Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 91: Ukraine says NATO unlikely to help unblock ports

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:

Ukrainian FM slams NATO for ‘doing literally nothing’ to stop Russia

Ukraine’s top diplomat Dmytro Kuleba blasts NATO of “doing literally nothing” in the face of Russia’s invasion.

“NATO as an alliance, as an institution, is completely sidelined and doing literally nothing. I’m sorry to say it,” Kuleba told global business leaders attending the World Economic Forum in Davos.

EU official says $24bn of Russian central bank assets frozen in bloc

A top European Union official says the bloc’s 27 member states have reported the freezing of about 23 billion euros ($24.5bn) of assets of the Russian Central Bank, revealing for the first time a figure that was expected to be much higher.

Russia has publicly announced that Western sanctions led to the freezing of about $300bn of its central bank’s assets globally.

Of these frozen assets, only less than one-tenth is in the EU, according to information that the European Commission has collected from the 27 EU governments, EU Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders told a news conference.

In addition to that, EU countries have also frozen about 10 billion euros of physical assets, such as yachts and villas, linked to oligarchs and officials with ties to the Kremlin, Reynders said.

Ukraine accuses Moscow of ‘blackmail’ over sanctions demands

Ukraine’s foreign minister has accused Moscow of attempting to “blackmail” world leaders by “demanding to lift sanctions in exchange for them unblocking Ukraine’s food exports”.

“Any foreign politician or official who may think of accepting this game should first visit the graves of killed Ukrainian children and talk to their parents,” Dmytro Kuleba tweeted.

European Council chief “confident” Russia oil ban issues will be resolved by next meeting on Monday

European Council chief Charles Michel is “confident” that any issues over a proposed ban on Russian oil imports will be resolved by the next council meeting on May 30.

Addressing a news conference alongside the Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson in Stockholm on Wednesday, Michel said that although he was “still confident” that the bloc will be able to resolve any issues, it will require “a lot of dialogue.”

“We are working very hard in order to be able to stay united,” Michel stressed.

The Swedish prime minister publicly declared the country’s desire “to go further” with sanctions against Russia.

The proposed ban has been largely opposed by Hungary, which has stated that such a measure would be “against Hungarian national energy security.”

Putin signs decree streamlining Russian citizenship for Ukrainians in regions of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a decree on Wednesday making it easier for Ukrainians in the parts of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions occupied by Russian troops to obtain Russian citizenship.

According to the decree published on a government portal, amendments will be made to an existing decree used to simplify the process for the residents of the breakaway Donetsk People’s Republic or the Luhansk People’s Republic.

Russia handed out hundreds of thousands of Russian passports to residents of the DPR and LPR ahead of the massive Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine, helping create one of the pretexts for a wider war.

Swedish PM says talks in Turkey will ‘sort out’ Ankara’s NATO concerns

Swedish diplomats holding meetings with Turkish officials in Ankara today will discuss Turkey’s concerns over Sweden and Finland’s applications for NATO membership, the country’s prime minister says.

“We will naturally go through and discuss the list and sort out a number of things that have been unclear in reporting in the media and statements from other places,” Magdalena Andersson stated.

“Clearly, it’s about where we send our financial aid, for example, and that we sell weapons. We don’t send money to terrorist organisations, obviously – or weapons either,” Andersson added.

NATO member Turkey has repeatedly criticised Sweden and other Western European countries for its handling of organisations deemed to be “terrorists” by Ankara, including the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), as well as supporters of Fethullah Gulen, the United States-based Muslim scholar accused of involvement in a failed 2016 coup.

Ukraine appeals for US, other allies to supply rocket launchers quickly

Ukraine’s foreign minister says the urgency of his country’s weapons needs can be summed up in two abbreviations – MLRS and ASAP, meaning multiple-launch rocket systems and as soon as possible.

Speaking on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting in Davos, Dmytro Kuleba warned the situation in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region was “extremely bad”.

He stated he had conducted about 10 bilateral meetings with other officials whose countries possess MLRS.

“The response I get is, ‘Have the Americans given it to you already?’” Kuleba said, alluding to US leadership.

“So this is the burden of being a leader. Everyone is looking at you. So Washington has to keep the promise and provide us with multiple launch rocket systems as soon as possible. Others will follow,” he noted.

“If we do not get an MLRS ASAP, the situation in Donbas will get even worse than it is now,” Kuleba added.

“Every day of someone sitting in Washington, Berlin, Paris and other capitals, and considering whether they should or should not do something, costs us lives and territories,” he continued.

