Saturday, December 9, 2023

Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 125: World leaders condemn Russia deadly attack on Ukraine mall

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 announces steps to ramp up NATO security against Russian threat

President Joe Biden announced Tuesday the United States will send two new destroyers to the Rota Naval Station in Spain. This brings the total number of US destroyers based there to six.

“As I said before the war started, if Putin attacked Ukraine, the United States would enhance our force posture in Europe and respond to the reality of a new European security environment,” he said alongside Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez.

“Together, the new commitments will constitute an impressive display of allied unity and resolve and NATO’s 360 degree approach to our security,” he added.

The move comes as the US is expected to make specific announcements during this week’s NATO summit in Madrid to ramp up the American force posture as it looks to counter a “more acute and aggravated Russian threat,” according to national security adviser Jake Sullivan.

“The United States will be making specific announcements tomorrow on land, sea and air on additional force posture commitments over the long term beyond the duration of this crisis, for however long it goes on,” Sullivan said aboard Air Force One as Biden was flying to Madrid.

“Those will help increases the United States’ and NATO’s maritime presence,” he added.

“By the end of the summit what you will see is a more robust, more effective, more combat credible, more capable and more determined force posture to take account of a more acute and aggravated Russian threat,” he continued.

He noted the whole of the NATO alliance was also planning to agree on specific targets for increased funding for NATO from their national budgets.

This follows after NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg announced Monday the US-led military alliance will enhance its battle groups in the eastern part of the alliance up to brigade levels, saying it would be the “biggest overhaul of our collective deterrence and defense since the Cold War.”

“We will increase the number of high readiness forces to well over 300,000,” he said, adding it will include “more pre-positioned equipment, and stockpiles of military supplies; more forward-deployed capabilities, like air defense; strengthened command and control; and upgraded defense plans, with forces pre-assigned to defend specific allies.”

According to the NATO website, the NATO Response Force comprises around 40,000 troops.

“These troops will exercise together with home defense forces. And they will become familiar with local terrain, facilities, and our new pre-positioned stocks so that they can respond smoothly and swiftly to any emergency,” Stoltenberg stated.

US Defense Dept. watchdog to evaluate intelligence sharing with European partners in support of Ukraine

The US Department of Defense’s watchdog announced it would begin an evaluation of the extent to which the DoD carried out intelligence sharing with European partners in support of Ukraine.

The goal of the evaluation is to look at how the DoD “developed, planned, and executed cross-domain intelligence sharing” with European partners, the DoD Inspector General wrote in a memo announcing the project.

The Inspector General will perform the evaluation at US European Command headquarters, Special Operations Command headquarters, the EUCOM Joint Analysis Center, as well as other locations. The evaluation begins this month.

The announcement comes one week after the Inspector General launched an evaluation of the DoD’s plans to restock its own stocks of weapons and equipment as it maintains an ongoing transfer of supplies to Ukraine.

The Inspector General also has a number of other projects already underway related to Ukraine, including an evaluation of plans to provide and account for security assistance and intelligence to Ukraine, examining the DoD process for tracking the use of funds to support Ukraine, and more.

Rescuers search rubble in Dnipro after missile strike

Rescue workers searched for people under rubble in the eastern Ukrainian city of Dnipro after a Russian missile strike in the region, the governor of Dnipropetrovsk region has said.

The official, Valentyn Reznychenko, stated that railway infrastructure and an industrial enterprise had been damaged in the city and that a services company was burning.

UK PM says NATO talks ‘difficult’ with Turkey on Finland, Sweden

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said that talks over Sweden and Finland’s membership in NATO with Turkey will be “difficult” but said “progress” had been made.

“Finland and Sweden, breaking decades of historic neutrality, are now wanting to join. It will be a difficult conversation,” he told reporters on the plane taking him to Madrid for a NATO summit.

UK military chiefs urge army ‘mobilisation’ over Russia threat

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace and Patrick Sanders, a general and the army’s most senior officer, have warned that UK armed forces must “mobilise” in response to the threat posed by Russia, with the army’s new chief invoking the Allies’ struggle against Nazi Germany.

Wallace, who has been in post for three years, also suggested the government will need to further boost defence spending to meet the heightened threat.

“There’s a very real danger that Russia will lash out against wider Europe, and that in these days of long-range missiles and stealth, distance is no protection,” he told an audience at military think-tank the Royal United Services Institute.

“Investment needs to continue to grow. Before it becomes too late to address the resurgent threat and the lessons learned in Ukraine, it is time to mobilise, to be ready and to be relevant,” he added.

Finnish, Swedish leaders meet Erdogan over NATO bids

The leaders of Finland and Sweden met Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan ahead of a NATO summit in Madrid to try to get him to drop objections to them joining, Swedish and Finnish officials have said.

