Saturday, May 18, 2024

Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 99: Zelensky says Russia occupies 20% of Ukraine’s territory

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:

US imposes new sanctions on Russia

The fresh US sanctions target multiple individuals, including Maria Zakharova, spokeswoman for the Russian foreign ministry, and Economy Minister Maxim Reshetnikov. The US Treasury Department has also imposed restrictions on Severstal, the largest steel company in Russia.

“Today’s designations were taken in tandem with the US Department of State and the US Department of Commerce. The US Department of State imposed sanctions on five of Russia’s oligarchs and elites, including Maria Zakharova, the spokesperson of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Alexey Mordashov, the leader of Severgroup and one of Russia’s wealthiest billionaires; and family members and entities associated with the oligarchs and elites”, the Treasury Department announced on Thursday.

Washington has also sanctioned seven yachts, including two that the Treasury claims are linked to Russian President Vladimir Putin. The department has slapped restrictions on three aircraft in Russia, too. The White House then announced that Washington would be prohibiting 71 “parties” from Russia and Belarus from accessing American technology and equipment.

“The Department of Commerce is further restricting the Russian military’s ability to obtain technologies and other items it needs to sustain its aggression and project power. This includes adding 71 parties located in Russia and Belarus to the Entity List, effectively cutting them off from obtaining U.S.-origin items or foreign-made products derived from certain US technology or software,” The US Commerce Department added.

Russia vows response to sixth round of EU sanctions

The Russian Foreign Ministry has vowed to respond to the sixth round of EU sanctions against Moscow.

The reaction comes shortly after the French delegation, which currently holds EU presidency, announced that the legal text of the sixth package of Russia sanctions had been approved.

The list includes a ban on the import of Russian oil transported by sea, further restrictions on exports of chemicals and high-tech products to Russia, as well as a ban on broadcasting of three Russian TV channels.

EU agrees new anti-Russia sanctions

The European Union approved a sixth round of sanctions against Russia on Thursday, Reuters reports. The package reportedly includes an embargo of Russian crude.

“There’s a decision of the ambassadors. The sixth package will come into force after publication in the Official Journal of the EU, tentatively on Friday,” an unnamed diplomat told journalists in Brussels, as quoted by Reuters.

People familiar with the matter told Bloomberg the new measures would be the EU’s toughest to date. They will reportedly forbid the purchase of crude oil from Russia delivered to member states by sea in six months and refined petroleum products in eight months.

According to earlier reports, the EU was considering imposing import tariffs on Russian crude if any members of the bloc refused to implement the terms of the newly announced embargo on oil from the country. This week, EU member states reached an agreement on a partial ban of Russian crude. The cushioned embargo will affect about 75% of Russian oil imports, with that percentage growing to 90% by the end of the year.

The latest sanctions reportedly also include a ban on insurance related to shipping oil to other countries, which will take effect six months after the formal adoption of the measures. The ban aims to restrict Moscow’s options for diverting its supplies elsewhere in the world.

The sanctions package will also see Russia’s biggest lender, Sberbank, cut off from the international payments messaging system SWIFT, the sources said. The same restriction will apply to Credit Bank of Moscow and Russian Agricultural Bank, they added.

Biden administration split over Russia sanctions

The Joe Biden administration is split over how much further the US can push sanctions against Russia without undermining its own economy and Western unity, Bloomberg reports.

According to the news agency, US President Joe Biden’s team has largely backed the sanctions plan Washington set in motion after Russia attacked Ukraine in late February. However, discussions on the matter have become more heated as the sanctions failed to persuade Russian President Vladimir Putin to change course, Bloomberg reported on Wednesday, citing sources familiar with the matter.

US officials within the Biden administration have reportedly formed two factions. One group that includes State Department and White House officials is said to be advocating for an even more hawkish stance, making the case for enforcing secondary sanctions.

They believe that any opposition from US allies and partners can be overcome, according to Bloomberg.

Another group, largely represented by Treasury Department officials, has reportedly raised concerns regarding the economic woes such actions would entail, especially considering that Americans are already suffering from high oil prices and inflation. Some are also said to be worried about the upcoming midterm election in November, and Democrats’ chances to hold their seats in Congress.

Bloomberg sources, however, characterized the ongoing discussions as “healthy internal debate,” saying there is nothing unusual about the Treasury scrutinizing policies that can cause economic pain.

The US has been suffering from record-high inflation and gas prices, which Biden has tried to pin on Putin, the conflict in Ukraine, and the coronavirus pandemic.

