Saturday, December 9, 2023

Live Update: Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 174

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:

Russia “stole” energy from Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant to send to Crimea: Ukrainian official

Ukraine claims a Crimean substation that was also affected by explosions at an ammunition depot in the village of Maiskoye had been used to divert power from the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.

“You must understand that they stole from the Zaporizhzhia NPP in order to send electricity to Crimea through Dzhankoi (where Maiskoye is located),” Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a televised interview on Tuesday.

“I think and believe that this is karmic retribution. Everything that is stolen does not bring wealth,” he added.

Podolyak stated that Moscow’s explanations for the explosions at the ammunition depot in the Crimean village of Maiskoye, as well as the blasts at an air base in Crimea last Tuesday, suggested the Russian military was deploying “untrained” staff to some locations.

The series of explosions at Novofedorivka air base, on Crimea’s west coast, destroyed at least eight Russian military aircraft, satellite imagery showed.

The blasts killed one person and injured 14, according to the Crimean health ministry.

Russia says Crimea arms depot blast was result of ‘sabotage’

Russia’s defence ministry has announced that a military warehouse near the town of Dzhankoi in northern Crimea had been damaged by sabotage, the Russian state-owned news agency RIA reported.

Earlier on Tuesday, Crimean officials noted there had been a big fire at an ammunition depot in the area.

The state-owned news agency TASS cited the defence ministry as saying that civilian infrastructure, including an electricity-supply station had been damaged as a result of the “sabotage”.

Russia warns of ‘direct military clash’ with US

The Russian Embassy in the US cautioned, “The US steps to further engage in a hybrid confrontation with Russia in the context of the Ukrainian crisis are fraught with unpredictable escalation and a direct military clash of nuclear powers.”

The embassy noted that Washington has recently withdrawn from two key arms control agreements, which allowed for surveillance flights over each other’s territories.

Earlier, the US accused Moscow of using the Zaporozhye nuclear plant in southern Ukraine as cover for its soldiers. While Russia initiated a UN Security Council meeting last week regarding the situation around the power plant and supports International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspections at the facility.

Advanced US arms haven’t had “significant impact” in Ukraine war: Russian DM

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu stated Tuesday that the US-supplied High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or HIMARS, are not having a “significant impact” on Russia’s war in Ukraine, despite reports that Kyiv is using them to target critical Russian military and logistical infrastructure in the country.

“Recently, HIMARS multiple launch rocket systems and long-range howitzers have been promoted by Westerners to the role of super weapons,” Shoigu told attendees at the Moscow Conference on International Security.

“They (HIMARS) did not have a significant impact on the situation,” he said, adding, “Russian weapons, however, confirmed their best qualities in battles.”

Ukrainian officials have previously noted HIMARS and other multiple rocket systems are “affecting the course of the war” — a view shared by top US military personnel and diplomatic officials.

“The Ukrainians are effectively employing these HIMARS strikes against Russian command and control nodes, their logistical networks, their field artillery and air to find sites and many other targets,” Mark Milley, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, told journalists in Washington in late July.

US Ambassador to Ukraine Bridget Brink told CNN on August 2 that it was clear that the weaponry provided by America, including the HIMARs, “have had an effect.”

HIMARS appear to have been used in a massive strike against a warehouse in the town of Nova Kakhovka in the southern Kherson region in July. The strike set off secondary explosions and caused widespread damage, according to satellite imagery. The imagery showed how precise the attack had been, leaving just one small crater.

In early August, the Pentagon announced an additional package of security assistance for Ukraine, which is being drawn from US stockpiles and includes 75,000 rounds of ammunition and an undisclosed amount of additional ammunition for the HIMARS.

Putin: Collective west purposely destroying European security system, NATO moving east

The collective West is purposely destroying the European security system with NATO moving further east, said Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, addressing the X Moscow Conference on International Security.

“Western globalist elites are provoking chaos by rekindling old and inciting new conflicts, implementing a policy of so-called containment, while in fact undermining any alternative, sovereign paths of development. Thus, they are desperately trying to preserve the hegemony and power that are slipping out of their grasp, trying to keep countries and peoples in the grip of a neo-colonial order,” Putin stated.

The Russian President emphasized that this “hegemony” was fraught with stagnation for the whole world, for the entire civilization.

“Any means are used. The United States and its vassals rudely interfere in the internal affairs of sovereign states by organizing provocations, coup d’état and civil wars. Threats, blackmail and pressure are resorted to in a bid to force independent states to submit to their will,” he added.

According to the Russian President, all this is done with one goal – to maintain global dominance.

“The so-called collective West is purposefully destroying the European security system, putting together new military alliances. The NATO bloc is expanding East, building up its military infrastructure, deploying missile defense systems and increasing the strike capabilities of its offensive forces,” Putin underscored.

The Russian President pointed out that these actions are being hypocritically justified by the need to strengthen security in Europe, but in reality, just the opposite is happening. At the same time, proposals on mutual security measures put forward by Russia in December last year were yet again ignored, he said.

According to the Russian leader, the collective West needs conflict to maintain hegemony. That is why the people of Ukraine were allotted the fate of “cannon fodder”.

