Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 77: Russia says not seeking war in Europe

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:

Dem party leaders, Pfizer, Moderna involved in US biological activities in Ukraine: Russian MoD

Senior Democratic Party politicians are the chief “ideologists” of America’s illegal operations in biolabs operating throughout Ukraine, and have involved major multinational biotech companies in their activities, Igor Kirillov, the head of Russia’s Radiation, Chemical and Biological Defence Troops, has indicated.

“The leaders of the Democratic Party are the ideologists of US military-biological activity in Ukraine,” Kirillov said in a briefing in Moscow on Wednesday.

Citing an MoD analysis of seized documents, the RCB Troops chief stated the profits politicians earn for the US private biotech sector helps to pay for their reelection via campaign donations.

According to Kirillov, the US executive branch has also worked to create a “legislative framework to finance military biological research directly from the federal budget,” with “funds of non-government organizations controlled by the leadership of the Democratic Party, including” charitable foundations belonging to “the Clintons, the Rockerfellers, [George] Soros, and the Bidens attracted under state guarantees.”

Major global pharmaceutical companies have become involved in these shady ‘public private’ partnership schemes, including the likes of Pfizer, Moderna, Merck, and Pentagon-affiliated biotech firm Gilead, Kirillov added.

“US specialists are working [in Ukraine] on the testing of new medicines, bypassing international safety standards. As a result, Western companies seriously reduce the costs of research programmes and gain significant competitive advantages,” the officer continued.

Ukrainian state structures are also involved in the US-funded and organized military biological activities in their country, Kirillov said, with Kiev’s main job being “to conceal illegal activities, conduct field and clinical trials and provide the necessary biomaterial.”

In 2020, Kirillov stated, an attempt was made to infect the residents of the settlement of Stepovoye in the Lugansk People’s Republic with a multi-drug-resistant form of tuberculosis using counterfeit banknotes contaminated with the disease’s causative agent and spread among local youth.

Additionally, the RCB Troops chief added that his agency has received information detailing the Pentagon’s experiments on Ukrainian nationals at Psychiatric Hospital No. 1 in the village of Strelechie, Kharkov region, with the research targeting male patients aged 40-60 with a high stage of physical exhaustion.

The Russian military operation in Ukraine has stopped the spread of US military activities in Ukraine, and led to a halt in the “criminal experiments” on its civilian population, Kirillov stressed.

In the case of the experimentation at the Kharkov mental hospital, Western specialists were evacuated back in January 2022, and the equipment and drugs involved relocated to western Ukraine, he added.

Polish specialists have also been involved in work at Ukraine’s biolabs, Kirillov said, citing documents relating to the involvement of Poland’s Institute of Veterinary Medicine alongside the US’s Battelle Memorial Institute – a Pentagon contracts, on research assessing epidemiological threats and the spread of the rabies virus in Ukraine.

“In addition, documentary evidence has been obtained about Poland’s funding of Lvov Medical University, which includes a participant in US military biological projects – the Institute of Epidemiology and Hygiene. Since 2002, this organization has been implementing a retraining programme for specialists with experiwence working with dual-use materials and technologies,” the officer continued.

The German military has also been involved in research in Ukraine, Kirillov said, citing documents indicating that the Bundeswehr’s Institute of Microbiology had taken some 3,500 blood serum samples from 25 regions of Ukraine back to Germany between 2016 and 2019.

The officer added the Institute’s interest in these biomaterials “raises questions about the goals [being] pursued” by the German armed forces. In all, Kirillov noted, along with the Munich-based Institute of Microbiology, the Berlin-based Robert Koch Institute, the Loffler Institute in Greifswald, and the Nocht Institute of Tropical Medicine in Hamburg are participating in biological research activities in Ukraine.

Ukraine warns of worsening conditions in ‘medieval ghetto’ Mariupol

Ukrainian officials have issued dire warnings about the fate of civilians and the last fighters in Mariupol after weeks of Russian bombardment.

“The [Russian] occupiers have turned Mariupol into a medieval ghetto,” Vadym Boichenko, who has left the city, said on national television.

“Without medicine and medical care, the restoration of the water supply and proper sewerage in the city, epidemics will erupt. Today, the majority of the current population is old and sick. Without proper conditions, mortality among vulnerable groups will increase exponentially,” Boichenko added.

Boichenko’s remarks came as Ukraine’s human rights ombudswoman Lyudmyla Denisova appealed to the United Nations and Red Cross to help evacuate hundreds of wounded fighters holed up in the southeastern port city’s vast Azovstal steelworks, saying the destruction of a makeshift hospital there meant many were dying.

