Friday, August 19, 2022

Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 123: G7 nations to ban new imports of Russian gold

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:

Ukraine attacks Crimean oil-drilling platform for second time in a week

Ukrainian forces have attacked a drilling platform in the Black Sea owned by a Crimean oil and gas company, Tass news agency cited local officials as saying, the second strike in a week.

The platform is operated by Chernomorneftegaz, which Russian-backed officials seized from Ukraine’s national gas operator Naftogaz as part of Moscow’s annexation of the peninsula in 2014.

“It’s shelling by the armed forces of Ukraine, there are no casualties,” Tass cited a member of Crimea’s emergency services as saying. It gave no further details.


Scholz highlights G7 unity after condemning ‘brutal’ Kyiv attack

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has condemned Russia’s “brutal” missile attack on Kyiv, saying that it reinforced the need for G7 leaders to “stand together and support the Ukrainians in defending their country.”

Speaking after the first working session of a three-day summit of G7 leaders, Scholz said that “all G7 countries are concerned about the crises we are currently facing.”

“There are falling growth rates in some countries, rising inflation, shortages of raw materials and disruption of supply chains,” he continued, adding, “I am very, very, very confident that we will succeed in sending a very clear signal of unity and decisive action from this summit.”


Putin must not be allowed to ‘get away’ with conquering parts of Ukraine: Johnson

Russian President Vladimir Putin must not be allowed to “get away” with conquering parts of Ukraine, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said.

Asked how so-called Ukraine fatigue can be combated in the West, and whether he worries higher energy prices might cause people in the US and UK to decide it is not worth the fight, he stated: “I would just say to people in the United States that this is something that America historically does and has to do, and that is to step up for peace and freedom and democracy.”

“If we let Putin get away with it, and just annex, conquer, sizeable parts of a free, independent, sovereign country, which is what he is poised to do, if not the whole thing, then the consequences for the world are absolutely catastrophic,” he added.

He noted the US came in twice in the last century “as the arsenal of democracy” and President Joe Biden’s current investment in helping Ukraine is “a price worth paying”.


Kyiv mayor says attack on capital not a coincidence

Vitali Klitschko stated Sunday’s Russian strikes on Kyiv before the NATO summit was due to take place was a “symbolic attack”.

Speaking to Al Jazeera, Klitschko said the last attack on Kyiv was during the visit of the United Nations secretary-general in April, who went on to describe the conflict as a “senseless war”.

Klitschko had stated the Russia’s missile strikes against the city destroyed more than 220 apartments.

Responding to the Russian missiles in Kyiv which left one person dead and six injured, Andriy Yermak, head of the president’s administration, noted, “The Russians hit Kyiv again. Missiles damaged an apartment building and a kindergarten.”

The deputy mayor, Mykola Povoroznyk, said explosions heard later in other parts if Kyiv were air defences destroying further incoming missiles, Reuters reports.

He confirmed one person was killed and at least six wounded and added the missile struck near the site of a similar attack in late April.


Planned ban on gold imports will cost Russia $19bn a year: Blinken

The ban on Russian gold imports, expected to be announced at the summit of the Group of Seven advanced economies, will deprive Moscow of $19 billion worth of annual revenue, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken stated on Sunday.

“Well, first, let’s take gold. The thing that we’re just announcing that is the second most lucrative export that Russia has after energy, it’s about $19 billion a year. And most of that is within the the G7 countries so cutting that off, dying access to about $19 billion of revenues a year, that’s significant,” Blinken told CNN.


Top EU official accuses Russia of playing dangerous ‘hunger games’

Russia’s dangerous “hunger games” are solely responsible for the global food crisis, European Council President Charles Michel has said at the G7 summit.

Leaders of the world’s seven wealthiest nations gathered in Germany on Sunday for talks on additional sanctions against Russia and the medium- and long-term reconstruction of Ukraine.

During a press conference at the summit, Michel stated the Kremlin is using food as a “silent weapon of war.”

