Friday, August 12, 2022

Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 76: UN says Ukraine death toll ‘thousands higher’ than reported

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’s economy is “clearly in recession” and facing 20% inflation: US Treasury secretary

US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said on Tuesday that Western sanctions have delivered a powerful blow to Russia’s economy following the invasion of Ukraine.

“Their economy is clearly in recession,” Yellen told lawmakers during a hearing on the Financial Stability Oversight Council’s annual report to Congress, adding that there are forecasts the Russian economy will contract by 10% to 15%.

Inflation in Russia is probably running around 20% this year, Yellen said. That would be more than double the 8.5% year-over-year jump in consumer prices in the United States in March.

“Russian firms that have been sanctioned are finding it almost impossible to gain access to goods and services that they need in global markets,” Yellen stated, adding that this includes major defense firms that can’t find the computer chips and other components they need to restock their defense arsenals.

Earlier, Yellen noted that “Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine has further increased economic uncertainty.”

The war in Ukraine has disrupted supplies of food and energy, contributing to the highest level of inflation in decades. The average price of regular gasoline has increased about 25% to record highs since Russia invaded Ukraine in late February.

Yellen stated financial regulators will continue to monitor developments and “coordinate actions as the risks and threats evolve.”


Biden economic adviser says record high US gas prices “somewhat up to Putin”

Ahead of US President Joe Biden’s remarks on addressing inflation Tuesday, the White House sought to tie record high US gas prices to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“We certainly hope that these will come down soon. That’s somewhat up to [President Vladimir] Putin. But the President is focused on addressing these kinds of issues,” Biden economic adviser Cecilia Rouse told CNN, but pointed to efforts from the administration to ease prices, including the release from the Strategic Petroleum Reserves.

Rouse also indicated that the possibility of a national gas tax holiday was one of many options on the table.

“The President understands the uncertainty … All measures are on the table. He is focused on these issues,” she added as she laid out longer-term measures to relieve pricing pressures.

She later reiterated that Biden wants to consider all measures but he will need the support of his partners in Congress.

“He cannot do everything unilaterally. So he needs to work with partners in Congress in order to make meaningful change, but it’s very important to understand that this President is focused on rising prices,” she continued.

Later on Tuesday morning, Biden is expected to lay out a “whole of government approach” to combating inflation. She indicated that Chinese tariffs and trade policy more broadly will be part of his speech, as well as clean energy, and later called on Congress to confirm the administration’s Federal Reserve nominees.

She dismissed a recent assertion from Donald Trump economic adviser Kevin Hassett, who has indicated the US is already in a recession.

“I’m not sure where that comes from,” she said, laughing, as she outlined economic growth in 2021 and GDP.

“We are not expecting that we’re already in the recession. In fact, the guts and the bones of this economy remains strong. Yes, there are headwinds, yes, there’s uncertainty, which is why the President is so focused on trying to reduce costs and grow this economy by investing in people in our physical infrastructure, and really building the kind of economy that will generate sustainable growth going forward,” she stated.


Ukraine has killed up to 10 Russian generals: Head of US Defense Intelligence Agency

Ukraine has killed between “eight and ten” Russian generals during the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, Lt. Gen. Scott Berrier, the head of the US Defense Intelligence Agency, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday.

US officials have closely watched the climbing number of general officer deaths in the Russian military — an unusually high number for a modern military that far outstrips the number of US generals lost during 20 years of conflict in Afghanistan.

Some US officials have attributed that atypically high figure in part to the intelligence support provided by the United States, while others believe it is because Russian generals are being forced to operate far more forward in the conflict zone than would normally be expected in order to motivate their troops.

“Does the fact that Russia is losing all these generals suggest to you that these generals are having to go forward to ensure their orders are executed?” Arkansas GOP Sen. Tom Cotton asked.

“Yes,” DIA head Lt. Gen. Scott Berrier stated.

Overall, Berrier noted that Ukraine is better poised to field motivated soldiers in the conflict — even as its military is far smaller than the Russian force.

“I think the Ukrainians have it right in terms of grit and how they face the defense of their nation,” Berrier continued, adding, “I’m not sure that Russian soldiers from the far-flung Russian military districts really understand that.”


Belarus to deploy special forces to southern border near Ukraine

Belarus will deploy special operations troops in three areas near its southern border with Ukraine, the armed forces have announced as President Alexander Lukashenko talked up the role of Russian-made missiles in boosting the country’s defences.

A close ally of Russia, Belarus said in March that its armed forces were not taking part in what Moscow calls its “special operation” in Ukraine, but it did serve as a launchpad for Russia to send thousands of troops across the border on February 24.


Ukraine operator to suspend Russian gas flow via Sokhranivka entry point

Ukraine’s gas system operator GTSOU has announced it would declare force majeure on the transportation of gas through the Sokhranivka entry point, with flows stopping on May 11.