Russian official calls Italian peace plan a ‘fantasy’

A spokeswoman for Russia’s foreign ministry spokeswoman has described a peace plan for Ukraine put forward by Italy as a “fantasy”.

“You can’t supply Ukraine with weapons with one hand and come up with plans for a peaceful resolution of the situation with the other,” Maria Zakharova said at her weekly briefing, referring to the Italian initiative.

“If they hope that the Russian Federation will seize on any Western plan, then they haven’t understood much,” she added.

Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio gave the broad outlines of the plan last week and said that he had discussed it with United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres during a visit to New York. The Kremlin said on Tuesday it had not seen the initiative but hoped to receive it through diplomatic channels.

PM warns “Slovakia is next” if Russia defeats Ukraine

The Slovakian Prime Minister issued a stark warning about the future of his country should Russia defeat Ukraine during a panel at the World Economic Forum in Davos Wednesday.

“If Ukraine fails, Slovakia is next,” Prime Minister Eduard Heger told other EU and business leaders.

“They (Ukraine) have to win,” he said.

Heger went on to criticize members of the European Union for relying too heavily on Russian energy.

He urged leaders to “stop compromising” their principles when dealing with Russia.

“We basically traded our values for cheap gas and oil for too long,” he continued, adding, “Compromising with Putin caused a war in Ukraine. An aggressive war, people are dying.”

Ukrainians are “shedding their own blood for our values, so we don’t have to,” Heger noted.

Heger asked the bloc to work with Ukraine and the western Balkans to come up with “standardized rules so they can accede to the EU.”

Ukraine has, in recent years, deepened its economic and political ties with the EU, and Kyiv has expressed a desire to join. Nations in the western Balkans have also sought accession for several years.

Joining the bloc usually takes several years, as nations must satisfy strict criteria for membership before engaging in negotiations. However, some current EU leaders have rebuffed the idea that its membership could be fast-tracked due to the invasion.

“There’s no such thing as a fast-tracking of accession, such a thing doesn’t exist,” Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte stated in March.

Lithuania vows to ship more military aid to Ukraine

Lithuania will transfer a new shipment of aid to Ukraine “to further support its defence against Russia,” the Lithuanian ministry of defense stated Wednesday.

On Twitter, Arvydas Anusauskas said the Baltic nation will send 20 M113 armored vehicles, 10 military trucks and 10 SUVs for demining operations.

“Our support is crucial for Ukraine’s victory and defence of its sovereignty,” he continued, adding that “Lithuania provided the first assistance before the war started and now we are constantly thinking about additional effective support that is critical to Ukraine going forward.”

Latvian leader confident Sweden and Finland will ‘join NATO soon’

Latvian President Egils Levits says he believes Sweden and Finland will be able to resolve Turkey’s concerns over the Nordic’ countries’ NATO membership bids.

“We want to strengthen the alliance more through two new member states – Finland and Sweden – and this is in the interests of Turkey and all member states,” he told Al Jazeera from the sidelines of the World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting in Davos.

“Therefore, I am sure that Turkey, Finland and Sweden will solve the problems which they have and that at the end, Finland and Sweden will join NATO, and soon,” he added.

Estonian PM says ‘a bad peace’ must be avoided

Ukraine has to be able to negotiate with Russia from a position of strength so that Moscow is not encouraged to take further aggressive action, Estonia’s prime minister says.

“We must avoid a bad peace, a badly negotiated peace for Ukraine would mean a bad peace for us all,” Kaja Kallas stated in a speech while on a visit to Stockholm, Sweden.

“It is much more dangerous giving in to Putin, than provoking him. All these seemingly small concessions to the aggressor lead to big wars. We have done this mistake already three times: Georgia, Crimea and Donbas,” she added.

West lacking ‘unity’ over Ukraine: Zelensky

Ukraine’s president has accused the West of being divided over the extent of its support for his country.

“Unity is about weapons. My question is, is there this unity in practice? I can’t see it. Our huge advantage over Russia would be when we are truly united,” Volodymyr Zelenskyy said during a panel discussion on Ukraine at the World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting in Davos.

Zelensky, who was speaking via video link, also pointed to the lack of consensus over the possible accession of Finland and Sweden to NATO. Turkey, a NATO member, has expressed opposition to the Nordic countries’ becoming members of the military alliance.

“So, is there a strong joint West? No,” he added.

Moscow says Mariupol port operating normally

Russia’s defence ministry says that Mariupol’s Azov Sea port is operating normally after the city was seized by Moscow’s forces following a three-month siege.