“We must vigorously counter Russia’s propaganda about food and fertiliser prices,” he continued, adding that the EU is supporting the UN’s efforts to reopen maritime routes in a way that also addresses Ukraine’s security concerns.

He said that global initiatives for food security are also being supported.

“The EU is working to mobilise nearly €600 million ($634 million) to support the most affected partners,” he added.


EU sanctions should include Russian gas embargo: Ukraine official

The latest missile strikes by Russia on Kyiv show that international sanctions should be more aggressive and include an EU embargo on Russian gas, the Ukraine president’s chief of staff has said.

“The G7 summit should respond to Russian strikes on Kyiv,” stated Andriy Yermak, head of the president’s office.

“The sanctions should be more aggressive. An embargo on gold exports is good, but a gas embargo is needed in the new EU sanctions package,” he added.


One civilian confirmed killed in Kyiv attack

Russian missiles struck a residential building and the compound of a kindergarten in central Kyiv on Sunday, killing one person and wounding five more, according to a Reuters update.

Firefighters put out a fire in a badly damaged nine-storey residential building in the central Shevchenkivskiy district, the emergency services announced. Debris was strewn over parked cars outside a smouldering building with a crater in its roof.

“They (rescuers) have pulled out a seven-year-old girl. She is alive. Now they’re trying to rescue her mother,” Kyiv’s mayor Vitali Klitschko said

“There are people under the rubble,” Klitschko stated on the Telegram messaging app.

He added that several people had already been hospitalised.


France urges producers to cap oil price over Ukraine: Macron office

France has urged oil producers to cap the price of the commodity in order to put the squeeze on Russia which is benefiting from soaring energy prices.

Paris backs a US proposal for a maximum oil price, but said that “it would be much more powerful if it came from the producing countries,” according to the French presidency.


‘More of their barbarism’: Biden

Strikes by Russian missiles in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv overnight and early this morning were another case of Russian barbarism, President Joe Biden said at the G7 summit.

“It’s more of their barbarism,” he added.


UK and France agree to provide more support for Ukraine

The UK and France have agreed to provide more support for Ukraine in its war with Russia, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s office announced on Sunday as the leaders met on the sidelines of the G7 summit.

“They agreed this is a critical moment for the course of the conflict, and there is an opportunity to turn the tide in the war,” a Downing Street spokesperson said in a statement.

Both men “stressed the need to support Ukraine to strengthen their hand in both the war and any future negotiations. President Emmanuel Macron praised the Prime Minister’s ongoing military support to Ukraine and the leaders agreed to step up this work,” the spokesperson added.

Johnson has warned Macron that any attempt to settle the conflict in Ukraine now will give Russian President Vladimir Putin “license to manipulate” other countries.

The prime minister told the French president that compromise will “only cause enduring instability” as the pair met to discuss the war at the G7 summit in Germany.

Macron was criticised for negotiating with Putin at the start of the invasion and saying Russia must not be “humiliated” – raising fears Ukraine could be pushed into giving up territory.

“The prime minister stressed any attempt to settle the conflict now will only cause enduring instability and give Putin licence to manipulate both sovereign countries and international markets in perpetuity,” stated a No 10 spokesperson after Sunday’s talks.


Biden says G7, NATO must ‘stay together’ against Russia’s war

US President Joe Biden told Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz that the West must stay united against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“We have to stay together,” Biden told Scholz at a meeting ahead of the G7 summit in the German Alps.

Russian President Vladimir Putin had been hoping “that somehow NATO and the G7 would splinter,” Biden said.

“But we haven’t and we’re not going to,” he added.


Johnson stresses need for continued unity in response to war

Speaking at the G7 summit in Germany, Prime Minister Boris Johnson stressed the need for continued unity in response to the war in Ukraine.

He said: “Realistically there is going to be fatigue in populations and politicians.”

Asked if he was worried about that support fracturing, the prime minister stated, “I think the pressure is there and the anxiety is there, we’ve got to be honest about that.”

“But the most incredible thing about the way the West has responded to the invasion of Ukraine by Putin has been the unity – NATO has been solid, the G7 has been solid and we continue to be solid,” the PM continued.