Erdogan has refused to greenlight the applications from the Nordic pair despite calls from his NATO allies to clear the path for them to enter.

NATO says does not regard China as adversary but worried over Russia ties

NATO does not see China as an adversary but it is concerned about Beijing’s ever closer ties with Moscow since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has stated.

“We don’t regard China as an adversary,” Stoltenberg said on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Madrid, adding that China would soon be the biggest economy in the world and that NATO needed to engage with Beijing on issues like climate change.

“But we are disappointed by the fact that China has not been able to condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine, that China is spreading many of the false narratives about NATO, the West, and also that China and Russia are more close now than they have ever been before,” he continued.

The war in Ukraine shows the “danger” of being too dependent on commodities from authoritarian regimes, Stoltenberg warned.

“The way Russia is using energy as a weapon of coercion highlights the need to quickly wean off of Russian oil and gas,” Stoltenberg continued.

US prohibits Russian gold imports

The US has banned the import of Russian gold, a document from the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) released on Tuesday shows.

“The importation into the United States of gold of Russian Federation origin is prohibited, except to the extent provided by law, or unless licensed or otherwise authorized by OFAC,” the statement published on the Treasury’s website says, noting that the ban comes into immediate effect.

The document specifies that the ban does not apply to Russian gold that was exported outside the country prior to June 28.

It also states that the UK, Canada, and Japan have joined the US ban.

The document names gold as Russia’s “biggest non-energy export,” which is factually incorrect.

According to Moscow, the second biggest export is food. Russian exports of agriculture products were worth around $37 billion in 2021, while gold exports reportedly generated about $15 billion.

Bulgaria expels 70 Russian diplomats

Number missing after Kremenchuk mall strike lowered to 21

A revised figure has been given for the number of people missing following the missile attack on a mall in Kremenchuk on Monday.

Ukraine’s Interior Minister, Denys Monastyrskyi, told Ukrainian television that 21 people were missing, 15 less than the previous estimate of 36 from officials.

“As of now, I can say that 60% of the rubble of this shopping mall has been dismantled. There are 59 wounded who went to the hospital yesterday, 25 of them were hospitalized,” Monastyrskyi added.

Monastyrskyi, who visited the site, said the security services had established “which aviation regiment committed this crime. And there are already the first names of pilots who flew on the Tu-22, which carried out fatal strikes.”

“It is difficult to say what the enemy planned. But this is not the first time it has hit civilian targets,” he stated.

“This is a completely civilian object. Neither the Armed Forces nor other military formations have ever been stationed here. There are no bunkers and warehouses with weapons. There is nothing here to threaten any of the military,” he said.

“There are no military facilities around. There are no military units or military depots within a radius of 5 kilometers (3.1 miles),” he added.

Monastyrskyi said that a special forensic laboratory provided by Ukraine’s international partners to investigate war crimes would be used to help identify the victims of the missile strike.

“Evidence of this crime will be collected, properly executed and transmitted, including to international institutions,” he added.

Ukraine’s Prosecutor General, Iryna Venediktova, also visited the site and said it was “not just a war crime, it is a crime against humanity — a large-scale evidence of the Kremlin’s systematic policy of killing civilians in Ukraine.”

“Every fragment of a missile, every piece of evidence is important and must be documented according to the highest standards of international humanitarian law, because this case can go not only to the national court, but also to be considered in The Hague,” she stated in reference to the seat of the International Criminal Court.

She added that law enforcement agencies had been tasked “to assess the situation as to why the public facility was not evacuated during the air raid. If there was negligence, they should be held accountable. Sirens are a signal that no one can ignore during a war.”

Zelensky says Russia ‘state sponsor of terrorism’

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has stated Russia must be labelled a “state sponsor of terrorism” after a missile strike on a crowded shopping mall in the city of Kremenchuk killed at least 18 people.

“Only total insane terrorists, who should have no place on Earth, can strike missiles at civilian objects,” Zelensky said on his Telegram channel, accusing Russia of carrying out “calculated strikes” on civilian infrastructure.

“Russia must be recognised as a state sponsor of terrorism. The world can and therefore must stop Russian terror,” he added.

G7 leaders end meeting with condemnation of Russia

G7 leaders have ended their meeting in Germany with a united stance to support Ukraine for “as long as necessary”, while exploring far-reaching efforts to cap Kremlin income from oil sales that are financing its invasion.

The final statement left out key details on how the fossil fuel price caps would work in practice, but set up more discussion in the weeks ahead to “explore” measures to cap imports of Russian oil at an undetermined level.

