Saturday, April 20, 2024

Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 116: NATO warns Russia-Ukraine war could last for years

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:

UN in Ukraine calls for accountability for sexual violence

The UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Ukraine, Osnat Lubrani, has said that Russia’s war on Ukraine has been marred by incidents of conflict-related sexual violence.

In a statement, Lubrani stated that the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has verified cases of sexual violence against both women and men in Ukraine.

“Due to active hostilities, mass internal displacement, the stigma associated with sexual violence and the breakdown of the referral pathways, survivors are often unable or unwilling to report to law enforcement authorities or service providers,” she continued.

“We reiterate that conflict-related sexual violence is a crime under international human rights and humanitarian law,” Lubrani added.

Russia blames Ukrainian rebels for bombing in Kherson that injured prison chief

Ukrainian rebels attempted to assassinate a local prison boss in Russian-held Kherson, the city’s puppet government has announced.

Iran’s leader: Ukraine’s main problem stems from West’s expansionist policies

Iran’s Leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei has said the main problem in Ukraine stems from the fact that the West is hellbent on expanding NATO’s sphere of influence and they do not hesitate to do so if they can.

Ayatollah Khamenei urged vigilance on part of all countries in this regard as, he said, the US and other Western governments have always been seeking to expand their sphere of influence in different regions, from east to west of Asia, and to undermine the independence of countries.

UN food agency cuts rations for refugees in east and west Africa

The UN World Food Programme has announced it has been forced to reduce food rations for refugees in east and west Africa due to a surge in demand and insufficient funding.

The war in Ukraine has had a worsening impact on the global refugee crisis and heightened the risk of famine, as it drove up the price of commodities, especially grain.

Three-quarters of refugees in east Africa supported by the UN programme have seen their rations reduced by up to 50%, WFP said, with those in Ethiopia, Kenya, South Sudan and Uganda the worst affected.

“We are being forced to make the heartbreaking decision to cut food rations for refugees who rely on us for their survival,” noted WFP executive director David Beasley.

Russia says eastern attack is going well

Russia said that its offensive against Sievierodonetsk in eastern Ukraine was proceeding successfully after it took control of a district in the outskirts of the city.

“The offensive in the Sievierodonetsk direction is developing successfully,” Russian Defence Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said in a video statement.

He stated the settlement of Metyolkine, on the eastern outskirts of the city, had been taken.

“The armed forces of the Russian Federation continue to strike military targets on the territory of Ukraine,” he added.

Konashenkov noted long-range Kalibr cruise missiles struck a command centre in the Dnipropetrovsk region, killing Ukrainian generals and officers, including from the general staff.

New air strikes on Ukrainian capital Kyiv

Kyiv has been attacked from the air again on Sunday morning, with the sound of air raid alarms and explosions ringing through the Ukrainian capital.

“Explosions were heard in Vyshhorod district this morning. Air defense fired at enemy targets,” the military governor of the Kyiv region, Oleksiy Kuleba, said on his Telegram channel on Sunday.

He added the shelling had not caused damage or injuries in the city, but asked Kyiv residents to continue taking refuge in shelters.

Russia’s defence ministry announced it had hit a tank repair plant in Kharkiv with its Iskander missiles, and destroyed ten howitzers as well as up to 20 military vehicles in the Ukrainian city of Mykolaiv that had been supplied by Western countries over the past 10 days, Reuters reports.

Over 50 Ukrainian generals and officers killed in missile strike: Russia

Russian warships have destroyed a command center with Kalibr cruise missiles, killing dozens of Ukrainian officers, the Russian Defense Ministry claimed on Sunday.

“More than 50 generals and officers of the Ukrainian Armed Forces were killed,” the statement said.

According to the ministry, the strike took place near the village of Shirokaya Dacha in Dnepropetrovsk Region, Ukraine.

The missiles hit the compound where commanders of several Ukrainian units had gathered for a meeting, the ministry noted.