The ministry’s statement came after a Russian foreign ministry official stated earlier on Wednesday that Moscow was in touch with the United Nations and  “does not rule out the possibility of global talks to unblock Ukraine’s ports.”

Turkish security council to discuss Finland, Sweden NATO bids on Thursday

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will convene the National Security Council on 26 May to discuss the applications of Finland and Sweden to join NATO, Turkish media reported on Wednesday.

The Turkish security council’s third meeting since the start of 2022 will also discuss Russia’s military operation in Ukraine, with an emphasis on Ankara’s mediation efforts and developments in the Black Sea.

Nike not renewing franchise agreements in Russia: Report

US sportswear giant Nike has not renewed agreements with its largest franchisee in Russia, according to the country’s Vedomosti newspaper.

Nike announced on March 3 that it would temporarily suspend operations at all of its stores in Russia in response to Moscow’s invasion and has said that those still open are operated by independent partners.

The head of Inventive Retail Group, which operates Nike-branded stores in Russia through its subsidiary Up And Run, said Nike was no longer supplying goods to Russia, Vedomosti reported.

Russia ready to set up corridor for ships carrying food to leave Ukraine: Official

Russia is ready to provide a humanitarian corridor for vessels carrying food to leave Ukraine in return for the lifting of some sanctions, the country’s Interfax news agency has cited Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Rudenko as saying.

Ukraine’s Black Sea ports have been blocked since Moscow launched its offensive and more than 20 million tonnes of grain are stuck in silos in the country.

Russia and Ukraine account for nearly a third of global wheat supplies and the lack of significant grain exports from Ukraine’s ports is contributing to a growing global food crisis. Ukraine is also a major exporter of corn and sunflower oil.

Western powers have been discussing the idea of setting up “safe corridors” for grain exports from Ukraine’s ports, adding that any such corridor would need Russian consent.

Moscow rejects claims Russia’s military smuggling grain from Ukraine

Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Andrey Rudenko said on Wednesday that Moscow completely rejects claims that the Russian military is smuggling grain from Ukrainian ports.

“We completely reject this. We don’t steal anything from anyone,” Rudenko added.

Previously CNN published satellite photos allegedly confirming that Russia is smuggling grain from Ukraine through Crimea.

Russia admits the possibility of holding international negotiations on the unblocking of Ukrainian ports and the exports of Ukrainian grain, Rudenko said, adding that Russia interacts with the UN on the matter.

“We are interacting with the UN on these issues, the issue was discussed in detail during the visit of [UN Secretary-General Antonio] Guterres to Moscow. Further consultations are underway on how the UN can help in this situation,” Rudenko told reporters when asked whether Moscow admits the possibility of international talks on the unblocking of Ukrainian ports and the export of grain.

Earlier, the UN World Food Programme issued multiple warnings that continuing hostilities in Ukraine drive food prices up and risk global hunger, as the Black Sea basin is one of the most important regions for the production of grain and agricultural products.

Ukraine and Russia account for an estimated 30% of global exports of wheat, 20% of global exports of maize, and 76% of sunflower.

Soros declares ‘defeat Putin ASAP to preserve our civilization’

Unless Russia is quickly defeated in Ukraine, the collective West won’t be able to address climate change in time to save civilization, billionaire financier George Soros told the World Economic Forum in Davos.

He also called Russia and China the greatest threats to his concept of open society.

Russia sending troops into Ukraine “may have been the beginning of the Third World War and our civilization may not survive it,” Soros told the WEF, and even when the fighting there stops, “the situation will never revert to what it was before.”

In his telling, the “invasion” came amid a struggle between “two systems of governance that are diametrically opposed to each other: open society and closed society,” the former embodied by the West and the latter by Russia and China.

Soros, 91, reminisced about the “exciting days” of the Soviet Union’s disintegration, when his wealth increased to the point where he could spend $300 million a year in 1987, and his foundations in Eastern Europe “turned out to be more successful than I expected.”

He argued that the tide began to turn after the 9/11 attacks of 2001, “repressive regimes are now in the ascendant and open societies are under siege,” with China and Russia representing “the greatest threat.”

Soros was optimistic about how that fight was going, however. According to him, Russian troops expected to be greeted in Ukraine as liberators and emerge victorious within days or weeks, but Ukraine was able to “defeat” them with the help of the US and NATO. Meanwhile, he claimed that Chinese leader Xi Jinping has damaged his legitimacy with Covid-19 lockdowns in Shanghai and elsewhere.

