Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 113: European leaders arrive in Ukraine

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 says Ukraine is getting as much military aid “we can send as fast as we can send it”

The Joe Biden administration will continue to provide significant military assistance to Ukraine “as fast as we can send it” for as its long as is necessary until Russia stops combat, National Security Council coordinator for strategic communication and retired Rear Admiral John Kirby told CNN on Thursday.

“They’re getting as much as we can send as fast as we can send it,” Kirby said, pointing to Biden’s conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Defense Sec. Lloyd Austin’s meeting with counterparts in Brussels earlier this week.

“So, we’re working this very, very hard,” he stated, adding that assistance is getting in “at record speed” and the US is in “constant conversation” with Ukraine.

Russian President Vladimir Putin “has shown no inclination of stopping the combat” and negotiating in good faith, and until then, “We’re going to be committed to helping Ukraine’s armed forces defend themselves and try to take back the territory, particularly in the east, in the south, that they’re trying to take back now,” he continued.

Kirby reiterated that the conflict with Russia “could be a prolonged effort” but said additional aid from Congress is not necessary at this stage.

“We’re not at a point right now where we believe, you know, we need to plan for another supplemental package. We’ve only just begun spending and producing off the supplemental package that they just approved,” he added.

Kirby had no update on the two missing Americans that have been fighting alongside Ukrainian forces.

“We just are not in a position to confirm their whereabouts. Obviously, our thoughts are with the families who I’m sure are going through just this terrible anguish right now. But we’re not able to confirm what might have happened to these individuals,” he said.

He stressed that Americans should not travel to Ukraine.

“It is a useful reminder though, and we’ve been saying this for months: this is not the time to go to Ukraine, however altruistic one might be wanting to help Ukraine on the battlefield. This is not the time for American citizens to travel there.Stay away from Ukraine, it is an active war zone. And if you’re in Ukraine as an American, please leave immediately,” Kirby added.

He instead encouraged people to support Ukraine through other ways, including contributing to organizations like the Red Cross.

Zelensky: More weapons we get, faster Ukraine can free its land

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Russia’s invasion amounted to aggression against all of Europe and that the more weapons Ukraine receives from the West, the faster it will be able to liberate its occupied land.

Speaking at a news conference in Kyiv, the Ukrainian leader stated he had discussed further sanctions against Russia and post-war reconstruction at talks with the leaders of France, Germany, Italy and Romania today.

UN rights chief: Mariupol ‘horrors’ will leave ‘indelible mark’

The extent of death and destruction in Ukraine’s devastated port city Mariupol suggests serious international law violations, the UN rights chief said, warning the horrors there would mark future generations.

“The horrors inflicted on the civilian population will leave their indelible mark, including on generations to come,” Michelle Bachelet told the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

She pointed to the “parents who had to bury their own children, on people who witnessed their friends commit suicide, on families ripped apart, on all those who had to leave a much-loved city with uncertain prospects of ever seeing it again”.

PM: Italy wants to see Ukraine as part of EU

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi said the main message of his talks in Kyiv with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and the leaders of France and Germany was that Italy wants to see Ukraine as a part of the European Union.

Speaking at a joint news conference in the Ukrainian capital, Draghi stated he fully supported investigations into alleged war crimes in Ukraine.

“I want to say today that the most important message of my visit is that Italy wants Ukraine in the European Union. And it wants Ukraine to have candidate status and will support this position at the next European Council,” he added.

Macron says European leaders are supportive of Ukraine gaining “immediate” candidate status to join EU

French President Emmanuel Macron told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that France, Italy, Germany and Romania support the candidacy of Ukraine for membership in the European Union, during an official visit of the four leaders in the country on Thursday.

“All four of us [France, Germany, Italy and Romania] support the status of immediate candidacy for membership. This status will be accompanied by a roadmap and will also imply that the situation of the Western Balkans and of the neighborhood, particularly of Moldova, is taken into account,” Macron told Zelensky.

“Europe is by your side, it will remain so as long as necessary, until the victory is achieved, a victory which will see the return of peace in a free and independent Ukraine,” Macron added.

Macron also said the current global food crisis was a “direct consequence of the war waged by Russia,” and he called on Russia “to accept that the United Nations organize the export of cereals, which requires the lifting of the Russian blockade and provide all security guarantees for Ukraine to allow the exit of these cereals on Ukrainian ports.”

German chancellor: “Ukraine belongs to European family”

Germany is in favor of a positive decision for Ukraine’s candidacy to the European Union, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said, adding that Ukraine “belongs to the European family.”