The ministry added that Kalibr missiles were also used to destroy 10 M777 howitzers and up to 20 armored vehicles that were recently delivered from the West, and had been stored inside a factory building in the southern city of Nikolayev.

Europe set to counter Russia: Analyst

An Iranian analyst says European countries’ determination to counter Russia is stronger than before.

Morteza Maleki said in an interview with ILNA that European states are closing ranks against the Kremlin to safeguard the cause of Western convergence and head off a geopolitical change in Europe.

EU could fall apart before Ukraine joins: Russia

The real time frame for Ukraine’s possible entry into the EU is the 2050s, and the economic and political bloc could break up before then, former Russian president and prime minister Dmitry Medvedev believes.

“We, the children of the 1970s, all waited for the onset of communism. Alas, it did not happen. The Soviet Union collapsed, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union was liquidated,” Medvedev, who joined the party in university and left in 1991, wrote on his Telegram page on Sunday.

“The situation related to the promised onset of global happiness in the USSR reminds me of the incantations made by the European Commission regarding Ukraine’s EU candidacy,” he added.

“They have been promised. Exactly, promised. And the promise was made only to [Ukraine], and not even Georgia (I would be offended in their place, not even mentioning Turkey),” Medvedev added, recalling Ankara’s application to become a member of the European Economic Community – the EU’s predecessor, all the way back in 1987.

“They promised, but with conditions. Ukraine is supposed to become better, cleaner, less corrupt, more developed, enlightened, smarter. [EC chief] Aunt Usrula [von der Leyen] even said that Ukrainians are dying for EU membership,” the former president, who now serves as deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council, said.

“After that it will be like with the construction of communism. The date hasn’t been set after all. But there are many unverifiable, abstract conditions. Their objective verification is impossible. They will be checked for decades, and by new generations of EU leaders. Therefore, the real term is the middle of the century, not earlier,” Medvedev noted.

In the meantime, he suggested, the fate of the USSR could also befall the EU.

“It’s possible that communism could have arrived by now had the USSR been preserved. But the union, unfortunately, died. Do you understand what I’m hinting at? P.S. Perhaps (knock on wood) the EU disappears by this time? It’s frightening to think what a scandal this would be, given the sacrifices that have been made on the altar of joining the EU, and what a deception it would be of the expectations of the unfortunate Ukrainians,” Medvedev concluded.

The European Union’s executive arm formally recommended that Ukraine be given candidate status in the bloc on Friday, notwithstanding outstanding concerns about corruption, rule of law, governance, democracy, the outsized influence of the ultra-wealthy in the economy and politics, widespread poverty, nationalism and the current military crisis with Russia.

Russian, Ukrainian forces likely deserting: UK intelligence

Ukrainian and Russian units fighting in the Eastern Donbass region are likely suffering desertions in recent weeks, UK Defence Ministry reports on the basis of information from the British intelligence services, adding that the Russian morale “highly likely remains especially troubled”.

“Cases of whole Russian units refusing orders and armed stand-offs between officers and their troops continue to occur,” read the statement.

“The Russian authorities likely struggle to bring legal pressure to bear on military dissenters, hampered by the invasion’s official status as a ‘special military operation’ rather than as a war,” it added.

The ministry also said that both sides have continued to conduct heavy artillery bombardments on axes to the north, east and south of the Sieverodonetsk pocket, but with little change in the front line.

Russian attacks intensified on Ukraine’s battlefields

The industrial city of Sievierodonetsk, a prime target in Moscow’s offensive to seize full control of Luhansk – one of the two provinces making up the Donbas – faced heavy artillery and rocket fire again, the Ukrainian military has announced.

“The situation in Sievierodonetsk is very difficult,” said Serhiy Gaidai, the Ukrainian-appointed governor of Luhansk, adding that Russian forces, using drones for air reconnaissance, were adjusting strikes quickly in response to defence changes.

“Areas near the bridges have been heavily shelled again,” Gaidai said in an online post, adding that the Azot chemical plant, where hundreds of people had been sheltering, was hit twice.