“But in order to protect that unity, in order to make it work, we’ve got to have really, really honest discussions about the implications of what’s going on, the pressures that individual friends and partners are feeling, that populations are feeling – whether it’s on the costs of their energy or food or whatever,” Johnson added.


G7 must respond to missile strikes with more sanctions on Russia: Ukraine

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said G7 countries must respond to new missile strikes against Ukraine by imposing further sanctions on Russia and providing more heavy weapons to Ukraine.

“This 7 y.o. Ukrainian kid was sleeping peacefully in Kyiv until a Russian cruise missile blasted her home. Many more around Ukraine are under strikes. G7 summit must respond with more sanctions on Russia and more heavy arms for Ukraine,” Kuleba added.


G7 in talks to curb Russia’s oil revenue

The Group of Seven (G7) leaders are holding “very constructive” talks about a potential cap on the price of Russian oil imports, Reuters reported ahead of the group’s summit on Sunday, citing a German government official.

“We are on a good path to reach an agreement,” the official stated.

The US, Canada, and Britain have already banned Russian oil, while the EU imposed an embargo on Russian oil imported by sea.


25 rescued from Kyiv attack, at least four wounded

So far 25 residents have been pulled out from the rubble after a Russian missile hit a residential building in central Kyiv, its mayor said.

Vitali Klitschko added that four people were hospitalized, including a seven-year old girl.

Ukraine’s police chief Ihor Klymenko stated on national television that five people had been wounded, adding that a kindergarten has also been targeted.

Air raid sirens regularly disrupt life in Kyiv, but there have been no major strikes on the city since June 5 when a rail car repair facility was hit on the outskirts and a late April shelling when a Radio Liberty producer was killed in a strike that hit the building she lived in.


Biden: G-7 to ban Russian gold in response to Ukraine war

President Joe Biden stated Sunday that the United States and other Group of Seven leading economies will announce a ban on imports of gold from Russia, a step the leaders hope will further isolate Russia economically over its invasion of Ukraine.

A formal announcement was expected Tuesday as the leaders meet for their annual summit.

Biden and his Group of Seven allies will huddle on the summit’s opening day Sunday on strategies to secure energy supplies and tackle inflation, aiming to keep the fallout from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine from splintering the global coalition working to punish Moscow.

Senior Biden administration officials noted gold is Moscow’s second largest export after energy, and that banning imports would make it more difficult for Russia to participate in global markets.

Biden’s Twitter feed said Russia “rakes in tens of billions of dollars” from the sale of its gold, its second largest export after energy.

Downing Street also stated that Gold exports were worth $15.2bln billion to Russia in 2021, and their importance has increased since President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, as oligarchs have rushed to buy bullion to avoid the impact of sanctions.

Officials believe that because London is a major gold-trading hub, UK sanctions will have a huge impact on Putin’s ability to raise funds to finance his war effort.

Johnson confirmed the move as he arrived at the G7 summit in Bavaria, Germany.


Russian DM inspects troops in Ukraine

Russian Defense Minister Army General Sergey Shoigu inspected the troops involved in the special military operation in Ukraine, Russia’s Defense Ministry reported on Sunday.

The defense minister heard reports by commanders at troop command posts about the current situation and the operations of the Russian armed forces in major operational areas, the ministry said.

“The defense minister paid special attention to comprehensive logistic support for the troops and measures to create all necessary everyday conditions for the personnel at temporary deployment areas. The minister also decorated Russian servicemen who had displayed heroism and self-sacrifice in the course of fulfilling combat tasks in the special military operation with Hero of the Russian Federation Gold Star medals and Orders of Courage,” the ministry announced in a statement posted on its Telegram.


Russia’s Kyiv strike aims to ‘intimidate Ukrainians’ before NATO summit: Mayor

A Russian missile strike that hit Kyiv was intended to “intimidate Ukrainians” in the days leading up to a NATO summit, the city’s mayor Vitali Klitschko said.