“My colleagues and I have come here to Kyiv today with a clear message: Ukraine belongs to the European family. One milestone on what is likely to be a long European road is the status of an accession candidate. The member states of the European Union will be discussing this in the next few days. We know that unanimity is needed among the 27 EU countries,” Scholz stated during a joint news conference in Kyiv with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and his fellow travelers French President Emmanuel Macron, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi and Romanian President Klaus Iohannis.

“Germany is in favor of a positive decision for Ukraine, including for the Republic of Moldova,” Scholz said.

He added that all candidates had to fulfill ascension criteria concerning democracy and constitutional law.

“We also support Ukraine by supplying weapons, and we will continue to do so for as long as Ukraine needs our support. We are currently training the Ukrainian military in state-of-the-art weapons, the self-propelled Howitzer 2000 and the Gepard anti-aircraft tank. In addition, I have agreed to supply the modern Iris-T air defense system, which can defend an entire city against air attacks, and the special radar,” Scholz said.

“We want to help ensure that Russia abandons its undertaking,” he added

Earlier today, German defense minister Christine Lambrecht announced the delivery of three German rocket launchers to Ukraine end of July or beginning of August. Training for Ukrainian soldiers could start in June the minister said upon arrival to a NATO-meeting in Brussels on Thursday.

Deployment of heavy weapons is “key” for Ukraine: British defense secretary

UK Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said that Russia is “in a very difficult place” and Ukrainian success could depend on how quickly it deploys heavier weapons to the frontline for a counteroffensive as opposed to a counterattack.

Speaking to CNN’s Oren Liebermann during the NATO Defense Ministers meeting in Brussels, Wallace stated, “I think Russia, we’re going to discover, is in a very, very difficult place, certainly in its depth of its reserves and its morale and that will make every meter they fight for even harder. And at the same time, we’re now going to see some of these heavier weapons coming into the hands of Ukraine delivered into the country and that will again change the balance.”

Wallace added that Russia will be “desperately trying to find some form of victory no matter how small to make its morale feel a bit better,” but was not confident for how long Russia can sustain this offensive.

“Russia has been in the field for months; remember, they were predominantly deployed three months before the invasion. No army is designed to be [a] conscript army out in the field that way, badly equipped, suffering huge losses,” he said.

“I think the key here is how quickly will Ukraine deploy some of these heavier weapons and how quickly will they mount a counteroffensive as opposed to just counterattacks and how successful that’d be. That’s why the West is very keen to help with their training and make sure that they apply those weapons in a way that makes that difference,” Wallace added.

He praised Ukraine’s determination, saying he is “cautiously optimistic” that with “that home advantage with the moral component with the fact the international community is absolutely determined to support them, Ukraine will start to push back in small ways Russia and make Russia have even more problems in its army.”

Asked on whether he worries the economic hardship cause by the war could shift public opinion against Ukraine and wear away NATO support, Wallace admitted that there is a cost-of-living crisis across Europe but said that “Russia has chosen to use food, use fuel as a weapon” and that “a lot of people’s day-to-day problems they’re facing is actually driven by Russia.”

“All governments have to manage public opinion and explain to their public why things are being done in their name,” he added.

NATO’s military assistance to Ukraine not a provocation, but support for independent state: Chief

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Thursday that NATO’s military assistance for Ukraine is not “a provocation” but rather support for an independent state.

When asked to comment on remarks by Pope Francis published earlier this week that the war in Ukraine “was perhaps in some way either provoked or not prevented,” Stoltenberg stated that NATO is a defensive alliance and the war is President [Vladimir] Putin’s war.”

“This is a war that he has decided to conduct against an independent sovereign nation, and what NATO has been doing for many years is to support a sovereign independent nation in Europe — Ukraine,” Stoltenberg noted at a press conference in Brussels after a meeting with defense ministers.

“This is not a provocation, and that is what we continue to do,” he continued.

“It is President Putin and Moscow that is responsible for this brutal aggression against an independent country,” he added.

On Tuesday, Italian newspaper La Stampa published the Pope’s remarks, in which he said “we do not see the whole drama that is unfolding behind this war, which was perhaps in some way either provoked or not prevented.”

National security adviser says US has been in talks with Ukraine about “negotiated outcome” with Russia

US national security adviser Jake Sullivan said on Thursday that the United States has purposefully “refrained from laying out what we see as an end game” for the war in Ukraine and will “not be pressuring [Ukraine] to make territorial concessions” to Russia, but noted that the US has been in talks with Ukraine about what a settlement could look like.