During the three days of meetings, leaders also agreed on a ban on imports of Russian gold and to step up aid to countries hit with food shortages by the blockade on Ukraine grain shipments through the Black Sea.

Ukraine facing ‘brutality’ unseen in Europe since WWII: NATO chief

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg has urged leaders of the bloc heading to a summit in Madrid to keep up their backing for Ukraine as it faces an onslaught from Russia.

“It is extremely important that we are ready to continue to provide support because Ukraine now faces a brutality which we haven’t seen in Europe since the second world war,” Stoltenberg said ahead of the gathering in Spain.

Macron: No one is considering an end of war in next weeks or months

French President Emmanuel Macron warned Tuesday “Russia cannot and should not win the war.”

“Our support for Ukraine and our sanctions against Russia will be maintained as long as needed and with the intensity needed in the upcoming weeks and months,” Macron told a news conference at the G7 summit in Bavaria.

When asked about Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s call to end the war in Ukraine before the year is out, Macron responded, “No one is considering an end of the war in the next weeks or months.”

He expressed hope an “exit could be obtained at the end of the year,” but “only with the certainty that Russia cannot and should not win.”

The French leader refused to use language previously used by Zelensky, describing Russia as a “state sponsoring terrorism.”

Macron also called the Russian missile strike on a Ukrainian shopping center a “war crime.”

Firefighters and soldiers searched on Tuesday for survivors in the rubble of the Kremenchuk shopping mall, where authorities said 36 people were still missing after a Russian missile raid that had killed at least 18.

G7 will drive up costs for Russia over Ukraine war: Scholz

Leaders of the G7 promised to make Russia pay for its invasion of Ukraine, with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz stressing that “Vladimir Putin must not be allowed to win”.

“The G7 stands united in its support for Ukraine,” Scholz told a press conference after a three-day summit.

“We will continue to keep up and drive up the economic and political costs of this war for President Putin and his regime,” he added.

Italian PM: G-20 presidency says Putin won’t go to Bali meeting

Italian Premier Mario Draghi said the Indonesian presidency of the Group of 20 nations has ruled out in-person participation by Russian President Vladimir Putin at the November meeting of the group in Bali.

The November 15-16 summit risked awkward diplomatic encounters if Putin were to have come, as announced by the Kremlin.

But Draghi, whose country held the G-20 presidency before handing it off to Indonesia, noted Tuesday the G-7 had rallied to support Indonesian President Joko Widodo to organise a successful summit.

Draghi has stated it may soon be possible for cereal exports to resume from Ukraine, alleviating shortages that are particularly affecting poor countries.

Draghi added it was not necessary for mines to be fully cleared from Ukraine’s ports and that “there are corridors” in place to potentially allow cargo ships to operate.

A final green light from the Kremlin was required for exports to resume, and this “should come soon,” Draghi told reporters.

NATO summit to set strategic direction of alliance for years to come: US

The ongoing NATO summit will set the strategic direction for the alliance for the years to come, US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said on Tuesday.

“The summit will provide an opportunity to set the strategic direction of the alliance in the coming years,” he told reporters.

Madrid is hosting the leaders’ summit on June 28–30.

Sweden flags progress at NATO talks with Turkey

Sweden and Turkey have made progress at talks on the Nordic country’s accession to NATO, Foreign Minister Ann Linde stated on Tuesday.

Further progress can be achieved at the alliance’s current summit in Madrid, Linde said in an interview with Svenska Dagbladet daily.

“We expect that something positive could happen today, but it might also take longer,” Linde added.

Sweden and Finland applied to join NATO on May 18. They were expected to receive an invitation at the June 28-30 summit in Madrid, but Turkey blocked the accession process. Ankara demands that the countries recognize a number of Kurdish parties as terrorist organizations and extradite persons wanted in Turkey on terrorism charges.

FM: NATO declared Russia its enemy long before summit

Russia was declared NATO’s enemy long before the NATO summit [on June 28-30], Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told reporters on Tuesday.

“As for the plans being prepared for the NATO summit to declare us a threat, to declare China a systemic challenge, Russia was declared an enemy long before the NATO summit was convened,” the top diplomat said after a meeting of foreign ministers of the Caspian littoral states.

“Judging by the statements by Western politicians, Russia was declared an enemy simply because it doesn’t want to agree with the neo-liberal world order the United States, which has subordinated the entire Western world, is seeking to impose on all the rest under the slogan of a rule-based order,” he continued.

“It [declaring Russia as a threat] is no surprise for us and it will bring about nothing new to the practical policy of the United States and its satellites,” he added.

UK Foreign Secretary urges West not to show signs of fatigue over Ukraine

The West should not show signs of fatigue amid the Ukrainian crisis, UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said in an interview published in Spain’s El Pais newspaper.

