Sunday, June 26, 2022

Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 120: European Parliament urges candidate status for 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:

EU says countries preparing for possible further gas cuts

European Union countries have so far been able to compensate for reduced gas supply from Russia, but are increasing preparation in case of further supply cuts, the European Commission announced.

“According to our exchange with the national authorities, the gas security of supply in Germany – and in the EU – is currently guaranteed. Lower inflows of gas from Russia can so far be compensated,” a Commission spokesman said.

The EU’s energy chief and EU countries’ ministers will discuss on Monday possible measures to reduce gas demand, and are increasing preparations for if the situation worsens, the spokesman added.


Situation in Severodonetsk “difficult” but “stable”: Ukrainian military

The Ukrainian military announced the situation in the city of Severodonetsk is “difficult” but “stable,” according to Oleksii Hromov, the deputy head of the Main Operations Directorate of Ukraine’s General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

“As of now, the situation is difficult, stable, the fighting is ongoing,” Hromov told journalists in a briefing Thursday.

“Our servicemen have weapons at their disposal and are supported by artillery units, but unfortunately the enemy has the fire advantage,” he said, adding, “[Russia] has enough artillery systems, enough munition, they inflict massive fire strikes, but our servicemen skillfully maneuver among the fortified positions.”

Hromov conceded that Russia had damaged Ukraine’s supply routes into the city, but he stated military leadership had found alternative ways to send ammunition in and bring out the wounded.


EU Seeks to Dial Down Tensions over Russian Shipments to Kaliningrad

Josep Borrell, the EU’s high representative, told reporters that the union was not seeking to prevent traffic from travelling across Lithuania to reach the Russian exclave on the Baltic Sea, but that it would insist on enforcing its sanctions on the country’s products.

Borrell’s words, ahead of a summit of EU leaders, came as the commission prepares guidance for Lithuania, aimed at clarifying the impact of the sanctions and attempting to defuse the stand-off.

This week Lithuania began implementing sanctions that ban the transit of certain goods through EU states, triggering a furious response from Moscow.


Russian forces learning from mistakes earlier in war as they pummel eastern Ukraine: US officials

Russian forces are gaining an advantage in eastern Ukraine as they learn from mistakes made during the earlier stages of their invasion of the country, including better coordinating air and ground attacks and improving logistics and supply lines, two US officials with direct knowledge of US intelligence assessments told CNN.

The US does not expect new weapons systems recently supplied to Ukrainian forces, including the HIMARS multiple rocket launch system, to immediately change the situation on the battlefield in part because those systems are so far being sent with both a limited range and a limited number of rockets to ensure they are not fired into Russian territory. Additionally, Russian forces have been able to destroy some of the new Western-supplied weapons, including M777 howitzers, in targeted attacks.

The US assessments, which increasingly envision a long and punishing battle in eastern Ukraine, come as the months-long war there has reached a pivotal moment in recent days. Ukraine’s military has been burning through Soviet-era ammunition that fits older systems, and Western governments are facing a tough decision on whether they want to continue increasing their assistance to the country.

The US assessments paint a dismal image of the future of the war, with high personnel and equipment losses on both sides. US officials believe that Russian forces plan to maintain intense attacks in the east, characterized by heavy artillery and missile strikes, with the intention of wearing down Ukrainian forces and NATO resolve over time.

Russia’s advancements were brought into plain view in recent days after Ukraine’s defense of Lysychansk – the last city in the Luhansk region it still holds – became a lot more tenuous. In the last couple of days, Russians have advanced into several villages south of Lysychansk, though not without sustaining losses from Ukrainian artillery fire.


Britain’s trade secretary calls on more states to penalise Russia

Britain’s trade secretary has urged more nations to punish Russia for its war in Ukraine during an interview in the United Arab Emirates, which along with other Gulf states has so far resisted Western pressure to take sides.

Anne-Marie Trevelyan, secretary of state for international trade, told Reuters that the invasion of Ukraine was “outrageous, unprovoked and an illegal war”.

“We encourage all countries to stand alongside us in making that very clear and bringing in the sorts of sanctions and limitations to those who choose to support Putin,” she said.


Scholz: EU must ready itself for expansion

German chancellor Olaf Scholz has warned that the European Union must ready itself for expansion as the bloc paves the way for Ukraine to join.