In the discussion with the Center for a New American Security, Sullivan stated that the US will continue “to support and consult” with Ukraine “about how they want to approach a negotiated outcome with the Russians.”

“And for the time being, supporting them in that means supporting them through the steady provision of weapons and intelligence” in order to strengthen the country’s hand at the negotiating table, he added.

Asked about the apparent discrepancy between how many HIMARS (High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems) the US had provided to Ukraine versus how many Ukraine has asked for, Sullivan said, “It’s the Ukrainians’ job to ask for as many as they can possibly get their hands on, and it’s our job to deliver them to the extent that we feel there are trained personnel and capacity to actually put those to use in an effective way.”

A senior adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky stated earlier this week that Ukraine needs around 300 of the systems, but the US has only provided four so far.

“These are highly sophisticated systems that require real training,” Sullivan continued, adding, “We’ve trained an initial cadre of Ukrainians to be able to use them. But as you increase the number of systems, you obviously have to increase the number of personnel being prepared to use them. So that will be a process that unfolds over the course of the coming weeks and months.”

Ukraine gives EU leaders sanctions proposals against Russia

The head of Ukraine’s president’s office says his country has handed over sanctions proposals against Russia at a meeting in Kyiv between President Volodymyr Zelensky and the visiting leaders of several European nations.

“We must increase pressure on the aggressor, work on a seventh package of sanctions with a gas embargo,” Andriy Yermak wrote on Telegram.

US defence chief ‘deeply proud’ of NATO progress

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has said meetings with NATO’s defence ministers were highly productive, and took pride in the progress since the Russian invasion.

“As you look back at what’s happened since the 24th of February, members of the alliance have really stepped up. We rapidly deployed capability to the eastern flank in order to reassure our allies that we’re ready to defend every inch of NATO’s territory”, Austin stated.

Russia bans over 100 Australians including journalists

Russia said on Thursday that it had banned 121 Australian citizens, including top journalists and defence officials, from entering, accusing them of being part of a “Russophobic agenda”.

Among the sanctioned individuals were journalists from Australia’s ABC News, Sydney Morning Herald, Sky News and Nine Network, as well as businesspeople and various defence officials.

Peter Malinauskas, the premier of South Australia, mining magnate Gina Rinehart and armed forces chief General Angus Campbell were all included on the list, as were prominent TV personalities Liz Hayes, Stan Grant and Andrew Bolt.

ICC prosecutor aims to show war criminals cannot escape justice

The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court has stated he hopes his war crimes investigation in Ukraine would show there can be no escape from justice during conflicts.

Visiting Ukraine as part of the investigation into alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity since the war started, ICC Chief Prosecutor Karim Khan described the country as a crime scene.

He added his team had gathered evidence of many alleged crimes, including sexual offences, crimes against children, torture and mistreatment of prisoners, but gave no details.

Scholz says Zelensky to take part in G7 summit

President Volodymyr Zelensky will take part in this month’s Group of Seven summit, the German chancellor has said on Twitter.

Olaf Scholz thanked the Ukrainian leader for “accepting my invitation to participate in the G7 summit” being held from June 26 to 28 in the German Alpine resort of Schloss Elmau.

Zelensky, who is not believed to have left Ukraine since the start of the war, was expected to join the leaders by video link.

Russia says ready for peace talks, blames Ukraine for stalling

Moscow is ready to restart peace talks with Ukraine but has yet to receive a response to its latest proposals, Interfax news agency cited Russia’s chief negotiator as saying.

Vladimir Medinsky stated that Kyiv was to blame for the lack of progress.

Since intermittent talks between the two sides were held in March, including a high-profile meeting of delegations in Istanbul, negotiations between Russia and Ukraine have stalled.

Kremlin: Western arms ‘useless’

The Kremlin warns against new Western weapons supplies, saying it would be “absolutely useless”.

“I would like to hope that the leaders of these three states and the President of Romania will not only focus on supporting Ukraine by further pumping Ukraine with weapons,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov stated, adding that it would be “absolutely useless and will cause further damage to the country”.

Former Russian leader derides EU leaders’ visit

Russia’s former President Dmitry Medvedev has mocked three European heads of state visiting Ukraine.

“European fans of frogs, liverwurst and spaghetti love visiting Kiev. With zero use,” he said on Twitter, referring to three stereotype linked to France, Germany and Italy.