“There is a lot of support for Ukraine in Europe,” the foreign secretary said, “I spoke with ministers from the Group of Seven on Friday, and we all agree to give Ukraine all the support it needs and to strengthen sanctions against Russia.”

“But in this crisis, the unity that has been shown has become very important,” she added, “I ask you to maintain it (unity) and not to show signs of fatigue or a desire to give in.”

According to Truss, NATO’s response to the situation around Ukraine “should be to increase its presence [in eastern Europe] and make it more permanent”.

She also believes that Western troops “must prepare for all possible contingencies.”

“We cannot have an unconvenient peace with Russia’s continued presence in Ukraine,” the minister argued, “I believe that all of Ukraine’s territories have been illegally occupied. <…> Ultimately, this is about what Ukrainians want.”

British PM says no war between Russia and UK, but threats should be adressed

Russia-UK relations are unlikely to reach the point of direct hostilities, but it is necessary to respond to the alleged threat emanating from Russia, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in an interview with British reporters, broadcast by the Sky News TV channel on Tuesday.

“I don’t think it will come to that and clearly we’re working very hard to make sure that we confine this to Ukraine,” Johnson said when asked if the kingdom was preparing for war with Russia.

At the same time, he stated, the United Kingdom must increase defense spending when threats change.

“NATO invariably aggressive towards Russia”

At all historical stages NATO invariably pursued an aggressive policy towards Russia instead of struggling with global challenges and problems, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on the Rossiya-24 round-the-clock television news channel on Tuesday.

“Whatever historical stage over the past decades one may look at, it will be readily seen that NATO has never had a different agenda,” she said.

“Expand, close the ring around Russia, build up military presence on the Russian borders, supply new weapons there, violate the existing rules and norms, get out of the agreements that limit and restrain to gain a free hand and violate everything that you once signed up to – this is what this alliance’s logic has been based on all along,” Zakharova added.

She recalled that NATO members were never concerned about global challenges and threats.

“The alliance has never had any intention to pool efforts, to join forces with our country or with other organizations, such as the CSTO, in order to prevent the emergence of new or existing threats or to minimize risks,” she continued.

Zakharova pointed out that the alliance for many years “always built an aggressive policy around the main idea – confrontation with our country”.

Hostilities to end if Kiev orders nationalists to lay down weapons: Kremlin

Hostilities in Ukraine may end “before the end of today,” if Kiev orders the nationalists to lay down their weapons, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters Tuesday.

“The Ukrainian side can end all this before the end of this day; an order is necessary for the nationalist units to lay down their weapons, an order is necessary for the Ukrainian military to lay down their weapons; and they must fulfill all Russia’s demands. Then everything will be over before the day ends,” the spokesman said, commenting on Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s remark that he would like to end the hostilities before the cold comes.

“Everything else are just speculations of the Ukrainian head of state,” the spokesman added.

“We orient ourselves on the statements made by our President [Vladimir Putin] that the special military operation proceeds according to the plan and achieves its goals,” the spokesman stated.

When asked if the Russian side has any approximate timeframe for the end of the special operation, Peskov answered in a negative.

G7 considers Russian energy price cap

G7 leaders have agreed to look into placing price caps on Russian energy export shipping and insurance to limit Moscow’s income after the International Energy Agency claimed Russia’s oil export revenues rose in May despite volume decreasing due to sanctions.

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi has pushed to include gas in the proposed cap, while French President Emmanuel Macron went further and proposed extending the price cap beyond Russian sources.

The group did state their intention to avoid sanctioning the supply of Russian agricultural products, and ensure existing measures don’t interfere with delivery of humanitarian aid.

Russia expands US sanctions list, adding 25 more people, including Biden’s wife and daughter

The Russian Foreign Ministry on Tuesday expanded its US sanctions list by another 25 people, including wife and daughter of US President Joe Biden.

“In response to the ever-expanding US sanctions against Russian political and public figures, 25 American citizens from among those responsible for the formation of the Russophobic course of senators, members of the so-called McFaul-Yermak group, which is developing recommendations regarding restrictions against Russia, and members of President Joe Biden’s family,” the ministry announced in a statement.

In particular, Jill Biden, the wife of the US leader, and their daughter Ashley Biden were added to the black list.

Russia comments on alleged shopping mall strike

The Russian military has confirmed an airstrike on the Ukrainian city of Kremenchug on Monday, but claimed it targeted a stockpile of Western weapons.

The detonation caused damage to a nearby non-functioning shopping mall. Kiev had claimed that Russia attacked the mall, killing and injuring many civilians.