According to the Pew Research Center, however, the annual rate of inflation hit 6.2%, the highest in more than three decades, as early as in October 2021, long before Moscow’s attack on Ukraine.

At the same time, if Washington presses with more sanctions against Moscow, it may find itself alone in its efforts, as doing so could drive a wedge between the US and its allies, Bloomberg said.

The US and UK previously imposed bans on Russian oil and gas, but at the time, the EU did not follow suit.

Ukrainian embassy says Russia ships ‘stolen’ wheat to Syria

Russia has sent its ally Syria an estimated 100,000 tonnes of wheat stolen from Ukraine since invading the country, the Ukrainian embassy in Beirut has said.

In a statement to Reuters, the embassy announced the shipments included one aboard the Matros Pozynich, a Russian-flagged vessel which docked at Syria’s main sea port Latakia in late May.

“The wheat is stolen from a facility that combines wheat from three Ukrainian regions into one batch,” the embassy stated, adding, “This is criminal activity.” It added that it had tried to reach out to the Syrian authorities but had never received a response.

Sweden to supply more military aid including anti-ship missiles to Ukraine

Sweden will provide Ukraine with more economic aid and military equipment, the Nordic country’s defence and finance ministers has stated.

Finance Minister Mikael Damberg and Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist told a news conference the military equipment would include anti-ship missiles, rifles and more anti-tank weapons.

Sweden in February announced it would send military materiel including 5,000 anti-tank weapons, helmets and body armour to Ukraine, and in March announced it would send another 5,000 anti-tank weapons.

Moscow rejects Kiev’s ‘worthless’ promises not to use US rocket systems against Russia

Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova laced into Kiev’s assurances that it wouldn’t use US multiple-launch rocket systems on Russian soil branding the Volodymyr Zelensky regime’s promises as worthless and warned that they should not be trusted.

“There is no point in deliberating over the promises, or words in context, especially by Zelensky since they are useless,” the diplomat told the Soloviev Live program on Thursday, when answering a question on the matter.

In her opinion, whatever the Ukrainian president or Western leaders say cannot be taken at face value any longer.”

“Nobody can take Zelensky or even Western leaders at their word anymore: they know its value, it’s worthless. Not because these words are invaluable promises, but because they are worthless,” Zakharova specified.

Earlier, the US announced that the Ukrainian authorities, even at the Zelensky [administration] level, had given assurances to Washington that they would not use the HIMARS lightweight multiple-launch rocket systems against Russia.

A day earlier, the US announced a new $700 million military aid package for Ukraine, which includes the HIMARS (High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems) and ammunition for the systems.

The West is trying to find reasons to explain its weapons supplies to Kiev and actions against Moscow, Zakharova stated.

“They keep making disclaimer statements that they are providing weapons to Ukraine on certain terms. They are clearly trying or pretend to be trying not to cross boundaries one way or another. They haven’t rejected this part yet, they indeed are looking for some explanations because without an explanation, they will become the party that is waging aggression in all directions,” she pointed out.

According to Zakharova, Western countries are trying to explain their policy and actions to their domestic public.

Ukraine seeking UN-backed mission to export grain shipments through Black Sea

Ukraine is working with international partners to create a United Nations-backed mission to restore Black Sea shipping routes and export Ukrainian farm produce, foreign ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenko has stated.

Russia has captured some of Ukraine’s biggest seaports and its navy controls major transport routes in the Black Sea, blocking Ukrainian shipments and deepening a global food crisis.

“We call on countries whose food security may suffer more from Russian aggression against Ukraine to use their contacts with Moscow to force it to lift the blockade of Ukrainian seaports and end the war,” Nikolenko wrote on Facebook.

Russian military warns foreign mercenaries fighting in Ukraine are criminally liable

“According to the data that we have, today the total number of foreign mercenaries in Ukraine has almost halved – from 6,600 to 3,500 people,” Konashenkov told a briefing.

Mercenaries prefer to leave Ukraine because of heavy losses in combat, but the Kiev regime prevents them from departing, according to Konashenkov.

Earlier, Russian Defence Ministry said that Ukrainian authorities have recruited almost 7,000 mercenaries from 63 countries to fight in the conflict, with many having fled, gotten killed or taken prisoner during the operation. Most mercenaries were based in Kiev, Kharkov, Odessa, Nikolaev, and Mariupol.

US plan to sell armed drones to Ukraine does not affect military operation: Russia

Russia has announced US plans to sell Ukraine four MQ-1C Gray Eagle drones that can be armed with Hellfire missiles for battlefield use against Russia would not change the parameters of what Moscow calls its military operation.