Ukraine has continued to be a major transit route for Russian gas to Europe even after Russia’s invasion of the country on February 24.


Lithuania declares Russia a perpetrator of terrorism

The Lithuanian Parliament on Tuesday passed a resolution declaring Russia’s invasion of Ukraine a “genocide” and Russia a perpetrator of terrorism.

In the resolution, the Seimas, Lithuania’s Parliament, recognized “the full-scale armed aggression — war — against Ukraine by the armed forces of the Russian Federation and its political and military leadership […] as genocide against the Ukrainian people.”

Passed unanimously, the resolution accuses Russian military forces of “deliberately and systematically targeting civilian targets,” declaring Russia “a state that supports and perpetrates terrorism.”

The Seimas also called for the establishment of an international tribunal to investigate alleged Russian war crimes in Ukraine.

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis told CNN Tuesday that the decision is a recognition of reality and “gives impetus for further legal investigations into the situation.”

In his first reaction to the unanimous passage of the resolution, Landsbergis stated the designations must be followed up by investigations, such as those being carried out by the International Criminal Court and the International Court of Justice.

“We haven’t seen anything like it since the Second World War, so that might give additional speed to the investigation and resources that they require, because especially ICC … they have as much money as the countries provide and as many investigators as the countries provide,” said Landsbergis, who noted Lithuania was one of the first countries to provide financial assistance to the investigators.

“We clearly have reasons to call this an act of genocide,” Landsbergis said in an interview with CNN in Washington.

“[Vladimir] Putin clearly stated that he does not believe that Ukraine has the right to exist as a country and he’s trying to prove his point by killing basically entire civilian cities full of civilians,” Landsbergis continued.

Landsbergis added that the international community must not only work to strengthen mechanisms aimed at accountability for war crimes and crimes against humanity, but perhaps look for new ones because “Russia truly changed the reality with their attack on Ukraine.”

“We had trust that after the Second World War, we built the mechanism that should empower this ‘never again’ concept. Obviously the mechanisms were not sufficient. And so we really need now to start working on strengthening those mechanisms,” he told CNN, adding, “I think that we not only need to strengthen what we built, but maybe even to look for new mechanisms and new instruments that would really allow us once again to say this was the last time.”


Kyiv mayor says nearly two-thirds of residents have returned

The mayor of Kyiv stated that nearly two-thirds of the Ukrainian capital’s residents have returned after a massive initial exodus following Russia’s invasion in late February.

“Before the war, 3.5 million people lived in Kyiv. Almost two-thirds of the capital’s residents have returned,” Vitali Klitschko told a media briefing.


Ukrainian intelligence claims grain stolen by Russians is already in Mediterranean

The intelligence arm of the Ukrainian defense ministry said that grain stolen by Russian troops in occupied areas is already being sent abroad.

The intelligence directorate claimed that a “significant part of the grain stolen from Ukraine is on dry cargo ships under the Russian flag in the Mediterranean.”

“The most likely destination is Syria. Grain may be smuggled from there to other countries in the Middle East,” it added.

The directorate also said the Russians “continue to export food stolen in Ukraine to the territory of the Russian Federation and the occupied Crimea.”

It added that in one of the main grain-producing areas — around Polohy in the Zaporizhzhia region — grain and sunflower seeds in storage are being prepared for transportation to Russia.

A column of Russian trucks has left the town of Enerhodar, which is also in the Zaporizhzhia region, under the guard of the Russian military, the directorate claimed. The final destination of the column was Crimea, it continued.

Grain was also being stolen in the Kharkiv region, and 1,500 tons of grain had been taken from the village of Mala Lepetykha in the Kherson region to Crimea.

Last week, the defense ministry announced nearly half a million metric tons of Ukrainian grain had already been stolen.


UN General Assembly elects Czech Republic to replace Russia on the Human Rights Council

The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) met on Tuesday to elect the Czech Republic to replace Russia on the Human Rights Council, with 157 votes in favor and 23 abstentions.

The Czech Republic’s term begins Tuesday and will expire on December 31, 2023. It was the only candidate announced to replace Russia.

On April 7, the UNGA voted to suspend Russia from the Human Rights Council with 93 votes in favor, 24 against, and 58 abstentions.

In the draft of the April 7 resolution, the UNGA announced the General Assembly would “suspend the rights of membership in the Human Rights Council of a member of the Council that commits gross and systematic violations of human rights.”


German FM: There will be no lifting of sanctions against Russia behind Ukraine’s back

Sanctions against Russia cannot be lifted even if they have an impact on Germany, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said.

Germany decided to permanently cut its dependence on Russian energy resources to “zero,” Baerbock stated on Tuesday.

“We understood more than clearly that economic dependence does not lead to security if the aggressor is indifferent to the well-being of its people. Therefore, we are reducing our dependence on Russian energy to zero with all the consequences. And this is forever,” she added.