“The aggressor does not give the wounded military a chance to survive,” she stated in a Telegram post, adding, “Due to the risk of infection because of a lack of antibiotics, medical instruments and sterile dressings, doctors are forced to amputate the limbs (of the wounded) even with minor injuries.”

UK ready to provide any assistance to Sweden in event of attack: Johnson

The United Kingdom is ready to provide any assistance requested if Sweden is attacked, Prime Minister Boris Johnson stated on Wednesday during a joint press conference with Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson.

On Wednesday, the UK and Sweden signed an agreement on mutual security guarantees during Johnson’s visit. A similar agreement is expected to be signed with Finland later in the day.

Ukraine will feel aftermath of war ‘for 100 years’: Scholz

Ukraine can expect to feel the aftermath of its war with Russia “for 100 years” because of unexploded ordnance littering cities, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has said, adding that allies would help the country rebuild.

“Those who live in Germany know that bombs from World War II are still frequently discovered,” Scholz told reporters.

“Ukraine should brace itself to battle with the consequences of this war for 100 years. That is why we will also have to work together on the reconstruction,” he continued.

EU commission confirms preparing legal tool to allow seizing frozen Russian assets

EU Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders confirmed on Wednesday that the EU executive body was laying legal basis for seizing frozen Russian assets after media said that the EU wanted to make sanctions evasion a crime punishable by confiscation.

“We are indeed working on a European instrument which will allow us to make confiscation a possibility across the EU when attempts being made to circumvent sanctions,” Reynders told a press conference after the end of EU college of commissioners meeting.

Politico reported earlier in the day that the European Commission would present a legal proposal to this effect in two weeks. National governments will reportedly be free to decide what to do with the assets or their proceeds, including whether the money should be diverted to Ukraine.

More communities liberated from Russian occupation: Kharkiv official

Oleh Syniehubov, head of the Kharkiv military administration, says more settlements to the north of the city have been retaken by Ukrainian troops.

“In the north, our armed forces are liberating our settlements. After Tsirkuny there are already Cherkaski Tyshky, Ruski Tyshky, Bairak and Rubizhne,” Syniehubov stated.

All the settlements are villages between Kharkiv and the Russian border to the north.

In some areas to the north and east of Kharkiv, Ukrainian units, which include highly mobile contingents of the Azov Regiment, are within a few kilometers of the Russian border.

Syniehubov warned civilians that it was still dangerous to return to the area.

“The enemy mined everything: kindergartens, schools, private homes. Unfortunately, two women were blown up by a mine in Tsirkuny, in their own backyard,” he added.

Despite being under Ukrainian control, much of the area is still within range of Russian artillery fire.

Syniehubov also noted that there had been relative silence in the city of Kharkiv, but settlements to the south-west had come under fire.

Foreign weapons “already at the front”: Ukraine deputy defense minister

Ukraine’s deputy defense minister, Hanna Maliar, says that weapons supplied to Kyiv by the US and other partners are already deployed to the front lines.

“Apart from the Javelins and Stingers, 155 mm American howitzers are already being used at the front,” Maliar said in a briefing on Wednesday, adding, “We are working to accelerate the pace of aid, as this is the life of our soldiers.”

A senior US defense official told reporters on Tuesday that 89 of the 90 Howitzers the US agreed to give to Ukraine have been transferred to Ukrainian possession.

Maliar said that the supply of foreign weapons had settled into a routine, despite Russian efforts to destroy transport infrastructure.

“We have already received a large number of weapons. But now we have entered the period of rhythmic supply of weapons to Ukraine,” she added.

She also suggested that new arrangements would help Ukraine sustain a longer conflict.

“A lend lease package is currently being considered. We receive support from the European Union and other countries,” she stated.

“That is, we are entering a new phase of the war. Russia is driving itself into a state where it will not be able to win ‘the war of equipment. “However, until this victory comes, we will have several difficult weeks, and maybe even months,” she added.

Maliar also said Ukrainian production lines were being ramped up.

“We are making a strategic bet on the development of our own production. Manufacturers are already loaded with military orders to the end of the year. In addition, the Defense Ministry buys protective equipment from abroad,” she continued.

In the first ten days of May, the Ukrainian armed forces had received more than 34,000 body armor vests, she noted.

Germany’s gas supply “remains secure”: Economy ministry

Germany’s gas supply “remains secure” after Ukraine suspended some of its Russian gas exports to Europe due to interruptions at key transit points, the German economy ministry said Wednesday.

“Our gas supply is guaranteed at this stage and we are monitoring the supply situation closely together with the Federal Network Agency,” spokesperson Susanne Ungrad told CNN.

