Sunday, March 3, 2024

Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 118: Putin says Russia to strengthen armed forces

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 attorney general makes unannounced visit to Ukraine and pledges “unwavering support”

US Attorney General Merrick Garland made an unannounced trip to Ukraine on Tuesday, where he met Ukrainian Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova.

The two will discuss efforts by the United States and other countries to help Ukraine “identify, apprehend, and prosecute those individuals involved in war crimes” in Ukraine, according to a statement from a Justice Department official.

Garland had previously announced a trip to Europe scheduled for this week to meet with European leaders and discuss their joint efforts to combat Russian aggression in Ukraine.

Garland is the most recent top-ranking US official to travel to Ukraine. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv in April, and a congressional delegation led by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell traveled to Kyiv just a few weeks later.

Appearing alongside Venediktova inside Ukraine, Garland said he was there to “express the unwavering support of the United States for the people of Ukraine in the midst of the unprovoked and unjust Russian invasion.”

Garland also stated he wanted to discuss actions the United States “is taking to assist the Ukrainian authorities in holding accountable those responsible for the atrocities, for the war crimes that the entire world has seen.”

“The United States is sending an unmistakable message – there is no place to hide. We and our partners will pursue every avenue available to make sure that those responsible for these atrocities are held accountable,” Garland added.

Second known American killed while fighting in Ukraine

The US State Department on Tuesday confirmed the death of an American citizen in Ukraine whose obituary said he died in mid-May while fighting in the war.

“We can confirm the death of US citizen Stephen Zabielski in Ukraine,” a State Department spokesperson said.

“We have been in touch with the family and have provided all possible consular assistance. Out of respect to the family during this difficult time, we have nothing further,” the spokesperson added.

According to his obituary, published on June 1 in “The Recorder,”  a newspaper in New York, said Zabielski “died on Sunday, May 15, 2022, while fighting the war in Village of Dorozhniank, Ukraine.”

He was 52 years old and is survived by his wife and five stepchildren, according to the obituary.

Zabielski is the second known American to be killed in combat in Ukraine. Marine Corps veteran Willy Cancel was killed in April fighting alongside Ukrainian forces.

End to war “depends on world’s attention”: Zelensky

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has urged creative film professionals to do more to “promote Ukrainian bravery,” in an address the Cannes Lions International Festival for creative industry.

“The end of this war and its circumstances depend on the world’s attention. And that’s why I need allies. We need people like you,” Zelensky said in a video statement on Tuesday.

“I believe that the power of human creativity is greater than the power of a nuclear state that is stuck in the past,” Zelensky continued, adding, “Speak of Ukraine. Don’t let the world switch to something else.”

Russia slashing EU gas flows for ‘illegal’ reasons: Ukraine

Ukraine has accused Russian energy giant Gazprom of illegally cutting natural gas supplies to European countries in a move that has seen EU member states scramble to fill the energy shortfall.

“Gazprom has limited gas supplies to Europe for far-fetched and illegal reasons, justifying this by saying Nord Stream 1 is not operating at full capacity,” said Yuriy Vitrenko, the head of Ukraine state energy company Naftogaz.

“This is unscrupulous behaviour on the part of Gazprom,” he added.

Kyiv says sophisticated German artillery now deployed in Ukraine

Ukraine announced it had “finally” deployed advanced German artillery system, in the latest delivery of the long-range, precision weapons that it has been calling for.

“Panzerhaubitze 2000 are finally part of 155 mm howitzer arsenal of the Ukrainian artillery,” Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksiy Reznikov wrote on social media, thanking his German counterpart Christine Lambrecht.

Germany said last month it would send seven self-propelled howitzers to Ukraine, ramping up deliveries of heavy weapons to help Kyiv battle Russia’s invasion.

Russia missiles ‘hit’ Ukrainian airfield near Odesa

Russia’s defence ministry says its missiles struck an airfield near the Ukrainian port city of Odesa, Russian news agencies reported.

It added it had carried out the strikes in response to a Ukrainian attack on gas production platforms in the Black Sea.

The Russian-installed leader of Crimea, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014, stated on Monday that Kyiv had struck Black Sea drilling platforms owned by a Crimean oil company.