What really worried Soros, however, was that the conflict in Ukraine interfered with the environmental agenda, meaning that climate change might become irreversible.

“That could be the end of our civilization,” he stated, insisting that “we must mobilize all our resources to bring the war to an early end.”

“The best and perhaps only way to preserve our civilization is to defeat [Vladimir] Putin as soon as possible,” he added.

On Monday, former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger urged the WEF to broker a peace in Ukraine in the next two months, before Russia is driven into “a permanent alliance with China” that would destabilize Europe.

“Russia has for 400 years been an essential part of Europe,” noted the 98-year-old Kissinger, warning those who seek Moscow’s “defeat.”

Russian missile attacks on Zaporizhzhia, Dnipropetrovsk regions: Ukrainian officials

Ukrainian officials reported Russian missile attacks on the east-central Dnipropetrovsk region and southeastern Zaporizhzhia region on Wednesday, causing extensive damage in the city of Zaporizhzhia.

The Russian military launched four cruise missiles on Zaporizhzhia Wednesday, a statement from the Zaporizhzhia Regional Council said. One missile was shot down by the city’s air defense, it added.

In an update, the council added at least one person was killed and three others injured, and that 62 buildings were damaged in residential areas of the city.

In a separate statement Wednesday, Valentyn Reznichenko, head of the Dnipropetrovsk regional military administration, said there had been constant air raid alarms overnight.

“The enemy fired three missiles at Kryvyi Rih this morning,” Reznichenko stated, adding, “An industrial enterprise was hit. There is severe destruction. We are clarifying the information on the victims.”

Zelensky says Ukraine will fight to recover all territory

President Volodymyr Zelensky says he is only willing to talk directly to Vladimir Putin and not via intermediators. He added that if the Russian President “understands reality” there was the possibility of finding a diplomatic way out of the conflict.

Zelensky speaking to an audience at the World Economic Forum in Davos, also stated that Ukraine would fight until it recovered all of its territory.

The Ukrainian President noted that Moscow should withdraw its troops back to the lines in place before Russia began its invasion on February 24.

“That might be a first step towards talks,” he continued, adding that Russia has been playing for time in its talks with Ukraine.

NATO unlikely to help unblock ports: Ukraine’s FM

Ukraine’s foreign minister stated that NATO is unlikely to enforce a no-fly-zone to help ships leave blocked Ukrainian ports.

“If NATO did not close the skies over Ukraine at the most tragic moments of the war, then why would they now open the sea so that exports could leave without barriers?” Dmytro Kuleba said on Wednesday during a breakfast at Davos, where the World Economic Forum is taking place.

He added that even if Russia signed guarantees to ensure a peaceful passage for ships out of Ukraine’s ports, it could violate the agreement at any time.

“Russia is absolutely unpredictable in its behavior,” Kuleba continued.

France pushes for another round of Russia sanctions

The European Union needs to adopt its sixth package of sanctions against Russia soon, according to France’s Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs Catherine Colonna.

Speaking during a joint press conference in Berlin with her German counterpart, Colonna stressed the need “to strengthen our support to Ukraine.”

“We have to quickly adopt the sixth package of sanctions which will foresee the progressive end of the imports of Russian oil,” stated Colonna, who was appointed to her role last week.

Despite opposition from countries like Hungary, Colonna said she is “optimistic” that the package will be approved and commended the “remarkable” unity shown by the EU in holding Russia accountable.

“We have to continue because it is this unity that is our strength,” Colonna emphasized.

Staple product prices due to rise as Russia continues blocking Ukraine ports: UK

The UK’s defence ministry has echoed global concerns about the risk of price rises among staple products due to the blockade of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports.

“There has been no significant shipping activity in or out of Odesa since the start of the war,” the ministry said in its latest intelligence briefing.

“Fighting has already placed indirect pressure on global grain prices. While the threat of Russia’s naval blockade continues to deter access by commercial shipping to Ukrainian ports, the resulting supply shortfalls will further increase the price of many staple products,” the ministry added.

Shelling kills six in Severodonetsk, injures eight: Governor

Shelling killed six people in Severodonetsk on Tuesday and injured another eight, the Luhansk regional governor has said.

“One woman had to have her leg amputated,” Serhiy Haidai stated on Telegram on Wednesday morning.

He added that two houses were destroyed in Severodonetsk, four in the town of Novodruzhesk, four in the village of Vrubivka and four in the village of Komyshuvakha. Another three were destroyed in the town of Zolote, three in the village of Toshkovka, two in the village of Yekaterinovka and two in Pochechny.