“We need to set the conditions that are necessary for Ukraine to continue its promising road ahead and at the same time we need to understand that we need to make ourselves ready for expansion,” he said, as reported by Reuters.

Scholz added that in order for a larger union to work, more decisions should be made by majority, instead of requiring unanimity.


Putin concerned about “selfish actions of individual states”

President Vladimir Putin has stated an issue of concern is the “ill-conceived, selfish actions of individual states” – in his speech at the 14th Brics summit, which comprises Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

The event, which is being held virtually, is hosted by President Xi Jinping of China.

“Only on the basis of honest and mutually beneficial cooperation can we look for ways out of the crisis situation that has developed in the world economy due to the ill-conceived, selfish actions of individual states, which, using financial mechanisms, in fact, spread their own mistakes in macroeconomic policy to the whole world,” the Russian news agency RIA Novosti quoted Putin as saying.


More than half of cities in Ukraine’s Donetsk region are under Russian control

Just 45% of the region of Donetsk are under the control of Ukrainian forces, leaving the other 55% under Russian control.

“It is very difficult to say the rest [of the cities/territories in Donetsk] are controlled by the enemy, because these cities are being destroyed by the enemy — they are just territories,” Pavlo Kyrylenko, the head of the Donetsk region military administration, said Thursday.

Kyrylenko also spoke about a concentration of battalion tactical groups in the Sloviansk and Lyman.

Ukrainian forces have “serious battles ahead,” he stated, adding that a continuation of shelling along the Bakhmut-Lysychansk highway is underway to “cut off” Severodonetsk and Lysychansk from supplies.


EU Parliament votes in favour of Ukraine’s candidacy status

The European Parliament has adopted a resolution with 529 votes in favour to 45 against and 14 abstentions that calls on heads of state – who hold their summit on Thursday and Friday – to grant EU candidate status to Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova “without delay”.

They should do the same with Georgia “once its government has delivered” on the priorities indicated by the European Commission, the parliament said in a statement.

“Ukrainians, Moldovans and Georgians deserve to live in free, democratic and prosperous countries that are proud and committed members of the European family,” it added.


Ukraine troops may need to pull back to avoid encirclement in Lysychansk: Governor

Ukrainian troops may need to retreat from the frontline city of Lysychansk to avoid encirclement after Russian forces captured two settlements to its south, regional governor Serhiy Haidai has said.

“In order to avoid encirclement, our command could order that the troops retreat to new positions,” he stated on national television, adding, “All of Lysychansk is within reach of their fire. It is very dangerous in the city.”

He noted Lysychansk could still be reached by road, allowing civilian evacuations to continue.

Russia’s TASS news agency had earlier cited Russian-backed separatists as saying the city was surrounded and cut off from supplies.


Ukraine DM welcomes arrival of US rocket systems

High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) from the United States have arrived in Ukraine, Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov has said.

“Thank you to my US colleague and friend Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin for these powerful tools! Summer will be hot for Russian occupiers. And the last one for some of them,” he wrote on Twitter.


Moscow says there’s “no hidden agenda” in cuts to gas supplies

Cuts in Russian gas supplies to Europe are explained by technical issues with turbines, rather than political reasons, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Thursday, adding there was “no hidden agenda.”

Russia remains a reliable gas supplier and strictly fulfils all its obligations, Peskov told reporters on a regular conference call.

However, issues with the maintenance of Gazprom turbines in Europe have caused lower supplies, he added.

“It’s strange to drag politics into everything,” Peskov also said.

Russia’s state energy giant Gazprom cut flows through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline to Germany by 60% last week, blaming the move on Europe decision to withhold vital turbines due to sanctions.

Europe has been widely affected by Russia limiting its gas deliveries.

On Thursday, Germany declared the second phase of its three-stage emergency plan for natural gas supplies. German Vice-Chancellor Robert Habeck stated “gas is from now on in short supply in Germany,” and the country is currently “in an economic confrontation with Russia.”


Kremlin: Russia has not stolen any grain from Ukraine

The Kremlin has reiterated its assertion that Russia has not stolen any grain from Ukraine, as Turkey announced it was probing allegations from Kyiv and would not allow any such grain to be brought to Turkey.