‘Total consensus’ in EU on making Ukraine candidate: French minister

EU ministers have backed granting war-torn Ukraine “candidate status” to join the bloc, ahead of a summit expected to formally greenlight the move later this week, France’s Europe minister said.

Clement Beaune stated after a meeting with his counterparts that there was “a total consensus on moving these issues forward, and in particular for Ukraine the possibility of confirming candidate status as soon as possible”.

UK to impose more sanctions on Russia

The British government is determined to impose further sanctions on Russia, the Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has said as she promised more support for Ukraine.

“We are determined to provide more weapons, impose more sanctions and back Ukraine in pushing Russia out of their territory,” Truss told the Commons.

Ukraine needs EU candidate status to ‘keep its spirit alive’: European parliament chief

The European Union should grant Ukraine EU membership candidate status so this “symbol of hope” would be able to keep bolstering the morale of Ukrainians. However, “many different steps” must be taken for genuine entry into the continent-wide bloc, European Parliament’s President Roberta Metsola said during a press conference while on her visit to Helsinki.

“We have seen an emerging – with caution I say but also optimistically – there is a consensus in the European Parliament and the European Council to declare Ukraine as a candidate country. Each country has its own path, many different steps have to be taken, would have to be taken, but at the moment that symbol of hope to keep that spirit alive is what is needed right now,” she stressed.

On June 17, the European Commission recommended that the European Council grant Ukraine and Moldova EU candidate status.

EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell stated during a press conference in Luxembourg that he did not know whether these countries, upon receiving EU membership candidate status, could start talks on their accession to the EU by the end of 2023.

The fact that that a country gets candidate status, neither lays out any clear deadlines nor does it actually grant accession to the EU. Turkey received EU membership candidate status in 1999, but only managed to start talks about accession in 2005, and even now its European perspective is not clear.

Putin: Russia to strengthen armed forces

Russian President Vladimir Putin says Moscow will further strengthen its armed forces.

“We will continue to develop and strengthen our armed forces, taking into account potential military threats and risks,” Putin stated in televised comments.

He added that Russia’s newly tested Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missiles, capable of carrying 10 or more nuclear warheads and decoys, would be deployed for duty by the end of the year.

Germany will send arms to Ukraine as long as necessary: Scholz

Germany will continue to support Ukraine with weapons “as long as needed,” German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said during a speech at the Annual meeting of the Federation of German Industries on Tuesday.

Scholz also reaffirmed Germany’s commitment to stand with Lithuania and other eastern allies.

“Europe and the Western democracies do not accept the violent attack on Ukraine,” Scholz added. Therefore Ukraine was supplied “extensively with weapons” and “unprecedentedly tough sanctions” were imposed on Russia.

“These sanctions do work. Yes, these sanctions are hurting ourselves as well. They hurt our companies, but they are right,” Scholz stated.

Freedom has its price. Democracy has its price. Solidarity with friends and partners has its price. And we are prepared to pay this price,” Scholz said, adding his trip to Irpin near Kyiv last Thursday made clear to him that Ukraine belonged to the European family.

“I will never forget the images of horror I saw there,” he noted.

Scholz emphasized that he will push for a positive decision on Ukraine as an EU accession candidate.

Intense combat in Luhansk as Ukraine resists Russian offensives: Military

In the Luhansk region, the Ukrainian General Staff announced Russian units were focused on preventing Ukrainian attacks against “the rear of the Russian group of troops operating in the Sloviansk direction,” and were using artillery against civilian infrastructure in the area.

Izium: This area, to the west and southwest of Izium, has seen more intense combat in recent days as Ukrainian troops try to carry out a counter-attack against Russian supply lines.

Sloviansk: Ukrainian forces along the Siverskyi Donets river, north of Sloviansk, continue to resist Russian efforts to break through (around Bohorodychne and Dolyna), according to the General Staff.

Bakhmut: The Ukrainian military also reported Russian offensive operations in several areas south of the town of Bakhmut, a critical supply node for Ukrainian defenses. The Russians appear to have made incremental gains south of Bakhmut recently.

Kherson: In southern Ukraine, the General Staff said Russian units were trying to contain Ukrainian forces that have gone on the offensive along the border of the Kherson region, and had carried out numerous artillery and rocket attacks on settlements behind the front lines.

Kremlin says it doesn’t know where detained American fighters are being held

Russia does not know where the two American volunteers fighting for Ukraine are being held or who will be judging on their case, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told CNN on Tuesday.

