Saturday, May 18, 2024

Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 73: Ukraine says Russian warship destroyed in drone strikes

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:

No ‘practical evidence’ Russia plans to use tactical nukes: CIA

The US Central Intelligence Agency sees no indications that Russia is preparing to deploy tactical nuclear weapons in the Ukraine war, CIA director Bill Burns said Saturday.

“We don’t see, as an intelligence community, practical evidence at this point of Russian planning for the deployment or even potential use of tactical nuclear weapons,” Burns stated.

“Given the kind of saber rattling that … we’ve heard from the Russian leadership, we can’t take lightly those possibilities,” Burns told a conference hosted by the Financial Times.

“So we stay very sharply focused as an intelligence service … on those possibilities at a moment when the stakes are very high for Russia,” he added.

Burns stated Russian President Vladimir Putin believes doubling down on the military conflict in Ukraine will improve his outcome in the war.

“He’s in a frame of mind in which he doesn’t believe he can afford to lose,” he continued, adding, “I think he’s convinced right now that doubling down still will enable him to make progress.”

Burns said that Beijing is closely monitoring Russia’s conflict in Ukraine and that it is affecting China’s calculations over Taiwan.

Burns noted Chinese government leadership has been struck by Ukraine’s fierce resistance to Russia’s invasion and by the economic costs Russia is bearing.

“These are things that they’re weighing very carefully,” Burns continued.

Ukraine: ‘All women, children and elderly’ evacuated from Mariupol steel mill

Ukraine has announced that all women, children and elderly civilians have been evacuated from the Azovstal steel plant in the destroyed port city of Mariupol where Ukrainian forces are holding out against Russian troops.

“The President’s order has been carried out: all women, children and the elderly have been evacuated from Azovstal. This part of the Mariupol humanitarian mission has been completed,” Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk stated.

6 Russian cruise missiles fired at Odesa: Ukrainian military

Russia fired six cruise missiles at the southern port city of Odesa Saturday, according to Ukraine’s Security and Defense Force South.

“The enemy continues not only the physical destruction of the region’s infrastructure, but also the psychological pressure on the civilian population,” said the Ukrainian military’s Operational Command (South),” it said.

It added there were no casualties.

NATO chief: Russia’s nuclear forces show no sign of enhanced readiness

There are no indications that Russia put its nuclear forces on high alert despite “reckless” rhetoric, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told German media on Saturday.
“No, we have no indication of it,” Stoltenberg told Die Welt newspaper when asked if Russian nuclear forces seem switched to a higher level of readiness.
The Secretary General noted that NATO has not seen any changes in Russia’s nuclear strategy since the beginning of the military operation in Ukraine, nevertheless blaming Moscow for adopting abrasive discourse on nuclear weapons.

“We hear the threatening nuclear rhetoric of the Russian leadership. This is irresponsible and reckless. A nuclear war cannot be won, and it should never be fought; the same applies to Russia,” Stoltenberg added.

Ukrainian military claims drone strikes destroyed Russian warship near Snake Island

Ukraine claimed it has destroyed another Russian warship near the Black Sea’s Snake Island.

Ukraine’s defence ministry announced in a statement an armed drone had destroyed a Serna-class landing craft and a missile defence system at the small island under Russian control.

It released grainy over-head footage on social media showing in black and white what appeared to be an explosion over a light craft with debris spilling outwards.

Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 73: Ukraine says Russian warship destroyed in drone strikes

Blinken: Putin trying to twist history to justify war

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said President Vladimir Putin is trying to “twist history” amid the commemoration of the end of World War II “to justify his unprovoked and brutal war against Ukraine”.

“As war again rages in Europe, we must increase our resolve to resist those who now seek to manipulate historical memory in order to advance their own ambitions,” Blinken stated in a statement on the 77th anniversary of the victory over the Nazis.

Zelensky meets with cabinet on economic issues

President Volodymyr Zelensky has met with cabinet members to discuss the country’s economy. He spoke about the fuel shortage that has hit Ukraine since the Russian invasion.

Queues at gas stations and rising fuel prices have been seen across the country.

Ukraine’s Minister for Economic Development and Trade, Yulia Svyrydenko, said the Russian blockade of Ukrainian ports has impacted Ukraine’s fuel supply and called for a “green corridor to Ukraine” through the affected ports.

Missiles hit Ukraine’s coastal city Odesa

Several missiles hit the southern Ukrainian port city of Odesa, the regional administration’s spokesman Serhiy Bratchuk stated in televised remarks.

Bratchuk added the strikes hit the city after targets in the surrounding Odesa region had been hit by four missiles earlier in the day.

He did not give further detail about the new strikes, saying that the facts were still being established.

Russia missile destroys heritage museum in Kharkiv

A Russian missile has destroyed a Ukrainian museum dedicated to the life and work of an 18th-century philosopher, the local council announced.