The Russian Defense Ministry said the location of the arms stockpile was near the Kredmash factory. The Amstor Mall, where a fire was reported by Ukrainian sources on Monday, is right next to it. The military claimed that the Western munitions detonated and caused a fire at the shopping center, which was no longer operating.

Ukrainian officials claim that the mall was packed with people at the moment Russia allegedly attacked it. According to the latest casualty report, 18 people were killed and 59 injured in the incident.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky described the incident in Kremenchug as “one of the most blatant terrorist attacks in European history.” He stated that the site posed no threat to the Russian military and had no strategic value.

EU condemns Kremenchuk mall attack, calls it a “heinous act”

The European Union has announced it condemns “in the strongest possible terms” the Russian missile strike on a shopping mall in Kremenchuk, central Ukraine, calling it a “heinous act.”

The number of people killed in the attack rose to 18 on Tuesday, a regional official said, with search and rescue operations still underway.

A statement released Tuesday morning said: “The EU condemns in the strongest possible terms the Russian missile strike on a shopping centre in the Ukrainian city of Kremenchuk.

“Hundreds of innocent civilians were reportedly present at the centre at the time of the attack. Our thoughts are with the victims and their families,” it read.

“This is yet another heinous act in a series of attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure by the Russian Armed Forces, including most recently missile attacks on civilian buildings and infrastructure in Kyiv and other regions. The continued shelling of civilians and civilian objects is reprehensive and totally unacceptable and amounts to war crime,” the statement added.

“Russia bears full responsibility for these acts of aggression and all the destruction and loss of life it causes. It will be held accountable for them,” it said.

“The EU reiterates its full solidarity with the Ukrainian people. The EU will continue to provide strong support for Ukraine’s overall economic, military, social and financial resilience, including humanitarian aid,” it added.

NATO summit kicks off in Spain

NATO, the US-led military bloc, kicked off its annual three-day summit in Madrid on Tuesday.

The 30-member organization will focus on strengthening its forces in Europe and elsewhere in the wake of Russia’s military campaign in Ukraine, which was launched in late February. Members are also expected to discuss more aid to Kiev, as well as the prospect of Sweden and Finland joining the bloc.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg stated on Monday that the bloc would increase the number of its rapid-response troops from roughly 40,000 to “well over” 300,000. He labeled Russia “the most significant and direct threat.”

The meeting is taking place on the heels of the G7 summit in southern Germany, where the leaders of the US, Canada, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the EU pledged to support Ukraine “for as long as it takes.”

Zelensky says Ukrainian sovereignty extends to “entire territory”

In a message to mark Ukraine’s Constitution Day on Tuesday, President Volodymyr Zelensky said Ukrainian sovereignty “extends to the entire territory.”

“We defend Ukraine, which is a sovereign, independent, democratic, social and legal state,” he stated, adding, “God is on our side and says that defending your home from evil is not a sin. It is a sin not to defend it.”

Zelensky noted Ukraine is a “unitary state” and “our territory within the existing borders is integral and inviolable.”

France to send Ukraine “significant quantities” of armored personnel carriers

France will send Ukraine “significant quantities” of French-made armored personnel carrier and support vehicles, known as VAB, according to the country’s armed forces minister.

“To move quickly in areas under enemy fire, armies need armored vehicles,” Sébastien Lecornu said in an interview Monday evening in Le Parisien newspaper, adding, “France will deliver, in significant quantities, transport vehicles of this type, VAB, which are armed.”

The VAB is a wheeled armored personnel carrier and support vehicle. It was developed in the early 1970s by French manufacturers Saviem and Renault and first used in 1976.

The minister did not say when these vehicles would be delivered.

Lecornu noted that France was also examining the possibility of delivering to Ukraine French-built anti-ship Exocet missiles.

Some 36 people still missing in Kremenchuk

The governor of the Poltava region has said 36 people are still missing after yesterday’s attack on the Kremenchuk shopping centre, as rescuers continue searching through the rubble.

“More than a thousand people worked all night on the ruins – rescuers, police, medics and volunteers,” Dmytro Lunin stated in an early morning post on Telegram.

He said 25 people had been hospitalised out of a total of 59 wounded. The death toll currently stands at 18.

3 civilians killed by rocket fire as missile attacks hit Mykolaiv and Odesa

Officials in the southern city of Mykolaiv said “about 11 missiles” were fired on Monday night — part of a spike in Russian missile attacks across Ukraine.

Vitalii Kim, head of the Mykolaiv regional military administration, stated some missiles had been shot down by air defenses but provided no further details.

Three people were killed in a rocket attack on the coastal town of Ochakiv, southwest of Mykolaiv, including a 6-year-old girl, Kim added. Six others were wounded.