“Pumping [Western] weapons into Ukraine does not change all the parameters of the special operation,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on a conference call.

“Its goals will be achieved, but this will bring more suffering to Ukraine,” he noted

Russia occupies 20 percent of Ukraine’s territory: Zelensky

Russia is currently occupying about 20 percent of Ukraine’s territory, President Volodymyr Zelensky has told Luxembourg’s parliament in a video address.

“We have to defend ourselves against almost the entire Russian army. All combat-ready Russian military formations are involved in this aggression,” he said, adding that the front lines of battle stretched across more than 1,000 kilometres (620 miles).

Zelensky also expressed gratitude for the military assistance received so far and called for weapons supplies to be stepped up.

Ukraine already considers itself part of the European Union, he continued.

“Ukraine has already become a de facto member of the EU,” he said, adding, “I believe that Ukraine is already showing by its actions that it meets the European criteria.”

Referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin, Zelenskyy called on the bloc to “stop this individual from destroying European values. If we do not manage together to stop this man, then these are dark hours – dark hours that we have already experienced in the Second World War.”

Denmark expected to join EU defence policy vote: FM

Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod has said he expects Denmark to join the European Union’s common defence policy after two-thirds of voters who cast ballots in a referendum supported abandoning a 30-year-old waiver that kept the EU country out.

There are “a series of formal steps before Denmark can be admitted” to the defence agreement, Kofod said, including the Danish Parliament giving its approval of the referendum’s result.

The minister added he expects Denmark to be able to join as of July 1. According to figures from Statistics Denmark, 66.9 percent voted in favour of getting rid of the opt-out while 33.1 percent were against.

EU move to partially phase out Russian oil likely to rock markets: Russia

The Russian foreign ministry has said that the European Union’s decision to partially phase out Russian oil was likely to destabilise global energy markets.

“Brussels and its political sponsors in Washington bear full responsibility for the risk of an exacerbation in global food and energy issues caused the illegitimate actions of the European Union,” the ministry added.

Russia says not planning to ‘close window to Europe’

Russia does not plan to “close the window” to Europe, the Kremlin has said, as its relations with the West linger at new lows over the conflict in Ukraine.

Asked whether difficult relations with Europe were turning the clock back on Peter the Great’s efforts to open Russia up to Europe, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov stated: “We are not planning to close anything.”

Peter the Great oversaw Russia’s transition to a major European power and founded the city of Saint Petersburg, dubbed Russia’s “window to Europe”.

Slovakia to send Ukraine Zuzana 2 howitzers

Slovakia will deliver eight self-propelled Zuzana 2 howitzers to Ukraine under a commercial contract which a state-controlled producer signed, the Slovak defence ministry has announced.

The Zuzana 2 howitzer, a modernised version of an older model, uses 155mm rounds and has an effective range of 40km (25 miles) to more than 50km (30 miles), depending on the ammunition type.

Ukraine prosecutor says 261 children killed since start of war

The office of Ukraine’s prosecutor general has announced 261 children have been killed and 460 injured since the start of the war.

The tally does not include places of active conflict, the office said on Twitter.

It also registered over 15,000 crimes of aggression that could amount to war crimes.

US and allies are looking for solutions to free up millions of tons of grain stuck in Ukraine

The Joe Biden administration is working to get temporary storage containers for Ukrainian grain into the country, a stopgap measure as it seeks to mitigate a growing food crisis caused by Russia’s months-long blockade of Ukrainian ports, administration officials told CNN.

These storage containers – such as bags or boxes – could help salvage some of the more than 20 million tons of grain that are currently stuck inside Ukraine. They could also help Ukraine load the grain onto trains or trucks out of the country once overland routes are established, a senior administration official explained.

Still, as these efforts are underway the US and its international partners are no closer to finding a quick and absolute solution to lifting the Russian blockade of Ukrainian ports that’s raised global food prices and threatened to cause a catastrophic food shortage in parts of the world.

The work that the US is doing to open up overland routes for the grain to get into neighboring countries, get containers into the country, and implement long-term changes meant to drive down global reliance on Ukrainian grain could collectively have an impact on the crisis. But many view the efforts as marginal fixes to a much larger problem that can’t be completely resolved until Russia eases its blockade, particularly of Ukraine’s biggest port in Odesa, which has been surrounded by Russian warships for months.

UN and Turkish officials are preparing for separate rounds of diplomatic talks with Moscow coalescing around a new plan to try to open up sea routes for Ukrainian grains, sources say.