Ukrainian emergency services shared photographs of the Gregory Skovoroda museum engulfed in flames.

As an indication of his importance to Ukraine’s cultural heritage, Skovoroda’s likeness adorns a Ukrainian banknote.

The museum in Skovorodynivka lies near the Russian border in the Kharkiv region where fighting has been fierce.

Macron vows to “help democracy and courage” prevail in Ukraine during inauguration

French President Emmanuel Macron spoke about the war in Ukraine during his inauguration on Saturday, saying France needs to “act to avoid” any escalation in the conflict, and vowing to “help democracy and courage” prevail.

The French leader told his country that by re-electing him as President, France had chosen “a project of independence in a destabilized world.”

“Where many peoples have chosen withdrawal, sometimes giving in to nationalist temptation, to nostalgia for the past, to the sirens of ideologies whose shores we thought we had left in the previous century, the French people have made the choice of a clear and explicit project for the future. A republican and European project,” Macron added.

Two Russian missiles hit border villages in northern Ukraine

Air-launched Russian missiles hit two locations near the Russian border in Ukraine’s northern Sumy region on Saturday, local governor Dmytro Zhyvytskyi claimed.

A border guard was wounded by the strikes on the Myropilske and Khotin municipalities, Zhyvytskyi wrote in a post on the Telegram messaging app.

Russian forces fully withdrew from Sumy region in early April after advancing into parts of the region at the start of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

50 more people evacuated from Azovstal steelworks

The territorial defence headquarters of the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) announced that 50 more people had been evacuated from the besieged Azovstal steelworks in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol, according to Russia’s Interfax news agency.

Around 50 civilians had been evacuated on Friday to a reception centre in nearby Bezimenne, in the separatist DPR, whose forces are fighting alongside Russian troops to expand their control of large parts of eastern Ukraine.

Scores of civilians have been trapped for weeks alongside the remaining Ukrainian forces holding out in the bombed-out plant.

Analyst: Russia can’t boast of win in Ukraine on natl. Victory Day

An Iranian political analyst plays down the speculation that Russia may be set to declare a “victory” in war with Ukraine on May 9, when it celebrates its Victory Day, given the fact that Moscow has failed to take control of Kiev in the course of its campaign.

In an interview with ILNA, Ali Bigdeli elaborated on the historical significance of Victory Day, when Russia marks the ex-Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany.

Fresh attacks on Russian-backed region of Transnistria

Transnistria, a breakaway Russian-backed territory in Moldova bordering on Ukraine, said there have been renewed attacks on its territory.

There were several explosions in the village of Voronkovo near the Ukrainian border during the night, the Interfax news agency reported, citing the region’s interior ministry.

“At least two drones flew over the military garrison in Voronkovo, four explosions were heard,” the ministry announced, adding that there had been no deaths or injuries.

The region has been rocked by attacks several times in recent weeks.

Ukraine claims Russians blew up bridges to prevent counter-attacks

For the first time, the Ukrainian military has claimed that Russian forces have begun to blow up bridges to slow a Ukrainian counter offensive in the northeast.

In its latest operational update, the General Staff announced Saturday that in the area of Tsyrkuny and Rusky Tyshky east of Kharkiv, “the occupiers blew up three road bridges in order to slow down the counter-offensive actions of the Defense Forces.”

In the past two weeks, Ukrainian troops have retaken a number of villages to the north and east of Kharkiv, making it more difficult for Russians to use artillery against the city as well as threatening to interdict Russian supply lines for forces fighting in Donetsk and Luhansk.

Kharkiv is close to the Russian border, and was one of the first cities to come under attack when Russia invaded.

The General Staff said for the second consecutive day that there had been few offensive actions by Russian forces, but that artillery fire and aerial reconnaissance continued.

Some Ukrainian officials believe Russian units are pausing before launching the next phase aimed at securing all of Donetsk and Luhansk.

Beyond these two regions, the General Staff added, the Russians have continued to shell the southern city of Mykolaiv. To the north of the city, Ukrainians claimed to have destroyed “a warehouse with ammunition and up to 20 units of enemy military equipment.”

Tensions are rising ahead of May 9, known as Russia’s “Victory Day” — marking Moscow’s victory over Nazi Germany. Western officials have warned that Russian President Vladimir Putin could formally declare war on that day, allowing him to mobilize reserves and ramp up the Russian assault.

In the lead-up to the day, Russian forces occupying the Ukrainian region of Kherson have increased checkpoints and patrols, the Ukrainian General Staff announced.

The Russian-appointed deputy head of the Kherson military administration, Kirill Stremousov, stated on Friday that residents would be allowed to have Russian passports. Also on Friday, a senior Russian official was in the region with the leader of the self-styled Donetsk People’s Republic.