Putin preparing for prolonged war in Ukraine: US spy chief

The United States believes that President Vladimir Putin is preparing for a long conflict in Ukraine and a Russian victory in the Donbas in the east of the country might not end the war, its director of national intelligence says.

“We assess President Putin is preparing for a prolonged conflict in Ukraine during which he still intends to achieve goals beyond the Donbas,” Avril Haines told lawmakers.

She added that Putin was counting on Western powers’ resolve to weaken over time.

The United States sees no feasible diplomatic path between Russia and Ukraine in the near future, Haines added.

“As both Russia and Ukraine believe they can continue to make progress militarily, we do not see a viable negotiating path forward at least in the short term,” Haines continued.


Lavrov calls Borrell’s idea to transfer Russia’s frozen assets to Ukraine ‘theft’

The Russian foreign minister reminded Borrell that he is the EU’s “top diplomat, and not the European Union’s military leader.”

The comments were the second time Lavrov has brought up the subject of Russian reserves stuck in foreign countries in recent days. Last week, the diplomat accused the West of “stealing” $300 billion-worth of Russian assets to “punish” Moscow for its military operation in Ukraine.

Lavrov added that if Russia continued the status quo of non-ruble-based trade for Russian gas with Europe, Western countries could easily “pocket” the money again at their convenience.

Speaking to the Financial Times on Monday, Borrell stated he would be “very much in favour” of seizing the Russian state’s assets abroad, stressing that the idea is “full of logic.”

“We have the money in our pockets, and someone has to explain to me why it is good for the Afghan money and not good for the Russian money,” Borrell added, referring to the Afghan cash stuck in US and European central banks since last year, when the NATO-backed government in Kabul crumbled and the country was overrun by the Taliban immediately after the end of the West’s 20-year occupation.


Germany to supply Ukraine with modern tanks, howitzers

Germany will supply Ukraine with modern tanks and howitzers, and in parallel will begin training of the Ukrainian military personnel, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock stated on Tuesday.

“The next step will be [supply of] highly modern tanks and howitzers, which means that we can use them to defend against drones … Germany and the Netherlands will be able to supply these howitzers together, because one country cannot supply everything, because Germany has a shortage [of howitzers]. But Germany will provide seven [howitzers], and we will now begin the training [of Ukrainian personnel] that is necessary for this,” Baerbock said during a press conference in Kiev.

The military equipment will be delivered before the end of the training of the Ukrainian military, Baerbock added.


China’s Xi warns of confrontations arising from Ukraine crisis

Confrontation between competing world powers resulting from the Ukraine crisis could become a bigger and more lasting threat to international peace than the crisis itself, China’s President Xi Jinping has warned his French counterpart during talks by phone, according to state media.

China has repeatedly urged European countries to exercise diplomatic autonomy instead of aligning with the US in what Beijing says is a “cold war mentality”. Beijing has also refused to condemn Russia for its invasion, which Moscow calls a “special military operation”.

Speaking to French President Emmanuel Macron on the phone, Xi said that China felt Europe should have full control of European security, Chinese state television reported.

Xi also added he hopes France will play an active role in promoting China-EU ties as it holds the rotating presidency of the EU.


Ukraine accuses Russia of listing killed troops as ‘missing’, dumping their bodies

Ukraine’s State Security Service (SBU) has alleged that Russia is listing troops killed in Ukraine as “missing” while secretly burying their bodies in order to hide the true extent of its losses.

The SBU said its claim was based on an intercepted phone call between a pro-Russian separatist fighter and his wife in the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic, in eastern Ukraine.

The rebel allegedly said in the call that thousands of killed Russian troops were being dumped at a huge “junkyard” near the city of Donetsk.

“It’s not a morgue, it’s a landfill,” the SBU quoted the separatist fighter as saying. He reportedly added in the call that the site was “cordoned off” and the stacks of corpses there reach two metres in height.

There was no immediate reaction to the SBU’s claims from Moscow.


German FM backs full EU membership for Ukraine

Germany’s foreign minister has said Ukraine should become a full member of the EU at some point, though added there could be no shortcut to membership.

Speaking alongside her Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba during a visit to Ukraine, Baerbock also stressed that Germany would reduce its imports of Russian energy to zero, “and that will stay that way forever”.

She has pledged to ensure accountability for alleged war crimes committed by Russian troops in Ukraine.

Speaking during a visit to war-torn areas around Kyiv, Baerbock stated “no one can take away the pain … but we can ensure justice”.


Azovstal fighter calls for evacuation of wounded: Report

A Ukrainian fighter holed up in Mariupol’s Azovstal steelworks has stated that numerous wounded troops need to be evacuated from the site after Russian attacks there.

“There are plenty of wounded. They need evacuation. One can’t delay the process because the wounded need care … [and] drugs. They need normal food and fresh air,” Captain Sviatoslav Palamar, a deputy commander of Ukraine’s Azov Regiment, told the Ukrainska Pravda newspaper.