Millions of tons of grain remain stuck in Ukraine, stored in silos and at the port in Odesa, leading to a dramatic spike in global food prices that’s likely to worsen as the war continues. Ukraine is the world’s fourth-largest exporter of corn and the fifth-largest exporter of wheat, according to the State Department, and the UN’s program to fight food insecurity buys about half of its wheat from Ukraine each year.

Russia warns US deliveries of MLRS to Ukraine undermine stability

Grigory Mashkov, a Russian ambassador-at-large, said US deliveries of MLRS to Ukraine undermined stability as the West moved its weapons closer to Russian borders.

“As for multiple launch rocket systems as weapons as such, then, naturally, this undermines stability,” Mashkov told reporters, adding, “Today I tried to explain to my colleagues [at the meeting of the UN 1540 committee] that everything that is happening in and around Ukraine had been building up for many years.”

“We are not approaching them [Western countries] with our weapons, but they are approaching our borders with their defensive ideas,” he went on to say.

“[There was] a direct threat to Russia’s national interests, this conflict situation arose, which was provoked by all the actions of the West over the past 30 years,” he continued.

According to the ambassador-at-large, Russia wouldn’t like similar situations to emerge in other areas.

“We are trying to ensure the security of our country, global security so that our interests are not infringed upon,” the diplomat continued.

The United States creates new regional alliances getting ready for future conflicts and Russia will counteract this in every way, Mashkov stated.

“Currently, at various regional levels, the US is weaving alliances which have the same focus as everything that’s going on in the world,” the envoy noted.

“The creation of a system of global domination, AUKUS, the American-Japanese, the American-South Korean alliances – all these are regional schemes to resolve their global goals. Look at all the countries that [the US] has allied relations with, they lost their voice. <…> Europeans have done everything to destroy their own regional security,” he explained.

“What [the US] is doing now is, essentially, the preparation for the future conflict situations,” the diplomat said.

“This is the Middle East, the creation of air defense systems, the Asian track, the shaping of alliances against China,” he added.

He emphasized that Russia “will counteract this in every way.”

“We won’t help Americans resolve the issues of establishing world domination. We are protecting our national interests, will defend [them] by diplomatic means,” the ambassador-at-large stated.

Mashkov said the West will sooner or later have to restore the system of European security, but it’s no longer possible on old terms.

“They (Western countries) destroyed the European security system, sooner or later they will have to restore it,” the diplomat stated, adding, “But it’s no longer possible on old terms”.

According to the envoy, when Russia agrees to certain compromises, the West views it as weakness.

“They begin to put pressure. That time has passed,” the diplomat noted.

He pointed out that the West considers itself a winner in the Cold War.

“Essentially, they are establishing a new neocolonial system. They have subjugated Europe, now it’s our turn but we stood up against it,” the envoy said.

“So this is not the issue of a fight between Russia and Ukraine anymore, but the issue of a new global system being formed,” he added.

Persian Gulf Arab states won’t sanction Russia over Ukraine: CCTV

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said that Persian Gulf Arab states would not participate in sanctions against Russia and Belarus, China’s CCTV has reported.

Lavrov’s comments came after a meeting with members of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Persian Gulf (GCC) – Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates – in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on Wednesday.

CCTV reported that Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud said during the talks that the Persian Gulf states shared the same position on the Russia-Ukraine conflict and were very concerned about the impact of the conflict on world food security.

Russian forces making steady gains in Severodonetsk: UK

While Russia has taken most of the key city of Severodonetsk and continues to make steady gains, its forces have sustained losses in the process and risk losing momentum when they switch to focus on taking the neighbouring Donetsk region, the UK’s ministry of defence has said.

In its latest intelligence briefing, the ministry said that the Siverskyy Donetsk River crossing, the sites of which include an area between Severodonetsk and Lysychansk and the recently-captured town of Lyman, still remain under Ukrainian control. Russian forces would need the crossing as they switch to focusing on the Donetsk region after taking Luhansk, the ministry announced.

“It is likely Russia will need at least a short tactical pause to re-set for opposed river crossings and subsequent attacks further into Donetsk Oblast, where Ukrainian forces have prepared defensive positions,” the ministry added.

“To do so risks losing some of the momentum they have built over the last week,” it stated.

OPEC+ working on making up for lower Russian oil output

Oil group OPEC+ is working on compensating for a drop in Russian oil output, Reuters reports two OPEC+ sources having said.