“I don’t know where they are being held and who is going to judge them. But the only thing that goes without saying is that they are going to be prosecuted and they will be able to stand in court,” Peskov said in a voice message.

According to Russian state media, the two American volunteers fighting for Ukraine were taken into detention by Russian-backed separatists in Donetsk after being captured last week.

US citizens Alexander John-Robert Drueke, 39, from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and Andy Tai Ngoc Huynh, 27, from Hartselle, Alabama, were interviewed by Russia’s RT channel at a detention center in the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) on June 17, according to a report published on RT.

The two Americans went missing on June 9 during a battle north of Kharkiv and it was feared that they may have been captured by Russian forces, according to their families and a fellow fighter.

Blockade of Kaliningrad out of the question: EU envoy

The European Union ambassador to Russia says a blockade of Russia’s Kaliningrad region is out of the question as the transit of non-sanctioned goods there continues.

Markus Ederer was summoned by the Russian foreign ministry after Lithuania shut a rail corridor from Russia to its exclave for basic goods including construction materials, metals and coal in response to new EU sanctions that came into force on Saturday.

Ederer stated after a meeting at the ministry that he had asked Russia to resolve the issue through diplomatic means.

Russia says will to respond to Lithuania Kaliningrad ban

Moscow says it will respond shortly to Lithuania’s ban of certain goods transiting from mainland Russia to its Kaliningrad exclave, Interfax news agency reported citing Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev.

“Russia will certainly respond to such hostile actions. Relevant measures are being worked out in the interdepartmental format and will be taken in the near future,” Interfax cited Patrushev as saying.

He added that the counter-measures would have a serious negative impact on the Lithuanian population.

Lithuania has shut a rail corridor from Russia to its exclave to certain basic goods including construction materials, metals and coal in response to new EU sanctions that came into force on Saturday.

EU united in favour of Ukraine’s candidacy status: Luxembourg FM

Luxembourg’s Foreign Affairs Minister Jean Asselborn says European countries are united in their support for granting Ukraine the status of European Union member candidate.

“We are working towards the point where we tell Putin that Ukraine belongs to Europe, that we will also defend the values that Ukraine defends,” Asselborn told reporters before a meeting with other EU ministers.

Ukraine used Western donated missiles against Russia for first time: UK

The British Military Intelligence says Ukrainian forces last week claimed their first successful use of Western-donated Harpoon anti-ship missiles to engage Russian forces.

“The target of the attack was almost certainly the Russian naval tug Spasatel Vasily Bekh, which was delivering weapons and personnel to Snake Island in the north-western Black Sea,” the defence ministry said in its daily Twitter update.

The war has entered a brutal attritional phase in recent weeks, with Russian forces concentrating on Ukrainian-controlled parts of the Donbas, which Russia claims on behalf of separatists.

Lithuania worsening global food crisis through transit ban: Moscow

Lithuania is aggravating the global food crisis by banning the rail transit of European Union-sanctioned goods through its territory, to Kaliningrad, the spokesman for Russia’s foreign ministry has stated.

“These are not only deliveries from Russia to the territory of EU countries. These are transit deliveries through the territory of the European Union … including to ports that then served various regions of the world,” Maria Zakharova said on the Soloviev LIVE programme on Tuesday.

“That is, a country of the collective West, a country that is a member of NATO, a country that is a member of all Euro-Atlantic ties today creates additional difficulties against the background of the fact that this community blames a country that has nothing to do with food security problems,” Zakharova added.

Sandwiched between EU and NATO members Poland and Lithuania, Kaliningrad receives supplies from Russia via rail and gas pipelines through Lithuania.

Ukraine’s Kherson region ‘broadcasts’ Russian TV

Moscow says Russian television is now broadcasting in Ukraine’s southern Kherson region, an area where Russia already introduced the ruble and began distributing its passports.

Russia’s army said its forces have “reconfigured the last of the seven television towers in the Kherson region to broadcast Russian television channels” for free.

Bordering the Crimea peninsula, the Kherson region was occupied by Russian forces in the days following the Kremlin’s offensive in late February.

On Tuesday, one of the pro-Moscow officials in the region, Kirill Stremousov, said that the territory could join Russia “before the end of the year.”