Most of the Russian gas imported by Germany, however, does not cross through Ukraine, instead being transported via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline through the Baltic, Ungrad added.

German officials had previously warned that it could face gas shortages over a payments dispute with Russia that arose following the invasion of Ukraine.

Russia says it is closely watching NATO configuration on its borders

Russia is closely watching anything that can affect NATO’s configuration on its borders, the Kremlin’s spokesman stated.

Dmitry Peskov’s remarks came as both Sweden and Finland are expected to make decisions this month on whether to apply to join the United States-led transatlantic military alliance.

UK strikes new security agreement with Sweden and Finland

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says the UK has agreed new deals with Sweden and Finland to bolster European security, pledging to support both countries’ armed forces should they come under attack.

“We are steadfast and unequivocal in our support to both Sweden and Finland and the signing of these security declarations is a symbol of the everlasting assurance between our nations,” the British prime minister stated in a statement released to coincide with his visits to both countries.

The UK government announced in a statement that Johnson would “set out the UK’s intention to support the two nations’ armed forces should either face crisis or come under attack” during his visits.

Nearly 5 million jobs lost in Ukraine as war pummels economy: ILO

About 4.8 million jobs have been lost in Ukraine since the start of the Russian invasion in late February as the conflict shut down businesses, strangled exports and drove millions to flee, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) reported.

The job losses, which account for about 30 percent of Ukraine’s workforce prior to Moscow launching its offensive, could climb to seven million if hostilities continue, the ILO said in a study.

It added that 3.4 million jobs could return rapidly in the event of a ceasefire.

The war could also drive up unemployment in neighbouring countries hosting millions of refugees and hit Central Asian economies as migrant workers in Russia lose their jobs and return home, the ILO announced.

Ukraine NATO membership would have prevented war: Zelensky

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky says the war with Russia would have been prevented if his country had been member of NATO beforehand.

“If Ukraine had been part of NATO before the war, there would have been no war”, he told students at France’s Sciences Po university via videolink.

Zelensky added that he wanted to restore the country’s territory before an end of the conflict could be envisioned, adding he was still willing to dialogue with Moscow.

President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly said the risk of seeing Ukraine become a member of NATO warranted Russia’s invasion.

Russia-Ukraine negotiations continue, but slowly and ineffectively: Kremlin

Negotiations continue between Russia and Ukraine, but they are quite ineffective, Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists on Wednesday.

When asked to comment on words of EU chief diplomat Josep Borrell that the European Union could not act as a mediator in the talks between Moscow and Kiev, but Turkey could take on this role, Peskov said “the process of negotiations began without mediators and it continues without mediators quite sluggishly and ineffectively”.

“However, we appreciate and are grateful for the efforts of our Turkish colleagues, for their creating the necessary conditions for a meeting in Istanbul,” he added.

The spokesman stressed that “the understanding that we need was even achieved” in Istanbul, “but was then disavowed by the Ukrainian side”.

Peskov declined to give assessment of the future of the negotiations between Russia and Ukraine.

“No, I cannot [give the assessment], we can only state what we have,” he noted.

Kremlin on west allegedly plotting coup in Russia: Domestic political Situation is stable

The domestic political situation in Russia is stable, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Wednesday, commenting on statements claiming that the West is planning a coup in Russia.

“[I assess it] as stable. I do not know, unfortunately, what such conclusions are based on, so I cannot tell you anything,” Peskov told reporters when asked to assested the domestic political situation.

Earlier in May, former presidential adviser Sergei Glazyev claimed that the West is preparing a coup d’etat in Russia.

UN chief does not foresee Ukraine peace negotiations any time soon

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has said he does not see any peace talks over ending the war taking place in the immediate future, but added the time will come when such discussions take place.

“This war will not last forever. There will be a time when peace negotiations will take place,” Guterres told a news conference in Vienna alongside Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen.

“I do not see that in the immediate future. But I can say one thing. We will never give up,” he added.

Ukrainian fighters claim Russian forces conducted dozens of air raids on Azovstal

Russian forces have carried out 38 air raids on Mariupol’s besieged Azovstal steelworks in the past 24 hours, according to Ukrainian fighters holed up in the sprawling, Soviet-era plant.

Four of the attacks were carried out by heavy strategic bombers, the Azov battalion said on Telegram.

“The enemy does not stop trying to capture the Ukrainian fortress and continues to carry out daily assaults with the support of infantry,” it added.