Hundreds of Ukrainian fighters are believed to be occupying the sprawling steelworks, their last holdout against Russian forces intent on capturing all of Mariupol.


WHO’s Europe branch passes resolution against Russia

Members of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) European region have passed a resolution that could result in the closure of Russia’s regional office and the suspension of meetings in the country in response to its offensive.

The European branch of the world health body passed the resolution, supported by Ukraine and the EU, with 43 in favour and three against during a special session held virtually. There were two abstentions.

Russia’s envoy, Andrey Plutnitsky, opposed the resolution and noted he was “extremely disappointed” by the move.


US gasoline prices at pump at record high as Biden prepares to address nation on inflation

Gasoline prices dipped to as low as $4.07 a gallon in April after the Biden administration announced the release of unprecedented volumes of crude oil from the US Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) in a bid to reduce the global supply strain heightened by the sanctions on Russia.

Biden authorised his first major SPR withdrawal in November as oil supplies began tightening amid rapid recovery in demand from the coronavirus crisis that pushed up both crude and US fuel prices.

Over the past two months, the Biden administration has taken 3 million barrels on the average out of the SPR every week to help meet domestic refiners’ demand for crude in a market seeing a surfeit in fuel consumption amid strong economic recovery from the two-year long coronavirus pandemic.

The administration’s biggest SPR releases commence from this month as it releases a total of 180 million barrels through July – roughly one million barrels per day over the next 180 days.

The US Weekly Petroleum Status Report showed that SPR inventories stood at 550 million barrels during the week that ended on April 29. That was the lowest level of stockpiles in the reserve since December 2001.

The price of oil itself has dropped from 14-year highs of nearly $140 for a barrel of benchmark Brent crude in early March to Tuesday’s level of $105. But gasoline prices have hardly matched the slide, prompting Biden to accuse energy companies of price-gouging.


Over eight million people displaced in Ukraine: UN

More than eight million people have been internally displaced in Ukraine since the start of Russia’s invasion, the UN’s migration agency reported.

A survey conducted by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) also showed that nearly half of those people, or 44 percent, were considering further relocation due to the scale of the humanitarian crisis in the country.


Zelensky urges sixth package of EU sanctions against Russia

Ukraine’s president has called for EU member states to approve a proposed sixth package of sanctions against Russia which includes an embargo on oil imports from the country.

“Now the sixth package of sanctions will be adopted, and it is certainly a package that we need, and also energy sanctions are needed,” Volodymyr Zelensky told Slovakia’s parliament in a video address.

The EU proposals are still being considered by its member states.


Russian forces destroy 793 drones, 2,979 armored vehicles in Ukraine operation

Russian forces have eliminated 163 Ukrainian combat aircraft, 124 helicopters, 793 unmanned aerial vehicles and 2,979 tanks and other armored vehicles since the start of their special military operation in Ukraine, Russian Defense Ministry Spokesman Major-General Igor Konashenkov said on Tuesday.

“Overall, the following targets have been destroyed since the beginning of the special military operation: 163 aircraft, 124 helicopters, 793 unmanned aerial vehicles, 300 surface-to-air missile systems, 2,979 tanks and other combat armored vehicles, 351 multiple launch rocket systems, 1,440 field artillery guns and mortars and 2,789 special military motor vehicles,” the spokesman added.


Ukraine death toll ‘thousands higher’ than reported: UN official

The head of the United Nations human rights monitoring mission in Ukraine says that thousands more civilians have been killed in the country since the war began than its official toll of 3,381.

“We have been working on estimates, but all I can say for now is that it is thousands higher than the numbers we have currently given to you,” Matilda Bogner told a media briefing in Geneva when asked about the total number of deaths and injuries.

“The big black hole is really Mariupol where it has been difficult for us to fully access and to get fully corroborated information,” she added.

The UN team, which includes 55 monitors in Ukraine, said most of the deaths had occurred from the use of explosive weapons with a wide impact area.


Moscow denies Bloomberg reports on possible fall in Russia’s GDP to 12% by end of 2022

Bloomberg reports, citing internal forecast of the Russian finance ministry, that Russia’s GDP may shrink to 12% by the end of 2022 are not true, the ministry said on Tuesday.

The news outlet reported on Monday that the Russian economy is facing the worst contraction since 1994 due to pressure from sanctions imposed by the US and its allies. According to the worst scenario suggesting the oil embargo, the EU giving up Russian gas, and more departures among foreign companies, Russia’s GDP is likely to shrink to 12% this year. But based on the current situation, the economy is forecast to see a contraction of 10.8% in 2022 and about 5% in 2023.

“Information about a possible fall in Russia’s GDP by the end of 2022 to 12%, published by Bloomberg, is not true,” the ministry announced in a statement, adding that the ministry is not entitled to prepare official macroeconomic forecasts.