Kyiv’s ambassador to Ankara said in early June that Turkish buyers were among those receiving grain that Russia had stolen from Ukraine, adding he had sought Turkey’s help to identify and capture individuals responsible for the alleged shipments.

Reuters reports that, asked about Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Cavusoglu’s comments that Ankara would investigate, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov stressed, “You should ask the foreign ministry. Russia has not stolen any grain.”

Peskov has previous described reports in the build-up to the war that Russia planned to invade Ukraine as “hollow and unfounded” and in February asserted that Russian troops in Belarus would be “pulled back to their permanent bases” after the conclusion of joint military drills.


Former Russian president laments low quality of current European leaders

The current generation of European politicians are vastly inferior to those who governed the continent a few decades ago, former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev said on Thursday.

Modern “technocrats” don’t have the backbone needed to take bold decisions and stand up to the US, unlike the statesmen of old, he claimed.

“I don’t mean to offend anyone, but it’s obvious to everyone that Mario Draghi is no Silvio Berlusconi and Olaf Scholz is no Angela Merkel,” Medvedev wrote on social media, comparing the current and former leaders of Italy and Germany.

“The political class of people, who embodied powerful political movements and in some cases entire eras, was replaced with puny individuals who call themselves technocrats,” he added.

The Russian official, who now serves as deputy chair of the National Security Council, said he had witnessed the replacement of the old guard personally during his career. Previously, Europeans had the guts to take action and face the music, if they turned out to be wrong. The modern generation may be largely competent at governing, but they don’t have the personality to take personal responsibility, he said.

“They will hide, weasel out, cite instructions, the state of markets or even climate change, but won’t make decisions. Or when they do, they come disastrously late,” he added.

Medvedev said such politicians cannot command respect because of these personal qualities, as evidenced by the treatment they get from Ukrainian officials.

“Could the Ukrainian ambassador call Chancellor [Helmut] Kohl ‘liverwurst’? Would the current president of Ukraine wear a green T-shirt to a meeting with President [Jacques] Chirac? Of course not,” Medvedev added, referring to the former leaders of Germany and France.

The first incident he referred to was the name-calling of Chancellor Scholz by Kiev’s envoy in Berlin. Weeks later, Andrey Melnik said he “regretted” calling Scholz an “offended liverwurst.”

Medvedev’s second remark apparently referred to the way Volodymyr Zelensky was dressed when he hosted the leaders of Germany, France, Italy and Romania in Kiev earlier this month, who all wore business suits and ties.

The Russian official blamed what he described as the “degradation” of European politicians on the increasing subversion of the policies of European nations to the interest of the US.

“[Former French president] Charles de Gaulle could object to any American president. Who among the Europeans now could do so without their hands trembling? They don’t think about the future. They are limited by their flaccid electoral goals,” Medvedev stated.

He noted that he was making this criticism public even though it would have been considered a major faux pas in the past. He added such remarks were now deemed permissible “for obvious reasons” in the West and in Russia.

There was little hope for positive change in terms of the scope of politicians, Medvedev said. He added that President Vladimir Putin’s old joke that “since Mahatma Gandhi died, there is no one to talk to” has proven to be spot-on.


Zelensky says joining EU is Ukraine’s chosen future

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Thursday that EU membership is Ukraine’s “choice of our future vision.”

“Today or tomorrow, and I know you know this, we have a big chance to receive a candidate status for EU membership,” Zelensky stated during a questions and answers session following his virtual address to the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

“Ukraine has made its own choice, … a future closer to the European Union and soon we will be part of that family. We have sacrificed a lot for that,” he noted, adding, “But most importantly, this is our choice — choice of our future vision.”

Zelensky said after the war ends, Ukraine will focus on “building a European state which will be part of the EU” but the threat from Russia will remain.

“We will understand very clearly that our neighbor is Russia, and that Russia, even if we finish the war and we win, in 10 or 20 years Russia may attack us again. I am not saying that this will happen, but there is a possibility,” he continued.

Zelensky stated developing Ukraine’s security institutions will be an important part of the rebuilding process.

“Security in all public spaces — starting from the borders of our country down to the very center,” he said.

“We have prepared a lot of draft laws, a lot of reforms,” he added.