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

Kremlin: Russia received no explanation from Ukraine on ‘force majeure’ with gas transit

Russia has not yet received an explanation from Ukraine about the “force majeure” with gas transit, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, Russian energy giant Gazprom was notified by the Ukrainian operator about the termination of gas transit to Europe through the Sokhranovka station starting 11 May over an alleged force majeure. Gazprom said, however, that it had no information that would confirm the necessity of such a measure.

“Russia has always reliably fulfilled and intends to fulfill its contractual obligations, it is committed to contractual obligations. The Ukrainian side reported certain conditions of force majeure. We have already known from Gazprom’s statement that notifications or explanations of force majeure have not been received. Further information will come from Gazprom,” Peskov told reporters when asked whether Russia will search for alternative routes to comply with contractual obligations to Europe.

Russian FM regrets UN missed opportunity to reach political solution on Ukraine

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has stated that he regrets that the UN has missed the opportunity to reach a political solution on the Ukraine crisis.

“To my great regret, the secretariat of this organisation, including its secretary-general, missed the opportunity to achieve a political settlement when for seven long years they did not react in any way to the open, outright sabotage by the Kiev regime of Security Council Resolution 2202, which approved the Minsk Agreements on the settlement in Eastern Ukraine,” he said.

Lavrov stressed that the UN should call on the Kiev authorities to stop preventing the evacuation of civilians from the zone of the military operation in Ukraine.

“Taking into account the interest shown by [UN Secretary-General] Antonio Guterres, we advised him first of all to turn his appeals to the Kiev authorities, to demand that they stop preventing civilians from leaving the areas of the military operation,” the foreign minister continued.

He added that a UN representative “is currently on the ground” and is “trying to help in solving the issues we have raised”.

Russia’s foreign minister has said that Moscow does not want war in Europe, but accused Western powers of seeking to “defeat Russia”.

“If you are worried about the prospect of war in Europe – we do not want that at all,” Lavrov stated.

“But I draw your attention to the fact that it is the West that is constantly and persistently saying that in this situation, it is necessary to defeat Russia. Draw your own conclusions,” he added.

UN receiving ‘credible’ information about Ukrainian troops torturing Russian prisoners

Matilda Bogner, the head of the United Nations Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine, said there is “credible” information regarding the mistreatment of Russian prisoners by Ukrainian troops during the war.

“We have received credible information of torture, ill-treatment and incommunicado detention by Ukrainian Armed Forces of prisoners of war belonging to the Russian armed forces and affiliated armed groups,” Bogner stated.

The “inhumane treatment” is occurring among captured Ukrainian and Russian soldiers as they are “being coerced to make statements, apologies and confessions, and other forms of humiliation.”

“This violates fundamental rules of international humanitarian law. Ukraine and Russia must promptly and effectively investigate all allegations of torture and ill-treatment of prisoners of war,” Bogner noted, adding, “They must also effectively control and instruct their forces to stop any further violations from occurring.”

Ukraine and Russia have conducted multiple prisoner swaps throughout the war with dozens of Ukrainians and Russians returned to their forces as a result.

The comments came at a press conference that was focused on the “plight of civilians in Ukraine.”

The presser accused Russia of multiple war crimes including targeting civilians, raping women and forcing civilians to leave Ukraine and go to Russia.

Bogner stated the UN has found at least 204 cases where overwhelmingly men are taken by Russia forces to Belarus before arriving at Russia for pre-detention trials.

“The best way to end the violations that we have been documenting will be to end the hostilities. However, while they are ongoing and for as long as they last, parties must in the conduct of operations take constant care to spare the civilian population, civilians and civilian objects and commit to protecting every civilian woman, man and child and those hors de combat that fall under their control,” Bogner added.

Int’l organisations ignoring Kiev’s war crimes against citizens: Moscow

International organizations are ignoring Ukraine’s war crimes against its citizens, head of the Russian National Defence Control Center, Col. Gen. Mikhail Mizintsev, who also leads Russia’s humanitarian response coordination headquarters, said.

“The United Nations, the OSCE, the International Committee of the Red Cross, as well as other international human rights organisations continue to ignore the numerous war crimes of Ukrainian military units against residents of the Donbas republics and Ukrainian citizens on territories controlled by Kiev, committed with the full approval of Western patrons led by the United States,” he stated.

Col. Gen. Mizintsev added facts of the use of hospitals, residential buildings, churches, kindergartens and health camps, as well as schools and other civilian facilities by Ukrainian armed units to shelter militants and deploy weapons indicate that Kiev is confident in its impunity for the war crimes committed against its own citizens, and the lives of civilians are absolutely not important for the Ukrainian authorities.