Russia’s Central Bank expects a contraction between 8% and 10% this year.


Russia on possible tactical nuclear strike on Ukraine: Everything is in military doctrine

The principles and conditions for the use of nuclear weapons by Moscow are set out in the military doctrine of Russia, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko told Sputnik, commenting on whether a preventive tactical strike on the territory of Ukraine by Russia is possible.

“We have a military doctrine, everything is written there. It does not give any other interpretation than what is there in black and white,” Grushko stated.

In June 2020, the foundations of Russia’s state policy in the field of nuclear deterrence were approved by a presidential decree. This document defines the principles of nuclear deterrence, as well as the conditions for the use of nuclear weapons by Russia.

These conditions include the receipt of reliable information about the launch of ballistic missiles targeting the territories of Russia or its allies, the use by the enemy of nuclear weapons or other types of weapons of mass destruction on the territories of Russia or its allies, and aggression against Russia with the use of conventional weapons, when the very existence of the state is threatened, among other things.


Russia lost 26,000 servicemen: Ukraine

Moscow’s losses amounted to 26,000 soldiers, including some 350 in the past 24 hours, Ukraine’s military has claimed.

Since the invasion began on February 24, Russian forces have also lost 1,170 tanks, 2,808 armoured vehicles, 199 planes and 158 helicopters, the General Staff of Armed Forces said on Facebook on Tuesday.

It added the figures are “being updated” because of ongoing hostilities.

Russia’s most recent official death toll in late March was more than 1,300 servicemen.


WHO verifies 200 attacks on healthcare facilities in Ukraine since start of war

The World Health Organization (WHO) has verified 200 attacks on healthcare facilities in Ukraine since the start of the war, Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Tuesday, urging Russia “to stop this war.”

Speaking from Kyiv after spending two days in Ukraine, Tedros stated he was “deeply moved” by what he’d seen and heard.

Tedros noted attacks on healthcare facilities “must stop,” adding: “There is one medicine WHO cannot deliver, and which Ukraine needs more than any other, and that is peace.”

“So we continue to call on the Russian Federation to stop this war,” he continued.

Tedros said he discussed the health situation in the country with Ukrainian officials and stated the WHO will continue to support Ukraine’s healthcare system.

“My message to all the people of Ukraine is that WHO stands with you,” he added.

The WHO chief said that, despite the devastation, he has also seen “extraordinary resilience” in Ukraine as people try to restore their lives.

“My time here has affected me very personally,” he added.

“As someone, myself, who grew up in a war zone I understand only too well how the people of Ukraine feel,” he said, adding, “I know the impact, I know the devastation of war firsthand and I felt very, very sad when Russia invaded Ukraine.”


German FM visits Bucha on surprise Ukraine visit

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock during a surprise trip to Ukraine on Tuesday visited Bucha, a suburb of Kyiv where Russian troops have been accused of killing civilians.

Baerbock, who was meeting with local residents during the unannounced trip, is the latest in a string of foreign diplomats and leaders to visit Bucha, one of several towns and villages around Kyiv where Moscow’s army has been accused of carrying out war crimes.


Ukraine official: 44 dead found from March building collapse

A Ukrainian official claims the bodies of 44 civilians have been found in the rubble of a five-storey building in Izium, a city in the Kharkiv region that was destroyed by Russians in March.

“This is another horrible war crime of the Russian occupiers against the civilian population,” said Oleh Synehubov, the head of Kharkiv’s regional administration, on his Telegram channel.

Synehubov did not identify specifically where the building was.


Russian forces reinforcing presence along border near Kharkiv: Ukraine military

The Russian military is reinforcing its presence along the northern border as Ukrainian forces counter-attack around the city of Kharkiv, the Ukrainian military said Tuesday.

“The enemy maintains certain forces and means of air defense in the Belgorod region [in Russia] in full readiness mode,” the General Staff added, and “continues to focus its efforts on the defense of the occupied borders in order to prevent the advance of units of our troops toward the state border.”

Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, lies about 24 miles (39 kilometers) from the border with the Russian region of Belgorod.

It is expected that the enemy will continue defiant actions at the state border [with] Ukraine in order to restrain the actions of the Ukrainian armed forces,” the General Staff reported.

Local Ukrainian officials in areas south of Kharkiv reported Monday that some Russian units had moved north, possibly to try to reinforce Russian supply lines from Belgorod.


Some 100 civilians remain in Mariupol’s steelworks: Mayor’s aide

At least 100 civilians remain in a steelworks that is under heavy Russian fire in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol, an aide to the city’s mayor stated.

“In addition to the military, at least 100 civilians remain in the [Azovstal] shelters. However, this does not reduce the density of attacks by the occupiers,” mayoral aide Petro Andryushchenko wrote on the Telegram messaging app.