“Implementing the “anti-Russia” project, they turned a blind eye to the spread of neo-Nazi ideology, the massacres of the inhabitants of Donbass, while continuously pumping the Kiev regime with weapons, including heavy armaments,” underlined Putin.

Under these conditions, stressed the Russian President, the decision was taken to launch a special military operation in Ukraine in full accordance with the Charter of the United Nations.

“The goals of this operation are clearly and precisely defined: to ensure the security of Russia and our citizens, to protect the inhabitants of Donbass from genocide,” he noted.

Referencing the current developments, the president pointed to glaring proof that the US was trying to prolong the Ukraine conflict.

Weighing in on the spiraling tensions around Taiwan, the Russian President said that the United States had yet again intentionally tried to “add fuel to the fire.”

“The American reckless gamble in relation to Taiwan is not just a visit by an individual irresponsible politician, but part of a purposeful, conscious US strategy to destabilize… the situation in the region and the world, a brazen demonstration of disrespect for the sovereignty of other countries and for its international obligations. We see this as a carefully planned provocation,” Putin added.

Putin told the gathering that Russia will continue to strengthen its armed forces, ensure national interests and protect allies, while also taking other steps to build a more democratic world.

Putin stressed that only a multipolar world built on international law opens up new opportunities for combating common threats, reducing global tension and ensuring sustainable development of all countries. To achieve this, it is necessary to restore respect for international law, its fundamental norms and principles, and strengthen the positions of such universal structures as the United Nations and other international dialogue platforms, he concluded.

“Partial success” for Russian forces in eastern Ukraine: Military

Russian forces have had “partial success” in eastern Ukraine after making limited gains near the villages of Solodke and Novomykhailivka in the Donetsk region, the Ukrainian military announced Tuesday.

“The hostilities continue,” the military’s general staff said in a situation update.

Ukrainian troops have been able to hold its ground in other parts of the Donetsk region, the general staff added.

Russian forces launched assaults in the directions of Volodymyrivka-Bakhmutske and Striapivka-Soledar, where Ukrainian soldiers pushed the invaders back, according to the general staff.

“Fighting continues on the Pokrovsk–Bakhmutske and Horlivka–Zalizne directions,” the general staff said.

Near the city of Avdiivka, the Russians shelled the areas of Krasnohorivka, Spartak and Nevelske with barrel artillery, the general staff added.

Fighting is also ongoing near Staromykhailivka–Nevelske and the settlement of Ivano Dariivka, it added.

Ukraine said it had been able to repel a Russian assault in the south. “An attempt to improve the tactical position by assault actions in the direction of Zeleny Hai–Novohryhorivka ended with significant losses and a retreat for the enemy,” the general staff added.

Meanwhile, Kyiv’s troops stationed near the border with Belarus are on high alert because there is “still a threat” that Russia could launch air and missile strikes with support from Minsk, the Ukrainian military noted. Belarus is an ally of Russia and has been used as a launch point for Russian troops into Ukraine.

Russia has no need to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine: DM

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu has stated during a speech at the Moscow international security conference that Russia had no need to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine.

Shoigu also alleged that Ukrainian military operations are being planned by the United States and Britain, and that NATO had increased its troop deployment in Eastern and Central Europe “several times over”.

Putin says Western countries want NATO-like system in Asia-Pacific

Russian President Vladimir Putin has noted that Western countries were seeking to extend a “NATO-like system” into the Asia-Pacific region.

Delivering the welcome address at the Moscow international security conference, Putin stated that the United States was trying to “drag out” the conflict in Ukraine, and that US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan earlier this month had been “a thoroughly planned provocation”.

Russian army says munitions explode at Crimea depot

Munitions exploded during a fire at an arms depot in the town of Mayskoye in Russian-annexed Crimea, the Russian defence ministry has said, adding that there were no serious casualties in the explosion

The fire erupted around 6:15 am local time (0315 GMT) at a military storage site near the village of Mayskoye in the Dzhankoi district, causing ammunition to detonate, the ministry announced in a statement carried by Russian news agencies.

Ukraine says it has defused 180,000 explosive devices since beginning of war

The Ukrainian government says its demining forces have detected and defused more than 180,000 explosive devices since the beginning of Russia’s invasion in February.

Yevhenii Yenin, the first deputy interior minister, said on Ukrainian television Monday that “one-fifth of the territory of Ukraine was contaminated with shells, mines and aerial bombs that did not explode.

“Since the beginning of the war, our services have detected and defused more than 180,000 explosive devices. Over 68,000 hectares have already been surveyed,” Yenin continued.

The official stated technicians were surveying about 500 hectares every week.

“In the Kyiv region, 1,000 explosive objects are still being defused every day,” he added.

UN denies Russian claims it blocked nuclear watchdog agency visit to Zaporizhzhia plant

The United Nations has denied allegations by Russians it blocked or canceled a visit by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant in southern Ukraine.

Here is the full statement by Stéphane Dujarric, spokesperson for the UN secretary-general:

“In the past few days, there have been repeated comments by various Russian officials accusing the United Nations Secretariat of having either cancelled or blocked a visit by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant.