Natalia Humenuk, spokesperson for the armed forces in southern Ukraine, said “so far there is no information about casualties” from the missile attacks on Mykolaiv.

The Russians, Humenuk added, had used KH-22 missiles — the same type that struck the Kremenchuk mall on Monday — against the southern Odesa region.

“These are old-style missiles, and their guidance is completely aimless, they have a wide range. That’s probably why such an absolutely illogical hit in private houses [in Odesa] happened,” she continued.

Humenuk said Ukrainian strikes against Russian air defenses on Snake Island continued, and their radar station was not working.

She added in Kherson “we are slowly moving forward” despite Russian artillery and air strikes.

Humenuk said the Russians did not “have large reserves left to transfer” in the southern theater.

“They gather forces in small groups to [try to] retrieve lost positions,” she added.

Earlier on Tuesday, the General Staff of the Ukrainian military announced Russian efforts in the south focused on holding their positions in the Kherson and Mykolaiv regions.

Kremenchuk death toll climbs to 18: Governor

The death toll from the attack in Kremenchuk has climbed to 18, governor of the Poltava region has stated.

“Sincere condolences to family and friends. Rescuers continue to work,” Dmytro Lunin wrote on Telegram.

EC president condemns Kremenchuk attack

The president of the European Council has condemned the “horrendous and indiscriminate” attack on the shopping centre in Kremenchuk.

“Russian scare and intimidation tactics will never work,” Charles Michel wrote on Twitter adding that Ukraine would prevail with the support of G7 partners “and beyond”.

US ambassador to UN says Kremenchuk attack ‘absolutely sickening’

The US ambassador to the United Nations has called Russia’s attack on the Kremenchuk shopping centre “absolutely sickening”, adding that the body’s security council would meet on Tuesday to “discuss Russia’s atrocities against civilians”.

“We must continue to hold Russia accountable,” Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield wrote on Twitter.

US President Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken also vowed on Twitter to hold Russia to account for its crimes.

Russian forces occupy part of Lysychansk oil refinery

Russian troops together with allies from the Moscow-backed self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR) have occupied part of the Lysychansk Oil Refinery, TASS news agency has quoted a source close to the LPR as saying.

The source also added that fighting continues in the west of the refinery.

Moscow’s UN ambassador accuses Ukraine of Kremenchuk attack

Moscow’s deputy ambassador to the United Nations has accused Ukraine of orchestrating the attack on the shopping centre in Kremenchuk to ensure attention ahead of the NATO summit to be held on Tuesday and Wednesday.

“Looks like we are dealing with a new Bucha-style Ukrainian provocation,” Dmitry Polyanskiy wrote on the Twitter.

Hundreds of civilians were found murdered, some with their hands behind their back, in the town of Bucha, near Kyiv, after Russian forces withdrew from the region. Russia has repeatedly accused Ukraine of staging the scenes and producing fake footage.

“One should wait for what our Ministry of Defence will say, but there are too many striking discrepancies already,” Polyanskiy added.

Ukraine says more than 40 missing in Kremenchuk attack

More than 40 people have been reported missing after a missile strike on a shopping mall in the city of Kremenchuk, Ukraine’s prosecutor general’s has said.

Family members of the missing lined up at a hotel across the street where rescue workers had set up a base, as firefighters and soldiers searched for survivors in the rubble.

A survivor receiving treatment at Kremenchuk’s public hospital, Ludmyla Mykhailets, 43, said she was shopping with her husband when the blast threw her into the air.

“I flew head first and splinters hit my body. The whole place was collapsing,” she told Reuters.

“It was hell,” added her husband, Mykola, 45, blood seeping through a bandage wrapped around his head.

Russian forces in Ukraine ‘hollowed out’: UK

Russia deployed the core elements of six different armies in the battle for Severodonetsk, but achieved only “tactical success,” the United Kingdom’s defence ministry has said, adding that Russian forces are “increasingly hollowed out.”

In its latest intelligence briefing the ministry said Russia launched its intense waves of strikes across Ukraine on June 24-26 using what included Soviet-era missiles. While these weapons were designed for strategic strikes, Russia is using them to gain tactical advance, the ministry said.

The Russian forces are accepting a “level of degraded combat effectiveness, which is probably unsustainable in the long term, the ministry noted.

Ukrainian forces are also consolidating their positions on higher ground in Lysychansk and continuing to disrupt Russian command and control “with successful strikes deep behind Russian lines,” it added.

Ukraine requests UNSC meeting to discuss Russian airstrikes

Ukrainian representatives have requested a meeting of the United Nations Security Council Tuesday to discuss the most recent Russian airstrikes on Ukrainian soil that have resulted in several civilian fatalities and several dozen injuries, Anatolii Zlenko, spokesperson for Ukraine’s UN delegation, told CNN.