Russia ‘changes its propaganda’: Ukrainian intelligence

Due to “catastrophic losses” in Ukraine, the Kremlin is changing the tone of its propaganda, Ukrainian intelligence has announced.

To prepare average Russians for a possible defeat, Kremlin-controlled media started to present the war as Moscow’s confrontation with the European Union and NATO members, the Chief Intelligence Department of Ukraine’s defence ministry said on Facebook.

“This will reduce the shame of losing to a more powerful opponent,” it added.

In his May 9 speech on Moscow’s Red Square, President Vladimir Putin stated Ukraine received “regular deliveries of modern weapons” from NATO member states.


EU deal on Russian oil ban could be reached soon: French minister

French European Affairs Minister Clement Beaune has said EU members could reach a deal this week on the European Commission’s proposal to ban all oil imports from Russia.

“I think we could strike a deal this week,” Beaune told LCI television, adding that French President Emmanuel Macron was due to talk to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban later in the day.

Hungary is the most vocal critic of this planned embargo on Russian oil. On Monday, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen stated she had made progress in talks with Viktor Orban on this project.


EU rejects ban on shipping Russian crude

Brussels has opted to cancel plans to prohibit EU member-owned ships from moving Russian crude oil to third-party countries, documents seen by Bloomberg showed. However, a ban on insuring Russian tankers is reportedly still being reviewed. If passed, this could represent an effective barrier to exports of oil from the sanction-hit country.

The ban on transporting Russian crude, which was proposed as part of the EU’s sixth package of sanctions over Moscow’s military operation in Ukraine, was reportedly opposed by Greece, whose economy heavily relies on shipping, people familiar with the matter told the media.

If adopted, the step would have effectively dented exports of Russia’s crude, since Greece has over a quarter of the world’s oil tankers by capacity.

EU countries are still debating the sixth package, with diplomats seeking to overcome objections voiced by Hungary to a proposed ban on Russian oil. They were unable to reach a deal over the weekend.

Last week, the bloc proposed a revision to the oil embargo in order to finally agree the ban. The measure is expected to give several member states, including Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic, extra time to comply with the measure.


Russia underestimated Ukraine’s resistance: UK

Russia’s underestimation of Ukraine’s resistance prevented Putin from announcing any military successes on Victory Day, the UK’s defence ministry has announced.

“Russia’s invasion plan is highly likely to have been based on the mistaken assumption that it would encounter limited resistance and would be able to encircle and bypass population centres rapidly,” the ministry said in its latest intelligence briefing.

This “assumption” is why Russian forces used a “light, precise approach” in the invasion’s opening phase to try “to achieve a rapid victory with minimal cost”.

“This miscalculation led to unsustainable losses and a subsequent reduction in Russia’s operational focus,” the ministry added.


Ukraine repelled 15 Russian attacks in Donetsk and Luhansk: Army

Ukraine’s army has claimed it repelled 15 Russian attacks in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions in the past day.

The latest report from the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said that Moscow’s forces are preparing for offensives in the towns of Lyman and Severodonetsk. Fights continue for the settlements of Voevodovka and Toshkovka in the Severodonetsk district of the Luhansk region, as well as Kamenka in the Donetsk region, it added in a post on Facebook.

Russian forces are continuing to secure a section of the Ukrainian-Russian border near the Russian regions of Bryansk and Kursk, the army added. Multiple areas of the Sumy region were shelled, including the villages of Belopolye, Bolshaya Pisarevka, Krasnopolye and Yunakivka.

Ukraine’s forces destroyed one Russian anti-aircraft missile system, nine tanks, three artillery systems, 25 units of armoured combat vehicles, three units of special engineering equipment and three other vehicles, according to the post.


Blinken & Austin urge Hill leaders to authorize more money for Ukraine by May 19

Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin jointly wrote to congressional leaders urging them to pass supplemental appropriations for Ukraine by May 19 in order for the administration “to provide uninterrupted critical military support” to the Ukrainians.

“We are grateful for the robust support provided by Congress, but almost all of the $3.5 billion in drawdown authority Congress provided this year has been exhausted as we have surged security assistance to Ukraine, which they have used to great effect,” the secretaries wrote in the letters, copies of which were obtained by CNN.

“And as of today, only $100 million remains in authority we can use for drawdown,” Blinken and Austin wrote.

“We expect to exhaust that authority no later than May 19, 2022,” they added.

“We will need additional appropriations by that date — including authorizations for additional drawdowns — if we are to continue our security assistance at the current pace,” they continued.

“In short, we need your help,” the two cabinet secretaries wrote, explaining that “the ability to draw upon existing DoD stocks has been a critical tool in our efforts to support the Ukrainians in their fight against Russian aggression.”

Among those sent copies of the letter were House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and the heads of the Senate and House committees on appropriations and armed services.