A Persian Gulf OPEC+ source said a decision on the matter was “highly possible” at a meeting on Thursday.

Another OPEC+ source familiar with the Russian position told Reuters Moscow could agree to other producers compensating for its lower output but it may not happen at a Thursday meeting and might not be in full.

Russia’s production has fallen by around 1 million barrels per day in recent months as a result of Western sanctions.

200,000 kids among Ukrainians taken to Russia: Zelensky

President Volodymyr Zelensky has said that 200,000 children are among the Ukrainians who have been forcefully taken to Russia and dispersed across the vast country. They include children from orphanages, children taken with their parents and those separated from their families.

“The purpose of this criminal policy is not just to steal people but to make those who are deported forget about Ukraine and unable to return,” Zelensky stated in his nightly video address to the nation on Wednesday, which was International Children’s Day.

He added Ukraine would punish those responsible but first, it would show Russia on the battlefield that “Ukraine cannot be conquered, that our people will not surrender and our children will not become the property of the occupiers.”

Zelensky noted 243 children have been killed so far in the war, 446 have been wounded and 139 are missing, adding that it could be more as his government doesn’t have a full picture of the situation in areas occupied by Russian troops.

Russia vulnerable to Ukraine’s forces in Kherson: ISW

Russian forces in the now occupied Kherson region are scrambling to secure the vital ground line of communication the Ukrainians have threatened, the Institute for the Study of War (SW) has announced.

The ISW had previously noted that Russia had left vulnerable its position in Kherson as it threw everything behind its attempts to capture the key Luhansk towns of Severodonetsk and Lysychansk.

“Ukrainian forces carried out a series of organised counterattacks targeting settlements on the eastern bank of the Ihulets River that are very close to a key highway supporting Russian forces further north,” the ISW said about the Kherson region. The institute added that the Russians destroyed the bridges Ukrainians had used to hold their line against anticipated counteroffensives.

But “Ukrainian forces are likely still close enough to the highway to disrupt its use as a main supply route, potentially undermining the Russians’ ability to hold against Ukrainian counter-offensives from the north,” the ISW stated.

Russia’s war has led to massive destruction to cultural heritage: Officials

Ukraine’s Culture Ministry has documented 367 war crimes against Ukraine’s cultural heritage, including the destruction of 29 museums, 133 churches, 66 theatres and libraries, and a Jewish cemetery, the Kyiv Independent has reported.

“Russians have the precise aim of destroying our culture as part of our identity, something that distinguishes Ukraine from Russia,” Olha Honchar, co-founder of Ukraine’s Museum Crisis Center told Bloomberg.

“It has become quite clear now for the whole world that Russia bombs museums, archives, and theatres not by accident,” Honchar added.

NATO doesn’t foresee Russia retaliating against US decision to send Ukraine advanced weapons: Chief

NATO does not foresee any Russian retaliation to the decision by the United States to supply advanced weapons to Ukraine, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told CNN on Wednesday.

“No, I don’t foresee that because what NATO allies and NATO is doing is to provide support to Ukraine to uphold the right for self-defense, and this is a right which is enshrined in the UN treaty,” Stoltenberg said.

US President Joe Biden announced on Tuesday the US is providing Ukraine “more advanced rocket systems and munitions” as its war with Russia grinds on.

Writing in a New York Times op-ed, Biden said the US goal is “to see a democratic, independent, sovereign and prosperous Ukraine with the means to deter and defend itself against further aggression.”

He stated the new shipment of arms would “enable them to more precisely strike key targets on the battlefield in Ukraine.”

Stoltenberg held a news conference alongside US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Washington, DC, on Wednesday and is set to meet with Biden at the White House on Thursday.

Ukrainian official says about 80% of Severodonetsk is occupied by Russian forces

Serhiy Hayday, the head of Luhansk’s regional military administration, says street fighting continues in the eastern city of Severodonetsk but Russian forces now occupy about 80% of the city.

“On some streets, our defenders are successful,” Hayday said. Six Russian soldiers have been captured, he added.

Hayday said the remaining parts of Luhansk region still under Ukrainian control were under constant shelling but local volunteers had gotten trucks with humanitarian cargoes to many settlements and also evacuated people.

The Ukrainian official noted the neighboring city of Lysychansk “is under Ukrainian control. This is a militarily advantageous position. The location of the city on a hill gives many opportunities. The city’s defense is strong.”

Hayday added that heavy fighting continued in settlements to the south and west of Severodonetsk as Russian forces try to encircle the Ukrainian defenses.