Germany plans further measures to make up for Russian gas

German Economy Minister Robert Habeck is planning additional measures to reduce gas consumption and replace supplies in view of lower gas deliveries from Russia, according to plans seen by dpa news agency.

The use of gas for power generation and industry is to be reduced and the filling of storage facilities is to be prioritized ahead of the winter.

The government is providing billions in funds to finance the measures, dpa learned from government circles.

Russian troops to advance towards Kharkiv: Ukraine official

The situation north of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, is quite difficult as Russian forces have been trying to get closer to shell the city again, an official at Ukraine’s interior ministry has stated.

“Russia is trying to make Kharkiv a frontline city,” Vadym Denysenko, an adviser to the interior minister, told Ukraine’s national television.

Top Azovstal commanders transferred to Russia for investigation: Report

Two top Ukrainian commanders who defended the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol have been transferred to Russia for investigation, according to Russia’s state news agency TASS.

Citing an unnamed Russian law enforcement source, TASS reported on Saturday that Svyatoslav Palamar, a deputy commander of the Azov battalion, and Serhiy Volynsky, commander of the 36th Marine Brigade, had been moved to Russia.

Special forces officers transferred them from Donetsk “to conduct investigative activities with them”, TASS cited the source as saying.

“Other officers of various Ukrainian units were also transported to Russia,” the source added.

Hundreds of fighters were captured by Russian forces in May after a months-long siege of Mariupol. Moscow said at the time they were moved to breakaway Russian-backed entities in eastern Ukraine.

NATO warns Russia’s war in Ukraine could last years

Russia’s war in Ukraine could take years, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told a German weekly newspaper, adding that the supply of state-of-the-art weaponry to Ukrainian troops would increase the chance of liberating the Donbas region from Russian control.

“We must prepare for the fact that it could take years. We must not let up in supporting Ukraine,” Stoltenberg told Bild am Sonntag.

“Even if the costs are high, not only for military support, also because of rising energy and food prices,” he stated.

Scholz urges Russia to ease grain exports

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz is urging Russia to ease the global food crisis by helping to facilitate grain shipments from blockaded Ukrainian ports.

“You have to hope for the world’s sake that an agreement is reached,” Scholz told the dpa news agency, referring to continuing negotiations about establishing an export corridor across the Black Sea.

“Russia must enable safe passage and at the same time give credible assurances that it will not use the corridor for an invasion,” he added.

Prepare for the long haul: Johnson

UK Prime Minister Johnson has warned allies to prepare for a long war in Ukraine, urging sustained support for Kyiv or risk “the greatest victory for aggression” since World War II.

In an article for The Sunday Times, Johnson said Ukraine’s foreign backers should hold their nerve to ensure it has “the strategic endurance to survive and eventually prevail”.

“Time is now the vital factor,” Johnson wrote in a 1,000-word article posted online on Saturday night.

“Everything will depend on whether Ukraine can strengthen its ability to defend its soil faster than Russia can renew its capacity to attack. Our task is to enlist time on Ukraine’s side,” he added.

Ukraine: Russia trying to stay on offensive around Kharkiv, other cities

The spokesman of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine says Russian forces were actively on the offensive across Kharkiv, Severodonetsk and Sloviansk.

Oleksandr Shtupun stated that the Russian military had used artillery shelling across various settlements towards Kharkiv.

He added that Russians used mortars, artillery and rocket-propelled grenade launchers against various settlements in the direction of Sloviansk.

Meanwhile in Severodonetsk, “the enemy continues to fire from artillery and rocket artillery in the areas of the settlements of Met’olkine, Bila Hora and Ustynivka,” Shtupun continued.

Russia sending large number of reserve troops to Severodonetsk: Ukrainian governor

Russia is sending a large number of reserve troops to Severodonetsk from other battle zones to try to gain full control of the front-line eastern city, the governor of Ukraine’s Luhansk region has said.

“Today, tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow, they will throw in all the reserves they have … because there are so many of them there already, they’re at critical mass,” Luhansk regional governor Serhiy Haidai stated on national television.

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