Russia urgently needs more troops in Donbas: Think-Tank

Members of the Kremlin-linked private military company, the Wagner Group, have reportedly requested hundreds of thousands of additional troops to reinforce Russian efforts in Donbas, the Institute for the Study of War has said.

In its latest campaign assessment, the institute cited intelligence reports that untrained Russian conscripts were still being sent into active combat despite the Kremlin denying this practice. It mentioned a prisoner of war from the Wagner Group saying that a “covert mobilisation” was under way in Russia to send conscripts to clean damage caused by combat in the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk people’s republics.

The institute also announced US officials had reported that Russian forces deployed to the Zaporizhzhia area were experiencing “very low morale and psychological conditions”.

They “complain about the ineffectiveness of operations in the area, frequently abuse alcohol, and shoot at their own vehicles in order to avoid going to the frontline”, the institute added.


One dead, three injured in Mykolaiv: Mayor

Russian shelling over the past day killed one person and injured three others in the southern city of Mykolaiv, Ukraine’s Channel 24 has reported citing the city’s mayor.

Alexander Senkevich stated the shelling was directed at residential areas.

He added that 95 people had died in Mykolaiv since Russia’s invasion on February 24, with one of them being a child. He said 412 people had been injured in the same timeframe, including four children.


Putin’s speech shows he won’t use nuclear weapons: Ukraine official

An adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky has interpreted Putin’s Victory Day speech as indicating that Russia has no interest in escalating the war through the use of nuclear weapons or direct engagement with NATO, the Associated Press reports.

Oleksiy Arestovych pointed to Putin’s statement that Russia would honour the memory of those who fought in World War II by doing “everything so that the horror of a global war does not happen again”.

Translating from “Kremlin speak into Russian,” Arestovych stated this means: “There will be no nuclear war. There will be no war with NATO. What will there be? There will be a sluggish attempt to solve three main problems,” which he identified as taking control of the entire Luhansk, Donetsk and Kherson regions.

Arestovych added in an online interview that Russia would drag out the war while bleeding the Ukrainian economy with the aim of getting Ukraine to agree to give up these territories.


Russia not planning to close Europe embassies

Russia is not planning to proactively close its embassies in Europe in response to sanctions and other unfriendly measures by the West, state news agency RIA has reported, citing Russia’s deputy foreign minister.

“This is not in our tradition,” Alexander Grushko told RIA.

“Therefore, we believe that the work of diplomatic representative offices is important,” he continued.

On Monday, Russia’s ambassador to Poland was doused in a red substance by people protesting against the war in Ukraine as he went to lay flowers at the Soviet Military Cemetery in Warsaw to mark the 77th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany in World War II.


Japan announces new Moscow sanctions

Japan has announced new sanctions on Russia, Reuters reports.

The sanctions include freezing the assets of more individuals and banning exports of cutting-edge goods to some Russian groups, including scientific research institutions.

Japan will decide the timing and method of a Russian oil embargo while considering actual conditions, its industry minister has said.

Koichi Hagiuda’s comments came after Japan agreed on a ban with other G7 nations to counter Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

Hagiuda also added that the United States has a major role to play, as a producer of oil and natural gas, to help secure a stable global supply of energy.


US promises to impose new sanctions on Russia as long as ‘aggression’ continues

The US has promised to continue piling sanctions on the Russian economy as long as the invasion of Ukraine continues.

The most recent US sanctions package had targeted three Russian television stations, banned Americans from providing accounting and consulting services to Russians, and sanctioned executives from Gazprombank.

“The United States will continue to execute new economic measures against Russia as long as the Russian Federation continues its aggression against Ukraine,” State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters.


War’s consequences ‘too frightening to contemplate’: UN chief

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has said during an official visit to non-NATO member Moldova that the consequences of Russia’s war against Ukraine escalating are “too frightening to contemplate”.

Guterres stated in a joint press conference with Prime Minister Natalia Gavrilita that the effect of Russia’s war in neighbouring Ukraine “is profound and far-reaching”.

“I am deeply concerned about the continuation and possible spread of the war Russia is waging in Ukraine,” Guterres continued, adding that Moldova’s sovereignty and territorial integrity “must not be threatened or undermined”.


Lithuania FM urges regime change in Russia

Lithuania’s top diplomat has stated removing Vladimir Putin from power is the only way to protect the West and its allies from future threats from Moscow, urging an even tougher stance against Russia than the US and many NATO allies have been willing to pursue.

“From our standpoint, up until the point the current regime is not in power, the countries surrounding it will be, to some extent, in danger,” Lithuanian foreign minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said in an interview with The Associated Press in Washington.

“Not just Putin but the whole regime because, you know, one might change Putin and might change his inner circle but another Putin might rise into his place,” Landsbergis added.


Biden worried Putin has no way out of Ukraine

The US president has said he is worried that President Vladimir Putin does not have a way out of the Ukraine war.