One person killed, three injured in Zaporizhzhia attack

The Zaporizhzhia military administration has confirmed that one person was killed in Wednesday morning’s missile attacks and three others were injured.

The administration added that preliminary information suggested around 62 homes had been damaged.

On Wednesday morning, the administration said four missiles had been launched at the territory and one was shot down by missile defence systems.

Romani refugees from Ukraine face segregation in Moldova: HRW

Moldovan authorities are deliberately housing most Romani refugees separately from others fleeing the war in Ukraine, in a manner that constitutes unequal and discriminatory treatment, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has found.

The information comes from interviews HRW conducted between March 30 and April 5 which included members of police, border patrol, staff and volunteers working at transit and reception sites, refugees, UN agencies and Roma rights activists.

HRW found a practice that appeared to be based on an agreed policy to segregate Romani refugees in designated state-run reception centres, which volunteers said were inferior, and to deny Romani refugees housing together with other refugees in alternate state-run centres.

Since February 24, 2022, more than 471,000 refugees have crossed into Moldova from Ukraine, the highest per capita influx to a neighbouring country.

Declassified US intelligence shows Russian blockade of Ukraine

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has effectively halted all maritime trade at Ukrainian ports, according to newly declassified US intelligence, cutting off a critical export commodity for Ukraine and risking a global food crisis.

In the months since Russia moved to invade in February, it has established an “effective blockade” in the northern third of the Black Sea, according to a US official who provided a declassified map of the region to CNN on the condition of anonymity.

The map analyzes the density of ships coming in and out of Ukrainian ports before and after the start of the conflict, showing an almost total drop-off of commercial traffic to ports in the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov after the start of the invasion. A third map provides a current visualization of the density of Russian naval vessels clustered in the Black Sea off Ukraine’s coast, highlighting “hotbeds of activity,” according to the US official.

“The impact of Russia’s actions cannot be understated as Ukraine’s seaborne exports are vital to global food security,” the US official said, echoing the broad assessment of Western analysts and government officials.

Ukraine provides about 10% of the world’s wheat exports, the official noted, the vast majority of which exit the country from Black Sea ports.

Before the war, Ukraine was the world’s fourth-largest exporter of corn and fifth-largest exporter of wheat, according to the US State Department. Almost 30% of global trade in wheat came from Russia and Ukraine alone.

The United Nations World Food Program  which helps combat global food insecurity  buys about half of its wheat from Ukraine each year and has warned of dire consequences if Ukrainian ports are not opened up.

Mariupol death toll at 22,000: Mayor’s adviser

“Mariupol is now a city of ghosts,” an adviser to the mayor of the ruined Ukrainian port city said.

Speaking to CNN’s Melissa Bell, Petro Andriushchenko — who has fled to Ukrainian held territory — stated that Mariupol town hall officials believe that at least 22,000 residents of the city were killed during three months of war — a figure that cannot be independently supported, with the free press now unable to get access to the city and those still inside too scared to speak openly.

The figure of 22,000 is based, Andriushchenko said, on the many contacts he and other town hall officials continue to have with officials trapped inside. But he believes the actual figure could be much higher.

Andriushchenko added that the process of reburying the dead has been complicated by Russian official insistence that reclaimed bodies be brought to a morgue and that a person claiming a body must agree to record a video in which the applicant says the deceased was killed by the Ukrainian military.

Andriushchenko noted that, based on the information gathered from his network of sources, Mariupol tonight is a city thrown back to the Middle Ages.

“It is absolutely dark inside the city. The only lights are from Russian troops and Russian patrols,” he continued, adding, “Everywhere it’s the smell of death and the smell of fire.”

The mayor’s adviser said his contacts paint a picture of a city in the grips of a humanitarian catastrophe with very little contact to the outside world. Mobile phone connections are only just beginning to be re-established.

He stated residents are unable to move freely, with special passes needed for any movement within the city and a filtration system keeping them from fleeing altogether.

Mariupol has been at the center of a ferocious, months-long battle between Ukrainian government forces and Russian soldiers and pro-Russian fighters.

It officially fell to Russian forces Friday when the last group of the Azovstal fighters at the steel plant they had been holding out in for several weeks surrendered.

Sentenced Russian soldier can be exchanged – Ukraine

Ukrainian Prosecutor General Irina Venediktova has not ruled out the possibility of exchanging Vadim Shishimarin, the first Russian soldier sentenced for war crimes by a court in Kiev.