Russia lashes out at US aid to Ukraine

Former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev has accused the United States of waging a “proxy war” against Russia after legislators approved the $40bn aid package for Ukraine.

Medvedev said in a post on Telegram that the move was a bid “to deal a serious defeat to our country and limit its economic development and political influence in the world.”

“It won’t work. The printing press by which America is constantly increasing its already inflated government debt will break faster,” he added.

Medvedev, who has served as deputy chairman of Russia’s security council since resigning as prime minister in January 2020, also blamed “insane” prices for US fuel and groceries on what he called America’s “Russophobic authorities”.

Hungary says EU’s oil embargo proposal still unacceptable

The European Union’s proposal on oil sanctions against Russia would destroy the Hungarian economy, the country’s foreign minister says.

Peter Szijjarto stated in a video posted on his Facebook page that after talks conducted so far, the European Commission does not have a solution to the huge problems such a move would create for Hungary.

He added the only way Hungry could agree to such an embargo would be if it applied to maritime oil shipments, and all shipments of Russian oil via pipelines would be fully exempted.

Ukraine threatens to sue Russia’s Gazprom

A top Ukrainian energy official has threatened to sue Russia’s Gazprom if it does not pay for the transit of its natural gas via Ukraine.

Ukraine’s main gas operator said on Tuesday that it would stop the flow of Russian gas via its transit point in the southeastern Luhansk region under Russian control.

Yuri Vitrenko, the CEO of the state-controlled Naftogaz, stated on Facebook that Gazprom would still have to pay for the transit.

“If there is no payment, it looks like there must be a new arbitration [trial],” he added referring to multi-billion court settlements his company received from Gazprom.

Sanctions hurt US more than Russia: Poll

A new poll has found that 53% of Americans believe that sanctions on Moscow hurt the US more than Russia. Amid soaring gas prices and rising living costs, voters are losing confidence in US President Joe Biden’s leadership, and 43% say they’re “OK” with Ukraine losing its ongoing conflict with Russia.

With inflation at a 40-year peak and gas prices near record highs, the Democracy Institute/Express.co.uk poll revealed that Biden is polling negatively in all policy areas, with foreign policy the worst. Some 56% disapprove of his handling of foreign matters, compared to 40% approving. On Ukraine specifically, only 38% approve of his stewardship, while 52% disapprove.

The Biden administration has attempted to blame Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin, for the rising cost of living at home, with his officials repeatedly referring to “Putin’s price hike.” However, living costs were rising for months before Russia sent troops into Ukraine, and voters are pointing the finger at Biden for their economic woes.

Some 50% said they’d back Republicans in November’s midterm elections, compared with 42% saying they’d vote Democrat. In addition to more voters being “OK” than “not OK” with Ukraine losing the conflict with Russia (43% to 41%), a majority of Americans think it would be better for Biden to leave office than for Putin to step down, by 53% to 44%.

Occupied Ukraine regions to be part of Russia: Moscow official

Vladimir Putin’s representative to the occupied region of Crimea has said that areas of southern Ukraine “liberated” by Moscow’s troops will become regions of Russia, RIA news reports.

“This, as we assess from our communication with the inhabitants of the region, is the will of the people themselves, most of whom lived for eight years under conditions of repression and bullying by the Ukronazis,” Georgy Muradov stated.

“Military-civilian administrations are being formed in these territories, Russian TV channels have come here, Russian textbooks have appeared in schools, the Russian ruble is successfully entering the economic life of the region,” Muradov told RIA.

Such “military-civilian administrations” have reportedly been set up in the regions of Kherson, Crimea and some of Zaporizhzhia.

Russians resume attack on Azovstal

Russian forces resumed their attempts on Wednesday to seize the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol where hundreds of Ukrainian servicemen have been holed up for weeks, a Ukrainian official has claimed.

“They tried to break through the bridge that served as a gate for the evacuation” of civilians from the sprawling plant, mayor’s advisor Petro Andriushchenko said on Telegram.

“Unsuccessfully,” he concluded next to a video of what appears to be several Russian servicemen running under a bridge in thick smoke.

US senators introduce resolution to list Russia as terror sponsor

Two US senators have introduced a resolution that would call on the Biden administration to list Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism.

Republican Lindsey Graham and Democratic Richard Blumenthal cited actions during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and incidents where Russia supported fighters in Syria and Chechnya prior to the invasion.

Members of the Ukrainian parliament voted last week to urge the US to recognise Russia as a terror sponsor, citing atrocities committed in Bucha, Mariupol and other Ukrainian cities. Volodymyr Zelensky asked Joe Biden to name Russia last month.