Kremlin says Russia a very reliable energy supplier to Europe

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov has said Russia is a very reliable energy supplier to Europe and “strictly fulfils all its obligations”.

Peskov told a daily conference call with reporters that Germany had been informed about the “service cycles” of the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline, which is due to undergo maintenance from July 11-21.

Gas flows through the Nord Stream 1 undersea pipeline from Russia to Germany have been falling. Russia said a technical issue caused by sanctions forced the state-owned Gazprom to reduce the flow, while Italy and Germany announced this was a pretext to send less gas.


Russia sent dollar-Eurobond coupon payouts in roubles: Finance Ministry

The Russian finance ministry has announced it fulfilled its obligations on two issues of dollar-denominated Eurobonds “in full” by sending 12.51 billion roubles ($234.5 million) in coupon payments to the National Settlement Depository (NSD).

The ministry said the payments were on Eurobonds maturing in 2027 and 2047.

“Thus, obligations on servicing the state securities of the Russian Federation were fulfilled by the finance ministry in full,” the ministry added in a statement.


Germany says Russia gas cuts ‘economic attack’

“We must not fool ourselves: the cut in gas supplies is an economic attack on us by [Russian President Vladimir] Putin,” German Economy Minister Robert Habeck has said in a statement.

Lower gas flows sparked warnings that Germany could fall into recession if Russia supplies halted altogether.

“It is obviously Putin’s strategy to create insecurity, drive up prices and divide us as a society,” Habeck continued, adding, “This is what we are fighting against.”


UK announces new tranche of trade sanctions against Russia

Britain has introduced a new tranche of trade sanctions against Russia, a notice published on the government website has said.

The notice listed new measures including prohibitions on the export to Russia of a range of goods and technology, the export of jet fuel, and the export of sterling or EU denominated banknotes.


There’s extensive shelling in multiple regions of Ukraine: Authorities

Besides the bombardment of Ukrainian defenses in Severodonetsk and Lysychansk, officials say there’s been shelling by Russian forces on various other fronts, causing a number of civilian casualties.

In Donetsk, authorities say several settlements came under fire, including the cities of Sloviansk and Bakhmut. Dozens of settlements in the region are without water or electricity.

The government announced Thursday that four districts in the Sumy region in north-eastern Ukraine had again been hit by cross border shelling.

“There were about a hundred incoming artillery shells from the Russian side. One man died as a result of a munition dropped from an enemy drone,” said one official.

Five people were injured and one died as a result of a mine blast in the Okhtyrka district of Sumy, regional authorities stated.

In the south, the district of Kryvyi Rih was shelled, leaving two people wounded. The regional administration said that the town of Apostolove was now littered with cluster munitions.

Authorities added that Russian shelling of villages behind the frontline that runs along the Kherson-Mykolaiv border continued and that inside Kherson the situation was critical in several settlements.


EU leader says Ukraine candidacy decision is “a decisive moment”

European Council chief Charles Michel has called Thursday a “decisive moment” for the bloc as EU leaders meet to discuss Ukraine’s bid to gain membership.

“This is a decisive moment for the European Union. A geopolitical choice that we will make today,” Michel told reporters on his way into the European Council summit in Brussels.

EU leaders are considering whether to approve the European Commission’s decision last week to grant Ukraine EU candidate status.

The European Council President said he was “confident” that EU leaders will grant candidate status to Ukraine and Moldova and “express a clear and strong” European perspective for both nations.

European Parliament chief Roberta Metsola also hailed Thursday as a “historic” day, expressing her “hope” that Ukraine’s candidate status will be given the greenlight.

“A day where I thought we would wait much longer to have it on paper, and I really welcome the unity and the leadership of the European Union on this,” she added.


‘Wind of change’ in Europe as path to EU opens for Ukraine

European leaders are expected to formally accept Ukraine as a candidate to join the EU, a bold geopolitical move triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“History is on the march,” European Union chief executive Ursula von der Leyen said, ahead of a two-day summit in Brussels.

“I am talking about the wind of change that once again blows across our continent. With their applications, Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia are telling us that they want change,” she added.

The 27-nation bloc will need a major overhaul as it looks to enlarge again. While it will take years or perhaps more than a decade for the applicants to qualify for membership, the decision is a symbolic step that signals the EU’s intention to reach deep into the former Soviet Union.