On Monday, the 21-year-old sergeant was sentenced to life for fatally shooting an elderly civilian named Alexander Shelipov in the northeastern Sumy Region of Ukraine.

Shishimarin’s lawyers say they are going to appeal the court’s decision.

Speaking during the national telethon on Tuesday, Venediktova stressed that exchanges of prisoners of war were a matter for politicians and diplomats, so she could only talk about the case from the perspective of criminal justice.

“Our scenarios can be completely different. You can exchange a person after court rulings. Yes, technically it is possible,” she claimed.

Venediktova added that the Ukrainian authorities act in accordance with all humanitarian law requirements and, as “the whole world is watching such lawsuits,” Ukraine must set “high standards.”

The widow of Shishimarin’s victim, Ekaterina Shelipova, noted during her appearance in court that she would like to see Shishimarin get a life sentence.

“But if he is replaced by our Azovstal defenders, I will not object,” she added, referring to the Ukrainian troops that surrendered last week following a weeks-long blockade of Azovstal, a heavily fortified steel works in Mariupol.

On Monday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Moscow was concerned with the soldier’s trial, especially considering Russia currently lacked the ability to “protect his interests on site.”

“But this doesn’t mean that we won’t consider the possibility of continuing attempts [to help the serviceman] through other channels,” he added.

Earlier, Peskov made it clear that the exchange of prisoners was “being carried out constantly in one form or another.”

Since the launch of the Russian military attack in Ukraine, Moscow and Kiev have been accusing each other of various war crimes.

Ukraine pledges to enter Crimea ‘by end of year’

The Ukrainian military will turn the tide in the conflict with Russia and enter Crimea by the end of the year, Kirill Budanov, the head of intelligence at Ukraine’s defense ministry, has said.

The situation on the battlefield is going to change in Kiev’s favor from August when the weapons that are being supplied by the West reach Ukrainian units, Budanov told Ukrainskaya Pravda newspaper on Tuesday.

“That’s what will bring forth the turnaround because now we are catastrophically short of heavy weapons,” he added.

“Russia has 12 months of resources to wage a full-scale war” and after that the conflict between Kiev and Moscow would end with “the return of our occupied territories,” the intelligence chief claimed.

When asked if those “occupied territories” included the Crimea, which overwhelmingly voted to part ways with Ukraine and join Russia in a 2014 referendum, Budanov replied by saying that “by the end of the year, we must at least enter Crimean territory.”

Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu, who also spoke on Tuesday, shared completely different projections of what’s going to happen on the ground in Ukraine.

“Despite the large-scale military assistance from the West to the Kiev regime and sanction pressure on Russia, we will continue with the special military operation until all of its goals are fulfilled,” he stated.

Russia would still pose threat to peace in Europe even after possible ceasefire: Polish FM

Russia would remain a threat for peace in Europe even after a ceasefire in Ukraine, Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau said.

“That Russia changes immediately after a ceasefire has been agreed is daydreaming. It would remain a danger for peace in Europe,” Rau stated during a joint press conference with his German counterpart Annalena Baerbock.

Rau added he feared a Russian invasion into Poland, as well as “the danger of an armed invasion of the countries in the NATO eastern flank.”

Poland and Germany must strive for Russia “to suffer a strategic defeat and its occupation forces to leave Ukraine within the borders recognized by international law,” Rau continued.

Baerbock also made clear that the Donetsk region belonged to Ukraine, saying, “Ukraine is a sovereign state within its borders and this is true for now, this is true since 2014 and this is true for the future.”

Intercepted conversations show Russian soldiers think war futile: Zelensky

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said that intercepted conversations of Russian soldiers in Donbas indicate they are aware of the senselessness of the war.

“Now the situation in Donbas is extremely difficult. In fact, all the strength the Russian army still has was thrown there to attack. Lyman, Popasna, Severodonetsk, Sloviansk,” Zelenskyy stated.

“But in the interceptions of their conversations, we hear that they are well aware that this war does not make sense for Russia and that strategically their army stands no chance,” he added.

He noted it would take time and “a lot of extraordinary efforts” for Ukraine to “break through” the superior equipment and weapons systems of Russia’s forces.

Russian forces making incremental gains in the east: Think-Tank

Russian forces have likely abandoned efforts for a single large encirclement of Ukrainian forces in eastern Ukraine and are instead attempting to secure smaller encirclements. This enables them to make incremental measured gains, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) has said.