Captured Americans are in Donetsk

Two Americans who were captured in Ukraine are currently located in the Russian-backed Ukrainian region of Donetsk, the Interfax news agency reports citing a source.

On Monday, the Kremlin said that two Americans detained in Ukraine were mercenaries not covered by the Geneva convention who should face responsibility for their actions.

Over 1,500 Ukrainian civilians held in Russian prisons: Kyiv

Moscow is holding more than 1,500 Ukrainian civilians in Russian prisons, Ukraine’s deputy prime minister has said, according to Ukrinform.

“They are in Rostov, Kursk, they are in jail, they are being held as prisoners of war, although they should not be,” Iryna Vereshchuk told journalists.

Imprisoned civilians included volunteers, activists, journalists, priests, deputies of local councils and heads of local government agencies, she added.

US citizen killed in combat in Ukraine: State Department

A US citizen was killed in combat in Ukraine last month, according to an obituary and the State Department, after he joined thousands of foreign fighters who have volunteered to help Ukraine fend off Russian forces.

Stephen Zabielski, 52, was killed in fighting on May 15, according to an obituary published in The Recorder, an upstate New York newspaper, earlier this month. Media reports of his death circulated on Monday.

In a statement, a State Department spokesperson confirmed Zabielski’s death in Ukraine and said the agency has been in touch with his family and provided “all possible consular assistance”.

The spokesperson’s statement repeated earlier warnings that US citizens should not travel to Ukraine because of the conflict and the potential for the Russian government to single them out. It added that any citizens in Ukraine should depart immediately.

Kherson referendum to join Russia to be held this autumn: Russian-backed fighters

A referendum on Ukraine’s occupied region of Kherson becoming a part of Russia will be held this autumn, the Moscow-backed self-proclaimed authorities of the region have stated, according to Russia’s RIA state news agency.

“We are preparing for the referendum … After the referendum, we will become a fully-fledged subject of the Russian Federation,” RIA quoted Kirill Stremousov, the deputy head of the self-proclaimed military-civilian administration of the region, as having said.

“Before too long we will be able to feel ourselves as fully-fledged citizens of the great country of Russia,” Stremousov added.

He did not give further details on the timing. Autumn in Russia runs from September to November.

Russian forces plan renewed attack on Kharkiv: Zelensky

The Russian army is preparing for a renewed attack on the region and city of Kharkiv, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has stated.

“Now the Russian army is trying to gather forces to attack Kharkiv again. We de-occupied this region. And they want to do it again, and we see it,” Zelenskyy said in a virtual speech at the opening of the ISPI Global Policy Forum in Italy.

He was speaking on World Refugee Day about the conditions Russian forces created which he said displaced approximately 12 million Ukrainians, of which nearly 5 million had to flee the country. Russia withdrew from Kharkiv in mid-May after weeks of heavy bombardment.

“Mykolaiv is constantly being bombed, with almost half a million inhabitants. They want to capture and completely destroy Sloviansk – there were 100,000 inhabitants before the war,” Zelenskyy added after listing other destroyed cities such as Mariupol and Severodonetsk.

Coming week decisive for Russia’s Severodonetsk offensive: ISW

The coming week is to be decisive for Russian efforts to take the eastern city of Severodonetsk, the Institute for the Study of War has cited Ukrainian officials as saying.

Deputy Ukrainian Defence Minister Hanna Maliar has said that Russian leadership set a June 26 deadline for its forces to reach the Luhansk region’s administrative border, “which will likely result in intensified efforts to take full control of Severodonetsk and move westward towards the border,” the ISW announced.

The institute also added that the Luhansk governor’s reports that Russians controlled all of Severodonetsk aside from the industrial zone were “the first explicit Ukrainian confirmation that Russian forces control all of Severodonetsk with the exception of the Azot plant”.

“Russian forces will likely continue efforts to clear the Azot plant and complete encirclement operations south of Severodonetsk and Lysychansk by driving up the T1302 Bakhmut-Lysychansk highway,” the ISW noted.

Ukraine has thwarted Russia’s efforts to control the north-western Black Sea: UK

Ukraine’s coastal defences have largely neutralised Russia’s ability to establish control in the north-western Black Sea, the United Kingdom’s defence ministry has announced.