I want to clarify a few points. First, the IAEA is a specialized agency that acts in full independence in deciding how to implement its specific mandate.

Second, the UN Secretariat has no authority to block or cancel any IAEA activities.

Third, in close contact with the IAEA, the UN Secretariat has assessed that it has in Ukraine the logistics and security capacity to be able to support any IAEA mission to the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant from Kyiv, should both Russia and Ukraine agree.”

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu held a phone call with UN Secretary General António Guterres on Monday, when the two discussed conditions for safe operation of Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, according to the statement published by the Russian defense ministry.

According to the statement, Shoigu and Guterres also spoke on the functioning of the “fact-finding mission” regarding the attack on a pre-trial detention center in Olenivka. They also discussed UN initiatives to simplify conditions for export of Russian food products and fertilizers.

Zelensky calls for strict sanctions against Russia for “nuclear blackmail” around Zaporizhzhia plant

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky called on the world to introduce tough sanctions as a response to Russia’s “nuclear blackmail” around the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant.

“Provocative shelling of the territory of the plant continues. Under cover of the plant, the invaders are shelling nearby towns and communities. The Russian military hides munitions and equipment at the facilities of the plant. The station is de facto mined,” Zelensky said during his evening video address on Monday.

“It is necessary to move from discussions and calls to new tough sanctions against Russia, against ‘Rosatom’ and the entire nuclear industry of the terrorist state. All Russian forces must immediately withdraw from the territory of the station and neighboring areas without any conditions,” he added.

Ukraine’s president claimed that Russia “ignores” the security demands of 42 countries that called on it to withdraw its forces from the station.

“Any radiation incident at the Zaporizhzhia NPP can be a blow to the countries of the European Union, and to Turkey, and to Georgia, and to countries from more distant regions. Everything depends on the direction and strength of the wind. If a catastrophe occurs due to Russia’s actions, the consequences can hit even those who remain silent for the time being,” Zelensky said.

“And if now the world lacks the strength and determination to protect one nuclear plant, it means that the world will lose. Lose to terrorists. Yield to nuclear blackmail,” he added.

Norway delivers all the gas it can to Germany: Norway PM

Norway is delivering all the gas it can to Germany, according to Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store.

“Norway delivers as much gas as possible to Germany,” Store told a joint news conference with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

Russia’s DM, UN chief discuss safe functioning of Zaporizhzhia plant

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu has held a phone call with United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to discuss conditions for the safe functioning of Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, according to the ministry.

During the call, Shoigu and Guterres also discussed initiatives to ease conditions for exports of Russian food products and fertilisers, the Russian ministry added in a statement.

Separatist court charges five foreigners as mercenaries

A Russian-backed separatist court in eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk has charged five foreign nationals, who were captured fighting with Ukrainian forces, with being mercenaries on Monday, saying three could face the death penalty, according to Russian media.

UK national John Harding, Croatian Vjekoslav Prebeg and Swedish citizen Mathias Gustafsson, who were apprehended in and around the port city of Mariupol, face a possible death sentence, Russian state-owned news agency TASS reported.

TASS cited the judge as saying that the trial would resume in early October.

UN can facilitate IAEA visit to power plant if Russia, Ukraine agree

The United Nations has announced “it has in Ukraine the logistics and security capacity to be able to support any IAEA mission to the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant from Kyiv, should both Russia and Ukraine agree”.

The power plant, Europe’s largest, was seized by Russian soldiers in the opening days of the invasion of Ukraine and has remained on the front line ever since.

The plant has come under shelling in recent days, with both Moscow and Kyiv accusing each other of risking a nuclear accident.

Explosive item kills three swimmers off Ukrainian Black Sea beach

Three civilians have been killed and two others wounded by an explosive device while swimming in the Black Sea in Ukraine’s southwestern region of Odesa, according to local police.

Police said the accident happened on Sunday when several people working on a construction site ignored barriers and warning signs on the beach and went swimming in the sea in the Bilhorod-Dnistrovskyi district.

“In the water, as a result of an explosion of an unknown object, three men aged 25, 32 and 53 years old … were killed,” the police said in a written statement.

The statement added that another man and a woman had been wounded.

Ukrainian authorities closed sea beaches in recent months amid Russia’s invasion. Ukraine’s military also planted mines along the coast in case of a Russian amphibious assault, cordoning off beach entrances with red and white tape.

Russia will ‘do everything necessary’ to facilitate IAEA visit to Zaporizhzhia plant

Russia will do “everything necessary” to allow specialists from the United Nations nuclear watchdog to visit the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine, a spokeswoman for the country’s foreign ministry has said.

“In close cooperation with the Agency and its leadership, we will do everything necessary for the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] specialists to be at the station and give a truthful assessment of the destructive actions of the Ukrainian side,” Maria Zakharova stated in a statement.

Zakharova also called for Kyiv’s Western allies, including the United States and the 27-member European Union, to force a stop to what she claimed was persistent Ukrainian shelling of the site and nearby areas.

The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, the biggest in Europe, was captured by Russian forces in March. It has come under shelling in recent weeks, with both Moscow and Kyiv accusing each other of being behind the attacks and risking a major nuclear accident.

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