Speaking at a political fundraiser in a Washington suburb on Monday, Joe Biden said that Putin had mistakenly believed the invasion of Ukraine would break up NATO and the European Union. Instead, the US and many European countries have rallied to Ukraine’s side.

Biden stated Putin is a very calculating man and the problem he worries about now is that the Russian leader “doesn’t have a way out right now, and I’m trying to figure out what we do about that”.


US ambassador: Putin didn’t declare victory because “Russian propaganda machine couldn’t” support it

US Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan said Monday that President Vladimir Putin did not declare victory in his speech “because even the Russian propaganda machine couldn’t back that one up.”

“We have seen time after time Russia’s goals in Ukraine thwarted, starting with their attempted lightning strike on Kyiv,” Sullivan said in an interview with CNN’s Alisyn Camerota.

“That’s not to say that President Putin didn’t stray far from the truth in his remarks today at the Victory Day parade. He certainly did. In fact, his remarks, his remarks are just pure propaganda, misinformation, disinformation that would make George Orwell blush,” Sullivan added.

The US envoy stated Putin’s comments Monday showed “at a minimum the Russian government senior leaders’ willingness to say anything to justify the unjustifiable, which is their aggressive war in Ukraine that is slaughtering innocents across that besieged country, atrocities that are hard to comprehend.”

Sullivan said he couldn’t comment on Putin’s health when asked on CNN, and added, “I really don’t know. I’ve seen what we’ve all seen in the media: speculation. And it’s just that, in my opinion.”

“It’s also difficult to know what President Putin is planning,” he added, noting that the US “made public” Putin’s plans to invade Ukraine, “but beyond that, it’s difficult to speculate because his decision circle is so small.”

However, Sullivan stated he agreed with CIA Director Bill Burns’ view that Putin “is doubling down his special military operation in Ukraine.”

Sullivan added his interactions with his Russian counterparts has been limited since the war began, but he agrees “wholeheartedly” with US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield, who told CNN’s Kylie Atwood that her Russian colleagues seem “uncomfortable” in “the way they carry themselves, the demeanor.”


Ukraine completes second part of EU ‘candidate country’ questionnaire

Ukraine has filled in the second part of the European Union’s questionnaire to gain candidate country status.

President Volodymyr Zelensky wrote on his Telegram channel on Monday that he had shown the document to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in a video call.

In his video address on Monday night, Zelesnky said Ukraine expects “to receive a positive response in June regarding the acquisition of EU candidate status by our country”.


One person dead in Odesa missile strikes: Army

One person has died as a result of missile strikes on Odesa, Ukraine’s army has confirmed.

Operational Command South said that Russian forces fired seven missiles at the city, hitting a shopping centre and consumer goods warehouse.

“Unfortunately, one person died, five wounded were taken to the hospital … Firefighting continues,” the military added.

The missile attacks came at the same time the president of the European Council, Charles Michel, was visiting the city.

“This is the real attitude of Russia to Europe. And it has always been so,” President Volodymyr Zelensky stated in his nighttime address.

Zelensky has said that history will hold Russia responsible for its invasion of Ukraine.

“And we, Ukrainians, will continue to work toward our defence, our victory and on restoring justice. Today, tomorrow and any other day that is necessary to free Ukraine from the occupiers,” the Ukrainian president added.


EU sees progress in talks with Hungary on Russian oil ban

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has stated she had made progress in talks with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban on a possible EU-wide ban on Russian fossil fuels.

“This evening’s discussion with PM Viktor Orban was helpful to clarify issues related to sanctions and energy security”, von der Leyen said in a tweet.

“We made progress, but further work is needed”, she added.

Von der Leyen noted she would convene a video conference with other countries in the region to strengthen regional cooperation on oil infrastructure.


Biden unhappy with intel leaks on Ukraine: White House

President Joe Biden was not happy with leaks to news outlets in which US intelligence appeared to take credit for helping Ukraine target a Russian ship and Russian generals in Ukraine, White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters.

“The president was displeased with the leaks. His view was that it was an overstatement of our role, an inaccurate statement and also an understatement of the Ukrainians’ role and their leadership and he did not feel they were constructive,” she said.

The White House has also slammed Vladimir Putin’s Victory Day speech, accusing the Russian president of spreading “disinformation”.

In a speech marking the defeat of the Nazis during World War II, Putin had said the invasion of Ukraine was in response to an “unacceptable” Western threat to Russia.

“What we saw President Putin do is give a version of revisionist history that took the form of disinformation that we have seen too commonly as the Russian playbook,” Psaki added.


Ukrainians being taken ‘against their will’ into Russia: Pentagon

The Pentagon has seen indications that Ukrainians caught up in Russia’s invasion are being forcibly removed from their homeland and sent to Russia, a senior US defense official has said.

“I can’t speak to how many camps or what they look like,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters.

“But we do have indications that Ukrainians are being taken against their will into Russia,” he added.

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