“Russian forces are likely attempting to achieve several simultaneous encirclements of small pockets of Ukrainian forces in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts: the broader Severodonetsk area (including Rubizhne and Lysychansk), Bakhmut-Lysychansk, around Zolote (just northeast of Popasna), and around Ukrainian fortifications in Avdiivka,” the ISW added in its latest campaign analysis.

Although they begin advancing efforts in these different encirclements daily, Russian forces “haven’t achieved any major ‘breakthroughs’ or made major progress towards their stated objectives of securing the Donetsk Oblast borders or seizing all of Donbas,” the institute added.

Russian forces may have secured more terrain in the past week than earlier in May, but they have done so by reducing the scope of their objectives, the ISW said.

‘Last chance’ for foreign firms to leave Russia: Ukraine FM

Ukraine’s foreign minister has stated Russia’s new law to allow the government to appoint new management of foreign companies that pulled out of Russia made it even more imperative for foreign companies remaining in the country to leave.

“It’s the last chance to save not only your reputation but your property,” Dmytro Kuleba said in a statement.

Ukraine’s first lady urges world to keep speaking about her country

Ukraine’s first lady has urged the world not to become accustomed to what is happening in Ukraine and to continue to speak about it.

“We ask on behalf of the whole of Ukraine – do not to get used to the fact that somewhere in Europe children are bombed. Talk about it. Because as soon as we all get used to it, Putin will have a psychological victory,” Olena Zelenska said in a talk via video link to Ukraine House at Davos.

“Information warfare is also ongoing. And if you start to think that there may be some justification for attacking another country, that invasion may make some sense, it means that you are under the influence of the Russian media,” she added.

Ukraine says Russia firing at border guards in Sumy

The Ukrainian military has said Russia fired at Ukrainian border guards in the northeastern Sumy region in the latest of a series of alleged cross-border attacks over the past few weeks.

Military officials say observers Tuesday night recorded seven shots from Russian territory towards the village of Boyaro-Lezhachi, most likely mortar fire.

The Ukrainian Operational Command North announced on its Facebook post that eight other shots were heard Tuesday afternoon near a neighbouring village. There were no reports of any deaths.

American official heads to India to talk about US sanctions on Russia

A Joe Biden administration official is travelling to India to talk with officials and private industry about US sanctions, the Treasury Department has said, as Washington seeks to keep India’s purchases of Russian oil from rising.

Elizabeth Rosenberg, the assistant secretary for Terrorist Financing and Financial Crimes, will visit New Delhi and Mumbai through Thursday, a Treasury spokesperson stated.

The visit is part of a wider Biden administration effort to fan out to partners and allies around the world to talk with officials and industry about the implementation of US sanctions and export controls, the spokesperson added.

Zelensky says Russian DM’s comments are ‘pathetic’

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky blasted comments made earlier by Russia’s Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu, who said that Russia was deliberately slowing its offensive in Ukraine to allow civilians to evacuate.

“And they are trying to cover this up with lies about how they are supposedly not fighting at full strength? How pathetic – and the time will come when they will recognise this themselves,” Zelensky said in a late-night address.

Zelensky added Shoigu’s comments were “absolutely unreal”, given that Kyiv estimates Moscow has lost nearly 30,000 soldiers and thousands of tanks and other armoured vehicles.

US criticises Russia-China military exercise

The US has criticised a joint military exercise between Russia and China, saying that it demonstrated that Beijing is still committed to its partnership with Moscow despite the invasion of Ukraine.

“This exercise was likely planned well in advance by both countries,” stated State Department Spokesperson Ned Price.

“And Beijing’s decision to cooperate with Moscow in this way amid Russia’s further invasion of Ukraine and the Kremlin’s dangerous nuclear rhetoric demonstrates the ‘no limits partnerships’ that they talked about in their joint communique is quite alive and well,” he added.

Early in February, before the Ukraine war, Russia and China released a lengthy joint statement that reaffirmed their alliance and expressed opposition to NATO expansion.

India allows duty-free imports of crude soyoil, crude sunflower oil

India has allowed duty-free imports of 2 million tonnes each of crude soyoil and crude sunflower oil for the current and the next fiscal year to March 2024, a government order has said, as part of efforts to keep a lid on local prices.

India imports more than two-thirds of its edible oil needs and a sharp drop in the supplies of sunflower from the Black Sea region has stoked local prices.

The Black Sea accounts for around 60% of the world’s sunflower oil output and 76% of exports, while Argentina, Brazil and the United States are the key soyoil suppliers to India.