Ukraine ‘successfully’ struck Russian Black Sea defences and resupply vessels: UK

Ukraine has “successfully” struck Russian air defences and resupply vessels stationed in the western Black Sea with Bayraktar drones, the US defence ministry reports.

“Russia’s resupply vessels have minimum protection in the western Black Sea, following the Russian Navy’s retreat to Crimea after the loss of the Moskva,” the ministry said in its latest intelligence briefing.

It added that fighting was continuing in Zmiinyi Island, known as Snake Island, as Russia was trying to “reinforce its exposed garrison located there”.

“If Russia consolidates its position on Zmiinyi Island with strategic air defence and coastal defence cruise missiles, they could dominate the north-western Black Sea,” the ministry announced.

Russians allegedly stole valuable items from Zaporizhzhia museum

Ukraine’s security services are investigating the alleged theft, by Russian occupiers, of several historical items from the Melitopol Museum of Local History, the Zaporizhzhia regional prosecutor’s office has claimed.

Interfax reports that among the stolen items is a collection of Scythian gold found by archaeologists in the 1950s.

China government-backed trader secures rare Russian oil deal: Report

China’s Shandong Port International Trade Group, a provincial government backed commodities and oil trader, has secured a rare shipment of Russian crude oil for arrival into east China this month, according to traders and a company statement.

Reuters reports that this marks the first such deal under which a Chinese firm other than Beijing’s national oil giants has directly bought oil from a Russian supplier.

Shandong Port group said in a statement that a 100,000 tonne (730,000 barrel) crude oil shipment in recent days was scheduled to arrive at Shandong province in the middle of this month.

Although it did not specify the origin of the shipment, trading sources who closely monitor Russian oil sales to China said the cargo size and the shipping voyage would indicate it is a cargo of ESPO blend, Russia’s flagship export grade from its Far East port Kozmino.

Lithuanian parliament’s decision to dub Russia a ‘terrorist state’ extremist: Moscow

The Lithuanian parliament’s decision to designate Russia as a “terrorist state” is extremist, Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, the Lithuanian parliament unanimously adopted a resolution labeling Russia as a “state that supports and conducts terrorist activities.” The document also regards Russia’s military operation in Ukraine as “a genocide against the Ukrainian people” and urges the international community to create a special international criminal tribunal “to investigate and assess Russia’s aggression.”

“Countries that adopt such … documents, declarations, statements, take such, by and large, extremist steps, there is no other way to call them … All these countries are members of NATO. Over the past decades, we have repeatedly seen the illegal, aggressive actions of NATO, which led to great loss of life,” Zakharova told radio broadcaster Sputnik.

The diplomat added that this decision has nothing to do with Lithuania’s desire to solve the Ukrainian conflict and should be regarded as a provocation.

Qatar, Germany in deadlock on LNG supply deal

Germany and Qatar have failed to reach an agreement regarding long-term liquefied natural gas (LNG) supply contracts, Reuters reported, citing people close to the talks.

According to the outlet, Berlin will not agree to Qatar’s demand to sign deals for a duration of at least 20 years. Despite seeking to end its reliance on Russian natural gas amid the situation in Ukraine, Berlin reportedly views this timeframe as contradicting its plan to slash carbon emissions by 88% by 2040.

“The issue of LNG contract length potentially putting Germany’s decarburization targets at risk is part of the ongoing discussions with Qatar,” one of the sources told Reuters, noting that Germany is not the only nation eager to secure LNG supplies from Qatar.

Qatar also wants to contractually prevent Germany from rerouting the LNG deliveries to other European states, and this measure is not welcome by the EU, the sources added.

One of the sources told the publication that the LNG deal between Qatar and Germany “is not expected to happen soon.”

Qatar is the world’s largest LNG supplier. Major German power producer RWE already has a deal with Qatargas dating back to 2016 for 1.1 million tons of LNG annually until the end of 2023. RWE officials, as well as representatives from another German utility, Uniper, and German Economy Minister Robert Habeck visited Qatar in March to secure additional volumes of LNG supplies, but have not agreed on a long-term deal so far.

The delegation is set to return to Qatar later this month to resume negotiations, according to Reuters sources. They claim that Germany aims to reach a two-way partnership with Qatar, exchanging additional LNG supply contracts for assistance from German firms in the Qatari move toward sustainability.

“There needs to be a gentlemen’s agreement between the Qataris and German companies, that LNG should only be the first step in a longer collaboration between the two countries,” an unnamed German industry source noted.

New Zealand imposes sanctions against eight Russian citizens, enterprises

Foreign Minister of New Zealand Nanaia Mahuta announced new sanctions, imposed against a number of Russian citizens and enterprises over the situation in Ukraine.