EU climate chief says Russian gas cuts have hit 12 countries

A dozen European Union countries have been affected by cuts to gas supply from Russia, EU climate policy chief Frans Timmermans has said.

Timmermans stated ten of the EU’s 27 member countries have issued an “early warning” on gas supply, the first and least severe of three levels of crisis identified in EU security of energy supply regulations.

EU countries are required to have plans in place for how they would manage a supply disruption at the three levels.


Two Britons, Moroccan facing death penalty in Donetsk preparing appeal

Two Britons and a Moroccan who were captured while fighting for Ukraine and sentenced to death by a court in the self-proclaimed breakaway Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) are preparing to appeal, Russia’s TASS news agency has reported.

Britons Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner and Moroccan Brahim Saadoun were found guilty of “mercenary activities and committing actions aimed at seizing power and overthrowing the constitutional order of the DPR”.

“My colleagues and I are currently preparing the full text of an appeal against the sentence in the interests of our defendants,” TASS quoted Pinner’s lawyer, Yulia Tserkovnikova, as saying.

“Undoubtedly, if the appeal is dismissed and the sentence comes into force, a request for clemency will be filed as this is an inherent right of the defendants, under the legislation of the Dontesk People’s Republic,” she added.


Ukraine’s grain crisis must be solved in a month to avoid “devastating consequences”: UK minister

UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said Thursday it is “urgent” to solve the Ukraine grain crisis within the next month to avoid a “devastating” outcome.

Speaking in Ankara alongside Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, Truss once again accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of “weaponizing hunger” and stressed that if this difficult situation is not resolved, it will likely lead to “a huge hunger across the globe.”

“He [Putin] blocked the Ukrainian ports and is stopping 20 million tones of grain being exported across the globe, holding the world to ransom,” said Truss, who is in Turkey to discuss the plan to get the grain out, supported by the United Nations.

“We are clear the commercial vessels need to have safe passage to be able to leave Ukrainian ports, and that Ukrainian ports should be protected from Russian attacks,” she said, adding that, “Russia cannot be allowed to delay and prevaricate.”

We are very clear that this grain crisis is urgent and it needs to be solved within the next month, otherwise we could see devastating consequences,” Truss continued.


Turkey says it is investigating claims of stolen Ukrainian grain

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has said Turkey is taking seriously claims that Ukrainian grain was stolen by Russia and is investigating those allegations.

In a joint news conference with British Foreign Minister Liz Truss in Ankara, Cavusoglu stated Turkey would not allow grains stolen by Russia or any other country to be brought to Turkey.

Truss noted the crisis around grain trapped in Ukraine must be resolved in the next month and offered Britain’s expertise to help resolve the situation.


Ukraine claims to have destroyed Russian positions and weapons on Snake Island

The Ukrainian military announced it is continuing an operation against the Russian occupation of Snake Island, which lies in the Black Sea and has been occupied by the Russian Navy since the early days of the conflict.

Serhii Bratchuk, spokesman of Odesa regional military administration, stated on Telegram there was “good news … our military hit another Pantsir missile system.”

The Pantsir is an air defense weapon the Russians have shipped to Snake Island, also known as Zmiinyi Island.

“There is confirmation from the military of the defeat of the military targets of the temporary Russian garrison,” Bratchuk said, adding, “We are talking about two anti-aircraft missile and cannon complexes, we are talking about a radar station, several units of vehicles and several servicemen.”

On Wednesday, the Ukrainian Defense Ministry’s main intelligence directorate said “the operation will continue until the total liberation of Snake Island.”

The army’s Southern Operational Command said on Tuesday it had used “aimed strikes with the use of various forces” on the island.


Russia putting ‘increasing pressure’ on Ukraine’s troops in Severodonetsk area: UK

Russian forces are putting Ukraine’s troops in the Lysychansk-Sieverodonetsk area under “increasing pressure,” the United Kingdom’s defence ministry has announced.

Russian forces have advanced more than 5km towards the southern parts of Lysychansk, the ministry said in its latest intelligence briefing, adding that some Ukrainian units had withdrawn, likely to avoid being encircled.