Medvedev was president of Russia from 2008-2012 and is currently deputy chair of the National Security Council.

The leaders’ trip would have “zero use,” he wrote. They “promised EU membership and old howitzers to Ukraine, lushed up on gorilka [Ukrainian alcoholic drink] and went home by train, like 100 years ago.”

“Yet, it won’t bring Ukraine closer to peace. The clock’s ticking,” he added.

European leaders meet Zelensky

The leaders of Italy, France, Germany and Rumania sit at the for a face-to-face talk with Prsident Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Images showed the four leaders in business suits sat around a wooden table with the Ukrainian leader in his customary khaki T-shirt.

Kremlin: West hurting itself with anti-Russia sanctions

The US is taking hostile actions against Russia that are worse than what it did during the Cold War, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has determined.

However, it is hurting itself in the process and will ultimately have to acknowledge Moscow’s legitimate interests, he said, during an interview with Russian media on Thursday.

“We are not even close to the culmination of the crisis,” Peskov told news agency RIA Novosti, explaining the economic damage stemming from West-Russia confrontation.

“Or rather they have not. We are in a more stable state thanks to macroeconomic measures taken by the government,” he added.

Peskov has assessed that the current amount of pressure against Russia is unprecedented. Nothing of the kind was done “even during the Cold War” or to any other nation on Earth he said. The US and its allies seek to “strangle” Russia with their restrictions, he added.

The anti-Russian sanctions are “obviously creating problems for us, but in the long run they will cause problems just as serious for the nations who adopt those sanctions,” the official predicted.

Europeans have felt it more than the Americans did so far, but the economic burden of antagonizing Russia will increase for all of them, Peskov said. He stressed that the problems were only partially explained by the Ukraine crisis and that Western leaders contributed to them by making a series of mistakes over the past several years.

The current state of affairs has made it impossible for Russia and the West to return to business as usual, the official continued, adding that from now on Moscow will use a more robust approach towards the US.

Russia has all the reasons it could need to completely break diplomatic ties with the US after all Washington had done, but will not do so: “The US is not going anywhere, and we’ll have to live with that,” he explained.

“While preserving flexibility on constructive issues, we will protect our interests and demand [that the US] respect our concerns and interests. There will be communication in some form,” he said.

Peskov added the only chance for a detente could come if Washington abandoned its “hegemonic policy in world affairs.”

“Russia does not want to, cannot be and has no intention of becoming anyone’s vassal in any sense of the word,” he stressed, adding, “When [the US recognizes] that it can only talk with Russia based on mutual benefit and mutual respect, the time will come to plan further contacts.”

The spokesman predicted a surge of Russophobia in the US during the upcoming midterm elections. The hostility towards Moscow is “a tool of US domestic policy” and played its role in “probably ten previous election cycles” in the country, he said.

Peskov declined to comment on Joe Biden’s performance as the US President or on whether he intends to seek reelection in 2024, saying it was not Russia’s job to judge foreign leaders.

“Our business is the hostile steps taken against our country. We will be countering them,” he said.

Russia rules out foreign currency ban

Russia’s Central Bank Governor Elvira Nabiullina confirmed on Thursday that there will be no national ban on buying or selling foreign currencies. She also gave assurances that foreign currency deposits held by the population will not be frozen.

When asked on the sidelines of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) whether the circulation of dollars and euros could be outlawed, Nabiullina replied: “no.”

The Russian Central Bank chief added that no other foreign currencies would be prohibited either.

Earlier, Nabiullina said that despite the regulator’s long-running policy of de-dollarization both in the Russian financial system and in the economy as a whole, it is not planning to fully eliminate dollars from reserves.

Two US volunteers in Ukraine feared taken prisoner by Russia

Two American volunteers in Ukraine have gone missing and are feared to have been taken prisoner by Russia, officials and family members stated.

Alexander Drueke, 39, and Andy Tai Ngoc Huynh, 27, are both US military veterans who had been living in Alabama and went to Ukraine to assist with war efforts. Relatives have been in contact with Senate and House offices seeking information on the men’s whereabouts.

The pair haven’t been heard from in days, members of the state’s congressional delegation have stated.

Captive Americans would add another layer of complexity to efforts by the US, which is pumping billions of dollars into Ukraine but trying to steer clear of direct confrontation with Russia.

If confirmed, they would be the first Americans fighting for Ukraine known to have been captured since the war began in February.