According to Mahuta, the new round of sanctions is targeted against eight Russian companies and people, involved in what Mahuta called, “Vladimir Putin’s campaign of disinformation”.

According to the Foreign Ministry website, the new sanctions cover the Russian General Staff Main Directorate’s 85th Main Special Service Center, the “Main Center of Special Technologies”, and the Internet Research Agency.

The sanctions also cover Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov, General Staff Main Directorate head Admiral Igor Kostyukov, Krasnaya Zvezda CEO Alexey Pimanov, NewsFront news agency co-founder Mikhail Sinelin and VGTRK CEO Oleg Dobrodeyev.

Currently, New Zealand has imposed sanctions against over 650 Russian citizens, including President Vladimir Putin, State Duma deputies and 55 largest Russian companies.

Russia says Ukraine’s army staged ‘provocation’ in Kharkiv

The head of Russia’s national defence control centre has announced that Ukrainian soldiers have staged a “provocation” in Kharkiv by shooting six civilian vehicles, state news agency RIA has reported.

“According to the available reliable information, in the Kharkiv region, the Kyiv regime carried out another bloody action in accordance with the Bucha scenario. On the section of the road between the settlements of Stary and Novy Saltov, servicemen of the Armed Forces of Ukraine shot six civilian vehicles with white flags mounted on them,” Colonel-General Mikhail Mizintsev said.

Mizintsev also stated that Ukraine’s troops, positioned in private houses in Belaya Krinitsa in the Kherson region, attacked several Russian troops so they would return fire. In this way, Mizintsev added, Ukraine’s army used the residents of homes as human shields.

The governor of Kharkiv had earlier reported that Russia had intensified shelling in the region.

Ukraine says Russia shelled Sumy and Chernihiv

Russian forces shelled the border regions of Sumy and Chernihiv on Tuesday evening, Ukraine’s state border service has announced.

“Enemy planes twice launched unguided missiles at the border territories of the Sumy region. They also fired from mortars into the territory of Chernihiv from the Russian village of Novye Yurkovichi,” the service wrote on Telegram.

Ukraine’s FM says Western weapons came too late

Ukraine’s foreign minister has lamented Western reluctance to send Kyiv weapons early in the conflict, saying had they done so, thousands of lives may have been saved.

“If we had been heard from the very beginning on all the weapons that we need to receive, if we didn’t have to spend hours and days explaining to partners in Europe and in the United States why we need specifically this weapon and not another one, we would have received all these weapons by now,” Dmytro Kuleba said in an interview with Politico.

He added the US had spent weeks looking at stockpiles of old Soviet weapons around the world that it could send to Ukraine and then realised these were nearly empty before deciding to send Western weapons.

Kuleba stated the turning point was the meeting at Germany’s Ramstein Air Base when US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin and Joint Chiefs Chair General Mark Milley convinced European allies to transition Ukraine from Soviet to NATO weapons.

Canada gives UN $2.5m to investigate human rights violations in Ukraine

Canada announced it has given $2.5m to the United Nations to report on human rights violations in Ukraine.

“This monitoring will contribute to future Ukrainian and international efforts to seek accountability for violations of international humanitarian law,” Canada’s global affairs office said in a tweet.

The funding is part of a $10m package Canada has pledged to support human rights, civil society and demining in Ukraine, which includes $1.5m for the United Nations Women’s Peace and Humanitarian Fund.

Congress passes $40bn Ukraine aid package

The US House has approved a $40bn aid package for Ukraine, the bill having sailed through by a 368-57 margin. The package was backed by every voting Democrat and by nearly three out of four Republicans.

The new funding is $7bn more than Biden’s $33bn request from two weeks ago. It would give Ukraine military and economic assistance, help regional allies, replenish weapons the Pentagon has shipped overseas and provide $5bn to address global food shortages caused by the war’s crippling of Ukraine’s normally robust production of many crops.

The new legislation would bring American support for Ukraine to nearly $54bn, including the $13.6bn in support Congress enacted in March.

The Senate seems certain to approve the legislation but it is unclear when it will act, and some changes are possible.

Russian attacks on Kharkiv intensifying: Governor

The governor of the Kharkiv region has announced that the intensity of Russian shelling, particularly on residential areas, increased on Tuesday.

“Today there are six wounded. In the Lozovsky and Izyum regions, another two have suffered. In the Kupyansk region, unfortunately, one person died. In Kharkiv, two people were hospitalised with injuries,” Oleg Sinegubov stated on Telegram

He warned residents to stay in shelters as much as possible and not leave even in the absence of an alarm.