Russia’s recent unit reinforcement and heavy concentration of fire had most likely improved its performance in the area, the ministry added.

“Russian forces are putting the Lysychansk-Sieverodonetsk pocket under increasing pressure with this creeping advance around the fringes of the built-up area. However, its efforts to achieve a deeper encirclement to take western Donetsk Oblast remain stalled,” it noted.


Germany to enter Phase 2 of emergency gas plan

Germany will enter Phase 2 of its three-stage emergency gas plan on Thursday, a source close to the matter told Reuters.

The alarm stage, planned for when the government sees a high risk of long-term supply shortages of gas, enables utilities to pass on high prices to customers and thereby help to lower demand.

However, Germany’s network regulator will not yet trigger a clause that would allow companies to pass on the gas price increases, sources close to the matter told Reuters.


Briton captured in Ukraine told execution will go ahead

A British man sentenced to death by a Russian proxy court for fighting in Ukraine has been told the execution will be carried out, his family have told the BBC.

Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner were sentenced by a court in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR).

The BBC says Aslin’s family said they had spoken to him in a phone call in which he said he had been told “time is running out” by his captors. Aslin also reportedly told his family his captors said there had been no attempt by UK officials to negotiate on his behalf.

The United Kingdom’s Foreign Secretary, Liz Truss, has previously stated she and her Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba had spoken about “efforts to secure the release of prisoners of war held by Russian proxies” and has called the death sentences a “sham judgement with absolutely no legitimacy”.


Zelensky calls for heavy arms

Moscow’s considerable air and artillery attacks are aimed at destroying the entire Donbas region, President Volodymyr Zelensky has said as he urged Ukraine’s allies to accelerate the shipment of heavy weapons to match Russia on the battlefield.

“In Donbas there are massive air and artillery strikes. The goal of the occupiers in this direction remains the same – they want to destroy the whole Donbas step by step. Lysychansk, Sloviansk, Kramatorsk – they aim to turn any city into Mariupol. Completely ruined,” Zelensky stated.

“This is why we again and again emphasise the acceleration of arm deliveries to Ukraine. What is quickly needed is parity on the battlefield in order to halt this diabolical armada and push it beyond Ukraine’s borders,” he added.


Fight for Severodonetsk and Lysychansk entering ‘fearsome climax’: Ukraine

The fight for the twin cities of Severodonetsk and Lysychansk is “entering a sort of fearsome climax”, an advisor to President Volodymyr Zelensky, Oleksiy Arestovych, has said, as Russian forces intensify their push to take the Donbas.

The governor of Luhansk has stated Russian forces captured another two villages on Wednesday: Loskutivka, about 25km south of Lysychansk and Rai-Oleksandrivka, about 60km southwest of Lysychansk (closer to the towns of Sloviansk and Kramatorsk).

“Lysychansk was shelled several times during June 22. Destruction was recorded in one of the city’s schools,” Serhiy Haidai noted on Telegram.

Haidai added Ukraine’s forces were still holding their positions in Severodonetsk where Russian shelling caused a fire in the fibreglass factory. He said the Russian army was “liberating Severodonetsk from life and jobs”.


President Raisi urges swift end to Ukraine war, blames NATO provocations

Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi has called for an end to the Ukraine war, blaming the US and NATO for the conflict.

In a meeting with visiting Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Wednesday in the Iranian capital Tehran, Raisi stressed the conflict in Ukraine has to end as soon as possible and expressed Iran’s readiness to help the warring sides find a diplomatic solution.


US hopeful for positive resolution soon for Sweden, Finland’s NATO bid

The United States is hopeful there will soon be a positive resolution of the issues between Turkey, Finland and Sweden regarding the NATO accession bids of the two Nordic countries, the State Department’s top diplomat for Europe has said.

Karen Donfried, assistant secretary for Europe and Eurasian affairs, speaking at a Senate foreign relations hearing, stated the US was “certainly pushing” to get all parties on the same page before next week’s NATO summit in Madrid.


Ukraine expects EU-wide support for candidacy to join bloc

A Ukrainian official overseeing the country’s push to join the EU has said she is “100 percent” certain all 27 EU nations will approve Ukraine’s candidacy during a summit this week.

In an interview with The Associated Press news agency, Deputy Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration Olha Stefanishyna said the decision could come as soon as Thursday, when the leaders’ summit starts.