Ukraine’s forces reportedly destroyed a Russian naval tug delivering weapons and personnel to Snake Island with Western Harpoon anti-ship missiles last week, the first successful use of the weapons, the ministry said.

“The destruction of the Russian vessel on a resupply mission demonstrates the difficulty Russia faces when attempting to support their forces occupying Snake Island,” it added.

Ukraine’s ability to defend its coast “has undermined the viability of Russia’s original operational design for the invasion, which involved holding the Odesa region at risk from the sea,” the ministry noted.

Luhansk military head: Russian army has enough firepower to launch a “large scale offensive” on Severodonetsk

Russian forces attacking the key city of Severodonetsk, in the Luhansk region of Eastern Ukraine, have enough reserved to launch a large-scale offensive, the head of the region’s Military, Serhiy Hayday, said.

Hayday stated that dozens of pieces of Russian heavy military equipment had been brought into the region and were already deployed on the battlefield.

In the city itself, Hayday noted that fighting is underway in the industrial area, but that “most of the city is under control [of Russian army]. Now the Ukrainian military controls only the industrial zone and the territory of the Azot plant.”

Hayday also provided an update on the fighting in the neighboring town of Lysychansk.

He added that there was fighting along the highway between Lysychansk and Bakhmut and that all the towns in that area are being shelled and that Lysychansk “had been shelled almost all day” on Monday.

Ukraine’s deputy defense minister calls fight for Luhansk region “very difficult” and “dynamic”

Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said “the struggle is very difficult” in the eastern Luhansk region, and that making any predictions are “extremely difficult” given the “dynamic” nature of the fighting.

She added that information is changing rapidly “every half an hour the situation changes.” She stated that unless either Ukrainian or Russian forces are in total control of a town or village border, “it is impossible to say what the situation is.”

On the battle for Severodonetsk, Mailar announced that she was not going to make any predictions as to the outcome of the battle for the key strategic city in Luhansk region.

Maliar also went on to say that Russian forces in the region have an advantage in number of personnel and weapons.

‘Most difficult’ fighting in Severodonetsk, Lysychansk: Zelensky

Two key cities in eastern Ukraine are witnessing the “most difficult” fighting, President Volodymyr Zelensky has said, as Russian forces intensified pressure in the area and captured territory along a front-line river.

“We are defending Lysychansk, Severodonetsk, this whole area, the most difficult one. We have the most difficult fighting there,” Zelensky stated during an evening address, after predicting Moscow would escalate attacks ahead of an EU summit expected to welcome Kyiv’s bid to join the bloc.

Moscow’s separatist proxies claimed to have captured Toshkivka, a town on the mostly Ukrainian-held western bank of the Siverskyi Donets river, south of Severodonetsk, which has become the main battlefield city in recent weeks.

Zelenskyy also added shelling in Kharkiv and Odesa continued, and described Russia’s offensive in Donbas, where forces have been concentrating their overwhelming artillery firepower, as “brutal”.

Russia blasts West’s ‘destructive’ grain stance

Russia has blamed the “destructive” stance of the West for soaring grain prices that have sparked fears of a global food crisis.

“Concerning the possibility of famine, more and more experts are leaning towards a pessimistic scenario … and that is the fault of Western regimes, which act as provokers and destroyers,” Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Telegram.

According to Zakharova, the West has made “systematic mistakes” in its agricultural policy planning and has caused global inflation with its “short-sighted” financial and monetary mechanisms created during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ukraine governor: Russian troops enter Severodonetsk industry zone

Russian troops have entered the industrial part of the heavily besieged city of Severodonetsk, according to Luhansk regional governor Serhiy Haidai.

The Azot chemical plant is the only part of the area not yet taken by Russian troops, Haidai wrote on Telegram.

The villages nearby are also under constant fire.

There are about 300 civilians sheltering in the Azot plant, according to Ukrainian deputy prime minister Iryna Vereshchuk, though the situation is constantly changing.

Kremlin says captured Americans in Ukraine should bear responsibility ‘for crimes’

The Kremlin has announced that Americans captured in Ukraine were “mercenaries” engaged in illegal activities and should take responsibility for their “crimes”, RIA news agency has reported.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was also quoted as saying that the detained men were not covered by the Geneva Conventions as they were not regular troops. They had shot at Russian servicemen and put their lives in danger.