Ukraine DM: Russian military had expected to take control of Kyiv within 12 hours of invasion

The Russian military expected Kyiv to fall within 12 hours of the February 24 invasion, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov told CNN’s Matthew Chance in an exclusive interview in Brussels.

A document was found on a Russian military officer who was killed in the invasion, which stated the Russian military objectives, Reznikov stated.

“They thought they were going to be in the center of Kyiv in 12 hours,” he said the document stated.

Russians naively anticipated that within 72 hours of their invasion, the Ukrainian government would flee the capital, Reznikov added.

“Frankly speaking, our partners in the different capitals of the world also were naive. They told us that invasion was imminent, and you will fall. You only have 72 hours. That’s why they didn’t give us heavy weaponry,” he continued.

Only after Ukraine liberated the Kyiv region in late March, did Western partners start to provide Ukraine with heavier weapons, he stated.

Reznikov has said he believes tens of thousands of Ukrainians have been killed since the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24.

He refused to give exact figures of Ukrainian losses, but he noted he “hopes” the figure is below 100,000.

Reznikov added he disagreed with the most recent US assessment that 16,000 Russian soldiers have been killed since the invasion, saying he believes their casualty numbers to be considerably higher.

As of June 15, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), recorded 4,452 killed since the invasion, of whom, 280 were children. The eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk — where Russia’s bombardment has been continuous — saw 2,583 of the recorded total deaths. The OHCHR believes actual figures to be “considerably higher.”

Millions of Ukrainians have been displaced by the war, with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on June 14 recording 5,094,531 refugees scattered across Europe alone. In the rest of the world, they estimate there are 6.1 million Ukrainian refugees.

The DM stated US weapons will help Ukraine seize back Russian-occupied territory, including Crimea and Donbas.

“We are going to liberate all our territories, all of it all, including Crimea,” he said.

“Crimea is a strategic objective for Ukraine because it’s Ukrainian territory. But we will move step by step,” he added.

Moscow: Oil price to rise by yearend, Russia expects global demand to grow

Russia does not rule out an even stronger growth of the oil price by the end of the year, though everything will depend on the demand and supply balance, Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak told reporters on the sidelines of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF), adding that Russia still hopes global demand will rise despite the persisting uncertainty over possible COVID-19-related lockdowns in China.

“There are various forecasts, particularly suggesting a further increase in the oil (price). Everything depends on the demand and supply balance,” he said.

“I hope the demand will continue recovering during the year as planned, though there are certain risks related to lockdowns in the People’s Republic of China, which is why it remains to be seen how the global economy and consumption develop,” Novak stated.

EU leaders visit Irpin

The European leaders visited war-scarred Kyiv’s suburb of Irpin, where residential buildings and civilian infrastructure remain damaged following Russian troops’ attempts early in the invasion to capture the capital.

Nearly 300 civilians were found in the district after Russian forces withdrew from the area at the end of March.

French President Emmanuel Macron praises Ukrainian “heroism” in the face of Russia’s invasion while visiting Irpin.

“It’s here … that the Ukrainians stopped the Russian army descending onto Kyiv,” the French leader stated.

“It represents the heroism of the army, but also of the Ukrainian population,” he said, adding that there are signs of war crimes following “massacres” by Russian forces.

Responding to a question on his previous remarks that Russia must not be humiliated, Macron noted “we stand with the Ukrainians without ambiguity. Ukraine must resist and win”.

The Ukrainian town of Irpin, like Bucha before it, has become a symbol of the “cruelty” of Russia’s war in Ukraine and its senseless violence, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on a visit to the Kyiv suburb, adding that the war must end.

“Irpin, like Bucha, has become a symbol of the unimaginable cruelty of the Russian war, of senseless violence,” Scholz wrote on Twitter.

“The brutal destruction of this city is a warning: this war must end,” he continued.

Romanian president arrives in Kiev together with leaders of Germany, France, Italy

Romanian President Klaus Iohannis has arrived in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev together with the leaders of Germany, France and Italy.

“They want to send a strong signal of support and solidarity to Ukrainian president Vladimir Zelensky and the people of Ukraine,” German government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit wrote on Twitter.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, French President Emmanuel Macron and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi arrived in Kiev by train on Thursday morning. They planned to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Air raid sirens in Kyiv as European leaders arrive in Ukraine’s capital

Air raid sirens sounded in Kyiv as the leaders of France, Germany, and Italy arrived in the Ukrainian capital on Thursday morning.

Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 113: European leaders arrive in Ukraine

The sirens don’t necessarily mean there has been an attack but they often sound in warning.

Ukraine’s DM says Western officials told him their military support “will never stop”

Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said Western defense officials told him their military support for Ukraine “will never stop.”

In an exclusive interview, Reznikov told CNN that US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, UK Secretary of Defense Ben Wallace and other Western officials said: “Oleksiy, don’t worry, we will not stop. We will continue help your country, your people, and your president.”

“I heard it yesterday and I felt it absolutely honestly, I saw the eyes of Lloyd Austin for example … I saw the real understanding that they will never stop,” Reznikov said, when asked if long-term US commitment to Ukraine is sustainable.

He added US and Western pledges are not just for military support but also financial, economic, and political.

“I think they [Western allies] have decided that they want to be partners in this victory,” Reznikov continued.

The Ukrainian DM told CNN Western allies now understand that the idea of not provoking Russia to avoid conflict does not work.

Russia is now considered to be an adversary rather than a strategic partner by NATO, he said.

“I am sure that Russia is the main threat for NATO, EU countries, and main threat for the world security system,” he added.

US Defense Secretary says NATO at “critical juncture”

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said the suffering in Ukraine could end immediately if Russia ends “its reckless war of choice,” ahead of a meeting with NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg in Brussels on Thursday.

Austin stated the meeting comes at a “critical juncture in the history” of the security alliance.

“We see that as Finland and Sweden have made the historic decision to seek NATO membership. We welcome that. They are proud, capable democracies who share NATO’s core values,” he continued.

“In recent months, NATO has united in the face of Russia’s unjustified, cruel, and indefensible invasion of Ukraine. We’ll continue to strengthen our allies to meet the greatest threat to European security in decades,” he added.

Austin noted NATO will continue to support Ukraine “as it defends itself against Russia’s unprovoked aggression” and “continue to adapt our alliance to meet evolving security conditions.”

France wants Ukraine victory that establishes full territorial integrity: source

A French diplomatic source has told Reuters news agency that Paris wants a military Ukrainian victory against Russia that reestablishes the territorial integrity of the country, including Crimea.

The source added it was up to President Volodymyr Zelensky to define what a military victory could be.

Russia-US relations at ‘zero’: Kremlin

Russian-American relations are at “zero”, the Kremlin’s spokesman has told RIA news agency.

Dmitry Peskov stated there was virtually no dialogue between the two countries.

Governor: ‘Fierce battles fought for every house’ in Sievierodonetsk

Serhai Haidai, Ukraine’s governor of Luhansk, has posted his latest status update for the region to Telegram.

“For almost four months, the Russians have not had significant victories, so they throw all their reserves to capture Sievierodonetsk,” he said.

“Fierce battles are fought for every house in the city. The Ukrainian military needs long-range artillery to push the Russians to a safe distance. Dozens of occupiers die every day during street clashes in Sievierodonetsk,” he added.

Top European leaders arrive in Kyiv for meeting with Zelensky

Three European leaders have arrived in the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv.

French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi traveled to the city by train, the Elysee Palace confirmed on Thursday.

Speaking to reporters on the platform as he arrived in Kyiv, Macron said the leaders will meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and visit a site of an alleged massacre.

Asked if he had a message for Ukrainians, Macron stated he has a “message of European unity addressed to Ukrainian men and women.”

“The coming weeks, we know, will be very difficult,” he continued, adding, “I want to support them and be at their side.”

The German leader, now in the capital, Kyiv, pledges enduring support for Ukraine, along with Draghi and Macron.

“We want to show not only solidarity, but also assure that the help that we’re organising – financial, humanitarian, but also, when it comes to weapons – will continue,” Scholz told Bild daily.

“And that we will continue it as long as it is necessary for Ukraine’s fight” against Moscow, he noted.

The chancellor added that EU sanctions imposed on Russia “contribute to the chance that Russia will abandon its plan and withdraw its troops – because that’s the goal”.

Russia losing advantage in fight for key towns: UK

For both Russian and Ukrainian forces, fighting for key towns and cities such as Severodonetsk, is “devolving to small groups of troops typically operating on foot,” the UK’s ministry of affairs has announced.

“Some of Russia’s strengths, such as its advantage in numbers of tanks, become less relevant in this environment,” which is “likely contributing to its continued slow rate of advance,” the ministry said in an intelligence briefing on Twitter.