Russia claims it destroyed US and European equipment in Kharkiv region

Russia’s defence ministry said it had destroyed a large stockpile of military equipment from the United States and European countries near the Bohodukhiv railway station in Ukraine’s Kharkiv region.

The ministry added it had hit 18 Ukrainian military facilities overnight, including three ammunition depots in Dachne, near the port city of Odesa.

Ukraine conflict taking heavy toll on Russia’s most capable units: UK

The conflict in Ukraine is taking a heavy toll on some of Russia’s most capable units and most advanced capabilities, the British ministry of defence tweeted.

At least one T-90M, Russia’s most advanced tank, has been destroyed in the fighting, the ministry said.

Approximately 100 T-90M tanks are in service amongst Russia’s best equipped units, including those fighting in Ukraine, it added.

WHO chief arrives in Ukraine on working visit

Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO) Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has arrived in Ukraine on a working visit, he wrote on his Twitter page on Friday.

During his visit, the WHO chief is planning to hold a meeting with the organization’s Ukrainian employees.

Kyiv mayor warns citizens to be alert on Russia Victory Day

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko is urging citizens to stay inside from Sunday into Monday around Russia’s annual Victory Day as Western officials have warned Russian President Vladimir Putin could formally declare war on Ukraine on May 9, a symbolic day for Russia, paving the way for Putin to step up his campaign.

Though the mayor is not formally imposing a curfew, events will not be held during that time, according to posts on his social media. He said there will be enhanced patrolling in the city.

“If anyone would like to go lay flowers, they can do so in private … Pay attention and follow wartime security rules,” Klitschko stated.

“I also ask you not to ignore the air alarm signals and immediately take cover. In the coming days, there is a high likelihood of missile shelling in all regions of Ukraine. Be aware and take care of your own safety!” Klitschko warned.

UN World Food Programme calls for reopening of Odesa ports to help rein in global hunger crisis

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) has called for the reopening of ports in the southern Ukrainian city of Odesa to help rein in the global hunger crisis.

The ports in Odesa and other Ukrainian Black Sea ports have been blocked because of the war, leaving millions of metric tons of grain sitting in silos.

Ukraine is a major breadbasket for countries in the Middle East and North Africa that depend on imports; in the eight months before the war began, almost 51 million metric tons of grain transited through Ukraine’s Black Sea ports, said the WFP in a news release on Friday.

If the ports don’t reopen, “mountains of grain” will go to waste, while “WFP and the world struggle to deal with an already catastrophic global hunger crisis,” added the release.

“Right now, Ukraine’s grain silos are full. At the same time, 44 million people around the world are marching towards starvation. We have to open up these ports so that food can move in and out of Ukraine. The world demands it because hundreds of millions of people globally depend on these supplies,” stated WFP Executive Director David Beasley.

At the start of 2022, 276 million people were already facing acute hunger. That number is expected to rise by another 47 million people if the war in Ukraine continues, according to the agency’s analysis.

The United States and Europe will feel the pain, too, with increasing prices for important agricultural goods.

Chinese tech firms pull out of Russia: Report

Chinese tech firms are leaving Russia amid crippling sanctions the international community has put on the region, people familiar with the issue told The Wall Street Journal.

Tech companies such as Lenovo Group Ltd. and Xiaomi Corp. are restricting shipments to Russia as sanctions have made it difficult to operate financially in the country, sources told the outlet.

A number of Chinese companies have avoided publicly announcing why they are pulling business from Russia after the Chinese government announced businesses had to fight against Western sanctions.

China’s Ministry of Commerce told companies in April “not to submit to external coercion and make improper external statements,” according to the Journal.

After Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, there was an exodus of Western companies who were condemning Russia’s attack.

Fresh US military aid package worth $150m: Official

The newest US military aid package to Ukraine, announced by Biden on Friday, is worth $150m, a US official has said.

The official added the latest tranche of assistance includes 25,000 155mm artillery rounds, as well as counter-artillery radars, jamming equipment, field equipment and spare parts.

Ukraine warns of ‘saboteurs’ ahead of Russia’s Victory Day

A top official from Ukraine’s interior ministry has warned against “the activation of saboteurs and other criminal elements” in the lead-up to Russia’s Victory Day on Monday.

Speaking to Ukraine’s state-run Ukrinform agency, first deputy interior minister Yevhen Yenin said authorities were carrying out “special operations” in a number of Ukrainian cities to “prevent possible provocations”.

“We receive information about the potential shelling of peaceful territories, and therefore I appeal to every Ukrainian, especially these days, not to ignore air raid sirens,” he added.

Ukraine wheat production set to drop by third: Satellite imagery analysis

Ukraine’s wheat production is likely to be down by at least a third from last year due to the Russian invasion, a data analysis firm that uses satellite imagery has said.

Ukraine is a major producer and exporter of wheat, but the war has disrupted faming in the country.