“Do not rush to return to the liberated settlements. And those who are there, do not visit places that have not yet been checked the pyrotechnics. The enemy is cunning and is doing everything to hurt as many Ukrainian civilians as possible,” he added.

Reports of Moscow’s cyberattacks on Ukraine ‘absurd’: Russia

Russia’s embassy in the United States has labelled as “absurd” the US state department’s assertions that Moscow was involved in cyberattacks on Ukraine’s critical infrastructure, state news agency TASS has reported.

“We paid attention to the State Department’s statement about Russia’s alleged involvement in cyber attacks on Ukraine’s critical infrastructure. Such statements are absurd and out of touch with the real state of affairs. Our country has never engaged in cyber aggression. This contradicts Russia’s principled position,” a statement from the embassy said.

Diplomats also reportedly stated Russia was “ready for an equal, professional and non-politicised dialogue with the United States on a wide range of topical issues of information security”.

Ukraine pushes back Russian troops in counteroffensive near Kharkiv

Ukraine claims its forces have recaptured villages from Russian troops north and northeast of Kharkiv, pressing a counteroffensive that could signal a shift in the war’s momentum and jeopardise Russia’s main advance.

Ukrainian troops in recent days recaptured the settlements of Cherkaski Tyshky, Ruski Tyshki, Borshchova and Slobozhanske, north of Ukraine’s second-largest city, stated Tetiana Apatchenko, a press officer with the main Ukrainian force in the area.

Defence Ministry adviser Yuriy Saks added the Ukrainian successes were pushing Russian forces out of range of Kharkiv, located in the northeast, which has been under perpetual bombardment since the war began.

Mariupol’s mayor calls for ceasefire at steel mill

Mariupol’s mayor has said a ceasefire is needed at the Azovstal steel mill to verify that no civilians remained trapped inside.

“Today we must understand that only if there is a stable implementation of a ceasefire [will] we and our brave fighters (Ukrainian soldiers at Azovstal) be able to find answers to these questions,” Vadym Boychenko added.

Ukrainian officials announced around 100 civilians remained trapped at the mill despite earlier reports that all had been evacuated.

Ukraine: Gas flows to Europe could fall by a third if Russia does not change route

Gas flows to Europe via Ukraine could fall by a third unless Russia switches to using a different route after Kyiv announced it would suspend the flow of natural gas through a transit point, state energy firm Naftogaz head Yuriy Vitrenko has said.

GTSOU, which operates Ukraine’s gas system, said earlier that it would suspend flows via the Sokhranivka route from Wednesday, declaring “force majeure,” a clause invoked when a business is hit by something beyond its control.

Ukraine says Russia taking transit gas, sending it to separatist regions

The head of Ukraine’s gas system operator has announced Russian occupying forces have started taking gas transiting through Ukraine and sending it to two Russia-backed separatist regions in the country’s east, the Reuters news agency reported.

The operator’s CEO Sergiy Makogon made the comment, without citing evidence, after Ukraine said it would suspend the flow of gas through a transit point which it said delivers almost a third of the fuel piped from Russia to Europe through Ukraine.

Russia says Ukrainian attempts to recapture Snake Island fail

Russia says it has repelled Ukrainian efforts to reclaim Snake Island in the Black Sea.

The Russian defence ministry announced Russian forces had inflicted heavy losses on Ukraine in terms of men, vessels and aircraft.

Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych stated earlier that Ukraine was not trying to retake the island.

Zelensky calls for more weapons deliveries

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has told Maltese lawmakers that despite pleas, Ukraine has not received the amount of weapons it would need to unblock the siege of Mariupol and free the city.

Zelensky said defenders “still continue their resistance in the plant of Azovstal. We are using all possible diplomatic instruments to rescue them, but Russia doesn’t allow for any of the proposed options. We have asked our partners to provide weapons in order to unblock Mariupol and rescue both civilians and military personnel”.

But he noted the amount of weapons needed has not been provided.

Zelensky added Ukrainian cities and towns have been hit by 2,250 missiles during the two-and-a-half-month invasion.

“The bombardment doesn’t stop, neither during the day, nor the night,’’ he continued.

Russia’s Gazprom says Ukrainian proposal to switch gas flows to new entry point is impossible

Russian energy giant Gazprom has announced it is not technologically possible to switch gas transfers to Ukraine to a new entry point, as Ukraine’s gas system operator GTSOU was proposing.

GTSOU earlier said it would declare force majeure on the transportation of Russian gas through the Sokhranivka entry point, with flows stopping on May 11, and proposed transferring capacity to another location, Sudzha.

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