It also added the situation continues to be “extremely difficult” for Ukraine’s forces and civilians who remain on the east side of the Siverskyi Donets river in Severodonetsk. This is because all bridges linking the city with Ukrainian-held territory “have now highly likely been destroyed”.

Macron, Scholz and Draghi on their way to Kyiv

The leaders of France, Germany and Italy have taken the night train to Kyiv, Italian daily La Repubblica has reported.

Kyiv has criticised France, Germany and, to a lesser extent, Italy, for alleged foot-dragging in their support for Ukraine, accusing them of being slow to deliver weapons and of putting their own prosperity ahead of Ukraine’s freedom and security.

UN says essential services running out in Severodonetsk: Report

Essential supplies are running out for the thousands of civilians trapped in Severodonetsk, many sheltering in the Azot chemical plant, the UN has warned.

“The lack of water and sanitation is a big worry. It’s a huge concern for us because people cannot survive for long without water,” UN Humanitarian Affairs Office Spokesperson Saviano Abreu told the BBC.

He said that food supplies and health provisions were also running out in Severodonetsk, adding that continued fighting meant the organisation and its agencies cannot get access or assurances to safely reach the civilians still there – including women, children and the elderly.

The governor of Luhansk has announced approximately 12,000 civilians remain in the city, with about 500 sheltering at the Azot plant with some Ukrainian fighters.

German energy regulator says Gazprom cuts could spell trouble in winter

Russian Gazprom’s move to cut supplies of gas to Germany is a warning signal that could cause problems for Europe’s biggest economy in winter, the head of Germany’s Bundesnetzagentur energy regulator has said.

Gazprom on Wednesday announced a further cut in the amount of gas it can pump through the Nord Stream 1, meaning the pipeline will run at just 40 percent capacity.

“We could perhaps get through the summer as the heating season is over. But it is imperative that we fill the storage facilities to get through the winter,” regulator chief Klaus Mueller told the Rheinische Post daily.

Asked if he feared that Russia was serious about freezing gas supplies, Mueller added: “It has so far been Russia’s logic to want to continue selling gas to Germany. But we can’t rule anything out.”

Food crisis to drive global displacement to ‘staggering’ level: UN refugee chief

A food security crisis stoked by the Ukraine war is set to push more people to flee their homes in poorer countries, driving record levels of global displacement even higher, the head of the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) says.

A report by the UN body shows that some 89.3 million people were forcibly displaced worldwide as a result of persecution, conflict, abuse and violence at the end of 2021. Since then, millions more have fled Ukraine or been displaced within its borders, with price hikes linked to blocked grain exports set to stoke more displacement elsewhere.

“If you have a food crisis on top of everything I have described – war, human rights, climate – it will just accelerate the trends I’ve described in this report,” Filippo Grandi told journalists during a news conference under embargo, describing the figures as “staggering”.

Grandi also criticised what he called a “monopoly” of resources given to Ukraine, which should not “make us forget other crises,” he said, mentioning a two-year-old conflict in Ethiopia and a drought in the Horn of Africa.

Zelensky in ‘constant’ talks with Johnson

President Volodymyr Zelensky is in “constant contact” with United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Ukraine’s president has said, after the two shared a phone call on Wednesday.

“Coordinated positions on the eve of important international events. Discussed the situation on the battlefield, Ukraine’s defence needs and threats to food security,” Zelensky said in a tweet.

Johnson stated the G7 and NATO summits later this month were an opportunity to demonstrate the West’s unity and resolve to support Ukraine for the long term, according to a statement from his office.

The continued determination of Ukrainian forces to win is evident to the entire world, and Ukraine can count on the UK’s full and steadfast support until its eventual victory, Johnson added.

Ukraine ignores Severodonetsk ultimatum to surrender

Ukraine ignored a Russian ultimatum to surrender the eastern city of Severodonetsk, which now largely lies in ruins after weeks of heavy bombardment.

Russia told Ukrainian forces holed up in a chemical plant there to lay down their arms. Ukraine says more than 500 civilians, including 40 children, remain alongside soldiers inside the Azot chemical factory.

Moscow announced it opened a humanitarian corridor from Azot to allow civilians to escape to Russian-controlled territory. It accused Ukraine’s forces of disrupting that plan and using civilians as human shields, which Kyiv denied.

German, French, Italian leaders expected in Kyiv to signal solidarity

The leaders of the European Union’s three biggest countries, Germany, France and Italy, are expected in Kyiv on Thursday to show their backing for Ukraine.

The visit by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, French President Emmanuel Macron, and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi has taken weeks to organise, with the three looking to overcome criticism within Ukraine over their response to the war.