“Despite the simply constant, daily shelling, it is still possible to bring humanitarian supplies both to the Hirske community and to Lysychansk,” Hayday continued.

Denmark looks set to join EU defence policy

Denmark will join the European Union’s defence policy after a referendum, public broadcaster DR has projected.

Preliminary results by DR showed that 66.6 percent of voters were in favour of removing an opt-out to the EU’s so-called Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP). Denmark is the only EU member that is not part of the policy after the country secured several exemptions in a 1993 referendum.

“It is a completely new approach to Europe, that we are signalling to our European allies, to the whole world,” said former foreign minister and member of the Social Liberal Party, Martin Lidegaard.

“It can hardly be overestimated, the importance it has on our foreign and European policy,” Lidegaard added.

UK will give Ukraine rocket systems capable of hitting targets about 50 miles away: Defense secretary

The United Kingdom will send multiple-launch rocket systems to Ukraine to help defend itself against Russia, British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said on Wednesday.

Britain will send M270 launchers able to strike targets up to 80 kilometers (49.7 miles) away, offering “a significant boost in capability for the Ukrainian forces,” according to a statement from the British Foreign Office.

The move has been “coordinated closely” with the United States decision to provide Ukraine with its High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) – a variant of the multiple-launch rocket systems that will be gifted by the UK, the statement added.

“The UK stands with Ukraine and has taken a leading role in supplying its heroic troops with the vital weapons they need to defend their country,” Wallace stated.

“As Russian’s tactics change, so must our support to Ukraine. These highly capable multiple-launch rocket systems will enable our Ukrainian friends to better protect themselves against Russia’s brutal use of long-range artillery, which Putin’s forces have used indiscriminately to flatten cities,” he added.

The British government also announced that Ukrainian troops will be trained on how to use the launchers in the UK, so the effectiveness of the launchers can be maximized.

US to send medium-range rocket systems to Ukraine

The Pentagon has announced that the US will send Ukraine four sophisticated, medium-range rocket systems and ammunition to help try to stall Russian progress in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region.

But it will take at least three weeks to get the precision weapons and trained troops onto the battlefield, said Colin Kahl, the US defence undersecretary for policy.

“It is a grinding fight,” Kahl said during a Pentagon briefing. “We believe that these additional capabilities will arrive in a timeframe that’s relevant and allow the Ukrainians to very precisely target the types of things they need for the current fight.”

Interpol fears weapons delivery to Ukraine will end up on black market

Interpol has expressed serious concern about the delivery of small and heavy weapons to Ukraine that can end up in the hands of criminals in Europe.

Agency head Jurgen Stock urged countries supplying military equipment to Kyiv to focus on tracing mechanisms.

“The wide availability of weapons during the current conflict will lead to the proliferation of illicit weapons in the post-conflict phase,” he told the Anglo-American Press Association in Paris, as reported by Le Figaro news.

Stock feared the pilferage of arms and armaments by criminals in the EU’s black market as prices of guns are higher there. Several European countries, including France and Germany, along with the US, have delivered high-end defence equipment, artillery munitions, and guns to help Ukraine defend its territory and fight Russian forces.

US plans to sell armed drones to Ukraine in coming days

The Joe Biden administration plans to sell Ukraine four MQ-1C Gray Eagle drones that can be armed with Hellfire missiles for battlefield use against Russia, three people familiar with the situation said.

The sale of the General Atomics-made drones could still be blocked by Congress, the sources said, adding that there is also a risk of a last-minute policy reversal that could scuttle the plan, which has been under review at the Pentagon for several weeks.

Ukraine has been using several types of smaller shorter range unmanned aerial systems against Russian forces that invaded the country in late February. They include the AeroVironment RQ-20 Puma AE, and the Turkish Bayraktar-TB2.

But the Gray Eagle represents a leap in technology because it can fly up to 30 or more hours depending on its mission. It can also gather huge amounts of data for intelligence purposes. Gray Eagles, the Army’s version of the more widely known Predator drone, can also carry up to eight powerful Hellfire missiles.

Russia seeks to ‘minimise’ effects of EU oil ban, gas exports down

Russia announced it was moving to limit the damage from a European Union oil ban as its other key energy export, gas, has fallen after President Vladimir Putin sent troops to Ukraine.

“Sanctions will have a negative effect for Europe, us, and the whole global energy market,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

“These are purposeful, systematic actions that will allow us to minimise the negative consequences,” he said, adding that a “reorientation” was under way to find alternatives for the oil that will no longer be sold to Europe.

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