions, and many will face poverty because of these sanctions, he noted.

“The quality of life is worsening in Europe, inflation is on the rise, growth rates are slowing down. There is even a new concept of ‘the new poor’. People are suffering from the emerging problems, including the price hike. Many will face poverty,” Lavrov said.

Tens of billions of dollars and euro are being spent on arming Ukraine, the foreign minister added.

Powerful explosions heard in Kyiv

The Reuters news agency says powerful explosions have been heard in Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv.

Citing a witness, the agency added smoke was seen in the city following the explosions.

Earlier, air raid sirens had gone off across much of Ukraine, including in the Kyiv region, the report stated.

Vitali Klitschko, the mayor of Kyiv, has announced “several explosions” took place early on Sunday morning in the Darnytski and Dniprovskyi districts of the capital.

Klitschko stated one person has been hospitalized after multiple explosions hit the capital on Sunday morning local time.

He noted the city’s services are still operating in the affected areas.

The Kyiv region military administration has also said a Russian missile was downed on Sunday by Ukraine’s air defense system above the Obukhiv area south of Kyiv.

“According to the preliminary information, there are no casualties or destruction,” the statement added.

Ukrainian DM says ‘optimistic’ forecast sees war over by end of year

Oleksii Reznikov, the Ukrainian Defense Minister, said it is “hard to predict when the war will end, but my optimistic projection is that it may end by the end of the year.”

Reznikov stated Ukrainian defense forces still “need heavy weapons, primarily MLRS, as well as other artillery, tanks, anti-ship systems, unmanned systems, missiles and air defenses.”

“We need them quickly and in quantities commensurate with the scale of the threats. Ukraine found itself in a state of war without adequate support from the democratic world,” he added.

“The situation is changing now, but slowly. We appreciate the contribution of each country which is currently with Ukraine, which has committed itself to increase the effectiveness of international support,” Reznikov said.

He added: “Ukraine has changed its philosophy in the supply of weapons. If in the first month of the war we focused on obtaining anti-tank and anti-aircraft portable systems, now the nature of the war has changed and we need more heavy weapons.”

“In the Kherson region, the Russian army is building a deeply echeloned defense. Our goal is to prevent Russian scenarios from being realized and to liberate our territories as soon as possible,” he continued.

Street fighting continues in Severodonetsk: Zelensky

Ukraine’s president has described the situation in Severodonetsk as “extremely difficult” and said street fighting was continuing in the eastern city.

“Russian troops again fired at the border areas of the Sumy region, Mykolaiv, cities, and people of the Zaporizhzhia region, and Kharkiv region,” Volodymyr Zelensky said in his evening address.

“The situation in Severodonetsk, where street fighting continues, remains extremely difficult. It is also difficult in Lysychansk, Marinka, Kurakhove, and other cities and communities of Donbas. Constant air strikes, artillery, and rocket attacks. By today’s morning, the total number of various Russian missiles used against Ukraine is already 2,503,” he added.

Zelensky stated Russian artillery has “destroyed” 113 churches during “the full-scale war” with Ukraine.

US envoy visits Borodyanka, vows accountability

Bridget Brink, the US envoy to Ukraine, has visited Borodyanka, a town northwest of Kyiv where Russian forces have been accused of committing war crimes.

“Borodyanka has suffered horribly,” Brink said in a tweet late on Saturday.

“Bearing witness to atrocities committed in Russia’s brutal war, including families killed in their own homes, only strengthens my resolve to do everything we can to hold the perpetrators of these awful crimes to account,” Brink added.

Moscow: big jump in profits from energy exports in 2022

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Western sanctions would have no effect on the country’s oil exports and predicted a big jump in profits from energy shipments this year, TASS news agency reported.

“Considering the price level that has been established as a result of the West’s policies, we have suffered no budgetary losses. On the contrary, this year we will significantly increase the profits from the export of our energy resources,” he added.

Putin on US decision to send new weapons to Ukraine: Russia ‘cracking them like nuts’

Russian President Vladimir Putin said the Russian air defenсe systems are “cracking like nuts” new weapons supplied by the United States to Ukraine.

“Our air defence systems are cracking like nuts [American weapons], dozens of them have been destroyed,” Putin stated in an interview with the Russian Channel One broadcaster, commenting on the new US weapons deliveries to Kiev, which include the long-range HIMARS systems.

A fragment of the interview, which will be released on Sunday, was published in the Telegram channel of the Smotrim streaming platform.

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