The trip, which has not been announced for security reasons, comes a day before the European Commission makes a recommendation on Ukraine’s status as an EU candidate, something the biggest European nations have been lukewarm about.

Ukraine says Russian forces trying to attack simultaneously in 9 directions

The head of Ukraine’s military has said Russia had concentrated its main strike forces in the north of Luhansk region and were trying to attack simultaneously in nine directions.

“The fierce struggle for Luhansk region continues,” Valeriy Zaluzhny, commander in chief of the armed forces, stated in an online message.

The Russians were using aircraft, rocket-propelled grenades, and artillery, he added.

Canada to send $7m of military equipment to Ukraine

Canada will provide 10 replacement barrels for M777 howitzer artillery guns to Ukraine in new military aid valued at nine million Canadian dollars ($6.9 million), according to the Canadian defence minister.

“We will continue to work around the clock to provide Ukraine with the comprehensive military aid that it needs to defend its sovereignty and security,” Defence Minister Anita Anand said in a statement.

Canada donated the M777 howitzers to Ukraine earlier and the replacement barrels are needed to maintain their distance range and accuracy.

US secretary of state spoke to Ukrainian FM about upcoming aid package to Ukraine

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke on Wednesday with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba “to share updates on US assistance to Ukraine as it defends itself against Russia’s brutal and unprovoked war.”

Their conversation came ahead of US President Joe Biden’s public announcement of an additional $1 billion in US security assistance to Ukraine.

Blinken and Kuleba “discussed steps to expedite the delivery of heavy weaponry to Ukraine and bolster the Ukrainian economy, including efforts to ensure that Ukrainian agricultural products reach international markets,” according to a readout from State Department spokesperson Ned Price.

“The Secretary underscored the United States’ diplomatic efforts to solve the global food security crisis caused by President Putin’s war of choice in Ukraine and previewed US objectives for the upcoming G7 and NATO Summits,” Price stated.

Biden announces more security aid in Ukraine

US President Joe Biden has announced a new package of arms and ammunition for Ukraine after reaffirming Washington’s support for Kyiv against Russia’s invasion in a call with President Volodymyr Zelensky.

The package of $1bn-worth of arms includes more artillery, coastal anti-ship defence systems and ammunition for artillery and advanced rocket systems that Ukraine is already using, Biden said.

In the phone call, Biden added he “reaffirmed my commitment that the United States will stand by Ukraine as it defends its democracy and support its sovereignty and territorial integrity in the face of unprovoked Russian aggression,” according to a statement.

Zelensky stated he was “grateful” for a new American arms package to Kyiv after speaking to Biden.

“The United States announced new strengthening of our defence, a new $1 billion support package,” Zelensky said in an evening address, adding, “I am grateful for this support, it is especially important for our defence in [the eastern region of] Donbas.”

US officials have announced they are tailoring their military assistance to Ukraine to the needs of the battlefield in Donbas.

“Every day I fight for Ukraine to get the necessary weapons and equipment,” Zelensky said, adding, “But courage, wisdom and tactical skills cannot be imported. And our heroes have those.”

Ukraine could produce less gas in 2022: Energy minister

Ukraine’s gas production could drop to 16-17 billion cubic metres (bcm) in 2022 because of the Russian invasion from about 20 bcm in 2021, according to energy minister Herman Halushchenko.

“The fall is due to military actions. We are not operating some fields because of the war,” Halushchenko told Ukraine national television.

Top US general: Russian control of eastern Ukraine not “an inevitability”

Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that despite Russian forces outnumbering and outgunning the Ukrainian forces in the Donbas region, Russian consolidation of their control in eastern Ukraine was “not a done deal.”

“There are no inevitabilities in war. War takes many, many turns. So I wouldn’t say it’s an inevitability,” stated Milley, before granting that “the numbers clearly favor the Russians.”

Milley noted that the Ukrainian city of Severodonetsk “is probably three quarters taken or so by Russian forces,” but that “the Ukrainians are fighting them street by street, house by house.”

He also characterized the current phase of the war as a “very severe battle of attrition, almost World War I-like,” noting how Russian progress in the region has been “very slow, a very tough slog.”

“The Russians have run into a lot of problems. They’ve got command and control issues, logistics issues. They’ve got morale issues, leadership issues and a wide variety of other issues,” Milley continued, adding, “And the Russians have suffered tremendous amounts of casualties.”

› Subscribe


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.

More Articles