United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs will brief the council at the meeting, which is scheduled for 3 p.m. ET, a UN spokesperson told CNN.

A Russian airstrike struck a bustling shopping mall in Kremenchuk, central Ukraine on Monday, setting the building ablaze and prompting concerns of mass casualties.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said after the strike that up to 1,000 people were in the mall before the air raid was announced.

Zelensky calls Kremenchuk strike “one of most daring terrorist acts in European history”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has called a strike on a mall in the city of Kremenchuk “one of the most daring terrorist acts in European history.”

“Peaceful city, ordinary shopping center, women inside, children, ordinary civilians. About 1,000 people were there before the air raid was announced,” Zelensky said in a video address posted on his social media accounts on Monday.

“Only wholly reckless terrorists, who have no place on earth, can strike missiles at such an object,” he added.

The Ukrainian president went on to say the attack was deliberate.

“This is not a mistaken hit of missiles. This is a planned Russian strike at this shopping center,” Zelensky continued, adding, “The rescue operation continues, but we must be aware that the losses can be significant.”

The Ukrainian president stated doctors had been dispatched from Kyiv to help treat the wounded and sent his condolences to the families of those who had died. He also called on people to follow warnings from the authorities.

“I ask everyone, whenever you hear the siren of the air alarm — please go to the shelter. Necessarily. Don’t ignore it,” he said, adding, “Russia will stop at nothing.”

Biden to announce extension of US troop presence in Poland

US President Joe Biden plans to announce an extension of some of the increased US troop presence in Poland and changes to US deployments in several Baltic nations that he authorised ahead of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, NBC News has cited officials as saying.

The changes to the US troop footprint could affect countries such as Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, NBC reported.

To the extent there could be new troops deploying to the region on a more permanent basis, officials said the number would be minimal, but several hundred could remain in Poland on a more permanent basis, NBC added.

Death toll after strike on Ukraine shopping mall rises to 15

Dmytro Lunin, the head of the Poltava region military administration, has revised the death toll from Monday’s strike on a shopping mall in Kremenchuk to 15, according to a post on his Telegram channel.

Earlier in the day, when updating the number of fatalities, Lunin indicated it could continue to climb, tweeting, “It is too early to talk about the final number of dead people.”

Ukrainian officials say at least 58 people were injured.

G7 leaders and US President Joe Biden have condemned the attack.

“Serious disruption” to Russian gas supplies to EU “likely”: Bloc’s energy chief

A “serious disruption” to the European Union’s gas supplies from Russia is “likely,” the bloc’s energy chief said on Monday, urging countries to step up their preparedness.

“Since the beginning of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine we have known that a very serious disruption is possible, and now it seems likely. We have done much important work to be prepared for this. But now is the time to step it up,” EU energy commissioner Kadri Simson stated after a meeting of energy ministers from member states.

“The situation is deteriorating. While the gas supply to the member states is currently guaranteed, the security of supply risks are greater than ever,” she added, noting that Russian gas exports to the EU are half of what they were a year ago.

However, she said the security of supply risks were “not immediate” and the European gas system had “reacted well and so far has been able to absorb the cuts.”

Simson added the European Commission will propose an EU plan to prepare for further gas shocks in July, as Russia has already cut or reduced supplies to 12 of the bloc’s 27 member states.

“There can be no return to pre-war relationship with Russia”: German chancellor

There can be no return to what the ties with Russia were before the war in Ukraine, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Monday, adding that the war waged by Moscow is a “deep, deep cut in international relations.”

The war is “a matter of long-lasting changes that will shape international relations for a very, very long time,” Scholz said during a news conference on the sidelines of the G7 summit in the Bavarian Alps in southern Germany.

“In our relations with Russia there can be no going back to the time before the Russian invasion of Ukraine,” he added.

Despite uncertainty about how the world would change as a result of the war, the G7 members should “master this change” by “standing together and working together closely and in a spirit of trust,” he added.

“And that is what unites us: democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights,” he said.

Turkey’s concerns ‘all legitimate and must be addressed’: NATO chief

Turkey’s security concerns on Nordic membership bids are legitimate and must be addressed, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has stated.

Speaking at a joint press conference with Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson, ahead of the NATO summit in Madrid, Stoltenberg said “no ally has suffered more at the hands of terrorists … including grievous attacks by the terrorist group PKK.”

The NATO chief added the alliance should redouble its efforts in the fight against terrorism, and a special session devoted to NATO’s counterterrorism efforts will be convened during the summit in the Spanish capital.