Stefanishyna noted the Netherlands, Sweden and Denmark had been sceptical about starting accession talks with Ukraine while it is fighting Russia’s invasion but are now supportive. Asked how confident she was that Ukraine would be accepted as an EU candidate, she stated, “The day before the summit starts, I can say 100 percent.”

EU candidate status, which can be granted only if the existing member countries agree unanimously, is the first step towards membership. It does not provide security guarantees or an automatic right to join the bloc. Ukraine’s membership bid is the top order of business for EU leaders meeting in Brussels.


G7, NATO leaders to ratchet up pressure on Russia, keeping eye on China: US officials

Leaders from the G7 and the NATO alliance will seek to increase pressure on Russia over its war in Ukraine at meetings next week, while making clear that they remain concerned about China, the Reuters news agency cites senior US administration officials as having said.

NATO would announce new commitments to shore up European security, the officials stated, while the participation of leaders from Australia, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand would show that the war in Ukraine had not detracted from focus on China.

G7 leaders were also expected to address China’s “coercive economic practices,” which have become even more aggressive in recent years, one of the officials added, according to Reuters.


Russian momentum in Ukraine could slow for lack of resources: UK PM

Britain’s defence intelligence service believes that Russia’s momentum in the war in Ukraine will slow in the next few months as its army exhausts its resources, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told a group of European newspapers.

In comments released by Germany’s Sueddeutsche Zeitung, Johnson said President Vladimir Putin’s forces were pushing forward in the eastern Donbas region, wreaking destruction but at a heavy cost in soldiers and weapons.


Ordinary Ukrainians resisting Russia’s invasion are my role models: Zelensky

Presiden Volodymyr Zelensky has said his role models were ordinary Ukrainians who resisted invading Russian forces and he compared Russia to the fictional arch-villain Lord Voldemort in the ‘Harry Potter’ books.

Zelensky, dressed in a military uniform, was answering questions via videolink from students at the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy at the University of Toronto.

Asked by one student who his role models were, Zelenskiy stated, “The people of Ukraine… and there are very many of them.”

“An ordinary Ukrainian farmer who could take his tractor and close off a road to Russian tanks, an ordinary woman who would go out and stop armoured vehicles with her bare hands… Those are the people I look up to,” he added.


Russian cyber spying targeting Ukraine allies: Microsoft

State-backed Russian hackers have engaged in “strategic espionage” against governments, think tanks, businesses and aid groups in 42 countries supporting Kyiv, Microsoft has said in a report.

“Since the start of the war, the Russian targeting (of Ukraine’s allies) has been successful 29 percent of the time,” Microsoft President Brad Smith wrote, with data stolen in at least one-quarter of the successful network intrusions,

“As a coalition of countries has come together to defend Ukraine, Russian intelligence agencies have stepped up network penetration and espionage activities targeting allied governments outside Ukraine,” Smith added.


Russia says West covers up for Ukraine

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has stated Western countries cover up for the lies of the Kiev regime.

“What surprises me more is not the lies that we hear from Kiev every hour of every day, but how Kiev’s backers have started to play this game of lies,” the minister said in an interview with the Belarusian state television, an excerpt of which was published on the Foreign Ministry’s website on Wednesday.

“They are covering up for it whenever they feel like it. Not just these days.”

He said the unconstitutional coup was about “the opposition simply spitting in the face of the European Union, which, in the person of France, Germany and Poland, gave its guarantees for the agreement between Yanukovich and the three opposition leaders.”

“The next morning, they tore it all up, declared the need to cancel the regional status of the Russian language as a priority, sent armed bandits to the Crimea. That’s how it all started,” Lavrov added.


Hostilities cost Ukrainian government $5-6 bln every month: US official

The Ukrainian government loses between $5-6 billion every month amid the ongoing hostilities, Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development Samantha Power has stated.

“The burn rate for this government having to manage this war is, at last estimate, somewhere between five and six billion dollars a month. And that is a staggering burn rate,” she said.

Although Washington is to provide $7.5 billion for Ukraine to finance its budget expenditures, those funds will not be enough in the long-term perspective, the US official added.

“We know that more direct budget support is going to be needed down the line,” she continued.

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