The first Russian strike in the capital in nearly three weeks was aimed to “intimidate Ukrainians… at the approach of the NATO summit” to be held in Madrid from June 28-30, stated Klitschko, who visited the scene of the explosion.

Kyiv has come under attack for the first time since 5 June, with Russian missiles striking at least two residential buildings in the Shevchenkivskyi district of the capital.

Klitschko, said that two people had been taken to hospital and rescuers were working to free people trapped under rubble.

“They (the rescuers) have pulled out a seven-year-old girl. She is alive. Now they’re trying to rescue her mother,” Klitschko added.


UK, US, Canada and Japan to ban imports of Russian gold

The UK, US, Canada and Japan will ban imports of Russian gold in the latest stage of the effort to cripple Russia’s economy in response to the war in Ukraine, the Press Association reports.

Gold exports were worth $15.2bn billion to Russia in 2021, and their importance has increased since Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, as oligarchs have rushed to buy bullion to avoid the impact of sanctions, Downing Street said.

Officials believe that because London is a major gold-trading hub, UK sanctions will have a huge impact on Putin’s ability to raise funds to finance his war effort.
Boris Johnson confirmed the move as he arrived at the G7 summit in Bavaria, Germany.

The ban is due to come into force shortly and will apply to newly mined or refined gold. It will not affect Russian-origin gold that has been previously exported from Russia, the British government added.


G7 leaders to discuss Ukraine war, food and energy crises

The G7 leaders are in Germany, looking to back Ukraine against Russia’s invasion and deal with the intensifying global fallout of the war, trying to increase pressure on Putin while avoiding sanctions that could stoke inflation and exacerbate the cost-of-living crisis affecting their countries.

They are set to agree to ban imports of gold from Russia, a source familiar with the matter told the Reuters news agency. A German government source added leaders were discussing a possible price cap on Russian oil imports.

The summit is also expected to discuss options for tackling rising energy prices and replacing Russian oil and gas imports.

The summit is at the resort of Schloss Elmau at the foot of the Zugspitze mountain – where Germany last hosted the G7 in 2015. Then too, Russian aggression against Ukraine dominated the agenda a year after Moscow’s invasion of Crimea.


US lawmakers attempt to declare Ukraine conflict a ‘genocide’: Report

A bipartisan group of US lawmakers introduced a resolution accusing Russia of committing “genocide” in Ukraine. The draft resolution reportedly accuses Russia of crimes that Moscow says were actually committed by Ukrainian forces and claims that Russian-speaking refugees were brought to Russian territory against their will.

The resolution, entitled ‘Recognizing Russian actions in Ukraine as a genocide,’ was introduced by Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tennessee). While its text has not yet been made available on the US Congress’ website, Foreign Policy claimed to have seen a draft.

According to Foreign Policy, the resolution “argues that atrocities committed by Russian troops in Ukraine, including indiscriminate attacks on civilians, the direct targeting of maternity hospitals and medical facilities” constitute genocide.

The resolution also argues that “the forcible transfer of hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians to Russia and Russian-held territory” meets the criteria laid out by the United Nations in its Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

The resolution is reportedly supported by a bipartisan group of House lawmakers who sit on the Helsinki Commission, a US government agency that says it “promotes human rights, military security, and economic cooperation” in Europe and Eurasia. Back in April, the commission pushed the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to back Kiev’s evidence-free claims that Russia was committing genocide.

The Helsinki Commission also argued this week for the breakup and “decolonization” of the Russian Federation.


Russia bombs Kyiv after capturing key Donbas city

Several explosions were heard early on Sunday in the Shevchenkivskiy district of the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, the city’s mayor Vitali Klitschko said on the Telegram messaging app.

There was no immediate information on the cause of the explosions or casualties.

“Ambulance crews and rescuers dispatched to the scene. More detailed information – later,” Klitschko stated, adding, “Residents are being rescued and evacuated from two buildings.”

Images and videos posted on social media by residents showed smoke rising up in the sky in several places. Local media reports say the number of blasts this morning stands at four.


Ukraine will win back Severodonetsk: Zelensky

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has said Ukraine would win back all the cities it had lost to Russia, including Severodonetsk.