“We are now working together on an agreement between Sweden, Finland, and our ally Turkey to further address security concerns, including around arms exports and the fight against terrorism,” Stoltenberg continued.

G7 leaders condemn “abominable” attack on Ukraine shopping mall

G7 leaders condemned the “abominable” attack on a Ukraine shopping mall in a joint statement on Monday.

“We, the Leaders of the G7, solemnly condemn the abominable attack on a shopping mall in Kremenchuk,” the statement reads.

“Indiscriminate attacks on innocent civilians constitute a war crime. Russian President Putin and those responsible will be held to account,” it continues.

“We will not rest until Russia ends its cruel and senseless war on Ukraine,” the statement said.

At least 13 people have died so far in the attack, and 58 people have been injured, according to Ukrainian officials.

In a video address posted earlier Monday, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky stated about 1,000 people may have been in the building when it was struck.

Canada to impose additional sanctions, ban tech export to Russia

Canada has announced more measures including additional sanctions and a ban on the export of technologies that could help improve Russia’s defence manufacturing capability.

The new sanctions would target six individuals and 46 entities linked to the Russian defence sectors, 15 Ukrainians supporting Russia, and 13 individuals and two entities in Belarus, according to a statement from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s office.

Canada also intends to introduce sanctions against Russian state-sponsored disinformation and propaganda agents and entities, according to the statement.

UN spokesman says attack on Ukraine shopping mall ‘deplorable’

The United Nations is concerned about the intensifying fighting in Ukraine and the “deplorable” attack on a shopping mall, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric has said.

“It is deplorable, to say the least. Any sort of civilian infrastructure, which includes obviously shopping malls, and civilians should never ever be targeted,” Dujarric told reporters.

Biden condemns Kremenchuk strike: “Russia’s attack on civilians at a shopping mall is cruel”

In a tweet Monday, US President Joe Biden, who’s in Germany attending the G7 summit, condemned a Russian missile attack on a shopping mall in the Ukrainian city of Kremenchuk, writing, “Russia’s attack on civilians at a shopping mall is cruel. We stand in solidarity with the Ukrainian people.”

“As demonstrated at the G7 Summit, the U.S. along with our allies and partners will continue to hold Russia accountable for such atrocities and support Ukraine’s defense,” Biden added.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has also voiced horror at Russia’s deadly strike on a crowded mall and vowed to hold Moscow responsible.

“The world is horrified by Russia’s missile strike today, which hit a crowded Ukrainian shopping mall – the latest in a string of atrocities,” Blinken wrote on Twitter.

“We will continue to support our Ukrainian partners and hold Russia, including those responsible for atrocities, to account,” he continued.

France says Russia must answer for missile strike on Ukrainian mall

Russia must answer for the deadly missile strike on a crowded Ukrainian shopping centre, France’s Foreign Ministry has said, condemning the attack.

“Russia must answer for these acts. France supports the fight against impunity in Ukraine,” the Foreign Ministry’s spokeswoman added in a statement.

Ukraine mall attack shows “depths” of Putin’s “cruelty and barbarism”: Johnson

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that the attack at a mall in the central Ukrainian city of Kremenchuk on Monday showed the “depths of cruelty and barbarism” to which Russian President Vladimir Putin would sink to, the UK’s PA news agency reported.

“This appalling attack has shown once again the depths of cruelty and barbarism to which the Russian leader will sink,” Johnson stated.

More than 1,000 people were inside the mall when a Russian missile was fired at the building, according to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

“Once again our thoughts are with the families of innocent victims in Ukraine. Putin must realize that his behavior will do nothing but strengthen the resolve of the Ukraine and every other G7 country to stand by the Ukraine for as long as it takes,” the British prime minister added.

Biden raises US tariff rate on certain Russian imports to 35 percent

United States President Joe Biden has raised the tariff rate on certain Russian imports to 35 percent as a result of suspending Russia’s “most favoured nation” trading status over its war in Ukraine, according to a proclamation issued by the White House.

The higher 35 percent duty applies to imports of “certain other products of the Russian Federation, the importation of which has not already been prohibited,” the proclamation said.

The Biden administration previously banned US imports of Russian petroleum and energy products, fish, seafood, alcoholic beverages and non-industrial diamonds. An annex listing the products subject to the higher duty was not immediately available.

‘Russia’s inhumanity has no limits’: Ukraine mission to the EU

Ukraine’s mission to the EU has said on Twitter that rescuers are trying to extinguish the fire at a Kremenchuk shopping mall that was struck by Russian missiles.

“Russia’s inhumanity has no limits. We call on partners to #ArmUkraineNow and stop Russian war crimes against Ukrainian people,” it added.

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