“India’s soyoil imports will rise in the coming months, but sunoil imports are unlikely to rise as Russia and Argentina have limited stocks,” said a Mumbai-based dealer with a global trading firm.

Russia shells Kherson, blames Ukraine: Ukraine’s army

Ukraine’s army says that Russian forces are regularly shelling areas in the now-occupied Kherson region while blaming Ukraine for the raids.

“The occupying authorities and the Russian army are trying to force local residents to cooperate or agree to the occupation,” Ukraine’s Operational Command South added about Kherson in a Facebook post Wednesday morning.

“According to reports, they intend to mobilise Ukrainians from the occupied territories of the Kherson region for a war against Ukraine. This is a gross violation of the Geneva Convention and qualifies as a war crime,” the army announced.

US says ending Russia debt payment exemption

The United States will end an exemption allowing Moscow to pay its foreign debts with dollars held in Russia as of midnight Wednesday, the US Treasury has announced, a move that could push Vladimir Putin’s country closer to default.

The exemption to the drastic financial sanctions imposed on Moscow ends on Wednesday, two days before Russia’s next debt service payment is due.

Russian parliament passes bill allowing Moscow to close Western news bureaus

Russia’s parliament has passed a bill giving prosecutors powers to shut foreign media bureaus in Moscow if a Western country has been “unfriendly” to Russian media, following the closure of some Russian state news outlets in the West.

The bill, passed in the first reading by the lower house of parliament, or Duma, also prohibits the distribution of articles or other materials from media that have been closed by the prosecutor’s office. It needs to undergo two more readings, be reviewed by the upper house of parliament, and signed by President Vladimir Putin to become law.

Hungary imposes state of emergency due to Ukraine war

Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban has imposed a new state of emergency in the country, citing the challenges posed by the ongoing war in neighbouring Ukraine.

Hungary is already under a state of emergency, linked to the COVID pandemic, which was due to expire next Tuesday.

Orban has also written to the president of the European Council to tell him that proposed EU sanctions on Russia, including an oil embargo, should not be discussed at next week’s summit of the bloc’s leaders.

Orban stated in the May 23 letter sent to Charles Michel and obtained by the Reuters news agency that it was unlikely a solution to disagreements over the suggested measures could be found by the upcoming meeting.

He added that Hungary was not in a position to agree to the proposed EU sanctions until all outstanding issues are resolved.

Battles in east could decide Ukraine’s fate: Kyiv

Battles being fought in eastern Ukraine could determine the country’s fate, Ukrainian Defence Ministry Spokesperson Oleksandr Motuzyanyk has stated.

Three months after invading Ukraine, Russian forces are trying to encircle Ukrainian troops in twin cities straddling the Siverskyi Donets River in eastern Ukraine.

Motuzyanyk noted Russian forces had not given up attempts to cross the river.

“Now we are observing the most active phase of the full-scale aggression which Russia unfolded against our country,” he told a televised briefing.

“The situation on the [eastern] front is extremely difficult, because the fate of this country is perhaps being decided [there] right now,” he added.

Canada buys ammunition from US to send to Ukraine

Canada has purchased 20,000 artillery rounds of NATO standard ammunition for Ukraine to support it in its defence against Russia’s invasion, Defence Minister Anita Anand has said.

The ammunition was bought from the US for about 98 million Canadian dollars ($76.4m) and would soon be delivered to Ukraine.

Russia bans entry to 154 members of UK’s House of Lords

Russia’s foreign ministry says Moscow has imposed an entry ban on 154 members of the United Kingdom Parliament’s House of Lords in retaliation for sanctions against Russian senators.

The ministry added the decision was taken “on a reciprocal basis” in response to the imposition of sanctions in March by London on almost all the members of Russia’s Federation Council, its upper house of parliament.

Those targeted by Moscow included William Hague, a former foreign minister and leader of the Conservative Party.

Not included on the list was the Russian-born newspaper owner Evgeny Lebedev, who was controversially granted a peerage by Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government in 2020. Lebedev, who owns the London Evening Standard and Independent newspapers, has denounced Moscow’s offensive.

Full cost of rebuilding Ukraine impossible to quantify: German minister

German’s finance minister says it is impossible to judge how much it would cost to rebuild Ukraine in the wake of Russia’s invasion.

Speaking after a meeting of EU finance ministers, Christian Lindner added that providing reconstruction aid to Kyiv was not just the responsibility of Europe, but also of international bodies.

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