In a late-night video address, he also stated Ukraine had been hit by 45 Russian missiles and rockets over the previous 24 hours, which he described as a cynical attempt to break his people’s spirits.

Russian forces have established full control over the Ukrainian city of Sevierodonetsk and the nearby town of Borivske, Moscow announced on Saturday.

Zelensky made a plea for the country’s allies to send it air defense systems in response to continued Russian missile attacks.


German official says G7 on course to agree Russian oil price caps

Leaders of the Group of Seven rich democracies are having “very constructive” discussions on a possible cap on Russian oil imports, a German government source said has said shortly before the start of the G7 summit, according to Reuters.

“We are on a good path to reach an agreement,” the official added, Reuters reported.


Ukraine won’t pursue NATO membership – Zelensky adviser

Ukraine has accepted that NATO membership is off the table, and will not take any further steps toward joining the US-led military alliance, Igor Zhovkva, an adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky, told the Financial Times on Saturday.

NATO leaders are set to meet in the Spanish capital of Madrid next week, and during two days of meetings and consultations, the alliance will unveil its Strategic Concept – a document that outlines the alliance’s mission and stance toward non-members, including China and Russia.

Zhovkva told the Financial Times that Zelensky’s government wants the alliance to acknowledge that Ukraine is “a cornerstone of European security,” and to reaffirm its partnership with Kiev, first established in 1997.

However, he said that Ukraine will not push to become a member of NATO.

“NATO members have declined our aspirations. We will not do anything else in this regard,” he added.

Ukraine’s prospective membership in the alliance was a key factor behind the current conflict with Russia. Ukraine wrote its goal of becoming a NATO member into its constitution in 2019, despite Moscow’s warnings that having the alliance’s forces and weapons on its border would constitute an unacceptable security threat.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has insisted that the alliance’s membership books remain open for interested nations, but has not promised or ruled out membership for Ukraine in the near term. Under the 2008 Bucharest Declaration, NATO’s official position is that Georgia and Ukraine “will become members of NATO” at an unspecified future date.

NATO’s Strategic Concept has not been updated since 2010, with that version of the document stating that the alliance seeks “a true strategic partnership” with Russia.

Zhovkva wants NATO to purge any mention of Russia as a “partner” from the coming update.

“We expect in the NATO strategic concept . . . there will be more strict and severe warnings to the Russian aggressor,” he said, urging the alliance “Don’t be shy” in inserting anti-Russian text.

Furthermore, Zhovkva added that he wants the Ukrainian conflict to be described in the strategy document, arguing “it’s not enough just to cross out the word ‘partner.’”


NATO predicts how Ukraine conflict will end

The conflict between Russia and Ukraine will probably end with a negotiated settlement, but that does not mean the West should stop sending arms to Kiev or reduce sanctions pressure on Moscow, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Saturday.

“Most likely, this war will end at the negotiating table,” Stoltenberg told the Spanish newspaper El Pais, acknowledging that an outright military victory was not on the cards.

“Our responsibility is to ensure that Ukraine is in the strongest possible position and to help it remain a sovereign and independent European nation,” he said.

The best way to bolster Kiev’s position ahead of talks with Moscow is “to provide strong military support, economic support, and push through tough sanctions against Russia,” the NATO chief added.

However, he declined to say when negotiations between Russia and Ukraine could take place.

“Peace can always be achieved if you surrender. But Ukraine is fighting for its freedom, for its right to exist, for the right to be a democratic nation without submitting to the power of Russia. And the Ukrainians are ready to pay a very high price, to sacrifice themselves for these values. It’s not for us to tell them how far their sacrifices should go,” Stoltenberg said.

When asked whether the West’s arming of Kiev is fuelling the conflict and increasing loss of life in Ukraine, the NATO chief replied that “we help them because they’re asking for it.”

“Throughout history we’ve seen nations willing to accept great sacrifices for freedom,” he added.

Stoltenerg also noted that despite weaponry being provided to Ukraine by the US and the EU, “there is no total war between NATO and Russia.”

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