Russia can’t guarantee that the former Americans servicemen that were captured in Ukraine won’t face the death penalty, Peskov stated in an interview with NBC television.

“I cannot guarantee anything. It depends on the investigation,” he noted when asked if he could guarantee that the US prisoners of war won’t face the same fate as Britons Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner and Moroccan national Brahim Saadoun who were earlier sentenced to death by a court in the Donetsk People’s Republic.

The Daily Telegraph last week reported that two former US servicemen Alexander Drueke and Andy Huynh were captured near Kharkov. The US State Department announced on June 16 it was ready to engage with Russia regarding the US nationals that took part in the hostilities in Ukraine. It also again strongly advised Americans against going to Ukraine.

Seven missing after Black Sea drilling platforms under fire: Russian official

Three people were injured and seven more are missing after Ukraine forces fired on Black Sea drilling platforms off the coast of Crimea, a Russian official has said.

“Unfortunately, we can confirm that there are three injured and seven missing; we guarantee that the search will continue,” Moscow-appointed Crimean governor Sergei Aksionov stated on his Telegram account.

Putin fears “spark of democracy”: Scholz

Russian President Vladimir Putin fears the “spark of democracy” spreading to his country, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said, adding that he was trying to divide Europe and return to a world dominated by spheres of influence.

Scholz was responding to a question in an interview with the Munchner Merkur newspaper, published on the government website on Monday, on whether Putin would accept Ukraine moving closer to the European Union.

“The Russian President must accept that there is a community of law-based democracies in his neighbourhood that is growing ever closer together,” he continued, adding, “He clearly fears the spark of democracy spreading to his country.”

Denmark declares ‘early warning’ for potential gas supply disruptions

Denmark’s energy agency has announced it has activated the first step of a three-stage emergency gas supply plan, which effectively means a tighter monitoring of the market, to prepare for possible disruptions of natural gas from Russia.

NATO chief says Turkey, Finland, Sweden hold ‘constructive’ talks

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg has said Turkey, Finland and Sweden have held “constructive” talks on Ankara’s opposition to the two Nordic countries joining the alliance.

“We will continue our talks on Finland and Sweden’s applications for NATO membership, and I look forward to finding a way forward as soon as possible,” Stoltenberg stated after officials met at NATO headquarters in Brussels.

Tens of thousands rally in Georgia for EU membership

Tens of thousands of Georgians have taken to the streets in support of the country’s membership to the European Union, days after the European Commission recommended deferring Tbilisi’s candidacy.

Waving Georgian and EU flags, an estimated 60,000 demonstrators gathered outside the Georgian parliament for the “March for Europe”.

The country’s leading pro-democracy groups said they initiated the rally to “demonstrate the commitment of the Georgian people to its European choice and Western values”.

Turkey says talks on Finland and Sweden’s NATO bids to continue, but summit not a deadline

Discussions between Turkey, Finland and Sweden about the Nordic countries’ NATO membership will continue, and an alliance summit in Madrid next week is not a deadline, Turkish Presidential Spokesman Ibrahim Kalin has stated.

Speaking to reporters in Brussels after talks within NATO on the issue, Kalin said Ankara was expecting Sweden, especially, to take immediate steps regarding actions by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) group in its country, and that any progress on the Nordic membership bids “now depends on the direction and speed at which these countries will take steps”.

Ukraine’s grain exports to reach two million tonnes in June: Deputy minister

Ukraine’s grain exports will increase to 2 million tonnes in June from 1.7 million tonnes in May and reach the maximum volume that Ukraine can ship by land routes, First Deputy Agriculture Minister Taras Vysotskiy has said.

“The dynamics are positive, but 2 million tonnes is the maximum that the existing infrastructure can provide through land routes,” Vysotskiy told Ukrainian national television.

He added that Ukrainian seaports, which have been blocked by Russia since it invaded Ukraine, were capable to exports 5 million tonnes a month.

Biden says not likely to go to Ukraine in upcoming Europe trip

United States President Joe Biden has stated he is not likely to visit Ukraine when he travels to Europe later this month for summits with Washington’s allies.

Speaking to reporters, Biden also noted he believes it is very likely that Ukraine will become a member of the European Union.

EU leaders later this week are expected to give their blessing to Ukraine becoming an official candidate to join, a decision that will be marked as a triumph in Kyiv as it fights Russia’s invasion.

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