The French firm Kayrros announced near-infrared and infrared imagery allows it to determine crop coverage and accurately predict wheat production.

“Production this year is expected to be at least 35 percent lower than last year,” an analysis of the latest data showed, Kayrros added.

UN chief welcomes Security Council statement

UN chief António Guterres has welcomed the Security Council statement that backed his efforts to find a peaceful solution to the conflict in Ukraine.

“Today, for the first time, the Security Council spoke with one voice for peace in Ukraine,” Guterres said in a statement.

“The world must come together to silence the guns and uphold the values of the UN Charter,” he added.

Guterres recently visited Moscow and Kyiv in a push for humanitarian corridors to allow civilians to evacuate areas facing heavy fighting.

Diplomatic efforts underway to save Azovstal fighters: Zelensky

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy stated diplomatic efforts are underway in order to save the Ukrainian soldiers defending the vast Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol.

“Influential intermediaries are involved, influential states,” Zelensky noted in his nightly video address.

He did not go into detail.

ISW talks of ‘widespread civilian resistance’ in Mariupol

The Institute for the Study of War has given its latest assessment of the situation on the ground in Ukraine.

It says it can’t confirm any specific Russian advances on the assault on the Azovstal steel plant but on the city of Mariupol adds: “Likely widespread civilian resistance to the Russian occupation may additionally disrupt previously announced Russian plans to conduct a Victory Day exhibition in Mariupol.”

UN Security Council adopts first statement supporting peaceful solution in Ukraine

The United Nations Security Council has adopted its first statement supporting the UN chief’s efforts to find a peaceful solution to the Ukraine “dispute”.

The UN Security Council, including Russia, has expressed “deep concern regarding the maintenance of peace and security of Ukraine” and backed efforts by the UN chief to find a peaceful solution in the body’s first statement since Moscow’s invasion.

Security Council statements are agreed by consensus. The brief text adopted on Friday was drafted by Norway and Mexico.

“The Security Council expresses deep concern regarding the maintenance of peace and security of Ukraine,” it says.

“The Security Council recalls that all Member States have undertaken, under the Charter of the United Nations, the obligation to settle their international disputes by peaceful means,” it adds.

“The Security Council expresses strong support for the efforts of the Secretary-General in the search for a peaceful solution,” reads the statement, which also requests UN chief Antonio Guterres brief the council again “in due course.”

Biden announces fresh security aid to Ukraine

US President Joe Biden has announced new security aid to Ukraine.

“I am announcing another package of security assistance that will provide additional artillery munitions, radars, and other equipment to Ukraine,” Biden said in a statement without specifying the amount of the aid.

“US support, together with the contributions of our Allies and partners, has been critical in helping Ukraine win the battle of Kyiv and hinder Putin’s war aims in Ukraine,” he added.

US provided $3.8bn in military aid to Ukraine since invasion began: Blinken

With the latest $150m US security aid package to Ukraine, Washington’s military assistance to Kyiv since the Russian invasion began has reached around $3.8bn, Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said.

“This brings total US security assistance to Ukraine to approximately $3.8 billion in arms and equipment since Russia launched its brutal and unprovoked full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24,” Blinken announced in a statement announcing the additional aid.

“We will continue to provide Ukraine the arms its forces are effectively using to defend their country and the freedom of their fellow citizens,” he added.

Ukraine official says 50 people evacuated from Azovstal plant

Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk has said 50 women, children and elderly people were evacuated from the Azovstal steel works in Mariupol and accused Russia of constantly violating a local ceasefire.

“Therefore the evacuation was extremely slow … tomorrow morning we will continue the evacuation operation,” she added.

Russian foreign ministry summons UK ambassador over media sanctions

The Russian foreign ministry has said it had summoned Deborah Bronnert, the UK’s ambassador to Russia, and strongly protested in relation to new UK sanctions on Russian media.

The ministry announced in a statement Moscow would continue to react “harshly and decisively” to all sanctions imposed by London.

The UK imposed sanctions on individual journalists and media organisations earlier in May in its latest wave of measures designed to increase pressure on Moscow to stop what it calls “a special military operation” in Ukraine.

Hit by Ukraine conflict, Africa faces ‘unprecedented’ crisis: UN

Africa faces an “unprecedented” crisis caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, particularly with soaring food and fuel prices, United Nations officials has said.

The conflict and Western sanctions on Moscow are disrupting supplies of wheat, fertiliser and other goods, compounding difficulties facing Africa from climate change and the coronavirus pandemic.

“This is an unprecedented crisis for the continent,” UNDP Africa chief economist Raymond Gilpin told a press conference in Geneva.

Gilpin, who spoke by video conference from New York, stated there were risks from a widespread surge in inflation, particularly in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Sierra Leone.

“We are seeing a reduction of GDP growth on the continent, supposed to rise slightly this year after COVID-19,” he added.

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